Auto blogTue, 07 Oct 2014 11:58:00 EST
Horsepower may steal a lot of headlines, but the always-more-complex torque figure is often a critical one for both the workingman and the motoring playboy. The measure of rotational force represents the twist that can liquefy one's tires or haul one's horse trailer. Good stuff.
It follows then, that as with the horsepower-to-weight list that we assembled for you a few months ago, a list of cars that offer the most pound-feet with the fewest pounds to carry, is an interesting one to break down. Sure, there's a big difference in how the torque is applied from a turbocharged six-cylinder in a Swedish luxury sedan and a massive heavy-duty truck's turbo-diesel. But being the car/stat geeks that we are, we think it's kinda neat that those two vehicles rank near each other where torque and weight intersect.
As with the horsepower list, we've given you figures as pounds per every one pound-foot. Again broken down into broad price categories, we've got a mixed bag of 2014 and 2015 models here, too. Every effort has been made to select the most up-to-date prices and specs, and we've also to omitted some '14 cars that won't be re-upped after the ongoing yearly changeover.
The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel shot out of the gate with strong sales by filling its initial allocation of 8,000 orders in just three days, in February. At the time, Ram expected that the oil-burning variant would account for around 10 percent of 1500 output, but it knew there was room to grow if the demand was there. Apparently it is, as the truck maker is doubling the diesel's production mix for the 2015 model year to 20 percent of the pickup's total volume.
Since hitting the market, the EcoDiesel has been a smashing success, according to Ram. The company claims that nearly 60 percent of its sales have been conquests from other truck brands, and its popularity has boosted the 1500's average transaction price, as well. In an accompanying video, brand president Bob Hegbloom said that customers have been demanding more of them.
"Innovation sometimes comes with risk, but being first to market with a diesel engine for the half-ton segment has shown to be a great decision for the Ram Brand," said Hegbloom in the company's release.
The Center for Auto Safety is officially petitioning the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to begin scrutinizing alleged problems with the totally integrated power module (TIPM) on about 24 Chrysler Group SUVs and minivans. The advocacy group claims that the part's failure can cause affected vehicles to stall or not start at all. NHTSA is still looking into the accusations and deciding whether a full investigation is actually warranted.
The CAS petition claims at least 70 TIPM failures, but according to NHTSA, six of the complaints are for models that don't have the modules. In 34 of the reported cases, the vehicles refused to start, and in 17 of them the engine stalled. There were also two allegations of smoke and one of a fire. However, none of these affected airbag deployment or resulted in a crash.
This petition isn't the first TIPM-related problem for Chrysler Group. A recent report in the New York Times alleged that it found 240 complaints potentially related to the issue on NHTSA's website alone. In September, the automaker also recalled 230,760 examples worldwide (188,723 in the US) of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango replace the fuel pump relay circuit inside of the TIPM-7 with one external to the unit. The original part could allegedly cause the models to stall without warning. Even earlier, the company also recalled about 80,000 examples of the Jeep Wrangler and Dodge Nitro in 2007 to have the module reprogrammed.
Thanks to a host of upgrades at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Michgan, Ram Trucks is boosting production of the already strong-selling Ram 1500 to build 28,585 more of them a year. That works out roughly to five more per hour, or an additional 100 per day. The major key to the improvements was redesigning 353 assembly workstations to allow employees complete their tasks more efficiently. According to Ram, the expansion was done to meet growing demand for the pickup.
These kinds of comprehensive changes can't happen over night, obviously. From the end of 2013 through the summer shutdown in August, the Warren Truck plant received automation tweaks in the body shop and upgrades to the color booths in the paint shop.
However, the biggest shift was working with "UAW-represented team leaders and operators" to examine every workstation for efficiency improvements. In that analysis, the company identified and altered over 100 problems that could have caused an injury. What really helped to boost the production rate so significantly was moving about 300 parts, or grouping them into kits for better ergonomics, and eliminating walks to grab tools. Once everything was done, about 63 percent of workers at the factory got updated training.
Ford F-450 claims best-in-class towing, company abandons practice of removing items to boost payload numberTue, 02 Sep 2014 18:30:00 EST
The ongoing heavy-duty truck battle between Ford and Ram is showing no signs of slowing down. The Blue Oval is trying to remove at least one point of contention between the two brands by testing its 2015 F-450 Super Duty using the Society of Automotive Engineers J2807 towing standard, which Ram also uses. In the new evaluation, the F-450 is rated at a max towing capacity of 31,200 pounds. That's an identical amount as under Ford's own, previous test.
"We leave no doubt with customers that the F-450 pickup truck has best-in-class towing of 31,200 pounds - whether tested using our own internal towing standards or SAE J2807," said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president for Global Product Development, in the company's release.
At the same time, Ford is also changing how it calculates the F-450's payload. Instead of using its minimum curb weight as before, the brand is now using the truck's base curb weight. The revision lowers the pickup's rating to 5,300 pounds, compared to 5,450 pounds previously. The company said in its announcement that the reason for this is "aligning its payload rating practices with other manufacturers to make it easier for customers to compare vehicles." General Motors made a similar switch for its pickups in August.
The heavy-duty truck segment boasts some of the tightest competition of any automotive niche in the US. Being able to tout just one best-in-class figure can be a marketing advantage over competitors, and Ram Trucks is adding one more accolade to its tally with a powertrain update for the 2015 Ram 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty pickups. Ram now claims best-in-class ratings for torque, towing and payload, depending on configuration.
The major change comes for the 3500 HD with a boost in torque for its Cummins 6.7-liter, inline-six diesel engine. It now produces a meaty 865 pound-feet of twist, a boost of 15 lb-ft, which is the best figure in its segment, according to the company. To eek out the extra power, the mill has more aggressive fuel delivery, and the turbo has been recalibrated. Of course, more grunt would be meaningless if drivers couldn't do anything with it, and the tweaks help allow payload to grow to 7,390 pounds, up from a rating of 7,320 pounds last year. The max towing rating remains unchanged at 30,000 pounds, though.
The rest of the powertrain lineup carries over from last year. The base HD mill is the gasoline-fed 5.7-liter V8 with 383 hp and 400 lb-ft and a six-speed automatic. The next step up is a 6.4-liter V8 with 410 hp and 429 lb-ft. There are also three trims of the 6.7-liter Cummins diesel starting with 350 hp and 660 lb-ft with a six-speed manual gearbox. If buyers opt for a the 68RFE six-speed auto, they get 370 hp and 800 lb-ft. Finally, there's the updated, top-rung version with 385 hp and 865 lb-ft with an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission.
One of the hottest topics in the industry these days is automakers' expanding use of aluminum, especially for vehicle bodies and platforms. While the lightweight metal has historically been the preserve of premium brands and sports cars, Ford shocked the industry when it announced that its 2015 F-150 would go aluminum-intensive for its new generation. As it turns out, the material change doesn't even mean a big jump in the prices for most of its trims. Possibly in reaction to the big change, General Motors is said to be using the lightweight metal in its next-gen trucks, too. That only leaves Ram as an open question among the domestics, and at least for now, the company is apparently in no hurry to push tin.
According to Reuters speaking with two, unnamed insiders, the Ram 1500 isn't getting an aluminum infusion until sometime after 2020. That's not to say the truck is going to be stagnant for the next half-decade or more, of course. According to Ram's five-year plan, there's a refresh for the 1500 coming in 2015 and much bigger changes on the way in 2017. Those same sources tell Reuters that further revisions aren't expected until at least 2021, which is when the aluminum could be added.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne hasn't minced words about his thoughts on using the lightweight metal in pickups. "I have better use of aluminum in this house than a pickup truck," he said in May. Having said that, Marchionne was clear that if the material turns out to be revolutionary in the segment, the company would be willing to follow.
Chrysler has announced to two key appointments to its senior leadership, both of them taking immediate effect. First up is Reid Bigland, who has been named head of the Alfa Romeo brand for North America. Bigland has served until now as head of the Ram Truck brand, a portfolio he now hands over to Robert Hegbloom, who had served until now as its director.
As a result of the appointments, both Bigland and Hegbloom will take up seats on Chrysler's NAFTA Leadership Team, and Bigland will also join the Fiat Chrysler Group Executive Council - the highest decision-making body in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles empire.
As per Sergio Marchionne's leadership style, Bigland will continue to serve in two major capacities, maintaining his role as president and CEO of Chrysler Canada. Other senior executives who hold multiple key portfolios include Harald Wester (who serves as the group's Chief Technology Officer and also overseas Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Abarth), Olivier Francois (group Chief Marketing Officer and head of the Fiat brand) and Michael Manley (head of the Asia-Pacific region and the Jeep brand).
The row between Ford and Ram over who boasts the best-in-class tow rating for heavy duty pickups has revealed a number of things. Chief among them is a report that Ford removes items like the spare tire, jack, radio and center console from its vehicles in a bid to lower its base curb weight and therefore keep the truck's gross vehicle weight rating down.
For those that need a refresher, GVWR is the vehicle's curb weight plus its maximum payload. A lower GVWR allows Ford to station its F-450 among the so-called Class III pickups, despite the fact that internally, it has the makings of a more brutish Class IV truck.
Ford explains away these deletions, saying a customer could order their vehicle in such a manner. It has also come to light that Ford is not the only automaker to engage in such practices.
Every pickup truck commercial has the brand trying to convince us that its model is the biggest, brawniest vehicle on the block. But Ford and Ram appear ready to really throw down the gauntlet and scrap over the towing figures for their heavy-duty models, and it could potentially end up in court.
The issue revolves around what it means to be best in class. Ford claims that its 2015 F-450 (pictured above) has a max tow rating of 31,200 pounds, compared to 30,000 pounds for the Ram 3500 (right). However, both companies market these heavy haulers as having the top towing in their class. According to Automotive News, Ford is threatening legal action if Ram doesn't back down.
The situation isn't as simple as just comparing the numbers, though. First, the two companies calculate their towing capacities differently. Ram adheres to the SAE J2807 rating, while Ford uses its own internal system. Although, as the company introduces new models, they are certified using the SAE standard. "When an all-new F-Series Super Duty is introduced, it also will use SAE J2807," said Ford to Autoblog in an emailed statement.