Knowing how pickup trucks run at the track or how well they can tow weight through congested cities or over mountain highways is just one way of determining their capabilities. We believe another important test that is a top priority for any V-8 half-ton pickup is how well it can tow and control a trailer up a steep grade.
With those priorities in mind, we took our crew of half-tons and horse trailers to one of the most rugged hill climbs in Arizona. Arizona Route 68 just outside of Kingman is home to the infamous Davis Dam grade, a hill climb so challenging the Society of Automotive Engineers uses this same route to define the J2807 towing criteria that all truckmakers must adhere to.
As you can see, the fastest trucks were the 6.2-liter V-8 GM pickups, with the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 getting to 60 mph in 19.92 seconds and the GMC Sierra 1500 in 20.05. The Ram ran 26.15, with the Ford a nose behind at 26.28 seconds. Trailing the pack was the Tundra, which we could see was struggling with the extra weight, at 28.39.
Interestingly, no truck was faster than the Ram Hemi and ZF eight-speed to 10, 20 or 30 mph, but then it fell considerably behind through 40, 50 and 60 mph. The Ford, on the other hand, did not start well at up to 30 and 40 mph, but it really opened up with pushing to 50, 60 and beyond. Several of our drivers thought the Ford sounded the best when pulling the load as well.
How We Conducted the Testing
In the name of full disclosure, SAE typically does its testing in the middle of the summer when normal temperatures hover at or above 100 degrees. We did our tests in December, when temperatures were in the 70-degree range after a rainstorm had come through the valley a few days earlier. Still, testing on this slope challenged all the half-ton competitors equally.
Rather than risk breaking any speed laws on our test runs and doing a bottom-to-top (almost 12 miles long) wide-open-throttle run, we instead chose one of the steepest parts of the climb to conduct some zero-to-60-mph runs. Our test section was a little more than halfway up the climb on a 6.8 percent grade. We found a safe pull-off along the highway with plenty of visibility behind us, making sure there was no traffic; likewise, we made sure we could see far enough in front of us as well.
Each run was performed with the air conditioning off, windows rolled up, our 6,700-pound trailer safely attached and each transmission in Tow/Haul mode.
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears