Dodge says that the Ram 1500 can tow 10,450 pounds. Ford claims that the F-150 can tow 11,300 pounds. Which pickup pulls more? Answer: It's impossible to say, because, believe it or not, there is currently no established standard for setting tow ratings. Manufacturers each can use their own criteria to come up with any figure they want. It's as if there were no EPA testing for fuel economy, and each carmaker could use any procedure it wanted (e.g., downhill, engine-off coasting) to establish and advertise its cars' mileage.
That's finally going to change. The engineering organization SAE International has come up with minimum performance requirements in acceleration, braking, handling, ability to launch on an uphill grade, and ability to maintain speed on an uphill grade. SAE test procedures in those areas will determine the maximum tow rating (trailer weight rating, or TWR) and gross combination weight rating (GCWR) for a tow vehicle and trailer. The standards don't fully take effect until the 2013 model year, but some manufacturers already are moving to adopt them. When all carmakers are on board, tow ratings will be more directly comparable - and a lot more credible.
A sampling of the new SAE towing tests and minimum requirements:
0 to 30 mph in 12 seconds
0 to 60 mph in 30 seconds
40 to 60 mph in 18 seconds
Launch from a stop 5 times in 5 minutes (forward and reverse) on a 12-percent grade
Maintain 40 mph on the 12-mile grade from Bullhead City, Arizona, to the Davis Dam (in 100-degree temperatures, with the A/C on max)
Vehicle must maintain an understeering handling attitude up to 0.4 g cornering (0.3 g with a weight-distributing hitch)
Brake from 20 mph to a stop in 35 feet - or 45 feet if trailer brakes are required (trailers of less than 3000 pounds)
Brake from 20 mph to a stop in 80 feet (trailers of more than 3000 pounds)