Ford’s biggest trucks will get one of the world’s biggest V-8 engines starting this fall, as one aspect of the Truck Wars turns into an old-fashioned battle of engine size that’s reminiscent of the muscle car era.
Exhibit A: A 7.3L gasoline-powered V-8 coming to Ford’s Super Duty pickups and commercial vehicles, from ambulances and utility bucket trucks to just a step shy of massive highway semitrucks.
Most of the conversation about big trucks like these — they’re officially called Class 2 through Class 7 vehicles, based on the massive weights they can haul and tow — focuses on diesel engines. But gasoline engines play a role, too, accounting for up to 40% of sales of big Class 2-4 pickups like Ford’s F-250, 350 and 450 Super Duty trucks.
“Diesels are incredibly important for those trucks, but many customers don’t need their full towing capacity,” IHS Markit senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said. “Those customers can get everything they need at a lower cost with a gasoline engine.”
In addition to that, many fleet customers only keep trucks this size for three or four years, so diesel’s long-term, high-mileage durability isn’t worth those engines’ higher cost.
The new V-8 produces 430 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque in Super Duty pickups, slightly less in some of Ford’s other commercial trucks.
Tested for reliability, durability
Ford builds the V-8 in Windsor, Ontario. It made and tested hundreds of pre-production versions before it was ready to start selling the new V-8. That’s expensive — every pre-production engine an automaker builds takes time, parts and money you’ll never be able to use in an engine it sells to a customer — but a sign of how important durability and reliability is to commercial truck owners. A broken truck is a crisis for a small business that can’t make deliveries, or for a hospital without an ambulance.
The 7.3L engine is an upgrade from the gasoline V-8 Ford offered before, a 6.2L that produces 385 hp and 430 pound-feet of torque. The 6.2L remains the base engine in the F-250 and 350.
General Motors also introduced a new 6.6L gasoline V-8 — its biggest gas V-8 — for its Class 2 and 3 (Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 and 3500) pickups this year. It’s smaller, with a total cylinder displacement of 6.6L. It produces 401 hp and 464 pound-feet of torque. Ram’s biggest gasoline V-8 for its 2500/3500 trucks is the 6.4L Hemi.
Ford has a new diesel V-8 coming this fall, too, but it hasn’t revealed its power output yet.
The new gasoline V-8 should increase the trucks’ capability, but Ford is playing coy about how much a truck with it will be able to tow or haul. Towing and hauling may sound like the same thing, but to truckers, “towing” means how much you can pull behind the vehicle on a trailer. “Hauling” is how much you can load onto the back of a pickup or flatbed, or how heavy a body you can put on an ambulance, utility company bucket truck, etc. Expect details on all that closer to when the 2020 Super Duty pickups go on sale this fall.
Can run on natural gas
Ford doesn’t have to report fuel economy figures for these big, commercial trucks, despite the fact that many people drive F-250s and 350s for everyday use. The 7.3L gasoline engine can be converted to run on natural gas, though.
The engine is paired with Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission on F-250 through F-600 trucks.
The transmission shares just 7% of its parts with the 10-speed automatic available on the smaller F-150.
• It’s the same length as the old 6-speed transmission.
• It got just 3.5 pounds heavier, despite adding four gears and other features.
• Its top three gears are all overdrives.
• All models have five programmed modes including “eco,” “tow” and “slippery.”
• Tremor pickups add a sixth mode for off-road driving.
Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.