One of my proudest moments as an automotive journalist occurred at an event I didn’t even go to—a PickupTrucks.com truck test David Kennedy and Michael McGlothlin attended in late 2010. A few weeks prior, I had been talking to David about the lackluster quarter-mile time of 17.6 seconds at 85 mph another magazine had published when they tested a Duramax-powered GMC 2500. I remarked that 85 mph should be good for at least 15s and surmised they were just putting the Allison in Drive and stomping the throttle. The extra turbo lag of the diesel (as compared to a gas engine) meant very slow 0-to-60-mph and quarter-mile times.
Since I had drag raced diesels before, I knew all about the difference boosted four-wheel-drive launches can make. With a turbocharger that’s spooled up, a diesel engine makes a tremendous amount of torque, and that torque is then compounded in the torque converter. A boosted launch under the right circumstance will equal more than 1G of force—more than even the new ’12 580hp ZL1 Chevy Camaro can muster. While this massive acceleration only lasts for a split second, it results in vastly improved acceleration times.
When we got a chance to test the new (at that time) ’08 Ford with the 6.4L Power Stroke, yours truly got the chance to teach our staff how to do boosted launches in a four-wheeldrive diesel. It was silly exciting compared to the normal, non-boosted launches (which provide barely half the force), and we found we were able to leave the starting line at 30 psi without breaking the tires loose. Factory engineers aren’t idiots, however, and as a matter of principle, they’d rather we didn’t unleash a diesel engine’s tremendous torque from a dead stop in an 8,000-pound truck.
When it came time to later test a GM rig, we found that if you stayed on the brakes and throttle for too long to load the engine up, the computer would figure out what you were trying to do and pull power down to about 100 hp. For the new GMCs and Chevys, it was a balancing act of mashing the brakes and throttle quickly to the floor, and then letting off the brake very rapidly to achieve the best launch. A tough balancing act to be sure, but it was still possible.
I got the call in late 2010 from Milan Dragway in Michigan: “Mike and I are a good half second ahead of the next fastest time,” David said. “I actually just had a GM engineer ask how we were going so fast in their trucks!” After an hour of making everyone else feel slow, they finally let on to what they were doing. At first, the other journalists couldn’t get the hang of it, so David and Mike started taking other writers for rides. “I remember doing one launch with this older guy, who I think was one of the Ford engineers,” Mike said. “He got all wideeyed after the boosted launch and asked if anyone else had felt like their organs were moving around. He had this look like he’d just really started living again!” David also got in on the action, and for a short while, the diesel trucks were going down the dragstrip with four people at a time in them—with Diesel Power staffers behind the wheel.
“By the end of the day, the gas trucks were sitting, and everyone just wanted to drive the diesels,” Mike said. “When you hopped into one of the trucks in the staging lanes, it would already be in four-wheel drive—people even stopped bothering to take it out of launch mode,” David added. I chuckled when the visual hit me. Giving people the knowledge to extract the maximum performance out of their vehicles is one of the best parts about automotive magazines. I had just lent some knowledge to a group of journalists thousands of miles away, and I couldn’t have been happier. Even better was the fact that the journalistic masses would now understand why our magazine was called Diesel Power.