2017 3/4-Ton Work Truck Challenge: Track Testing

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By Joe Bruzek

Track testing four work trucks may seem like a vanilla experience considering these seemingly boring "tools with wheels" prioritize getting the job done over creating an individualized experience. But that's not what we found during our 2017 3/4-Ton Work Truck Challenge.

Accelerating While Empty

The 2017 Ford F-250 with the 6.2-liter V-8 gas engine is a workhorse with some serious horses under the hood. It shouldn't be as fast as it is, clocking zero-to-60 mph in 6.49 seconds and the quarter-mile in 14.75 seconds at 96.0 mph. Those are numbers similar to our testing of the half-ton F-150 Raptor with the EcoBoost engine. In this contest, the F-250 outran the 2017 Ram 2500, 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 and 2017 Nissan Titan XD we tested at the same time.

Not only did the numbers show the F-250 was the fastest in this test, it felt noticeably quicker. Being fast doesn't make a work truck more desirable, but the amount of heft under the accelerator pedal gives assurance there's always power in reserve when hauling and trailering.

The curious part is that the Ford was considerably faster than the next fastest, the Ram, while putting down comparable power and torque to the wheels, and actually weighing 180 pounds more than the as-tested Ram. The Ford beat the Ram by nearly a full second to 60 mph and a half-second in the quarter-mile. So where did Ford hide the nitrous?

The secret lies in how its power and torque are managed. Ford says the new transmission is lighter and smaller than before and is better matched with this engine, which makes more power and torque at lower engine speeds than the outgoing truck; gear ratios are relatively unchanged. The result is quicker acceleration from low speeds, and it's something you can feel in the seat of your pants.

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Ram's 6.4-liter V-8 was no slouch, however, accelerating the 2500 to 60 mph in 7.41 seconds and crossing the quarter-mile in 15.42 seconds at 92.0 mph. Traction was a nonissue with the Ram's limited-slip differential that helped gain traction from a stop and let the Ram pop off the line at wide-open throttle. The Ford required ginger application of the throttle from a stop to keep its open differential from spinning one tire on the pavement, but we were able to apply full power once the truck was out 60 to 100 feet. Ford's electronic locking rear differential on the F-250 is primarily for loose gravel surfaces and not dry pavement, while more traditional limited-slip differentials such as the Ram's and Chevrolet's tend to be more effective on pavement and let those trucks get off the line with less drama.

The Chevrolet was third fastest and pounced from a stop with no wheelspin, but it didn't set the world on fire like the Ford. It's exactly what you'd expect from a work truck in terms of acceleration: consistent performance on which you can rely but without any frills.

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The Nissan with the gasser engine was a bit of a hot mess when it came to putting power to the ground in two-wheel drive; our Nissan was the only competitor equipped with four-wheel drive. On the track, it was almost as if the surface suddenly turned to ice while driving the Nissan in rear-wheel drive. With the electronic traction control on, the Nissan slowed considerably combating wheelspin, and with traction control off, it would spin a single tire a quarter-way down the track. Wheelspin was also an issue on the street where a little bit of throttle rounding a corner made the inside tire squeal and the traction control light flicker. Being tender with the accelerator netted times almost identical to the Chevrolet, but with a lot more effort to keep the tires from spinning. In the real world, however, it would be easy to slip the Nissan into 4WD; 2WD versions of the work truck don't include an electronic locking rear differential like the Pro-4X trim does.

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Braking While Empty

The Ford also outperformed the others in braking performance, stopping in 144.4 feet from 60 mph. The F-250 brakes similarly to the lighter-duty F-150, with a confident brake pedal and stable composure during aggressive braking. What the Nissan lacked in acceleration, it certainly made up in braking performance, with the most carlike brake pedal of the group. The Nissan stopped in 146.9 feet with a firm, but not overly stiff, brake pedal and smooth, controlled braking.

The Ram's brake pedal traveled uncomfortably far during panic braking, and the truck didn't slow gracefully in the 148.6 feet it took to stop from 60 mph. Despite only stopping a couple of feet longer than the Nissan, the Ram's rear end wandered during aggressive braking. We didn't observe any oddities with the Chevrolet's pedal or poor stopping characteristics. It had a responsive brake pedal and slowed with composure but simply stopped longer than the other trucks at 151.0 feet.

Braking/Accelerating With Payload

Part of our testing included loading 3,300 pounds of payload into each bed and measuring acceleration and braking. Unfortunately, we don't have data for the Chevrolet because an antilock brake wiring harness melted during dynamometer testing and kept us from testing the truck until it was fixed late in the last test day. Then a technical glitch with our data-logging equipment erased the Chevy's data; it just wasn't meant to be. We omitted loaded braking and acceleration results from our scoring and judged the trucks on empty numbers only. Still, we have data for the other three trucks, so let's run through that.

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Carrying 3,300 pounds is well within the Ford's and Ram's calculated maximum payload capacity, but the Nissan was overloaded by 680 pounds, and it showed. The first braking run with the Nissan smoked the brakes and filled the cabin with that overheated friction material smell (like a burning clutch). The Nissan stopped 10 feet longer than the others at 161.2 feet. The Ford, once again, stopped in the shortest distance at 150.5 feet and the Ram at 151.3 feet.

Loaded, the Ford was a second faster from zero-to-60 mph than the others, hitting 8.60 seconds versus 9.50 seconds for the Nissan and 9.68 seconds for the Ram. The Ford felt the least affected by carrying three massive sandbags in the bed, remaining responsive and punchy. We were surprised to see the Nissan post similar numbers to the Ram considering the Nissan weighed 380 pounds more than the Ram and this Nissan was seriously overloaded. The Nissan performed well accelerating overloaded. The gap between the Ford and the others lessened in the quarter-mile, with the Ford crossing the finish line first at 16.50 seconds at 86.0 mph, followed by the Titan XD at 16.88 seconds at 82.7 mph and the Ram at 17.03 seconds at 83.7 mph.

How We Conducted the Tests

We used a Racelogic Vbox II GPS data logger to record acceleration and braking performance. Quarter-mile acceleration numbers mirrored how a drag strip calculates quarter-mile times, including the 1-foot rollout method accounting for the distance a front wheel moves in the timing beam before rolling out of the beam and triggering the timing system, which is typically a few tenths of a second faster than not including rollout. Zero-to-60-mph times are raw times from a standstill and do not include a 1-foot rollout. All braking tests were performed on the same asphalt surface by accelerating up to a steady 60 mph and applying full braking power.

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Cars.com photos by Angela Conners

 

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

Comments

So, the Chevy did not basically show up due to a "glitch" and a melted wiring bundle on the ABS.

Chevy is garbage once again.

So much for the vaunted Hemi. Looks like there's a new Boss in town!

Wow--Ford laid down a good old-fashioned butt-whoopin' and it wasn't even funny.

GM needs to reboot it's efforts in the heavy duty gasoline market--unacceptable.

anyone who cannot read the Ford Bias on test after test that they do is really naïve..... seriously.

Not at all surprised to read the Chevrolet didn't finish because it broke down. That's my experience with several GM trucks and why I'll never have another. Never again. My first was a brand new Chevy in 1975, so I'm not exactly a young buyer.

hemi lol: Anyone who thinks there's Ford bias test after test is really naive.

^ 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.

You can have your beer can super dooty. How long will that beer can bed last under heavy loading that these trucks will see. How long did it take to catch up to RAM? Looks like that was fords target from these tests.

The curious part is that the Ford was considerably faster than the next fastest, the Ram, while putting down comparable power and torque to the wheels, and actually weighing 180 pounds more than the as-tested Ram. The Ford beat the Ram by nearly a full second to 60 mph and a half-second in the quarter-mile. So where did Ford hide the nitrous?

@ HEMI V8; nuff said.

The Ram's brake pedal traveled uncomfortably far during panic braking, and the truck didn't slow gracefully in the 148.6 feet it took to stop from 60 mph. Despite only stopping a couple of feet longer than the Nissan, the Ram's rear end wandered during aggressive braking.

Hmmm, sounds kind of scary.

I'd question the durability of that transmission in the Ford. Yes, it gave the Ford great acceleration numbers, but being notably lighter and physically smaller suggests far more strain on the components which could mean earlier breakdown and more frequent repairs over the truck's working life.

And as has been noted by others, Chevy has its own problems. How could dyno testing have melted down a wiring harness--especially the anti-lock braking wiring?

On the commentary about Ford's acceleration under load, especially, has anybody noticed that the Ford ran out of steam for the quarter-mile? The Nissan and Ram were just coming into their power on the backside of 60 with Ford losing almost its entire lead to the others over the long haul. Clearly the engine's programming is designed to keep the torque at the low end and once the engine started to wind up tighter, it ran out of power. It very well might need another two gears to have the power needed for highway driving under load.

How could dyno testing have melted down a wiring harness--especially the anti-lock braking wiring?

@Roadwhale

You asked a good question. Keep in mind that the guys doing this article aren't exactly SAE engineers, they're writers.

I've owned a Ford for 37 years. But still must say the ram is extremely fast and should meet everyone's needs.

Just trying to be honest and truthful



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