Photography by Evan Sears
When you put 1,600 miles on a pair of full-size behemoth pickup trucks with monster gooseneck trailers locked down in the beds, you get very familiar with their interiors and which one offers the best features and creature comforts that fit your towing style — and your body. So here's what we thought of the 2013 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty and 2013 Ford F-450 crew cabs.
One of our biggest pet peeves is not having a way to see what's happening inside the engine or transmission. We like that Ford's Super Duty lineup allows drivers to see what the transmission is doing with big numbers in the gauge cluster. Although you can actually get the Aisin Ram HD to show you what gears you're moving through by making it think you want to lock out a top gear, the readouts are so small they're almost unusable.
Despite that, we were very impressed with the amount of engine and truck data available on the Ram's information screen. We most often kept an eye on the turbo and exhaust brake screens that let us know how hard the two systems were working during our uphill climbs and rapid descents. No other heavy-duty truck has that. That said, Ford's Super Duty gauge cluster and font choices are very easy to read, and all the information we need is where we expect it to be. If you like mountains of data at your fingertips and don't mind scrolling for a bit to see your temperatures and pressures, the Ram is probably your choice. For us, we'll do just fine with Ford's clean, simple approach.
We liked that Ford's mirrors were able to electronically extend a few inches (and fold flat to the doors), but we didn't like how small they were. The Ram mirrors, although only manually foldable and collapsable and one inch narrower than the Ford's in width, it did have almost four inches of extra reach. Oddly, the Ford's ugly "snap-on" dualie fender flares made it a little easier to see around the rear body to the trailer's outer tires. The Ram's more stylish molded rear fenders made it almost impossible to see around or behind them, making the trailer more difficult to see.
The Ram's overall ride quality was hands down better than Ford's ride in both empty and fully loaded scenarios. The Ram's rear suspension felt solid, quiet and strong enough to pull and move our big load without sacrificing any rear ride quality. Additionally, we liked the Ram's seats and assume that they probably had a lot to do with our feeling less fatigued after a full day of driving with a loaded trailer. The Ford's suspension felt a little more rigid and less capable of dealing with road irregularities, especially when empty, and we had some bad leaf spring squeaking throughout our test when maneuvering into and out of tight spaces like gas stations or hotel parking lots.
Both cabins were quiet, but the Super Duty was just a touch ahead, most likely because the V-8 Power Stroke is one of the quietest big diesels on the market, and the Cummins, well, it isn't.
Overall, the quality and execution of the Ram Laramie Longhorn interior is impressive. Soft-touch leather is everywhere, and all the materials under your elbows, arms, hands and fingers have solidity, cushioning and grip. Our only complaint with the Ram has to do with the thickness of the steering wheel. Does it have to be as thick as a baseball bat? We found that holding onto the wheel for extended periods was tiring and at times, a little clumsy. Likewise, the Platinum Super Duty offers a nice interior but doesn't really distinguish itself enough from a comparably equipped $50,000 pickup. If these trucks are going to cost nearly $70,000, they ought to look like it. The Ford does not; the Ram does.
Our final test measured how well the rear suspensions, rated to be the strongest in their respective lineups, handle a fifth-wheel hitch. Specifically, how much squat does it put to the rear axle when it has to handle several thousand pounds?
As it turned out, both trucks experienced just less than 2 inches of squat when loaded with our gooseneck trailers. We should note there was about a 2-inch difference in the height of the trucks' bed floors, which was also about the same difference between the two bed-rail heights. As a result, to keep the trailer properly level, we had to extend the gooseneck coupler on the Ford's trailer to accommodate the lower bed height.