Making the distinction between a Class 3 and Class 4 pickup truck used to be simple — if it said F-350/3500 it was a Class 3; if it said F-450/4500 it was a Class 4. But now the lines are blurring a bit, all in the name of being able to claim some kind of best-in-class honor. According to Ford, it owns the heavy-duty maximum towing capacity record with the 2015 F-450 (considered a Class 3 vehicle because it has a gross vehicle weight rating less than 14,001 pounds), but others in the industry aren't so sure.
When last we visited the saga of which truckmaker had the best-in-class maximum towing capacity, it was Ram that announced all of its truck-towing capacities were measured using the Society of Automotive Engineer's J2807 testing guidelines. Among its most impressive achievements was that a regular-cab two-wheel-drive dualie with the high-output Cummins engine and Aisin transmission could tow a 30,000-pound fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailer.
Just before this announcement of J2807 compliance, Ford had released its 2015 Ford Super Duty towing capacities, claiming best-in-class maximum towing capacity because its new F-450 (now with stronger wheels, tires and axles — but still with the F-350 frame — to handle the extra payload and towing capacity) could tow and carry more than its Ram counterpart. During our inpromtu testing, we found the combination of the upgraded Power Stroke and stronger chassis an impressive pairing.
The announcement raised questions, however, because some wondered (especially Ram enthusiasts) how an F-450 (in some minds a Class 4 pickup) and a Ram 3500 (certainly a Class 3 pickup) could be considered to be direct competitors or, at least, in a similar class. The short answer is that they both have 14,000-pound GVWRs, but Ram believes it has the best-in-class honor (when comparing the Super Duty F-350 with the Chevrolet's Silverado 3500 and the Ram 3500), and Ford believes it has the best-in-class honor (comparing all max-tow pickup-version HD pickups) of being the strongest mainstream HD pickup truck around. Could the key here be that Ford is simply calling its one-ton max-tow package the "F-450" while Ram chooses not to call its one-ton max-tow package anything unique? Both trucks offer a host of unique parts and pieces to achieve their max-tow number.
That brings us up to speed, where Ford now would like to assure anyone who is suspicious of its claims about the F-450's max-tow capability by announcing the 2015 F-450 (but not the F-250 or F-350 yet, which Ford says will meet J2807 when they are redesigned next year) is fully SAE compliant with the towing criteria.
Some Ford fans will note that the max-tow F-450 only comes in the more popular four-door crew-cab version, and the Power Stroke has the highest horsepower of any turbo-diesel in the HD class. Likewise, all Super Duties get the max-rated Power Stroke when the turbo-diesel option is chosen, whereas not all Ram 3500s get the max-rated Cummins or heavy-duty Aisin transmission or the biggest max-tow 11.5-inch rear axle (the last two of which are also used on Ford's medium-duty chassis-cab 4500 and 5500 commercial trucks).
Ram fans will note that its Cummins turbo-diesel offers more torque (now with 865 pounds-feet) than any engine offered in the HD segment, and customers can choose between three different power ratings depending on their needs. Additionally, Ram takes great pride in the fact its full lineup of tow ratings (half-tons to one tons) are all SAE J2807 compliant.
We'll note that the max-towing Ram 3500 has a gross combined weight rating of 37,600 pounds, while the new F-450 has a GCWR of 40,000 pounds. Maximum GCWR for the F-350 crew-cab 4x4 dualie is 35,000 pounds with a max towing capacity of 26,700 pounds; Ford will say it's giving its customers exactly the right truck needed for the job they have in mind, while Ram fans will likely cry foul because the F-450 should be in a different weight class if it wants to claim best-in-class honors. From our vantage point, this isn't likely to be resolved anytime soon but it sure is fun to watch.
Where this will end up is anyone's guess (and what about GM? How should it respond?), but we can't wait to get these trucks back into a cage match to see who is left standing at the end of testing. Can you say King of Beasts II?
To read the complete Ford F-450 J2807 announcement, click here.
Editor's note: This article was modified Sept. 4 to more accurately identify the changes made to the 2015 F-450 and Ram 3500 HD Cummins/Aisin combination.