The truck wars are heating up again, and this time, Ram and Ford are engaged in a hotly contested debate over best-in-class claims, with Ram alleging that Ford is pitting a Class 4 truck against their Class 3 truck. Meanwhile, Ford maintains that all of the company's pickups are in the Class 3 category and, therefore, any comparison of their F-450 Super Duty against Ram's 3500 Heavy Duty is valid.
Simply put, Class 3 trucks are any vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,001-14,000 pounds. Trucks that typically fall into this category are all of the "1-tons," such as Ford's F-350, Ram's 3500, and GM's Silverado and Sierra 3500 twins. Class 4 is considered medium-duty territory.
Backing up a bit, Ford has been feeling the heat from Ram for a few years now. With the separation of Ram from Dodge into its own business unit back in 2009, Ram has been free to focus the company's R&D and marketing efforts on its own products and not share it with Dodge cars. From that newfound freedom has come a highly competitive product, one that outsold the traditionally second-best-selling Chevy trucks in March 2014.
For the 2013 model year, Ram shocked the industry by offering a 30,000-pound-rated Ram 3500, thanks to an upgraded chassis and new version of the Cummins 6.7L I-6 turbodiesel that had a maximum available output of 385 hp and 850 lb-ft of torque. This 30,000-pound towing claim was far above the already impressive 24,500 pounds of Ford's F-450.
In March of 2014, Ford announced that the second-generation Power Stroke 6.7L V-8 would be rated at a best-in-class 440 hp and 860 lb-ft of torque, a move many in the industry were anticipating. Ford also revealed that the F-450 would also come with a best-in-class tow rating of 31,200 pounds to reclaim the crown from Ram.
But not so quick, as officials at Ram questioned whether or not the F-450 should be considered a Class 3 truck at all. If the F-450 were indeed a Class 4 truck, then Ram would have a stake in the best-in-class claims, knowing that the company's lineup features capability that is very competitive against the F-350. However, if the F-450 were a Class 3 truck, then Ram would no longer be able to make those claims.
In August 2014, Ram took things one step further by offering a new engine calibration for the 2015 Cummins, bringing torque to a best-in-class 865 lb-ft, topping Ford's new 6.7L by 5 lb-ft of torque. Ram also went on to announce that the company's entire product line is SAE J2807 compliant, something that couldn't be said about Ford, as Ford chose not to use J2807 until new versions of their products entered the market. However, Ford announced in September 2014 that the refreshed 2015 Ford F-450 would also be J2807 compliant earlier than planned in order to squash Ram's claims of best-in-class on towing and payload.
We reached out to Ford to ask them about the Class 3/Class 4 controversy, and this is what Mike Levine, truck communications manager at Ford, told us:
"The F-450 pickup is a Class 3 vehicle, as the GVWR is 14,000 pounds. Using base curb weight (8,611 pounds), the F-450 maximum payload is now 5,300 pounds. That's under 14,000 pounds GVWR. As before, our customers can choose to delete certain equipment and get a higher payload rating without exceeding the Class 3 GVWR.
Also, the F-450 pickup is not a F-450 chassis cab truck with a pickup box. The two trucks use structurally different frames with different shapes and frame rail spacing. The F-450 pickup is based on the F-350 frame. F-450 pickup frame rails are spaced 38 inches apart in contrast to the F-450 chassis cab, which has frame rails spaced according to the industry standard for chassis cabs at 34 inches apart, so it's easy for aftermarket companies to sell custom bodies to commercial truck owners, independent of the truck manufacturer. Additionally, the F-450 chassis cab is not designed to accommodate a Ford pickup box, which has mount points spaced too widely to fit on the Ford chassis cab frame.
The F-450 pickup uses a more capable version of the F-350 frame to support the increased towing, plus a stronger suspension and commercial-grade 19.5-inch wheels and tires to enable its best-in-class tow rating of 31,200 pounds. If you removed the cargo box from an F-450 pickup truck, you would see an F-350 frame and not an F-450 chassis frame. The front portion of the F-450 pickup frame has upgrades (thicker materials and form differences) to support a higher gross axle weight rating."
While Ram has an argument that the company's Ram 3500 should be compared to the Ford F-350, it would appear that both the F-350 and F-450 are Class 3 trucks, despite the naming semantics. The importance of this little detail can't be overstated, as correct categorization will give bragging right to whichever company is ultimately on the right side of the numbers.
To see how the Ford F-350 and Ram 3500 compare, we chose the most capable regular-cab 4x2 DRW, the high-volume crew-cab 4x4 SRW, and the F-450-close crew-cab 4x4 DRW. We also threw in the F-450 to give you an idea of how the different truck lines shake out in the numbers games. We used 2015 numbers from Ford and Ram.
|Regular Cab 2WD Dual Rear Wheel|
|Ram 3500||Ford F-350||Ford F-450|
|Payload (lbs.)||6,580||7,060||Not Offered|
|Towing (lbs.)||30,000||24,700||Not Offered|
|Crew Cab 4WD Single Rear Wheel|
|Ram 3500||Ford F-350||Ford F-450|
|Payload (lbs.)||4,480||3,610||Not Offered|
|Towing (lbs.)||17,010||15,900||Not Offered|
|Crew Cab 4WD Dual Rear Wheel|
|Ram 3500||Ford F-350||Ford F-450|
Update: Our original chart reflected maximum payloads and towing, regardless of engine. We've updated the chart to reflect maximum payloads and towing of trucks configured with the diesel option and the maximum towing package in each configuration, making for a more even comparison. Please note that Ram's numbers are based from the SAE J2807 standard, while Ford's numbers are using the company's internal calculations (only the F-450 uses J2807), resulting in numbers derived using different methods.
So let's recap:
• The Ram 3500 can be had with a Cummins 6.7L turbodiesel I-6 with a maximum rating of 385 hp and 865 lb-ft of torque.
• The Ford F-450 can be had with the Power Stroke 6.7L turbodiesel V-8 with 440 hp and 860 lb-ft of torque.
• Ram trucks are SAE J2807 compliant across the company's entire line.
• The Ford F-450 is the only Super Duty model that is officially rated using the J2807 standard.
• The Ram 3500 is a Class 3 truck.
• The Ford F-350 and F-450 (pickup version only) are both Class 3 trucks.
• The Ford F-450 is only available in one configuration.
• Ram offers max tow in several configurations of the 3500.
What we don't know is which manufacturer will make the next move. It is possible Ford could offer up another calibration change before launch to retake torque bragging rights, although we can tell you that the Cummins 6.7L has "plenty of room" for power increases. Maybe Ram will up the 3500's towing numbers for 2015, or perhaps we will hear something from General Motors, which has so far remained silent on the matter, likely understanding there is no benefit for them to fight a war on paper. Rumor has it that the General has an impressive offering for 2016, so it would appear that this skirmish is far from the last chapter in the pickup wars.
Sources: Ford Motor Company, Ram Trucks