Eric Mayne's Blog

Stop the Madness

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Ram President and CEO Fred Diaz drops a bomb on the Chicago auto show by announcing the 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel I-6 in the truck brand’s heavy-duty pickups and chassis cabs now will churn out peak torque of 800 lb.-ft. (1,084 Nm).

That’s a boost of 150 lb.-ft. (203 Nm), tying Ford's 6.7L Power Stroke V-8 as the turbodiesel with the most prodigious pull.

But this acceleration suggests a disturbing trend.

The Blue Oval raised the industry bar by nearly 100 lb.-ft. (136 Nm) with last spring’s rollout of a new-generation Power Stroke. It promised peak torque of 735 lb.-ft. (997 Nm).

Weeks later, GM trumped its crosstown rival by launching an upgraded 6.6L Duramax V-8 rated at 765 lb.-ft (1,037 Nm).

Ford responded almost immediately by upping the ante to 800, matched now by Chrysler’s Ram brand.

What kind of diabolical force is at work here? The nuclear arms race was slower to escalate than this outrageous tug-of-war. (Or is it a war of tug?)

There now is enough collective oomph loose to alter the Earth’s rotation. And yet we idly stand by.

Worse, we applaud the trend.

Torque supremacy is “huge on the job site,” says Tony D'Ambrosio, whose Canada-based company, RTL Enterprises, upgrades diesel pickups.

D'Ambrosio is to work trucks what Steve Saleen is to muscle cars. If the construction industry were a battle theater, D'Ambrosio would be an arms dealer. And he has a dire forecast for peace.

Expect all the specification leap-frogging to spark increased “animosity,” D'Ambrosio says. Smack-talk, in other words.

Meanwhile, a greater threat is on the horizon.

Like a rogue state beating its chest, Chrysler has declared it is investigating hydraulic hybrids.

An innocent diversion? Think again.

Hydraulic hybrids can afford “short bursts of basically whatever torque you want,” says Steve Bloxham, one of the nation’s foremost experts on the technology. “It’s really off the scale.”

Bloxham, whose academic affiliations include UC-Berkeley, currently is conducting wide-ranging, in-depth hydraulic hybrid research at the University of Toledo. And he proposes what was unthinkable as recently as last decade.

Aided by hydraulic hybrid technology, a diesel-powered pickup’s torque could “easily” spike at 1,000 lb.-ft. (1,356 Nm), he tells me.

God help us.

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