It was probably seven years ago when an engineer at a full-size truck introduction told us, “These tow ratings can’t go much higher. They just can’t … the drivetrains won’t take it.”
That may have been true at the time, but what our friend may not have taken into consideration is the sheer determination of the Big Three to maintain bragging rights. Tranny can’t take the torque? Re-engineer it. Rear end won’t hold up? Slap a bigger one under there. That would explain why today’s trucks are typically more capable than ever before.
And, you’ve likely noticed another trend: Heavy-duty trucks are getting bigger as in massive. Last year, Ford introduced its all-new Super Duty with its 6.4-liter, twin-turbo Power Stroke diesel, and a few months later, GM debuted its much-anticipated all-new heavy-duty lineup.
Now, Dodge just introduced the new Ram 4500/5500 series. And, the heavy-duty trucks capability matches their physicality; Ford’s top dog F-450 has a payload of more than 6,000 pounds, and a towing capacity of 16,000 pounds with a conventional hitch and up to 24,500 pounds with a fifth-wheel hitch.
Not to be outdone, GM’s HD trucks are available in three cab styles, three cargo-box configurations and five wheelbase lengths, and can tow up to 13,000 pounds with a conventional hitch and 16,500 pounds with a fifth-wheel hitch. And though this may not match the big Ford’s number, GM still retains horsepower and torque bragging rights; its revised 6.6-liter Duramax churns out 365 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque (compared to Ford’s 350 hp and 650 lb-ft).
Dodge made waves this year with the introduction of its all-new chassis cab trucks, which will give RVers a new choice in the heavy-duty towing game. Available in 3500, 4500 and 5500 designations, these new chassis cab trucks have a number of interesting features that should make them popular with RV upfitters. The 3500 models are available with either the 5.7-liter Hemi or 6.7-liter Cummins, while the 4500 and 5500 trucks come with the Cummins exclusively.
Transmission choices include a six-speed manual (standard), five-speed automatic (optional with Hemi), and six-speed automatic (optional with Cummins). The highest frame strength in the segment (according to Dodge) bestows the 3500 trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) of up to 12,500 pounds, while 4500 and 5500 models boast gvwrs of up to 16,500 and 19,500 pounds, respectively.
These attributes, combined with a clean frame top (all chassis components are below the top of the frame surface), a number of different wheelbase and cab-to-axle lengths, power take-off capability and a standard exhaust brake are sure to make Dodge a contender for ’08 and the future.
Half-ton trucks see a number of improvements this year, as well. GMC’s Sierra and Chevy’s Silverado, while essentially unchanged, now have the availability of an integrated trailer-brake control a welcome addition. And half-ton Dodge Ram trucks benefit from a new 4.7-liter V-8 (standard on 4WD models) that produces 310 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque, a 30-percent and 10-percent boost, respectively. The increased output is attributed to a new cylinder-head design with dual plugs per cylinder and revised ports, as well as a higher compression ratio. The new engine also runs on Ethanol E85, and reportedly is more fuel-efficient as well.
The popular Ford F-150, meanwhile, is due for a complete revision next year, but in the meantime, Ford has added a new F-150 XL SuperCrew with either a 5 1/2- or 6 1/2-foot Styleside box.
Of course, trucks aren’t the only things that can tow, and there’s a lot happening with SUVs and crossovers for ’08 as well. Buick’s new Enclave is the latest crossover built on GM’s Lambda architecture (the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook preceded it, and Chevy’s version is coming soon), and it is positioned to compete against the likes of Acura and Lexus with a 275-hp V-6, six-speed automatic transmission and seven-passenger seating. Standard features include StabiliTrak stability control, Xenon headlamps, tri-zone climate control and six air bags.
GM is introducing Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon models with its 2-Mode hybrid system, which is reputed to deliver a 25-percent increase in fuel economy over a comparable non-hybrid model. Created in a partnership between GM, BMW and Chrysler, the 2-Mode system allows the vehicle to be powered by either electric motor, the 6.0-liter V-8 (with Active Fuel Management cylinder-deactivation technology) or both power plants and, it can still tow 6,000 pounds.
Chrysler is using the same hybrid technology in its Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango, claiming a whopping 40-percent increase in fuel economy in the city, and 25 percent on the highway. And yeah, both have a Hemi.
Also, all new at the Chrysler camp is the Jeep Liberty, which sheds some of its cutesy appeal in favor of a more masculine look shared by the Commander. Power comes from a 3.7-liter V-6 and standard six-speed manual, or optional four-speed automatic transmission. New front and rear suspension, as well as two 4WD systems are offered, along with features such as hill-descent control and hill-start assist.
Right on the heels of its new Tundra full-size pickup, Toyota is introducing an all-new Highlander and Highlander Hybrid for ’08, along with (drumroll, please) an all-new, eight-passenger Land Cruiser. The Highlander is significantly larger, roomier and more powerful than the vehicle it replaces, according to Toyota, and even though it’s also heavier, the company claims an improvement in fuel economy. The Land Cruiser rides on an extra-heavy-duty frame shared with its luxury counterpart, the Lexus LX570.
There is an overall length and width increase and, not surprisingly, Toyota’s flagship SUV is powered by the same 381-hp 5.7-liter V-8 found in last year’s Tundra. A new Sequoia SUV, also available with 5.7-liter power, is expected to bow soon, although details were not available at presstime.
Nissan has flushed out its popular Titan pickup line with longbed versions of its King Cab and Crew Cab models, as well as a new Pro-4X off-road package, featuring Rancho shock absorbers, a lower final-drive ratio, additional skid plates on the oil pan and transfer case and an electronic locking rear differential. Visual cues include 18-inch alloy wheels and P275/70R18 all-terrain tires, body-colored grille and bumpers, unique instruments, PRO-4X embroidered seats and other details.
Clearly, no matter what you plan to tow, and where you plan to tow it, there’s a vehicle that will do the job in comfort and style. And with fuel-saving technologies becoming more commonplace, your tow rig can also serve as the family vehicle whether you’re going to the mountains or the mall.
Head over to our new Towing Guide page to find the 2008 towing guide and towing guides from years past.