Diesel Truck Test - Truckin' Heavy Duty Showdown

New Diesels, New Trucks

Mark Halvorsen
Aug 16, 2007
Photographers: Truckin' Staff
Photo 2/27
We did a comparison of the Big Three's 1-ton dualies last year, and of the 3/4-tons a couple of years before that. Therefore, you would think the topic of heavy-duty pickups would be played out, especially since neither Toyota nor Nissan have decided to get into that market. But, guess what? The federal government demanded the automakers' diesel powerplants meet more stringent emission standards starting in 2007. Additionally, Chevrolet and Ford have used this opportunity to roll out completely redesigned models. Well, it looks like we have a story here.
The heavy-duty pickups made by GM, Dodge, and Ford sport similar emission systems, which were designed to accomplish the lofty goal of dispelling the bad, smoky, smelly memories that have lodged themselves in the American driving public ever since diesels made an aborted attempt to win over a gasoline-shocked America during the days of the OPEC embargos. The EPA mandated that diesel-powered pickups clean up their act begining in 2007. This resulted in each automaker coming out with similar emission-control systems to reduce particulate matter by 90 percent and nitrous oxides by 50 percent, among other things.
Photo 3/27
It also brought diesel-engine emissions to similar levels as gasoline engines. Such a system wouldn't work well if it weren't for the ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel that became available nationwide last year. A plus is that these new powertrains turned out to be a bit noisier than before, forcing the automakers to pack in the sound damping, and resulting in big diesel trucks that sound quieter than their previous generation models. That engine redesign coincides with major redesigns of both the GM and Ford trucks, while the Dodge looks a lot like it did before. What we have now is, for the first time in a long time, heavy-duty pickups that accomplish similar tasks while, at the same time, look very different from their competitors.
We borrowed three pickups from Chevrolet, Dodge, and Ford. The vehicles were more or less similarly equipped after factoring in the options and standard equipment (all had premium creature comforts, for example, were outfitted for towing, etc.). We put them on a dyno at DC Performance-a tuner shop in Culver City, California, that serves customers who exhibit a need for speed. (To contact, call 310-841-6996, or visit www.dcperformance.com) Then, we hitched a 2-ton trailer to them that carried one of our project vehicles, a '63 Ford F-100, and ran them up and down a drag strip. And, of course, there were the street impressions we got from driving them around town with and without a trailer. Want to know what we learned? Read on.
Photo 7/27
Chevrolet's Silverado 2500, and its cousin over on the GMC side of the house, have been redesigned as part of GM's overhaul of its line of trucks and SUVs that began last year. The fit, finish, exterior, and interior design of the Chevrolet HD is certainly in line with the GMT900 platform vehicles, and the Silverado probably has the most refined look of the heavy-duty pickups inside and out. It's wide, blocky dimensions are eased by rounded corners and uncluttered grille.
Our truck was appointed with the top trim level that is clearly the "nicest" of the interiors available to pickups on the market right now. Chevrolet is going for what you could call a broad interpretation of luxury that would look good in a car, truck, or SUV. It's very appealing without being polarizing. This can be good in that anyone slipping into a Silverado is likely to get the "hey, this is nice," feeling. But, it may not grab them in the same way that the Ford does by conveying a strong sense of identity, a sense of "Silverado-ness;" whatever that might be. The resulting interior is less polarizing than, say, a King Ranch Ford, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Meanwhile, it stands head and shoulders above the Dodge.
Photo 8/27
We think a good move for GM was copying Ford's integrated trailer-brake controller. Yes, the new HD has an integrated trailer-brake controller that allows finer control of a trailer's braking system without having to hang an ugly and heavy-handed aftermarket piece from the bottom of the dash. We wish Chevrolet had taken a cue from Ford and Dodge when it came to devising a way to make room in the second row for cargo. The rear seats in the Silverado flip up against the seat backs, and you put your stuff on the floor. We think the solutions offered by Ford and Dodge provide a flatter, more stable surface for things stowed in the back of the cab.
Let's face it, all three of the trucks we evaluated have strong enough powertrains to get the job done. But the Detroit three have never been known to be satisfied with an "I'm OK, you're OK" approach to competition. They would rather eek out a single horsepower more than their competitors, in order to achieve a quantitative-albeit minuscule-edge that can be trumpeted from the tallest mountains. That said, the Chevrolet did manage to beat the pants off of Dodge and Ford on the dyno, and on the track; a result that was similar to what we experienced with the dualies we reviewed last year. One difference, though, is the Silverado's beefed up powerplant was residing in a somewhat tired platform in '06. Now, the Chevrolet has a new physique to go with its heart.
Our Chevy tester has what is probably the most useful cargo-management system of the bunch. Where the other trucks offered solely fixed tie downs in the bed for cargo, the Chevy had a rail system, on which tie downs slide to and fro to better position themselves for securing cargo of various sizes. We have this on our Silverado 1500 long-termer, too. Although, we wish it came with more than four of these sliding tie downs, we suppose you can buy more if you need them. Granted, the Ford has the nifty stowable bed extender and the tailgate step, but Chevy's solution is likely to prove more practical for most people.
Price (as tested)
$49,839 without destination (base $37,595, options $12,244)

Warranty
Bumper-to-Bumper: 3 years/36,000 miles with towing assistance Powertrain: 5 years/100,000 miles (Rust: 6 years/ 100,000 miles

Engine
6.6L V-8 Duramax diesel

Horsepower
365 at 3,200 hp SAE 303.37 at 3,200 rpm at the wheels as tested

Torque (lb-ft)
660 at 1,600 rpm SAE 507.33 at 2,720 rpm at the wheels, as tested

Transmission
Six-speed Allison automatic

Drivetrain
4WD

Final Drive Ratio
3.73

Suspension
Independent with coilovers (front), leaf springs (rear)

Brakes
Four-wheel disc: 12.8-inch rotor (front and rear), power-assisted, four-wheel ABS

Turning (curb-to-curb)
47.6 ft

Curb Weight
6,609 lb

GVWR & GCWR
9,200 lb and 22,000 lb

Max Trailer Weight
13,000 lb (weight distributing)

Payload
2,591 lb

Cargo Bed
78.7x50.6 in

Seating
5

Acceleration (0-60 mph)(corrected) 7.85 sec (without trailer), 14.65 sec (with trailer)

Quarter-Mile (corrected)
15.74 sec at 87.64 mph (without trailer), 19.84 sec at 71.06 mph (with trailer)

Braking (60-0 mph)
261.52 ft (without trailer)

Options As Tested
LYZ Equipment Group, Safety Package (adjustable foot pedals, rear parking sensor), EZ Lift Tailgate Package (locking, EZ lift tailgate), Off Road Suspension Package (skid plates), 6.5L diesel, navigation head unit, XM Satellite Radio, Allison six-speed automatic transmission, power-sliding rear window, integrated brake controller, cargo-management system (sliding tie downs), radiator cover, fifth wheel's trailer wiring, 9,200 GVWR, 3.73 axle, dark-blue metallic body paint, and a light-cashmere/ebony interior.
Photo 14/27
The biggest news about the Ram 2500 is the new lower-emission powerplant, and that it has an exhaust brake (more on that later). Otherwise, the truck is similar to the one we drove for a year in 2006; which isn't bad, because it's a great truck.
The Dodge hasn't changed, really, since it was refreshed for the 2006 model year, which coincided with the introduction of the Mega Cab. The truck retained its big-rig-inspired demeanor, which is fine with us. Apparently, it's fine with Dodge, too. The 18-wheeler motif is spreading to other vehicles bearing the brand, with smaller SUVs such as the Nitro, and the mid-sized Dakota, which is acquiring a more aggressive demeanor. Of the three trucks, the Ram ranks as No. 2, as the "Most Truck-Like," behind the Ford. We have driven both the Dodge Ram 1500 and last-gen diesel 2500 a lot. While we really like the Ram, the Dodge is getting left in the dust when it comes to interior styling. Our HD tester still had the navigation unit we complained about all last year, because it didn't have a touchscreen, and we don't like that finicky control knob. We're waiting for MyGig to make it to the Ram soon. And once it does, it will probably blow away the currently available systems in the competition. We like Dodge's solution for storing cargo with the second-row seating. The seats flip up against the seat backs, and a tray covered with fabric folds out and across the floor, providing an even, stable surface for whatever is placed on it.
Photo 15/27
Looks aren't the only department where the Ram tries to emulate a big rig. The latest Dodge offers something neither the Chevy nor Ford do-an exhaust brake. Push a button on the center console, and you hear the urgent "grrrrrrrrrr" of a tractor-trailer as it slowly, but inexorably, scrubs speed on a long decline. While we didn't test the exhaust brake extensively, we did manage to use it while going downhill and pulling our test trailer, where the brake worked just fine to control our descent.
The Ram used to have the noisiest engine of the three diesels. Now, it seems as quiet as the rest, which is an improvement from our perspective. Like the Ford and Chevrolet diesel-powered pickups, the Ram's emissions are clean enough to meet the tough, new standards demanded by the EPA for 2007. However, the Dodge appears to exceed the other two brands with the fact that its Bluetec diesel engine also complies with the even tougher, 50-state emissions regulation that go live in 2010. Way to go, Dodge. The Ram also did OK on the dyno and on the track. With the Chevrolet beating both the Ford and Dodge in both arenas, Dodge was left battling Ford for runner up. On the dyno, Dodge got third, but won second on the track.
As far as heavy-duty pickups go, the Dodge Ram 2500 does the job right. But, we get the sense that while it is certainly in the game from the standpoint of performance, it just doesn't have the mojo going on that Ford and Chevrolet do with their designs.
Price (as tested)
$51,850 without destination (base $37,725, options $14,125)

Warranty
Bumper-to-Bumper: 3 years/36,000 miles Powertrain: Lifetime warranty applies to original owner and to vehicles sold after July 26, 2007, vehicle must be inspected, at no charge, every five years.

Engine
6.7L I-6 Cummins diesel

Horsepower
350 at 3,013 rpm SAE
271.38 at 3,200 rpm at the wheels, as tested

Torque (lb-ft)
650 at 1,500 rpm SAE
477.21 at 2,870 rpm at the wheels, as tested

Transmission
Six-speed automatic

Drivetrain
4WD

Final Drive Ratio
4.1

Suspension
Live axle, Quadra Link leading arms, track bar, coil springs, electric disconnecting stabilizer bar, monotube shcks (front); Live axle, leaf springs, and shocks (rear)

Brakes
13.9-inch rotors (front and rear); four-wheel ABS

Turning (curb-to-curb)
50.3 ft

Curb Weight
6,271 lb base

GVWR & GCWR
9,000 lb and 20,000 lb

Max Trailer Weight
12,950 lb (weight distributing), 16,500 lb (fifth wheel)

Payload
2,800 lb

Cargo Bed (length x width between wheelwells)
98.3x51 in

Seating
6

Acceleration (0-60 mph)(corrected) 8.97 sec (without trailer), 16.69 sec (with trailer)

Quarter-Mile (corrected)
16.65 sec at 82.94 mph (without trailer), 20.43 sec at 67.94 mph (with trailer)

Braking (60-0 mph)
196.68 ft (without trailer)

Options As Tested
Preferred Package 2FH (rear power sliding window, 17-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, powered six-way front seats, heated front seats, electronic shift on the fly transfer case, navigation head unit with six-CD changer and seven-speaker Infinity system, overhead console with trip computer and garage opener), Trailer Group (Class IV hitch receiver and 7-pin wiring harness), supplemental side curtain airbags, front and rear floor mats, six-speed automatic transmission, 4.10 axle, anti-spin differential rear axle, 6.7L diesel, tow hooks, 750-ampere alternator, fold-away power towing mirrors, chrome tubular sidesteps, diesel exhaust brake, LT265/70R17E tires, and bedliner.)
Photo 20/27
Ford was the first one out of the gate with its ground-up redesign of the heavy-duty pickups. We first saw the truck in November of 2006, then covered it in Truckin' soon after. The Super Duty makes a bold design statement that the Chevrolet and Dodge don't match. Where the Ram holds fast to its big-rig-inspired front end, and the Silverado presents a restrained, contemporary expression of its squared-off heritage, the Super Duty goes almost over the top with a design that comes closest to epitomizing a truck.
Photo 21/27
The interior of the truck mimics the exterior's truck-like aggressiveness, which is to say that 18-wheelers should look this tough. Neither the Dodge nor the Chevrolet approached the Ford in its unabashedly tough-guy styling. We're not talking about basic, work-truck looks, per the cable guy. We mean chiseled, well-appointed, and distinctive design that differentiates dramatically from the generically luxurious style of the Chevy; or the quite comfortable, yet bland, Dodge. In fact, the Super Duty's interior has an almost love-it-or-leave-it attitude well suited to the pickup, in the same way that a cowboy who walks into a fancy restaurant after a week on the range really wouldn't care that he's still wearing dusty clothes and a six-shooter. Like all the trucks, the Ford had plenty of storage space and roominess for passengers working on the go.
When it came to creative cargo-bed applications, Ford has the others beat. Although, we suspect the Chevy's slide-rail system is probably more practical for routine usage, Ford does offer a couple of extras that were on our tester. One is the stowable bed extender, the other is the integrated tailgate step. Ford looked at the usual flip-out bed-extender cage and tried something different. The company went with a plastic setup that works the same as the usual suspects-it can flip out over the tailgate to give you more storage room.
But, when you don't need it, all you have to do is split the cage into two, then fold each side against the walls of the bed. This way, you can have it available at all times but keep it out of the way. As for the tailgate step, this was another "what-the-heck" idea the folks at Ford thought buyers might find useful for climbing in and out of the bed. After dropping the gate, you can pull down an integrated stair step from the gate; then for balance, grab a handle that swivels up from the gate, and step up into the bed. Cool idea, but probably not as routinely useful as the extender. Although, we suppose that depends on what you buy the truck for.
If you want to know more about what it's like to tow with the new Ford Super Duty, then we suggest you read our write-up of our cross-country journey, which appears in "Sea to Shining Sea," on page 144. During that trip, two of our staff towed a Chevrolet S-10 from Southern California to Georgia, and towed a Ford F-100 back. To summarize: the truck proved a worthy road warrior.
Photo 22/27
For this story, we didn't undertake any epic journeys; we opted for towing a trailer on a drag strip. First, a remark about the integrated trailer brake controller. This was an idea that Ford came up with during the last redesign of the Super Duty a few years ago. It was a good idea then, and it's a good idea now. So good, in fact, GM adopted the technology for its own HDs. Kudos to Ford. We also like the huge towing mirrors that extend away from the vehicle, or fold inward with the push of a button. Ford's solution for storing goods with the second-row seat is similar to Dodge's, you can flip up the back seat and unfold trays across the floor of the cab, which creates a stable platform for stuff. Ford's approach uses metal trays not covered with fabric. While it is possible that these might be stronger than the Dodge trays, the lack of a liner creates a more slippery surface.
According to the dyno, the Ford version had a little more torque and horsepower at the wheels than the Dodge version, but was creamed by the Chevrolet. At the track, Ford lagged a bit behind the Dodge and, again, got smacked by the Chevrolet. That said, the engine's two in-series turbos do lend a different feel to the experience of accelerating in the Ford. The linear nature of the turbo boost eliminates the diesel-kick you are used to getting when turbos finally spool up to a useful rpm.
In comparison to the other two trucks, Ford was no hot rod, although it certainly gets in the game. If you want a land yacht that will pull its maritime counterpart with aplomb, then this truck certainly fits the bill. It edges out the others when it comes to max-towing capability, and blows them away with style.
Price (as tested)
$54,570 without destination (base $35,880, options $18,690)

Warranty
Bumper-to-Bumper: 3-year/35,000-miles
Drivetrain: 5-year/60,000-mile
Roadside: 5-year/60,000-miles
Rust: 5-year/Unlimited miles

Engine
6.4L V-8 Power Stroke diesel
Horsepower
350 at 3,000 rpm
283.35 at 2970 rpm at the wheels, as tested

Torque (lb-ft)
650 at 2,000 rpm
494.51 at 3,100 rpm at the wheels, as tested

Transmission
Five-speed automatic Torqshift

Drivetrain
4WD
Final Drive Ratio
3.73
Suspension
Twin-coil monobeam, shocks, stabilizer bar (front); non-independent live axle with stabilizer bar, staggered shocks, leaf sprinds (rear)
Brakes
13.66-inch rotor (front); 13.39-inch rotor (rear); four-wheel ABS, electronic traction/stability control
Turning (curb-to-curb)
51.8 ft

Curb Weight
6,523 lb

GVWR & GCWR
10,000 lb and 23,000 lb

Max Trailer Weight
5,000 lb (conventional), 12,500 lb (weight distribut- ing), 16,900 lb (fifth wheel)

Payload
2,850

Cargo Bed (length x width between wheelwells)
81.8 in x 50.9 in

Seating
6
Acceleration (0-60 mph)(corrected)
10.30 sec (without trailer), 16.98 sec (with trailer)

Quarter-Mile (corrected)
17.42 sec at 83.23 mph (without trailer), 20.73 sec at 67.76 mph (with trailer)

Braking (60-0 mph)
171.18 ft (without trailer)

Options As Tested
6.4L diesel, five-speed transmission, 3.73 axle, LT275/65Rx20E tires, black cab steps, adjustable foot pedals, navigation head unit with six-disc CD changer, Sirius Radio, rear-seat entertainment system, privacy glass, upfitter switches, rear-parking sensor, sliding rear window, tailgate step, stowable bed extender, traction control, electronic shift on-the-fly transfer case, rapid-heat cab heater, engine-block heater, Tow Command System, driver's memory package, 200-amp alternator, heated front seats, six-position powered seats, leather luxury captain's chairs, and lower accent two-toned paint.

2015 Ford F-250 Specifications

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Fair Market Price $29,960
MSRP $31,810
Editors' Overall Rating
Mileage N/A City / N/A Highway
Engine 6.2L V8
Horse Power 385 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 405 ft lb of torque @ 4,500 rpm
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Fair Market Price
$29,960
Editors' Overall Rating
Basic Specifications
MSRP: $31,810
Mileage: N/A
Engine: 6.2L V8
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