What's the Best 3/4-Ton Work Truck for 2017?

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By Mark Williams

You might think testing three-quarter-ton pickup trucks is more about math than psychology, but the truth is it's actually a little of both. We try to freeze as many variables as possible when we set up our head-to-head competitions, but we also have a group of expert judges who spend a great deal of time with each truck, peeling away the different layers of their personalities.

We know work truck buyers are quite diverse; some look for a simple one-application tool while others look for more of a utility player — a truck that's ready to jump into any questionable situation you might encounter. We hope we've provided enough information in our 2017 3/4-Ton Work Truck Challenge to serve both groups.

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We awarded points in 13 empirical categories, including acceleration and braking at the track (empty and loaded; be sure to read our track testing piece to get the full story). Our five judges also evaluated the competitors in subjective categories such as interior quality, visibility, bed features and overall value. In much the same way an Olympic decathlete has to do many things well to win, our top finishers had to as well, running neck and neck throughout the testing.

We do not weight our scored categories, which allows you to identify and rescore the contest so you can choose your winner based on your needs.

Interestingly, if we excluded our judges' scores and based the winner solely on our empirical categories, we would have a different winner.

No. 4: 2017 Nissan Titan XD S 4x4, 1,842 points

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First-place finishes: Least expensive

Admittedly, as seen in both the empirical and judges' scoring, the Nissan Titan XD struggled in important testing categories. From the outset, Nissan positioned this truck to slot below traditional three-quarter tons and above traditional half tons. So our single-cab 4x4 Titan XD (Nissan was unable to provide a 4x2) was rated to tow less, carry less and haul less than the other competitors (we tested the Titan XD with the Cummins engine in our last half-ton challenge; click here to read the full story).

Still, the Titan XD equipped with the high-tech 32-valve 5.6-liter V-8 and seven-speed transmission achieved pretty good fuel economy, and each of our judges called out its superior ride and handling dynamics when it was empty. Even as a 4x4, the Nissan was the least expensive of our test trucks, garnering quite a few compliments from our judges in bang-for-the-buck scoring.

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The Nissan struggled in our loaded track testing and fuel-economy runs. To keep things apples to apples, we kept our payload testing even across all four pickups (regardless of their max payload capacity), so they carried 2,200 pounds during our mileage test and 3,300 pounds at the track. Astute readers will note that the XD was slightly overloaded when track testing. Unfair? Maybe, but it did make for a good real-world comparison.

We like the fact that Nissan is offering this new single cab, and we have no doubt there will be buyers who will be able to use the XD's strengths to their advantage. In this contest though, those strengths weren't enough.

No. 3: 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 WT 4x2, 1,859 points 

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First-place finishes: None

The Chevrolet Silverado 2500, with its aging overhead-valve 16-valve 6.0-liter V-8 and six-speed transmission, was the oldest competitor in our contest. However, it was a solid performer in almost every category, with the exception of chassis dynamometer testing. The Chevy did not win a single test during our competition and never scored higher than second place in our judges' scoring.

Despite placing third, the Chevy deserves some love for details that allow it to stand out in this field. While the WT's interior was fairly spartan, it came equipped with towing mirrors, dual USB ports, a backup camera and projector headlights. Additionally, three features that impressed our judges were its 4G LTE Wi-Fi and internet hot spot, Apple CarPlay integration and an impressive auto-locking limited-slip differential that gave us the best parts of a locking and limited-slip differential.

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The Chevy's cab helped do it in. We experienced more wind noise in this truck than the others, and we had an unfortunate incident with the front of the pickup bed wall. During our loaded braking test at the track in which we loaded 3,300 pounds of sand against the bed wall to prevent sliding during brake testing, the Chevy bed showed some bending — almost into the cab. That did not happen with the other trucks.

The bend did not prevent us from further testing, but it did require some creativity (a 2x4 wedged between the bed and cab) to make sure there was no metal-to-metal contact.

Chevrolet definitely needs to upgrade the Silverado WT, but this mature pickup still has the chops to handle hard work.

No. 2: 2017 Ram 2500 Tradesman 4x2, 1,894 points

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First-place finishes: Highest gross vehicle weight rating, lightest truck, highest payload, highest max towing, highest gross combined weight rating, max torque on dyno

If there was a classically defined work truck in our competition, the Ram 2500 was it; it weighed the least, had the biggest motor, the highest gross vehicle weight rating, the most payload capacity and can tow the heaviest trailer. Unfortunately, our Tradesman came with a few too many trade-offs.

Looking at the two different scoring sections of the Challenge — the empirical tests and judges' scoring — you can see that the Ram performed the best in our measured testing, taking first place. But it suffered during our judges' evaluations, where it placed last.

That makes it hard to argue with the Ram's work truck cred, but these trucks will be used for more than work. When driving the Ram without payload, the ride was punishing and sometimes unnerving if it hit a pothole or other road irregularity when navigating a turn. Our judges also dinged it for its high step-in height that made entry challenging, the naked bed and the bare-bones interior.

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We have to make special note of the Ram's strong engine feel off the line and the incredible reserve strength of the truck. Even when pushed to its payload limits, it always seemed like it could handle more. We assume much of that confident feel is due to the well-calibrated, heavy-duty transmission, because no matter what situation we threw at it, the trans never made a harsh shift.

The biggest interior weakness for the Tradesman — and we admit that some buyers may find this a strength — was its crank windows, lack of an external alarm system, manual mirrors and manual door locks. Although we appreciate the attempt to keep pricing down with these old-school features, we found the inconvenience annoying.

Still, there is something admirable about a vehicle that prides itself on having plenty of reserve in power, payload and work ability just in case there's a job too big for anyone else.

No. 1: 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty XL 4x2, 1,987 points

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First-place finishes: Zero-to-60 mph, quarter-mile, 60-mph-to-zero braking, max horsepower on dyno, best fuel economy empty and loaded

We referenced Olympic decathletes earlier and their need to be the best, most well-rounded competitors they can be, but to say that the new Ford Super Duty F-250 does a lot of things well is to severely understate the point.

This all-new Super Duty work truck has numerous impressive talents, including the new 6.2-liter V-8 engine and six-speed transmission combination, as well as the chassis that supports it. You can see for yourself in the acceleration and braking results from our track testing just how well it performs in different settings. Additionally, we found the powertrain provided an astonishing amount of fuel economy whether empty or loaded for a vehicle weighing 6,000 pounds. In fact, the Ford offered the least amount of separation between loaded and unloaded fuel-economy runs.

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The Ford won six different empirical tests outright while also placing second in three others, garnering even more points. Still, it did not win the 13-test empirical portion of our test, finishing second to the Ram by nine points. However, when factoring in our judges' scores, the Ford literally ran away with the competition, finishing with a total almost 100 points more than the Ram, more than 125 points ahead of the Chevy and more than 140 points ahead of the Nissan. The Ford was the top point getter from four of our five judges even though they made note of its punishing ride with, quite possibly, the worst seats they've seen in a base pickup.

The big standout features for our judges were the new Super Duty's striking interior layout and quality materials, its numerous large and small storage spaces, top-notch acceleration and braking feel, more bed tie-downs and lighting features than the others, and the fact that it can carry about 66 percent of its weight. Those qualities added up to its big win.

Cars.com photos by Angela Conners

OverviewTrack Testing | Payload | Daily Driving | Dynamometer Testing | Results

PUTCChallenge_3QuarterTon_results

 

Comments

No surprises here with Nissan missing the 3/4 ton mark, the Chevy being geriatric, and Fiat finishing where it usually does and Ford offering an all new substanically improved version of the best selling 3/4 ton truck. Cue much whining and deflection from GovMSRGREAT and Fiat fans.

I like that there was a test on the gassers.

NO SURPRISES HERE!

Great job FORD! The truck that built America!

so when it comes down to it you really can't go wrong with ford or ram for a work truck

"During our loaded braking test at the track in which we loaded 3,300 pounds of sand against the bed wall to prevent sliding during brake testing, the Chevy bed showed some bending — almost into the cab. That did not happen with the other trucks."

Gonna need to go back and build a thicker and better wall.

Odd that the testers felt "annoyed" by the lack of power windows and locks in a work truck. Businesses and fleets don't want downtime, and the less electrical gadgets to fail, the better. They also aren't crazy about exceptionally fast trucks so employees aren't tempted to light up the rear rubber. While there's little difference between the Ford and Ram offerings beyond their designs and a buyer can't go wrong with either... if this is really supposed to be a work truck test, you can't rate track testing over capability and simplicity. A work truck generally isn't the one you commute with, it's usually the one waiting for you when you *get* to work. It's no more or less a tool than the ones that may have Stanley or Craftsman on the side.

So Ford comes in first as expected. So why are the GM clan so quiet right now?

The bed on the Chevy bent so much that they had to wedge a 2x4 between the front of the bed and the cab to keep it from rubbing. What the heck happened to Chevy's almighty steel bed that they brag about?

So Chevy makes fun of Ford's aluminum bed but there's bends due to hauling sand.LOL! Good going GM, always good for a laugh.

Where is the start/stop, sitting ideling gas mileage? It's a work truck, who cares about a "striking interior" will that make the guy work harder or make him sit in the truck and talk on his cell phone more?.

Subtract the subjective observations of the test drivers and the RAM wins. It's clear to me, anyway, that the RAM got dinged over factors that someone buying a work truck is least likely to be annoyed with.

I've only owned two trucks in my whole life with power windows/locks and I've learned to take those features for granted in recent years.

I'm going to be strictly "business" in my orientation towards a work truck in this HD class especially.

Crank windows? So what. Ditto for fuel economy.

What a small contractor wants in a truck like these in the tests is durability, power and ruggedness. It has to be versatile too. FE? Not that big a deal.

All that Aluminum and it's still heavier.

Ironic that the Chevy bed, all that hype about high-strength steel, bent. And not under any great load (such as cinder blocks being dropped from 8 feet).

What Road Trip said!

Plus I will add to that, the option of the power windows is available, for less than the $1,400 difference between the Ford and the Ram.

As far as the ride being stiffer in the Ram, I believe they really stepped up the payload, just a couple years ago it was 3970 max for the same configuration.

Maybe I missed it, but did they bother to tell us how much it squatted the truck down putting x amount of weight in it?

Well that's really not bad for the Ram considering that it got beat by one of two completely newer trucks.

I think they would have picked up mileage and power if they went with the 8-speed or even a better 6-speed.

Also, what do you know, the aluminum Ford is not lighter than the Ram.

I do wonder what the insurance would cost for the two of them?

I also wonder, does the F250 continue to be the one that can't really handle the payload, at least when compared to the 2500 GM and the 2500 Ram truck.

It has been in the past the one that squats the most.

The ram is close in the scores, but wont hold up as good as the F 250!

So the Ford needs 245 75 17 Green X tires to feel sporty and get good mileage?

I do wonder how that would feel with about 3,900 pounds on that truck.

Of course they got a Ram that had the 18 inch heavier 275/18 tires on it, I believe when they went to the chrome package, that not so many commercial people really care about.

TRX-4 Tom: The Ford obviously handled the payload well enough to haul it down the track faster than the lighter Ram with the big bad Hemi -- LOL! The suspension is designed to sink down to the short springs and go no further.

And BTW, Ford never claimed their new truck would be lighter overall. The weight saved from a lighter body got put back into the frame and axles.

Gm can't win every year remenber Ford for years they have the worst frame on the market ,they have no choice to build something better,,

Ford had stated there would be no weight savings on the aluminum SD. The weight was put back into, primarily the frame and axles.

Good job, GM. 1) wire meltdown, 2) bed was dented, 3) worst of the Big 3 all the challenges, 4) It's only "impressive" feature against the other trucks was a wifi hotspot, smh. Back to the drawing board for GM!

I am glad somebody did a real world test with the beds. It turns out the Chevy is the one who gets dented! smh.

Smells fishy to me. Two so called problems and no pictures to show it? Seem like that's one thing you should of took pictures of it. Since the GM HD's been rated as the most reliable/dependable by Vincentric and 2 years in a row for JD Powers. Either way GM did a great job with the super old 6.0L and carry over 2011 frame and suspension. Good job Ram and Nissan.

The Ford was the top point getter from four of our five judges even though they made note of its punishing ride with, quite possibly, the worst seats they've seen in a base pickup.

Yeah, basically, the worst ride and seats. Good work Ford. I guess that explains why more people chooses to drive our Chevy fleet verses the Fords.

@redbloodedxy: well there's a big difference between hauling 3900 pounds and hauling 2200 pounds.

You know it might be good to actually drive it on some curvy roads at a regular speed limit.

I know all about leaf springs, I don't need you to try to explain anything.

Once again, let's see how it does max weight. Oh wait, we don't do that test because it might go against Ford.

I'm pretty sure the taller tire with more capacity will handle it better, and I'm also pretty sure that the smaller tire gets you better mileage and gets you a little bit more pep.

@gms and johnny, sorry you guys have to continue to defend the twins.....Ford is number 1 for a reason, the twins are not for a reason....

That being said, I still am not a huge fan of these so called tests, even though Ford won, and we all knew that anyway. Bottom line is, drive the one you want,we all know enough people who drive other truck brands so the excuse of not being able to drive one loaded up is nonsense

Nissan - over its head in this weight class
Ford - where did this drivetrain come from?
Ram - solid performer, like the no frills all business.
GM - I have to say I'm honestly surprised by its poor overall performance.

Let's line up the oil burners!!

Chevy
3rd place
Enough said

Congratulations Toyota! You remain undefeated in the 3/4 ton challenge!!! Keep up the good work!

Also, maybe Chevy should have had a GMC in the competition. They could have combined the scores to beat Ford! hahahha

I realize that you tested what they sent you.....but to compare performance values on different vehicles with 3 having 2WD and 1 having 4WD, is a bit useless. Frankly, if Nissan would have sent a 2WD, it might of beat the Chevy! They were close in the finish as it was!

I like the way this test was conducted with only 1 truck from each, not 1 from each and 2 from GM. A manuf' should not get two chances. In all future shootouts, Chevy should be the only truck allowed because as the GM fanbois always say they run down the same line!

Good job, Ford.

Do the Diesel versions have higher GCVWR?

I think the majority of us saw this coming. No one buys a GM truck for work. Stick to a good Ford or Ram; they make real trucks with solid front axles.

Who cares about 0-60 in a 6000 pound vehichle? Im still sticking with the chevy! My choice, My winner.

think the majority of us saw this coming. No one buys a GM truck for work.
Posted by: David | Mar 20, 2017
/QUOTE

HAHAHAHA
My 08 Silvy has been absolutely reliable all these years working in construction and stil gets 26 mpg too,,
After all theres a reason GM trucks OUTSOLD all others

,that test means didly..in real world the numbers will be way different..


Sub 7 second 0-60 is pretty darn good for a strip down work truck👍

RAM won again. Congratulations.

ok.... let me get this straight..... all of the wins that ram had, what you want from a work truck but ford still gets the first place?... don't get it...

This test is another joke. Ya, lets ding Ram for roll up windows when you can't tow with the other trucks sent for the test because they cost more without the brake controller WOW!

Lets test the trucks in tow mode but were not towing so that Rams cylinder deactivation doesn't work. lol

RAM wins again. More truck for the money. Longest lasting trucks on the road.

Great job FORD! The truck that built America!


Posted by: redbloodedxy | Mar 20, 2017 10:13:56 AM

WRONG! How is building america when you can't haul brick, stone, concrete in the bed with out putting holes and tearing the beer can bed? Not to mention all the recalls you have to deal with. Full time job keeping up with all the recalls back and forth to the dealer.

So Chevy makes fun of Ford's aluminum bed but there's bends due to hauling sand.LOL! Good going GM, always good for a laugh.

Posted by: Robert | Mar 20, 2017 11:09:44 AM

HAHAHAHAHA!!!


WRONG! How is building america when you can't haul brick, stone, concrete in the bed with out putting holes and tearing the beer can bed? Not to mention all the recalls you have to deal with. Full time job keeping up with all the recalls back and forth to the dealer.


Posted by: HEMI V8 | Mar 20, 2017 6:50:17 PM

Hahahahaha you are right

http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/10/consumer-reports-crowns-fca-four-least-reliable-brands-available/


http://www.consumerreports.org/cars-driving/fiat-chrysler-accused-of-cheating-on-diesel-emissions-tests/

http://www.autonews.com/article/20160725/OEM/307259969/sources%3A--fca-found-sales-were-inflated

http://www.cnbc.com/2015/07/27/us-auto-safety-regulators-fine-fiat-chrysler-record-105-million.html

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/chrysler/2017/02/28/fca-warns-shareholders-potential-diesel-fines/98548250/

It appears the real work truck came in first. Fuel efficient, puts the power to the ground hauls cargo nicely and one of the most reliable brands here. The poor chevy guys are in their corners balling their eyes out. Didn't gmssucksogreat say the chevy was going to take first place? I guess the rubber band bed didn't work out for them. I wonder if GM is going to have another real person not actors commercial showing their bed bending into the cab with groceries being place in it.

Now a person has to ask themselves, how is the Ram the lightest truck in the bunch? How how small is their components? In fact that truck is lighter than a 1500 series ram. What did Ram do to take off all that weight with a full steel body? Reliability issues? Might be a key factor here.

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.

Probably a good thing they didn't load up the ram to its over inflated weight limit.

Now a person has to ask themselves, how is the Ram the lightest truck in the bunch? How how small is their components? In fact that truck is lighter than a 1500 series ram. What did Ram do to take off all that weight with a full steel body? Reliability issues? Might be a key factor here.


Posted by: Daddy doe | Mar 20, 2017 7:17:51 PM

RAM has the same components like before, but
Ford says the new transmission is lighter and smaller than before....


http://news.pickuptrucks.com/2017/03/2017-34-ton-work-truck-challenge-track-testing.html

Must be a reliability issue. I agree with you.

Dont worry rambot, the ram transmission is already known as weak. But that's the least of rams worries. I'm sure Ram will go through Craig's list adds for another transmission supplier.

How do you like those reliability issues now. Eh?

When your ram breaks out of last place in reliability then you can talk. Right now you look like a tool with the least reliable brand. Hahahaha hahahahaha hahahahaha hahahahaha

Eh


Hahahahaha

EXCELLENT JOB FORD, KEEP SPANKING GARBAGE MOTORS TWING SISTERS. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.



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