An Insider's Look at Which Truck is Best
Posted on 12 April 2015
After years in the diesel industry, I can say one thing - picking one truck that exceeds at everything is the needle in a haystack.
Sure, many have class-leading strengths and glaring weaknesses. However, I have not seen one truck do it all, with zero failures, with power and reliability over thousands of miles at 600 or 700HP (or higher). A few can do it for a while, others will require major upgrades to handle the power, or towing weight or low 12 second 1/4 mile passes.
A lot of customers will call and say they are in the market for a diesel truck - and want to know which is best. Brand loyalty aside, it really comes down to how the truck will be used. For all out performance, they cost about the same (give or take a few thousand depending on injection system type). P-Pumped 7.3L Powerstrokes, triple CP3 Cummins or Duramax trucks, compound or triple turbos and a host of other products can make the ground shake. And do. A quick trip to Scheid Diesel Xtravaganza, TS in Kentucky or World Finals in Texas will prove it. And the owner of each truck will tell you tens of thousands of dollars went into the builds.
For pulling trailers, the new trucks all do it exceptionally well with VGT turbos, exhaust brakes and 6 speed automatic transmissions. As much as the performance industry likes to bash stock automatics, they have come light years since the mid 1990's. Tow ratings are up as are payload and creature comforts. In this category, the deciding factor may be styling, brand loyalty or price from the dealer. But Ford Powerstroke, GM Duramax and Ram Cummins trucks are all capable - more so than any other generation of diesel pickup.
Bolt-on power is where the separation begins. Diesel owners are lying if they say getting minimal expense for maximum gain doesn't fuel their drive. Ford has dominated the stock automatic transmission market since the 5R110. Both it and the 6R140 put the Dodge and GM offerings to shame as far as holding power above stock. It is common to see stock 5R110's hold 600-650HP and 6R140's to approach 800HP before needing upgrading. The 68RFE, Allison and Aisin can't say that. The 6.4 Powerstroke lit the diesel industry on fire making 600-650hp with a tune, intake and exhaust. No other factory truck could make that power with a stock fuel system, turbo and transmission. The downside is going above that power level in a 6.4 gets costly for turbos, injectors and K13 setups. Not to mention, 6.4's have been known to crack pistons. While Ford 6.0's and 7.3's powered the country's best-selling truck, they were playing catch up to the power potential in the common rail Cummins and Duramax world.
The Duramax platform is formidable, and when coupled with an Allison and IFS, a comfortable, quick ride. The Allison needs upgrading above 500HP, but can be built to handle 4 digit power. The connecting rods and pistons need upgrading over 650-700HP, but again, once done can hold tons of power and torque. Some of the highest powered diesel pickups in the world have a built Duramax motor between the fenders.
The Cummins (5.9 and 6.7) provides the most potential from a stock motor without having to get billet rods, upgraded pistons, etc. They are simple, reliable, offer a broad torque curve and aftermarket parts are everywhere. Their downside is the stock transmission is the weakest of the Big 3. To truly get the potential out of the motor, a transmission build is required. In built form, the 5.9 Cummins is still the gold standard of brute power.
I highlight these findings to show, no matter which diesel engine and truck you pick, you can turn it into whatever you want. From a reliable tow rig to daily driver or weekend drag racer. Expect costs, sometimes at different times and with a few (or many) choices along the way. We have seen it all, from mild and wild builds - and want to help you avoid the mistakes we've seen.
Give us a call, send us an email or message us on social media, we would love to share our experiences with you!