Some might argue that it doesn't make sense to run big pickup trucks on quarter-mile tracks because there's nothing like that experience in the real world. And we'd say they are right, but collecting the data gives us a good baseline to compare each truck's engine performance. Still others might argue, especially with runs near maximum trailer weights, that the tests give readers a good idea of how well each truck might perform when merging into highway traffic.
During our zero-to-60-mph empty one-ton runs at the Milan Dragway near Ann Arbor, Mich., we had surprisingly little trouble getting the big-torque pickups to hook up for a strong launch. Each empty truck was run with the windows rolled up, air conditioning off and Tow/Haul off. Runs with the trailer followed the same procedure but were done with the Tow/Haul switch on. Our driver got his best times by lightly brake-torquing the engine up to about 2,000 rpms, then mashing the pedal.
The 2015 GMC Sierra 3500 (the 2012 version was the drag-strip champ in our 2011 Heavy-Duty Hurt Locker test and overall winner in that test as well) got the best zero-to-60 run of the day with 7.95 seconds, but the 2015 Ford F-350 was right behind it, just 1/10th of a second slower at 8.05. The 2014 Ram 3500 was almost 2 full seconds behind at 9.54.
With the 16,000-pound gooseneck trailer chained in place (loaded with almost two dozen lead ingots), the F-350 came alive and beat the GMC by more than 3 seconds and the Ram by more than 5 seconds.
As some might suspect, the quarter-mile times were an almost perfect mirror to what happened during our zero-to-60-mph numbers. The empty GMC just nosed ahead of the Ford with a winning time/speed of 16.2 seconds at 85.4 mph, while the Ram was more than a second slower. With the trailers hooked up to the big haulers, the Ford F-350 Power Stroke (with its larger, smarter turbocharger and improved transmission) again outperformed the GMC and Ram by almost a full second.
How We Did the Testing
We've used Milan Dragway before for other PickupTrucks.com tests and find the facility ideal for our needs. The track is open yet secluded and provides solid grip at the start line, and the facility does a great job of accommodating our fully loaded big-trailer runs. (If you've never raced a one-ton turbo-diesel and heavily loaded trailer on a drag strip, we recommend you put that on your bucket list.)
We like Milan because it allows us to keep many variables as constant as possible, and we have a safety crew on call just in case we have any trouble. We make sure to use the same driver during each run, and he does his best to keep all procedures and logistics as similar from truck to truck as possible.
Our driver for this test was Cars.com Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek, who is self-described muscle-car enthusiast and graduate of several go-fast driving schools. He was accompanied on each run by RaceLogic expert Joe Lachovsky, who collected all our testing data via VBOX 2SX10 equipment. All data was downloaded to computers instantly and run through the RaceLogic software in order to give us all the organized head-to-head data and comparison charts we could want.
For this event we made sure we showed up at the track with full fuel tanks. We got lucky with weather, running most of the trucks under clear skies with a slight breeze, with temperatures between the mid-70s and low-80s. Track temperatures heated up pretty quickly, ranging from the 80s in the late morning to just less than 120 degrees by the afternoon.
As a side note, we invited representatives from each of the manufacturers to attend our test session so they could observe our procedures and answer any questions we might have. Of course, it gave them a chance to ask us questions as well. (Ford had the biggest crew, but Ram and GM had a good showing as well.) We even had a little fun when the Ram guys brought a Ram 1500 Express with the Hemi and Ford showed up with a 2014 F-150 Tremor.
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears