Towing is not something that the truckmakers take lightly. Being able to claim the top dog in hauling is a serious badge of honor among General Motors, Ford, and (Dodge) Ram, who have all spent over a year swapping the tow king crown. Now it seems the latest one to ascend the throne is GMC.
Last spring the GMC Sierra 3500HD and its twin the Chevrolet Silverado got a jump-start on the 2011 model year with a heavy-duty pickup that had a beefier frame and more powerful diesel engine. This put the one-ton 3500-series truck on top with a 17,000/21,700 lbs towing capacity for standard/fifth wheel. Ford retaliated a few months later with a F-350 that could carry 17,500 and 22,600 lbs. for standard towing and fifth wheel respectively. Ram then offered a truck that upped its fifth wheel capacity to 22,700 lbs, and Ford eventually matched that figure. General Motors was not about to let the competition get away so easily.
For 2012, GMC is back on top. The 2012 GMC Sierra 3500HD can be equipped with an updated trailed hitch that will add an extra 1,000 lbs to its conventional towing for a total of 18,000 lbs. For enhanced fifth wheel towing, engineers strengthened the pickup box sills and other box structures, rear springs, u-bolts and box mounts, and upgraded the shock tuning. As a result, Sierra 3500HD now reclaims the towing crown at 23,000 lbs. Payload capacity has also been increased on the 2012 Sierra HD. The 3500HD regular cab gasoline dually (dual rear wheels) now beats former champion Ford by 105 lbs for a total of 7,215 lbs.
Once the 2012 GMC Sierra HD models begin to arrive at GMC dealers around November there will be no equal... except for its twin, the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD which will get the same capacity upgrades. It may be good to note that all the trucks in the one-ton category have long ago surpassed the 26,000 lbs mark for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This is important because once vehicles pass the 26,000 lbs, including load, the driver needs to carry a Commercial Driver License (CDL). The 30,500 lbs maximum GVWR on the 2012 Sierra 3500HD (30,000 lbs rating on the F-350 and Ram 3500) means the big haulers out there may need a little more training beyond high school driver's ed. So when GMC uses its slogan, "We are professional grade," in this case it is right.
Will the GMC Sierra HD and Chevrolet Silverado HD twins stay at the top of the mountain for long? That is hard to predict. Fuel prices and new emission/mileage standards by the government will likely shift the focus of the heavy-duty truckmakers. Still, being able to claim the top spot in towing is going to be a tough prize for Ford and Ram to resist.