Not the What, but the How, that is Important
What is the most polarizing segment of vehicles in the automotive industry? Most of us are well aware that pickup trucks are some of the most polarizing and have followings that are nearly cultish. A Chevy guy, a Ford guy and a Ram guy enter a room…oh, you’ve heard that one before, apparently the three of them can’t agree on what the best pickup truck is. It would certainly seem difficult to determine which is the best between the Silverado, F-150 and Ram 1500, since all three are built for work and getting the job done, which makes the “how” part of this conversation the most intriguing.
Because these three are so similar the test setup has to give each one similar conditions and look for specific results. Using the OBDII port the fuel economy was tracked for each one when empty, while towing and when the bed has a load in it. Using a rainy day to the advantage and putting 1,000 pounds in the bed while a 6,000 pound trailer is hooked up all three trucks were tested in a way that mimics off road conditions that you might actually come across.
Silverado – Because this truck was new to the market in 2014 there are only a few changes to this beauty and some of them are made to help get the job done. The work part comes from the improvement to the eight-speed automatic transmission that is attached to the 5.3-liter or 6.2-liter V8 engines. Powered running boards are now offered as well and these boards are able to pivot to the rear to give you a step up to have better cargo access for items toward the front of the bed, giving you the reach you have wanted for years with any truck.
Unfortunately the 5.3-liter engine shows up with the lowest power output of the three trucks and this setup does feel a bit sluggish compared to the other two. The transmission doesn’t feel like it ever wants to downshift, which can be a serious problem when out in the wilderness with this truck. The load certainly is easy enough to handle and the Silverado gives plenty of steering response and feels as if it isn’t even being challenges with the load. Inside the cabin the Silverado is quiet and easy to enjoy, giving you a peaceful place to be away from the raucous outdoors.
The integrated rear bumper steps are extremely useful, the light in the bed makes it easy to see at night and the various mounting points for tie down cleats are great. Overall this truck fared third in this test with an average of 19.6 mpg of fuel mileage with the 1,000 pounds in the bed, but that number dropped to 13.5 mpg when the trailer was attached. There wasn’t much difference at all for this truck with no payload, which is certainly a positive note, allowing you to know it can handle the job of hauling cargo easily.
F-150 – Using a 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 engine that was decked out in the Platinum trim the F-150 came to play for this test. This makes for a truck that is more than just a workhorse, but one that has a lot of creature comforts for you to enjoy. This truck comes with cool items like the trailer light check feature, mirror-mounted spotlights and a fully deployable bed step that is hidden under the tailgate. Although this higher trim was put up to the test this truck did not come with as impressive a layout as the Silverado or Ram to make is as great a truck as we would like, but with the full crew cab setup there was plenty of room for everyone to enjoy the ride.
This Ford made quick work of the hauling and towing asked of it as it seemed to ask for more. Overall this powertrain gives you the strongest feel and makes fast work of towing and hauling in a straight line. When you do have to steer there is a little challenge as this truck offers a light steering which can make you feel over confident from behind the wheel. The rear also shows a bit of a jittery feeling in the suspension when weight is in place, a noticeable difference from the other two.
As a truck that was built for work the F-150 did offer the harshest empty ride of all three, it seems to needs some payload just to make this truck happy on the road. As for the fuel mileage, the empty number came in at 21 mpg with a drop to 19.8 when the truck had the 1,000 pounds of payload. Towing the trailer meant the number dropped to 15.1 which is still much better than the Silverado provided to put this truck squarely in the middle of the pack.
RAM 1500 – At some point other truck manufacturers are going to catch on and offer a diesel engine for the half-ton pickup trucks, but for now RAM is still the only one. This RAM came in with a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6 engine that was ready to get to work. Add in the air suspension system and you know this RAM means business and is ready for the job ahead. The interior of this truck is exceptionally well laid out for you to enjoy it from a visual and tactile position.
As for the infotainment system, the Uconnect used by RAM is the best with the Chevy MyLink only slightly behind and both are well ahead of the MyFordTouch system. The RAM has a flat fold rear floor system for loading items in easily which is a little better than the totally flat floor in the F-150 and well ahead of the center hump that still shows up in the Silverado. While these interior features are great, it’s the capability we are most interested in and want to see why this truck is the best in this class.
The driving feeling when towing or hauling is smooth, easy and refined in the RAM. It feels as if this truck was born to tow and it has no problem acting the part. Using the suspension system of this truck you will have the confidence you need for towing and a smooth ride which makes for a fantastic combination. As for the numbers, the empty drive offered 26.5 mpg with the payload in the bed the number actually increased to 27.3 mpg and when the trailer was hooked up the result was 19.7 mpg to give you the best overall fuel number in the class. The only drawbacks to this truck are the lack of a bed step and a higher base cost, but for the ability this truck offers you these are only minor items on your list.