2017 3/4-Ton Work Truck Challenge: Overview

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By Aaron Bragman

Years ago, pickup trucks were good for one thing and one thing only: work. They weren't personal style statements and they weren't luxury vehicles. They were more akin to tractors — tools that you used to get things done, whether on job sites or farms — meant to be inexpensive, tough, rugged and durable. Somewhere during the last 30 years, that image faded and was replaced by the idea that pickups can be the ultimate, uniquely American luxury vehicle. But there's still a need for basic, bare-bones, serious-duty work trucks, and you can still buy them. That's what led to our 2017 3/4-Ton Work Truck Challenge.

For this Challenge, we assembled four work trucks to test just how well they perform their duties. These aren't the popular light-duty half-ton pickups, nor are they the ultimate heavy-duty one-ton trucks. These are the in-between three-quarter-ton models, more capable and less focused on comfort than the half-ton trucks but less capable (and less expensive) than the one-ton models. We requested base-model three-quarter-ton trucks from GM, Ford, Nissan and Ram equipped with as few options as possible and the standard gasoline engine instead of the beefier diesel.

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Here's what they sent to us:

We performed our testing in and around Phoenix, using the track facilities at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., to get some empirical numbers for our quartet of work trucks. We wanted to see how the base models of these rigs stacked up against each other in terms of acceleration, braking and overall on-road performance both empty and loaded with 2,200 pounds of payload. We tested them for fuel economy, as well, to see which one was most efficient.

We compared these pickups in 13 different empirical tests, which accounted for a little less than two-thirds of the total points awarded. Our panel of five expert judges awarded the remaining points across 10 subjective categories that covered bed features, interior comfort, visibility, overall value and more. In the end, a total of 2,300 points were possible.

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We do not weight our Challenge scores. We have not biased these results in any way, leaving that to you to do as you see fit depending on what categories and truck capabilities are most important to you. Feel free to eliminate or accentuate any of our test results to determine which truck best matches your needs.

Our panel of judges were:

  • Aaron Bragman, Cars.com Detroit bureau chief
  • Joe Bruzek, Cars.com senior road test editor
  • Bruce Smith, freelance automotive journalist
  • Warren Spears, auto body and truck expert
  • Mark Williams, PickupTrucks.com editor

Here are the details for each competitor:

2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 WT

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Chevrolet's base two-wheel-drive Silverado 2500 came to us in work truck white with a starting price of $34,505 (all starting prices include a destination fee). Creature comforts of the regular-cab pickup were few: vinyl flooring, a front bench with manual adjustments, a steering column that tilted but didn't telescope, air conditioning and cruise control; surprisingly, there were two USB ports. The standard engine is a big 6.0-liter V-8 Vortec making 360 horsepower and 380 pounds-feet of torque. It's connected to a six-speed automatic transmission with a 4.10:1 final drive ratio driving the rear wheels and featuring an auto-locking (limited-slip) rear differential. Our test truck added a WT Convenience Package (power windows, tinted glass, remote keyless entry, 110-volt cabin power outlet, remote locking tailgate, power heated mirrors and a backup camera), a Trailering Equipment Package, a 7-inch touchscreen multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot, and trailering mirrors for a grand total of $37,040.

Silverado 2500 WT 9688
For a larger version of the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 WT Monroney, click on the picture above.

2017 Ford Super Duty F-250 XL

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One of two new kids on the block, the new Ford Super Duty got a significant redo for 2017, and this model was the basic work-truck version. It starts at $33,730 and comes with a 6.2-liter V-8 making 385 hp and 430 pounds-feet of torque, a whopping 50 more pounds-feet than the Chevy. For 2017, the Super Duty joins the F-150 in being primarily made of aluminum over a steel chassis for weight savings. Options in our regular-cab 4x2 test truck included the XL Value Package (chrome bumpers front and rear, cruise control and a four-speaker audio system with a 4.2-inch display screen), the Power Equipment Group (one-touch up-and-down power windows, heated power mirrors, power locks, remote keyless entry), blind spot warning, an upfitter switch panel in the overhead console, LED box lighting and more for a total of $38,220.

Ford Super Duty XL copy1A (002)
For a larger version of the 2017 Ford Super Duty F-250 XL Monroney, click on the picture above.

2017 Nissan Titan XD S

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When is an HD truck not an HD truck? When it's an XD — Nissan says that its 'tweener Titan is something more than a half ton, but something less than a three-quarter ton. Maybe call it a five-eighths ton? It starts at $35,315 but already includes power windows and locks, a USB port, Bluetooth audio, remote keyless entry with push-button start, LED cargo bed lamps and cruise control. It's powered by Nissan's 5.9-liter V-8 Endurance, making 390 hp and 394 pounds-feet of torque run through a seven-speed automatic transmission. Our single-cab test truck came with four-wheel drive (Nissan couldn't provide a two-wheel-drive model), but it was still priced competitively with rivals' rear-drive trucks. Our tester added a Convenience and Utility Package, which sprays in a bedliner, wires in a trailering package and slaps on a front overhead console for a grand total of $36,115.

TITAN XD Gas 500277[3]
For a larger version of the 2017 Nissan Titan XD S Monroney, click on the picture above.

2017 Ram 2500 Tradesman

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From Fiat Chrysler Automobiles comes Ram's entry-level 2500 Tradesman, starting at $33,465. Our truck featured Ram's stout 6.4-liter V-8 Hemi making 410 hp and 429 pounds-feet of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and driving the rear wheels through a 4.10:1 axle. The standard engine is a 5.7-liter, with the 6.4-liter a $500 option. Our regular-cab test truck also featured a Chrome Appearance Group with 18-inch steel wheels but chrome bumpers and trim, and a Popular Equipment Group with a cloth bench seat, carpets, satellite radio, tow mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity and a trailer brake controller. It did not have power windows, locks or mirrors. The grand total for the Ram was $36,795.

Ram 2500 Tradesman (002)
For a larger version of the 2017 Ram 2500 Tradesman Monroney, click on the picture above.

Cars.com photos by Angela Conners

Overview | Track Testing | Payload | Daily Driving | Dynamometer Testing | Results

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Comments

Would you look at that- the Ram, with its "weak" coil spring rear comes in with the highest GVW and payload.

It would have been nice to know the weight distribution too.

Ironically the two trucks I'd want the most are the oldest designs. Ford's new model is sure to have those first-year customer satisfaction hassles that all Detroit products seem to have in year one.

The Nissan would probably win some of the battles regarding comfort/convenience, but the Chevy's backup camera and remote tailgate lock should win a lot of hearts.

In all, if you want a terrific HD truck at a competitive price the RAM and the Chevy win. If you want "the latest and greatest" flip a coin and choose between the Ford and the Titan.

Chevy was not terrific in this one and RAM came in last in the judges scoring.

Ford was the clear winner.

Ford, the clear winner?

@Jason

Have you been reading these stories very long?

In these PUTC tests Ford is ALWAYS "the winner"

@George_C- I couldn't get numbers for the brand new Ford and Nissan, but for the GM and Ram, the weights are such...
Front Rear GVW
GM 3216/4400 2501/6200 9300
RAM 3383/5000 2574/6000 9000
I understand that the RAM in the test had a higher GVW, but it shouldn't change the Empty weight much. A 4wd Hemi Ram still only has 3677# front axle weight, with a 5250 base front axle capacity. That's almost 1500# w/o a plow package.

Take your GM goggles off, jim. This was a complete and utter failure for Chevy. Ford doesn't always win because Ram won the last one. Chevy got its btt kicked in this one.

^ Like normal Ford clan bashing other makes. Don't say any thing bout Ford though or they being crying and claiming you use multi names. What bunch of babies.

Several references are made to the all new engine in the Ford without elaborating on what is new about it. I would like to see more information about that. I must say that it placed a lot better than I recall the old one doing.

It is interesting how much heavier the trucks have gotten. My 1991 Supercab with a 460 was about 400lbs lighter than the new standard cab. I readily admit that it had a lot more frame flexing and I would much rather have the new version.

On the subject of frame flexing it would have been interesting to do the test that GM advertised a few years back where they drove one corner up on a ramp until one tire came off the ground to see how rigid the frames are.

No, actual weight distributions; not GVWs etc.

Ram with 4.10 and Ford with 3.73. Ford still beat the higher HP and virtually the same TQ. I think Rams tranny gear spacing is what kept it from beating the Furd.

Take your GM goggles off, jim. This was a complete and utter failure for Chevy. Ford doesn't always win because Ram won the last one. Chevy got its btt kicked in this one.
Posted by: Dave Z.

@Dave Z

RAM won this one too. It was the subjective input from the testers that handed this to Ford.

dale milner: Good point. The Ford lit up the track even without a 4.10:1 axle.

It too bad that Ford did not compare trucks with similar Axle ratios a little more closely. The fuel economy on both GM and Ram would have been reduced by add the 3:73 axle ratios. Yes the towing capacity would be reduced on these as well.

So I'm missing something here... so it's dinged on no power options yet the whole concept of this was getting the bottom of the barrel options. They even mention on the Ram that only because it was annoying they dinged it otherwise it would have done better. Seems like they lost sight of the original intent of this test.



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