Finally, Ford has introduced a new front suspension geometry and brake system improvements. 'Going from a leaf spring to a link-coil front suspension gives us several advantages, including increased roll stiffness and the ability to fine tune the ride,' says Peter Reyes, F-Series Super Duty vehicle engineering manager.
'The brakes are about a half inch larger diameter than last year all of the way around,' says O'Connor.
Ready To Tow
Dodge heavy-duty Ram pickups do not rely on special tow packages. 'The biggest thing for our trailer tow audience is that our trucks are set up and ready to go,' says Mike Murphree, manager, Dodge Ram Engineering. 'Based on the Gross Cargo Weight Rating (GCWR) the customer selects, the complete package is set up to give a synthesized/balanced package of acceleration, performance, braking, steering control and cooling.
'The Ram heavy-duty pickups have all of the additional cooling that you would want,' he continues. 'They have transmission oil coolers, power steering coolers and, on the Cummins diesel, there is a computer-controlled, electro-mechanical vistronic fan. The cooling fan system allows low noise when not under tow and engages the fan at varying speeds (not just on/off) depending upon load and ambient temperature conditions.'
For 2005, the Ram heavy-duty automatic is equipped with a switch located on the shifter stalk to activate a tow/haul mode. It is programed to trigger gear shifts at certain pre-described, calibrated events. 'It basically takes some of the shift points further out to keep the engine in the power band,' says Murphree. 'It also helps with trailer braking.'
The Ram HD trucks come equipped with the Hemi gas engine and the Cummins diesel, supplying GCWs of 17,000 to 23,000 lbs. Two axle ratios are available to match your towing needs. 'The current Ram heavy-duty pickup is equipped with either a 373 or a 410 axle ratio,' says Murphree. 'The 410 accommodates higher GCW ratings by improving launch and grade performance ' about 2,000 lbs. higher per package. The 3.73 ratio provides better fuel economy.'
A special power adjustable, heated trailer tow mirror also enhances visibility when pulling a trailer. 'In normal non-trailer tow mode, it can be folded in toward the door,' says Murphree. 'During trailer mode, it can be lifted up and it gives you a lot more visibility along the sideline of the trailer.'
Exhaust Brake Option
One popular and effective option for the Cummins diesel-equipped Dodge Ram is an exhaust brake. 'One key advantage for Dodge is that our exhaust system has a coupler elbow built into the exhaust system that is removable,' says Murphree. 'It allows easy installation of the Mopar aftermarket exhaust brake. On other competitive trucks one must physically cut into the exhaust system to install the exhaust brake.'
The exhaust brake increases your sense of security in mountainous or hilly terrain. 'If you are coming down a hill, you are not constantly on your brakes, worried about burning them up,' says Murphree. 'The exhaust brake does the work for you. Every once in a while, you might have to tap your brakes as you get in steeper portions of the grade. But in a lot of conditions the exhaust brake can actually do all of the brake work for you. It is really a security factor.'
Be Wary Of GCW Claims
Finally, don't compare pickups solely on the printed GCW claims. 'There is not a lot of control over what those GCW ratings mean in terms of acceleration performance, braking performance, loaded handling, loaded steering stability and loaded ride comfort,' says Murphree. Different competitive trucks with the same GCW rating may feel totally different.
'If the customer is truly serious about using his truck for a significant amount of towing, he should seek guidance through various periodicals in which semi-professional evaluators make head to head comparisons,' advises Murphree.