Technology has changed the auto industry in many ways, and that’s great news if you’re shopping for a truck. The latest pickups let you enjoy modern features such as massive touchscreens, mobile Wi-Fi, and many of the same safety systems as in cars. Today’s trucks are stronger than ever, too. Some now can churn out an incredible 1,000 pound-feet of torque. The best trucks for towing also go a significant step further. They combine technology and trailering capability so that it’s much easier to tackle the tough jobs.
Heavy-duty Favorite: Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD
When this story was published, the Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD led all heavy-duty pickups with a maximum tow rating of 35,500 pounds when properly equipped. The exact configuration to set that benchmark is the 3500HD regular-cab model with dual rear wheels, a gooseneck hitch, the optional turbodiesel 6.6-liter engine, and rear-wheel drive. Just keep in mind that we’re talking about the all-new Silverado 3500HD that launched for the 2020 model. The trailering maximum for the same truck from the previous generation was 23,300 pounds.
The 2020 Silverado 3500HD is also one of those trucks that can leverage technology to support its impressive capability. For example, Chevy offers an extensive array of cameras that includes the one you can mount on the rear of your trailer. With that in place, a digital processing system can stitch that view together with one from a separate wide-angle camera on the truck’s tailgate. The result is a “transparent trailer view” that streams on your infotainment display. It’s as if you can see through your trailer to traffic and the road behind you.
Heavy-duty Runner-up: Ford F-450
The Blue Oval’s heavy-duty trucks also will be all-new for 2020, but Ford will be filling in the details at a later date. What we can tell you right now is that the redesigned lineup will have higher towing ratings than the current one. This means you’ll be able to count on the 2020 Ford F-450 to pull more than 35,000 pounds with a fifth-wheel/gooseneck trailer setup. Again, that’s with the proper towing package, the available diesel engine, rear-wheel drive, and the Regular Cab body style.
Ford’s top technology advantage is its Pro Trailer Backup Assist feature. Available for all 2020 Super Duty weight classes, the system lets you use a small knob instead of the steering wheel to manage the truck in reverse. It allows for more intuitive steering since you point the knob in the direction you want the truck to go. You’re guided toward a smooth trailer connection by a video feed that’s displayed on the infotainment screen. Moreover, the system now works for both traditional hitches and in-bed towing hardware.
Full-size favorite: Ford F-150
Among the full-size light-duty pickups, the 2019 Ford F-150 sets the pace with a maximum towing capacity of 13,200 pounds (when properly equipped). That’s the rating for the F-150 crew-cab model with the optional twin-turbo V6 engine, rear-wheel drive, and the longer wheelbase. It’s also worth noting that this engine comes with its share of fuel economy benefits. The F-150 can achieve EPA grades of up to 18/25 mpg city/highway with that unit on board. The 2019 Toyota Tundra, with a top tow rating of 10,100 pounds, is rated at 13/18 mpg city/highway with its most powerful engine.
The F-150 also boasts the Pro Trailer Backup Assist technology as an option, and you can then add extra trailering assistance with enhanced blind-spot monitoring. Ford’s system can be programmed to take into account the size of your trailer when identifying potential problems. Another nifty technology monitors the trailer’s connection, lights and battery with warnings right in the instrument-cluster productivity screen.
Full-size Runner-up: Ram 1500
The Ram 1500 can carry a little less weight and provide a little less technology than the Ford F-150. That said, the Ram maintains its poise under pressure with a standard link-coil suspension that isn’t available from the Blue Oval at present. Nor does Ford offer an optional four-corner air suspension like its rival. On the Ram’s part, it does match Ford with tow-friendly blind-spot and trailer-view technology. The difference-maker here is the size of the Ram’s infotainment screen, which stretches a full 12 inches so you have a clear look at what’s going on in the back.
In terms of trailering power, a Hemi V8 is at the heart of the matter for Ram. This engine is suitable for a maximum tow rating of 12,750 pounds when the truck is properly equipped in its Crew Cab, long-wheelbase configuration. The Ram’s Hemi also happens to be part of a standard mild-hybrid powertrain. So not only can the Ram out-tow the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, and Nissan Titan, it gets better fuel economy as well.
Midsize favorite: Chevrolet Colorado
The Chevrolet Colorado is actually in a first-place tie for trailer ratings in the midsize pickup segment. It and its corporate cousin, the GMC Canyon, can pull up to 7,700 pounds when configured with the proper towing equipment. Also, the same limit applies to trucks with rear- or four-wheel drive. You do, however, have to check the option box for a turbodiesel 2.8-liter four-cylinder engine in all cases.
Chevy’s chief trailering technology for the Colorado is an Active Tow system that’s standard with both the turbodiesel engine and the available gasoline V6. The system relies on active guidelines in the rearview camera display. These help you line things up during the hitching process.
Midsize Runner-up: Jeep Gladiator
The brand-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator trails the Chevrolet Colorado by a mere 50 pounds when it comes to towing capacity. But you may prefer the fact that the Gladiator’s 7,650-pound trailer rating is with a gas-fed V6 engine. In other words, you don’t have to worry about finding diesel fuel, like you do to achieve the top tow rating for Chevy’s pickup truck. The Colorado does offer a gasoline V6, but you can only pull 7,000 pounds with that engine. The Gladiator also provides a six-speed manual transmission if that’s more your style. To assist with towing, a zoom function is optional for the Gladiator’s rearview camera. That way, you can zero in on the trailer hitch as you back up.