To determine the winner of our 2014 Ultimate Three-Quarter-Ton Heavy-Duty Challenge, we considered all the test data we had gathered over the full two weeks of testing, as well as our scoring and notes from our judges, who drove these trucks across thousands of miles and in various weather and terrain conditions.
Our charts report all the data we collected and the point totals that those results translate to. The judged section of our test was done by three automotive experts: Aaron Bragman, Cars.com Detroit bureau chief; Kent Sundling, operator of MrTruck.com; and Mark Williams, PickupTrucks.com editor. They scored each truck in six categories on a 100-point scale. Those categories were: engine performance, seating comfort and ergonomics, technology and entertainment, ride quality, visibility and value. For this comparison test, our experts' totals represent about 40 percent of the overall points awarded to each vehicle.
Interestingly, of the 16 empirical tests we conducted, the 2014 Ram 2500 won the most events with 10; the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 won three and the 2015 Ford F-250 won three. However, the Ram did not collect the most points in the empirical section. That happened because we allocate points equally in each event based on the percentage difference from the winning time, speed or distance. In several cases the winning and second-place scores were separated only by fractions, so many scores were very close. The Ford F-250 finished ahead in data points by a very small number, winning just three of 16 events but placing very close to the winner in many others.
Where the Ram 2500 did much better than either of the other two competitors was in our qualitative scoring, impressing each judge enough to get a unanimous first-place finish.
First Place: 2014 Ram 2500 HD
Empirical score, 1,553 points; judges' score, 1,515 points; total, 3,068 points
The Ram HD 2500 is our pick for best overall three-quarter-ton pickup equipped with a gas engine.
It dominated our test events, winning 10 of 16 events and scoring a first-place finish with each of our judges. The Ram definitely offered the best interior and had the best ride of the three, comfortably traversing just about every smooth and broken tarmac surface. Even though it sat below our $50,000 price cap, it still provided a lot of technology and features that the other two players could not match: the RamBox, adaptable rear coils, hidden storage, a top-notch information center and more. Our biggest complaint about this truck was that it didn't have side steps, which is practically a requirement unless you are 6 feet 5 inches or taller. Other nitpicks had to do with the fact that Ram tried to pack too many features into the truck; having the Tow/Haul and trailer brake controller relatively low in the center stack makes both a challenge to find in a hurry. Still, if we were going to choose the best all-around three-quarter-ton player in the field today, the Ram 2500 would be at the top of our list.
Second Place: 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD
Empirical score, 1,539 points; judges' score, 1,445 points; total, 2,984 points
The Chevy Silverado won three different empirical events, two in our level-ground brake testing and one in the loaded fuel-economy test. If the Chevy is a good example of anything, it's a testament to how much you can do with a smaller pile of cash. It's difficult not to look at the recent 2015 upgrades as a compromise decision in which someone up the chain of GM command decided to focus on improving the interior and exterior look without fully addressing substantive issues with the HDs' conventional front short- and long-arm independent front suspension and old-as-dirt leaf spring setup. Despite those shortcomings, the judges consistently scored the Chevy better than the Ford; the Chevy provided a confident look and controlled feel when running in transport or on test tracks. If there was a glaring weakness, we couldn't find it, but these new powertrains did expose a few vulnerabilities during our most punishing and heaviest test events.
Third Place: 2015 Ford F-250 Super Duty
Empirical score, 1,560 points; judges' score, 1,395 points; total, 2,955 points
The Ford was the least changed truck since our last HD test; each of its competitors have undergone significant interior, exterior and, in some cases, mechanical upgrades. We like the 6.2-liter V-8 engine; it's a strong performer and it did very well in just about all of our contests. However, we found the most problems surrounding the truck were underneath in the form of the suspension's challenged ride quality, both when loaded or empty. None of the other trucks sagged as much as the F-250, which showed a pronounced droop in the rear end when loaded. Likewise, when loaded, the ride was floaty and wobbly — especially when taking corners. Additionally, the look of the factory trailer hitch is bulky and ugly, and not nearly as integrated and well-designed as its competitors. Yes, the Ford F-250 did come out on top during our 16-event empirical portion, but fell a healthy distance short of the competition (we can't help but wonder what would have happened with 4.30:1 gears) in ride quality and overall interior design and quality.
Editor's note: We'd like to thank RaceLogic for collecting much of our test data, to GM for the use of its proving grounds, to Roush and Load Trail for the use of its heavy-duty trailers and to the editorial staff at Cars.com who helped and supported PickupTrucks.com in putting together this monster comparison test.
To download the results of each test, their corresponding scores, and the judges' totals, click here.
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears