Much like the muscle car wars or the hypercar competition, the heavy-duty pickup truck game is one of constant one-upsmanship. In the case of these giant rigs, the figures you’re judged on are towing, torque and horsepower, in that order; there’s no point in showing up with a new machine if you’re not going to try and blow past your foes. Given that list of priorities, it’s no surprise that diesel engines tend to be the starting lineup for these giant machines. But plenty of truck-driving Americans still prefer to avoid the green handles at the Shell station, so every HD pickup builder still needs a powerful gasoline powerplant on the bench.
For the 2020 model year facelift of the F-Series Super Duty, Ford is rolled out an all-new 7.3-liter gas V8 to go head-to-head with Chevy and Ram’s 6.6- and 6.4-liter beasts. Now, we’ve finally been told how much power that new engine will crank out: 430 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque.
Those figures, not surprisingly, vault the new F-250 and F-350 to the head of the gas-powered heavy-duty class. Ram’s 6.4-liter Hemi V8 dials up a maximum of “just” 410 horses and 429 pound-feet of torque, while GM’s 6.6-liter V8 makes 401 hp and 464 lb-ft. Further bolstering the Ford’s street cred: whether two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive, every Super Duty routes its power to the wheels through a 10-speed automatic — four more gears than the gas-powered Silverado HD and two more than the Hemi-powered Ram 2500.
If those figures seem rather underwhelming in this era where German automakers regularly squeeze 600-plus ponies from eight-cylinder engines and each of the Big Three sell cars with 650 horses or more for prices in the $60K range, remember this: all those horses and torques come out of an engine that makes its power without a turbocharger or supercharger in sight. Going with a simpler naturally-aspirated overhead-valve layout, in principle, means the new Ford engine should be more reliable than higher-stress, forced-induction engines. (Both GM and Fiat-Chrysler also use naturally-aspirated V8s for their heavy-duty pickups, as well.)
Reliability, simplicity and dependability are valuable traits for a motor that’ll be the heart of millions of work trucks and cargo vans over subsequent years, as well as the motor of choice for the hundreds of thousands of people who buy gussied-up F-250s for appearances more than actual need of their capability. As the old saying goes, there’s no replacement for displacement — at least, not in the heavy-duty pickup truck world.
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