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.

2017 Nissan Titan XD Photo Gallery

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.

2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 Photo Gallery

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.

2017 Ram 2500 Photo Gallery

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.

2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty Photo Gallery

Cars.com photos by Angela Conners

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

PUTCChallenge_3QuarterTon_results

 

Comments

You didn't answer my question.
How do you like those ford reliability issues now. Eh?

Holy moly the Ford got 14.7 in the quarter mile. That is fast!

Whatever happened to when they put a v6 in 3/4 ton work trucks for those that don't need to tow 10,000 pounds?

That's very slow.

Nissan and Ram are the winners here. Nissan was competitive and respectable with 1842 points. Sure it finished 4th place out of 4, no surprise. The fact that it's able to compete as well as it did against true 3/4 ton trucks makes it an option for many fleets of work trucks. Nissan is in the game.
Ram finishing second with such and old design was impressive. I expected Ford to win and it did. Chevrolet is the embarrassment of the test. 3rd place and a bent bed.
Is the problem with the bed reproducible? Was the force from the sand static or dynamic? Perhaps the load shifted and hit the bed wall due to a loading error. Or it could be a weak bed design.
Does not inspire confidence.

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

@Joe Bruzek

Do you mean that RAM would have won? Who is the different winner?

@PUTC: Why no metrics/ratings for price and warranty? You ranked fuel mileage, so it follows that price and warranty should play into this too.

Was curious about the torque:
GM Vortec 6.0 - 385 @ 4400
Ford Boss 6.2 - 430 @ 3800
Hemi 6.4 - 429 @ 4400
Endurance 5.4 - 401 @ 4000
The Boss and the Nissan offer max torque a bit sooner off idle than the pushrod motors.

@Grnzel1

Both the Ford Boss and the Nissan Endurance engines are over-square designs, which favor HP over torque as a rule. The typical truck engine, along with more than a few passenger car engines, is typically a bit under-square to bias the curve towards better torque figures. Racing engines tend to be over square--larger bore--and more prosaic motors like a truck engine will almost always lean toward a design that has a longer stroke.

I did not check the Chevy or the Ram because as soon as I saw the figures for the Nissan and the Ford, I knew.

How does an oversquare engine design favor HP over torque? Logic would seem to indicate a larger piston surface area would equal more torque. Peak torque occurs at the rpm the engine is most volumetriclly efficient, when the max volume of air is drawn into the cylinder. Larger piston means larger valves, means more air. You have to balance that with cam profiles, etc otherwise you push peak torque higher in the rpm range - not good for a truck engine. You get what you design into the engine "squareness" is one of many variables that affects torque. The coyote is nearly square and Ford changed the cam, manifolds and intake to drop top hp but allow for more torque at a lower RPM than the mustang version. I disagree that one favors another - you need to consider all the variables.

What in the world are you trying to say jimbo? You are all over the place. Pretty much all gasoline engines are over square including all of the engines in these tested trucks. Much of the difference is how the cams are controlled and the intake design. It's not magic.

Pretty much all gasoline engines are over square

@Joe

The name is Papajim to you.

Your comment? Wrong. The facts I cited are correct regarding design. Have a nice day.

Jimbo look it up, you are wrong once again.

To those who say 'FE is not a big deal'.

Can they explain why: a) hybrid, b) CNG, c) electric, d) hydrogen, e) used cooking oil, f) alternate sources ....

I disagree that one favors another

@Grnzel1

You are entitled to your opinion.

Just for an example, find me a single example of a serious automobile racing engine that isn't over square. The old Cosworth engines are a great example because they completely changed the engineering landscape back in the 1960s and today's engineers are still using their fundamentals Hint: the old Cosworth was VERY over square.

You cited the 5.0 Coyote, which Ford clearly developed to be a Goldilocks motor, not too hot, not too cold, not too big.

The Coyote's versatility succeeds because it can be utilized in a half ton pickup, or in a pony car like the Mustang equally well.

Alternately, the very popular 2.3 Ford/Mazda motor was under square precisely because they wanted an engine that would provide suburban housewives with a more forgiving 4 cylinder engine for minivans and small sedans, while giving the Ranger a base engine that would survive years of punishment and still be practical.

Grnzel,

An engine with a larger bore normally makes more HP because the stroke is shorter. Piston forces favor HP because of that. To make torque on a long stroke engine, you get a longer burn time powering the piston down. That extra burn time results in better torque over HP. A shorter stroke normally revs higher and makes peak HP better than a stroker engine. Intake manifold, cam, timing does affect alll that stuff though. So you could have a oversquare engine make more torque than Hp of the cam and intake are designed for that purpose

'FE is not a big deal'?
Can they explain why: a) hybrid, b) CNG, c) electric, d) hydrogen, e) used cooking oil, f) alternate sources

@David

Simple.

Pump gas is half the price today than it was when all the talk about hybrid, CNG and electric was hot 8 years ago. None of those systems are practical in a business environment where consumers can own the larger vehicles they want without paying too much at the pump.

Simple, right?

@Joe Smith

I wrote this earlier today but you may have missed it.

"Both the Ford Boss and the Nissan Endurance engines are over-square designs, which favor HP over torque as a rule. The typical truck engine, along with more than a few passenger car engines, is typically a bit under-square to bias the curve towards better torque figures.

Racing engines tend to be over square--larger bore--and more prosaic motors like a truck engine will almost always lean toward a design that has a longer stroke."

Tell me, Joe.

How is my comment different from yours this morning at 8:56am? I think you are straining fly specks out of pepper here.

Gents - thanks for the feedback on engine squareness. I learned something today.
Grnzel1

Taking everything into consideration, I would almost agree with the group's testing. As much as I do not like Ford's quality (at least in their cars), the Ford offers almost everything I would want in a base pickup. Moving up to an extended cab version and the Ford comes very close to my ideal... if I wanted a full-sized truck. Regretfully, the Nissan doesn't build an extended cab model, so they automatically exempt themselves when, for me, they would meet my personal needs better, even as a work truck. Ram and Chevy both offer extended cabs, but I do not like the limited accessibility to the back of the cab presented by those front-hinged doors. Again, the Ford becomes almost the only choice.

However, both Ford and Chevy present potential reliability and durability issues. The Chevy's melted wiring harness is a certain worry--suggesting the potential for this occurring on any of their trucks. Ford's win came on the strengths of a potentially too-light transmission, raising the question as to how long it would last under everyday use ruder highly variable loads. Note that only the Ram was credited with handling the loads without complaint, never once performing a "hard shift" under load.

So for all that the Ford offers many of the driver conveniences and would be the only full-sized pickup I would want as an individual based on these tests, I would have to go with the Ram for a true work truck. Sure, the ride is hard but that's expected. But the Ram was the one that handled the load and showed the toughness that neither Ford, Nissan nor Chevy could demonstrate.

Sounds like the Chevy is good enough. And that's been their problem for the last 20 years!

Jimbo, please specify what majority gas truck engines are under square. All trucks tested are over square. It is hard to find any current gas truck engines that are under square or would you prefer to go back 15 years.

@Joe S

Your comments are really hard to take seriously.

It really doesn't matter if it's today or fifty years ago, the principals of internal-combustion engineering have not changed in a big way, they've simply evolved through the use of better ideas, better materials and better electronics, along with better shop resources/tooling.

Good luck

So jimbo you really don't know what you are talking about. Good to know

Ram and road whale. Why are you worried about the Ford transmission (6R100)? Do you have an issue with GM using a different transmission than the diesel or not using the aisin in the ram. Ford is doing no different and the Ford is rated for more higher torque input than either of the other two brands. The difference is the F350 gas gets the diesel transmission. You can't get that kind of rating in any other gas transmission from GM or fiat.

Too bad Toyota doesn't build a 3/4 ton Tundra...then all of you jokes could cry in your soda.

TUNDRAS ARE BEST!!!

Just as I suspected when it comes to getting the job done with hauling and towing backed by the Torque, Ram bested all in every work related category = weights/capabilities.
Know wonder about 80% of commercial pickups I see on the road are Ram and I travel everywhere.

Ford is your girl if you are looking for a race track or trying to save $ in mpg for that extra latte.

Trucks, ram only bested in rated capacity. However acceleration, efficiency,and braking under load proved otherwise. In fact they specifically said the back of the ram truck was all over the place under hard braking. The better overall truck did come in first.

"Ram and road whale. Why are you worried about the Ford transmission (6R100)?"

I'm concerned because the light weight of the transmission implies light-weight metals used in the gearing and clutches. Considering the high torque and horsepower of the engine, the risk is relatively high that we will see extreme wear, broken or worn-down teeth and eventual self-destruction if used under heavy-duty loads such as described during the testing. Since it's a three-quarter-ton truck, the typical trailer it will tow will exceed five tons (more than twice the weight of the truck itself) and put far more load on that transmission than I, personally, believe it can handle over the course of time. My bet is for major repair or replacement in less than one hundred thousand miles if actually used as a working truck. Ford will get away with it as only about 33% of these transmissions will see any kind of regular loading of that sort.

"Trucks, ram only bested in rated capacity. However acceleration, efficiency,and braking under load proved otherwise."

If you go specifically by what they said, you are correct. However, what you so clearly overlooked (and which I mentioned in the track testing) is that the Ford was running out of steam while the Ram was just coming into its power at 60mph. At 3/8ths of a mile the Ram would have been far ahead of the Ford and walking away. I also have the opinion that it would be far more durable than any of its competition as the Chevy proved its bed was flimsy in the braking test and the aluminum panels of the Ford will not be able to stand up to regular abuse without the benefit of the spray-in liner.

Yes, I admit I'm prejudiced against Ford. For all that it's the most popular single brand out there, its reliability has been questionable across the board. I, myself, have owned Fords, including two Ford pickup trucks, that have needed more work than should be expected during the time I've owned them. At less than 20K miles, I had to have the hydraulic clutch of my '97 Ranger almost completely rebuilt because of rust preventing the piston from its full travel, burning out the plates. This in a truck that spent more than half its life in a garage.

No brand is perfect, I accept that. The Chrysler Corp and subsequent corporate names have all, in one way or another, earned at least part of their reputation as well. GM, too, has its issues. But out of now four different Chrysler-built vehicles, from the original Chrysler Corp through today's FCA, only Daimler-Chrysler built a problematic vehicle by using cheap metals in a safety-critical component which caused multiple associated repairs before the cause was discovered.

Road whale, you are incredibly incorrect about your assumptions with the transmission. The 6.2l used to be paired with the 6R80 transmission with more input shaft power. Plus the current ecoboost engines have more input shaft power going into the 6R80. The new 6R100 is stronger than the 6R80 and not as strong as the 6R140 that is behind the diesel. You seem to not realize that Ford has been building near bullet proof transmissions since 2003. Ram has no such history. The current 6R100 is capable of more input shaft power than the current 6.2L is making and stronger than the gas 6 speed transmission in the GM trucks and ram gas trucks. Just because they say lighter does not mean they have a transmission for a mid sized truck in there. I guess some people like yourself likes to play with words and put their own weird twist on it.


Yes, I admit I'm prejudiced against Ford. For all that it's the most popular single brand out there, its reliability has been questionable across the board. I, myself, have owned Fords, including two Ford pickup trucks, that have needed more work than should be expected during the time I've owned them. At less than 20K miles, I had to have the hydraulic clutch of my '97 Ranger almost completely rebuilt because of rust preventing the piston from its full travel, burning out the plates. This in a truck that spent more than half its life in a garage.


Posted by: Road Whale | Mar 22, 2017 10:44:25 AM

So how did rust get into your rangers hydraulic system? There is no metal parts in the system. It is all plastics and rubber.

"Trucks, ram only bested in rated capacity. However acceleration, efficiency,and braking under load proved otherwise."

If you go specifically by what they said, you are correct. However, what you so clearly overlooked (and which I mentioned in the track testing) is that the Ford was running out of steam while the Ram was just coming into its power at 60mph. At 3/8ths of a mile the Ram would have been far ahead of the Ford and walking

Posted by: Road Whale | Mar 22, 2017 10:44:25 AM

I have no idea what you are talking about but you are not reading the material I am. The superduty was ahead of the ram by a lot in every acceleration test. Even loaded in the 1/4 mile it was faster and a higher trap speed. In fact the Ford was close to the fuel shut off speed due to tire speed ratings.

F150 has a recall for trany shifting to the 1st gear unexpectedly destroying istelf and getting driver to the great danger .
Chrysler 545 RFE I have didn't have any recall and 8 speed is without any problems at all.

2017 Ram 2500 Tradesman 4x2,

" Ram performed the best in our measured testing, taking first place."

"That makes it hard to argue with the Ram's work truck cred."

YUP! Enough said boys. Back to the drawing board. lol

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HAp2XF6J6K8

Hemi, do you know what measures means? The over inflated numbers and the small parts of the truck that made it the lightest is the measured stuff. Not actual working performance. Basically the ram looked good on paper until it had to perform.
A small recap for you.


Unfortunately, our Tradesman came with a few too many trade-offs.

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.

Dodge - Looks good on paper, sucks in real life

Ford offering an all new substantially improved version of the best selling 3/4 ton truck. Cue much whining and deflection from GovMSRGREAT and Fiat fans.


Posted by: Clint | Mar 20, 2017 10:10:54 AM

That's a lot of talk considering how outdated and flimsy the Superduty was. It's about time Ford got around to replacing that wet noodle frame that flexed so bad it would crack radiators and wear out body mounts constantly.

Nice to see Ford catch up.

Jimbo, please specify what majority gas truck engines are under square. All trucks tested are over square. It is hard to find any current gas truck engines that are under square or would you prefer to go back 15 years.
Posted by: Joe Smith | Mar 21, 2017 10:30:53 AM

The Coyote 5.0.

Joe wants to know what engines are undersquare.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stroke_ratio#Undersquare_engine_examples

@Joe Smith, read and enjoy.

Ford has the strongest frame of all the trucks. it's resistance to twist and bending is the best on the market.

All that Aluminum and it's still heavier.


Posted by: offroader2007 | Mar 20, 2017 11:19:27 AM

That glue is heavy.

All you fan boys are a riot.
Arguing brand vs brand, how's your wife? Getting taken care of by some millennial at her office?
I've had 5 Ford Work trucks. Some turbo, some SD, a good mix. My boss only buys Fords. PERIOD.
Ford trucks, in actual use, are decently reliable. Their electronics are pure crap. If I was tasked with fleet buying I wouldn't get any of the new infotainment stuff, power windows or locks. Especially if it is a Ford with SYNC. Our trucks spend more time at the dealer for SYNC problems than anything else. Because the systems are integrated a SYNC problem can take out the AC, or the door locks, windows, an even the dash.
You want real world? My fleet 250 got a SYNC update, I didn't even get out of the dealer lot when the AC quit, the radio is dead and half the instruments were off. Also the clock started advancing a minute every 20 seconds. I took it back and they said "oh yeah, there is a patch, this happens on some vehicles."
Ram may be least reliable overall, but after driving Fords everyday for 20 years, I won't own one.



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