Tesla vs. Ford: The Towing Tug-Of-War Rematch (Kinda)

With Tesla’s recent letter, it’s likely the Cybertruck won’t actually compete with the Ford F-150. Instead, it will most likely compete with medium-duty trucks like the Ford F-250. Which makes Tesla’s highly-publicized Cybertruck-F150 tug-of-war video rather moot. It also raises some more questions. Considering what Tesla may have had to do for that video, what would have happened if a Cybertruck and a Ford F-250 tried to compete in towing? Unfortunately, the Cybertruck isn’t out yet. But one YouTube channel did the next best thing. And the results weren’t what you’d expect.

The Tesla-Ford towing setup

One of the biggest criticisms of the Tesla-Ford tug-of-war video was the F-150’s drive mode. Based on how only the truck’s rear tires were smoking, it appeared the truck wasn’t using four-wheel drive. Meaning it had less traction, and wouldn’t be able to put down as much power, as the Tesla Cybertruck.

Tesla Model X vs Ford F-250 diesel towing tug-of-war
Tesla Model X vs Ford F-250 diesel towing tug-of-war | The Zunigas via YouTube

YouTubers The Zunigas, as InsideEVs reported, decided to try out a more balanced comparison. They brought a diesel Ford F-250, in four-wheel drive, and hitched it up to a Tesla Model X. And, to give the Ford the best possible chance, they put it in 4Lo mode. Although it limits the truck’s speed, it lets the F-250 put down torque better, and make towing easier.

How the Tesla and Ford compare in towing specs

2020 F-250 Super Duty Tremor
2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Tremor | Ford

Equipped with a 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8, the F-250 puts out 440 hp and 925 lb-ft of torque. In the case of towing, that second number is more important. With that torque output, Ford claims a diesel F-250 Lariat 4×4 could tow as much as 15,400 lbs.

Tesla Model X
Tesla Model X | Tesla

The Tesla Model X, meanwhile, has two electric motors giving a claimed combined 777 hp and 840 lb-ft of torque. However, Tesla only rates the Model X to tow 5,000 lbs. It’s not unusual for SUVs to have lower tow ratings than trucks, though.

So, the Tesla can’t tow as much as the Ford but has more torque. In addition, the Model X also weighs less than the F-250. The heaviest Model X weighs in at just over 5,500 lbs. Meanwhile, the lightest F-250 weighs almost 5,700. That, combined with electric motors’ instant torque, give the Model X advantage off the line.

However, as Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained demonstrated in his Tesla-Ford towing video, weight is a very important factor in towing. The F-250 weighing more than the Model X is actually, then, a good thing here.

What happened, and why

The Zunigas’ ran their tow test twice. First, the Tesla and Ford tried towing each other from a standing start. Just foot on the accelerator, and go. And when that happened, the Model X dragged the F-250. Score one for Tesla.

But, on the second go, the F-250 driver revved the engine up. And when that happened, although the Tesla dragged the F-250 a little, eventually the diesel truck won out.

So, why’d all this happen? As with any internal-combustion engine, the Ford’s diesel V8 needs to be revved up in order to develop power and torque. As the engine spins up, it produces more horsepower and more torque. And at some point, the engine reaches its powerband, where it’s producing the most torque the quickest (which is what horsepower really is).

In the first test, the Tesla beat the Ford at towing because the F-250’s engine wasn’t spun up. With the electric motors’ instant torque, the Tesla was able to drag the Ford. But, with the F-250’s engine spinning in the second test, it was able to overpower the Tesla.

What does this mean for the Cybertruck’s towing future?

Tesla Cybertruck
Tesla Cybertruck | Tesla

The main takeaway here is that, while these pickup truck tugs-of-war make for entertaining videos, they aren’t necessarily the best source of information. The Tesla towing the Ford was less to do with outright torque and power than it was about how the vehicles delivered that power and torque.

This also showed what anyone attempting to play tug-of-war with a Cybertruck and an F-250 needs to keep in mind. A true apples-to-apples comparison of an ICE truck’s towing capability would have to keep the powerband in mind. Starting a towing match from a dead-stop will always favor the electric truck. But if outright grunt is what you’re trying to test, you have to do what the Zunigas did in the second test, and give the ICE truck some revs.