2006 Dualie Trucks - 2006 Dualie Shootout
There is nothing subtle about a dualie: the whine and clack of its turbodiesel powerplant, bulging bedsides bearing a four-pack of wheels and tires, and the boat, horse trailer, tank...whatever it is that you might pull with a dualie's prodigious towing capacity. In an automotive world where people use pickups as plush daily drivers that are rarely pushed to their limits, the dualie remains an uncompromising workhorse for heavy-duty work and play.
But which brand of dualie is the best? We teamed with our sister mag Diesel Power to pit three 2006-model-year trucks from Chevrolet, Dodge, and Ford against each other to find out: the Chevrolet 3500 3LT 4WD Crew Dualie, the Dodge 3500 Laramie Ram Mega Cab Dualie, and the Ford F-350 4x4 King Ranch Crew Cab Dualie. The Mega Cab is the newest of the bunch, that model having been released for the 2006 model year and the dualie version just now hitting the streets. (The Mega Cab 1500 won our "Truck of the Year" award.) Ford redesigned its heavy-duty pickups for the 2005 model year, with a facelift on the way in 2007. The Chevy is the most dated of the three, but a complete redesign should roll off the line next year.
For two weeks we put these trucks through their paces, which included daily driving and errand running, speeding up and braking down a 1/4-mile length of runway at Camarillo Airport, crawling up the Cajon Pass on I-15 (a 6% grade over 12 miles), dyno testing at Westech, and 1- or 2- or 3-hour hauls (and that was just the rush-hour commute). We alternated between driving these trucks with-out cargo and pulling a 9,380-pound trailer/Bobcat combo. Want to know how the test turned out? Read on.
2006 Dodge 3500 Laramie Ram Mega Cab 2WDDodge has a long and colorful history with the diesel crowd, and there are those who won't listen to anything but positive comments. So we'll start with those. We loved the Dodge for its interior size. The Mega Cab feels luxurious simply because of its cavernous cab space. All hands went up to vote the Mega Cab the best people-hauler of the three trucks. It would be a particularly good selling point for a dealer to slide the front seats all the way back and then have a prospective customer jump in the back seat and then recline it.
It's not just the interior space that captured our fancy. The appointments are high-class too. An optional GPS navigation system makes trips to unfamiliar locations much less stressful. The ability to know if there is a service station at the next offramp (or not) is very valuable when you're loaded down with a trailer and you want to avoid any extra maneuvering. Another impressive feature is the extra-large center console. With multiple layers and large storage spaces we found it to be the most versatile of the three. A notch or indent on the top of the console does a good job of keeping incidental things, like pens and cell phones, from sliding around the cab.
The huge cab does lend one problem, however. The rear of the cab - and, hence, the rear window - are so far behind the driver that it tends to isolate the truck when backing up. This is especially noticeable when attaching a trailer. In addition, an 8-foot bed is not available for the Mega Cab, and the resulting short cab-to-axle distance makes it impractical to tow a fifth-wheel trailer, since the front of the trailer and back of the cab would likely collide during a sharp turn.
Unloaded, the Dodge is quiet and the truck just doesn't have that big and heavy feel that the Ford does - more on that later. It drives like a smaller truck, in that it is relatively easy to maneuver. And while we later described the Chevrolet as the hot-rod of the three (in terms of real performance), the flame-red paint and aggressive rake of the Dodge make it look more the part. We thought it was curious that the Dodge's rear end seemed to squirm on a bumpy freeway. Maybe the springs are a bit stiff, or the damping is a bit taut, but the truck bed often felt too light to us. In fact, we managed to kick the rear around a corner, much to our alarm (and secret satisfaction). We don't particularly like the way the mirrors look, but they are quite adaptable in that they can be deployed horizontally and vertically, and they offer a good view.
After the nearly 10,000 pounds were attached to the back the Dodge seemed to be influenced by the trailer more than the Ford but not as much as the Chevy. Braking from 60-to-0 mph with the trailer proved to be more dramatic with the Dodge. Imagine our man at the radar gun, his eyes getting wider and wider as the Dodge slid closer and closer to him, its tires screeching across the tarmac. While it trailed the other two vehicles in performance here, the actual numbers were in the ballpark. As for acceleration, the Dodge Mega Cab fit in the middle of the pack, with almost the quickness of the Chevrolet but noticeably more fleet than the Ford. We wonder how the numbers would have stacked up if the Dodge we had was equipped with the extra weight and drag of a 4WD transfer case.
All in all, this truck offers similar pulling utility as the others, without the benefit of the larger cargo box, which is sacrificed for the larger cab. If you've got a large crew to take to the worksite (or a big posse to take out on the town), then this is the truck for you.
2006 Ford F-350 King Ranch Crew Cab 4WDFord's King Ranch is truly a unique pickup. With a weight of 8,160 pounds it's 800 pounds heavier than the Dodge, and it feels like it. The Ford, more so than the other two trucks we evaluated, traces its heritage straight back to the workingman's idea of what a dualie should be. The King Ranch is the heaviest of the three trucks. It has the highest towing capacity thanks to its lower axle ratio. It's clear that the Ford is built to get the job done.
Or is it? The King Ranch exhibits a clear style that our company staffers and passersby either loved or hated. This ostentatious package offers soft brown leather seats that match the leather wraps on the steering wheel and grab handles, and large King Ranch badging inside and out with the Running W brand and founding date of its namesake ranch, which has been in operation in Kingsville, Texas, since 1853. This trim level looks like it's better suited for the ranch owner than the ranch hand.
Several testers remarked that the cool-looking interior pieces weren't exactly perfectly matched. The relationship between the seats, armrests, and center console is not ideal for comfort. The seats, in fact, were rated by our testers as the least comfortable. So, despite the fact that the leather wows everyone, the lack of bolster support and relatively un-cushy bottoms wore on everyone who drove the truck long distances. The rumble of the diesel engine sounds noticeably louder inside the Ford than in the other two trucks, and that might contribute to the feeling that long trips leave the driver a little more tired than in the other vehicles.
Truck values permeate this pickup despite the flair that's been added. The diamond-plate side steps combine with a two-tone paintjob and a rather square or boxy styling to create a truck confident in its identity. This truck is more massive in every respect, and it doesn't let the trailer overwhelm it. When towing with the Ford, it feels solid and inspires confidence. (Much of this confidence is due to the factory-equipped brake controller the others lack.) It may not be the fastest in the quarter-mile (loaded or unloaded), but you have a sense that it will get you there time and time again. We liked the way the Ford's transmission shifted quickly and firmly.
Unloaded, the suspension on the Ford gave the most feedback, particularly the rear. Wheel hop on bumpy freeways was pronounced and even interfered with tuning the radio or dialing a cell phone while the truck was rolling down the road. One tester made note of the fact that after returning from the market he found the produce had bounced all over the inside of the cab. Of course, all of these 1-ton dualies suffer from the same condition because they are tuned more for serious work than for running to the grocery store.
If you want to live in Texas, or look like you do, and need a truck that's bold-looking and hardworking, then consider tying this truck to your hitching post.
2006 Chevrolet 3500 3LT Crew 4WDDuring our testing we often referred to the Chevrolet 3500 3LT 4WD Crew Dualie as the hot rod of the bunch. It produced more horsepower and torque at the dyno, and with a relatively light 7,400-pound curb weight the Chevy reigned supreme on the acceleration tests (both when it was loaded and unloaded). The Chevy feels downright nimble and racy for a truck of this size. The balancing of the drivetrain components is key for the Chevy, and the six-speed automatic transmission gets a lot of the credit. Anyone who is looking for a good ratio of performance for the money has to look at the Chevy, since it also sells for less than the other two.
All that engine performance, however, is tempered somewhat by the Chevy's dated chassis architecture, in comparison to the Ford and Dodge dualies. Of course, this will be remedied once GM rolls out its new heavy-duty trucks next year. As for the dualie we had on hand, it dealt us a lot of freeway hop that we blamed on either a weaker frame or stiffer suspension damping. We could definitely feel the suspension-heavy trailer when it was hitched to the back of the Chevy. Couple that with a design that isn't as bold as the other two and it might be enough to give the Ford and Dodge enthusiasts something to rally behind.
Despite that, we were impressed with the Chevy's "Tow/Haul" setting, which offered a very smart downshift schedule. (We didn't, however, like the oddly shaped transmission lever.) The transmission's torque management is very aggressive. It makes the engine feel like it bogs down when you floor it at 55-65 mph. This was even more apparent when the engine was cold. It may, we surmised, be a part of Chevy's plan to keep numbskulls like us from hurting the engine.
Chevy uses the power steering pump to supply boost for the brakes, and it seemed as if the pump doesn't have quite enough capacity to easily assist the brakes and turn the steering wheel at the same time. This resulted in an ominous groan from the pump. We also thought that the front brakes should be larger for a vehicle of this size.
Inside the cab of the Chevy we found less available space compared to the other trucks. The rear cargo storage improves when the rear seats are folded down, but that limits how far you can recline the front seats. Plus, it would be great if the driver's seat reclined more than it does. The center console is too small to provide as much storage as a target customer for this truck might expect, but the good number of pockets in the dash are helpful. And the fact that the truck has two 12-volt outlets that stay on all the time is a plus, particularly for journalists who had to power a computer and battery chargers at the same time.
The Chevy gets high marks for comfort. While no one was particularly enthused about the styling or muted gray interior materials, the seats were easily the most comfortable and offered the best structure. On long runs, you start to notice that the Chevy seats have more support and the base is more forgiving, especially for us middle-aged types. We thought the engine noise inside the cabin was quieter than we expected, but you definitely can hear the turbo whistle (and all of us liked that).
Wrapping things up:The Chevy's older architecture - and subsequently less refined driving experience - did make us take pause. And while it is no slouch when it comes to interior appointments, the Dodge Mega Cab and Ford King Ranch do offer much nicer and more contemporary interiors (as far as trim level, interior space, or conveniences like navigation). So as a straight up passenger vehicle the Chevy lagged a bit, but as a working truck it roared ahead - at least on the 1/4-mile - thanks to its powerful motor and six-speed transmission, a horsepower-to-weight ratio of .042 (compared to the Dodge's .039 an Ford's .034), and massive torque on the dyno (569 lb-ft, compared to 530.6 and 443.6, respectively). Its long bed is essentially equivalent to Ford's and beats the Dodge's necessary limitation of a shortbed. Compare the Chevy's max towing estimate of 12,000 to the Dodge's 15,600 and 15,000 for Ford. Then you have another reason to take pause, but with a GCWR of 23,500 it does weigh about the same as the Dodge and less than the Ford. And while the Ford we drove, with the equipped 4.30 axle, has a GCWR of 26,000, it doesn't have quite the same oomph as the Chevy.
We'll be honest and say that each of the three vehicles that we evaluated are differentiated enough to offer something a little different to a prospective buyer. But we are committed to choosing a winner, so, if you add everything we just mentioned with the fact that the Chevy's price is lower than the other two trucks that we tested, then we feel that the 2006 Chevrolet 3500 3LT 4WD Crew Dualie is the winner of this evaluation - but only by a nose.
2006 Dodge 3500 Laramie Ram Mega Cab DualiePrice (as tested)$50,420 without destination
Engine5.9L I-6 Cummins Turbodiesel
Horsepower289.9 @ 2,944 rpm SAE, as tested at the wheels (325 @ 2,900 rpm SAE is factory spec)
Torque (lb-ft)530.6 @ 2,711 rpm SAE, as tested at the wheels (610 @ 1,600 rpm SAE is factory spec)
TransmissionFour-speed automatic 2WD
SuspensionLive-axle with coils (front), live axle with leaf springs (rear)
BrakesFour-wheel disc, four-wheel ABS, Electronic Variable Brake Proportioning (balances front-to-rear braking when hauling a load)
Tire SizeLT235/80R17E BSW All Season (as tested)
Turning (Curb-to-Curb)47 ft
Curb Weight7,360 lb, as tested (6,935 lb is factory spec)
GVWR & GCWR10,500 lb & 23,000 lb
Max. Trailer Weight15,600 lb
Cargo Bed (length x width between wheels)27 sq ft
Passenger volume143.18 cu ft
Acceleration (0-60 mph)9.6 sec without trailer, 22.94 sec with trailer
Quarter-Mile 17.16 sec @ 78 mph without trailer, 23.24 sec @ 57.8 mph with trailer
Braking (60-0 mph)167.31 ft without trailer, 290.92 ft with trailer
MPG 13.75 average (as tested)
Options (as tested)Inferno Red Crystal Pearl coat paint, leather-trimmed and low-back bucket seats, Laramie package, side airbags, four-speed automatic transmission, anti-spin differential axle, fold-away power trailer tow mirrors, power sunroof, navigation system with six-CD/MP3 player, dual rear wheels, and tow hooks
2006 Ford F-350 4x4 King Ranch Crew Cab DualiePrice (as tested)$51,780 without destination
Engine6.0L V-8 Power Stroke Diesel
Horsepower274.8 @ 3,323 rpm SAE, as tested at the wheels (325 @ 3,300 rpm SAE is factory spec)
Torque (lb-ft)443.6 @ 3,155 rpm SAE, as tested at the wheels (570 @ 2,000 rpm SAE is factory spec)
TransmissionFive-speed automatic 4WD
SuspensionTwin coil monobeam (front), live axle with leaf springs (rear)
BrakesFour-wheel disc, four-wheel ABS, hydroboost
Tire SizeLT245/75RX17E BSW All-Terrain (as tested)
Turning (Curb-to-Curb)56.5 ft
Curb Weight8,160 lb, as tested (7,101 lb is factory base)
GVWR & GCWR13,000 lb & 26,000 lb
Max. Trailer Weight15,000 lb is factory base
Cargo Bed (length x width between wheels)34 sq ft
Passenger volume133.21 cu ft
Acceleration (0-60 mph)9.89 sec without trailer, 22.15 sec with trailer
Quarter-Mile 17.42 sec @ 78.71 mph without trailer, 22.98 sec @ 60.89 mph with trailer
Braking (60-0 mph)141.10 ft without trailer, 280.08 ft with trailer
MPG 14.3 average (as tested)
Options (as tested)Arizona Beige accent, 6.0L V-8 diesel, TorqShift five-speed automatic transmission, all-terrain tires, rear stabilizer bar, King Ranch option (cab steps, floor mats, power sliding rear window, telescoping heated power mirror, dual captain/rear bench tan leather heated seats, and two-tone paint), Lariat luxury group (automatic temperature control A/C, 1,300-pound GVWR package), electronic shift-on-the-fly, skidplates, power-slide moonroof, tow boss package (4.30 ratio limited-slip axle, trailer brake controller), premium AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD, dual alternators, upfitter switches, and 15K receiver trailer hitch
2006 Chevrolet 3500 3LT 4WD Crew DualiePrice (as tested)$47,980 without destination
Engine6.6L V-8 6600 Duramax Diesel
Horsepower315.7 @ 3,245 rpm SAE, as tested at the wheels (360 @ 3,200 rpm SAE is factory spec)
Torque (lb-ft)569.5 @ 2,375 rpm SAE, as tested at the wheels (650 @ 1,600 rpm SAE is factory spec)
TransmissionSix-speed automatic 4WD
SuspensionIndependent with torsion bars (front), live axle with leaf springs (rear)
BrakesFour-wheel disc, four-wheel ABS, hydroboost
Tire SizeLT215/85R16-E (as tested)
Turning (Curb-to-Curb)53.5 ft
Curb Weight7,400 lb, as tested (6,552 lb is factory base)
GVWR & GCWR11,400 lb & 23,500 lb
Max Trailer Weight12,000 lb
Cargo Bed (length x width between wheels)33.9 sq ft
Passenger volume122.62 cu ft
Acceleration (0-60 mph)8.77 sec without trailer, 18.98 sec with trailer
Quarter-Mile 16.87 sec @ 81.82 mph without trailer, 21.82 sec @ 64 mph with trailer
Braking (60-0 mph)158 ft without trailer, 280.71 ft with trailer
MPG 15.57 average (as tested)
Options (as tested)Heavy-duty power package (Duramax diesel 6600 V-8 engine, Allison six-speed automatic transmission, and locking differential rear axle), OnStar Plus package, XM satellite radio, diesel engine winter cover, GVW rating 11,400 pounds, and rear axle 3.73 ratio