The Davis Dam grade, about two hours southeast of Las Vegas, will be familiar to many of our readers, not only because we've conducted several past comparison tests there, but because it is one of the major routes used in the Society of Automotive Engineers' requirements for conforming to the new J2807 towing standards. From our point of view, if the grade is good enough for the SAE, it's good enough for PickupTrucks.com.
The bottom-to-top runs were fairly uneventful but did show off each of the contenders' strengths and weaknesses. The Ford F-350 continued to do a great job at takeoff, pulling strong right off the line. In fact, the F-350 had the best time, finishing the climb in just more than 11.5 minutes; it also had the highest top speed at 64.1 mph. The GMC Sierra 3500 finished second at just less than 12.5 minutes with a 60.5 top speed. And the Ram 3500 finished in third place, not far behind the GMC, in just less than 13 minutes with a top speed of 59.9 mph.
The cooling fans came on in all three pickups during the runs, but the Ram's was by far the loudest; none of the trucks' cooling temperatures rose into critical areas during testing.
How We Did the Testing
Sometimes at Davis Dam we've had to conduct our runs at night because of congestion; however, on this occasion we were able to start our runs late in the afternoon due to much-lighter-than-usual traffic. Road temperatures during our test were just more than 100 degrees, with little to no wind observed. As you might expect, there was no humidity.
We took our measurements over the course of a 10.8-mile section of state Route 68 that starts at the bottom of the hill just after the last stoplight in Bullhead City, Ariz., and finishes just as you hit the Union Pass summit. The grade climbs just more than 3,000 feet in elevation and has a consistent 5 percent grade with occasional 7 and 8 percent sections throughout, and six gentle curves.
As in previous tests, we had two testers in each test truck, one driver and one data collector. It's important to note that these Week 2 tests (Davis Dam and Eisenhower Pass) were conducted with the same pickup trucks that we had for Week 1 (drag strip, hill climb and brake testing in Michigan), but the trailers were very different.
For our Las Vegas to Denver run, we worked with our friends at Load Trail, who set us up with three identical Load Max double-axle dovetail Low Pro gooseneck trailers, rated to carry up to 30,000 pounds. We did not need that full capacity as we used the trailers to carry our three-quarter-ton competitors and several water tanks. Each trailer weighed more than 20,000 pounds and provided a substantial load for testing. In all three cases, they were within 2,300 pounds of gross combined weight ratings.
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears