A horsepower race has developed among manufacturers of heavy-duty pickups, and Ford is now king, at least of diesels. Its new International-built Power Stroke V-8 has leapfrogged ahead in both power and torque.
The 6-liter Power Stroke makes 325 horsepower and 560 pounds-feet, compared to the 305/555 from the Dodge Cummins Turbodiesel and 300/520 from General Motors' Duramax.
Ford is proudly showing off what more power can do. At a demonstration of its latest SuperDuty F250 and F350 pickups last fall, it hitched heavy trailers to its vehicles and to the latest Dodge and Chevrolet heavy pickups, and let reporters judge acceleration, hill climbing and quietness. Ford's trucks came out best.
Most comparisons were apple-to-apple, with similar vehicle configurations and engine ratings. But Dodge suffered in the diesel comparison because its high-output Cummins cannot yet be had with an automatic transmission. Ford, contending that most customers buy automatics, matched its 325-hp Power Stroke with a five-speed Torqshift against the 250-hp Dodge-Cummins with a four-speed automatic.
Of course, the Dodge, with 75 horses fewer than the Ford, couldn't keep up in any power contest, whether in a drag race or a hill climb. Neither could a Chevy, but its deficit was only 25 horsepower, so it came closer to the Ford.
So who cares about out-and-out acceleration or hill climbing? Well, the truth is that most truck drivers want to keep up with traffic, even if they're in a heavier vehicle. They expect light-duty trucks and vans to perform like cars and to be smooth about it.
In that vein, Ford's new Torqshift five-speed automatic performed well behind the diesel, with smooth, almost imperceptible up- and down-shifts. In most ways the Torqshift imitates the Allison 1000 that GM uses in its Duramax-powered Chevy and GMC pickups, but the Torqshift seems smoother.