Tow Jam: These four heavy-duty pickups haul the most


In the blindingly competitive heavy duty pickup segment, the maximum tow rating of a pickup is a source of pride. It’s a seemingly never-ending war of one-upmanship, with the Big Three constantly hitting each other over the heads with chairs in an attempt to outdo the other.

Case in point: Ram was the first to breach the four-figure mark for the measure of torque in a consumer-grade diesel engine. Within months, the team at Ford showed up with their new entry, eclipsing Ram’s figure by 50 pound-feet. Dearborn engineers called it “kilotorque”, a word so hirsute and dripping with testosterone that one might get pregnant just by reading it.

Before diving into these specs, it’s important to note that the maximum towing numbers shown here likely apply to a single trim and body style of truck. For example, a Crew Cab 4×4 model will not have the same maximum hauling capacity as a single cab, two-wheel drive truck. This is due to the extra weight introduced to the equation by more doors, extra glass, and additional metal. Even options can play a factor, so read the chart carefully before hitching up.

Also, to be clear, payload refers to the amount of weight a truck can bear in its bed and cab. It’s important to remember that number includes the tongue weight of any trailer you’re towing. Conventional trailers, like a tow-behind camper, generally have a tongue weight about 10 per cent of the trailer’s total mass. Bump that to about 15 per cent for goose-neck or fifth wheel trailers.

With all that said, let’s jump into the deep end of towing and hauling.

Ford F-450 Super Duty — up to 37,000 pounds

The folks in Dearborn currently sit atop the towing tower, with certain configurations of the Ford F-450 Super Duty rated at an astonishing 37,000 pounds. If you’re wondering, that’s the equivalent of about 21 original Volkswagen Beetles. Note that this figure is limited to gooseneck-style towing; fifth-wheel hauling maxes out at 32,500 pounds.

Unsurprisingly, hauling this much weight requires the Powerstroke 6.7-litre V8 turbodiesel. You’ll also need to roll in a 4×2 Regular Cab, equipped with an eight-foot box and dual rear wheels; adding four-wheel-drive shaves 600 pounds from the burly tow rating. If you’re new to the latter, don’t forget the extra width introduced by having double the number of wheels on your truck’s rear axle. In addition to checking overhead height restrictions, you’ll also want to keep an eye on the posted width of that gate opening.

Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra 3500HD — up to 35,500 pounds

The General claims their new HD trucks are its strongest and most capable ever, offering a max towing capability of 35,500 pounds, an increase of 52 per cent over the old truck. This number applies to gooseneck towing situations on a Regular Cab 3500HD with dual rear wheels. It’ll need the available 6.6-litre Duramax turbodiesel under the hood, and naturally, a gooseneck hitch in its bed.

That Duramax diesel, if you’re making comparisons, making 445 horsepower and 910 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s coupled to a new-for-this-year Allison 10-speed automatic transmission. For 2020, this GM duo is endowed with chassis and suspension enhancements, making for a heavier-duty frame that’s able to cope with these big loads. A new, 12-inch ring gear in the rear axle and prop shafts — that are now 30 per cent larger in diameter — don’t hurt, either.

Ram 3500 Heavy Duty — up to 35,100 pounds

Gaining access to the Power Puller Club with a Ram requires the selection of several options. First, make sure the 6.7-litre Cummins turbodiesel under the hood is the High Output version, not the workaday standard output mill. This unlocks the magic 1000 lb.-ft. of torque figure. Next, recalling that less weight in the truck generally means more towing capacity, the truck has to a two-wheel drive Tradesman — read: base model.

Finally, its rear axle ratio needs to be 4.10, not the generally easier-to-find 3.73 ratio. This means your new Ram will spin more RPMs on the highway, but will have the low-down grunt to haul a dozen Toyota Corolla sedans. Note that the maximum payload, advertised by Ram to be 7680 pounds, doesn’t belong to this exact truck, but rather the same model equipped with the gasoline-powered Hemi V8 engine.

Honourable mention: Ford F-150 — up to 13,200 pounds

One doesn’t need to step into a truck the size of a house to possess hauling figures that were, until recently, the domain of heavy duty trucks with diesel engines. The popular F-150, as seen in work sites and Costco parking lots alike, can conventionally tow an astonishing maximum of 13,200 pounds. As with all others on this list, that figure is limited to a specific configuration.

Here, you’ll be looking at a two-wheel drive XL SuperCrew powered by the mighty 3.5L EcoBoost V6, further equipped with the Max Trailer Towing Package and the 6.5-foot box. The beauty here is that this truck, with its quartet of full doors, can be pressed into family duty without having to squeeze the kids into the cab with a shoehorn. Just keep an eye on the amount of weight of passengers and payload placed in the truck to ensure you don’t exceed the Gross Combined Weight Rating of 18,600 pounds.

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