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  • Road Test - 4-Door Truck Comparison: 2006 Silverado, 2006 Ram, 2006 F-150, 2006 Titan and, 2006 Tundra

Road Test - 4-Door Truck Comparison: 2006 Silverado, 2006 Ram, 2006 F-150, 2006 Titan and, 2006 Tundra

Four-Door Face-Off: Five half-ton V-8s go bed to bed

G.R. Whale
Dec 19, 2005
Photographers: Wesley Allison, Thomas Voehringer
It wasn't that long ago when crew cabs were reserved for one-tons built for commercial ventures. Then Michigan figured out what the Aussies had known for years: Crew-cab trucks make great personal-use vehicles. Now there are six crew-cab half-tons on the market in the U.S. (if you count the Ridgeline), but, Honda aside, access into this elite group requires a V-8.
While Chevy, Dodge, and Ford have been building full-size trucks for more than half a century, Toyota and Nissan are the newcomers. We pitted five pickups against each other, tested by judges with experience ranging from novice to nearly 30 years in the biz.
We tested them as trucks, mindful that many become the second family car and will often be used without load or trailer. To avoid debate over 4WD necessity, we tested faster, more fuel-efficient, cheaper 2WD models.
The Pentagon
"Cheaper" may be irrelevant to certain buyers and a huge factor to others, and these five trucks cost from under $30,000 to a Pentagon-like $40,000; $10 grand can buy lots of gas or a nice, lightly used boat. By the way, we know the Titan isn't a crew cab (logistical problems beyond our control), but don't consider this a deficit or an advantage: With the gear it carried, the King Cab was less than 40 pounds below crew-cab weight, had the same wheelbase and length, and the back seat was preferred in some respects. Those aspects and the price difference were accounted for in "perceived value" scoring.
Photo 2/8   |   163 0512 4doorfaceoff01 Pl
While we didn't throw any wet dogs or unruly juveniles in the trucks, we did try a variety of road surfaces and conditions and loaded each half-ton with all five testers and 500 pounds of rock. It became an examination of subtle nuances, clear option preferences, and an excellent demonstration of what gearing can do.
Back To Business
Arguably, the most important part of a pickup truck is where you toss the cargo and hitch the trailer. While a truck's bed is shortest when backing a full crew cab, the Titan was so far ahead in truck utility, the short bed would've made little difference.
At first, the Titan's utility option seems pricey at $950; compared with a $300 bedliner, the value improves. With a nonskid sprayed in, five cargo rails (two sides, two floor, one front) with four adjustable cleats, four fixed tie-downs, and a locking external storage compartment good for greasy tow balls or wet tire chains, the Nissan led the pack in cargo flexibility. In addition, there's a bed extender, lights that illuminate the tailgate when it's down, assists to help lower and lift the gate with ease, and, like the Ford, the tailgate locks. The Titan also has the highest tow rating and was the only tester with an identical spare tire and wheel.
Photo 3/8   |   2006 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 top Engine View
Chevy led the payload pack, ranked second in lightness and max GVWR. Unfortunately, the Chevy's ride deteriorated the most with a load because the Silverado seemed undershocked to begin with. It also took the longest to stop, though this could be attributed to the narrowest tires, new-for-2005 rear drum brakes, ABS programming, or all three.
Our towmeister noted four- and seven-pin plugs on the Ford but only four tie-downs and no marked cutouts for stake pockets; the plug is in the bumper on the Dodge, making it the first to require a longer trailer harness; and the Toyota had the most open safety chain loops, but, despite the only rubber-sealed plug, it collected as much dust inside as the others.
One new 2006 Dodge item is a spoiler similar to Chevy's, a roughly four-inch-long flat trim strip atop the tailgate. These are becoming more common for improving air departure and reinforce the notion that dropping the tailgate doesn't improve fuel economy.
Power To Spare...Looking For Gears
With the exception of Nissan's all-aluminum unit, these engines are all iron- block, aluminum-head designs, with pushrods for Chevy and Dodge, two cams for Ford, and four cams for Nissan and Toyota. The 2006 Hemi uses cylinder deactivation for improved mileage.
A glance at the chart shows there's an average 1250 rpm between peak torque and horsepower, except for the 2000 rpm spread from Toyota, which benefits from twice as many valves, variable timing, and another gear over 2004 models. All make peak power a few hundred rpm shy of redline, except the Nissan, still 1300 away from the limiter. So while the Titan has the lowest power-per-liter spec, it delivers the most torque and horsepower at the lowest rpm, plus an exhaust tone that gave the correspondent Ram driver exhaust envy when it went by and could be worth a tenth or two bench racing.
Photo 4/8   |   2006 Dodge Ram 1500 top Engine View
All these truck/engine combos are automatic only--Chevy and Ford use proven four-speed units, the former with a tow/haul mode on the column shift and the latter a console shift that requires taking your hand off it to lock out overdrive. The Dodge has a five-speed automatic, also with tow/haul, but the first three gears are as wide apart as the four-speeds' and there are two overdrives--both are locked out with the overdrive-off mode engaged via the same switch as tow/haul. Nissan uses a floor-shifted five-speed in a staggered gate, so you can choose any gear without using any buttons (except tow/haul mode), and, like the Toyota, fourth gear is 1:1 and only fifth is overdrive. Toyota uses a column shifter, with one button for overdrive lockout and a separate button to select first gear.
With lots of power and fat tires, the Ram was first off the line and fastest to 50 mph, with the Titan and Tundra narrowing the gap as the launch-traction issue was left behind. At 60, the Titan's gears (closer and almost as short as the Tundra's) and 50-pound-foot advantage made it quickest, and it was the only truck to clock 100 mph before running out of track. While the Titan finished a tenth behind the Ram in the quarter, it completed it a full three mph faster; even the Chevy was going faster than the Ram.
Hampered by small tires and tall gears (it indicated 50 mph still in first gear), the Chevy ranked fourth, the return being the best mileage, even breaking the 20-mpg barrier (and EPA highway rating) on one leg; the truck's relatively low profile and new electric cooling fans helped. This translates into quiet cruising--below 2000 rpm at 80 mph--but will net a downshift at the slightest of grades (and require two for descents); we'd stick with the 3.73:1 gears if we planned on pulling anything.
Last to reach any speed, the Ford felt as sluggish as it was, with the gearbox sucking the power out of it instead of sending it rearward; one tester noted, "Aggressive tip-in with underwhelming follow-up. Where's the beef?" However, with the 3.73:1 gears in this truck, those familiar with SuperCrews found real-world performance and fuel economy superior to 3.55:1-equipped trucks. The Ford also was the heaviest (not the first vehicle where luxury added weight) and had bigger wheels to spin up than the Chevy or Toyota.
Photo 5/8   |   2006 Toyota Tundra top Engine View
Trailing behind the Chevy's best-of-test fuel economy were the Tundra, F-150, and Titan, all within 0.5 mpg. Then came the Ram. With that Viper-like top gear, it appears the cylinder shutdown only occurs at light throttle, such as on level ground with no headwind. Add big wheels, significant frontal area and mass, and the highest power ratings, and the Hemi slurped fuel, barely clearing 17 mpg on its best leg. Its 13.7 average causes us to believe additional miles still wouldn't make it as efficient as the others.
Raw data was backed up by seat-of-the-pants impressions, as every tester ranked the Titan powertrain tops, and it got the only perfect 10s on the scorecards.
What Others Feel
If you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't judge a truck by its looks. Even though the Tundra had a TRD package and lots of sidewall, it was the truck that won ride and handling impressions, while the Titan excelled in the slalom. Those 20-inch wheels may look cool on the Ram, but you pay a price in ride quality that isn't returned with improved handling; the Hemi ran behind in the slalom test.
However, slaloms aren't usually a part of real-world driving, and the Ram doesn't come across as a pickup that handles poorly--it just seems to sacrifice more comfort than the others. In a similar vein, the Chevy goes too far the other way, with such soft suspension it cruises down a smooth road nicely, but any bump, corner, or heavy braking sends it "wallowing and wiggling like a worm in distress." The wheels are surprisingly wide and give some sidewall stability, but another tester said it was "like riding a dolphin."
The heavy Ford was competent, with a decent slalom performance and a ride/handling compromise that didn't fade much when the truck was carrying a load. We found the steering matched the others for precision but required more effort, and the terrific directional stability will be welcomed by any long-distance traveler.
Photo 6/8   |   2006 Ford F 150 top Engine View
The Titan felt like more of its weight was on the front wheels, which stayed planted regardless of what was thrown under them. A 0.5 mph advantage in the slalom is considerable. The exhaust note, firm damping, and good driver feedback all made this the most sporting truck to drive.
But just at its heels and easier to go quickly in was the Tundra. With suspension tuned by desert rats, there's lots of travel to use on undulating roads, and the Tundra makes good time. We've noted before that off-road packages tend to result in the best on-road performance, and the Toyota's is just another example for our citation arsenal.
Appearance wasn't a factor, as that's a purely personal thing, but the 2006 Ram was hard not to notice. While some found the new style "still heavy and masculine, but more sophisticated and elegant," others thought it looked too much like a Dakota.
Other judges' comments: The Toyota is the longest truck but doesn't appear so and feels quite solid despite 16,000 miles on the odometer; the Ford's huge B-pillar is a hindrance to quarter visibility, and the F-150's high bed doesn't allow for easy liftover; the Titan's tow mirrors are clearly the best; and the Ford beats out the Toyota for fit and finish.
The Chevy and Ram's "chrome wheels" are actually plastic covers. Don't bother getting them on the Ram because the alloy wheels look fine alone, and our tester Chevy's wheels had a flange design that trapped sand, snow, and water. Nine arid miles out of the carwash, at speed on winding roads, the right-front wheel still had a quarter-inch-deep puddle in it when we parked.
In The House
While this quintet all have usable back seats, enough notes suggest careful attention has to be paid to how far the doors open, whether you can get your foot past the door pillar, and which seat you'd rather be in. After average-height testers whacked their heads on the Ram's inward-curving pillar and side window, one said he'd prefer to be in back of the King Cab. With the rear-swinging door, the King Cab had good rear-seat access; the Crew Cab adds another 13 cubic feet of space.
Photo 7/8   |   2006 Nissan Titan top Engine View
Dated or old-school might best describe the Silverado's interior, which frequently drew polarized views, such as, "clearly numbered and responsive instrumentation but off-center from the seat," on the same components. Like the F-150's, the power seat cushion adjusts independently of the manual backrest, so you may get your shoulders lodged in the headrest and still make physical adjustments after using the memory seat. Also, the Ford and Chevy have well-illuminated controls, except for the switch used to control said lighting, which itself isn't lit. The Chevy was the only truck that would LATCH three child seats in back simultaneously, but they'd be a pain to put in. Furthermore, our audiophile opined, "I can't believe Bose allowed its name on this sound system."
Most approved of the Ram's interior makeover, although it wasn't in dire need of an update. The symmetrical layout allows a better nav screen and has plenty of storage areas that are all lined so nothing rattles. There's a massive console assembly in between and a lot of high-gloss wood-like plastic trim. The front seats received good ratings, while the back was called claustrophobic and the metal cargo tray under the back seat was deemed clever. New, laminated front-side windows quell some wind noise from the nice big mirrors, though we miss the stereo controls on the back of the steering-wheel spokes.
Ford's Lariat tied the Laramie Ram for interior comfort; it had the back seat most of us preferred (even without the DVD player) and was rated the most useful cabin. Fat bucket seats reminded us of a 1970s Town Car, the whole affair decorated in a variety of contemporary colors and textures. One tester immediately gravitated to the enclosed eight-inch subwoofer under the back seat and labeled this sound system deserving of its audiophile moniker; however, distractions included glare from the chrome shifter, and the signals in the mirrors.
Relatively speaking, the Titan cabin felt austere, with materials and execution not as well done as those of the Ford and Dodge, with a huge advantage--it's $7000 cheaper than either. Despite the midlevel trim, the Titan had a full-power driver's seat, Rockford Fosgate sound system, adjustable pedals, rear parking sensors, and a transmission temperature gauge. Efficient use of space yields stowage for any size and shape of item and keeps them within reach. We didn't like that the console seemed to move with the shifter, or how the radio display reflected in the rear window after dark, but if the others have floormats, these should be labeled area rugs. The Titan was the most trucklike here and subsequently scored a close second in cab utility and tied for last in comfort.
Our Tundra had the ideal setup for a family on a budget: The driver's seat had manual controls, but the DVD player and huge sunroof are destined for kids to enjoy. There's also a full rolldown rear window, giving a convertible-like openness (that plus a shell makes the ideal combination for dog owners), a power inverter, underfloor cargo areas, and a tactile feel to the controls. The folding rear seat tilts forward, creating a "wall" between it and the front seats, but the center console was small, even before Toyota stuck a DVD drive in the middle of it. Driver John Stewart spoke for most judges by noting the Toyota was "high quality but not the highest comfort" and a capable performer.
As a six-year-old design, the Chevy suffered, but appropriate option selection and more money could solve many ills and limit the impact of others. The Ram and Hemi have their own followers and a new standard of lux to enjoy, but again options are critical (stick with 17s), and a gas pump reading a cost of nearly $75 for 350 miles of driving hurts. Toyota's Tundra does many things well and comes across as a balanced package, only helped by the driveline updates; what comes out of Texas should prove interesting. Rounded off to $40,000, the F-150 was pricey, but your spouse likely won't mind driving it, and no one should complain about riding in it. Our car colleagues at Motor Trend named it Truck of the Year in 2004.
The Winner
But this is Truck Trend, and this is a pickup test done by pickup guys. With usable power, driving enjoyment, and hauling versatility, we name the Titan our winner as best truck for 2005.

Score Card
Engine and transmission 5.8 6.7 5.8 8.86.8
Brake/steer/chassis 5.2 6.46.4 7.26.8
Ride and handling (empty)5.4
Ride and handling (loaded) 3.86.0
Visibility 5.2 7.8 6.4 8.2 6.2
Cab utility 6.0 6.4 7.2 7.0 6.4
Bed/tow utility 5.6 5.8 5.2 8.6 5.4
Cabin comfort 6.4 7.4 7.4 6.4 7.1
Fit and finish 6.4 6.8 7.8 6.0 7.6
Perceived value 5.9 6.8 6.8 8.6 7.5
Averaged rank* 4.4 4.2 3.2 1.2 2.6
*1 best, 5 worst
Department of Weights & Measures
In an effort to keep legal and safe, and bring Castaic Marine's boat back intact, we towed only with the Dodge and Nissan--the only trucks with suitable mirrors. Then we immediately went illegal by measuring acceleration to 60 mph (California uses lower trailer limits, further adding to congestion) and general climbing behavior.
These were run at 100 degrees F, between 1100 and 3000 feet above sea level, air-conditioning on, in tow/haul mode. From a standing start where it spun a tire or at WOT already hooked up, the Titan beat the Ram to 40 mph, 60 mph (by more than one second), and any speed beyond. In addition, the Titan's coolant temp never budged, but the Dodge's rose, though without numbers on its gauges, we couldn't tell precisely how much.
We expect any of these trucks would comfortably pull 5000 pounds, but for hauling much more than that, a 3/4-ton would be a better option. In the past, we've found the performance numbers parallel our empty results and that the shortest gears available deliver more benefit in grunt than they detract in empty fuel economy.
Photo 8/8   |   Click Image for a readable zoomed image
Regardless of maximum tow rating, you'll probably need a weight-distributing hitch for trailers over 5000 pounds (owner's manuals should provide specifics). Without it, the five-foot lever arm from the ball to the rear axle could easily put a truck over gross axle weight.
We weighed each truck with a full fuel tank, and payload given is GVWR less that weight; we also split that by axle against truck weight distribution (typically GVWR is exceeded before rear-axle GAWR is). As-tested towing capacity is GCWR less weight and less 154 pounds for an SAE standard driver; larger wheels as on the Ram and F-150 lower tow ratings. Only the Chevy could pull its rated load as tested, and the Ford pulled the lowest percentage of its rating.--GRW

 Chevrolet Silverado 1500Dodge Ram 1500Ford F-150
Location of final assemblyFort Wayne, IndianaWarren, MichiganDearborn, Michigan
Body style Four-door pickupFour-door pickupFour-door pickup
EPA size class Special purpose full-sizeSpecial purpose full-sizeSpecial purpose full-size
Drivetrain layout Front engine/RWDFront engine/RWDFront engine/RWD
AirbagsDual frontDual front Dual front
Engine type90° V-8, cast-iron block, alum heads90° V-8, cast-iron block, alum heads90° V-8, cast-iron block, alum heads
Bore x stroke, in3.78 x 3.623.92 x 3.583.55 x 4.16
Displacement, ci/L325/5.3343/5.7330/5.4
Compression ratio9.5:19.6:19.8:1
Valve gear OHV, 2 valves/cylOHV, 2 valves/cylSOHC, 3 valves/cyl, VVT
Fuel inductionSFISFISFI
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm295 @ 5200345 @ 5400300 @ 5000
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 335 @ 4000375 @ 4200365 @ 3750
Transmission type4-speed automatic5-speed automatic4-speed automatic
Axle ratio3.23:13.92:13.73:1
Final-drive ratio2.36:12.63:12.61:1
Rpm @ 60 mph150017501750
Recommended fuelUnleaded regularUnleaded midgradeUnleaded regular
Wheelbase, in143.5140.5138.5
Length, in225.9227.7224.0
Width, in78.579.578.9
Height, in72.674.073.5
Track, f/r, in65.0/66.068.6/67.967.0/67.0
Headroom, f/r, in41.0/39.040.8/40.040.1/39.6
Legroom, f/r, in41.3/39.141.0/36.741.3/39.0
Shoulder room, f/r, in65.2/65.167.0/66.765.8/65.8
Hip room, f/r, in61.4/62.964.9/64.663.1/63.1
Ground clearance, in8.17.4 8.2
Load lift height, in31.633.732.4
Bed size LxWxD, in69.2x50.0x19.576.3x51.0x20.267.0x50.0x22.3
Fuel capacity, gal26.026.030.0
Suspension, front/rearIndependent, coil springs, anti-roll bar/ solid axle, leaf springsIndependent, coil springs, anti-roll bar/ solid axle, leaf springs Independent, coil springs, anti-roll bar/ solid axle, leaf springs
Steering typeRack and pinionRack and pinion Rack and pinion
Turns, lock to lock3.4 3.3 3.3
Turning circle, ft46.647.345.1
Brakes, f/r Vented disc/drum, ABSVented disc/ vented disc, ABSVented disc/ vented disc, ABS
Wheels17x7.5-in steel20x9.0-in alloy18x7.5-in alloy
TiresGeneral AmeritracGoodyear Wrangler HPBFG Long Trail T/A
Load/speed rating108S114S109T/td>

Acceleration, sec
0-303.0 2.43.0
Quarter mile, sec @ mph16.1 @ 87.015.6 @ 86.4 16.5 @ 83.4
Braking, 60-0, ft151136141
Speed through 600-ft slalom, mph56.556.056.4
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy16/2014/1815/19
As-tested fuel economy, city/hwy18.213.716.7
Base price $30,195$33,320$32,240
Price as tested$31,965$36,750$37,935

 Nissan TitanToyota Tundra
Location of final assemblyCanton, MississippiPrinceton, Indiana
Body style Four-door pickupFour-door pickup
EPA size classSpecial purpose full-sizeSpecial purpose full-size
Drivetrain layoutFront engine/RWDFront engine/RWD
AirbagsDual front, active head restraints Dual front
Engine type90° V-8, all alum 90° V-8, cast-iron block, alum heads
Bore x stroke, in3.86 x 3.623.70 x 3.31
Displacement, ci/L339/5.6285/4.7
Compression ratio9.8:110.0:1
Valve gear DOHC, 4 valves/cylDOHC, 4 valves/cyl, VVT
Fuel inductionSFISFI
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm305 @ 4900282 @ 5400
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 379 @ 3600325 @ 3400
Transmission type5-speed automatic5-speed automatic
Axle ratio3.36:13.92:1
Final-drive ratio2.79:12.82:1
Rpm @ 60 mph17501900
Recommended fuelUnleaded regularUnleaded regular
Wheelbase, in139.8140.5
Length, in224.2230.1
Width, in78.879.3
Height, in75.074.0
Track, f/r, in67.5/67.565.9/67.3
Headroom, f/r, in41.0/38.941.2/40.2
Legroom, f/r, in41.8/33.041.6/37.5
Shoulder room, f/r, in65.1/64.962.1/62.2
Hip room, f/r, in61.3/60.359.7/58.3
Ground clearance, in9.710.9
Load lift height, inN/AN/A
Bed size LxWxD, in78.9x50.0x19.974.3x49.3x20.7
Fuel capacity, gal28.026.4
Suspension, front/rearIndependent, coil springs, anti-roll bar/ solid axle, leaf springsIndependent, coil springs, anti-roll bar/ solid axle, leaf springs
Steering typeRack and pinionRack and pinion
Turns, lock to lock3.63.4
Turning circle, ft45.647.5
Brakes, f/r Vented disc/disc, ABSVented disc/drum, ABS
Wheels18x8.0-in alloy16x7.0-in alloy
TiresGoodyear Wrangler SR-ABFG Rugged Trail T/A
Load/speed rating114S111S
Acceleration, sec
Quarter mile, sec @ mph15.6 @ 89.715.7 @ 88.2
Braking, 60-0, ft136135
Speed through 600-ft slalom, mph57.156.6
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy14/1916/18
As-tested fuel economy, city/hwy16.517.0
Base price$24,950*$26,120
Price as tested$29,810$32,464
* Crew Cab $27,600 base/$32,570 as tested



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