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

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By Mark Williams

Surprisingly, the three-quarter-ton pickup truck segment doesn't get a lot of respect. Half tons are the biggest-selling truck segment in the industry, and one-ton pickups are depicted as the strongest work beasts on the planet. However, the three-quarter-ton pickup is often the ignored player on the dealer lot. That's what prompted us to shine the spotlight on this segment to see which one has the best combination of brains and brawn.

For our 2017 3/4-Ton Premium Truck Challenge, we assembled four top-end crew-cab pickups equipped with four-wheel drive, as many towing features as possible and their torque-biased turbo-diesel engine option.

For this Challenge, we put the competitors through 21 empirical tests (many of which were conducted empty, loaded or towing a gooseneck trailer) and awarded unweighted points, with the winner in each category getting a score of 100, while the others received the appropriate portion of that score based on their performance. The rest of the points were distributed by our five expert judges, each of whom awarded 1 to 10 points in 10 subjective categories. A total of 3,100 points were possible; however, no truck achieved that score.

Here's how they finished:

No. 4: 2017 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve, 2,428 points

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First-place finishes: Least expensive, best empty braking from 60 mph, lightest truck, best empty-bed fuel economy, quietest at 60 mph

If there was a wildcard in this competition, the fully loaded, Cummins-diesel Titan XD was it. We were all quite curious to see how well it performed against the more traditional and weighty competition, and we can say — despite the XD's fourth-place finish in empirical and subjective testing — there was plenty to like about this truck.

The Titan XD won five scored empirical categories, ranging from the lowest as-tested price to being the most fuel efficient without a payload; it also proved to have the quietest interior when cruising the highway at 60 mph. The XD also impressed the judges with its comfortable interior seating and driving dynamics without a payload.

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However, in just about every loaded or work-oriented category, the Titan XD could not keep pace with the more traditional, heavier, stronger players. Our XD had the lowest gross vehicle weight rating, which gave it the lowest calculated payload of the competition by more than 700 pounds. Additionally, when towing our loaded gooseneck trailer, the Titan XD needed a perfectly balanced load and tongue weight or the brakes and steering quickly let us know something was amiss. No doubt some of those weaknesses were a result of the Titan XD having the smallest and least powerful engine of the group.

Bottom line: There is value here, but you need to be clear about the trade-offs. If you need a stronger half ton, this is a great truck, but it shouldn't be playing in the same sandbox as the big boys.

2017 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve Photo Gallery

No. 3: 2017 Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn, 2,777 points

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First-place finishes: Best loaded braking from 60 mph, tied for highest GVWR, best bumper towing capacity, tied for Davis Dam downhill braking run, best fuel economy with trailer

The fact that the Ram 2500 finished within a few percentage points of winning this contest tells you how tight the top three finishers were. Our Ram was traditionally tall and the most rock-solid feeling truck of the Challenge. Even though it was the only competitor with coil rear springs, the ride quality and handling characteristics — empty or loaded — were quite harsh, causing us to brace for impact when driving over expansion joints or broken pavement.

So, while the bones of this truck are solid and meant to carry heavy loads, all of the judges believed the trade-off was overly biased in the wrong direction. This meant that no other competitor had a higher GVWR or bumper tow rating, and it came close to winning the gross combined weight rating category.

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Unfortunately, the categories in which the Ram lost the most ground to the competition were track performance, where the more modern, freer-breathing V-8 turbo-diesels had a big advantage over the just-as-large inline-six-cylinder Cummins. We should note that the Ram's loaded braking feel was spectacular; it only lost 4 inches of length when panic braking from 60 mph with 2,200 pounds in the bed. Another standout feature was that the Cummins exhaust brake offers two distinctly different and aggressive settings; it did an amazing job of keeping big loads under control during our downhill grade testing near Davis Dam in Arizona.

Four out of five judges gave the Ram a solid second-place finish in subjective testing, with the fifth judge scoring the Ram at a close third place. The Western-style, fully leather interior was impressive with soft-touch, high-quality materials; big-screen readouts; mountains of information in the gauge cluster; and tight seams all around the dash, center console and seats. It also offered under-seat rear storage and in-floor bins in the backseat.

Bottom line: The Ram is a gorilla in a leather tuxedo; it's the most "trucky" of the contenders and the one we'd want most when the zombie apocalypse goes down.

2017 Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn Photo Gallery

No. 2: 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 LTZ Midnight Edition, 2,780 points

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First-place finishes: Fastest zero-to-60-mph times empty and loaded, fastest quarter-mile empty and loaded, tied for highest GVWR, highest payload capacity, highest gooseneck towing capacity, fastest in Davis Dam hill-climb acceleration test, tied for Davis Dam downhill braking run, most horsepower and torque on the dyno

From the second we stepped inside this Chevrolet to run empty and loaded quarter-mile acceleration and brake testing, we knew the upgraded Duramax diesel was something special. This pickup did smoky burnouts with ease. When it comes to putting power to the rear wheels, this redesigned 32-valve 6.6-liter V-8 and upgraded six-speed automatic transmission is at the top of the heap.

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We thought the new Chevrolet diesel engine was going to be a strong contender after we saw its class-leading results during our dyno testing, but we weren't prepared for just how strong it turned out to be. At the track, the Chevy was at least a half a second faster than the second-place finisher in both empty and loaded zero-to-60-mph runs as well as in the quarter-mile runs. It also beat the Ram up the Davis Dam grade by more than 6 seconds, topping out several mph faster as well.

Other areas where the Chevy stood out included best payload capacity (beating the Ram by 40 pounds and the 2017 Ford Super Duty F-250 by 100 pounds), the most aggressive look of the bunch (thank you, Midnight Edition) and a reasonable price for its content and capability. When looking at scoring in empirical testing, the Chevy took first place by almost 30 points. Unfortunately, its interior looks and feels like the oldest of the group, which cost it significant points in subjective judges' scoring.

Bottom line: The Chevy was our value-packed rocket ship of the Challenge and the one that did the best burnouts. It was fun and smooth when running empty, and a powerhouse when loaded, but the interior was not where it needs to be.

2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 LTZ Midnight Edition Photo Gallery

No. 1: 2017 Ford Super Duty F-250 King Ranch, 2,854 points

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First-place finishes: Tied for highest GVWR, highest GCWR, tied for Davis Dam downhill braking run, quietest interior at idle

The Super Duty F-250 is newly redesigned and upgraded, and our test truck was the most expensive player we've ever tested in this three-quarter-ton segment at close to $77,000. Some of the more important upgrades include aluminum body panels and bed, heavier-duty axles and frame, improved powertrains and entirely new (larger) cabs and interior layouts.

Not so coincidently, it was the changes to the interior that most impressed our judges. They unanimously scored the interior as the best of the Challenge in just about every category. Of the 1,000 points our judges could distribute, they awarded the Ford 51 more points than the Ram, 102 points more than the Chevy and 204 points more than the Nissan. Interestingly, our F-250 won the fewest number of empirical categories; however, like a world-class decathlete, the Ford finished in first or second place in 14 out of 21 tests. Of note: The Ford had the highest gross combined weight rating and was the quietest truck at idle.

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To be fair, we should point out we had issues with the F-250, not the least of which was the price. Add to that the still-rough empty-bed driving dynamics, poor seat comfort and a questionable paint job (a truck this expensive should not have ripples), and you see that this is not a perfect pickup truck. Still, in the context of the three-quarter-ton segment and how well the Ford can haul a load, it took the crown.

Bottom line: Like a great all-around athlete, the new Ford F-250 has the powertrain of a bulldozer, and the interior features and technology of a luxury hotel room. If we had to tow our monster trailer around the country, we'd want to call this Super Duty home.

2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty King Ranch Photo Gallery

Cars.com photos by Angela Conners

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

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Comments

at idle, what about driving?

@ram guys, and chevy guys who use the same name, I need to apologize, sorry you have to defend the 2nd place chevy, sorry they take 20 years to upgrade their interiors......EPIC FAIL

Data review on which 3/4 ton truck a better buy for average drivers, done buy ANOTHER editor:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/autos-trucks/2017-ram-1500-vs-2017-ford-f-150-which-should-you-buy/ss-AAiqaZg?ocid=spartandhp

ok, I'm almost always a Ford guy, (2011 and 2016 F150, 2016 Mustang) but I have to admit that reading this says Chevy really won. I think aluminum F250 owners are going to be disappointed with the quality of the bed. I know I am with our 2016 F150. The paint chips off the bed to bare aluminum with minimal effort. When you walk around in the bed it sounds like the whole thing is cracking and about to break. I can't imagine spending what Ford is asking for these 3/4 tons.

@ TXTruckGuy.. inside bed?
You have a bed liner or it coated with a product such as Linex?
Most folks I know not brand specific have do one of the above mentioned, so inside bed life a non issue.

Well clearly the GM truck was the winner in the categories that matter for an HD truck. Not sure why they picked the Ford, although i do think it is a great truck as well.
I was on the fence, but now leaning more towards the GM package than the F350 i brought home yesterday for a test drive. I will be looking at the Denali HD as i like the interior over the LTZ Chevrolet. Did not care much for the Ram, as it is getting old in design and steering is not as good as the GM or Ford.

These trucks are very capable, and it looks like the winner won because it had the nicest interior; where you drive the Truck. If you love GM, it doesn't matter really that you have saggy seats and a big ugly dash.

"sorry they take 20 years to upgrade their interiors......EPIC FAIL"
-Nitro

Word to the wise: I wouldn't make crap like this up about GM trucks when Ford just got done updating the Super Duty line after 18 years. GM's longest interior stints were mid-70s to late 80s, and '88-'00. Both of those spans across 2 generations of trucks were shorter than Ford going from '99 to 2016 with the same truck.

Uh.....wow.

Chevy wins nearly every measured category.

Chevy way less expensive.

Chevy NOT optioned with its apples to apples interior (High Country) ....which then counts against it .

Ford has "issues" like : poor paint and seats and rough empty bed driving dynamics and the aluminum wonder is HEAVIER than the Chevy......and you guys give it the win....stupefied.

First .....interior is TOTALLY up to the individual as are outside looks and should NOT factor into the points total because of this ( did you guys give the Chevy big points for being the most aggressive looking? ). Everyone has their opinions on what looks good or "feels nice" inside and out .

Second PRICE is usually the MOST important factor as we all know . If its close its not necessarily a deal breaker but a decent gap means EVERYTHING. $10K is a pretty big difference for $70K trucks.

This class of truck is PRIMARILY .....above all else ......NOT for comfort ......but for load and towing.....IF you wanted comfort a 1/2 ton is much better , PERIOD....and you SAY this in the article yet weight it more heavily ?

The Ford is simply outclassed by the GM truck doing what these trucks are really for....even though its ALL new and ALL aluminum its heavier, most costly to fix replace insure etc, shouldn't it get a WTF deduction for that?

Uh.....wow.

Chevy wins nearly every measured category.

Chevy way less expensive.

Chevy NOT optioned with its apples to apples interior (High Country) ....which then counts against it .

Ford has "issues" like : poor paint and seats and rough empty bed driving dynamics and the aluminum wonder is HEAVIER than the Chevy......and you guys give it the win....stupefied.

First .....interior is TOTALLY up to the individual as are outside looks and should NOT factor into the points total because of this ( did you guys give the Chevy big points for being the most aggressive looking? ). Everyone has their opinions on what looks good or "feels nice" inside and out .

Second PRICE is usually the MOST important factor as we all know . If its close its not necessarily a deal breaker but a decent gap means EVERYTHING. $10K is a pretty big difference for $70K trucks.

This class of truck is PRIMARILY .....above all else ......NOT for comfort ......but for load and towing.....IF you wanted comfort a 1/2 ton is much better , PERIOD....and you SAY this in the article yet weight it more heavily ?

The Ford is simply outclassed by the GM truck doing what these trucks are really for....even though its ALL new and ALL aluminum its heavier, most costly to fix replace insure etc, shouldn't it get a WTF deduction for that?

So if you like to drive a car you get a Ford but if you use your pickup to work you get the gm , right,,

What a bunch of whiners. As if the results of this test are going to change your buying habits.

Correct me if I am wrong, but dyno numbers are for wheel HP and TRQ? If that is true, that means that Ford's claim of most powerful engine in class is true, if mesuring at the crank HP and TRQ. Anyone else agree?

@John McFadzean

Agree. Looks like the chevy wins or ties in every meaningful category.

I didn't see the test where you reach over the bedside to reach things inside. Something that is lost on any modern pickup is being able to reach the bed while standing beside the truck, you know the part that is designed to actually do work.

You guys at pickup trucks .com, Car and driver and rest you posers , wanting the most fancy interiors are driving the prices of trucks through roof , no one can afford a new 2500 unless rich farmer or big buisness man or pickup trucks.com a coarse they will take the most expensive truck there not paying for it . What's 10,000 the fords got more tech who hoo.

They take a Ford top of the line and compare a gm normal interior anyway why they didn't use gm hight country maybe not nice like the Ford but something similar,,

They take a Ford top of the line and compare a gm normal interior anyway why they didn't use gm hight country maybe not nice like the Ford but something similar,,

looking for a new truck and see that cosmetics seem to be what leads people to buy, I want long lasting, continuouse starting, and a paint job that doesnt fade and chip,a motor that runs without to much gizmo to replace, which one? dont know



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