2016 Ford F-150 vs Ram 1500 EcoDiesel vs Chevy Silverado

The differences that set apart the performance of the modern crop of domestic half-ton pickup trucks are minuscule. 

Each will handle hard work and the strain of towing and hauling. But it isn’t about whether or not the work gets done, but rather how the work gets done, that separates one truck from the next. And it’s these small differences that can bring in customers with cash in hand.

In partnership with the Canadian Truck King Challenge, we gathered together the three domestic half-ton pickup trucks to pit them against one another in an effort to find those differences.

Like with every AutoGuide.com pickup truck test, this isn’t a beauty contest. Each one of the trucks was hooked up to a 6,000-pound trailer for a towing test, loaded with 1,000 lbs worth of payload in the bed and driven through a moderate off-road course to replicate real-world conditions (all in the pouring rain, as our photos will attest).

Another part of our testing includes hooking up a data recorder to the OBDII port of each pickup that accurately tracks fuel economy, while empty, towing and hauling.

Read on for the detailed fuel economy numbers and for our findings on each of the truck.


3rd Place: 2016 Chevrolet Silverado

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Just two years after a full redesign, Chevy is introducing a facelift for the Silverado in 2016. It mainly revamps the front end styling, but there are a few noteworthy changes that make the truck a bit better at getting work done.

The first is the availability of an eight-speed automatic transmission paired with the truck’s 5.3-liter V8. This transmission is also available on the larger 6.2-liter V8. A new set of powered running boards, which can pivot rearwards to act as a step to access cargo in the bed, are also now available.

So how does the Silverado handle hard labor? Even with the new eight-speed automatic, which improves the engine’s responsiveness, this truck has the lowest power output of the three and it’s obvious with weight behind it.

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This powertrain seems to be working the hardest of the group to get the weight going. It is fair to point out that there is also a 6.2-liter V8 available with 460 lb-ft of torque in the Silverado if you want more grunt, but even compared to the smaller Ford 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine or the Ram’s HEMI V8, the 5.3-liter feels lethargic. Furthermore, GM’s pickup transmissions have always felt reluctant to downshift, and this hasn’t changed. The request for more power is eventually met, but the truck seems geared towards keeping you in the highest gear possible if it can.

Handling the weight as the driver is made easy with the Silverado. The steering offers a fair amount of feedback and is progressively weighted, getting firmer the further you turn through a corner at speed. This allows the truck to be easily controllable at highway speeds with light inputs, while cornering is met with a heavier, more substantial feeling.

One of the things the Silverado does great is drowning noise out with a quiet and isolated cabin.

In practical everyday use, the Chevy has a few tricks up its sleeve. First is the rear bumper-integrated steps, which offer built-in steps that require no moving parts and no service. Lights in the bed and a variety of different mounting points for tie-down cleats are also handy.

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So how did the Chevy fare in fuel economy? Unfortunately, the Silverado showed up late to the event, so the empty fuel economy was not logged. With 1,000 lbs of payload in the bed, the truck managed an average of 19.6 mpg, while towing a 6,000-lb trailer brought fuel economy down to 13.5 mpg. It’s also worth mentioning that the other vehicles in the competition varied less than 1 mpg when hauling payload, so the 19.6 mpg figure is likely very close to the Silverado’s empty driving figure.

A comfortable cruising worker, the Silverado does everything well, but with this competitive set, doing jobs “well” isn’t quite good enough to cut it.

Fast Facts:

  • Engine: 5.3L V8 with 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
  • US Pricing: Starts at $28,090. As tested $53,000
  • CDN Pricing: Starts at $28,780. As tested $60,300
  • EPA Fuel Economy: 16 mpg city, 21 mpg highway
  • CDN Fuel Economy: Not yet rated
LOVE IT

  • Quiet cabin
  • Smooth ride
  • Bumper step
LEAVE IT

  • Fuel economy
  • Transmission
  • Power

2nd Place: Ford F-150

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Our Ford F-150 was fitted with the top-dog 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 and was fully loaded in Platinum trim.

Ford’s half-ton is a mix of a potent powertrain and some very well thought out gadgets and tools that make the truck more useful than just a simple tow vehicle. You need only use the mirror-mounted spotlights while working at night or the trailer light check status that appears in the driver’s info cluster when you’re working alone to see what I mean. And loading and unloading cargo from the bed is simplified by the best bed step available, which only takes seconds to be fully deployed from its hiding place in the tailgate.

Inside, the F-150 doesn’t seem quite as posh as the Ram or as well laid out as the Silverado, though that is mostly a personal preference, as getting to everything you need is easy and intuitive. The seats are comfortable and this remains the only truck you can get with a massage feature built into the seats, a great feature for those commuting home after a long day of labor-intensive work.

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Getting this truck out on the road is a surefire way to forget about any gripes with the interior. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost seems to get stronger and smoother each year, despite its power numbers remaining the same. With nothing hitched to the back, this truck surges forward when the accelerator is hit, while a 6,000-lb concrete block in the bed did little to hinder its performance, still pulling up to highway speeds quickly.

Pulling the weight is no issue for the F-150, which has the strongest-feeling powertrain of the bunch. It’s in handling the weight that things change a bit.

The steering in the F-150 is quite light, too much so to make the truck feel overly confident or planted. Its suspension can also feel a little jittery, even with weight on the back. Now, this isn’t to say that the truck feels like it isn’t in control of the weight, but when a competition is so close, these small details in ride and drive matter.

While cruising empty, the F-150 also has the harshest ride of the three competitors.

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Fuel economy for the F-150 was measured at 21 mpg empty, 19.8 mpg with 1,000 lbs of payload, and 15.1 mpg with a 6,000-lb trailer hitched to the rear. Those numbers are enough to trounce the Silverado, while providing the fastest acceleration and what feels like the most power of the three engines.

The new F-150 is a capable work truck with plenty of handy features that can be extremely helpful when you’re working. Its big EcoBoost engine is also a winner, providing ultra-smooth low-end torque and heaps of power. Really, this truck is let down by its light, numb steering and its rear end suspension setup.

Fast Facts:

  • Engine: 3.5L Turbocharged V6 with 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • US Pricing: Starts at $26,030. As tested $55,800
  • CDN Pricing: Starts at $32,799. As tested $64,800
  • EPA Fuel Economy: 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway
  • CDN Fuel Economy: 14.2L/100km city, 10.4L/100km highway
LOVE IT

  • Power
  • Mirror spotlights
  • Bed step
LEAVE IT

  • Ride
  • Steering

1st Place: Ram 1500

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Ram continues to be the only manufacturer to currently offer a diesel engine in a half-ton pickup truck, and it continues to be the strongest package of the bunch. Nissan is looking to take away a bit of Ram’s market share with its upcoming Titan XD (although that is a class 2b, or 2500 truck), which is also a diesel-powered half-ton, but for now, FCA owns that market.

With its 3.0-liter V6 turbocharged diesel and air suspension system, Ram offers the ideal package for anyone looking to tow. But it isn’t just performance that the Ram has on lockdown.

Inside, the design and materials used are top notch, not only pleasing the eyes but also the hands. Functionally, everything is well laid out, though the rotary shift knob gear selector takes some getting used to. For in-dash infotainment and information, the Ram does it best, with Uconnect providing a lag-free, easy to operate user interface. Chevy’s MyLink system is not far behind, while the F-150 falls short with MyFordTouch. Luckily, that system will soon be all gone.

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For rear seat storage, the Ram is second best. The F-150 offers a totally flat, cavernous rear floor, while the Chevy still has a pesky hump right in the middle, making stowing stuff in the back seat more of a hassle. Ram has devised a system of fold-out platforms that convert the rear floor into a flat floor, which is a decent solution, though the platforms can get in the way and are a bit flimsy.

What makes the Ram 1500 the best then? It’s all about how it drives and tows. The EcoDiesel doesn’t break a sweat while towing, getting the trailer moving and up to highway speeds without hesitation. The 3.5L EcoBoost may do it a little faster, but the Ram does the deed with less drama and a sense of relaxation that makes towing with it so much less stressful.

Best of all is the suspension system, which actively levels the rear end to help the truck ride flat and smooth. Imperfections in the road are soaked up by the air suspension, and the truck never gets out of sorts like the F-150 can. To complement this suspension is a heavily weighted steering wheel, which makes this truck feel stuck to the ground and robust.

Simply put, the Ram drives big and heavy. It pushes through corners and takes some effort to steer at low speeds, unlike the more lithe feeling F-150 which tucks into corners quite nicely, though it has that numb steering. In my books, the Ram’s big heavy feeling provides pure pickup truck confidence to the driver.

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Fuel economy for this diesel, as can be expected with this alternative fuel source, is wonderful. In our time with the truck, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel managed 26.5 mpg while driving empty, 27.3 mpg with 1,000 lbs of payload (the increase in fuel economy with payload can be chalked up to drivers having a lighter foot when transporting weight), and 19.7 mpg with a trailer hooked up.

That means that with 6,000 lbs hanging from the rear hitch, the EcoDiesel is getting the same fuel economy as the other trucks when they were hauling payload. That is a significant difference that proves to be one of the factors that makes this EcoDiesel so compelling.

It sips fuel, feels the best with a trailer and has a gorgeous, well thought out interior. Most of all, the sensation of being rooted to the pavement always brings me back to the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel as the best of half-ton bunch.

Fast Facts:

  • Engine: 3.0-liter diesel V6 with 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • US Pricing: EcoDiesel starts at $32,935. As tested $54,000
  • CDN Pricing: EcoDiesel starts at $41,300. As tested $55,000
  • EPA Fuel Economy: 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway
  • CDN Fuel Economy: 12.1L/100km city, 8.8L/100km highway
LOVE IT

  • Diesel power
  • Confident ride
  • Fuel economy
LEAVE IT

  • No bed step
  • High entry cost

88 Comments

stingray says:

Silverado champs!

nam says:

Different reviewers can review the same trucks and come up with different results. It all needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Brand loyalists will buy their brand regardless and believe it is the best regardless. If you are not brand loyal then you will probably look for the truck that best suits your needs whether that be best fuel economy , highest payload , highest towing , fastest , what happens to be the best price available which varies greatly depending on time of year , location , incentives. I have owned to Rams both with the 5.7L Hemi. This is a great engine. My second Ram had the 8 speed transmission. I loved the 8 speed transmission. I had no problems with either truck. I think Ram has a great product. I used to tow a travel trailer so the Ram was certainly up to the task . I no longer tow any great weights so when I was shopping for my next truck the most important factor to me was fuel economy and what I could currently get the best price on. The Ram Ecodiesel was certainly on my list but couldn’t find one at a reasonable price. Also on my list was the Ram 3.6L Pentastar , GMC Sierra 4.3L and F150 2.7L Ecoboost. I got a killer deal on a F150 2.7L EcoBoost Supercrew XLT with the 302A equipment package and optioned with the FX4 and XTR packages. Most of my current driving is city so the mileage I am getting with this truck is phenomenal . The 2.7L is also plenty fast and sure has get up and go. I find the ride at least as good if not better than my Ram with 4 corner air suspension. I am extremely happy with this truck and I can still tow well over 7000 lbs if the need should arise. I think all 3 brands have good qualities depending on what you are looking for. The 2.7L engine uses CGI just like the Powerstroke diesels do. I am not at all concerned with reliability. Ford knows turbo engines and this is one great little engine. Turbos are not new technology. I had a turbo Pontiac back in the 80s that people said would never last. That car went a good 12 years or more before I sold it without so much as a hiccup. As for recalls , all 3 brands have had recalls at one time or another. I can’t brand bash because I really don’t think you could go wrong with any of the 3. Again , it boils down to what you want and/or brand loyalty. Just my 2 cents

alex says:

i just blew my turbos in my 2013 ecoboost 3.5 towing only 4,000 pounds. $5K fix, which i won’t be doing. mechanic said it’s starting to happen in more ecoboost trucks when towing, because the turbos can’t handle the compression and the seals burst. i was only at 67K miles. ford may know turbos, but not as they relate to towing (mechanic’s words, not mine).

Dan says:

Truth hits–Alex–thanks

Kornatoski says:

Beats me … I drove all three before deciding on the RAM 1500 CrewCab EcoDiesel (in the “Outdoorsman” flavor) … why? … Ford and GM somehow have magically removed any “truck character” from theirs’ …. read this as generally boring) … yes we all know F-150EB is faster than the EcoDiesel …. but it’s only faster once the turbos spool up, around town at light throttle the F-150 seems a little non-responsive unlike the EcoD)… besides it has leaf-springs LOL…

Derrick says:

Thanks Gents for all the added comments! Besides the facts that were
mentioned this was great! Maddox to me seem to have the facts correct
on lots of things. I had a 2009 Silverado, but Dodge RAM has come alive
in 2013.

Mitchell Ford never took any bailouts they just
raised their prices so they didn’t have to receive government funds, and
Ford seems to still do very well.

The old saying
goes “If it is not broke then why fix it?” I guess Chevy (GM) doesn’t
want to engineer or look at engineering a new engine because its doing
what it is supposed to do. Each year though I always want to see if
they are coming out with a new one to compete with other brands as far
as more performance is concerned.

Me personally
loved my Silverado and I used it often for towing and hauling whatever I
needed to. I never had any issues with towing my 1964 Chevy Impala
from Texas to Georgia. The gas mileage was great and I never lost any
power. I used the tow button that was designed in my truck.

For
whoever said that the Chevy only has the 8 speed auto trans was not
reading the article, but it is offered in the 5.3 as well.

Good
day gents and good luck at whatever you choose! But “nam” and Maddox to
me have correct information and can back up the talk here. If anyone
has used all the brands before then certainly they can tell you from
their use what they see.

In the end buying
vehicles is a process along with trial & error. Like a box of
chocolates too, “you don’t know what you will get until you try it” or
put it to YOUR OWN TEST, because my use is not my neighbors use and each
brand is built differently!

Wavshrdr says:

Good write up. I read this after driving all 3 truck myself and generally I agree with what was written. I was in the market for a 1/2 ton truck. I was definitely predisposed toward Ford as I have 2 Fords in the garage and one of them with the 3.5L Ecoboost motor or as my kids like to call it the “Egoboost”. That motor has been reliable as heck and we’ve owned it for over 5 years and driven across the US from North to South and East to West and back several times already in our Flex.

Even though was heaving leaning toward the Ford when laying out the kind of money these top of the line trucks cost you want to measure twice and cut once. I drove the Chevy first and honestly it did nothing for me. I did like the integrated steps on the bumper and interior wasn’t bad. I couldn’t get past the anemic motor and the ugly exterior. It tries to come off macho but just looks cartoonish to me with its fender flares.

Next up was the Ram Ecodiesel Laramie. I was saving the best for last (Ford). Drove the EcoD and came away amazed how good the truck was. The infotainment system was quick, responsive and intuitive. Compared the the Ford version I had, and even in the Ford rentals I’ve driven latel, it was a least a generation ahead. The EcoD motor while not super quick, felt pretty relaxed and like it could do anything you asked of it. According to the display (if I could believe it) I was getting over 30 mpg on the highway and about 27 mpg overall in my test drive. Pretty impressive for sure. Seats were great, ride was almost car comfortable and only thing I didn’t was during my night test drive the lights were pretty anemic.

Finally the one I was waiting for (actually 2). The Ford F150 2.7L & 3.5L Ecoboosts. OMG I was so disappointed after driving the Ram. I was pretty much sold on buying a Ford. The only thing I can say is both the Ecoboosts were quicker than the Ram EcoD but ONLY when you definitely had your foot in it. Steering was vague and felt totally detached. I appreciate what Ford did in reducing mass in the truck but after driving these 2 I had to go back to the Ram again for another test drive.

After the dust settled from another drive, the Ram was setting in my driveway. I wasn’t worried about bragging rights the quickest 1/4 mile or 0-60 times. I wanted the best all around daily driver and tow vehicle. Now several months into my ownership I couldn’t be more pleased. The 8spd transmission means it always seems like you have the gear you need. While Ford is coming out with a 10 speed, I don’t need really much need for it as the 8 in the Ram seem to work great. Theoretically 10 could be better I don’t think it will make that much of a difference but it will be better than the 6 speed they have and currently in my other Ford.

The headlights (projector) still are anemic but I’ll swap out HIDs for the low beams to help with that. My best tank so far has been 33 mpg (all highway 65 mph or so). My best mixed hwy/city (60/40 split) has been 29. This is for a top of the line Limited Crew Cab which pretty much had ever option so it it is a bit on the porky side. Even towing a 6k pound load it has performed quite well. I had debated about the air suspension but definitely works great. They way it can kneel down so older people can get in is far more useful than I imagined.

The entire family loves the truck and it has exceeded my expectations in almost every way. Kudos to Dodge.

H Man says:

Just saw this. I have a 2016 F150 with the full double panel moonroof, 4×4, crew cab, 3.5 turbo with full navigation. I also have a 2016 crew cab EcoDiesel Ram 1500 4×4 Outdoorsman. Full nav package also. Finally also have a 2014 Ram Diesel 3500 Limited mega cab. The Fords do not get the gas mileage they claim. Not close. Great vehicle but MPG is poor. The Ram 1500 nails the mpg on the head. The 3500 gets better mpg then the Ford, combined and on the highway. Love Fords but after having bought the other 2 Rams, comparison ends. We have an all Ford fleet of vans and trucks, gas and diesel. Having these 3 personal vehicles I have come down solidly on Rams Diesel trucks. Not even close. What I can’t tolerate is to get a vehicle with mpg claims and not even come close to what it alleges on the sticker and yet the Ram and Dodge products I have bought in the past and now always hits or exceeds the sticker mpg. The Ram Ecodiesel and the Cummins diesel are just killer platforms. The Diesel Mega Cab with its laydown rear seat is crazy cool. Add the Ram Boxes and storage is unheard of in a pickup truck. I will not buy another Powerstroke in the future.

Paulo says:

Hi, I really liked your feedback on your ram 1500 ecodiesel. I am in the market for a ecodiesel. I am looking for the 1500 ecodiesel that has a max towing limit of 9,500 pnds. But everywhere I look it seems the most it can tow is 8,500. Is that enough to safely tow a 7,500 GVWR travel trailer. Some 1500s I have seen that they have 3.9 rear axle ratios while others have 3.5 but even with the 3.9 ratios it still seems to have a max towing capacity of 8,500 pnds.

What should I be looking for? I do not trust dealers as they are out there to make their ends meet. I prefer an owner like yourself who has expirience using one.