Pulling Power

December 17, 2011 12:33 AM

By H. Kent Sundling

Subtle changes in new trucks involve towing and hauling 

The 2012 model year trucks are considered mid models, so don’t expect any drastic changes.

As far as pickup exteriors go, the Ford F-150 has a new appearance package, Nissan Titan and Frontier have new sport appearance packages and Toyota Tacoma has a slightly refreshed exterior.

Under the skin, however, midyear 2011 and 2012 heavy-duty models boast increased pulling power.

Chevy and GMC. Upgraded towing and hauling ratings for 2012 Chevy and GMC trucks stem from new rear springs, shackles, cargo box mounts and strengthened cargo boxes. As a result, the Sierra and Silverado HDs can now tow up to 23,000 lb. with a fifth-wheel trailer, up from 21,700 lb. in 2011. Sierra and Silverado also increased dually payload; the 3500HD regular cab 6.0-liter V8 gas dually now has a 7,215-lb. rating. Upgraded trailer hitch receivers increase conventional towing to 18,000 lb., up from 17,000 lb.

Chrysler Ram. Formerly known as Dodge, Chrysler Ram has a new Tradesman HD, a half-ton 1500 that is really a heavy-duty, three-quarter-ton 2500 with a higher payload package.

For Ram midyear 2011 dually models, there’s a new Max Tow option package that features a 4.10 rear axle ratio, which includes stronger helical gears, upgraded bearings and finned aluminum differential cover to dissipate heat. There’s also a new water-to-oil transmission cooler and power-steering cooler to help manage the higher towing ratings. The Max Tow package increases fifth-wheel towing to 22,750 lb., up from 18,500 lb. Max Tow is available for regular and crew cab Ram 3500. The gross combination weight rating has been increased to 30,000 lb. for certain models.

The new High-Output option 6.7-liter Cummins diesel engine increases torque from 650 lb.-ft. (in early 2011 Ram HD pickups) to 800 lb.-ft. for all 2500 and 3500 models that are equipped with Chrysler’s 68RFE six-speed automatic transmission.

Ford. Higher-strength steel in a frame crossmember and an upgraded trailer hitch give the Ford Super Duty additional towing capacity. The changes also boost the F-350 DRW 4×2 pickup maximum payload to 7,110 lb. and maximum fifth-wheel towing to 22,700 lb. A beefed-up frame and hitch produce a conventional trailer tow rating of 17,500 lb. for the Ford F-350 and F-450 (dual rear wheels) equipped with the 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbocharged diesel engine.

The Ford-engineered heavy-duty Power Stroke diesel produces 400 hp and 800 lb.-ft. of torque. The standard 6.2-liter V8 gas engine has 15% better fuel economy compared with the previous engine and produces 405 lb.-ft. of torque and 385 hp. It is capable of running on E85. New for 2012 is a compressed natural gas/propane prep engine option.

Weight Rating

Most states have a CDL exemption for farm trucks, but be aware that 2011 and 2012 Ford, GM and Dodge 1-ton dually diesels have a gross combination weight rating of 30,000 lb. instead of 26,000 lb. as in previous years. CDL requirements start at 26,000 lb. Your farm license plate might keep you from being pulled over by the law, but if you travel with a trailer and look commercial, know the new rules.

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