The temperature's rising in the U.S. heavy-duty pickup segment, and Ford Motor Co. is gleefully fanning the flames with an all-new turbodiesel V-8 that it says will re-establish the auto maker's dominance in the suddenly ultra-competitive race to win the hearts and wallets of diesel-loving pickup customers.

Ford recently unveiled, at partner International Truck and Engine Corp.'s assembly plant in Indianapolis, its all-new Power Stroke 6L OHV V-8 turbodiesel.

The '03 Power Stroke's horsepower and torque figures nudge the new Ford/International engine past the new-for-'03 DaimlerChrysler Corp./Cummins Engine Co. 5.9L inline 6-cyl. turbodiesel set to power its all-new Dodge Ram Heavy Duty pickups (see WAW — July '02, p.12). Cagey Ford and International engineers — privy to pre-launch horsepower and torque specs of rival DC's heavily re-engineered, Cummins-made I-6 turbodiesel — then “revised” the new 6L Power Stroke since its May “pre-introduction” to produce 325 hp at 3,300 rpm and 560 lb.-ft. (759 Nm) of torque at 2,000 rpm.

Adding 10 lb.-ft. (14 Nm) to the Power Stroke's initially announced torque figure of 550 lb.-ft. (746 Nm) pushes the Power Stroke just 5 lb.-ft. (7 Nm) past the high-output variant of Chrysler's Cummins-made 5.9L I-6 turbodiesel that produces 555 lb.-ft. (752 Nm) of torque.

Torque is the number that sells diesels to medium-duty pickup customers — the majority of whom prefer diesel over gasoline — as it shows a truck's towing prowess.

The new Power Stroke will be available for '03 F-Series Super Duty pickups and the Excursion SUV beginning early next year.

Ford also bests General Motors Corp. and its excellent Duramax 6.6L OHV turbodiesel V-8, which with two years in the market suddenly becomes the grizzled veteran — and has been relegated to a catch-up role in the escalating diesel power struggle. Since its launch for '01, Duramax has been in short supply for GM's heavy-duty pickups and is likely to remain scarce, despite the fact that Duramax's 300 hp and 520 lb.-ft. (705 Nm) of torque runs third in this 3-company race.

“It's definitely a ‘paper’ game at this point,” says a Chrysler source, adding that the output of today's large-displacement turbodiesels is easily manipulated via their sophisticated engine-management systems.

“We're just resetting the standard again,” says Tim Stoehr, Ford's Power Stroke marketing manager. He says that although Ford's outgoing 7.3L Power Stroke diesel has been in the market since 1994, it still commands nearly 50% of the total U.S. market for diesel-powered heavy-duty pickups. Since its inception, Power Stroke has outsold all competitive diesels combined.

Diesel pickup customers are fiercely loyal, but GM's Duramax, by being first with new technology, has stolen diesel devotees from both Ford and Chrysler. And diesel customers are hugely important: DC says 75% of all Ram Heavy Duty buyers choose diesel. It is similar for Ford and GM.

Key to the new renaissance of medium-duty diesels is the advent of high-pressure, common-rail fueling systems to feed their direct (in-cylinder) fuel injectors. Common-rail and direct injection have enabled enormous leaps in power output while simultaneously delivering markedly increased fuel economy, much-improved noise/vibration, harshness (NVH) characteristics and reduced emissions.

Ford says the '03 Power Stroke, despite being 1.3L smaller than the outgoing engine, delivers a 10% increase in fuel economy and a 20% cut in total emissions.

The engine also features four valves per cylinder and cooled exhaust-gas recirculation, which lowers oxides of nitrogen emissions. Ford says cooled EGR also helps it meet more restrictive post-2004 emissions standards.

DC and Cummins, meanwhile, are fully confident about their chances with the new-for-'03 Cummins turbodiesel — never mind the fact that Ford instantly negated DC's printed press materials calling the High Output variant of the Cummins engine “the most powerful turbodiesel engine available in the heavy-duty market.”

Cummins added high-pressure common-rail fueling that generates as much as 23,200 psi (1,600 bar) in the fuel rail. And the contemporary DI systems use the high pressures to deliver minuscule squirts of fuel both before and after the “main” injection of fuel, which cuts both clatter and emissions.

Cummins says 305 of 320 parts for its new turbodiesel are all-new, and there are plenty of sweet NVH and durability details, such as a noise-optimized gear drive for ancillaries and an oil/filter change interval extended to 15,000 miles (24,000 km).

DC is charging a scorching $5,225 for the High Output Cummins diesel in its '03 Ram HD pickups, but buyers already are forming lines. The company expects about 30% of all diesel customers to pony up for the High Output variant.