In a July 15 announcement that was as strategically planned and precisely aimed as a sniper’s bullet, Fiat-Chrysler’s Ram Truck division announced that it will be the first OEM to adopt the SAE International J2807 towing standard (http://standards.sae.org/j2807_201205/) across its entire pickup model range—from the light-duty Ram 1500 up through the 1-ton Ram 3500.
The unexpected news came, not coincidentally, the same day Ford announced its largest and highest-capability Super Duty pickup, the F-450, has gained additional muscle for 2015 through various technical upgrades, and now claims a class-leading 31,200-lb (14,152 kg) maximum towing capacity with fifth-wheel/gooseneck, a 6500-lb (2948-kg) increase over the 2014 model.
The F-450’s gross combined weight rating—40,000 lb (18,144 kg)—rises by 7000 lb (3175 kg) for 2015. Along with the SAE-certified output of its 6.7-L V8 turbodiesel (860 lb·ft/1166 N·m peak and 440 hp/328 kW), the numbers for its latest Super Duty trucks give Ford pickup-truck bragging rights versus Ram, General Motors, Toyota, and Nissan pickups for the upcoming model year.
“Having the greatest towing rating, and the most torque and horsepower in class, are important in our advertising and other communications throughout the year,” Ford Truck Group Marketing Manager Doug Scott told Automotive Engineering during the recent 2015 Super Duty media launch. He added that “we have to be careful, however, that we don’t overload the public with too many numbers.”
Engineers in Europe and Asia often struggle to understand the “mine can tow and haul more than yours” battle—highly competitive but friendly and respectful—that’s waged relentlessly across the pickup segment by the Detroit 3 for decades. It’s been compared with the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R. where ballistic missile arsenals rather than trailer towing was the key metric.
Now Ram’s official move to adopt the SAE J2807 towing standard for validating all three (1500, 2500, and 3500) of its pickup weight classes raises the competitive bar. Earlier this year Ford announced that it will validate its all-new aluminum-intensive 2015 F-150 to J2807. But regarding the F-250 and heavier Super Duty series, “we’ll hold off applying the ‘J standard’ until those trucks go through their next full new-model changeover,” explained John Davis, Chief Engineer for Commercial Trucks.
GM, Toyota, and Nissan previously agreed to adopt J2807. To its credit, Toyota decided to apply the towing standard to its Tundra light-duty pickup much earlier than the other OEMs. GM in 2012 revealed new tow ratings for its 2013 LD and HD models based on J2807 but soon afterward retreated, arguing that unless all makers used the same procedures at the same time, there was no reason to adopt the new ones then. In 2013 Ram engineers told Automotive Engineering that they would wait for “the two companies who sell more pickups than us” to commit to J2807 before their own company would jump in.
First published in 2008, subsequently revised and recently finalized, J2807 is titled Performance Requirements for Determining Tow-Vehicle Gross Combination Weight Rating and Trailer Weight Rating. It was developed by SAE's Tow Vehicle Trailer Rating Committee.
The standard outlines dynamic and performance criteria as it relates to a given vehicle (it applies to passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, and light-duty trucks up to 19,400 lb GCWR [Class 5]). Examples within it include various tests conducted while towing and mandates certain temperatures, speed, and accessories operating, including climbing the infamous Davis Dam Grade on the Arizona-Nevada border while maintaining 40 mph (64 km/h) for single-rear-wheel trucks and 35 mph (56 km/h) for those with dual rear wheels. Also included are a constant-radius understeer test while increasing speed and a sway maneuver using aggressive steering input.
The purpose is to put all trucks through the schedule of tests that replicate real-world driving. Until now, manufacturers’ truck-towing ratings often have been apples-to-oranges when compared against each other, making objective media and consumer analyses difficult within an accurate test context.
Chrysler engineers and planners decided to finalize use of J2807 for its testing protocol “because our customers asked for it,” stated Ram Truck brand CEO Reid Bigland. Added Mike Cairns, Ram Truck Engineering Director, “Ram Truck has been preparing for integration of the SAE towing standard over the past few years, and adding heavier ¾- and 1-ton trucks to the criteria gives it more teeth. For too long, an uneven playing field existed and towing capacities went unchecked. We’re happy to be the only pickup truck manufacturer to align with the SAE J2807 towing standard across our pickup truck line up.”
Ford’s MY2015 upgrades to F-450 that enable it to handle the increased tow rating include commercial-grade 19.5-in wheels and tires; stronger rear U-joints and suspension components with new leaf springs, front/rear stabilizer bars, and shock absorbers. The steering system has stronger gears and linkage hardware and the fifth-wheel/gooseneck has increased towing capacity. The brakes, shared with Super Duty chassis cab models, are larger and feature new antilock calibration for enhanced performance.