2018 One-Ton Heavy-Duty Truck Challenge: How We Tested

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By Mark Williams

Pickup trucks are important — not just to manufacturers and the U.S. economy, but to the lives of our readers. That's why we take testing pickups seriously. That's why we consider ourselves fortunate to conduct PickupTrucks.com Challenges. These apples-to-apples comparison tests allow us to bring readers as many objective and empirical numbers as possible, the latest of which is our 2018 One-Ton Heavy-Duty Truck Challenge. Just to make things interesting, we've thrown our opinions into the mix for your pleasure. You're welcome.

2018 One-Ton Heavy-Duty Truck Challenge

Results | Towing | How We Tested

For the 2018 One-Ton Heavy-Duty Truck Challenge, we invited each of the three heavy-duty pickup makers — Ford, Chevrolet and Ram — to send their best 2018 one-ton crew-cab, single-rear-wheel diesel pickup trucks with a factory gooseneck tow package (and accessories). We set a price ceiling of $75,000. What we got were three HD players very close in capability: the 2018 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 High Country, 2018 Ford Super Duty F-350 Lariat and 2018 Ram 3500 Laramie. The most significant difference among them was that the Chevy came equipped with a short box. For the full set of comparison specifications, see our What You Get chart.

We thought it was important to test how these one tons handle a significant towing load. So, they all towed three identical 4,900-pound Big Tex gooseneck dump beds from Big Tex Trailer World, along with a full payload of gravel totaling 8,100 pounds courtesy of Bedrock Sand and Gravel. Each gooseneck trailer's total weight was within 100 pounds of 13,000 pounds. Given that we'd be putting more than 1,000 miles on these heavy-duty diesel trucks by the end of our testing week, we thought this amount was a good round number and likely more load than most HD pickup owners will pull on a regular basis.

The Tests

Comparative empirical testing of each truck's capabilities is important (because we know you want to know). The winner of each test was given 100 points, while the remaining trucks were awarded a percentage of points based on their comparative finish. Each truck was tested and scored on 16 tests:

  • Zero-to-60-mph acceleration, empty and with trailer
  • Quarter-mile acceleration, empty and with trailer
  • 40-to-60-mph acceleration, empty and with trailer
  • 60-to-zero-mph braking (empty) and 40-to-zero-mph braking (with trailers)
  • Davis Dam 2.23-mile hill climb, towing
  • Davis Dam 40-to-60-mph hill climb from 4th gear, towing
  • Fuel economy (with and without trailer)
  • Calculated maximum payload
  • Calculated gooseneck maximum tow rating
  • Interior noise at idle and at 60 mph

 

Track Testing

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All track testing was done on a closed runway at the Kingman Municipal Airport, which offered us more than a half-mile of smooth tarmac and plenty of visibility. Temperatures at the outset of our testing in late May hovered around the mid-90s, with a slight wind out of the south. During our acceleration runs, we ran all trucks with the windows up, air conditioning off and tires set at factory-recommended pressures. We also allowed for a slight bit of brake-torquing (left foot on brake while running the throttle up to about 2,000 rpm, then releasing brake while going wide-open throttle) at launch. Each powertrain had a slightly different wide-open-throttle launch feel, but we managed to get several strong takeoffs for each truck.

For our brake testing, we selected an even and smooth section of the runway to keep comparisons consistent. We gave ourselves plenty of distance to run each vehicle up to an indicated 60 mph with the windows up and in top gear before we stomped on the brakes, replicating a full-blown panic stop. It's worth noting that we regularly rotated the vehicles during these tests to allow the brakes, engine and transmission to cool down before each run. For our loaded brake testing, we thought it would be interesting to see how each truck handled 13,000 extra pounds without the benefit of trailer brakes. We disconnected each of the bed-mounted wiring harnesses, ran the truck and trailer up to 40 mph in top gear and then panic-stopped the brakes.

All timing instrumentation was conducted with a Racelogic Vbox II, which electronically identifies up to seven satellites to chart and record progress and course in real time. All track testing was done with official spotters with an on-site local paramedic team standing by.

Mileage Runs

Our fuel economy testing took place in and around the city of Kingman, Ariz., over a 94-mile loop that took us on flattish two-lane highways, graded dirt roads, a multilane interstate and winding mountain roads to almost 6,000 feet above sea level. Each of our test drivers were instructed to set the air conditioning to 72 degrees on "Auto," keeping all windows rolled up and to never let the vehicle idle when it could be shut off (for example, during driver swaps and fuel fill-ups). Temperatures hovered in the mid-to-high 90s with no wind. We obeyed posted speed limits.

Since we had three test vehicles and three judges for this comparison test, we rotated between vehicles twice (after a little more than 30 miles of driving) throughout our fuel economy route to allow each driver's quirks to impact each of the three vehicles equally.

We began and ended our fuel economy day at the same fuel station with all fill-ups done at the same pump with the same nozzle. Fill-ups were also conducted by a single person, in the same manner for each truck, to ensure the tanks were filled to the same level each time. Both the cost and quantity were recorded, with fuel economy numbers calculated by dividing miles driven by gallons used. Once we finished our first loop with empty trucks, we hitched up the 13,000-pound Big Tex gooseneck trailers and followed the exact same route and procedures. This allowed us to calculate fuel economy while towing.

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Towing Tests

Much of our towing tests and judges' impressions were garnered from our time driving on the infamous Davis Dam grade, a portion of state Route 68 connecting Arizona's Golden Valley with a steep hill descent (or climb, depending on direction) into the Bullhead City/Laughlin area along the Colorado River. We've been testing on this grade for more than a decade. It has a bottom elevation around 500 feet above sea level, while the Union Pass summit sits just a touch more than 3,000 feet. The full length of the run, depending on exactly where you start and finish, is a little more than 11 miles long and can be quite taxing for heavy haulers in the desert heat, with portions of the highway offering a 7 percent grade, or about a 4-degree slope.

During our test runs, which covered the steepest 2-mile section of the climb, we took each truck and trailer (with one passenger for recording and verification purposes) from a dead stop to a wide-open-throttle run past our finish line some 11,775 feet later. Each truck was run with the windows rolled up, air conditioning off and very little traffic. Temperatures during our midday runs were in the upper 90s, with a 10-mph wind out of the west. Timing for each run was done from a designated start line near mile marker 6 and concluded at a finish line near mile marker 8.

The Judges' Scores

After we completed our 16 empirical tests, providing each pickup truck with a possible 1,600 points, we added our expert judges' scores from 10 pickup-specific categories. To weight the judges' scores with what we consider an appropriate amount of influence in our overall results, we multiplied the scores by two, for a possible total of 600 points. Those categories were:

  • Bed features and access
  • Interior layout
  • Interior quality
  • Interior storage
  • Overall comfort
  • How it drives empty
  • How it drives with a trailer
  • Visibility
  • Engine layout
  • Overall value

The empirical and judges' scores combined for a possible total score of 2,200 points per truck. We could weight categories and tests we think are more important than others, creating a complicated final equation, but we don't do that. Instead, we present the unweighted scores to our readers to allow them to weight those tests or categories they value, perhaps fuel economy or max trailering for instance. This allows readers to determine which truck is their own best choice. And we understand it may not be the same winner we've selected, but it will be the right truck for you.

In the name of transparency, we've detailed the processes, procedures and thinking behind our tests, and we've provided a chart below that details how the trucks performed in the empirical tests along with judges' scoring and final scores. Let us know what you think or ask questions in the comment section. We've got all the data and want to share as much of it as we can.

Cars.com photos by Chris Collard, Evan Sears

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Comments

So Ford spent billions of dollars to change to aluminum, but the trucks till outweighed the Chevy HD?? Dont tell me its BC its had a larger bed, bc fords aluminum beds are junk and it didn't even come with a bed liner! That's pathetic!

Posted by: TNTGMC

TINY: It's a BIGGER TRUCK, with a BIGGER FRAME and MORE CAPACITY than your tiny GM. Will you pathetic tiny brain comprehend? It's up to you.

statement of fact the HD's sell in very small quantities
Posted by: Robert Ryan | Jul 31, 2018

@Robert R

Do you realize that you are making my case? Fuel is 2x more expensive in Australia than the US. Australia's government has been unable to fully protect its auto industry and if I'm not mistaken you now have NO auto plants there. Why would you want to lecture anybody else about this? Sounds like your own government is fully to blame.

Oh Great Comparison, maybe the lighter Chevy could have had a 1 second lead on all but only able to muster .3 tenths.

PATHETIC!!

Posted by: Old GM Guy | Jul 30, 2018 9:14:48 AM

Interesting especially is the Judge's analysis.

If I read it correctly the RAM wins in the subjective rating, while coming in last place in the measured and more objective calculations.

Funny but that's my own take on it too. The RAM has a seat of the pants sense that puts it out front of the field.

Ask any of your friends who have a late model RAM full size truck and you'll get mostly praise. There are quicker trucks, and there are trucks that get better mileage, but when it comes to ride, comfort and the intangibles, RAM is alone at the top.

Posted by: papajim | Jul 30, 2018 9:39:28 AM


Ppj
I agree my last Ram was a great truck.
But right now they can't keep up with the other two with thier current drivetrain, it's definitely not weak, but feels weak after you drive the others. If or when they update the current drivetrain to compete with the others it will win these test without a doupt. The rest of the truck is great.

excuses keep rolling in! Lol....

@ redblood

They spent billions, u call me an idiot. Wake up. Your the one who is getting suckered into buying an inferior product. Lmfao!!! Look who is really the idiot!

Now that they have a beefy chassis, beefy IFS and steering, the same heavy duty AAM rear axle that Ram uses,


////

That axle is the old GM 14 bolt. GM has used variants of this axle in HD applications since 1973 to current models. AAM now owns the rights after GM sold it. Dodge started using this in 2002.

So going by judges, AKA real people, GM didnt win? That stinks!!!!!!

TNT- we have had enough of your insults, please go elsewhere.

@ MW

Please advice, u need to monitor who does what. That wasnt me insulting. Look through MY posts...
Not the imposter. If u would have someone monitor this site instead of letting anyone posts under others user nsmes. We would not have this issue of who is posting what!!!

@ TNT
I wouldn't be surprised if that was the fake Mark Williams

PUTC

I am going to stop visiting this site and STOP posting comments unless you start showing good stories about the F-150 Eco-Boost.

@ ecoturd
Nobody cares. BTW, your ecoturd wouldn't stand a chance against any of these trucks in an HD comparison

I agree with ER. We need a good 2019 Ecoboost Limited test.

?? Ya lets request tests for trucks that aren't even available yet...

Not sure why I asked such a stupid question earlier. Of course I know the Ford's axles, frame and steering components are measurably larger and stronger than the RAM and my beloved turdbox GMC.

Forgive me for my stupidity.

@ imposter

You are just upset, jealous, and envious that a superior GM truck beat your junk power joke.

You are also probably really upset ToysRUs closed down. Get a life

@papajim
You seem to be fixated on fuel cost. Fuel in some ME countries is cheaper than water., but they do not use HD's No Ecoboost was closer too the mark when he mentioned TYPE of vehicle used
You could make a HD cheaper than a Ranger, but it does not meet the needs of the potential users for what they need.

@papajim
Government is not too blame. People never bought the HD's in the first place.
They are still not interested.HD Pickups are a big deal in NA, but zilch interest outside.
Cabover Heavy Trucks dominate outside NA for owner buyers and fleets but are rare in NA. Nothing to do with fuel.

Oh Great Comparison, maybe the lighter Chevy could have had a 1 second lead on all but only able to muster .3 tenths.

PATHETIC!

@ Frank

Considering your Ford lies propaganda and how they have BEST in Class HP/TQ. Especially TQ by 40FT LBS, it should have done better! Plus, the other Ford Lies that u swallow up all the time is the change to aluminum. When its in your favor you brag about it, but the FACT is, most of the time Fords trucks are still heavier or same weight as GM trucks. What a waste of money!
So since they still weigh more, you complain and state its unfair.

But in a half ton ecobust that weighs less than a 6.2L half ton and beats it BC of weight and altitude you are all for it and bragging/boasting about it till your blue in th face.

@Robert Ryan

Fuel cost is NOT a fixation.

The cost of fuel is what drove Americans to buy many millions teeny little Asian cars instead of the cars, station wagons, vans and pickups that they loved for generations up till about 1975 was FUEL costs went way up.

Considering that Aussies are paying roughly DOUBLE what Americans pay at the pump, it DAMN WELL influences the choices your countrymen are making.

Chill!

@papajim
No it does not and it is ALL Countries outside NA that do not use HD Pickups.
Fixation with fuel costs, rather that fitness for purpose is your great love.
Well HD's are dead here, as they are outside NA, that is a fact

@papajim
Now I can see your rationale,which is irrational. It was not fuel costs but BETTER cars produced by the Japanese that made Americans migrate

@papajim
Americans started to come back when the quality improved.cars did not get bigger, fuel prices remained low

Do yourself a favor Robert. Stick to what you know. G'day.

@papajim
Thanks that is what I do. You can belive what every you want

@ Robert
Why are you on this site??

?? The 2019s will be available in a few months and they ate available for testing probably in September so know your role.

@Tim
Because I am a t-roll. You can post what you want and so will I

Ecoboost and I are going on a date this weekend, Maybe if were lucky we will have a little Eco-Turd.
hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

I would like to apologize for arguing with myself on here. Ever since my mom died, I have been on a real downward spiral. No more Social Security checks. No more of momma's sandwiches and tang followed by foot rubs and pep-talks about how one day people will respect me on the internet.

@GMSRGREAT, I'll make you sandwiches. I won't rub your feet though.

So if the Ford is heaver and has less horsepower with higher gearing and only trailed the GM turd by ~.3 seconds, you are crowing about that? Fool.

So what, it has ~40lbft more torque but it's horsepower that sets the trap speed. If torque was as relevant as you say, the Cummins would have beat up on the GM turd too.

How are you going to compare a long nad to a short bed? The Ford and ram areong beds. Honestly you should have other judges. A truck instant suppose to be judged by the noise. What are we coming today? A truck is ment for work not comfort. A truck is design to work. Wow you guys really need new judges, I'm sorry. Wow. That's all I have to say.

Sorry for the miss spells but I'm kinda of irritated about how you guys judge trucks. I've been around alot of trucks and read alot of the comments. But I do have to say is wow. No one can judge a truck until they actually work it. A 2500 or a 3500 isn't ment to be a family truck. 2500 and 3500 are ment to work. Ppl like you are the ones that ruined the heavy duty trucks.

@Tim
Or whatever your name is on this site, stick to discussing the article

Sorry for the miss spells but I'm kinda of irritated about how you guys judge trucks. I've been around alot of trucks and read alot of the comments. But I do have to say is wow. No one can judge a truck until they actually work it. A 2500 or a 3500 isn't ment to be a family truck. 2500 and 3500 are ment to work. Ppl like you are the ones that ruined the heavy duty trucks.


Posted by: Matt SCHULTZ | Jul 31, 2018 11:10:14 PM

////

I thought this test was one of the best ones they put together. I like that the measureables were the deciding factor and not immeasureables such as personal favorite. I do like that the testers gave opinionated feedback but not an overwheming adjustment to scoring based on it.

Obviously you kind of miss the point that most of these trucks spend very little time off road in these configurations. Sure farmers and construction companies buy them, but usually in base trims and base engines for the application. The loaded configs on here are definitely spending most of their time on road with trailer in tow. Why is it ruining trucks to have things like a quiet cab and smooth ride when your drivng the thing across the country with a camper or fifth wheel trailer in tow? If you can get similar results with a better ride or fuel mileage, that should factor in, right? 50% of all GMC hd trucks sold are now Denali’s. I would say the consumer has spoken.

@ imposter

Lol. The Cummins has TQ but it's HP is way less than the other 2 trucks. If 2 vehicles are relatively close in HP but 1 has more TQ. The 1 with higher TQ will/ should win easily. (But not with the power joke, bc ford lies, it either doesnt make the CLAIMED HP/TQ, or they are fudging.numbers to be best in class...U decide)

Case in point. The camaro has always had higher TQ, thats why it is faster to 60 and quarter mile than the mustang most of the time!

For the record I think too many people are giving too much credence to the bed length. 18” of bed length will not change the dynamics of the trucks behavior enough other than to knock a tenth off a second off the 0-60.

Pretty sure the DMax outperformed the competition by more than that. Thats an argument for a sore loser with a brand infatuation.

@tnt
If PTC would have weighed the trucks, we could have come very close to a calculated HP. This test was lame for many reasons and and not digging on the winner either.

@andwrken
I’ll take stability and confidence over speed anytime with 6 tons behind me. At least in this lame test, I’d take the Ram.

@andwrken
I’ll take stability and confidence over speed anytime with 6 tons behind me. At least in this lame test, I’d take the Ram.


Posted by: Grnzel | Aug 1, 2018 6:21:09 AM

——

Not sure your reading clearly.

I believe I said "if you can get simlar results with better ride or mileage......"

Not sure how we disagree?

@andwrken

Your point reguarding 18” of bed length, which seems to indicate you are defending the speed of the Chevy, inferring it’s importance - or lack there of. I’d agree it’s not length but weight. I don’t believe that had any material difference anyway.
I wish PUTC would have measured pin weights and ULVW at the very least.

I should note though, that a bmw 4 series will smoke my camaro!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

@andwrken

Your point reguarding 18” of bed length, which seems to indicate you are defending the speed of the Chevy, inferring it’s importance - or lack there of. I’d agree it’s not length but weight. I don’t believe that had any material difference anyway.
I wish PUTC would have measured pin weights and ULVW at the very least.


Posted by: Grnzel | Aug 1, 2018 6:58:20 AM

What I was inferring was that the weight difference and characteristics would be negligible. Chevrolet's website shows 180lbs. between the short bed 3500SRW diesel and the long bed 3500SRW diesel.

The truck won all the tests on it's own merit. It needs no defending. What I was defending is I feel PUTC put a pretty good test together this time as stated above. Some of the comments are making a mountain out of a mole hill over the results. Next thing guys will be arguing about 1 truck having an extra inch of wheelbase over the other.

I can see wanting more details on the trailer weights, but it appears they had apples to apples. Is there something in the test that makes you think it was skewed?

Just one thing. M. Williams eluded to the fact the pin weight on the Ford was probably light. That would have a significant impact on the stability of the unit under test. I own a 17 SD and I’ve never expirenced what was described - granted I’m only at 4.5 to 5 tons. It’s my expirence the Fords like a heavier pin weight. Mine is a 6.2, F250 with snow plow prep so my front springs are stiffer and my rear springs are “softer” than a 350. That setup may just be better at controlling the front to back oscillation.

And....
There should have been a weight matrix for each truck indicating measured ULVW, front and rear axle capacity, actual as loaded axle weight (at least rear), pin weight.

Grnzel: Good post. There has to be an explanation for how these results took place. There're other tests where the same truck performed exceptionally well.

@TINYGMC:

Look up and read the results for the Trucktrend 2017 1-Ton Challenge.
[Please think before you respond]

I much prefer reading the analysis of PUTC compared to the silly crap you see on the sporty-car websites. Most of the auto reporting you see online is written by guys who spend their time driving sporty cars and econo-boxes. At least with PUTC you get guys who love trucks actually writing about something they enjoy.

So many times I see stuff at the Brand X websites where some reviewer (who normally drives a Civic) is bitching about how big and heavy American pickups have gotten.

You are right papajim, theres nothing silly on this site other you and I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



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