When something heavy needs to be hauled, nothing beats a diesel-powered pickup Truck. Of all the petroleum-based powerplants fitted to an automobile, the torque potential of a diesel engine is unrivaled. Here it might be useful to explain; while everyone gets so excited about horsepower, torque is the true expression of an engine’s pulling power. Torque sets a vehicle into motion; horsepower keeps it there once torque has done its job. Perusing these listings, you’ll note the best diesel trucks all post highly significant torque numbers, and further, the higher those torque numbers are the higher the posted towing and payload capacities will be. In other words, if you’re looking to do some heavy duty hauling, a diesel pickup is very likely what you need.
Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500
Chevy’s Silverado and the GMC Sierra are virtual twins, so what’s said for one pretty much goes for the other. Body styles include regular cabs with 6.5-foot beds and 8.2-foot beds; extended cabs with 6.5-foot beds; and crew cabs with 5.75-foot beds or 6.5-foot standard beds. To get diesel power, you’ll opt for at least the LTZ package on a double cab Silverado starting at $40,705 (SLT Sierra/$41,435). The 6.2-liter V8 is a $2,495 option. The engine produces 420 horsepower and 460 ft-lbs of torque and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Max towing capacity ranges from 9,100 to 12,000 pounds. Both rear-drive and four-wheel drive are offered. If you’re also looking to maximize your luxury quotient, go with the $49,905 Sierra Denali.
Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 2500 HD
For the 2015-model year, the 2500 series Silverado and Sierra got the redesign their smaller 1500 siblings got for the 2014 model year. This endowed them with quieter interiors finished in nicer materials, large touchscreen interfaces, and more sophistication all around. The three available cab styles are regular, double, and crew. You’ll get long (eight-foot) beds with the regular cabs, while double and crew cabs get a choice between eight-foot beds and 6.5-foot beds. The $7,195 turbocharged 6.6-liter diesel V8 makes 397 horsepower and 765 ft-lbs of torque. You’ll need to order the $32,165 regular cab WT or higher trim to get it in a Silverado (Regular Cab Sierra/$33,615). Max towing capacity is 17,900-pounds when equipped with a fifth wheel.
Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 3500 HD
If you’re a GM fan searching for the maximum towing capacity in a pickup you’ll be looking at the Silverado/Sierra 3500. Body styles include regular cabs, double cabs, and crew cabs. All cab options can be ordered with either single rear wheel axles or dual rear-wheels. All cab choices come with eight-foot beds except the crew cabs, which offer a choice between long beds and 6.5-foot beds in single rear-wheel configurations. The 6.6-liter turbocharged diesel is a $7,195 option—regardless of the selected cab style or trim level. Sierra 3500 starts at $34,715, while Silverado 3500 starts at $32,805.
Ford F-250 Super Duty
With no diesel option for the new 2015 Ford F-150 yet, those looking for maximum torque and wishing to stay within the ranks of the blue oval must look to the F-250. Ford offers the heavy-duty pickup in three cab styles; regular cab, extended cab, and crew cab. You’ll get the eight-foot bed with the regular cab, but the other two can be had with the 6.8-foot standard bed or the longer bed. The $8,480 6.7-liter turbocharged diesel V8 produces 440 horsepower and 860 ft-lbs of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission routes power to the rear, or all four wheels—when the optional four-wheel drive powertrain is selected. Towing capacity is 16,800 pounds when properly equipped; the configuration is good for a payload of 3,340 pounds. Ford F-250 pricing starts at $39,715 with the diesel engine.
Ford F-350 Super Duty
If you’re looking for more capacity in a Ford than F-250 provides, your next step is the F-350. Ford offers the F-350 in three cab styles; regular cab, extended cab, and crew cab. You’ll get the long bed with the regular cab, but the other two can be had with either the 6.8-foot standard bed or the long bed. F-350 offers both single rear-wheel and dual rear-wheel axles. The 6.7-liter turbocharged diesel V8 produces 440 horsepower and 860 ft-lbs of torque in this application as well. A six-speed automatic transmission routes power to the rear- or all four wheels when the optional four-wheel drive powertrain is selected. Max towing capacity for F-350 is 26,700 pounds with a dual rear-wheel setup and a fifth wheel. Ford F-350 pricing starts at $40,615 with diesel power.
Ford F-450 Super Duty
Ford’s F-450 is offered in but one configuration; you’ll get a crew cab with an eight-foot bed and dual rear wheels. Power comes from Ford’s 6.7-liter turbocharged V8 diesel engine with a six-speed automatic transmission completing the four-wheel drive powertrain. Power output is 440 horsepower and 860 ft-lbs of torque. If the absolute maximum in towing capacity in a pickup truck is what you’re after, the Ford F-450 is the one. When suitably equipped, the F-450 will tow 31,200 pounds; or transport a 5,300-pound payload. Pricing starts at $51,950.
The RAM 1500 has the reputation of being the quietest and most nicely furnished pickup truck currently on the market. Another thing the Ram 1500 has going for it over other offerings is its coil-spring rear suspension system, which endows the truck with an exceptionally smooth ride. Cab styles are regular, extended, and crew. The regular cab can be had with a six-foot four-inch bed, or an eight-foot bed. The extended cab is offered with the six-foot four-inch bed, while the crew cab can be paired with either a five-foot seven-inch bed or the six/four. The $4,270 turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 diesel makes 240 horsepower and 420 ft-lbs of torque. It is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive. Towing capacity is 9,200 pounds. Ram 1500 diesel pricing starts at $29,910.
The Ram 2500HD offers a six-speed manual transmission, which its rivals from Chevy, GMC, and Ford do not. The 2500 series Ram also offers three cabs; regular, crew, and an extra-large crew cab Ram calls the “Mega Cab”. Regular cabs get an eight-foot bed, while crew cabs get a choice of the eight-foot bed or a six-foot four-inch bed. The Mega Cab is paired exclusively with the shorter bed. The RAM 2500’s $8,195 diesel option is a 6.7-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder. It produces 350 horsepower and 660 ft-lbs of torque with the manual transmission, or 370 horsepower and 800 ft-lbs with the six-speed automatic. Suitably configured, towing capacity is 16,900 pounds with the manual transmission and 17,970 with the automatic. Ram 2500 diesel pricing starts at $38,105.
Add the availability of a dual rear-wheel axle to Ram 2500, and you’ll have RAM 3500. The same cab and bed configurations apply; Ram 3500 also offers automatic and manual transmissions. However, the 6.7-liter diesel engine can be configured to produce 385 horsepower and 865 ft-lbs of torque when teamed with the 3500’s optional heavy-duty six-speed automatic ($600). Set up this way, Ram 3500 will tow 30,000 pounds. Pricing starts at $41,095 for this configuration.