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2011 Diesel Truck of the Year

In a Field Of Three Excellent Pickups, One Rises to the Top

David Kennedy
Jul 1, 2011
Contributors: Jason Sands
Photographers: David Kennedy, Jason Sands
This is a great time to be a diesel truck buyer. But it’s an extremely difficult time to be a Diesel Power judge trying to name the best diesel pickup for 2011. The first thing you should know about this test is that there was a consensus amongst our staff that there’s not a bad truck in this group. All three of them are excellent diesel pickups. All of them have powerful engines, durable six-speed transmissions, and the potential to haul a 5,000- to 10,000-pound trailer with ease. So why the test? Read on, and we’ll explain.
Photo 2/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year diesel Truck Test Group
Battle Of The Titans
In our “2011 Diesel Truck Shootout” (Oct. ’10), we evaluated the new 2011 ¾- and 1-ton trucks Dodge, Ford, and GM offer. That proved to be a test of brute force—and the GM pickups bested Ford and Dodge in the quarter-mile, towing trailers up a 16-percent grade, and even in the unloaded fuel economy test. But that testing was done with Ford’s 390hp 6.7L Power Stroke calibration. So when the new 400hp tune for the Super Duty was announced in August 2010—we knew we needed a rematch.
Heavyweight Rematch
For our second test, the “King of the Hill” (Feb. ’11) comparison, we had General Motors supply us with two nearly identical 1-ton dualies. In this Colorado-based event we pitted a 397hp Chevy Silverado 3500 against a 400hp Ford F-350. We hooked each truck up to a 19,000-pound fifth-wheel trailer and timed them to see which one could climb the Continental Divide the quickest. General Motors’ Duramax again managed to best Ford going up and down the grade. We weren’t able to test a Ram 3500 at that time because the Dodge wasn’t rated to haul that much weight.
But then we said to ourselves, “You know, people don’t just drive their diesels at wide-open throttle. OK, maybe our readers do—but there’s more to a truck than what it does when you mat the pedal.” We decided another test was in order.
Real-World Truck Test
This time we teamed up with our sister publication, Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road, to test a Dodge, Ford, and GMC diesel towing 5,000-pound Carson Fun Runner travel trailers. We felt this less-extreme test would allow us to give readers a more in-depth feel for the trucks.
Photo 3/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year uphill Towing Test
So we loaded up three similarly equipped ¾-ton four-door 4x4s that were supplied by their manufacturers, picked up three identical trailers from Carson Trailer, and hooked them up using three identical Curt Manufacturing Class IV 2 5?16-inch hitches. We then headed out to our secret desert proving grounds.
Our testing was conducted in and around Ocotillo Wells, California. We evaluated the three pickups in 18 categories to assess everything that makes a truck, a truck. We’ve named a winner in each category, and our overall winner is the diesel vehicle with the most balanced power, capability, comfort, features, and fuel economy.
Pacific Contract Services’ Skunk Works
The drive routes, off-road testing, and trailer-tow evaluations were all conducted under the guidance of Pacific Contract Services (PCS), which is a logistics company used by vehicle manufacturers to facilitate OEM testing. We’ve relied on PCS’s support and facilities for many magazine tests in the past. The organization’s A-Team-like capabilities included getting us unstuck, fixing busted vehicles, and providing 24-hour security for the test vehicles, trailers, and judges—given our close proximity to the Mexican border. But enough with all of the setup—let’s get into the test.
Exterior Styling
Diesel Power isn’t a fashion magazine, but we know a good-looking truck when we see it. Of the three pickups we tested, only the Ford had a noticeably different exterior appearance for ’11. The F-250’s grille, headlights, bumpers, 6.7L Power Stroke badges, and wheels all distinguished it from Ford’s ’10 model. The funny part about the F-250, though, is it still has the same basic cab, doors, and body structure the Super Duty debuted with for ’99. Of course, we’d argue those heritage components are what make the Super Duty’s visibility so good when you’re driving it—so please Ford, don’t change those things just for the sake of change.
The GMC didn’t have the same updated-exterior story to tell. While the Sierra 2500HD is new under the sheetmetal, it’s still basically wearing the same clothes the ’07 trucks had. Connoisseurs of GM pickups will spot the different wheels (which where required by the new-for-’11-wheel-bolt pattern), the larger grille, hood louvers, and the revised front bumper. The rest of the exterior has the clean, perhaps-too-subtle look of a carryover product. There’s nothing our judges disliked about the styling of the GMC, but in this field of competitors, we were left wanting some aspect that screamed, “This is the new 397hp Duramax truck—the most powerful diesel pickup that’s ever been built!”
The Dodge Ram does have a newer-looking tale to tell. Its sheetmetal made its world debut on the ’09 Ram 1500. The Ram ¾- and 1-ton trucks then got a modified version of the bodywork to cloak the ’10 Cummins. The Dodge’s cohesive styling, balance of chrome, clear marker lights, and Deep Water Blue Pearl paint scored lots of praise from our judges.
Exterior Styling:
Winner: Dodge
Second; Ford
Third: GMC
Interior Features, Comfort, and Noise
The F-250’s interior offered the most features and had a comfy, hunting-lodge feel about it. Many of the judges actually felt there was too much going on in the Ford and compared to the ’07-vintage interior of the GMC, there was. The Ford’s blinkers got the most complaints of any interior feature in the trucks. They were difficult to get used to, and we almost always found ourselves having to shut them off. We could get adjusted to them, but then we’d drive one of the other vehicles, and our learning curve began all over again.
The ’11 Super Duty seats were the most comfortable. The Ford’s sideview mirrors were ranked the best in the test, and their power-folding option was great in parking lots. We found ourselves retracting the mirrors every time we parked—which wouldn’t be a bad idea, Ford.
Compared to the Ford, the inside of the GMC felt like a mid-’90s Honda Accord. There was nothing bad about the interior, but it felt plain, and there was no dash-mounted display screen like Ford and Dodge use to convey info to the driver. The one complaint our judges noticed when switching from truck to truck was how thin the GMC steering wheel felt. The other feature that took getting used to (which we later fell in love with) was the rearview mirror-mounted backup camera. And for those of you looking to ride shotgun in style, the GMC seems to have the most foot room on the passenger side, where Dodge and Ford seemed to have encroached to make room for the exhaust downpipe.
The Ram’s interior was probably a leather-seating surface and Sirius Satellite Radio option away from matching Ford’s ranking with our judges. The Dodge’s interior never felt lacking, but the navigation system was not as user friendly as the version in the older Rams.
When we tested all three trucks with a decibel meter, we found the GMC was the quietest at idle (67 dB), during wide-open throttle (85 dB), and even at a 55-mph cruise (83 dB). Ford’s new Power Stroke was the second quietest overall, with a little louder idle (72 dB), the second loudest wide-open throttle (86 dB), yet it had the loudest cabin at 55 mph (85 dB). The Dodge idled the loudest (78 dB) and was the loudest during full-throttle (88 dB), yet perhaps due to its low-engine speed on the highway, we actually measured it to be slightly quieter (84 dB) than the Ford at 55 mph.
Interior Comfort and Features:
Winner: Ford
Second: Dodge
Third: GMC
Noise Output:
Winner: GMC
Second: Ford
Third: Dodge
SPECIFICATIONS
GENERAL
Manufacturer Ford
Model F-250 Super Duty Lariat crew cab 4x4
Base Price $44,095
Price as Tested $59,760
Photo 4/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year
ENGINE
Type V-8
Displacement 6.7L/406 ci
Bore and Stroke 3.90x4.25 inches
Compression Ratio 16.2:1
Fuel Capacity 26 gallons
SAE Peak Horsepower
400 hp at 2,800 rpm
SAE Peak Torque
800 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
TRANSMISSION
Type Six-speed auto
Ratios First: 3.97:1; Second: 2.32:1; Third: 1.52:1; Fourth: 1.15:1; Fifth: 0.86:1; Sixth: 0.67:1; Reverse: 3.13:1
TRANSFER CASE
Type Two-speed, part-time
Low-Range Ratio 2.72:1
AXLES
Front Type Dana 60
Front Diff Open
Rear Type Ford 10.50
Rear Diff Electronic locking
Hubs Selectable (auto/lock)
Ratio 3.55:1
Traction Aid Electronic locking
SUSPENSION
Front Live axle, radius arms,
coil springs, stabilizer bar,
shock absorbers
Rear Live axle, longitudinal
leaf springs, staggered shock
absorbers, stabilizer bar
STEERING
Type Power-assisted recirculating ball
Ratio 20.4:1
WHEELS
Size 18x8 inches
Material Aluminum
TIRES
Size LT275/70R18
Brand Michelin LTX A/T2
BRAKES
Front 13.66-inch ventilated disc
Rear 13.39-inch ventilated disc
60-0 Unladen 148.6 feet
60-0 Towing 201.1 feet
ACCELERATION

Standing Quarter-mile
Unladen 15.99 seconds at 85.16 mph
Standing Quarter-mile
Towing 19.64 seconds at 69.94 mph
WEIGHT
Curb Weight 8,000 pounds
Curb Weight with Trailer 13,120 pounds
Advertised GVWR 10,000 pounds
Tow Capacity 14,000 pounds
Payload Capacity 2,430 pounds
MILEAGE
EPA Estimate N/A
As Tested Unladen 17.0 mpg
As Tested Towing 10.52 mpg
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase 156.2 inches
Overall Length 246.8 inches
Overall Width 104.9 inches
Overall Height 79.7 inches
Min. Front Ground Clearance 9.0 inches
(at front differential)
Ride and Handling
The Ford’s steering felt much lighter than what Dodge and GMC provide the driver. This was really nice when making difficult maneuvers with a trailer, and driving off-road. The light effort seems to have been tuned to be somewhat numb on-center, however, and a few of our testers noticed it made the Ford feel lazier (and physically wider) than the other two trucks.
Photo 5/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year ford In Sand
The Ford was also praised for having the most couch-like ride of the three. The Dodge featured the best isolation from the trailer and seemed to ride and handle better than the GMC’s new independent front suspension. The Dodge’s steering also felt more connected to the road than Ford’s and proved that the Ram’s chassis engineers know what they’re doing when it comes to tuning a suspension. We expect the GMC’s suspension tuning will improve with every new model year, but we’re pleased to report that the new rear suspension is fantastic at controlling wheelhop during hard acceleration on- and off-road.
Ride and Handling:
Winner: Dodge
Second: GMC
Third: Ford
Fuel Economy
At first glance, the fuel economy numbers of all the trucks probably look pretty good without a trailer and horrible with the trailer attached. That’s because when we were towing we were either moving pretty fast, or blasting up and down mountain passes. Full-throttle up hills will make anything (even a diesel) get poor fuel economy.
The Ford was the biggest and heaviest of the trucks, and it also had the widest tires, so we were quite impressed when it knocked down 17.0 mpg on average. Towing mileage was a gas-like 10.52 mpg, which actually was the best any of the three trucks achieved.
The GMC was ahead of the Ford when empty, with a 17.3-mpg reading. If we really tried and drove 65 mph, the GMC was the only truck we could get to hover around 20 mpg. As soon as we tipped into the power, however, the mileage dropped. Loaded with a trailer, the fuel economy came in at 10.39 mpg, a close Second to the Ford.
The Dodge seemed to have an early-shifting strategy at part-throttle to maximize fuel thriftiness, yet the big 6.7L Cummins still sucked down fuel to the tune of 15.4 mpg empty, and 9.96 mpg with the trailer. It should be noted, however, that urea use was not factored into this test, and the Dodge was the only one of the group not to use the stuff. The actual out-of-pocket cost of running the Ford and GMC will be more than the fuel economy number we’ve stated suggest.
So who wins?  Well, again, the Ford and GMC are a close First-Second, but the Ford’s inaccurate odometer (it was a few percent off) combined with one fill-up that seemed a little errant (the pump may have stopped early), gave the win to the GMC. Dodge’s single-digit towing mileage meant it took up the rear.
Fuel Economy:
Winner: GMC
Second: Ford
Third: Dodge
Towing
While a 5,000-pound trailer isn’t pushing any of these trucks to their limits, it was a good way to get an overall feel of how each truck performed with some weight behind it. After going up and down hills, around tight bends, in and out of parking lots, and experiencing some scary 50-mph crosswinds while driving across Southern California, we have enough data that we think a clear towing victor can be appointed.
Photo 6/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year gmc In Sand
The Ford has the nicest interior, so towing with it was always pleasant, but sometimes we could really feel the 5,000-pound trailer behind us—it would rock the whole truck—especially with the potholes and expansion joints that Los Angeles has to offer. The Power Stroke’s exhaust brake was also marginally effective, and the Ford seemed to rely more on downshifting to slow the truck than anything else. Uphill, the F-250 towed well and seemed to stay in each gear longer than the Dodge or GMC—but that was likely due to it being equipped with 3.55 axle gears.
The GMC seemed more stable than the Ford, and its Allison transmission seemed to always know exactly what gear to be in on uphill and downhill sections. The exhaust brake was effective, and combined with the intelligence of the transmission, made for excellent brake-free slowing during turns. The Duramax’s power was more than adequate, and it provided a cool V-8 engine sound during full-throttle towing.
When it came to towing, the Ram exhibited the best ride of the group by far. The Dodge seemed to isolate us from the trailer the best, and it had the smoothest ride—probably thanks to a set of hydraulic body mounts on the rear of the cab. The Dodge also dealt with the wind a little better than the other two trucks and had plenty of torque at lower engine speeds to grunt the trailer up the hill.
Downhill, the Ram’s exhaust brake was excellent, although we did find that if you tapped the throttle briefly on straightaways, sometimes it would not engage for the next corner. We’d estimate this happened only about 1 percent of the time, but it was rather unnerving when it did occur.
Even with the exhaust brake’s occasional confusion, we still think the Dodge outperformed the other trucks with its towing prowess. The GMC’s excellent transmission was praised by many of the staffers, as was its steering feel. The Ford’s TorqShift was labeled “a little too mushy” for our tastes, yet the F-250 offered excellent visibility, and the best towing mirrors in the test.
Exhaust Brake:
Winner: Dodge
Second: GMC
Third: Ford
Towing Mirrors:
Winner: Ford
Second: Dodge
Third: GMC
Overall Towing:
Winner: Dodge
Second: GMC
Third: Ford
SPECIFICATIONS
GENERAL
Manufacturer GMC
Model Sierra 2500HD SLT Crew Cab 4x4
Base Price $44,560
Price as Tested $56,629
Photo 7/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year gmc Towing Trailer
ENGINE
Type V-8
Displacement 6.6L/403 ci
Bore and Stroke 4.06x3.90 inches
Compression Ratio 16.0:1
Fuel Capacity 36 gallons
SAE Peak Horsepower
397 hp at 3,000 rpm
SAE Peak Torque
765 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
TRANSMISSION
Type Six-speed auto
Ratios First: 3.10:1;
Second: 1.81:1; Third: 1.41:1; Fourth: 1.00:1; Fifth: 0.71:1; Sixth: 0.61:1; Reverse: 4.49:1
TRANSFER CASE
Type Two-speed, part-time
Low-Range Ratio 2.68
AXLES
Front Type AAM 925
Front Diff Open
Rear Type AAM 1150
Rear Diff Mechanical locking
Hubs Full-time
Ratio 3.73:1
Traction Aid Eaton mechanical
locking differential (rear)
SUSPENSION
Front Short/Long-arm
indepen-dent, torsion bars, shock absorbers
Rear Live axle, longitudinal leaf
springs, shock absorbers
STEERING
Type Power-assisted recirculating ball Ratio 16.1:1
WHEELS
Size 18x8 inches
Material Aluminum
TIRES
Size LT265/70R18
Brand Michelin LTX A/T2
BRAKES
Front 13.97-inch ventilated disc
Rear 14.17-inch ventilated disc
60-0 Unladen 147.3 feet
60-0 Towing 214.3 feet
ACCELERATION
Standing Quarter-mile
Unladen 15.75 seconds at 85.49 mph
Standing Quarter-mile
Towing 19.83 seconds at 68.39 mph
WEIGHT
Curb Weight 7,660 pounds
Curb Weight w/ Trailer 12,620 pounds
Advertised GVWR 10,000 pounds
Tow Capacity 13,000 pounds
Payload Capacity 2,792 pounds
MILEAGE
EPA Estimate N/A
As Tested Unladen 17.3 mpg
As Tested Towing 10.39 mpg
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase 153.7 inches
Overall Length 240.1 inches
Overall Width 80.0 inches
Overall Height 78.3 inches
Min. Front Ground Clearance 9.0
(at front skidplate)
Acceleration and Brake Testing
Our acceleration and braking tests were performed both with and without trailers, to see how each vehicle performed with a load in tow. We did 0-to-60-mph runs, 60-to-0-mph brake tests, and quarter-mile acceleration runs to get as many data points as possible.
Photo 8/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year dodge Ram In Sand
The GMC was the quickest down the quarter-mile, mostly because we got a good launch before the computer could override us trying to build boost. At 15.99 seconds, the Ford was only a tick behind the GMC’s 15.75-second elapsed time, with both trucks running a little more than 85 mph. The Dodge ran 16.34 seconds at 82.28 mph, but really, a few tenths difference in a whole quarter-mile isn’t that much for a stock truck. The Dodge only felt noticeably slower accelerating at speeds of 70 mph and more.
When we put a trailer behind all three trucks, the Ford’s torque advantage came into play, and it ran a 19.64-second quarter-mile time, as opposed to a 19.83-second time for the GMC. The Dodge was nearly a second behind both trucks, at 20.53 seconds with trailer.
With the hard launch, our 7.71-second 0-to-60-mph time in the GMC led the pack, while the Ford followed with a 8.22-second time, and the Dodge with 8.77 seconds. With the trailer, 0-to-60 mph changed, with the Ford coming in at 14.31 seconds, the GMC at 14.50 seconds, and the Dodge at 16.83 seconds.
Although you’ll hopefully never need to do this, panic-stopping a $50,000 truck before it hits something is all-important, so we also did 60-to-0-mph tests—with and without trailers. Unloaded, the GMC was at the top, with a stop of 147.3 feet, the Ford was second at 148.6 feet, and the Dodge was Third with a 152.1-foot stop. With a trailer in tow, the results were surprising; as both the Dodge and Ford stopped in exactly 201.1 feet, with the GMC coming in a ways back with a 214.3-foot stop.
So who is the victor in these categories? Well, in acceleration the Ford was substantially quicker overall with the trailer, and with some more time and a launch that matched the GMC’s, it probably would have been just as quick unloaded. All three trucks were very close in the braking test, but the superb 201-foot stops with trailer from the Ford and the Dodge have to be taken into account. Yet again, another two contests decided by a hair, but the final order ended up as such:
Acceleration:
Winner: Ford
Second: GMC
Third: Dodge
Engine Power & Feel:
Winner: Ford
Second: GMC
Third: Dodge
Transmission Shifting:
Winner: GMC
Second: Ford
Third: Dodge
Braking: 
Winner: Ford
Second: Dodge
Third: GMC
Off-Road
Evaluating each truck’s four-wheeling prowess with the staff of the world’s largest off-road magazine tagging along meant we pushed these trucks to the limits. You’ll notice that the Ford lost its front air dam in the sand, and we’ll confess that we put a hole in the Dodge’s radiator when we slid off a rock wall. This destructive testing taught us a number of things. The first was that a rear locking differential you can turn on with a dial (Ford) allowed us to drive places that the automatic locker (GMC) and the open rear differential (Dodge) simply wouldn’t. The second lesson we learned was that the GMC’s independent front suspension (IFS) was not the off-road impediment some enthusiasts would lead you to believe. The IFS was really nice in the rough terrain and actually only proved to be a limitation when it came to the truck’s turning radius.
Off-Road In The Sand:
Winner: GMC
Second: Ford
Third: Dodge
Off-Road On The Trail:
Winner: Ford
Second: GMC
Third: Dodge
Dyno Testing
Our dyno testing was performed at Pacific Performance Engineering (PPE) in Fullerton, California, on a Mustang load-cell dynamometer. A coast-down run was included when evaluating each truck to remove wheel and tire parasitic losses, so the power numbers you’re seeing here reflect a power number that is comparable to what one would see on a Dynojet.
Photo 9/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year ford On Dyno
First up was the 6.7L-powered Ford F-250. It certainly felt the fastest to our testers, and impromptu side-by-side street races with the GMC confirmed it was just as quick, despite being a lot heavier. We weren’t surprised then, when the Power Stroke laid down a whopping 656 lb-ft of torque, along with 333 hp. The quick-lighting, dual-compressor-wheel turbo was a big key in how fast the power came in on the Power Stroke. Second on the rollers was the GMC Sierra 2500HD with the new LML 6.6L Duramax engine. We expected slightly less power and torque out of the GMC, so we were surprised when it put down 354 hp, along with 633 lb-ft of torque. We were confused by this power difference, until we realized that the GMC was making peak power at a more than 3,100 rpm, while when driving it was shifting at 3,000 rpm, or even 2,900 rpm. Although the GMC made the most power by far, one had to manually shift the Allison to use it, which was a pain.
Photo 10/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year gmc On Dyno
Last up was the 6.7L Cummins-powered Dodge Ram 2500, and we knew going into the test that it was going to be outgunned—the question was, by how much? At 310 hp and 562 lb-ft of torque, it was somewhat behind the GMC and Ford in horsepower, but nearly 100 lb-ft down on torque. In looking at the dyno graph, it’s clear by the flat torque curve that Dodge or Cummins is limiting power to save the transmission, so next year when the 800-lb-ft Ram comes out (with a revised 68RFE) it should even up the fight.
As much as we’d like to give the GMC a straight victory due to its horsepower reading, the Ford did make more torque, and the GMC’s extra power wasn’t usable unless we manually shifted the truck. So in this case we’re going to have to call it a tie between the Ford and GMC, with the Dodge a distant Third.
Dyno Testing:
Winner: Ford and GMC (Tie)
Third: Dodge
SPECIFICATIONS
GENERAL
Manufacturer Ram
Model 2500 SLT Crew Cab 4x4
Base Price $38,630
Price as Tested $52,590
Photo 11/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year dodge Towing Trailer
ENGINE
Type I-6
Displacement 6.7L/408 ci
Bore and Stroke 4.21x4.88 inches
Compression Ratio 17.3:1
Fuel Capacity 34 gallons
SAE Peak Horsepower
350 hp at 3,000 rpm
SAE Peak Torque
650 lb-ft at 1,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION
Type Six-speed auto
Ratios First: 3.23:1; Second: 1.84:1;
Third: 1.40:1; Fourth: 1.00:1; Fifth:
0.82:1; Sixth: 0.63:1; Reverse: 4.44:1
TRANSFER CASE
Type Two-speed, part-time
Low-Range Ratio 2.72
AXLES
Front Type AAM 925
Front Diff Open
Rear Type AAM 1150
Rear Diff Open
Hubs Full-time
Ratio 3.73:1
Traction Aid None
SUSPENSION
Front Live axle, coil springs,
shock absorbers, stabilizer bar
Rear Live axle, longitudinal leaf springs,
shock absorbers,
stabilizer bar
STEERING
Type Power-assisted
recirculating ball
Ratio 13.4:1
WHEELS
Size 17x8 inches
Material Forged aluminum
TIRES
Size LT265/70R17
Brand Michelin LTX A/S
BRAKES
Front 14.17-inch ventilated disc
Rear 14.09-inch ventilated disc
60-0 Unladen 152.1 feet
60-0 Towing 201.1 feet
ACCELERATION
Standing Quarter-mile
Unladen 16.34 seconds at 82.28 mph
Standing Quarter-mile
Towing 20.53 seconds at 65.99 mph
WEIGHT
Curb Weight 7,480 pounds
Curb Weight w/ Trailer 12,480 pounds
Advertised GVWR 9,600 pounds
Tow Capacity 12,550 pounds
Payload Capacity 2,300 pounds
MILEAGE
EPA Estimate N/A
As Tested Unladen 15.4 mpg
As Tested Towing 9.965 mpg
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase 148.9 inches
Overall Length 237.4 inches
Overall Width 79.1 inches
Overall Height 77.7 inches
Min. Front Ground Clearance 8.0 inches
(at front differential)
Hard-core Chassis Parts:
Every magazine that tests vehicles will typically publish a specification chart that shows you how much the trucks cost, how they were equipped, and what the basic dimensions of the vehicles were. That’s fine, and we’re doing that, too, but we knew our readers would want to go a step further. So we broke out a creeper and slid under the three trucks to take some measurements.
Photo 12/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year dodge And Ford On Trail
For heavy-duty truck buyers, the two most important features of the vehicles are the chassis and powertrain. The exterior and interior of the trucks do help them sell on the dealer lots, but it’s the components underneath that give the trucks the capacity to do the jobs we ask them to.
Strong parts are important to diesel truck buyers. And to prove that point, consider this: Even though the pickups we tested are all marketed as ¾-tons, the Ford and GMC both had 10,000-pound gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR). The Ram had slightly less capacity, with its 9,600-pound GVWR. The point is, 10 years ago 10,000-pound GVWRs were the realm of 1-ton dualies.
When we studied the frames of these three trucks we found an evolution of technology that favored the newest stuff. The F-250 uses a proven C-channel frame (it’s boxed under the engine) that’s made primarily of 1?4-inch-thick steel. The Dodge’s frame features the same section height (7½ inches) and width (2½ inches) as the Ford’s, but the Dodge frame is completely boxed and uses 1?8-inch-thick steel. The GMC’s frame uses fully boxed construction, too, but it has a taller section height (77?8 inches), the rails are wider (3 inches), and the frame material is 3?16-inch-thick steel. On top of that, the GMC gets two more crossmembers (eight) than the Ford or Dodge (six).
The rest of the GMC’s chassis held similar advantages compared to the other two trucks. The GMC has the most rear-axle-weight capacity, the largest-diameter front and rear driveshafts, the largest-diameter rear axle tubes, the same number of rear leaves as the Dodge (two more than Ford), and the same ground clearance as the Ford. The Dodge and Ford still have their strong points, however. The Ford’s Dana 60 had the largest-diameter front axle, the biggest front ring gear, and the most coils in the front springs. The Dodge took the title for having the largest exhaust tubing, the most front gross axle weight rating, and it tied Ford for having the same massive transfer case.
Hard-Core Chassis Parts:
Winner: GMC
Second: Ford
Third: Dodge
Perceived Durability In 10 Years:
This is the one category we’re going to have to speculate on. There’s no time machine, and no simulated-durability test that that allows an enthusiast to know for certain how well a vehicle will hold up after 10 years. In this category we had to favor the truck with the oldest technology, the simplest design, and quite honestly the least number of things that could fail. The Ford, perhaps by default, has the
powertrain with the least certain future. We concede the 6.7L Power Stroke could go on to enjoy the same bulletproof reputation the Cummins has earned. The 6R140 TorqShift may even one day lay waste to the Allison’s reputation, and the electronic features of Ford’s best-in-test interior may last forever—but with so little track record it’s hard to know. The Ford does have the advantage of a chassis that’s basically a reinforced version of the frame, axles, and suspension it’s used since the ’80s.
The GMC has the inverse problem. The Duramax and Allison are updated versions of the parts GM has been building for more than 10 years. There is new complexity in the form of an updated EGR circuit, a ninth injector for dosing the DPF, and like Ford, there’s also a urea injection system—but the base engine and drivetrain have been around for a decade. The rest of the chassis under the GMC is all-new for ’11. Yet we don’t expect the new frame, ball joints, or steering gear to fail, so we’ll have to give the GMC higher marks than Ford.
The old soldier in this group is the Dodge. The 6.7L Cummins has famously fewer parts than its V-8 rivals. There’s no urea system on the Dodge to fill, fix, or figure out in order to keep the truck running. The Dodge’s transmission is not physically as large as what Ford and GM offer—but it’s also not asked to deal with as much power and weight. And with no fancy trailer sway mitigation or antilock brake-based vehicle stability control systems to foul up—the Dodge seems to have the least amount of failures that would keep it from working like a truck.
Perceived Durability In 10 Years:
Winner: Dodge
Second: GMC
Third: Ford
Price Point:
One of the difficulties of comparing trucks in a test, or even when you’re going out to buy one yourself, is that it’s almost impossible to find three vehicles that are identically equipped. In our test, the Ford was the most optioned-out, followed by the GMC, and then the Dodge. The Dodge never felt cheap compared to the other two trucks. Though at $52,590 it was the least expensive. The only two features we found we missed from the other two trucks were the leather seats, and the satellite radio. Is the Dodge $7,000 less of a truck than the Ford? It didn’t feel like it to us.
Value and Price:
Winner: Dodge
Second: GMC
Third: Ford
And the Winner Is…
Actually, and we probably should have seen this coming, it’s a tie. The Ford and GMC both scored the same number of points (34) from our 18 categories. The Dodge scored 39. Our first reaction to that result is disappointment. We’re like you, and we want a clear winner. That way we can ignore the other two trucks and move on to more important things. But it’s not that cut and dry with diesel pickups of this caliber. Like we said in this intro, there’s not a bad truck in this group, and if we had to buy one tomorrow—we’d likely take the truck that we could get for the lowest price. Still not satisfied? Don’t worry. We’ve got another all-out test planned for this summer when Dodge debuts its new 800-lb-ft Ram. We can’t wait!
HARD-CORE CHASSIS SPECIFICATIONS
SUPER DUTY
MODEL: ’11 Ford F-250 crew cab shortbed 4x4
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING: 10,000 pounds
FRONT GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING: 5,200 pounds
REAR GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING: 6,100 pounds
VEHICLE WEIGHT (WITH FULL TANK OF FUEL): 4,760 pounds (front); 3,240 pounds (rear); 8,000 pounds total
Photo 13/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year ford Front Suspension
FRAME:
TYPE: Boxed to firewall, open C-channel
from there back
SECTION HEIGHT: 7½ inches
FRAME “C”-WIDTH: 2½ inches
MATERIAL THICKNESS: ¼ inch
NUMBER OF CROSSMEBERS: 6
DRIVETRAIN:
FRONT DRIVESHAFT MATERIAL: Steel
FRONT DRIVESHAFT DIAMETER: 2.78 inches,
necking down to 1.91 inches near
transmission bellhousing
REAR DRIVESHAFT MATERIAL: Aluminum
REAR DRIVESHAFT DIAMETER: 4.14 inches
FRONT AXLE MODEL: Dana 60
FRONT AXLE HOUSING DIAMETER: 3.82 inches
FRONT AXLE RING GEAR DIAMETER: 9¾ inches
REAR AXLE MODEL: Ford 10.50
REAR AXLE HOUSING DIAMETER: 3.5 inches
REAR AXLE RING GEAR DIAMETER: 10½ inches
TRANSFER CASE: NV273F
SUSPENSION:
FRONT: Number of active front coils: 9
REAR: Number of leaves: 2+1 overload
GROUND CLEARANCE:
LOWEST POINT AT FRONT DIFFERENTIAL: 9 inches
EXHAUST:
MAIN PIPE DIAMETER: 3.5 inches
RAM
MODEL: ’11 Dodge Ram 2500 Crew Cab shortbed 4x4
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING: 9,600 pounds
FRONT GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING: 5,500 pounds
REAR GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING: 6,010 pounds
VEHICLE WEIGHT (WITH FULL TANK OF FUEL):
4,580 pounds (front); 2,900 pounds (rear); 7,480 pounds total
Photo 14/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year dodge Front Suspension
FRAME:
TYPE: Fully boxed front to rear
SECTION HEIGHT: 7½ inches (8 inches at the center frame extension)
FRAME “C”-WIDTH: 2½ inches (25?8 inches at the center frame extension)
MATERIAL THICKNESS: 1?8 inch
NUMBER OF CROSSMEMBERS: 6
DRIVETRAIN:
FRONT DRIVESHAFT MATERIAL: Steel
FRONT DRIVESHAFT DIAMETER: 2.55 inches,
necking down to 1.91 inches near
transmission bellhousing
REAR DRIVESHAFT MATERIAL: Aluminum
REAR DRIVESHAFT DIAMETER: 4.54 inches
FRONT AXLE MODEL: AAM 925
FRONT AXLE HOUSING TUBE DIAMETER: 3.5 inches
FRONT AXLE RING GEAR DIAMETER: 9¼ inches
REAR AXLE MODEL: AAM1150
REAR AXLE HOUSING TUBE DIAMETER: 3.82 inches, necking down to 3.5 inches near spindles
REAR AXLE RING GEAR DIAMETER: 11½ inches
TRANSFER CASE: NV273D
SUSPENSION:
FRONT: Number of active front coils: 6 REAR: Number of leaves: 4+1 overload
GROUND CLEARANCE:
LOWEST POINT AT FRONT DIFFERENTIAL: 8 inches
EXHAUST:
MAIN PIPE DIAMETER: 4.46 inches (at downpipe), necking down to 4.22 inches
SIERRA
MODEL: ’11 GMC Sierra 2500 Crew Cab shortbed 4x4
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING: 10,000 pounds
FRONT GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING: 5,200 pounds
REAR GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING: 6,200 pounds
VEHICLE WEIGHT (WITH FULL TANK OF FUEL):
4,580 pounds (front); 3,080 pounds (rear);7,660 pounds total
Photo 15/15   |   2011 Diesel Truck Of The Year gmc Front Skid Plate
FRAME:
TYPE: Fully boxed front to rear
SECTION HEIGHT: 77?8 inches
FRAME “C”-WIDTH: 3 inches
MATERIAL THICKNESS: 3?16 inch
NUMBER OF CROSSMEBERS: 8
DRIVETRAIN:
FRONT DRIVESHAFT MATERIAL: Steel
FRONT DRIVESHAFT DIAMETER: 2.07 inches
REAR DRIVESHAFT MATERIAL: Aluminum
REAR DRIVESHAFT DIAMETER: 5.09 inches
FRONT AXLE MODEL: AAM 925 (independent front suspension)
FRONT AXLE HOUSING DIAMETER: Not applicable
FRONT AXLE RING-GEAR DIAMETER: 91?4 inches
REAR AXLE MODEL: AAM1150
REAR AXLE HOUSING DIAMETER: 3.98 inches
necking down to 3.5 inches near spindles
REAR AXLE RING GEAR DIAMETER: 11½ inches
TRANSFER CASE: MP1626
SUSPENSION:
FRONT: NUMBER OF ACTIVE FRONT COILS: 1.59-inch diameter torsion bars
REAR: Number of leaves: 4+1 overload
GROUND CLEARANCE:
Lowest point at front differential: 9 inches
EXHAUST:
MAIN PIPE DIAMETER: 3.98 inches at downpipe, necking down to 3.5 inches near DPF and torsion bar crossmember

Sources

PPE
Fullerton, CA 92831
714-985-4825
www.ppediesel.com
Ford Motor Company
Dearborn, MI 48126
800-392-3673
www.ford.com
Ram Trucks
Aubum Hills, MI 48321
800-726-4636
www.ramtrucks.com
Carson Trailer
Gardena, CA 90248
310-516-6046
http://www.carsontrailer.com
General Motors
http://www.gm.com
Curt Manufacturing
877-287-8634
http://www.curtmfg.com
Pacific Contract Services
619-823-7338

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