When it comes to trucks, the torque figures are always front and center. Why is the couple important? It is a measure of engine twist, not just power. The more torque you have, the more you can tow and the more stump you can pull.
New Rivian The R1T electric truck has 908 lb-ft of torque and the new The Hummer EV truck has 11,500 lb-ft of torque. These numbers were unknown just a few years ago; a 1995 Ford F-150 had only 265 lb-ft and a 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 had only 205 lb-ft.
Today’s trucks easily do 400 lb-ft, and that’s usually enough to tow any small boat or horse trailer. But not so long ago, 1,000 lb-ft was a magic number.
Torque is important to a truck’s horsepower, not horsepower. It measures the twist of an engine, not just its thrust. Race car drivers say horsepower is how fast you hit the wall, while torque is how far you move the wall. With a truck you want to move the wall.
The first 1,000 lb-ft trucks
While 1,000 lb-ft or more is common with modern electric trucks and cars, just a few years ago that was unheard of. Today, many trucks are 700 lb-ft or more.
The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty, whether it’s a 2500 or a 3500, was the first heavy-duty truck you didn’t need a commercial driver’s license to have 1,000 lb-ft . Today the 2022 Ram 3500 truck comes with a high-output 6.7-liter Cummins inline-6 turbodiesel that produces 1,075 lb-ft. That big twist means the 3500 can tow 37,090 pounds and haul 6,750 in bed. At the same time.
Ford is now also breaking the 1,000 mark. The 2022 Ford Super Duty can be ordered with a 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 with 1,050 lb-ft. Ford’s Super Duty has a towing capacity of 37,000 pounds with a gooseneck trailer and a 32.00-pound 5.and– wheel towing index.
Chevy and GMC also offer monster torque figures, but not in the four-digit range. The Silverado 2500 HD and GMC Sierra Heavy Duty make 910 lb-ft from the 6.6-liter Duramax Turbo Diesel V8. Each can tow 36,000 pounds.
But, now the new Hummer EV has 11,500 of its four electric motors combined. It’s a twisting headache, equal to a Silverado 2500 HD AND a 2020 Audi A3.
But, because the Hummer isn’t designed to be a work truck like the heavy monsters listed above, it “only” has a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds, while the Rivian R1T can tow 11,000 pounds. with its 908 lb-ft.
How much torque do I need to tow?
Let’s start with power. The general rule of thumb is that it takes about one horsepower to tow 25 pounds. While horsepower is important, it’s the torque – the twist – that helps you tow. A new Freightliner semi may make 2,005 lb-ft for comparison, but only produces about 600 horsepower.
People who tow for a living often worry about differentials, axle ratios, tire sizes and the like that can multiply torque. But, for the rest of us, we don’t need to think about that stuff. If your truck and trailer are too big, you may need a CDL or commercial driver’s license. Generally, if your gross (total) vehicle weight exceeds 26,000 pounds with a 10,000 pound trailer, you need a CDL.
For the rest of us, towing shouldn’t be so complicated. Instead of worrying about the amount of torque, look to the sticker the factory put on the inside of your door or your owner’s manual for guidance. Most cars and small trucks can tow the small trailers rented by U-Haul, which are around 1,000 pounds. A small SUV can usually (but not always) tow about 2,500 pounds, like a motorcycle trailer, safely. Today, most full-size trucks can tow something like a car trailer, or around 5,000 pounds, safely.