Ranked

Ranked: These are America's 5 most powerful pickup trucks based on torque for MY 2021

A sufficient amount of torque can help get your trusty steed off the line with ease.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

For many, a pickup truck is as much a daily drivable vehicle as it is a tool for getting the job done. How much horsepower and torque a powertrain puts out is a big part of that. Most want enough to get the job done while keeping an eye toward fuel economy.

What's the difference between horsepower and torque? In simple terms, torque is the pull of the powertrain that gets you off the line from a full stop. Horsepower is what gets you going the speed you want and keeps you there.

Diesel engines tend to have more torque than gasoline-powered engines but have less horsepower. There's no perfect torque to horsepower ratio. It's all about which combination works best for you.

The engines on this list have the highest amount of torque and are available in 2021 model year pickup trucks in the U.S. To see the most powerful pickup trucks ranked by horsepower click here. See the 2020 horsepower champs by clicking here and the 2020 torque winners by clicking here.

No. 5 - 2021 Ford F-150: PowerBoost hybrid powertrain

2021 Ford F-150 PowerBoost Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

570 pound-feet of torque

Not surprisingly, Ford's new hybrid F-150 powertrain (a 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine paired with a 35-kilowatt electric motor) delivers more torque than almost any other light-duty truck. It's rated at 570 pound-feet, which matches up well with the engine's 430 horsepower to provide up to 12,400 pounds of towing capacity in certain configurations.

No. 4 - 2021 Ram 1500 TRX: Supercharged 6.2-liter V8

2021 Ram 1500 TRX Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

650 pound-feet of torque

The Ram 1500 TRX isn't just the fastest and most powerful light-duty truck on the market, it's also got the most torque. Rated at 650 pound-feet of torque, the supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 also produces a staggering 702 horsepower. That's good enough for a 0-60 mph time of just 4.5 seconds and an 8,100-pound towing capacity.

No. 3 (tie) - 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD: 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8

2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

910 pound-feet of torque

General Motors' trucks have attracted attention in recent years for their innovative trailering and tailgate technologies, but both Chevrolet and GMC Heavy Duty trucks are offered with a truly attention-grabbing powertrain. The 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 produces a massive 910 pound-feet of torque, which is in addition to a respectable 445-horsepower output. That gives the trucks a maximum conventional-trailer towing capacity of over 14,000 pounds in some configurations.

No. 3 (tie) - 2021 GMC Sierra 2500 HD: 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8

2021 GMC Sierra 2500 HD\u200b Photo courtesy of GMC

910 pound-feet of torque

Under the hood of the GMC Sierra 2500 HD is a 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 that produces 910 pound-feet of torque and 445-horsepower, just like the Silverado 2500 above. The truck has a maximum conventional-trailer towing capacity of over 14,000 pounds in some configurations.

No. 2 - 2021 Ram 3500HD: 6.7-liter Cummins diesel V8

2021 Ram 3500HD

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

1,000 pound-feet of torque

Here, we enter the realm of outlandish torque numbers. The 2021 Ram Heavy Duty lineup is available with a 6.7-liter C
Cummins diesel V8 that produces 1,000 pound-feet of torque. It's offered in a "normal" output version that makes 850 pound-feet, but the four-digit torque number available in the high-output version is truly headline worthy. Ram says that the 3500 can pull up to 35,100 pounds with this engine on board.

No. 1 - 2021 Ford F-Series Super Duty: 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8

2021 Ford F-Series Super Duty

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

1,050 pound-feet of torque

Ford's 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8 is the top of the torque hill for 2021. It makes 1,050 pound-feet of the stuff, which is in addition to a solid 475 horsepower. The F-450 truck equipped with the engine can tow up to 37,000 pounds, which is both insane and far above the weight limits for a standard Class A driver's license.

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The Tahoe has three available powertrains.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

When I write car reviews, I don't typically say very much about the engine and drivetrain unless there's something particularly interesting or unique about it.

I believe most car buyers don't really care about things like zero to 60 mph times or how many gears a transmission has. Those are features and statistics, and they're an imperfect measurement of an automobile.

I'm a fan of the Good-Better-Best school of cars, and it looks a bit like a bell curve. There aren't any genuinely terrible new cars sold today, so at worst, you're getting something that's Good. I'll call that the bottom 20 percent of the market. Sometimes these cars have engines that really are too weak and should probably be avoided, and I'll mention that in my review.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax Diesel Diesel-powered versions of the Tahoe look just like gasoline-powered Tahoes.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Then there's the class of Better, or the middle 60 percent. When I review these cars, I'll include a throwaway line about the engine or drivetrain as it's not worth mentioning in depth. They get the job done, but there's nothing to get excited about.

Then there's that top twenty percent where the magic happens. Whether it's the perfect majesty of a Rolls-Royce V12, the throaty bark of a Lamborghini V10, or even the brilliance of a Toyota Corolla Hybrid's effortless 52 miles per gallon — these are engines worth discussing.

And so it is again with my test car this week: the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe. We've already reviewed two of the Tahoe's sister vehicles, the GMC Yukon and the Cadillac Escalade. Despite being from the same family, they're definitively different branches.

But under the hood of the Tahoe is an engine that is so firmly lodged in the Best category that I can't help but write hundreds of words about it. It's the 3.0-liter six-cylinder "baby" Duramax turbodiesel that was in the works at GM for more than a decade.

It gives terrific fuel economy (for a giant truck, anyway) and fantastic torque in everyday driving. I find it far preferable to the extraordinarily thirsty 6.2-liter V8 that I had in the Yukon and the Escalade and heartily recommend it to anyone buying a GM full-size SUV or half-ton pickup. That's even more impressive because the 6.2-liter V8 is already an upgrade over the smaller 5.3-liter V8 that comes standard in most Tahoe trims.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax Diesel The engine is a mighty six-cylinder.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

It sports 277 horsepower, which doesn't sound like a lot, but horsepower is a poor quantifier of engine performance. Because it's a diesel and because it has a turbocharger, the baby Duramax has gobs of torque with which to pull away from stoplights or accelerate on a hill, or when you're trying to pass someone and you need to accelerate from 55 to 75 mph as quickly as possible.

The Tahoe's diesel engine excels in all these scenarios while delivering an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined in the RWD trim that I drove. That's a healthy improvement over the 16 mpg combined from the 6.2L and four-wheel drive-equipped Yukon. It's worth noting that the four-wheel drive diesel fares a little worse, getting 22 mpg combined, but that's still far better than the traditional gasoline engine.

It does all this, and it can even tow up to 8,200 pounds when properly equipped, but most people will never tow anything heavier than a small horse trailer or a boat with their full-size SUV. If you're hauling that much weight on the regular, you've likely opted for a heavy-duty pickup.

The irony of the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal is twofold. For one, some were pulling similar testing shenanigans that Volkswagen was — it's just that VW was the first to get caught. And second, those VW diesel engines were fantastic. They were torquey and excelled in everyday driving, pesky pollution aside.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax Diesel Diesel Tahoes are branded with the Duramax name.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

There's a dirty secret to the horsepower numbers that most carmakers cite: they peak at very high RPMs that average drivers will never reach. But torquey turbocharged engines like this baby Duramax? It generates 95% of its 460 pound-feet of torque at just 1,250 RPM, and then peak torque runs all the way from 1,500 to 3,000 RPM. That means you're in the prime torque band nearly continuously.

In plain English, that means it's way better to drive. It's more fun, it's more efficient, and thanks to all manner of fancy technology, diesel engines aren't weird and finicky anymore.

Yes, you should probably plug it in if you park it outside in frigid weather. But other than that one minor caveat, this diesel is nonpareil.

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The Ford Explorer Timberline joins the 2021 Explorer King Ranch as a new model for 2021.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Following in the footsteps of the Raptor and Tremor versions of Ford trucks, the 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline debuts with a host of new equipment designed to make the popular SUV a more capable off-roader. Like what Subaru is doing with its Wilderness packaging, Ford will carry over the Timberland trimmings to multiple models.

"Ford is delivering on more capable SUVs with Timberline. Consumer data has shown us that now more than ever, customers want to get outside and explore nature with friends and family," said Kumar Galhotra, president, Americas & International Markets Group, Ford Motor Company. "Timberline hits a new sweet spot with these customers who want an ideal combination of passenger space, moderate off-road capability and great manners around town."

The Explorer Timberline has a new Forged Green Metallic exterior color. It has a blackout treatment on the headlights and taillamps, as well as the Ford oval. Timberline badges feature on the C-pillars and lift gate. Red Ember tow hoods are at the front and rated at 150 percent gross vehicle weight.

2021 Ford Explorer Timberline

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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LED fog lamps, a Carbonized Gray grille, and dealer-installed Ford Performance auxiliary lights with a 160,000-candelas output come on the vehicle.

The 2021 Explorer Timberline comes standard with four-wheel drive with torque vectoring technology that works to distribute the right amount of torque to each wheel. It also has a Torsen limited slip rear differential, which helps prevent wheel spin.

Ford's Terrain Management System is also standard, allowing drivers to select between seven drive modes depending on road conditions. The Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport have a similar system. Hill Descent Control is also standard.

Steel skid plates line the front and rear underbody of the vehicle protecting the engine and transmission. Ford has given the model a 0.8-inch ride height increase and heavy-duty shocks that were originally developed for the Explorer Police Interceptor. Steering calibration, stabilizer bars and springs are specially tuned for Timberline – including an exclusive front rebound spring that helps prevent sudden jarring off-road.

The new Explorer has an approach angle of 23.5 degrees and maximum departure angle of 23.7 degrees, plus minimum ground clearance of 8.7 inches.

The rig rides on high-sidewall Bridgestone Dueler P265/65R-18 all-terrain tires with a tread pattern designed to balance off-road traction and on-road quietness. The shoes are wrapped around high-gloss painted aluminum wheels that feature a laser-etched Timberline logo.

Explorer Timberline is powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine that produces 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. It is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

For customers who need to tow RVs, ATVs and boats to their adventures, the standard Class III Trailer Tow Package brings 5,300 pounds of towing capability.

The interior sports a Deep Cypress color way that is matched with an Ebony headliner, overhead console, pillar trim, grab handles, visors, and moonroof shade. The instrument panel has a Stone Mesh appliqué while other colors feature elsewhere. Satin Silver Twilight is on the center stack, steering wheel bezel and door armrest trim; Deep Cypress on door trim panel inserts; Deep Tangerine stitching on the seats, steering wheel and door trim; and Timberline logos on the front seats.

Rubber floor liners are standard and ActiveX cloth seats inserts are designed to be cleaned easily and keep bottoms in place on rough terrain.

Standard Ford Co-Pilot360 and Co-Pilot360 Assist+ technology features that include Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Speed Sign Recognition, Lane Centering, Evasive Steering Assist and voice-activated touch screen navigation. A 360-degree camera also comes on the model.

Buyers can choose three Outfitters packages – Outfitters SkyBox, Outfitters MegaWarrior and Outfitters FrontLoader. All three packages combine all-weather floor mats, crossbars and the selected Yakima rooftop accessories for customers to take even more equipment with them on their next adventure.

The 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline is available to order now and arrives at Ford dealers this summer joining the Explorer King Ranch and new Platinum grades in the company's lineup.

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