“Towing is the No. 1 reason people buy heavy-duty trucks,” said Jeff Johnson, manager of Ram Heavy Duty marketing.
Even if they don’t take their rigs to the max, he noted that best-in-class numbers are important. “We spend some time and effort trying to deliver those,” Johnson said.
And for the 2016 model year, Ram 3500 customers have bragging rights. This hard-working truck’s 6.7-liter Cummins diesel puts out a chart-topping 900 lb-ft of torque, which the company claims is the most that’s ever been offered in a mass-produced vehicle. Peak horsepower rates at 385, which is down slightly compared the Ford F-350 and Chevy Silverado 3500. They offer 440 and 397 ponies, respectively.
Of course, the pickup market is as competitive as it’s ever been, with each of the Detroit Big Three building stellar trucks. Johnson admitted that “we know the other guys aren’t going to stand still,” so Ram’s best-in-class torque crown could be short lived.
But for the time being, all of that twist means these vehicles can tow more weight and haul heavier loads than the other guys. For the upcoming model year, 3500 variants are rated to drag up to 31,210 pounds, a figure that’s compliant with the SAE J2807 standard. Payload capacity tops the charts as well, measuring 7,390 pounds.
How’d They Do It?
With diesel engines, it’s quite easy to unearth mega output figures without changing any expensive hardware and that’s exactly what happened here. Clint Garrett, senior light-duty communications specialist at Cummins said, “It’s software tuning … [a] new engine calibration.” No budget-busting turbo upgrades, redesigned rotating components or a reworked cylinder head were required.
For decades now, Cummins’ compression-ignition inline-six has been a favorite of truckers across America, though Power Stroke and Duramax enthusiasts will beg to differ. Part of the reason for its enduring popularity has to do with its strength.
“There’s only one engine in this space that’s a true medium-duty engine,” Garrett says. This inline-six’s roots reach deep, all the way to the class-eight segment, he said.
Providing the strength these big rigs need is iron and lots of it. The Cummins’ block and cylinder head are cast of ferrous metal, no lightweight aluminum here. Garrett said these components are “renowned for durability.”
The Cummins diesel is a popular option in Ram trucks. In fact, Johnson said about 60 percent of 2500 models are sold with this engine, which in model-year 2015 costs an additional $8,305 plus an extra $600 for either a manual or automatic transmission. For 2015 the more powerful Ram 3500 (385 hp and 865 lb-ft), cost an additional $2,995 when equipped with the Aisin six-speed automatic transmission. That transmission comes standard on the 2016’s 900 lb-ft package, though official pricing has yet to be released.
Stepping up to the 3500 model, Johnson said an overwhelming 97 percent of them feature the diesel engine. To date, he noted that more than 2 million Cummins-powered Rams have been sold. He cited “long-term durability and [a strong] reputation” as reasons for its success.
Cummins and Chrysler have been partnered for more than 25 years. Garrett said when this engine was initially designed in the early 1980s, it was built to commercial standards, which is probably a big part of its enduring appeal. It first landed on the market for model year 1989 displacing 5.9-liters.
Compared to the latest iteration, its output numbers were almost laughable. It delivered a paltry 160 horses and just 400 lb-ft of torque. However, at that time, like it is today, Garrett said, “Four-hundred foot-pounds was best-in-class.”
This diesel has been on the market in one form or another for quite a while. Is it time for a fresh design? “We know this engine really well,” Garrett said. “If Ram wants more, I’m sure we’ll figure out how to give it to them,” probably by swapping out a few zeros and ones, just like they did for the 2016 model year.
Things are super competitive in the heavy-duty truck segment today. Acknowledging this, Garrett said, “[They’re] all pretty good products,” but the Cummins engine is unique. He said, the biggest difference is “[the] physical size of components.” He said they’re bigger and heavier than the parts used in competing Ford and GM diesels.
Correction: We updated this story to indicate the prices listed are for 2015 model year Ram HD trucks.
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