2010 HD Three-Quarter-Ton Diesel Trucks (SRW)

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Three-quarter-ton diesel rigs make up the majority of heavy-duty pickup sales. We’re testing these trucks together for the first time to compare their performance against themselves and the similarly configured gassers.

A welcome new feature on all three of these trucks that we didn’t have last time is a rearview camera to help with hooking up trailers. We changed trailers more than 40 times during the Shootout, so the time saved during each swap quickly added up. Using the camera, one person could quickly line up the truck and trailer hitches to make it through all of our tests on time. It’s technology like this that reduces stress, and all-day towing sessions become a bit less exhausting.

2011 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LTZ with 6.6-liter Duramax V-8

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It's not just the stronger frame and running gear that support the increased towing and hauling numbers in the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD. There's also a revised 6.6-liter Duramax clean diesel that’s the most powerful engine in the segment to date.

The 397-hp, 765-pounds-feet of torque eight-cylinder oil burner is the fourth generation of GM's HD diesel since it was introduced in 2001. Sixty-percent of its hardware is new, and it’s 97 hp and 245 pounds-feet stronger than the original Duramax. It’s also the first time GM has owned all of the design and engineering work for the Duramax, which is produced in a joint venture with Isuzu at a factory in Ohio. On paper, GM says the new diesel engine is 11 percent more fuel efficient than the previous Duramax.

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Catching up with Ram’s Cummins I-6, the Duramax also features a brand-new push-button activated engine exhaust brake. It saves on wheel brake and transmission wear by clamping down the engine’s turbo vanes, creating back pressure to engine-brake the truck. It reduces the potential for brake fade during long descents, increasing downhill safety while helping with towing and extending overall wheel brake life.

Overall, the new Duramax is quieter than its predecessor. There are lower levels of clatter than before, but in our test truck we noticed an occasionally intrusive turbo moan, especially when we were in the truck for long periods on the highway.

The Duramax is B20 biodiesel compatible.

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The 2011 model is the first time GM is using urea selective catalytic reduction to reduce nitrogen oxide emission. Both GM and Ford diesel pickups use this type of system.

In contrast to the job site-trimmed gas truck, the LTZ diesel had GM’s upscale “low and forward” interior that’s shared with its full-size utility vehicles. Though higher in quality, we definitely miss the rich information displays and access buttons used to check vital truck stats that are found in the Ram and Ford trucks.

2011 Ford F-250 Lariat with 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8

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Ford’s all-new 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 diesel is Ford’s first-ever designed-in-house pickup truck diesel engine since the first compression ignition engine (International’s 6.9-liter V-8) was offered under the hood of a Ford pickup in 1982.

One of the engine’s design breakthroughs is that the intake and exhaust flow through the cylinder heads is reversed when compared to a conventional diesel engine, with the exhaust exiting directly into the engine’s turbo that sits in the engine's valley, mounted between V-style cylinder banks. Like GM’s Duramax, the Power Stroke also uses urea SCR for NOx control and is B20 biodiesel compatible.

We’re impressed with the quietness of the new Power Stroke diesel, though some may nostalgically miss the clatter levels still found with the Ram’s Cummins engine.

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The Super Duty’s backup camera is tops in the segment. Unlike its competitors, the Ford’s reverse view includes helpful hash marks to help line up the truck with a trailer and judge distance.

During one trailer hookup, we somehow managed to leave the Super Duty’s reverse camera engaged after we put the truck in Drive. That’s because Ford is the only manufacturer that offers control over camera settings that allow for a delay in the backup camera view shutting off as long as the vehicle is moving forward or reverse at speeds under 25 mph. It’s a cool feature that’s helpful when working under tight speeds and areas.

The Super Duty’s 4.2-inch LCD driver information system centered in the gauge cluster is hands-down the best trip computer in the industry across all pickup truck segments, and it's the benchmark by which all others that follow will be measured. It includes features like a fuel-efficiency monitor, pitch and yaw angles while off-roading and a robust set of towing apps that can store names and notes for up to 20 trailers plus provides a hitch checklist to help ensure you've hooked up the trailer properly before you tap the accelerator.

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But fanciness aside, we also liked the Super Duty’s four smaller analog gauges arranged in a row near the top of the instrument binnacle that display turbo boost pressure (on the gas truck, it’s oil temp), coolant temperature, transmission temperature and the fuel gauge. They’re in full view through the steering wheel. If we could though, we’d swap the turbo boost pressure gauge for an oil pressure gauge, which we think is more important.

2010 Ram 2500 Laramie with 6.7-liter Cummins I-6

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The 2010 Ram 2500 diesel, in our opinion, is the best three-quarter-ton diesel that Chrysler has ever built. We fell for its beautiful two-tone blue and gray paint job that stood out among the field. Even though it doesn’t have the power levels of the other diesels, it’s certainly not lacking grunt when it comes to work. It just doesn’t do it as quickly.

Though it is Cummins-sourced and has two fewer cylinders than the eight-cylinder compression ignition mills found in the Ford and GM trucks, the Ram hits peak torque early in the power band and has fewer parts. The Cummins also runs urea-free, using a special catalyst that traps and converts NOx into nitrogen gas and water.

Another notable difference between the Cummins and its competitors is its variable geometry turbo that uses a sliding compressor nozzle that moves back and forth axially along the turbo shaft to change air volume and psi boost to the engine. The same sliding yoke also engages the engine exhaust brake. It’s an elegant solution that tackles two different tasks.

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The Ram’s Laramie interior is high class, competing near the Ford King Ranch for levels of refinement and detail. Though the truck had an infotainment screen in the center stack, it lacked navigation, which was a bit confusing as we moved between this truck and the one-ton Ram Laramie.

We didn’t like the way the Ram’s rearview camera immediately shut off when the truck shifted from Reverse into Drive. The Ford (in default camera mode) and GM trucks left their cameras on for several seconds when we pulled forward, which was handy when we were doing quick forward and backward maneuvers to fine-tune hitch alignment between truck and trailer.

One unique feature found on the Ram’s center stack is a “Tire Light Load” button that allows the driver to change the sensitivity of the truck’s tire pressure monitoring system, depending on whether you’re towing and need to maintain higher tire pressures or unloaded and want to air down to a more reasonable level for improved ride comfort.

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For such a nicely appointed rig, the $52,170 Ram was priced the lowest of the three pickups we tested in its group – at least $8,000 less than the Silverado and Super Duty.

Shopping on price alone, we’d gladly park the Ram in our driveway and take the hit on power.

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Comments

Chevy Rules!!!

Wow, 4 cup holders up front in the SD. There better be a porta potty built into the seat:)

No surprise Ford and Ram have better quality than GM.

No surprise Ford is the quietest. I don't know about anyone else but I like peace and quiet when I'm driving.

No surprise Ford has the best features. It is no surprise that GM hates features.


@Dan No Suprise Ford Lost

All in all, I don't think there are any loser. They all win!!!!

@Frank: +1.

Fit and finish, handling , braking, Ram has come a long way.

@Snowman: +1. Right you are sir. Ram has come a long way.

No surprise Zach doesn't know there were no losers here.

The only real loser in any one category was GM when it came to quality.

Other than quality, all winners.

quiet diesl = more bs, and worst fuel economy bring back the 7.3L!!!!!

Mark,
How is GM worse in quality? Yes, their interior could use an upgrade, but that isn't quality. You could have a nice looking interior but if it doesn't last, then it is quality. Yet, an interior that maybe doesn't have the best materials, but takes a beating and doesn't fall apart would say more about quality to me. I'm not saying the Ford or Dodge would fall apart, but to say GM is far behind is quality based on this test is wrong. Again, not saying PUTC did a bad job (far from it) but this type of test doesn't show true quality.

Johny Boy, you do realize that by making a rattle, by definition that means energy is being wasted to make noise, which means it isn't being used to make power. A quite diesel has nothing to do with FE. The reason the new diesels may be behind older diesels in FE is not because they are quiet but because they have to meet tough new emissions regs, which hurt FE.

@Mike Lavine, have you ever thought of just disabling comments on stories like these? I can't stand the number of fanboys that add virtually nothing of value or worse yet, provide misleading information.

Tim,
If you look at the review Mike Levine did for a used 2010 Chevy Silverado, the interior was showing its age and had quality issues. So the Chevy does not the best materials but there are quality issues as well. These interiors for 2011. You can't really counter that with "I'm not sure if Ford and Ram would fall apart" with nothing to suggest they are falling apart, and then call everyone "fanboys".

Here are a few more examples of quality:

Forged wheels on the Ford or steel with beauty covers for the Denali.

The grade of excellence in amenities and features of Ford that GM can't touch...Ford's productivity screen, tailgate step, stowable bed extender, telescopic steering, electrically extendable trailer towing mirrors, DRW trailer sway, etc. This all points to quality.

"@Mike Lavine, have you ever thought of just disabling comments on stories like these? I can't stand the number of fanboys that add virtually nothing of value or worse yet, provide misleading information."

You sound like Obama who wants to silence his critics. Can't beat them so you must try to silence them.

Mark,
I didn't say "I'm not sure if the Ford or Ram would fall apart" I said "I'm not saying they would fall apart" 2 different connotations. I was just pointing out that materials =! quality in my mind. How it holds together is quality.

The other things you listed like steel wheels vs forged wheels, tailgate step etc are features, not quality. Yes, Ford has more features, I'm not denying that. But again, I don't consider that quality.

I'm not trying to silence people. But you have to admit, half the comments turn into "Ford is the best" "GM is the best, Ford sucks" Basically it just turns into manufacturer bashing. Which like I said, adds no value to the discussion. Why put up with it. People who want honest opinions have to sift through tons of worthless posts. Why just not just present the facts, and leave it that way?

Dictionary.com defines quality as high grade; superiority; excellence.

steel wheels w/ plastic hub caps on the denali - low grade, ie. lack of quality.

forged wheels - high grade, ie. quality.

plain 1980's dash board - low grade.

productivity screen that is the benchmark of the industry - high grade, superior, excellence, ie quality.

you get the point.

The quality issues in the GM trucks include inconsistent gaps between panels, like the glove box, and fit and finish issues with the center stack, particularly the head units of the radios. I've yet to find a GMT 900 head unit that had fitment that was perfectly flush and aligned at all four corners. The plastic in the GM's trucks also seems to be a grade or two below the Ram and F-150.

Are you sure this is correct:

"The Cummins also runs urea-free, using a special catalyst that converts NOx into CO2 and water."

I think it converts NOx to N2 and H2O (water). Neither CO2 nor H2O have any nitrogen (N).

@Dan: Good catch. Changed to nitrogen from CO2.

GM wins it all again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

@ Bob - they won the brake test by 3 inchs.
In my world that is a miniscule number.
In your world - well..... keep convincing yourselt that three inchs is all you need.

While these comparos are fine, magazines never tell the real story about these things. How about talking to people that own these things. I would tell you to run run as fast as you can to get away from Dodge. I have a 2008 Ram 2500 and it has been in the shop 42 times in 25 months and after just completing half our planned vacation has valve lifters going bad. Dodges have had steering problems since the gen 3 came out and according to my service manager they have not fixed these piles of you know what yet. I have a 54k piece of junk that at just 2 years old is worth less than half what I paid for it. Ford and GM at least keep abit more value. And when ever Dodge has an issue with build quality with something being out of tolerance rather than fix the issue with the supplier they just make the tolerances larger to cover their butts and not have to fix anything and you end up with junk like I now am stuck with. Do your self an favor and by anything but a Dodge and Pickuptrucks.com how about actually living with this junk and talking to people that made the mistake of actualling using your infomation to form a judgement in buying one of these things.

@ John Are you sure that you have lifters failing? I`m a mechanic that works at a Dodge dealership. A year ago we had a truck come in that belonged to a chuckwagon racer (rodeo is pretty big in Alberta). Dodge is a huge sponser and a lot of the guys get free Dodge diesels to tow there rigs around. Truck had 75,000 kms on the original engine oil and filter. I guess the guy figured it was a free truck so who cares (rumor is he has screwed everyone out of free trucks). the lifters were not in great shape but they weren`t the cause of the failure. I have never heard of Cummins lifters failing regardless of how the engine is maintained. If you are telling the truth about the number of times you have been to the dealership I would say that the techs at that dealer are incompetent. I`ve seen a few lemons but nothing like your experience. Sorry about your luck but what you are experiencing is not the norm. Your service manager is full of you know what if he told there is no fix for the steering. Dodge upgraded the steering components making everything larger in 09. This upgrade will retrofit back to 03. And as far as increasing tolerance: the old steering allowed some play, the new one does not. Under hard running you can still wear them out but they last much much longer than the old system. It is possible that your dealer sucks as much as your truck. I hate seeing un happy customers. I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.

That's an incredible price difference. I had no idea the Ram was $8k cheaper. That could likely sway me to get the Ram. I don't think the Ford and Chevy are worth $8k more. Even though the V8 diesels are an absolute pleasure to drive.

I've looked at the HD trucks and prices are not much different. The 8,000 "cheeper" price - I assume is "price as tested".
When it comes to the pricing hierarchy of fully loaded trucks I'd say Ford is the most pricy but has the most options.
Ram is second.
GM last because they don't have the same high end options.

Mark,
Can you give us a comparison of how these trucks performed relative to the ones in the last shootout so we can see how trucks have progressed in the last few years?

Ford is a "pos" on wheels, No diesel will ever beat a cummin. Cummins uses a inline 6 engine and puts out almost the same amount of power at powerstroke and duramax. If they updated their engines to a v8, they would easily put over 400 hp

The company I work for just purchased a 2012 F250 with the 6.7. I never thought a diesel engine could be that quiet. At 80mph, even the wind noise is little enough to whisper and be heard through the cab. Furthermore, I happen to have seen the buyers' order, and a Lariat (albeit only a 4x2) crew cab was bought for less than the sticker on most half tons. The selling price of the truck was $42k, and drive off was just under $48. Leather; All the amenities inside; Leather Tonneau Cover, Step, Bedliner... etc. Very impressed with the truck, and would buy one for myself without a question about it given that the MSRP on most half tons are as high or higher. BTW- I drive it regularly, and see an in town MPG average of 19, and on the highway as high as 23-24. It gets even better if I am not in a hurry and can set the cruise at 65- it sneaks up to 27mpg. For a 7000# vehicle... WOW! That's just the first 5000 miles... so I'll report back again after a few more oil changes.



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