Autocross

Autocross (Ride and Handling)

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While it’s easy to understand why we did quarter-mile and hill-climb acceleration testing, some might wonder why we ran half-ton pickups through an autocross course.

The answer is that we needed to push these trucks to the extreme to test their ride, handling and stability control capabilities in slalom conditions, hard stops, 90- and 180-degree turns, and rapid, tight maneuvers. This provided an idea of how the trucks might react to emergency or adverse road conditions. In a world where cars and crossovers are getting smaller, it’s best if you can avoid these vehicles in critical situations, not run over them.

A minimum of three runs were carried out in each truck, unloaded, by the same driver, in two-wheel drive with traction control enabled. The quickest lap time determined the best-performing truck.

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The Silverado and F-150 tied for the best time and highest speed through the autocross, at 48.64 seconds and 30.21 mph. The Silverado’s handling was deemed excellent, with only mild oversteer at the apex of turns under hard braking. There was slight body roll in the corners, but less so than in most of the other pickups. The Silverado’s braking was both very responsive and very aggressive.

Even though the Silverado has a 93-horsepower advantage and weighs 280 pounds less than the F-150, the F-150’s stability control system felt better tuned and dialed-in at all times. The F-150 handled similarly to the Silverado, but with less body roll and a stiffer ride. Braking was very responsive and powerful, but with lots of travel in the brake pedal. The F-150’s tires are slightly wider (275 mm versus 265 mm) than the Silverado’s, potentially giving the F-150 better grip around turns.

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We were surprised the Titan was only the third-fastest in the autocross, at 48.81 seconds and 30.11 mph. The chatter from almost every tester who flogged the Titan was that this truck felt the most confident of all the half-tons. Its seating position, ride height, visibility, power and braking made the Titan fun to drive around the cones. Handling was very good, with only mild understeer. In corners, the truck’s open rear differential (electronic locking) left one rear wheel spinning through tight turns, while acceleration coming out was nearly perfect. The brakes were very responsive and brought the Titan to a stop promptly.

Some of us had very high expectations for the new Dodge Ram’s coil-spring rear running gear. The multilink suspension handles vertical and lateral forces with better control and less friction than the traditional leaf-spring rear ends the other pickups had. It turned out to be the fourth-fastest truck, at 48.94 seconds and 30.03 mph. The Ram handled similarly to the F-150 and Silverado, but with the most oversteer of the three. The front suspension dived noticeably entering the hardest curves. Surprisingly, it was a challenge on some of the corners to keep on the accelerator without the back end breaking loose. Braking felt similar to the F-150 and Silverado, and the steering felt remarkably close to the Silverado. 

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The Tundra finished fifth, at 49.12 seconds and 29.92 mph. The two most critical comments were about the overly intrusive traction-control alarms in the cabin and large amounts of understeer and body roll in turns. Acceleration was also challenging because the stability-control system kept cutting throttle in its attempts to recover the truck on behalf of the driver.

Most surprising of all was the GMC Sierra, which finished last. We thought its stiffer offroad shocks might give it an edge over the Silverado, but it turned out to be 2.2 seconds and 1.3 mph slower. Acceleration out of corners seemed delayed and sluggish at times. Braking was comparable to the F-150, Silverado and Ram.

Next: Braking

Comments

I am not surprised the Titan was only the third-fastest in the autocross. It was the PRO-4X model with 275/70R-18 tires. For autocrossing, it should be compared to Chevy's Z71, Dodge's TRX4, Ford's FX4, and the GMC in this test, which it stomped. An LE model, with P275/60R20 tires would be an apples-to-apples comparison. PRO-4Xs are relatively rare. The SEs and LEs are much more common.

It seems to me that a little understeer would be ideal; kudos Toyota. But the handling/steering characteristics of the F-150 are clearly the most ideal and balanced in this test, given that it nearly beat out the Chevy/GMC tandem with significantly less power. But the tandem's less optimal handling (than Ford) appears to be a sacrifice in order to gain a ride quality advantage. Oversteer is the hardest characteristic in cornering so to me the Ram is the biggest loser in this autocross test, by far.


The toyota has to have all sorts of electronic nannies driving their trucks, because the owners don't know how to actually drive them themselves.



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