The Ford was delivered with a default-spec 3.73:1 axle ratio, while the Dodge had 4.10:1 gearsets. This alone suggests an advantage in pulling and acceleration for the Dodge on paper, but, since the tires also are larger, the true effective difference is lower. Given a reasonable expectation of 4/10-second quicker to 60 mph using 4.10:1 instead of 3.50:1, we'd anticipate the Dodge's gearing advantage to be worth a bit over 1/10, all other things being equal.

Granted, in our semifutile attempts to create a comparison test, all other things aren't equal. In addition to everything noted so far, the Dodge probably has more aerodynamic drag, driveline parasitic losses, and a clutch pedal.

At this point, you might think the Ford has the potential performance advantage. Being lighter is normally a plus, but if these trucks swung single rear wheels, some weight over the rear tires would be a bonus--it's not unusual for the extra traction to make a loaded version take off faster than an empty one. Were the Dodge a 2WD, for instance, our calculations suggest it would be just 10 pounds heavier than the Ford (a longer truck), but a 4WD Ford still would weigh a few hundred pounds less than the Dodge we tested.

In most cars that offer a choice, even those with force-fed induction, the car with a clutch is quicker than one with an automatic. However, turbodiesel trucks tend to work the other way--for a number of reasons. First, truck clutch pedals and shifters are designed to handle substantially more torque than most cars, so you can't slam them through the gears quickly; plan on losing a bit of time while you row that shifter. Second, turbochargers larger than car exhaust pipes take longer to spool up--even variable-geometry units--and it's difficult to speed-shift a diesel truck and keep it on boost, so you lose more time at every shift. Last, diesels never have been as responsive as gas engines.

It was for all of these reasons that the Dodge's best empty times were recorded launching in third gear--it saved two shifts. In typical "it's not our truck" fashion, we found that getting the revs to 3000 rpm and feathering the clutch and accelerator to stay between 2000 and 3000 until we were done with third was quickest. True, we may have gone faster by engaging the parking brake and slipping the clutch to make some boost, but who would tow it home if we broke it?