We've always liked to see how big pickup trucks deal with high altitude and heavy loads, and there is no better place to test for both than the Eisenhower Pass grade just west of Denver. The Loveland Pass area is well above 10,000 feet and is the place where many gather in the winter for ultimate skiing and snowboarding adventures. But we love the hill climb to the Loveland Summit from its base in Dillon, Colo., for the challenge it presents when hauling cargo and towing trailers with a pickup. The grade goes through two tunnels (Eisenhower and Johnson) where the elevation climbs more than 2,300 feet in just 7 miles. The first 2 miles average a healthy 5 percent grade and the remaining 4-plus miles can reach as steep as 8 percent.
As the premiere competitive event of our 2014 Ultimate Heavy-Duty Challenge, this test was extremely close with the first- and second-place finishers separated by less than a second, and the third-place finisher 17 seconds behind that. Each of the trucks' turbo-diesel engines was impressive, with the Ram 3500's Cummins sounding and acting the most comfortable and confident (with the lowest engine temperatures) up the grade. The Ram had the slowest top speed at 62.6 mph, and the GMC Sierra 3500's Duramax had the highest top speed at 66.6 mph.
How We Did the Testing
Each of our multiple runs was done at night for the sake of traffic and safety, and began at the entrance of the freeway on-ramp in Dillon, Colo. Interstate 70 is a major corridor through the Rockies, and the road gets punished each winter, so finding a good lane (and staying away from the slow-moving big rigs and gawking tourists) for a clean run is sometimes tricky, but we succeeded without any problems.
We used the same testing procedures we used at Davis Dam (in fact, we drove the trucks and trailers straight from our Davis Dam tests), meaning we had two people in each test truck along with our 20,000-plus pound trailers carrying our three-quarter-ton competitors on the beds.
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears