Wherever possible, we like to get access to a truckmaker's proving grounds when conducting our big comparison tests. Not only does it give us a chance to see where these full-size pickup trucks are designed, engineered and eventually produced, but it also provides a controlled environment for our competitive events.
This time GM was kind enough to offer its Milford Proving Ground facility for the first portion of our 2014 Ultimate Heavy-Duty Challenge. We were able to use the 7.2 percent grade that climbs 1,600 feet. Some might recall our 2010 Heavy-Duty Shootout during which we pulled 10,000-pound engineering trailers up GM's 16 percent hill climb. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts and top-secret vehicle testing in that track area, we were not able to use that climb for this Challenge. However, we found that the 7.2 percent hill climb was perfectly suited for towing 16,000-pound trailers.
We tested for fastest times to 40 mph, as well as quarter-mile times and speeds, at wide-open throttle, to give us another look at time and speed performance, but this time with a rather significant grade involved.
Each of the three trucks jumped off the line in different ways, with the Ford F-350 making the fastest times in the first 60 feet, but the gear shifts felt much more solidly linked, with less space between them than in the GMC Sierra 3500. Meanwhile, the Ram 3500's Aisin transmission almost seemed too smart about making sure not to send too much of that Cummins inline-six torque to the rear end, almost feeling like it wanted to incrementally send torque to the rear axle. No doubt that will help the driveline live a longer life, but it was bit frustrating when trying to get good times.
During our zero-to-40-mph test runs, the Ford just nipped the GMC by 1/100th of a second (statistically that's probably a tie); both beat the Ram, which was more than 33 percent slower.
During our full quarter-mile runs (no surprises here either), the Ford just edged out the GMC on the flat-out runs, but the Ram did a tremendous job making up time some time through the middle and end of the 1,320-foot run, missing a winning time by less than a second.
How We Did the Testing
We ran the test with Cars.com Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek behind the wheel and RaceLogic VBOX expert Joe Lachovsky in the passenger seat, collecting data. Each truck was run up the hill with the windows rolled up, air conditioning off and the transmission in Drive with the Tow/Haul setting on. In most cases, the trucks executed the best times using a small amount of brake torqueing before Bruzek mashed the throttle to the floor.
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears