Until recently, heavy-duty trucks have been the reserve of ranchers, horse owners and your neighbor who owns a paving company — tough trucks for people who do tough work. But the latest heavy-duty pickups deliver new heights of towing and hauling performance while also offering as many high-end features as a luxury sedan.
The 2019 and 2020 model years will be particularly appealing to truck shoppers. Ram has redesigned its heavy-duty trucks for 2019, and General Motors has redesigned its trucks for 2020. Ford, eyeing the competition, is updating its heavy-duty F-Series for 2020 as well. Highlights include more powerful engines, transmissions with up to 10 forward gears, and stronger and lighter frames. All contribute to greater towing and hauling capacities. The trucks also come with the latest technology and safety features.
Edmunds takes a look at what's at dealerships now and in the next few months.
RAM 2500 AND 3500
Ram redesigned its heavy-duty lineup for 2019 with new styling, upgraded interiors, and a wide range of engine and transmission choices. As with its light-duty 1500 sibling, the Ram 2500's ace card is a unique rear coil-spring suspension that creates a more comfortable ride than its competitors. The 3500 has a traditional rear suspension design but gains substantially more towing and hauling capability.
Power comes from a gasoline V8 or an optional six-cylinder diesel engine. People serious about towing will want the latter for its power of up to 400 horsepower and 1,000 pound-feet of torque that enables 35,100 pounds' worth of maximum towing capacity in the 3500. On the Ram's higher trim levels, you get access to an optional 12-inch Uconnect infotainment screen, a 360-degree surround-view parking camera system, and a tire-pressure monitoring system that can accommodate both truck and trailer tires.
FORD F-250 AND F-350 SUPER DUTY
The F-250 might lack its rival Ram's trick rear suspension, but it's still a comfortable ride. While a little stiffer, a little bouncier and generally a bit truck-ier than the Ram, the F-250 can still log miles and leave you no worse for wear. The Super Duty trucks offer both gasoline and diesel V8 engines, and not surprisingly the diesel packs the most punch. The 2019 truck's 450 horsepower and 935 pound-feet of torque can pull up to 35,000 pounds in the F-350.
Updated Super Duty trucks arrive for 2020 with a 10-speed transmission, more power for both gas and diesel engines, and more payload and towing capacities. Ford's Pro Trailer Backup Assist feature is now available on the Super Duty. First introduced in the F-150, it helps drivers reverse with ease while towing. Another 2020 addition is an off-road-oriented package called the Tremor. Overall, an emphasis on passenger comfort and excellent power delivery make the F-250 and F-350 easy recommendations.
CHEVROLET SILVERADO 2500HD AND 3500HD
The Silverado 2500 HD gets a full makeover for 2020 and gains a more powerful gasoline V8 engine and a new 10-speed automatic transmission to go along with the diesel engine that makes 445 horsepower and 910 pound-feet of torque. Like the Ram, the Silverado also features chassis refinements. In the Chevy's case, it's an independent front suspension that improves steering feel and ride quality and aids in towing stability.
The Silverado comes standard with extendable towing mirrors, and an optional camera system offers up to 15 different views around the truck. The Silverado 3500's towing capacity is up in a big way for 2020 and stands at a maximum of 35,500 pounds. The Chevy's interior still looks a bit plain, even post-overhaul, but the layout is functional and rear seat room is huge. Buyers seeking more comfort can look to the Silverado's cushier but no less capable mechanical twins, the GMC Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD.
2020 NISSAN TITAN XD
The Nissan Titan XD heavy-duty also gets a major update for 2020. Details are vague, but expect a more streamlined exterior design, upgraded interior quality and more contemporary tech features. The only engine offered is likely to be a 5.6-liter V8 since Nissan plans to discontinue the XD's optional diesel engine. Whether driven by poor sales or something else, the decision makes the next Titan XD a bit more one-dimensional.
But that might make it an excellent fit for buyers who don't need more than 20,000 pounds of towing strength. Factor in Nissan's traditionally competitive pricing and the 2020 Titan XD could fill a unique niche.
EDMUNDS SAYS: If you find yourself at the hauling and towing limits of a light-duty pickup, it may be time to consider a heavy-duty pickup. Fortunately, today's heavy-duty trucks are more capable, comfortable and refined than ever.