Well, that didn't take long. Ford, like many others, still remembers the shellacking Ford took at the hands of the 2013 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty in our King of Beasts contest in which we pitted the 2013 Ford F-450 Super Duty against Ram's hulkiest fighter in a cage battle. You will recall that the new-for-2013 max tow package the Ram HD offered in our last competition had a maximum towing capacity of 30,000 pounds and a gross combined weight rating in excess of 36,000 pounds; by the end of our King of Beasts comparison test, the Ram was crowned the victor. But a funny thing happened on the way to this week's 2015 Ford Super Duty media event in West Virginia.
Before we reveal what happened, we should note that PickupTrucks.com did not put together this head-to-head test but did take advantage of the opportunity. For the media event, Ford ordered a fully optioned 2014 Ram 3500 HD Laramie Limited Crew Cab 4x4 with 4.10:1 gears so auto journalists could drive the combination for comparison purposes. After we examined both Monroney price sheets for the max-tow trucks — the Ram 3500 and Ford F-450, both with gross vehicle weight ratings of 14,000 pounds — we thought you might want to know how these two compared in a direct flat-out hill climb up a 7 percent grade. Thankfully, we had a VBOX data reader and access to both trucks with equivalent trailers.
Here's the setup: We had a brand-new 2015 Ford F-450 that is all-new underneath with a heavier-duty frame (basically taken from the stronger F-450/550 chassis cabs platform), a newly upgraded 6.7-liter Power Stroke (bigger turbo, new injectors, stronger cooling, upgraded tranny and a brand-new dedicated exhaust brake switch), a monster fifth wheel and new GCWR numbers (max towing of 31,200 pounds and GCWR of 40,000 pounds), and a similarly equipped Ram 3500. Having these two max tow monsters together in one place was special enough, but Ford also had two identically equipped Load Max trailers on hand, each offering just more than 24,000 pounds of weight (seven pallets of cinder blocks) for towing with these two beasts.
Naturally, it wouldn't be a reasonable tow test unless we had some challenging terrain, and we had some nearby in the form of the Beckley Grade (some call it the New River Gorge Grade), a stretch of Interstate Highway 64 that basically gave us 6 nasty miles of climb, starting around 4 percent but averaging between 6 and 7 percent the last 3½ miles. This is a grade we've never seen before, but it is impressive, and in the day and a half we spent on the road, we saw seven big rigs smoking their brakes down the backside and dozens of commercial vehicles creeping up the climb.
We understand that it looks more than a little suspicious to have one manufacturer be responsible for including a competitor's truck in a drive event that highlights its own product's newly strengthened assets. And to tell you the truth, we can't fully guarantee that there wasn't some hanky-panky; but we can tell you that after scouring each truck and checking all the aspects of the engines, transmissions and pricing sheets, these two trucks and trailers looked like a pair of similarly weight-classed cage fighters. So here's what we found.
We ran both trucks from exit 139 to exit 133 westbound on I-64 from Sandstone to Pluto Road. We mapped the section of road to give you an exact understanding of how and where the grades move up the highway and where the steepest parts are. Our start line for the flat-out max-pull contest began from the shoulder of the on-ramp to I-64, just off Meadow Creek Road. And we finished at the summit 5½ miles later.
For simplicity — because this was a quick-and-dirty test — we've plotted all the time and distance information in a single graph with speed, distance and grade data laid out. The 2014 Ram 3500 with a Cummins engine, Aisin transmission and 4.10:1 gears covered the distance in 6 minutes and 22 seconds, while the 2015 Ford F-450 Super Duty Power Stroke 6R140 ran the hill climb in 5 minutes and 42 seconds.
We'll have more to write about the 2015 Super Dutys in our full review at a later date, as well as a focused look at the 2015 Ford F-350 in our upcoming 2014 Ultimate Heavy-Duty Challenge comparison test, due to be posted in August.
We'll be posting more photos of our clandestine, quick-and-dirty truck test on our Facebook page later.
To see a larger image of the chart, click here.
Cars.com photos by Mark Williams