By Mark Williams for PickupTrucks.com
The big boys are at it again. In the ever-changing world of maximum towing and hauling among the biggest and strongest personal-use vehicles sold in the U.S., GMC announced today it will own the best-in-class towing and hauling numbers among HD pickups; however, there is no doubt Ford and Ram Truck will respond.
“We know heavy-duty pickups are one of the most-competitive segments, with some of the most knowledgeable customers there are, so for 2012, we worked on making our trucks even more capable than before,” said Rick Spina, GM’s vehicle line executive for full-size trucks.
Although precise details have not been released, we’ve been told GM engineers specifically targeted the maximum fifth-wheel towing number by redesigning the rear leaf springs, u-bolts, and box mounts on specific HD models. In addition, GM also strengthened the internal structure of the cargo boxes and increased the size of the supports inside the box sills. Finally, as you might expect, shock upgrades needed to be made on those max payload and towing packages.
As a result of the changes, fifth-wheel towing numbers have been raised from the 21,700 pounds to 23,000 pounds for 2012. Likewise, payload capacity has been raised (for the 3500 dual-rear-wheel regular cab 6.0-liter V-8) from 6,635 to 7,215 pounds. And finally, the maximum conventional trailer weight capacity is now 18,000 pounds, up from 17,000 from last year.
HD truck enthusiasts (and likely the casual observer) will recall this is not the first time the manufacturers have upped capacity and capability numbers on one another, nor will it be the last. (By our count, this is the sixth time in two years.)
This particular announcement comes at a time when we have just concluded one of our most thorough and exhaustive heavy-duty truck test to date (we call it our Heavy-Duty Hurt Locker Comparison) where the GMC Sierra 3500 Duramax proved itself a fierce competitor in every head-to-head towing challenge we threw at it and its direct competitors: the Ford F-350 Super Duty Power Stroke and Ram HD 3500 Cummins.
In fact, based on our testing results, we’re not surprised that the GM platforms and powertrains have the best-in-class ratings because we found our Sierra HD to be an impressive cross-country power puller through desert heat and up nasty Rocky Mountain grades. Nobody knows better than we do, that in the world of HD strongmen pickups, it’s not just about having the biggest numbers but, more importantly, it’s how well you pull the load.
For those interested in a little competitive history, here are just some of the changes in towing and payload numbers we’ve seen from the past several years, and we have no reason to believe there won’t be more changes to come.
Heavy-Duty Pickup Truck Capability Timeline
We did our 2007 Heavy-Duty Shootout with three of the newest one-ton dually turbo-diesels. Ford had just released a newly redesigned and updated 2008 Super Duty (with the old 6.4-liter V-8 Power Stroke), and we were impressed. Gross combined weight ratings for our test units were Chevy 3500, 23,500 pounds; Ram HD 3500, 24,000 pounds; and Super Duty F-350, 26,000 pounds.
Feb. 10, 2009:
Ram reveals its newly redesigned 2010 Ram HD 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks. The 6.7-liter I-6 Cummins diesel engine remains mostly unchanged, and towing and payload capacities become more competitive but don’t lead. Still, the new look is powerful, and the interior is vastly upgraded.
Sept. 24, 2009:
Ford reveals the 2011 F-Series Super Duty with an all-new 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 but stays mum about its power figures and capabilities.
Feb. 10, 2010:
GM reveals at the Chicago Auto Show that it will have an all-new heavy-duty platform coming for the 2011 Silverado HD and Sierra HD pickup trucks, and the company claims the vehicles will have the highest towing and payload numbers in the segment on certain models, but do not release horsepower and torque numbers for the newly upgraded Duramax.
Feb. 25, 2010:
Ford finally announces horsepower and torque numbers for the all-new Power Stroke 6.7-liter V-8 turbo-diesel at a best-in-class 390 hp and 735 pounds-feet of torque and claims the lead in the power war.
March 9, 2010:
GM announces the newly revised and beefed-up 6.6-liter Duramax V-8 turbo-diesel will have best-in-class 397 hp and 765 pounds-feet of torque, along with a GCWR of 29,200 pounds, 6,635-pound maximum payload, a 21,700-pound fifth-wheel towing capacity, and a 17,000-pound conventional hitch towing capacity.
Aug. 3, 2010:
Ford announces that with a simple reflash to the existing, most recently produced 6.7-liter Power Stroke Super Dutys, new horsepower and torque numbers will be a whopping 400 hp and astounding 800 pounds-feet of torque. Likewise, maximum payload numbers move from 6,520 to 7,070 pounds, and maximum fifth-wheel trailering moves from 21,600 to 22,600 pounds.
Feb. 1, 2011:
Strategically announced right before the Chicago Auto Show, Ford announces new towing and payload numbers that include a best-in-class maximum conventional-hitch towing rating of 17,500 pounds, beating GM (by several hundred pounds )and Ram HD (by several thousand pounds).
Feb. 9, 2011:
Ram Truck announces that its new High Output Cummins turbo-diesel is now rated at 800 pounds-feet of torque on special models (automatic only; manuals are still rated at 650 pounds-feet of torque), so it is now tied with Super Duty for best-in-class torque. Fifth-wheel towing is also upgraded to 22,700 pounds (from 18,500) and GCWR goes from 25,400 pounds to 30,000 pounds, competitively sitting right on top of Ford (30,000 pounds) and GM (29,200 pounds).
Aug. 15, 2011: GM announces the GMC Sierra HD has the highest GCWR, payload capacity, conventional towing, and fifth-wheel towing capacity among the competition. Slight modifications to spring choices, u-bolt upgrades, shock selection and box reinforcement allowed for the change in ratings.