Torque titans: The most powerful pickups ever made

Horsepower makes the headlines, but torque is what really matters. That’s something my father always used to tell me. While that might not be strictly true for sports cars, it’s more than true for trucks. Trucks are made to work and work usually requires moving very heavy things. To oversimplify, torque is the maximum amount of twisting force that an engine can provide. This is why torquey engines are able to shove you back in your seat from a standing start.

The point of this rambling is that for most truck owners, torque is more important than horsepower. And if you’re a torque junkie, there has never been a better time to buy a truck. Today’s diesels are easily twice as powerful as those made 25 years ago and run much cleaner to boot. Here are, in ascending order, the most torquey diesel trucks you can buy.

2015 Chevrolet Silverado Duramax

2015 Chevrolet Silverado HD

2015 Chevrolet Silverado HD
Handout, Chevrolet

You know it’s going to be an awesome list when the “least powerful” diesel truck here has 765 lb.-ft. of torque. Chevrolet’s Duramax diesel engine displaces 6.6 litres and makes 397 horsepower at 3,000 rpm. That’s as much power as base Corvettes made until very recently. The other incredible feature of the Duramax’s insane torque is that it happens at just 1,300 rpm! It’s safe to say that no unwanted tree stump is safe near this thing.

2014 Ram Cummins

2014 Ram 3500

2014 Ram 3500
Supplied, GurneeDodge

Cummins diesels have been a part of Dodge trucks since 1989. These straight-six turbocharged engines and their legendary reliability were the salvation of Dodges slow selling truck line then. A Cummins diesel has been available in various outputs and displacements continuously since then and the newest 6.7-litre version is the most powerful yet.

With “only” 370 horsepower, the Cummins has less horsepower than the Duramax but gives up no ground at all on torque. How much? A cool 800 lb.-ft. is available at the edge of your right foot. That’s enough to give the Ram 3500 a 30,000-pound towing capacity and if several of these monsters lined up and accelerated at once, the Earth might get knocked off its axis. This is easily the most torque ever produced by a six-cylinder production engine.

2015 Ford Power Stroke

2015 Ford Super Duty

2015 Ford Super Duty
Supplied, Walls-World

A few years ago, Ford was tied with Ram at 800 lb.-ft. for the title of most torquey diesel. Not content with having to share first place, Ford revised the engine management software on its 6.6-litre Power Stroke V8 to provide 860 lb.-ft! That’s more than twice the torque of the 7.3-litre Power Stroke diesel from the mid 1990s.

And with 440 horsepower, the Ford tops these three in that arena as well. The muscle car era saw a horsepower war and now the heavy-duty pickup truck segment is seeing a torque war for the ages. Ten years ago, these three had maximum torque outputs in the mid-500 range and now the least powerful produces 765 lb.-ft. How long will it be until we have 1,000 lb.-ft. production engines?

But diesel isn’t for everybody. The half-ton pickups that make up the majority of consumer truck sales are only available with gas engines and living with a 3/4 or one-ton truck is overkill for most people. So what gasoline powered trucks have the highest torque ratings? Once again in ascending order, the three most torquey gasoline powered trucks ever.

2001-2004 Ford SVT Lightning resize

Despite the newest Lightnings being 10 years old, they’re still some of the most torquey trucks ever made. Though the 380 horsepower it made in 2001 is impressive, it has since been surpassed by trucks that aren’t limited production niche vehicles. But 13 years later, the Lightning’s torque output of 450 lb.-ft. is still a huge number and it puts it near the top of our list for gas-powered trucks. The sacrifice for all that torque (besides a ravenous appetite for fuel) was a real sacrifice in typical truck usability. The Lightning rode on low-profile tires and wasn’t really a truck you’d use to haul lumber around.

Chevrolet Silverado 6.2-litre V8

2014 Chevrolet Silverado

2014 Chevrolet Silverado
Handout, GM

The top-spec gasoline V8 from GM develops 420 horsepower, which is more than a 1969 Camaro, but that’s not why it’s on the list. The star attraction is the V8′s 460 lb.-ft. of torque. While it pales in comparison to the various diesel offerings, this number puts it at the top of the heap among gas-powered trucks.

2004-2006 Dodge Ram SRT10

Dodge Ram SRT10

Dodge Ram SRT10
Supplied, automobilesreview

The most powerful truck ever made wasn’t powered by a V8. The maniacal Dodge Ram SRT10 used an 8.3-litre V10 lifted straight from the screaming madman that is the Dodge Viper. The savage V10 produced 500 horsepower and 525 lb.-ft. of torque. This was (and is) unprecedented territory for a pickup and the SRT10 set a Guinness World Record for the world’s fastest full-sized pickup, which it still holds today.

For obvious reasons, the  SRT10 isn’t the best choice for a practical truck. It devours fuel at a rate of 26 L/100 km when driven in the city. But if you really must have the most powerful gas pickup ever made, the Ram is the truck for you.

About Clayton Seams