PickupTruck.com Heavy Duty Shootout, Part 1 of 3
Introduction and Some History
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost five years since PickupTruck.com was challenged by its readers to quantitatively prove our assertions about which Class 3 heavy duty diesel pickup was the most capable of that time.
In late 2002 the diesel market was changing rapidly from intense competition between Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. All had new or significantly revised diesel engines.
GM and Isuzu Motors had teamed up to produce the 6.6-liter Duramax V8. The Duramax, and its Allison-sourced gearbox, was a completely fresh design for GM. It was such an improvement over the old 6.5-liter engine it replaced that GM’s diesel market share increased from 3% to 25% in a single year after its release in 2000. Output was rated at 520 ft-lbs of torque at 1,800-rpm and 300-hp at 3,100-rpm. The race for the best, most powerful next-gen diesel was on.
In February 2002, Dodge and its powertrain partner Cummins came forward with a reengineered 5.9-liter I6. It introduced a high-pressure, common rail fuel-injection system and was capable of producing 555 ft-lbs at 1,400-rpm and 305-hp at 2,900-rpm.
Finally, in spring 2002, Ford threw down the gauntlet with Navistar to introduce the new 6.0-liter Power Stroke V8 diesel for the 2003 Super Duty. It replaced the earlier 7.3-liter PSD and pioneered new engine technology, like an electronic variable response turbo to dynamically manage airflow. The 6.0 PSD also claimed best in class torque and horsepower figures, at 560 ft-lbs at 2,000-rpm and 325-hp at 3,300-rpm.
So when Ford invited us in October 2002 to drive the new 6.0-liter PSD and our initial impressions said this was the best motor in its class, we were promptly skewered by our (Duramax and Cummins) readers because we didn’t have empirical data to back up our claims.
(The 6.0 PSD would later suffer from notorious reliability issues that continue to haunt and sour the Ford-Navistar relationship to this day.)
The ‘we’ in this story was Mike Levine, PUTC’s editor, and Tom Keefe, a top-notch marketing and communications consultant who had helped GM launch the GMT 800 pickups and the Duramax.
In the incredibly short time span of three weeks, Tom and Mike pulled together six different heavy duty diesels from Dodge, Ford, and GM for a head-to-head challenge to determine which pickup was most capable.
While Mike looked for a sponsor, Tom managed all of the logistics. He setup the tests, ran the trucks in Michigan, and managed the third party vendor, Ricardo Inc., we hired to independently collect data about each truck.
Without Tom’s help, passion, and knowledge, the 2003 Western Diesel PickupTruck.com Heavy Duty Diesel Shootout would never have happened. But it did and it became the most popular story we’ve ever had on the site.
Tom passed away in 2003. For all of us who knew Tom, we’ll always remember him as one of the most knowledgeable and kind-hearted truck guys around. This year’s comparison is in his memory.