How Thin Can You Slice a Segment?


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.

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2015 Ram BIC stats[1] II



I have never in my life seen as big a cry babies as the Ram fanboys on here. Do you guys have that much of a inferiority complex that you all sound like idiots!!! They are fricken trucks its not life or death!!!

Posted by: Todd | Sep 4, 2014 4:42:06 AM

Yet you decided you needed to post about it calling Ram owners cry babies. Seems like you are one of the ignorant ones who is being fooled by Fords games.

Must really suck to be you.

You just said 4 door trucks were more popular, therefore ram is shorting their fans who need a max tow truck. Ram also playing games or can't do simple math. I suspect the latter. On their website for 30,000 # towing truck, if you add the trucks weight plus payload it exceeds 14,000#. That makes it a class 4. Regardless, if you want the most capable factory pickup truck the answer is simple, buy a Ford.

I'm a little confuse how the F450 could be J2807 rated. I thought it called for a 20% tongue weight (or kingpin weight?) which would be higher than the F450 is rated to hold. Lowering the payload rating to 5,300 lbs to keep it a class 3 (not that it mattered from the previous 5,450) would put it under the 20% weight of a 31,200 lb trailer. 20% is 6,240 lbs, 1,000 lbs more than Ford says the truck can carry. Unless they're pulling 31K with a ball hitch...

Ford has so trusted the truth that they can't defend what they have done because every way you turn you run into issues trying to make it work.

The math just does not add up when it comes to this F450.

It appears those who were touting J2807 no longer see the relevance when it doesn't work in their favor.

You know, Denver Mike is right about one thing: The base F-450 is a Crew Cab 4x4. Maybe THAT is why Ram's heavy-duty 3500 sells better; it doesn't waste poundage with an oversized cab and front-drive hardware. If you're going to pull a 30,000# load on the highway, you don't want the parasitic power loss of the transfer case, front diff and drive axles--you want all the power under the hitch that you can get. 4x4 is wasted if the truck is intended to never get off the road. Crew cab is wasted if you're never going to carry more than one passenger. That alone is hundreds of pounds saved that could bring the F-450 back down to Class 3 status.

@ky - Ram is in the same boat. They can carry 30 k if there are no passengers in the truck

@Ramadan Little Horn - In terms of marketing it is easier to sell a down rated class 4 truck than a max rated class 3 truck.

Anyone in the market for a crewcab truck needing to tow 30k has to go with the F150 since Ram's 3500 with that rating is a reg cab.

An unbiased guy will thing......"do I buy a maxed out reg cab truck or a down rated class 4 crewcab?


No brainer for those with a brain.

U cant get the big horn package on a regular cab. So do u have an slt teg cab or a big horn quad cab? Its good to be ram fan, but not a spam fan.

@ ? - Ram's max tow 30K rating is for a regular cab pickup. That tow rating isn't available in a crew-cab.


did you consider that people don't simply buy 4x4 for the odd moment that they might go four wheeling off road?

Think: S-N-O-W

Where is the confusion?

IF the F450 is class 3 and not 4 meaning its GVWR is less than 14,001 and IF the F450's claims are in compliance with J2807 standards what is the debate? If they arent true then let the debate rage and shame on Ford. But these seem like very easy claims to verify.

Badging is irrelevant. Did standards change when Dodge went from a 150 to 1500 badging system or GM from 10s/15s to 1500 and so on?

Ford changed the game by making the F450 avalaible for noncommercial use and the smartest way for the competition to look at it as a Super duty package for the super duty. This is also a hell of a way to keep the oldest truck in this segment at least rated as class leading, relevant and competitive.

This is a silly article and debate, but I'll add a different camera angle. The Chevy already out tows the Ram, regardless of the tow rating. The Chevy also get much better fuel economy than the Ford and the Ram. My bet is that if you loaded all three to GM's max tow rating (admittedly lower than the other two) and took off on a trip of 1000+ miles, regardless of the terrain, the Chevy would get there first because it would not have to refuel as often as the other two. Just sayin'! Seriously, they are all impressive.

Like I said above. It seems Ram is confused because their curb weight and payload exceed 14000#. That would make it a class 4. Also to tow 30000# payload is 0 as per their website. They don't say if the truck is overloaded with a driver or if the trailer has to be balanced with no weight (payload) on the hitch.

@lou: "@ky - Ram is in the same boat. They can carry 30 k if there are no passengers in the truck"

I just checked Ram's website, the truck they list as the 30,000 lb towing has a payload of 6,566 lbs. That's over the 20% of 30,000 trailer, or 6,000. The F450's is only 5,300. Either Ford's not using the 20% called out in the standard, or they're overloading the truck by over 1,000 lbs.

An unbiased guy will thing......"do I buy a maxed out reg cab truck or a down rated class 4 crewcab?


No brainer for those with a brain.

Posted by: Lou_BC | Sep 4, 2014 4:10:19 PM

Well, it make sense.
All1 bought maxed out F150 ecoboost instead of RAM 25OO HEMI 6.4 MDS. He says RAM doesn't have a truck for his needs. He wouldn't stop arguing until I did confirm that for him.
You remember this. You were heavily involved in to this discussion.

@lou: "@ky - Ram is in the same boat. They can carry 30 k if there are no passengers in the truck"

I just checked Ram's website, the truck they list as the 30,000 lb towing has a payload of 6,566 lbs. That's over the 20% of 30,000 trailer, or 6,000. The F450's is only 5,300. Either Ford's not using the 20% called out in the standard, or they're overloading the truck by over 1,000 lbs.

Posted by: ky | Sep 5, 2014 7:29:01 AM

Lou BC is an idiot, he loves to go to the Ram site and configure a truck with everything that will give it the lowest pay load and tow rating then he will run here and post his BS trying to pass it off as all Rams can only tow such and such weight.

You see Lou BC will configure the Ram with a 3.21 axel and then load the truck up with every heavy option that he can get the configuration calculator to accept until he can equip one that has a low payload and tow rating.

The gig is up on you Lou BC, you can no longer pass off you bull crap because everyone knows what you are doing.

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