Note to the Nevada State Police: we almost never exceeded the posted speed limit of 65 MPH, and if you saw a dark shadow gray crew cab over 90 it must have been someone else.
Passing two to three cars at once was easy as we moved into the other lane, quickly accelerated and merged back. Oh, did you know that the Ford 6.0-liter Power Stroke Super Duty has a top speed limiter at 98 MPH? And the Power Stroke shows no sign of diesel fade all the way up to near the century mark we were told by another media tester that was willing to try.
At 65 MPH the interior of the Power Stroke was as quiet as many passenger cars. Conversation was easy even with the A/C blasting at max. You can't imagine you are in a diesel until you slow down to about 20 MPH when the clatter finally starts to return to the cabin.
We arrived in Bullhead City across the Colorado River from Laughlin, Nevada, a gambling town that looks like an ultra condensed version of Las Vegas if you subjected Vegas to the 26,000psi compression pressures of the Power Stroke's hydraulic rail fuel injectors. There we swapped pickups for competitive vehicle tests between trucks towing 7,000 pound trailers up a grade of between 5% to about 7%.
A Chevrolet Silverado with two people took off about two minutes before Stoehr and the two of us jumped into a monochromatic red F-350 Sport dually with a 3.73 gear ratio. A Dodge Ram had left even earlier than the Silverado.
With the other trucks ahead of us by about half a mile we started chasing after them. The hill is about 10 miles long so we had plenty of time to catch and pass the Dodge, equipped with a standard 5.9-liter Cummins I6 turbo diesel and 4-speed automatic, within about 2 miles from the start of the hill. Near as we could tell the speed difference was approximately 18 MPH as we were moving at about 78 MPH. In a later test when we drove the Dodge ourselves we found its maximum speed was 60 MPH with the accelerator down to the floor the entire climb. That's a significant speed difference.
For people upset that we didn't get to run the new 5.9-liter High Output Cummins I6 engine against the Power Stroke or the Duramax, consider the following limitations of the HO Cummins. The HO Cummins is only available with a manual transmission. About 90% of Power Stroke sales are automatics. The HO Cummins fails to meet California emissions and that of two other states. The Power Stroke not only meets California emissions but as we stated earlier it also meets 2004 federal requirements. We think there will be lots of buyers in California (the most populous state in the union) who are going to walk out of Dodge dealerships disappointed after being told the HO Cummins is not for sale. If Navistar could do this with a diesel, so could Cummins. The automatic 5.9-liter Cummins I6 from the factory is not up to the challenge of the Duramax or the Power Stroke.
And for the record, we did ask Dodge for a High Output Cummins about a month and a half before this drive but were unable to get the vehicle delivered in time.
One last note about Dodge. Expect to see a new automatic transmission offered in the heavy duty Rams for 2004 that will work in tandem with the High Output Cummins. We will be watching closely to learn more about its capabilities and would enjoy running the same tests again at that time.
Next up on the hill climb was the Chevrolet with some noticable advantages over the Ford. It was a 2003 short bed crew cab single rear wheel with a 6.6-liter Duramax and 5-speed Allison automatic and should have weighed less than the Super Duty. The Silverado also had a 1-mile head start on the 10-mile grade.
The Super Duty reeled in the Duramax in less than 3 miles and then passed with ease. We were so surprised and thought that the Silverado driver did not know we were trying to catch him that we slowed down to 45 MPH to let the Chevrolet catch up to us. We later found out the driver was on the pedal all the way up the hill.
As the Silverado caught up to the back bumper of our trailer we stepped on the pedal and tried to keep it from passing. We are sorry to say that we could not keep the Chevrolet from passing - for long. Before the trailer of the Chevrolet was able to clear the front bumper of the Super Duty we were already catching and then passing the Chevrolet again.