By Mark Williams
Work trucks have a special place in the pickup truck family tree: They're practical tools designed for functional use. And probably the most significant defining characteristic of how well these tools can be used is how their powertrain and driveline create and transfer power through the transmission to the rear wheels. That's why we took the competitors in our 2017 3/4-Ton Work Truck Challenge to a chassis dynamometer shop to see how they compare.
All of our pickups were equipped with six-speed transmissions with the exception of the 2017 Nissan Titan XD S, which had a seven-speed. All of the trucks had column shifters with a button/toggle at the end of the stick for manual shifting. Interestingly, the engines with the most factory-rated torque — the 2017 Ford F-250 XL with the 6.2-liter V-8 (430 pounds-feet) and the 2017 Ram 2500 Tradesman with the 6.4-liter V-8 Hemi (429 pounds-feet) — also offer owners a chance to see what gear the vehicle is in, which made it much easier for us to control our dyno runs. There was no visual gear readout for the Nissan with the 5.6-liter V-8 (394 pounds-feet) or the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado WT with the 6.0-liter V-8 (380 pounds-feet), so making sure we did our dyno testing in 4th gear was a little more difficult.
In horsepower ratings, as we discovered at the race track, Ford's new V-8 is a deep breather and quick to put a lot of power to the rear wheels. During our dyno runs, it put almost 90 percent of its factory-rated horsepower to the ground, clocking 344 hp. However, very close behind was the Ram's slightly larger 6.4-liter with 340 hp. Not surprisingly, the Nissan's V-8 (the only dual-overhead-cam, 32-valve engine in the group) was fairly close behind the two strongest players. The oldest engine of the group, Chevy's 6.0-liter, came in a distant fourth.
In the torque department — often a much more important yardstick for work trucks — the results were similar, with the Ram eking out the win over the Ford, recording just 2 more pounds-feet of torque at a lower rpm than the smaller engine from Ford. Nissan once again was close behind, with the stalwart Chevy coming in fourth.
How We Conducted the Testing
Anyone who has experience with a chassis dynamometer knows it can be a little tricky capturing peak performance, mainly because of how smart (and dumb) many new transmissions (and the software that controls them) can be. Thankfully, we are familiar with Arizona Dyno Chip in Tempe, so we made a date to test all our trucks on the same day, with the same technician, following the same procedures. Doing so allowed us to feel confident about the results of our dyno testing.
Cars.com photos by Bruce Smith