Maximum Payload Numbers Are a Lie
By Mark Willams
Pickup makers have been cheating, and we've been misled. For years, manufacturers have given their vehicles a maximum payload number, meaning the total amount of weight it can carry. This number is calculated by taking the actual weight of the truck and subtracting it from the manufacturer's specified gross vehicle weight rating. By calculating this simple math problem, the unibody Honda Ridgeline ends up having more payload capacity (1510 pounds) than the heavy-duty Dodge Ram Mega Cab (1500 pounds).
However, this does need some explanation. Honda engineers knew they had to submit the maximum payload number specification, so they tested for maximum carrying capacity and certified the results. The problem is that it ignores the commonly understood (yet unspoken) practice of understating the maximum payload number. Pickup experts know that truck buyers will use the "maximum" number only as a starting point and most likely add more (if not a few full-size passengers as well). The result is that our Ram Mega Cab, with its maximum payload of 1500 pounds, didn't show much strain when fully loaded; however, with the Ridgeline at its 1510-pound limit, the rear coil springs were almost fully compressed, and we were shooting the headlights at the sky. Without specific definitions for "maximum," manufacturers can name the number they'd like. Right now, especially with heavy-duty pickups, the onus is on the truck buyer to figure out how far over or under they can go when loading their truck.
How Fast, How Short--What Our Testing Told Us
By Mark Willams
In the interest of full disclosure, it's important to find out not only how our test pickups perform when empty, but also at full capacity. We tested each vehicle's acceleration, braking, and quarter-mile times empty and loaded--to the truck's full capacity, according to the manufacturer's own specifications. Each truck was loaded with the appropriate number of bags of salt in 50-pound increments. This helped demonstrate which engines and braking systems degrade least when carrying a heavy load, presumably what these vehicles were designed to do. Worth noting is how much trouble the Ridgeline had carrying its load and how much shorter the stopping distance was in the Mega Cab when the heavy-duty truck had its load.