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King Of The Hill: Silverado vs. Super Duty

We prove who really builds the most powerful pickup in the world

David Kennedy
Feb 1, 2011
Contributors: Mike McGlothlin, Harry Erle Rawlins IV
Photographers: David Kennedy, Mike McGlothlin
Chevy vs. Ford, Duramax vs. Power Stroke, and Allison vs. TorqShift-these are brand battles that never get old. In fact, for the '11 model year, they've all been reignited!
Photo 2/10   |   1102dp King Of The Hill Silverado Vs Super Duty chevy Silverado Front Driver Shot With Trailer
When it comes to diesel pickups, we all want the one that makes the most power. And for the first time in years, Ford Motor Company and General Motors offer similarly sized diesel V-8s that are rated to within 3 hp of each other. This horsepower and torque war has been great for our industry, but we want to know which truck does the most with its power. Loyalists and diesel enthusiasts are quickly choosing sides. Ford and GM have launched major ad campaigns touting their trucks as "the most powerful," and even the Internet forums are buzzing with diesel bench racers. It's time Diesel Power settled this feud.
The Benchmark
After our initial testing of each manufacturer's 3/4-ton and 1-ton trucks ("2011 Diesel Truck Shootout," Oct. '10), Ford released a high-output version of its 6.7L Power Stroke. The power increase bumped the engine's output by 10 hp and 65 lb-ft-giving it 3 more horsepower and 35 more lb-ft of torque than GM's 397hp and 765-lb-ft LML Duramax.
Photo 3/10   |   1102dp King Of The Hill Silverado Vs Super Duty ford Super Duty Front Shot With Trailer
We knew that meant a Silverado vs. Super Duty rematch-but not just any rematch. This time we set out to find which manufacturer builds the most powerful pickup by taking each truck over one of the toughest tows in America, with a gross combined vehicle weight (GCVW) approaching 28,000 pounds.
Ford F-350
  • Engine: 6.7L V-8 Power Stroke
  • Transmission: 6R140 TorqShift, six-speed automatic
  • Horsepower: 400 hp at 2,800 rpm
  • Torque: 800 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
  • Configuration: Crew cab, four-wheel drive, dual-rear wheel
  • Color: Ingot Silver Metallic
  • Axle Ratio: 3:73
  • Curb Weight: 8,440 pounds (full fuel tank, no driver)
  • Price As Tested: $54,805
Photo 4/10   |   1102dp King Of The Hill Silverado Vs Super Duty ford F350 Engine Bay
Chevy Silverado
  • Engine: 6.6L V-8 Duramax
  • Transmission: Allison 1000, six-speed automatic
  • Horsepower: 397 hp at 3,000 rpm
  • Torque: 765 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
  • Configuration: Crew Cab, four-wheel drive, dual-rear wheel
  • Color: Taupe Gray Metallic
  • Axle Ratio: 3:73
  • Curb Weight: 8,220 pounds (full fuel tank, no driver)
  • Price As Tested: $54,740
Photo 5/10   |   1102dp King Of The Hill Silverado Vs Super Duty chevy Silverado Duramax Engine Bay
Ford Test Data:
  • Start to Finish time: 10 minutes, 47 seconds
  • Top Speed: 58.5 mph
  • Quarter-mile time: 31.25 seconds at 45.13 mph
  • 0 to 50 mph: 42.02 seconds
Speed at Altitudes
At 9,000 feet: 58.51 mph
At 9,500 feet: 42.09 mph
At 10,000 feet: 40.10 mph
At 10,500 feet: 40.62 mph
At 11,000 feet: 30.73 mph
We made four total runs with the Ford F-350. Each run was faster than the previous, so the last data file was used in our final analysis.
Outside temperature, according to the truck, was 13 degrees F.
Chevy Test Data
  • Start to Finish time: 8 minutes, 38 seconds
  • Top Speed: 67.38 mph
  • Quarter-mile time: 28.93 seconds at 50.30 mph
  • 0 to 50 mph: 28.56 seconds
Speed at Altitudes
At 9,000 feet: 65.61 mph
At 9,500 feet: 52.41 mph
At 10,000 feet: 50.65 mph
At 10,500 feet: 51.74 mph
At 11,000 feet: 47.75 mph
We made three total runs with the Chevy 3500. Each run was faster than the previous, so the last data file was used in our final analysis.
Outside temperature, according to the truck, was 10 degrees F.
11,000-Foot, 18,900-Pound Towing Torture Test
The stretch of Interstate 70 that spans across Colorado is one of the most intimidating highways in the country. Nearly six months out of the year you can expect dismal weather conditions, freezing temperatures, and trucks moving very slow along the section that connects Denver to Grand Junction. Mountain peaks can reach higher than 13,000 feet, and the highway itself climbs to more than 11,000 feet at the Eisenhower Tunnel-what a perfect place for a diesel truck test.
The Trucks
Ford and Chevy were both asked to provide us with a production truck straight off a dealer's lot. Unfortunately, Ford declined to supply us a vehicle for this test. So, General Motors purchased both 1-tons involved in our 2011 King Of The Hill Shootout from Midwest auto dealers.
Photo 6/10   |   1102dp King Of The Hill Silverado Vs Super Duty duo Front Shot
The two crew cabs in our test were ordered with four-wheel drive, 3.73:1 axle gears, 17-inch wheels (the Ford's are forged aluminum vs. Chevy's steel units with chrome inserts), and cloth interior. Navigation systems, cooled seats, and other luxuries were purposely left out. The trucks were so evenly matched that even the prices of both rigs were nearly identical. The MSRP on the Ford sticker was just $65 more than the Chevy's.
Upon weigh-in (with both trucks full of fuel), we noticed the Ford was only 200 pounds heavier than the Chevy-making for a pretty even matchup. In fact, in the years this staff has been conducting vehicle shootouts, we've never seen such evenly matched trucks.
The Testdriver
For those of you saying, "Hey, wait a minute. If GM gave you both trucks, that stacks this test in GM's favor." We thought of that, too. We decided the best way to offset this perceived advantage was to hire a former Ford Motor company engineer to drive both trucks during all of our testing. Our driver's name is Harry Rawlins, and he was previously Ford's Trailer Tow Engineer. Holding that job title meant Rawlins was intimately familiar with Ford's (as well as GM's and Dodge's) towing capabilities. Rawlins also holds a Class A commercial driver's license (CDL), which meant he was the only person in the test legally able to drive the trucks towing this much weight. Plus, in the sense of full disclosure, Rawlins is also a Super Duty owner.
Photo 7/10   |   1102dp King Of The Hill Silverado Vs Super Duty silverado Driver Shot
Fuel Economy Challenge
When we began our fuel economy test, there was a discrepancy between the two trucks in terms of their urea levels (diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF). We had asked that each truck be delivered to us without any dealer prep work, to prevent any special treatment that could be given to the trucks. As a result, it appears the Chevy was delivered with only two gallons of urea. This led us to believe that, since both trucks were ordered without any dealer prep work, Ford may ship its trucks with full urea tanks.
Just after crossing into Iowa, our Chevy let us know we had 820 miles worth of urea left. We had to add some as soon as we made it to Denver-which cost us $13.99 for a 21/2-gallon jug. The Ford we tested never required us to add an ounce of urea fluid.
In two tests now, we've seen the Chevy achieve better fuel economy than the Ford. However, in both tests (the shootout in our October issue and this one), the Duramax consumed more urea. This means that Ford owners may make up some ground, when factoring in the overall cost of operating their vehicles.
*When you add in the odometer error of 3.60 percent for the Ford, the fuel economy comes to approximately 15.5 mpg.
FORD F-350 DRW Both trucks traveled the same route.
Drivers switched off at fuel stops.
Lead truck changed with driver.
Both trucks cruised at speed limit for majority of trip.
Oct 23 354.7 Ann Arbor, MI
Oct 24 747.7 401.9 Iowa 80 truck stop 24.687 $3.119 $77.00 393.0 15.9 16.9
Oct 24 1,167.9 420.1 Grand Island, NE 27.9 $3.05 $85.07 420.2 15.1 15.5
Oct 25 1,549.1 381.2 Denver, CO 28.123 $3.10 $87.15 381.2 13.6 14.2
Total 1,194 1,203.2 80.71 $3.09 $249.22 14.8 15.5
CHEVY 16.19 77.3 $238.83 $27.98
FORD 15.52 80.7 $249.22
DIFFERENCE 0.67 3.382 $10.39 $27.98
ADVANTAGE Chevy Chevy Chevy Ford
167 865.4
67 961.8
100 96.4
Error 3.60%
CHEVY 3500 DRW DATE TRUCK TRIP LOCATION FILL-UP PRICE REFUELING TRUCK MPG ODOMETER (GALLONS) PER GALLON COST TRIP (TRUCK) Oct 23 483 Ann Arbor, MI Oct 24 900 416.9 Iowa 80 truck stop 24.157 $3.119 $75.35 416.9 17.3 Oct 24 1,331 431.2 Grand Island, NE 25.927 $3.049 $79.05 431.2 16.6 Oct 25 1,731 399.7 Denver, CO 27.244 $3.099 $84.43 399.7 14.7 Total 1,248 1,247.8 77.328 $3.09 $238.83 16.2
310 3.1
210 102.75
100 99.65
Error 0.35%
From The Driver Seat
Due to the amount of weight we'd be hauling for this test, we needed someone with a commercial driver's license to do the driving. Diesel Power contributor Harry Rawlins is a mechanical engineer with more than nine years of automotive testing experience. He's towed a lot of heavy loads in many of the most challenging locations in North America. When he first heard of our King Of The Hill Shootout that would pair two equally matched trucks against the approach to Eisenhower Tunnel-it piqued his interest.
Photo 8/10   |   1102dp King Of The Hill Silverado Vs Super Duty ford Super Duty Interior Cabin
"I've made that run loaded with somewhere around 30,000 pounds driving a 6.0L-powered Ford F-550," Rawlins recalls. "I remember the struggle it was. To be able to run two trucks back to back, towing the same load, is an experience few get to enjoy.
"I was lucky enough to actually pick up the trucks in Detroit and break them in with a little highway drive out to Denver. Once in Colorado, I picked up the 30-foot trailer, had it loaded, and after a trip across the scales, I knew exactly how much I was hauling.
"I ended up making 11 passes from Dillon, Colorado, through Eisenhower Tunnel and back to Dillon. I will admit that I was somewhat biased toward the Ford. After all, I was the Trailer Tow Engineer for Ford for many years.
"Driving the Ford started out just like I'd expected. Even a 1-ton truck struggles to make it up a grade like that moving more than 27,000 pounds. The Ford's tow-haul calibration shifted the transmission like I remembered, but coming down the hill, the Ford really showed what a heavy trailer it had attached to it.
Photo 9/10   |   1102dp King Of The Hill Silverado Vs Super Duty chevy Silverado Interior Shot
"I call it my white-knuckle test. When I drive down a steep section of highway, I judge how many times I have to apply the brakes to maintain the vehicle's speed. The Ford wanted to run down the hill faster than I felt comfortable with maintaining. By the time I stopped at the exit ramp for Dillon, my knuckles were white and the aroma of brakes filled the cab. If I was on a cross-country trip, I would have been happy to check into a hotel at that point and decompress before continuing on with my trip. But for this test, I actually had to repeat this stressful drive three more times.
"When it came time to run the Chevy, I expected the same results. After all, both trucks were towing the same exact trailer, both trucks weighed within 200 pounds of each other, and both had similar power ratings. Running up the hill, I immediately noticed the Chevy was pulling the load at a faster pace than the Ford. By the time I made it to 11,000 feet, I was already impressed with the Chevy's towing capability. I was very interested to see how the Chevy would handle the load coming down the hill. After the 14 brake applications in the Ford to maintain my speed, I was surprised to see the Chevy's exhaust brake was able to control the load at my set speed.
"There was one steep section that pushed the Silverado's speed up to 60 mph, so I applied the wheel brakes and received the Fourth-to-Third downshift I expected. What surprised me was the Allison's Third-to-Second downshift, which I received when my speed dropped below 55 mph-without the need for any additional brake application. This may be common for the Allison's tow-haul mode, or it could have been the transmission learning still, but I hadn't expected it. I actually had to roll into the accelerator to gain some speed and get the transmission to upshift from Second to Third. From that point on, the truck proceeded down the hill as I expected. As for my white-knuckle test, the Chevy performed very well.
"In summary, after all the testing and photographs were done, everyone was ready to head home and write their stories. But the trucks and trailer still had to be dropped off in Denver, and that meant I'd have to make one more pass. I had the choice to haul the trailer back with either the Ford or the Chevy. To me there was no question-I unhooked the Ford."
The Trailer
  • Manufacturer: Kaufman
  • Configuration: Dual-axle, dual-wheel, gooseneck
  • GVW: 25,900 pounds
  • Length: 30 feet
  • Width: 102 inches
  • Axles: Dual 10,000-pound capacity with oil-bath bearings
  • Weight as tested: 18,920 pounds
Photo 10/10   |   1102dp King Of The Hill Silverado Vs Super Duty ford Climbing The Mountain
The Shootout
Upping the ante this time, we pitted the two comparably equipped Chevy and Ford dualies against each other, and each truck took turns pulling a 30-foot-long, 18,900-pound gooseneck trailer over our real-world test course. Our 25-mile test loop consisted of an 8-mile eastbound climb up I-70 from Dillon, Colorado. The climb began as a 5-percent grade and transitioned into a 7-percent killer. The starting line for each truck began at 8,776 feet and ended at the Eisenhower Tunnel at 11,000 feet. At that point, we'd turn around on the east end of the tunnel and descend back down the western slope of westbound I-70 to evaluate each truck's exhaust brake and tow-haul mode. The testing was performed at midnight, when traffic on I-70 is practically nonexistent. The ambient air temperature ranged between 5 and 11 degrees F. The test began and ended at the Dillon exit.
The trucks were tested one at a time, launched in four-wheel drive (for best traction), and returned to two-wheel drive at 30 mph. Both trucks were held at wide-open throttle for the entire 8-mile climb. All tests were recorded using a Racelogic VBOX GPS data logger for the most accurate data possible. Quarter-mile, 0 to 50 mph, and top speed were all measured in addition to the one-way elapsed times.
Exhaust Brake
Each truck was then turned around at the top of the hill and driven westbound back through the tunnel. The trucks exited the Eisenhower Tunnel at 50 mph, with their exhaust brakes and tow-haul modes turned on, and the transmissions in a manually selected Fourth gear. The trucks were then allowed to descend from 11,000 feet to 9,000 feet so we could determine how well each of them could control the 18,900-pound trailer.
The Outcome
After our initial '11-model-year-truck testing last summer in Michigan, we were left wondering how the high-output (400 hp) version of the new 6.7L Power Stroke would have faired against the 397hp 6.6L LML Duramax. Surely with 800 lb-ft of torque, the new Super Duty should give the 765-lb-ft Duramax a run for its money in a test of power, right?
Nope. It wasn't even close.
Once again, the Chevy proved to be the superior performer when it comes to acceleration testing. In every towing test we ran on I-70, the Silverado 3500 outperformed the Super Duty F-350. The Silverado made it through the quarter-mile more than 2 seconds quicker, achieved a top speed that was nearly 10 mph faster, and finished the entire climb more than 2 minutes ahead of the Ford. The Duramax performed significantly better at 11,000 feet of elevation as well, pulling the 18,900-pound load at 47 mph, while the Ford slowed to 30 mph. Check out our acceleration testing sidebars for the full results.
Acceleration Test Winner: Chevrolet Silverado 3500
The exhaust brake test brought out similar success for the Duramax and Allison combo. As we began our downhill run, the Ford descended the western slope well but required an average of 14 applications of the truck's brake pedal to hold the vehicle speed between 50 and 60 mph. The exhaust brake was clearly working, but the nearly 28,000 pounds (with four people in the truck) was more than the Ford could control without driver input.
The Chevy, on the other hand, crested the top of the hill feeling like a totally different kind of vehicle. Just by the exhaust noise we could tell the Duramax's Garrett turbo offered far more exhaust braking than the Garrett unit the Power Stroke uses. Going downhill in the Chevy, the driver had far less work to do. While the Super Duty managed the load by hitting the brakes 14 times, the Chevy only required 1 brake application for the entire 8-mile downhill run. While the difference in hillclimbing between the Chevy and the Ford is impressive, the exhaust braking advantage of the Silverado is staggering.
Exhaust Brake Test Winner: Chevrolet Silverado 3500
Fuel Economy Test
Before the tow test began, we drove both trucks 1,250 miles out to Colorado from Detroit. This served as both an initial break-in process, and a fuel economy challenge for the two trucks. Thanks to the fact that a majority of the miles accumulated were in light traffic and on flat ground along I-94, I-80, and I-76, we were able to see what kind of mileage these trucks can achieve out on the open road. Cruising speeds were kept between 65 to 80 mph the entire trip, and drivers swapped trucks at each fuel fill-up.
We found that both trucks were comparable in the mileage department, with the Chevy edging the Ford by less than 0.7 mpg. See our fuel economy sidebar for a complete analysis.
Fuel Economy Test Winner: Tie


Detroit, MI 48323