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Ram 3500 still best in class for towing

by Bill Cawthon on

Analysis by Bill Cawthon. Ram has confirmed that the Ram 3500 pickup still has a 30,000-pound towing capacity when tested under SAE’s J2807 standards.

Ford, which has, until now, avoided the SAE standard, is now saying that its claim of 31,200 pounds for the F-450 pickup also meets the standard, even when the 150 pounds of “customer-deletable” items, like the spare tire, jack and center console, are added back in.

Ram-3500-Ford-450-Web

This answers questions about towing capacities but fails to answer the question of who is best in Class 3 towing, because the F-450’s credentials as a direct competitor to the Ram 3500 are dubious, at best.

The primary criterion for being in Class 3 is having a gross vehicle weight (GVWR) — payload plus curb weight — at or below 14,000 pounds. Ford claims that both its top F-350 and its sole F-450 pickup have the same GVWR, 14,000 pounds. The GVWR is set by the manufacturer.

The Ram 3500 is a true Class 3 pickup, meeting the standards in curb weight trim.

The Ford F-450 pickup, unlike every other model in the F-450 range, is built on an F-350 chassis, but uses Class 4 components. Ford originally skirted Class 3 limits by stripping standard equipment from the F-450 and redefining the term “curb weight.” In other words, a customer buying an F-450 with all the stuff it is supposed to include, such as a full tank of gas and 300 pounds of driver/payload, will likely find their truck’s curb weight actually falls into the Class 4 weight range.

So is the F-450 Super Duty a Class 3 truck? If so, why doesn’t Ford call it an F-350 and drop the current model? Perhaps it’s an F-400? A F-350 Super-Duper Duty? An F-350½?

The Ram’s claim is rooted in the fact that the Ford F-350, Chevrolet Silverado 3500 and GMC Sierra 3500 cannot tow as much as the Ram 3500. Therefore, the Ram claim is supported.

The question is, why does Ford simply not say the F-450 has the highest towing capacity of any factory-built pickup? Since no other standard pickup is rated to tow 31,200 pounds, that would be true. It might also help justify the extra $10,000-plus for the F-450 compared to either the Ram 3500 or the Ford F-350.

There’s no doubt that Ram could produce a similar vehicle by adding a Ram 3500 bed to a Ram 5500. Wonder what the the towing capacity of such a truck might be, if Ram stretched their legs? (The top towing capacity of a Ram chassis cab is 29,600 lb.)

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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