GMC Claims Best-In-Class Heavy-Duty Towing and Payload Figures, Again

GMC Claims Best In Class Towing and Payload Figures, Again
By Mark Williams for

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

June 2007:
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.


GM is the best HD on the market and has been for a while. All Ford owners can say, for now, is "the interior of the Ford is better than any other truck." Whatever, I'll take the GM HeavyDuty over any of the competition any day because it is the best!

lol gonna need to buy a f450 to keep in tow of a chevy 3500 pretty soon

@Chris: Hmmm, I'll give up 400-500 lbs of towing capacity (which is already too high for personal use pickups anyway) for the better interior of the Ford!

bad thang bout chevy is there front axles arent solid

I'll give up 400 lbs of towing for the better fuel economy, reliability, dependability, interior, features, visibility, styling, and lowering operating costs of the Ford Super Duty.

Oh for Gods sake. HD pickups are becoming obsolete as fast as computers.

This is all crazy.
Most guys wanting to tow 23,000 lb for any length of time aren't going to buy a pickup.

Class 1 - 6,000 Light-duty Light Duty
Class 2 - 6,001 10,000 Light-duty Light Duty
Class 3 - 10,001 14,000 Medium-duty Light Duty
Class 4 - 14,001 16,000 Medium-duty Medium Duty
Class 5 - 16,001 19,500 Medium-duty Medium Duty
Class 6 - 19,501 26,000 Light-heavy Medium Duty
Class 7 - 26,001 33,000 Heavy-heavy Heavy Duty
Class 8 - 33,001 Heavy-heavy Heavy Duty

@Lou: We also tested all 3 trucks against a $100,000 Class 6 Freightliner. The results will shock you! Story coming soon. :-)

Unless you have a CDL or Heavy towing Endorsement you ain't giving up a thing.

A solid-front axle (4X4) goes a long way, in my book, in my buying decision. Point(s) Ford Super Duty and Ram Heavy Duty!

Keep trying Chevrolet/G.M.C "Heavy Duties". Enjoy the company of other Independent-Front Suspension, light-duty, 4X4s...half-ton/quarter-ton (and Honda Ridgeline) pickups.

Correct. I'll give up bragging rights. I'll give up 400 lbs in towing bragging rights for bragging rights in fuel economy, reliability, dependability, interior, features, visibility, styling, and operating costs.

@Mike - read my mind and that of many other guys. Keep up the good work.

For commercial/ farming use in Australia ,would certainly agree with you. For towing a 5th wheel caravan or heavy caravan, the car/truck aspect would be appealing. I saw SIX 2011 HD Dually Silverado's outside an agent for this Caravan maker.
A Block away another FOUR HD Dually Silverado's and two White Ford F650's were on display. Every second or third vehicle in that part of Coastal Victoria was towing something or a Caravan and it is still winter here.
I guess it will not be long before someone starts to convert MDT Isuzu/Hino's as "Caravan towers"

Yeah the gm has the greatest towing numbers and a great power train. But what happens when you drive into a field to do some real truck work and you puncture that low slung DEF tank and the truck goes into limp mode. That has got to be the stupidest set up i have seen. Looks like a second thought to me.

See magic spring dust works both ways!

Good job GMC! Not surprising that GM has the best of the best. Untouchable engine/transmission, towing and hauling, best style and interiors of any truck in America. The only people who will not agree are those with very little truck knowledge, the ford girly's, who are crying in their rusty rigs. Doesn't bode well for ford with GM using a old design to embarass the ford engineers, but they can still fabricate their truck sales each month. Ford, Far Over Rated Dog.

@ Shawn

That was my first impression too but they actually did address suspension and harware. It's right there in the article.

Why? Who needs 18,000 lbs on a bumper pull???

I guess we were right, GM did introduce a "Job 3." I guess the first two wern't good enough, which makes me wonder about the quality of the GM HD's.

Leaf springs, bolts and cargo box supports were changed? I guess the originals were not good enough, which makes me wonder about the quality of the originals. I am also concerned with the brakes.

GM keeps pushing the limits to reign king of the hill but I have yet to see any upgrades done to the brakes. Thats a lot of weight to control and I want the best braking performance power to back these numbers up.

GM came in last in braking in the Heavy-Duty Hurt Locker brake test. Ford was first. Ram second. GM, please do something about this before you raise the limits again.

Bigger bolts are nice but what about trailer sway?

Ford is the only 1 ton with trailer sway control. GM doesn't have it on 1 ton. Ram only has it on the half ton.

To quote Mike, "Love trailer sway control. One of the best new features in recent years on pickups. Makes the road safer for everyone."

Also anyone who tows heavy loads can attest, if you don't use a weight distributing hitch then you are making harder on the truck and decreasing control of the load... I don't care what Chevy claims it can do, to tow that much of a load w/o WD is just plain stupid...

GM can make any claim they want, but Ford HD's are the better trucks. Ford outsells GM 2 to 1.

Will GM bump the power and torque figures?

The Best just keeps getting Better. How sweet it is!

Dave, have you always been this simple minded? Face the facts, GMC makes the best HD trucks today. It is a good thing they did not do the frame twist test. The Ford would have looked like a pretzel again. Back to the drawing board again for Ford. Maybe someday they will get it right.

I knew it wouldn't take long for certain people to start bashing GM for the lack of a SFA and their cheap interior.

Why would you wonder about the quality of the originals? They were designed to meet the loads that GM specified with appropriate design margin. I am impressed that every update in the GM truck's capacity has been done with a good deal of time for analysis and/or design changes to accomodate the additional capacity.

As far as the brakes, they are in fact the same UPDATED brakes that were put on for 2011 GM HD trucks. Sure they came in last in this test, but I think you will find that they are likely more fade resistant than the Ford's brakes due to their increased size. I think the specific test run shows you the ability of a well integrated trailer brake system on the heaviest truck with the largest tire contact patch. The more telling test, to me, is the downhill where the Ford's brakes were, once again, smoking.

And lastly, I think you will find that GM recommends towing their maximum weight with a proper WD hitch setup.

Has anyone mentioned yet, how Ford (SD) outsells General Motors (HDs)?

Perhaps the results of this test will help General Motors sell a couple hundred more trucks? Watch out Ford...NOT! Ha-ha-ha!

Let's see, GM wins the Heavy Duty Hurt Locker Shootout and the Ford fan boys are crying and making up excuses. What excuses you say? Well, just read the many posts above this one. You hear things like, well GM makes that independent front axle and you must have a straight axle in a heavy duty truck because well, the ford fan boys said so. Then you hear things like, the GM interiors are just hidious. Then you hear ford fan boys talk about how many Super Duty's are sold and that only ford makes a real work truck don't you know?

I know that having GM win yet another Heavy Duty Shootout must really stick in the craw of some ford fans on this site. I have always said that buy the truck that you like the most. It just makes me smile to know that GM's Silverado and Sierra Heavy Duty trucks with the Duramax Diesel and Allison transmission won the Heavy Duty Hurtlocker and won almost every towing comparison test. I have a smile on my face today, knowing that GM and the Duramax won AGAIN! Have a nice day now and don't let this test ruin your day.

@Brom - there are tons of aftermarket skid plates for the DEF tank. If you go through some GM sites most guys who spend a lot of time offroad add skid plates to their GM's.

@Robert Ryan - true. I doen't ever recall seeing a one ton dually pickup pulling a max load for commercial use.
I've seen some monster camper trailers(caravans) or toy haulers.
Where I live in Canada any trailer over 4,600 kg or 10,120 lb needs a Heavy Trailer Endorsement (basically a CDL without air brakes), or a House (Recreational) Trailer Endorsement, or a CDL(What we call a Class 1 licence).

i notice how the main gm fans only bash ford but not dodge? wonder why

"i notice how the main gm fans only bash ford but not dodge? wonder why" -Tyler

Because Ford is the industry standard and the one to (try to) beat.

@Tyler - I think it is because GM once had the sales title, and Ford was seen as the only real rival.
We now see Ram as #2 in Canada (GM gets #2 if you tally Sierra/Silverado together - sounds familiar?). In the USA GM is #2 with Silverado and still #2 with the 2 brands combined.
Ram is gaining ground.
Once Ram gets DEF and an 8 speed, I'd say GM needs to stop trying to beat Ford, and watch out for Ram. Ford needs to keep an eye on Ram as well.

No Lou and Tyler, it's not ford were bashing at all, it's their GM bashing ford fans that we detest. I have no problem with ford finishing second in the Heavy Duty Hurt Locker and I expected that it would finish second and the dodge 3rd.

I don't have a problem with any of fords vehicles even if they are inferior to GM's vehicles. I am glad that everyone doesn't like the same brand. Not everyone has the privlage of being a GM fan like myself. Ford did invent the "man step" though and that my friends is innovation at it's finest.

I Love Ram and want them be the best I agree with Mike Levine Allison transmission, DEF and maybe a new cummins cause 350hp seems to hold it down some and the new high output cummins didnt give it more hp total. Congrats to GM for taking the lead.

vettelovralexand ,

I am throwing your old arguments back at you. GM fans will have to go against their contradictory and hypocritical arguments if they want to support the Job 3 increase from GM.

I don't understand the fixation with a solid front axle. I don't do any serious offroading, but if I did I wouldn't want a crewcab longbed dually anyway??? As far as durability goes, desert racers use IFS, Oshkosh does on its humvee replacement, and the Ford Raptor has it, too. I think either of those first two will see far harder use than most 4wd pickups. I just don't see what the big advantage is. I have a 4wd 2500HD Chevy, but I almost never go off road with it, and certainly no "mudding" or anything. I do tow with it, often, and I got 4wd to get me through the snow we have where I live.

@Tyler - or maybe its a case of "little bowtie" syndrome?

And that's the problem: GM fans can't offer anything more than old talking points and one-liners. Ford fans, on the other hand, dig deeper and research why a product is the bench mark. GM is just a Ford wannabe.

Bottom line...Ford is the #1 Selling Pickup Truck and #1 Selling Diese Pickup Truckl....period. That speaks volumes.

lol some of these comment's are just funny, i think the DEF tank will be placed some place else on the next gen trucks or so i hope i think it was just a way to get by for now

@Lou - This is crazy? You give up nothing? No, YOU are crazy.

I am tired of these Ford fans ruining the GM post each time with their Ford talk. Every time GM comes out with something new Lou always has to tells us it means nothing. This has got to stop.

Ford makes the better truck? Huh?? Since when? GM sells the best heavy duty trucks. GM is the best as shown by winning the 2008 HD shootout. GM is the best by winning the Rumble in the Rockies. GM proves it again by winning the HD Hurt Locker.

2011 GM heavy duty trucks are the best. GM trucks are the best because GM has the most hauling, most towing, strongest frame, most luxury with Denali and heated steering wheel, best fuel economy, most technology with Onstar.

GM has the best in class toiwng and payload figures and nothing you say is going to stop that! Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

There is nothing wrong with Chevy's DEF tank. This is just another myth created by GM hating fans like Lou who have an axe to grind.

Go out and measure the distance and report back with some actual facts if you want to show us you know what you're talking about! You won't because you know you will lose another bogus talking point just like you lost in every shootout so far.

wy some tack about the front Axel now if you live in a ruff country whit bad road you put more money in the ford and ram front end,,,is more expensive to gm to use the table front suspension compare to ford or ram,,more the wheel is heavy more you have problem,,,,more your suspension is heavy it take more energy go up and down,,this is wy it brake

DETROIT – The GMC Sierra 3500HD won’s “Heavy Duty Hurt Locker” comparison test, a grueling showdown among industry heavyweights that included towing 19,400-pound fifth-wheel trailers up and over some of the most demanding grades in the United States.

“We procured similarly equipped trucks from Ford, Ram and GMC and put them through the paces, towing up and down some of the toughest grades in the country covering a total of 2,200 miles,” said Mike Levine, editor of “When we analyzed the data, the GMC Sierra 3500HD simply outperformed the trucks from Ford and Ram.”

The results of the comparison conducted July 11-18 between Denver, Colo. and Laughlin, Nev., reflect improvements to the 2012 Sierra 3500HD that give Sierra best-in-class towing for both conventional and fifth-wheel trailers.

“Customers choose full-size trucks for their capabilities,” said Rick Spina, vehicle line executive for full-size trucks. “For 2012, we built on the foundation we created in 2011, with engineering changes and additional validation designed to make the most capable heavy-duty pickup even better. Based on’s test results, it looks like we got the job done.”

For enhanced fifth-wheel towing, engineers strengthened the pickup box sills and other box structures, rear springs, u-bolts and box mounts, and upgraded the shock tuning. As a result, Sierra 3500HD now has a best-in-class tow rating of 23,000 pounds, up from 21,700 pounds in 2011.

Sierra also will lead the class in dually payload, with a 7,215-lb. payload for the 3500HD regular cab gasoline dually. Updates to the trailer hitch receiver increase conventional towing to 18,000 pounds, up from 17,000 pounds. Both changes will be on models arriving in dealerships in the fourth quarter.

“We know heavy-duty pickups are one of the most-competitive segments, with some of the most knowledgeable customers there are,” said Spina. “For 2012, we worked on making our trucks even more capable than before.”

Other updates for 2012 Sierra HD trucks include a new navigation radio with enhanced display and a hard drive, eliminating the need for discs with map data.

Sierra continues to offer OnStar, a segment exclusive, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth for phone and USB connectivity.

Sierra delivered its best sales month of the year in July, driven by increased demand for heavy-duty models. Retail HD sales are up 29 percent and total HD sales are up 34 percent year to date, and nearly as much in both categories year over year. Retail sales for the full Sierra lineup grew 2 percent year over year, with total sales up 6 percent.

@GM Bob or Michigan Bob, or Rob, or Rob Sinclair
- We are talking about the rise in capacity put foreward by GMC.
Unless you have a CDL or Max Tow endorsement - all three trucks have exactly the same limits as determined by your drivers licence.
In other words - you give up nothing by driving the Ford or Ram.
If you have a CDL - well that means you can legally haul a bit more.

Please point out where I have bashed GMC products on this thread.

@Bob - thanks for the link. Nice to see that PUTC is getting the recognition that it deserves.
Kudos to Mike Levine and his collegues.

@Lou - Please point out where I have bashed GMC products on this thread.

Right here:

This is all crazy.
Posted by: Lou | Aug 14, 2011 11:37:13 PM

You couldn't help yourself, could you?

Fords most rootin tootin trucks have less payload and towing? How can that be? I am told by ford fans that them dare Fords is the bestest and badest trucks on the road?

I guess we'll just have to wait for the Job 4 increase from Ford. Some things never chnage!

I guess even ford knows that they aren't the best now.
fords top priority is bragging and claiming best this and best that and when they aren't they just do another job. Wait to ford does a Job 4 and this will prove my point.

@Dave M.

I don't exactly take your point of throwing my arguments back at me. I was simply answering the points raised above.

I guess I will post my points as facts:
Fact 1: GM increased the size/strength of components in order to increase capacity for 2012 models.
Fact 2: GM HD trucks have larger rotor diameters than Ford HD trucks.
Fact 3: I was incorrect, the weight for the receiver hitch is rated with either a weight carrying or distributing type hitch.

Sales (Ford being #1) point to where consumer confidence is.

The results of this review point to maybe how 1% of end users will actually need, use, these capabilities.

I am not impressed with this at all! Those who drive Ford Trucks know who has the better all around rig! I'll go with Ford anyday of the week! For looks, comfort, & performance!


Do you think the new SAE standards are going to keep these "update jobs" from all of the companies down since they'll have to recertify with SAE each time? Secondly do you think there really are that big of changes that seem to keep coming out? i.e. do you think that the frames are purposely underrated from the factory so they can continue to "make changes" on the fly to out market the competition versus really bettering the capacity of the chassis?

This isn't meant to be a bash on GM, Ford, or Ram just a curious consumer wanting to know if I should continuously wait another 4 months for the ever pending "update" that is surely coming.

On a side note I am really looking forward to the Hurt Locker with the Class 6 truck thrown in the mix.

The comments to this entry are closed.