If you're used to driving big, torque-tuned pickups, you'd probably never guess just how quick a full-sizer can be. From zero to 60 mph, these two 2.5-ton beasts run like Pat Buchanan at an Eminem concert. The Chevy, its added weight apparently offset by its superior four-wheel-drive traction, has a slight edge, clicking off the run to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, versus 6.8 for the Ram. Farther down the track, the small gap narrows. Our SS tripped the quarter-mile lights in 14.99 seconds at 89.05 mph; the Ram posted a nearly identical run of 15.11 seconds at 89.06. Such swiftness in a pickup truck is not only invigorating, it can be beneficial. The next time a buddy asks you to transport his couch, you can opt out simply by saying, "You ever seen what g forces do to Naugahyde?"
Forward isn't the only direction in which these trucks impress. The Ram's huge disc brakes (13.2 inches up front) hauled it to a stop from 60 mph in a respectable 132 feet. The Silverado, however, was simply awesome, clawing to a standstill in just 119 feet--only a foot longer than the last Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG we tested. Unless you'd like to know how it feels to be batted in the head by Barry Bonds, better clamp down any cargo in back with railroad spikes.
While the SS excelled in a straight line, when curves were added to the mix the Ram edged ahead. Hustled around the Streets of Willow circuit at Willow Springs International Raceway, the Ram revealed a trait you might not expect in a pickup: finesse. The Ram is a true driver's truck, rewarding its pilot with fluid, responsive steering, brakes that never seem to fade, and a composed, confidence-inspiring chassis that willingly follows your lead. The Hemi engine kicks out inspiring tailpipe tones, too. So encouraged, our test driver posted a best lap time of 1:09.5.
The Silverado SS, in comparison, feels considerably less refined as speed builds. The brakes are powerful and the engine is always ready with bags of go, but the steering lacks precision and the chassis has none of the Ram's grace; it feels much less comfortable in this sport-truck role. Try to corner hard, and the SS argues by offering up copious understeer. It much prefers the "point and squirt" method of taming twisties: Slow way down, get the wheels lined up straight, then let the brawny engine and the four-wheel-drive system launch you toward the next corner. Our driver posted a best SS lap of 1:10.4.
The Silverado SS cabin has all the essentials for an agreeable driving experience: stylish black-on-white gauges (an apparent prerequisite for entry into the sport-truck class; the Ram and the departing Ford Harley have them, too), comfortable leather-trimmed seats, and such conveniences as standard dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, an AM/FM stereo with cassette and CD player, and power windows and locks. With the extended cab, there's also a second row of seats, accessible through small rear-opening doors. Back-seat legroom is exceedingly tight, though, so the only passengers you put back there had better be named "luggage."
For all its abundant equipment, the SS' cockpit seems clunky and dated. The instrument cluster, the central control stack, the glovebox--all the pieces look like rectangular slabs fitted together without much regard for eye-pleasing transitions. Apart from the contrasting white-face gauges, there's a dark, monochromatic somberness that prevails throughout the cabin, too.
The Ram's cockpit is far airier and sleeker. There's an elegant sweep to the dash, the central control stack is deftly integrated into the instrument binnacle, and the panel's edges are smoothly rounded and rolled together. Light-colored materials, offset by contrasting inserts, add interest to the design. In general, it's a look that says "tidy" and "modern."
The Ram doesn't start out as well-equipped as the SS, but the standard-equipment list isn't skimpy. On board are air-conditioning, power windows and locks, cruise control, and an AM/FM stereo with CD player. Our test vehicle also included such extras as a power eight-way cloth bench seat, keyless entry, a seven-speaker Infinity audio system, power-adjustable pedals, and a handsome leather-wrapped steering wheel.