AutoGuide 2015 Heavy Duty Truck Comparison

AutoGuide 2015 Heavy Duty Truck Comparison

Three Heavy Duty Workhorses Put to the Test

Automakers love to play the numbers game, especially when it comes to big trucks. A recent spat between Ram and Ford saw both companies claiming the “best-in-class” towing title for their respective heavy duty pickups like kids in a sandbox arguing over who has the better castle.

Sure, specifications are important, but they only tell a part of the story. And in the case of heavy-duty trucks, they only tell a fraction of the story. The common thought is higher numbers equal better performance, but the key and really the most important consideration to any heavy hauler is what it actually feels like when you’re towing. There is nothing worse than 20,000 pounds – or more – of steel rolling down the road feeling like it’s out of control.

SEE ALSO: Ford, Ram Fight Over HD Truck Tow Ratings

Drag-Strip-Trucks.JPG

In partnership with the Canadian Truck King Challenge, we tested each of the big three HD pickup trucks for 2015. To be clear, it wasn’t an empty parking lot test that consisted of deciding which truck has the best cup holders. We loaded roughly 4,000 lbs of shingles into the bed of each truck the first day, while the second day consisted of pulling 15,000-pound fifth wheels and a full day of driving. We also had fuel economy loggers hooked into the ODB II port for the entirety of the testing to see exactly how much diesel it takes to get the job done.

But the real fun took place at the drag strip. Yes, you read that right: drag strip! We sent each of these trucks down the drag strip, trailers in tow, to get the real story on acceleration. And the results may surprise you, so read on to see how each truck fared.

  • johnls39 .

    I am not a heavy duty truck fan by all means but if I had my choice, I would easily pick the Sierra 3500 Denali which I feel is the best looking truck on the outside.

  • Ed Haps

    I’ll take that Ram any day of the week… or year.

  • smartacus

    Yes, back in 2004, those fold-down center armrests needed to be big enough to swallow a laptop. but today…

  • SSXT

    Is there any reliable ‘reliability’ data on these trucks? CR doesn’t really do much on the 3/4 and 1-tons.

  • Ron

    Who paid them off for these results? No-one I know would Take a GM much less a Ford in this category over a Dodge….None are as reliable, nor are as capable. Looks like pay for propeganda to me.

  • SSXT

    100% agree.

  • narg

    You haven’t driven one have you? Go do the right thing them come back and let us know how you messed up here.

  • hoot1

    Best looking doesn’t define a truck

  • hoot1

    Strange how they base so much on 1/4 mile speed and acceleration. Trucks aren’t meant to be sports cars. The truck that works hardest for the longest time with minimum repairs is the truck I want. Also not all new motors break in at the same time. Will the Ram get better mileage after 10-20 thousand miles…. you bet.

  • aRedRocker

    Apparently the Ram didn’t have the Aisin transmission & the Ford wasn’t a dually. What a strange way to do a comparison.

  • hoot1

    Pick up the best looking girl and find something hanging between her legs LOL

  • johnls39 .

    For a lot of people, they buy vehicles base on looks and I am one of those people regardless if it is a truck or a car. What is it to you if I or other people like a vehicle base on looks? That should not be your concern. It is people’s money and they spend it anyway they want.

    All of these trucks have weaknesses but if you are satisfied enough with it, regardless if it is best in class or not, then so beat it.

  • hoot1

    We all would like the best truck to also look good. I’m just saying it’s really not a good idea to base your purchasing decision with looks being on top.

  • johnls39 .

    You misunderstood. I could care less if the Sierra was third or second place. That was not the reason I like the looks of it because it was first place. I simply like the way the truck looks, that’s all. All of these trucks looks good in this comparison test but I just like the looks of the Sierra better. Now do you get what I am saying.

  • KnoKnees

    That’s because it will very likely be in the shop being fixed…

  • KnoKnees

    You can have it…in fact, if I still had mine (2500), I’d gladly give it to you so you could find out first hand how unreliable and porous they are…my driveway may never be the same again.

  • steve

    Why were the RAM and GM the luxury models and the FORD the base model, The KING RANCH is extremely quiet to drive .

  • Ike Eichenberg

    No they are not sports cars, however quarter mile times are a good way to compare how well the trucks will get up to freeway speeds and that is an important factor for many truck buyers.

  • MacII

    Last year, I wanted a new truck for a trip to Florida from Oregon, about 3,600 road miles one way, plus add another 2,600 for a round trip from Florida to Tennessee — all while pulling a travel trailer. The trailer weighs, on the Oregon free logger’s scales, just over 9,000, fully loaded. The combination weighed 17,700 truck, trailer, contents in the bed of the truck, full fuel, etc.
    I set out to buy a Ford because of unfortunate prior experiences with Dodge (great engine with a crappy truck built around it) and did not initially consider GM/Chevy as a contender. I wanted a 3/4 ton heavy, crew cab, luxury model — I am 72 and spoiled.
    Ford just would not deal. Was a cash purchase with no trade and Ford offered $4,000 off MSRP and would not budge after that. When Ford was not reasonable on the money issue, I went to Dodge. Truck sat so high that my wife, who is handicapped, could not get into it.
    In despair, I went to Chevy. They came over $11,000 off MSRP. They also modified the inside of the truck on the passenger side to accommodate my wife’s handicap. Figured, what the h_ _ _, buy it, make the trip and come back and trade for the Ford when back home — if Ford would come off their high horse. Bought the Chevy 2500 HD Duramax, white crew cab, short box. Had the truck one year last in late September. Just over 29,000 miles in 13 months. DEF perturbs me as a royal pain in the back side and the Regeneration Cycle seems to come at the most inopportune times — but those are the fault of the EPA and not Chevy. Remember, one of the 7 great lies: “Hi, I am from the government and I am here to help you.”
    I can’t believe how well the truck performed. Steep grades in Nevada out of Searchlight going towards Laughlin — if memory serves, 6 % up for about 5 miles and 6 % down for about 6 miles. First time to really test the exhaust brake/Allison transmission braking and in a word ””WOW”.
    My prior tow vehicle was a Freightliner FL60 with a Fuller autoshift and a PacBrake exhaust brake. Just about worthless unless RPM near the red line. Expected the same thing with the Chevy. Wrong. Even at fairly low RPM, the Chevy exhaust brake, coupled to the Allison transmission, way exceeded my expectations. Put myself partially through college driving long haul, flatbedding and a big fan of a manual “jake” or Jacobs Compression Brake. The Chevy was not manually controlled, other than on or off, but it performed very well.
    Went up the steep grades towing the trailer and loaded. I could hold 50 MPH without going near the redline and probably could have held 55 MPH going uphill if I had floored it. For me 50 MPH was just fine, especially when I had peddle left if needed. Got into my direct drive gear but did not have to gear down except on a few steep approaches. I have an Edge Insight and it gives me a great deal of information, like gear I’m in, turbo boost, RPM, torque, tranny temp, engine coolant temp and so forth. It’s my truck, so why abuse it?
    I was completely comfortable with the load and single wheel drive 3:73 gears. It performed brilliantly and I have forgotten about Ford. Love the Chevy Duramax and it has proven to be a great performer. Oh, did I mention that I got 15.7 MPG east of the Mississippi on flat ground loaded and towing? I would have been thrilled with 12. My 2004 Ford F-350 diesel got 11 MPG loaded with a similar trailer.
    Bad mouth Chevy all you want. I never owned a Chevy before and now think maybe I made a mistake all those years when driving Fords.
    My sole excursion into Dodge was OK, but as I said, a great engine with a crappy truck built around it. Silver paint peeled off the Dodge and looked rougher than a cob, and the Getrag transmission had too big a gap between 3rd and 4th gears. In the cab of the Dodge I thought maybe you could throw a dead cat through the crack between the driver’s side door and the front of the truck on the hinge side. Made for a great breeze in the summer but a little cold and wet in the winter in Oregon. Still, it would pull — in any gear except fourth. Weather stripping from a home improvement store fixed the air leak, somewhat.
    In any event, bad mouth Chevy if you will, but you’ll get my truck away from me when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

  • hoot1

    I hear you but the differences aren’t as important as these reviews make them. More important is can the truck pull reliably without overheating… particularly the automatic transmission, over hills and in the heat. And even more importantly how long will it do this without showing signs of stress. We don’t care so much as to how fast it is if it doesn’t hold up over the long term. In addition, who wants a truck that has so much crap jammed in under the hood it’s a nightmare to work on? RAM and Cummins knows what is important and have been proving it.

  • Ike Eichenberg

    The Ram Cummins with the new Aisin and the Duramax/Allison combo are both terrific trucks.

    Each have their pros and cons, it’s just a matter of opinion which set of pros and cons best suits your needs.

    I like both of them, and for me a GMC Denali was several thousand less than a comparable Limited that factor, the collision alert system, and the fact that is has better acceleration give it an edge for me even though I like the Ram interior much better.

    I guess everyone has a different opinion of working under the hood, mine is, I am not going to do anything more than change the oil and check the fluids for the first 100K miles anyway.
    And by then if not well before I’m going to want the latest truck with more power and all the new features.

  • Dmo

    Because that is what FORD sent them to test.

  • jim

    dodge trucks start rusting thought the bed after 2 years

  • festmatt5440

    Mine is a 2002 ‘ ; no rust anywhere ; what do you do ‘ , spray yours with salt ‘ ?

  • festmatt5440

    !76.000 ‘ plus miles , no leaks , no rust , no breakdowns ‘, on my 2002 ‘, 6 ‘ spd. and 24mpg. hwy .

  • 70mopar

    See, I don’t need a NEW Ford or Chevy because my 2006 Cummins RAM 3500 is still running reliably at 270,000. I can open the hood if I even needed to work on the engine there us room and airflow. You can’t beat the Cummins I-6.

  • 70mopar

    Ford, GM / Chevy / Dodge = They all rust. Not everyone lives In Florida

  • Rexlion

    Nice writeup, Mr. Elmer, but please learn proper word usage. In the RAM comments, you should have spoken of the southwestern flair (not flare). When referring to loading of the Ford, the forklift handles pallets (not palettes). On the Chevy page, it’s only o.k. to use “it’s” as a contraction for “it is,” and never as a possessive such as the reference to its lack of torque.

  • Stephen Elmer

    Thanks for reading and picking up on those silly mistakes. I’ve gone through and made the appropriate changes.

  • KnoKnees

    By porous I meant it leaked fluids, several of them. Maybe it was because I live in Nevada, the polar opposite of Florida. We average less than a 1/4 inch rain a year. It probably dried out the seals, connectors, etc. I think it was a dried out lemon.

  • ratrodr

    GO GET ‘EM TEACH ! ! !

  • Tecumseh

    Also, the Ram is an I6, and the Ford and GMC are V8’s right? …more cylinders and V should have quicker response depending on the transmission design.

  • Well, I don’t consider this a fair test at all, as already mentioned by others.

    With that said, no one tows with a base truck right out the dealership, therefore, the published tow ratings cannot be trusted. The best towing calculator available is RV Tow Check.

  • Jon

    I would say that there is a reason Ford would not send a dually…they can’t compete with the others. If the only truck you ever drove is a Ford, then you will like it. Dodge has come a long way to make the ram good, but I would agree that GM is probably at the top of the game right now. Now if we could get the price of diesel to come down, then I would enjoy my truck a whole lot more!!!!!

  • B Kossowan

    My 93 Chev continues to prove itself itself both hauling and handling, but retirement day is nigh. Looks like Bertha II will be a brand new Chevy, hands down and long may she reign.

  • Rainer Mueller

    Ya totally missed the boat. I purchased a 2015 Ford F-350 crew cab long bed 4×4 diesel dually with the Platinum trim (in the $500 extra red color no less). Wow! what an impressive truck! I does have all the bells and whistles an old guy wants, plus more, sure with the Ford/Reese integrated 5th wheel hitch it lists over $70K. I figured at my age I deserve the best, and I traded in a perfectly good 2012 Ford F-250 crew cab short bed 4×4 diesel SRW with Lariat trim. That truck was quite capable of handling my 38′ Montana 5th wheel trailer. But when I hooked up the Montana to the new Ford blew it away. My first day hauling I drove from eastern South Dakota to eastern Wyoming against a fierce headwind, which really killed the fuel economy. The second day I drove from eastern to western Wyoming, the headwind was reduced but still stiff. But on the third day I was going to drive from western Montana to Cedar City, Utah. When I got to Cedar City, I looked at my wife and said I’m still feeling great since the wind was now at our back, so we agreed to continue on to St. George, Utah, a still felt great so Las Vegas was the next test. We got to Vegas just as the sun was setting, I rarely tow after dark, but I knew the road well, and I was still feeling great because the truck made towing a pleasure. We ended up driving all the way to our home outside of San Diego all in one day! Heat and cooled seats, heated steering wheel (which I didn’t need on this trip), a sun/moonroof, electrical assisted cabin heat, satellite radio, great navigation system, and the smell of the premium leather all kept me pumped. I haven’t driven that far in one stretch since I was a whippersnapper! And I’ve never driven that far towing a travel trailer.

    How I wish you would have compared my Platinum edition to the other deluxe additions, heck I would have probably let you even use my truck for that. But I would have had second thoughts as to why Ford didn’t let you have my same truck–is it because they are aware of your testing procedures?

  • TERRY [ TOO TALL ]

    LIKED ALL THE COMMENTS POSTED ,,,,,BUT I SPEND MY WINTERS IN MY 38 FT CEDAR CREEK FITH WHEEL ,,TEXAS AND LAST YEAR IN AZ ,,,,,,HAVING SAID THAT ,,,,,I KEPT TRACK OF WHO PULLED WHAT WITH WHAT TYPE OF TRUCK ,,,,DODGE ALWAYS CAME OUT ON TOP BY A VAST MAJORITY ,,,,,,REASON I THINK IS BECAUSE OF CUMMING’S ENGINE ,,,,,,,I PERSONNALY OWN A 2014 LIMITED EDITION 3500 SINGLE WHEEL DODGE ,,,,,THE 20 INCH TIRES AND RAM BOX’S SOLD ME ,,,,,PLUS IT HAS AN ENSIL TRANSMISSION ,,,,,FUEL MILAGE EMPTY IS 18 TO 20 ,,,,,PULLING THE CAMPING I GET AROUND 10 …GIVE OR TAKE AS I TEND TO DRIVE 65 TO 70 MILES PER HOUR ,,,,,,THIS INTERIOR IS TO DIE FOR ,QUIET AND WELL APPOINTED LEATHER ,HEATED AND COOLED SEATS ,,,,,,,TWO SETTINGS ON JAKE BRAKE ,,,,,,,,,THIS TRUCK SUPRISE’S ME EACH AND EVERYTIME I DRIVE IT ,,,,,,GO IN STORE AND FIND GUY’S ADMIREING IT WHEN I COME BACK ,,,ALWAYS A RUSH THERE ,,,,,,SO IN CLOSING AS I RETIRED FROM CHRYLER CORP AFTER FORTY YEARS OF SERVICE ..YES I AM PARTIAL TO DODGE ,,,,,BUT I WOULD STILL BUY THESE TRUCKS EVEN WITH OUT MY DISCOUNT ,IMPRESSIVE TRUCK INDEED ,,,,,AND THIS 73 YEAR OLD MAN WILL WILLINGLY STAND BEHIND THEM ALL THE WAY ,,,,HAVE A GREAT DAY

  • Shawn

    This comparison is Wack. Use an f-350
    Dually. Then it will destroy any ram or gmc or Chevy you put in front of it. I run a towing company. So you know my trucks work. I would never buy a dodge or gm truck. It’s just bad for buisness. They suck. They won’t get the job done. Plus. My fords are never in the shop. Except for the normal maitnence.

  • Inigo Montoya, prepare to die

    I kind of think all three trucks will get you and your stuff were you want to be.

  • Jim

    It looks like it is Ford’s fault (based on the summary) but this was a flawed test. The options tiers (and the respective list price) for the Dodge and Chevy appear a match. Ford offers a Platinum package (and a couple others, King Ranch, a Lariat loaded, etc) that is about as nice as the top Dodge and Chevy for about the same list price. The $67k Platinum would have a sunroof, much better radio/nav, heated and cooled leather seating, quiet interior. Also, you should have included 0-60 times (unladen) and 1/4mile trap speed with the time. With all the gearing options on all 3 trucks it might not be super useful, but I really like to know 0-60mph… that’s where people most often need/want power and speed.

  • Jim

    Your comments are based on emotion and brand loyalty, not facts or logic. Ford is the top seller, so SOMEONE would take them. GM, when you combine the GMC plus Chevy sister are number 2. So again, a lot of buyers find the Ford and GM reliable and honestly all 3 (4 with GMC+Chevy) are very capable. The truck buying public has never had it so good, if their pockets are deep. All reviews are subjective, and I can see how the Chevy came out on top. I think it they had compared a like package from Ford it would have been closer or maybe on top. They didn’t say the Dodge was terrible, but having personally just tested all 3 you really have to look at dealer incentives or buy on blind loyalty. They are very very competitive now.

  • Jim

    I just tested one… pretty amazing truck. It does feel like a 1500 (1/2 ton truck) on steroids where the Dodge 2500 and F250 feel like big trucks. That said, it was very nice. The 18 inch wheels were an odd standard on the Denali, Ford and Dodge put 20″ wheels on the high end packages. I would have bought it if the discounting was better…

  • Gary Lennard

    they’re all beasts. Wish we could get them in Australia for less than $110-130,000

  • Occams Razor

    You buy a RAM because it’s not in the shop like the other two. The RAM on a 6 cyl outperforms these on an 8 cyl. There’s less moving parts, less to go wrong and maintain. FORD and DURAMAX injectors always clogging up, costly repairs. Never had a problem with RAM injectors. I liked the Ride and the Styling of the RAM. I’ve owned Ford 6.0 TorqSHIT PowerChoke, and tranny went at 32k without towing anything. Every time I left town for a long haul it was 2,500 – 5,000 repair bill between injectors or high pressure oil pump. I dumped Ford after the 6.0 debacle, they didn’t even want their Truck back for decent trade in, and went to RAM, very very happy with RAM. Only had the DPF clog up, at about 55k on a 2008, covered under 100k warranty. I’m glad to hear that these 3 Are Fighting for Dominance in competition, really helps out us as the Consumer. So I am grateful that there is fierce competition.

  • Occams Razor

    I don’t see many FORDS on the Road out West Anymore, only RAM. Must be a reason for it. The Ford F150 with the Triton Engine was good, but their diesels and tranny’s were terrible.

  • festmatt5440

    Yes; I noticed that , too . Back east ; where I live in the summer , there are more Chevys ; but ; the hills back there , aren ‘t as high ‘ , or as long .

  • Wicked

    Actually, if you combine GM and Chevy, they are ahead of Ford through June of 2015 – GMC/Chevy = 376,672 versus Ford 357,180. Through May of 2015, they were virtually tied so GM/Chevy appears to be selling a lot more than Ford as the year goes on.

  • Jim

    No disrespect, but GM V Ford wasn’t my point, Ron said no one would want a GM or a Ford, I was relating their sales to Dodge/Fiat trucks. Ford and Chevy/GMC have historically been tight, Dodge the also ran. Dodge partnering with Cumins was brilliant, but still not enough. I test drove a Dodge Laramie Ed 4×4 crew and it seemed about as nice as the GMC Denali and the Ford Platinum (they were all stickered for $66k).

  • Matt pilcher

    Someone needs to take Ford Chevy GMC and dodge and make one truck out of it because they’re all good trucks they all have their down sides and they all have their upsides he put all of them together you would have won kick ass truck but its going to be a argument either way you go with for Chevy or Dodge all depends on what people drive

  • Alexander Gauthier

    Wow, what a great post. Thanks Rainer. Road proven. Makes me think 🙂

  • Razor Hells Georgia

    How are those 6.0 Fords for ya I have two I wouldn’t wish on anyone. FN JUNK
    NEVER ever give FORD a cent again. JUNK I should know I I own a towing company.

  • Dmax

    Funny how when results don’t come out like people hope they would the test becomes crap. I think they did a adequate test and for the record this is twice now the Duramax has won the top 3 truck challenge. Last one was in 2013

  • Brian Doering

    I am a ford man and I think they should have compared apples to apples as I have a 2015 F-350 and she has 3.73 gears not 3.55. as both the ram and gm tested with dual rear wheels and 3.73 and the ford was 3.55 with single rear wheels. If you are going to put vehicles through a test make sure you test same or as close to the same as possible. I’m not a sore looser because ford didn’t get top honors. I have posted the same reaction when the comparison had GM with the weaker truck but again they did the test with a different axle ratio and therefore the results are a false result. My truck has gotten as much as 19.2 mpg unloaded on highway to 11.1 towing a 14,000 fifth wheel. I think that Ford has a lot of refining to do but i’m happy with it.

  • paul

    can you please increase your font size, I cant read that.