Longtime readers of PickupTrucks.com will recognize this 7.2 percent hill-climb contest from past heavy-duty shootouts and preproduction engineering drives.
This is the same section of road that GM engineers have been using at the Milford Proving Grounds for decades, testing trucks with and without heavy trailers in tow. Thankfully, the truck maker allowed us to use the same section of grade for testing our herd of half-tons.
The procedures were pretty simple. We chose a designated spot near the start of the grade and used that spot to start each truck during back-to-back runs. Each truck was tested on the hill climb empty, running for the best time to 60 mph. With that accomplished, each truck was hooked up to our 8,500-pound test trailer and run over the same hill, this time measuring their times to 40 mph (none of the pickups hit 60 before the quarter-mile mark).
Each truck was run the same way, with the windows rolled up, air conditioning off, in two-wheel drive, transmission in Drive and traction control off. Our empty runs were done out of Tow/Haul mode, while trailered runs were done with Tow/Haul engaged.
At the start with each of the trucks, we power braked the engine (meaning we kept our foot on the brake briefly while revving the engine to around 2,000 rpm), then we released the brake quickly, getting to wide-open-throttle as quickly as possible. Some trucks did better empty, while others performed more confidently with a load on the back bumper.
From the outset, we knew the Ram would be the one to watch. The Hemi V-8 is rated with the highest horsepower of our group at 395 at 5,600 rpm, and when combined with the deep 1st gear of an eight-speed transmission (4.71:1) and a compliant air suspension, we had a feeling it would be the one to beat. That's exactly what happened.
The Ram 1500 tore up the 7.2 percent grade, taking only 8.2 seconds to reach 60 mph empty, leaving everyone except for the Ford F-150 (at 8.5 seconds) in the dust. Some of the trucks, like the Titan, struggled to keep themselves from spinning the tires before the nannies broke in (even with the traction control button in the "off" position), while the two GM trucks seemed to have a much smarter traction control setup system at work, but they still seemed a bit sluggish when responding to throttle input.
When trailering, the Ram 1500's rear end did a great job of getting the 20-inch Goodyear Wrangler SR/A tires (the exact same tires on the Ford, Chevy and GMC) to hook up and pull the 8,500-pound trailer to 40 mph in 11.3 seconds. The F-150's EcoBoost twin turbo came in not far behind, with the Chevy, Toyota and Nissan following closely.
Oddly, the GMC struggled to get traction with a trailer, requiring us to more softly ramp up the throttle input to prevent the tires from breaking loose (which seemed to happen pretty easily). It's possible there may have been an issue with the StabiliTrak traction control software during those runs, but we did our best to reset both after each run and we tried several variations, running the truck more times than any other.
In the end, the Ram won both hill-climb tests, collecting 200 points for both wins.Overview | Judges' Impressions | 0-60 Acceleration | 60-0 Braking | Mileage Drive | Hill Climb | Autocross | Payload and Towing | Results