2018 One-Ton Heavy-Duty Truck Challenge: How They Towed

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By Matthew Barnes

One of the biggest reasons to purchase a one-ton pickup truck instead of a half-ton or three-quarter-ton truck is for the increased tow rating. With manufacturers constantly changing and upgrading their vehicles, we wanted to see which of the Detroit Three automakers makes the best one-ton truck for towing. So, we invited Chevrolet, Ford and Ram to send us one-ton single-rear-wheel trucks equipped with the top tow package and capable of towing a gooseneck trailer for our 2018 One-Ton Heavy-Duty Truck Challenge.

2018 One-Ton Heavy-Duty Truck Challenge

Results | Towing | How We Tested

We received a 2018 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 High Country, 2018 Ford Super Duty F-350 Lariat and 2018 Ram 3500 Laramie, crew cabs all with diesel engines. We attached them to a 4,900-pound Big Tex gooseneck dump trailer filled with 8,100 pounds of gravel and hit the Arizona hills to see how they compared.

Davis Dam Hill Climb

Over the course of five days, we spent a significant amount of time towing our load behind each of the heavy-duty trucks. We covered a variety of terrains, but the culmination of the towing experience was our test day spent on the Davis Dam grade on state Route 68. Each of our three judges — PickupTrucks.com Editor Mark Williams, Cars.com Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman, and product engineer and industry blogger Matthew Barnes — drove the grade multiple times in each truck to get a feel for how they handled the load, both while climbing and descending. With the incredible amount of power each of the diesel trucks puts out, we decided to limit our timed testing to the steepest section of the full grade (just more than 2 miles in length). Even so, all three trucks were able to exceed the posted speed limit. We started from a full stop and went full throttle over the entire section, allowing the trucks to shift on their own. Here's how they performed:

Chevrolet Silverado 3500: 2:03.25 (minutes/seconds) with a top speed of 74 mph

The Silverado 3500 was noticeably faster than its competitors. It seemed like there was always more power on tap with the 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine and Allison transmission combination. With the exception of the hard 1st-to-2nd gear shift, the transmission was smooth and the shifts were quick at the right time. It had the roughest ride when loaded, but it controlled the load quite well.

2018-PUTCChallenge_OneTonHeavy_davisdam (002)

Ford Super Duty F-350: 2:04.10 (minutes/seconds) with a top speed of 72 mph

The Ford F-350 felt much slower than the Chevy, but it was only a tad bit slower in overall time. We blame this on its sluggish starts. While it was composed in most situations throughout the week, it gave all three judges trouble over a certain section of the Davis Dam run: There were a couple of bridge expansion joint bumps on the grade that would set the truck into an aggressive fore-aft motion. The truck regained composure and returned to normal once the throttle was released. We should note that this did not occur during our acceleration test runs but during drives to gather judges' impressions. It was disheartening, if not a little unnerving. Despite this issue, the Ford placed second in our two Davis Dam tests.

Ram 3500: 2:16.40 (minutes/seconds) with a top speed of 68 mph

Driving the Ram 3500 after being in the Ford and the Chevy was a nice treat. The rear supplemental air suspension smoothed out the ride significantly without sacrificing composure. None of the trucks were stressful to drive, but the Ram was by far the least taxing. At slow speeds, its six-cylinder acceleration felt on par with the others, but as it gained speed, it became apparent it lacked the horsepower that the V-8 competitors put out. While it was the slowest truck in all timed acceleration events, it remained the most competent tow vehicle of the three. It was always composed and maintained control of the loaded trailer very well. We'll note that the transmission needs some retuning to get everything dialed in, as it sometimes seemed to struggle to hit the best gear for the situation. The Ram 3500 had the most commercial-truck feel.

 

Descending Davis Dam

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Chevrolet Silverado 3500: On the Davis Dam downhill grade, the Chevrolet Silverado 3500 did an excellent job with its exhaust brake and transmission programming. The only choices for the exhaust brake are on and off, but it didn't seem to need more than that. We simply set the cruise control and let the truck do the thinking to keep everything under control, which it did within 1 or 2 mph of the speed selected. This worked well even when the speed limit dropped from 65 mph to 45 mph. To reduce speed, the truck comfortably downshifted to get better and more aggressive engine and exhaust braking. Much like the engine, the exhaust brake was the quietest — to our ears anyway — of the three tested. One thing the Chevy lacked that we would have liked to see is a readout that lets you know what gear the truck is in.

Ford Super Duty F-350: Heading down the hill, the Ford Super Duty F-350 was also composed. We used the exhaust brake in both the on and automatic settings. When using cruise control, the two different settings didn't make any difference and it maintained the set speed accurately. It also did well when the speed limit dropped, like the Chevy, and no adjustments were required other than decreasing the cruise control speed manually. It maintained 4th gear without making a downshift for the 20-mph decrease in speed. The Ford had the most comprehensive gauge setup of the three, and the gear indicator can be set to always be on, making it easy to see what gear the truck is in at any given time with a quick glance.

Ram 3500: Descending the grade, the Ram 3500 kept everything in check. The exhaust brake has settings of on, automatic and off. Like the Ford, it didn't matter which setting was being used when the cruise control was set. The cruise control response, however, was rather ambiguous, often not slowing the vehicle until it had gone 5 or 8 mph over the set speed. The cruise control also didn't make the speed change from 65 mph to 45 mph very well, so we had to apply the service brakes to make that decrease within our allotted time. With cruise control off and the exhaust brake set to on, the Ram engaged the exhaust brake as soon as the throttle was released, producing a wonderfully deep, big-rig, Jake-brake sound that every judge enjoyed hearing. While the Ram did have a readout showing what gear it was in, the manual shifting mode had to be activated to see it.

 

Summing Things Up

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If speed was our only goal in our towing evaluation, the Chevrolet Silverado 3500 would have been the clear winner because it was the fastest in our Davis Dam acceleration tests; you can see the testing results here. However, we also were evaluating composure, braking and other towing-related issues. Issues with the Chevy included its lack of a useful diesel exhaust fluid gauge, no way to see transmission gearing in real time, and its stiffer ride and handling. The best way to drive this heavy-duty is to let it do as much of the driving as possible by using the cruise control and simply steering. It's a truck that seems best designed for those who don't want to be bothered with shifting or grade braking themselves.

As to the Ford, while it placed second in our wide-open-throttle run score-wise, in the judges' opinion it deserved last place. The main reason for this was the serious fore-aft oscillation motion we encountered after hitting uphill bumps at speed. It did offer excellent gauges for monitoring temperatures and fluid levels, which is great for safe towing. The high-tech adaptive cruise control was also a nice feature, especially for running in a convoy.

If you like and want a big-rig feel, then the Ram 3500's straight-six Cummins diesel is for you, despite its third-place score on the Davis Dam run. It was the most controlled when loaded, and the sounds it makes are glorious. The amount of manual control over the vehicle is greater than its competition. This is the truck for people who like doing things themselves rather than having computers do things for them. It also had excellent gauge readouts, with a decent inclinometer being the only gauge missing. The cruise control, transmission and exhaust-brake programming could be better integrated; a multilevel transmission setting to offer smoother gearing transitions could help. Or maybe the best way to improve this truck could be to rework the stout manual transmission and clutch so that it can be paired with the high-output version of the Cummins. We hope this unlikely scenario happens, at least before our next comparison test.

Cars.com photos by Chris Collard

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Comments

GM with the stiff ride and handling, no surprise here, my truck rides terrible!!!!!!!!

TNT, we all know the gms ride like crap, but they won the overall test you idiot.

As usual, the PowerJoke!

Of course the Chevy was just a tad faster and rode better. It was a smaller wb and short bed while Ford and Ram had long beds.

RAM won again. With leafs, airride and extra link to address axle wrap, the best truck for towing safely , keeping you on the road in any conditions, even without trailer brakes , in the case of emergency.
Power and torque war is over. Ford's and GM"s chassis can't handle that safely and comfortably.

That Ford got B$%^ slap just like Frank's bf slaps him LMBO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Not comparing apples-to-apples here.. The different gearing makes a bid difference. I had the exact same trucks,,. One with 4:10 and the other with 3:73. The 4:10 pulled hills a lot better. Longer bed-vs-shorter bed...

Was the gravel randomly dumped in the trailers or was it spread? Was the goosenecks adjusted for the individual truck? If either of these was not done this was not a good test of the trucks abilities.

"One of the biggest reasons to purchase a one-ton pickup truck instead of a half-ton or three-quarter-ton truck is for the increased tow rating."

So you tested with a trailer that is in half-ton capability range? Maybe you should have included a half ton to illustrate the difference.

"The cruise (Ram's) control response, however, was rather ambiguous, often not slowing the vehicle until it had gone 5 or 8 mph over the set speed."

I have often wished that I could set my Ford's cruise control to give me a little float on the speed for a smoother ride. I would prefer the Ram's myself.

"the Ram engaged the exhaust brake as soon as the throttle was released, producing a wonderfully deep, big-rig, Jake-brake sound that every judge enjoyed hearing."

I have seen many towns with signs posted that the use of Jake-brakes is banned. Not everyone enjoys that sound and I would rather have a system that is legal to use everywhere.

@ FrankinFl
LOL!!

@ imposter

Keep whining and making excuses. The power joke hasn't beaten the Duramax I'm 18+ years and counting. Go GM. Love GM.

13,000 lbs? BIG DEAL !

The F-150 Eco-Boost can tow 14,900 lbs !

Congrats to GM with the 11 point win. I would not call that commanding as another has opined. Nor is the dress analogy valid as the gent who wears his mothers finest frock would like it to be.
The real win is sales. The real winner is well known and is not GM,or RAM.
The strawman argument that will be whinned is to try and disparage fleet sales. It is a poor argunent to make for a myriad of reasons. Hard to argue the retail sales, but that wont stop some who will disparage those buyers as not being smart enough to see the light, I mean thier light. Well thats simply not how that goes. Consumers make choices that make the most sense ,what makes sense to one may not be shared by another. Bottom line is Sales determines the Real winner. Better luck next year in the sales arena.

Better luck next year in the sales arena.
Posted by: Casual Observer of Fools | Jul 30, 2018

We presume you're wishing Ford good luck next year. GM sold more trucks, last year, than the other manufacturers.

Regarding the HD challenge the brands competed well. Final tallies are very close.

Hard to argue the retail sales, but that wont stop some who will disparage those buyers as not being smart enough to see the light, I mean thier light. Well thats simply not how that goes. Consumers make choices that make the most sense ,what makes sense to one may not be shared by another. Bottom line is Sales determines the Real winner. Better luck next year in the sales arena.
Posted by: Casual Observer of Fools | Jul 30, 2018

So we presume you're wishing Ford good luck outselling GM next year...

Ecoboost
LMFAO!!

13,000 lbs? BIG DEAL !

The F-150 Eco-Boost can tow 14,900 lbs !

Posted by: Ecoboost Rules | Jul 30, 2018 2:34:23 PM

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AO37TSgKwSg

Hey eco, how heavy is that rig that the Toyota is towing?

"13,000 lbs? BIG DEAL !
The F-150 Eco-Boost can tow 14,900 lbs !
Posted by: Ecoboost Rules"

Nice try but the actual number is 13,200lbs:
https://www.ford.com/trucks/f150/features/Capability/f150-towing-capacity/?gclid=CjwKCAjw7vraBRBbEiwA4WBOn0iiAGYjD9DMKEjcB06o3vs2cXeW_3CzrN6qKX64HOcFhRlMySbDwxoC9PoQAvD_BwE&searchid=757864941%7c45440733488%7c50411328626%7c&s_kwcid=AL!2519!3!237920092724!b!!g!!%252Bf%2520%252B150%2520%252Btowing&ef_id=Wt9SpgAAAHDz33-z:20180730213207:s

But it is still rated to pull those trailers. That is the point.

The Silverado 3500 was NOTICEABLY FASTER than its competitors.

It seemed like there was always more power on tap with the 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine and Allison transmission combination.

the transmission was smooth and the shifts were quick at the right time..
/QUOTE

Nuff said..
Now you can
Start crying girlyboys LOLOL


2018 Ford F-350:
"While it was composed in most situations throughout the week, it gave all three judges trouble over a certain section of the Davis Dam run: There were a couple of bridge expansion joint bumps on the grade that would set the truck into an aggressive fore-aft motion. The truck regained composure and returned to normal once the throttle was released. We should note that this did not occur during our acceleration test runs but during drives to gather judges' impressions. It was disheartening, if not a little unnerving."

Like others have mentioned on the website in the last few weeks, it seems like Ford pushed their suspension tuning too far towards a soft ride. They reduced weight of the components in order to limit unsprung weight, they pushed the caster to get better turn radius and steering response, they softened bushings to better isolate the driver from harsh road surfaces, etc. All of these factors combine to make a SFA truck that will have a greater tendency to death wobble. The judges are lucky that the expansion joints didn't induce death wobble. It's a surprisingly common issue with these new Super Duty trucks. It's a shame because I think Ford did a good job modernizing the chassis to make it competitive with the Ram and GM chassis designs. The interior is decent in the Platinum and King Ranch trucks. Decent power and they have come a long ways in engine reliability (still have a ways to go but that's JMO).

Nice try but the actual number is 13,200lbs:

But it is still rated to pull those trailers.* That is the point.
Posted by: Walt | Jul 30, 2018 4:34:54 PM


* When properly equipped. To get that tow rating you must order a 2WD Supercrew XL-trim with the 6.5' bed and heavy duty payload package with upgraded frame and suspension. 20" wheels are also required to get a truck rated for 13,200 lbs.

I guess if ecoboost rulez can live with a 2WD fleet trim truck, sure, he can tow the trailer they used.

13,000 lbs? BIG DEAL !
The F-150 Eco-Boost can tow 14,900 lbs !
Posted by: Ecoboost Rules | Jul 30, 2018 2:34:23 PM

Meeh, F350 in this test can't handle this load safely and crew was lucky to survive it. F150 would be in a ditch in no time.

@papajim.
Ford does not need well wishes when it comes to HD pickup truck sales as it handily Dominates that category. You would do better to stay on topic instead of your distraction.

It seems the test is overly weighted to acceleration and fuel economy. The Ram was the favorite of 2 out of 3 judges by cam in 3rd?

imagine gm didn’t do any up grade on the engine like ford did it 4 time the first year

“If you like and want a big-rig feel, then the Ram 3500's straight-six Cummins diesel is for you, despite its third-place score on the Davis Dam run. It was the most controlled when loaded, and the sounds it makes are glorious. The amount of manual control over the vehicle is greater than its competition. This is the truck for people who like doing things themselves rather than having computers do things for them.”

Well Said!

GUTS
GLORY
THE UNANIMOUS FAVORITE OF THE TEST
MOST APPEALING TRUCK
RAM DIESEL HD

do this:

take the same trailer you use with your HD pickup and go to a Ford dealer and hook up that same trailer for a test drive on a new F-150 Eco-Boost
you'll be amazed
you'll find out it pulls it better and faster

The F-150 Eco-Boost is wonderful, amazing, you won't even know that trailer is behind there and look down at the tachometer and you'll be towing that trailer at 1500 RPM's where that HD truck engine is screaming at 3000 RPM's

RAM

I made a mistake, It's 14,700 lbs
(I said 14,900, that's wrong, my mistake) typo

but what's 200 lbs? that's nothing

PUTC will never run the same match up test on the 1/2 ton trucks cause they hate the F-150 Eco-Boost and they know it would win.

PUTC is promoting the 2019 Ram 1500 so having a match up test now against the F-150 Eco-Boost will make the Ram look bad, they can't let that happen!

PUTC? what happened with the fall out against Ford?
did someone from Ford call you bad names?
are you jealous that the F-150 is #1 in sales?
did people from Ram take you out drinking and pay for high end prostitutes?

you used to love the F-150,,, what happened?

The F-150 ecoboost won't move from the spot where it wasnhooked up to the trailer. The cheap plastic throttle body failed for the 4th time.

@casual observer of trucks

File under: The Truth Hurts

Ford will chalk up another good year in the number 2 slot in 2018 unless they have a miracle.

@HD Ram King
Data to support the lighter components statement?
The 2017 suspension and chassis changes:
10 crossmembers with the middle sections 1.5 inched taller
Larger shock bushings and front stabilizer collars
Dana S60 front axle with increased axle tube diameter.
DOM driveshafts
I own a 17 SD and tow pretty regularly and never expirenced a surprisingly common death wobble - again any data or just conjecture? Since you do have bias

* When properly equipped. To get that tow rating you must order a 2WD Supercrew XL-trim with the 6.5' bed and heavy duty payload package with upgraded frame and suspension. 20" wheels are also required to get a truck rated for 13,200 lbs.
I guess if ecoboost rulez can live with a 2WD fleet trim truck, sure, he can tow the trailer they used.
Posted by: Brawndo | Jul 30, 2018 7:16:32 PM

The way I read the Ford towing manual for 2018 it does require the 6.5' bed which does come with their middle duty frame unless you order Max Payload Package which actually reduces your tow rating(see the ratings for the 3.73 axle). Their is no mention of trim level or wheel size and 4wd only drops the tow rating 200lbs to 13,000 which is still enough to pull these trailers.

Go to the end of this and back up two pages:
https://www.ford.com/services/assets/Brochure?make=Ford&model=F-150&year=2018

LOL.

Looks like the Sooper Dooty came up short again. Must be all of those big claims and power ratings aren't what they were cracked up to be!!! Just more Blue Oval Sooper Dooty Kool-Aid.

"I made a mistake, It's 14,700 lbs
(I said 14,900, that's wrong, my mistake) typo
but what's 200 lbs? that's nothing
Posted by: Ecoboost Rules"

I own two Ecoboost engines and agree that they are strong but I cannot find a tow rating over 13,200lbs anywhere for the trucks that they are put in. Can you tell me where you found your information?

@ Mark Williams The "fore-aft oscillation motion" is called galloping and caused by insufficient weight on the ball. This starts when a bump causes more force up than tongue weight. The trailer oscillate up and tries to pick up the back of the truck then the truck pulls the trailer back where it rebounds off the springs. This can cause complete loss of control. A trailer that causes galloping should have the load corrected as soon as possible.

@ Walt
Don't waste your time with ecoboost, he's clueless on the ratings of his own truck. I've told him several times, it's comical

@franklnFL
Agree, it’s also called porpoiseing. Most common cause is incorrect tongue or pin weight.

@pickuptrucks - do you have pin weights and actual ULVW for each truck? If your going to do a tow test comparasion please disclose this important information. It has a major effect on vehicle dynamics if not propery configured. I’m a bit suprised this was not documented given the importance.

For the F350 that’s almost 2000# of pin weight. 1950 to be exact. What was the actual pin weight??

That Ford got B$%^ slap just like Frank's bf slaps him LMBO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: johnny doe | Jul 30, 2018 10:56:39 AM

1 second difference pulling that load up Davis Dam is getting B slapped? You probably slap like a B.

@franklnFL
Agree, it’s also called porpoiseing. Most common cause is incorrect tongue or pin weight.
@pickuptrucks - do you have pin weights and actual ULVW for each truck? If your going to do a tow test comparasion please disclose this important information. It has a major effect on vehicle dynamics if not propery configured. I’m a bit suprised this was not documented given the importance.

Posted by: Grnzel | Jul 31, 2018 1:44:55 PM

Yes, something was amiss that caused the F truck chassis to lose it's composure. "The truck regained composure and returned to normal once the throttle was released."
Load balance, tires or something was off. If they don't let off the gas for the truck to regain composure, it probably wins the acceleration. Not that it matters, even the Ram did respectable and is a much better truck than the Chevy. It's just not as fast.

do this:

take the same trailer you use with your HD pickup and go to a Ford dealer and hook up that same trailer for a test drive on a new F-150 Eco-Boost
you'll be amazed 
you'll find out it pulls it better and faster

The F-150 Eco-Boost is wonderful, amazing, you won't even know that trailer is behind there and look down at the tachometer and you'll be towing that trailer at 1500 RPM's where that HD truck engine is screaming at 3000 RPM's

Posted by: Ecoboost Rules | Jul 31, 2018 2:44:31 AM

@ecoboost
You really need to stop posting wrong info.!
YOU YOU YOU YOU need to try pulling a trailer that's 10,000 + LBS with your eco truck.
Do you really think you can pull that kind of weight revving at 1500 rpm.lol
Its very obvious YOU never pulled anything heavy. Without the proper truck you will hurt yourself or some one else.

@gmhretta
There is a reply post by Mark Williams indicating the pin weight on the Ford was light. Since nothing was actually measured I don’t put much science behind these results. It’s a shame since they had an Engineer on the team who should understand this dynamic.

@ Grnzel It is irresponsible to operate compromised loaded trailer on a public road. If you can not recognize the affects of low pin weight are you qualified to evaluate towing performance.

Blah blah blah. It's funny how the fan boys want to argue about the littlest sh*t because the Ford wasn't declared the winner. If the Ford won they could've cared less about the pin weight. Or the axle gearing blah blah...they are all great trucks that cost a sh*t load of money and all do the job. If you don't like the comparison then go somewhere else, these guys do this for us.

@ FrankinFl
Are those tears?? Nobody cares! You act like that's the lone reason your Ford didn't win...give me a break, go cry somewhere else

I do agree with other posters on here that the towing weight was very low for a 1 ton truck!

@ BA The Ford truck and trailer were dangerous as loaded and should not have been on a public road. That has nothing to do with fanboyism. If you wish to see that way that is your problem.

I am being critical of this test because these trucks were towing over 6 tons, not a utility trailer with mulch.
If your going to do a towing test, do it right;
Create a matrix with all the important weights, like pin, axle -front & rear, trailer axle, etc. Then indicate remaining capacity on the GVWR, axles, etc.
Its incomplete testing like this that gets people in trouble. Teach people how to really understand heavy towing. I’m surprised that PTC did such a poor job here - since there was an article not too long ago that discussed towing safety.
One more criticism and I’m done - what was the point in turning off the trailer brakes? Seems like a very unlikely event (unless there is a rash of failed brake controllers??) Id argue The MTBF of any brake controller is 5 to 6 digits left of the decimal.
I don’t care who wins these towing tests, at least they should be used as a lesson to educate people.



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