Are the 2016 Ram HD’s Output Figures Bogus?

Are the 2016 Ram HD’s Output Figures Bogus?

Ram has overtaken rivals in the heavy-duty pickup segment. When properly equipped, their 3500-model trucks are rated to tow a segment-leading 31,210 pounds.

Enabling this stellar performance is an updated 6.7-liter Cummins diesel that puts out up to 385 hp along with a best-in-class 900 lb-ft of torque. But how trustworthy are these figures? Could they be bogus? The answer depends on how you measure.

Perusing the Ram 3500’s spec sheet reveals all of its vital statistics, from wheelbase and overall height to turning diameter and crankcase capacity. Eyeballing its engine output figures revealed a curious anomaly; the truck’s Cummins inline-six is rated SAE Gross using the organization’s J1995 standard. This is a different test procedure than what’s commonly used throughout the automotive business.

Car companies most frequently rely on the SAE J1349 when measuring horsepower and torque. Gary Pollak, program manager for technical projects at SAE International said, “[It’s] the spec that the industry uses.” Powerplants for passenger cars, light trucks, SUVs and similar vehicles are tested this way.

SEE ALSO: Which Heavy-Duty Pickup Really is Best in Class?

Potentially undermining Ram’s claimed figures Pollak said, “No vehicle manufacturer has an engine certified 1995.” Additionally, he noted that the folks at SAE want all manufacturers to use “comparable methods” when measuring engine output, which, at least for now, would be J1349.

Hop, Skip and Jump to Conclusions

However, just because Ram uses a different procedure does not mean its claimed figures are spurious. According to SAE, the J1995 standard is:

Intended for use primarily by engine manufacturers that supply engines to other companies for installation in applications where the engine manufacturer may not control induction and exhaust system design or the speed at which the powerplant runs.

Since Ram buys its diesel engines from Cummins, this rating standard makes sense. Everything appears to be on the up-and-up.

Clarifying their position, Nick Cappa of Ram Truck communications said, “Cummins is an engine-producing company, so when they punch out motors, they’re using them in a number of different applications and it’s not always going to have the same accessory drives,” or intake plumbing or exhaust routing, for that matter.

Cummins Diesel“We were the pioneers in the large displacement turbo diesels in heavy-duty trucks,” said Cappa. Ever since Chrysler introduced the original 5.9-liter Cummins 27 years ago, he said they’ve used the same exact test procedure, J1995, so it’s not like the folks in Auburn Hills decided one morning they were going to try to game the system by using a different procedure from the rest of their competitors.

Driving his point home, Cappa noted, “Our engineers truly feel the 1995 power ratings provide a more direct reference for comparing heavy-duty engine performance.” This is because these hard-working trucks can be outfitted in countless different ways, with equipment like dual alternators, power-takeoffs and so on, all of which leads to varying parasitic losses, which Cappa said are more accurately taken into account by the J1995 standard.

Thirty-Six Inches, Three Feet, One Yard

Three Feet is always 36 inches, whether you’re gauging it with a tape measure, yardstick or laser-powered rangefinder. Ram may be a strong proponent of the J1995 procedure, but its rivals aren’t necessarily in agreement; they think their measuring techniques are more accurate.

“We’re using 1349 for our engines,” said Mike Levine, truck communications manager at Ford, a standard they believe is more rigorous than J1995.

Ford Super Duty

Levine said, “If you look at the HD customer, about 90 percent of them tow … So they’re looking for great low-end torque and they’re looking for high efficiency with the power to pull a heavy trailer.”

Ford’s 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8 puts out 440 horses and 860 lb-ft of torque. Levine was eager to point out that these are best-in-class standard numbers. In comparison, Ram’s Cummins is offered in three different potencies. With a manual gearbox, it’s rated at 350 hp and 660 lb-ft; when equipped with the 68RFE automatic transmission, those figures increase to 370 and 800; finally, when paired with an optional Aisin self-shifting gearbox, drivers get 385 ponies and the full 900 units of twist.

It’s worth noting that in 2015 model-year Rams, the Cummins inline-six is an $8,305 option. Beyond that, you have to spend an additional $2,995 for the Aisin automatic transmission.

Ford Power StrokeBut back to test procedures. When asked if there was any estimable percentage difference between J1995 and J1349, Pollak said, “There’s so many variables, so much involved, it would be hard to make any kind of comparison like that.” Unfortunately, there’s no real way to stack them against one another.

“Each of them are equally valid, equally fine,” noted Pollak. However, “Unless you go through our certified power program … we have no oversight,” so conceivably an automaker could make nearly any claim they wanted. “And that’s one of the reasons we started our certified power program,” added Pollak.

But where does General Motors, the third biggest player in the heavy-duty truck segment stand on this issue? According to Tom Read, the powertrain communications man at GM, all of their engines, unless otherwise noted, are rated using SAE J2723, a third procedure, which is arguably the most trustworthy one.

Explaining what this is, Pollak said the J2723 test “is our certified power program.” It involves lots of official paperwork as well as a specially trained, third party individual that verifies the procedure as well as the resultant horsepower and torque figures.

Curiously, SAE certification can be applied to either J1349 or J1995, a manufacturer simply has to follow the rules outlined in J2723. Confused by all of these numbers? Good. There are even more below.

Do Certifications Matter?

If certified numbers really matter to truck buyers, then they should apply to more than just engine output. Accordingly, SAE has a way of guaranteeing a vehicle’s tow rating as well.

Cappa said capability is the No. 1 concern for buyers of heavy-duty Ram trucks, which is why they want to be on top and the reason why they certify their entire pickup range to SAE standards.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Heavy-Duty Truck Comparison Test

“We’re the only manufacturer to use J2807 criteria in all three truck segments,” said Cappa, from light-duty half-ton models to three-quarter and one-ton Rams, not an easy feat. With a chuckle, he said, “It’s stringent; it’s not easy to hit.”

2016 Ram 3500

On the flipside, most of Dearborn’s pickups are compliant with this rating, though not all. Levine said, “Since 2013 all new Ford vehicles are rated according to J2807.” This includes the 2015 F-150 as well as its monstrous F-450. However, the blue oval’s F-250 and F-350 trucks are not currently compliant, something that will be rectified in the near future.

Levine said, “When the next-generation Super Duty comes out, it will be J2807 [compliant].” Production of these all-new pickups is slated to begin next year.

Fighting to be First

Ford Super DutyIn the heavy-duty segment, Ram has the lead right now with up to 900 lb-ft of torque, something that enables best-in-class towing and payload capability. Ford counters this with segment-leading horsepower and standard torque with its 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8.

However, when the blue oval’s next-generation Super Duty hits the road, it’s probably a safe bet Ford will wrest these titles away from Ram. Such cutthroat competition poses challenges for automakers, but it’s good news for customers who have access to ever-improving vehicles.

But really, when it comes to engine output, the numbers provided by these mini big-rigs are so close, it likely isn’t noticeable; any of today’s heavy-duty trucks are so ridiculously capable that output differences are practically academic and that is a good thing.

Discuss this on our Ford Forum or Ram Diesel Forum

  • Actually for FORD, it is lost cause. If anyone knows anything about diesel motors, it is the Banks brothers. They will attest that Cummins, no matter the other claims manufactures, will always be at the loosing end.
    When it comes to engines and performance, I have to hand it to the Dodge brothers, who once was the supplier of powertrains to Ford prior to becoming of its own company. Powertrain has always been its priority with performance. Most bang for the buck. Even their own AWD unit was incorporated into the MB line when they were join at the hip.
    Ram will always maintain its leading role when it comes to diesel. Perhaps, this was the reason why even I look at the HD line in 03 and decided for me, it was the Ram 2500 HD model. When remodeling, I had to load over 5500lbs of material into the bed. Fearing it would cause damage, I was taken back when the wheels just leveled out. There were no problem in making up the hill at all. Amazing how they under rate American trucks.
    Competition does drive the market. We can be thankful for this. It only brings a better truck to the market for consumer. What is coming from what I have heard, is the change in the next gen Ram with slider rear doors and fold flat seats into the floor (stow-n-go).

  • Zac Lowing

    The only reason they use that standard is because the others made them look bad.

  • smartacus

    o-ho! well now!
    Those output figures are not an $8,305 option, but an $11,300 option.
    Thanks for the FYI 😉

  • Phil Hyde

    What’s interesting to me is the HP numbers. Ram seems to be losing the race there. Is the Cummins tapped out? All the torque in the world does you no good if you can’t keep the load moving down the road.

  • rebel1996

    Your comments make no sense at all. The engine discussed has nothing to do with MB or their diesel technology. Dodge is using a diesel built for them by Cummin’s. How is Banks even relevant to this article? I assume you mean Gale Banks, he tunes Cummin’s, Duramax (mabe by isuzu in partnership with GM), and Ford (both the older Navistar and the newer Ford engineered and built). You say Ford is a lost cause because Cumins will always lose? What does that mean? The fact you put 5500lbs in the bed of a 2003 Dodge is irrelevant to the article. Slider rear doors and stowable seats don’t have anything to do with the Ford Vs Dodge/Cummins max HP and max torque ratings.

  • brian

    Our fleet (’12-’14) of Ram 4500’s are pure junk. They started falling apart from day one. Can’t keep them out the shop. Check engine lights & throwing codes as soon we we pull out of the shop. DPF system problems galore. Injector problems. Transfer case problems. They are being phased out & replaced by Fords. So far no problems at all in the first year with the Fords.

  • Zack Schwenzer

    I’m not sure if Cummins is at its limit but it is an inline 6 vs V8’s. 2 less cylinders probably loses out on HP but inline engines can, and in this case, do put out a little more torque than many V6/8 engines

  • Gary

    Give it time with the Fords! You will be saying the same thing.

  • Dan

    So they use a different test method, so what? They can still pull more weight than anyone else, which speaks volumes

  • Mtn_Man

    Well I can’t speak for the newer Fords but for me I’ve been a happy owner of a 2001 F350SD 7.3L 4×4 auto trans and the only thing I have to replace on the engine was the water pump. Aside from that the usual ball joints and u joints, one time for each as I replaced them with Moog greaseable parts and they are still in like new shape. Oh yeah over 200K and still gives me 15 mpg around town 20mpg on the highway. This of course drops to 11 when plowing or towing. 4k to 5k in the bed, no problem. So say what you will about Fords they are A1 in my book. As for the marketing numbers on hp and torque, they should all, rate their vehicles at net power to the rear wheels. Or”where the rubber meets the road”. Then the average guy will know where he or she stands.

  • Datz Nutz

    If it’s good enough for Cummins, it’s good enough for me.

  • Diesel Driver

    Since I’m an inline fan, I’d go with the dodge. Since I’m a manual transmission fan, I’d go with the manual transmission. If I felt like I needed more torque and horsepower, I’d add another turbo to the cummins and a tune. Bigger exhaust and better intercooler and intake. Seems to be what everyone else does regardless of which brand they prefer so what difference does it make in the long run? None!

  • Diesel Driver

    You would need to look at the entire torque and horsepower curves to make any kind of semi intelligent evaluation of the lower horsepower/higher torque rating situation.

  • Diesel Driver

    No, they have always used the same standard so why would they change? Their numbers are thereby compatible with other year dodges. I remember when the car manufacturers went from using flywheel horsepower to rear wheel horsepower about 1972. Same exact engine setups lost 1/3 of their apparent horsepower by changing the standard. If the car companies could agree on a standard and a conversion factor so they could give valid comparisons to previous engines, then they would have a good reason to change.

  • RJ

    I doubt it, as much as I like the Ram I think Fiat/Chrysler group needs to be reading all the negative reviews and coming up with positive solutions, they are way more interested in the pony car power wars waging between the Mustang and Camaro right now, even the Viper doesn’t look so hot when stacked up against the Vette. I like the brand but not enough to be willing to suffer for their mistakes. They should focus on building a better vehicle quality wise and then worry about hp and torque, not the other way around.

  • plainclothes

    Stick with the old drivetrains, “restore” anything that’s getting worn, and you’ll be much happier. The newer power-wars trucks rely on excessively complex (and expensive) systems for gains in power in mileage. It’s not worth the trade off in total cost of ownership, reliability, and serviceability. Doesn’t matter if you go with the 7.3 Ford/International or the 5.9 Dodge/Cummins, you’re going to have a reliable puller. I’d stay clear of the GMs — the suspension design is too weak to handle heavy use.

  • RJ

    That’s a good comparison, glad to see Dodge looked good on that one, but last review I read on Ram vs Chevy vs Ford on diesels they described Ram as being the slowest and very lethargic, not to mention how unstable it felt when the bed was loaded down. Though it was also stated Ram had best interior. We’ll see in the next few years if those reviews change but for now Ram doesn’t seem like the best for the money.

  • ErnestTheYounger

    At this point the torque/hp wars in pickups is pointless, as is tow rating well beyond what you will actually use it for. If you really want to tow 25,000+ for more than 10% of a vehicle’s use, a medium truck is what you need. Most tests find that the lowest rated diesel in this class (GM/Duramax) is a little faster both light and pulling than the other two, but the difference is irrelevant.

    Were I buying one of these, I’d ask “how well does it drive when loaded the way I’ll use it”, “how much time will it spend in the shop instead of on the road”, “how’s the ride going to feel after 4 hours driving” (that stiff 1-ton ride is fun driving across town and no fun at all after a few hours) and “will the mfr delay warranty work while looking for an excuse to avoid doing the work”. Whether it will be ten seconds ahead or behind on a drag race over the Rocky Mountains is a completely useless stat to me.

  • Joe Morin

    Torque keeps everything moving, horsepower determines how quickly you do it, the Rams will get up to speed slower than the Ford, or GMs, but they will lose less speed towing grades due to the engines giving more push. Most big bore(15L ISX) cummins engines fitted into highway tractors only put out 450hp, because they are speed limited, they can go up as high as 600hp, but I rarely see it. The 6.7 caps out at 550hp on the marine engines, if Ram can get it to pass emissions, I’m certain they will eventually hit this mark. The Ram is already well into medium duty power range at 900 ftlbs of torque. I work at an international dealership and most of our Durastars with the N9 engine put out 330hp and 900 ftlbs of torque for a 60,000lbs GVW truck, in comparison the Ram is a 14,000lbs gvw.