Eagle-eyed readers might have noticed one big thing missing when we covered the five top-selling trucks of 2017: no heavy duty models made the list. While heavy duty trucks will never sell in crazy numbers, they are extremely important to American automakers. That’s because these trucks are both incredibly capable, not to mention the fact that they turn a healthy profit.
Not all drivers need a truck that can tow a 20,000-pound trailer or haul three tons worth of concrete. But some do, and that’s why we’re running down the list of Americas’ top heavy-duty trucks.
Ram 2500 and 3500
The Ram 2500 boasts a best-in-class gas tow rating of 16,320 pounds. However, its max payload capacity is just 3,059 pounds. The beefiest gas engine is a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 which makes 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. The other two engines that you can get under the hood are a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 making 383 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, and a 6.7-liter inline-six turbodiesel. This Cummins diesel can make up to 800 lb-ft of torque. The 2017 Ram 2500 starts at $32,145 for the entry-level Tradesman trim. The top trim level – the Limited – starts at $57,775.
The Ram 3500 is most capable when optioned with the aforementioned Cummins turbodiesel engine. In the 3500, that engine makes 900 lb-ft of torque and gives the truck a max tow rating of 31,210 pounds. If you want to tow an excess of 15 tons, you’ll need to shell out for the optional Cummins diesel engine and an upgraded transmission, which runs an extra $2,695. While its towing capabilities are impressive, the truck’s max payload capacity of 6,722 pounds isn’t the largest in the segment. The Ram 3500 starts at $33,245 while the top-tier Limited model has a base MSRP of $58,875.
The Chevrolet Silverado HD 2500 and 3500
The base engine in the Silverado HD 2500 is a 6.0-liter V8 making 360 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. With the gas V8, the truck can tow up to 14,800 pounds, which is 200 pounds more than the Silverado HD 3500 is capable of with the same power plant. Max payload capacity is 3,534 pounds.
Opting for the available 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel drops max payload capacity to 3,204 pounds, but ups the truck’s max tow rating considerably. The engine makes a gaudy 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque, enabling the Silverado HD 2500 to tow up to 18,100 pounds. Pricing starts at $33,610 and maxes out at $59,505 for the fashionable High Country trim.
The Silverado HD 3500 has the same engine options as the 2500, but has higher max payload and towing capacities. With the 6.6-liter turbodiesel, the truck can tow up to 23,300 pounds and its max payload capacity is 7,153 pounds. Pricing starts at $34,710, with the top-tier dually (four rear wheels total) High Country checking in at almost $70,000. That’s a lot of money to spend on a truck, but know that you will be saving some cash at the mechanic. The Silverado HD took first place among heavy duty trucks in J.D. Power & Associates 2017 dependability study.
The GMC Sierra 2500 and 3500
There’s not much of a difference between the GMC heavy duty trucks and the ones Chevrolet makes. The Sierra has the same max towing capacity and payload capacity as the Silverado HD. The differences are mostly superficial. The Sierra has a different exterior design than the Silverado and its cabin is more upscale. That luxury slant gives the GMCs a higher base MSRP. The Sierra 2500 starts at $34,190 and the 3500 at $35,290. While Chevrolet gives buyers a few trims to choose from, GMC keeps it simple.
You can have both of its heavy-duty trucks in either a standard trim or as a Denali model. Both Denalis carry large premiums over the standard 2500 and 3500. The Sierra 2500 Denali has a starting price of $55,595. Oddly enough, the Denali 3500 is a hair cheaper at $55,580. Standard features of Denali models include an eight-inch touchscreen, heated and cooled front leather seats, and a factory spray-on bedliner.
One thing to note is that both the heavy-duty Silverado and Sierra, when equipped with the gas V8, can run on E85. That’s rare when it comes to heavy duty trucks. Come the 2018 model year, GM’s heavy-duty trucks will also be able to run on compressed natural gas.
The Ford SuperDuty
Ford’s heavy-duty trucks were updated for the 2017 model year, which means they all have aluminum alloy bodies. The switch enabled Ford to cut up to 350 pounds from some of its beefiest trucks. The lighter body is paired with a new and more powerful diesel V8. The 6.7-liter turbodiesel makes 440 horsepower and up to 925 lb-ft of torque. The other engine option is a flex fuel V8 — it can also run on E85 — that makes 385 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque.
Ford’s SuperDuty trucks come in three flavors – the F-250, F-350, and F-450. Between those three models, there are 15 trims to choose from. Prices range from $32,255 for the entry-level F-250 to $77,325 for the F-450 Platinum. The F-250 offers a max tow and payload ratings of 18,600 pounds and 4,150, respectively. Stepping up to the F-350 increases your max tow rating to 32,000 pounds and your maximum payload capacity to a staggering 7,630 pounds. The F-450 can tow a whopping 32,500 pounds, but it has less payload capacity than the F-350 at just 5,320 pounds.
How They Stack Up
When it comes to heavy duty trucks, there are a few things to keep in mind. First off, “max” capacities usually come with caveats. For example, the only way you’ll ever hit a truck’s max payload capacity is if you opt for a regular cab model. Once you start adding more cabin space you reduce the amount of stuff you can haul in the bed. This is true across all makes and models. Also, when it comes to max towing capacity you’re talking about a gooseneck trailer, as in a trailer that is attached to a ball hitch mounted in the bed. At least, that’s the case when Ford talks about hauling limits.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you really need a heavy-duty truck. If you’re a weekend warrior who goes camping occasionally, you’re probably better off with a standard pickup. Due to their size, heavy duty trucks get bad mileage and are a lot harder to negotiate in cities, especially the models with dual rear wheels. Heavy duty trucks are also more expensive. If you’re going to pay extra, you should ensure that you’re actually going to use all those capabilities. Those big diesel engines don’t come cheap after all.
If cost is a concern, it’s hard not to recommend the Ram heavy-duty trucks. That being said, those models are all a bit older, and comparable offerings from Chevrolet and Ford aren’t all that more expensive. In terms of luxury, you can’t beat the heavy-duty Sierras, which are famed for the quietness of their cabins.
Overall. the best bets are Ford’s SuperDuty trucks. They’re newer, lighter, and more powerful than the competition. Ford’s advantage won’t last forever, though. Out of all the American automakers, it was the one that most recently introduced new heavy-duty models. Both Ram and GM should have newer heavy-duty models out soon.