2015 Light-Duty V-8 Challenge: Overview

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A lot can happen to pickup trucks in just a few years, especially in a segment as brutally competitive as half-ton four-door V-8 pickups. Sales are on a torrid pace and incentive wars are heating up. In the middle of all this, every one of the pickup makers are bringing out more new products and technology, the likes of which we've never seen before.

The last time we got all the half-ton pickups together in 2013, we had one of the most competitive head-to-head battles we've ever conducted, and the previous-gen Ford F-150 won by a slim margin.

This time, we invited each of the half-ton pickup players to submit their best 4x4 crew-cab V-8 pickup as long as the final price was less than $55,000. Within that price cap, manufacturers could equip their trucks however they wished. The competitors for this Challenge were:

  • 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71 LTZ
  • 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT (each GM had a brand-new 6.2-liter overhead-valve V-8 and eight-speed transmission)
  • All-new 2015 Ford F-150 XLT
  • 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn
  • 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Unfortunately, Nissan declined to participate, noting that it will be debuting a new Titan at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which opens to the media Jan. 12.

We conducted all of our testing in Arizona, with empty and loaded track testing done at the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler. Fuel economy testing ran from Chandler up to the Apache Trail and back. Because we wanted to know how well these trucks handle towing, we enlisted Logan Coach Trailers to provide us with three closely matched horse trailers that we picked up at Imperial Trailers in Tempe. We even made a road trip to Kingman, where we conducted acceleration tests with our loaded trailers up the infamous Davis Dam grade on Arizona Route 68.

After all our driving tests, we collected some engine dynamometer data on each engine (at Arizona Dyno Chip in Chandler) so you could compare how each of these engines stacked up against one another. We'll have more on these particular results later.

Finally, we enlisted the help of five experts to judge how these trucks compared with each other, scoring the half-tons in six separate categories:

  • Performance
  • Seating comfort and ergonomics
  • Technology and entertainment
  • Ride and suspension
  • Visibility
  • Value

Our judges included longtime freelance writer Dave Boldt, truck expert Bruce Smith, Cars.com Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek, MrTruck.com owner/operator Kent Sundling and PickupTrucks.com Editor Mark Williams.

When calculated, our empirical tests amounted to two-thirds of total points awarded, with the remainder determined by the judges. So let's get to it.

Here are the competitors for the 2015 Light-Duty V-8 Challenge.

Chevy 23

2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71 LTZ

Our Chevy entry had the 6.2-liter overhead-valve V-8, 3.23:1 axle gears and new eight-speed transmission ($2,495), MyLink and 4G hotspot ($495), side steps ($650) and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels ($850). Our Chevy did not have the NHT max trailering package (however, the GMC Sierra 1500 did), which offers a stronger rear axle, lower ring-and-pinion gear and 400 pounds more gross vehicle weight (see the What You Get chart). The total here, including destination, was $54,310.

2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 price sheet

 

Ford 15

2015 Ford F-150 XLT

Our new F-150 crew cab had the smallest V-8 of the group ($1,559) and came in Ford's midlevel XLT trim, so it had one of the lowest prices of our test. Our test truck — we should note this was technically an early production unit, which explains why Ford could only give us what it had to fit our criteria — came equipped with a rear electronic locking differential ($470), a trailer tow package ($495), box side steps ($325) and a tailgate step ($375). It came with 3.55:1 gearing. The final total, including destination, was $47,845.

2015 Ford F-150 Monroney

 

GMC 19

2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT

Like the Silverado, the big news for the GMC is that its biggest V-8 is now mated with the brand-new eight-speed transmission. The only distinction between the GMC and the Chevy was that this one did not have the Z71 suspension and offered a gross vehicle weight rating that was 400 pounds more at 7,600, as well as 3.42:1 gearing. Our test unit had the driver alert package ($845), the max trailer package ($880), heated and cooled front seats ($650), spray-in bedliner ($475) and leather interior ($375). Total vehicle price, including destination, came to $54,655.

2015 GMC Sierra 1500 Monroney

 

Ram 19

2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn

Our test Ram, which does not offer anything new for the 2015 model year, came to us with the western-themed Laramie Longhorn interior. The powertrain was the familiar 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi and ZF eight-speed transmission. As you might expect, this package was polished and well-equipped but still offered a few options: four-corner air suspension ($1,695), wheel-to-wheel side steps ($600), limited-slip differential ($325), trailer brake controller ($230) and 3.92:1 gears ($50). The final pricing for our Ram 1500 test truck, including destination, was $54,820.

2015 Ram 1500 Monroney

 

Tundra 8

2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Although the Tundra went through a significant refresh for the 2014 model year (inside and out), Toyota opted not to send us either of its premium trims (the 1794 Edition or Platinum), but instead sent us its newest option package, the off-road-ready TRD Pro. The massive CrewMax 5.7-liter V-8 has a unique look and an impressive high-tech suspension (and 4.30:1 gearing), but it did not come equipped with a trailer brake controller or max tow package. All totaled, the Tundra TRD Pro, including destination, had the lowest transaction price of our test at $45,045.

2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro Monroney

 

Any guesses on how they did? Let's see how they performed.

To see our What You Get specification chart, click here.

Cars.com images by Evan Sears

Overview | Acceleration | Quarter-Mile | Braking | Fuel Economy | Davis Dam | Results

Comments

I cry foul on Toyota's part. What the hell were you thinking? Seriously!!!

Whomever made the decision to send a TRD Pro should be fired as it is a clear demonstration of incompetence.

My 11 year old son could have configured a truck better suited for this highly visisble test, really, he could.

Either I am blind or someone at GM forgot to bolt on those $650 pair of sidesteps.

Why would you leave out the 5.3 engine? Why have two identical trucks with the only difference the axle ratios? Not much differenece between a 3.23 and 3.42. Could of had one with a 3.73. Makes no sense to me at all. I'll bet a lot of guys agree with me on this one.

We were given the price point, and asked to provide the best truck available at that price. The 5.3 is a great engine, but looking at the fuel economy numbers, it is hard to see much downside to the 6.2 for a customer who is not particularly price sensitive.

@ Tom Is GM going to offer the 6.2 for lower trim levels? It appears to be great engine, but by only putting it in the upper trim levels it seems like GM will be missing out on sales.

@Tom

What is the power output of the 6.2L with regular 87 octane instead of the p91 octane recommended by the owners manual and used to achieve it's power numbers? All the other trucks (besides the Hemi) only require the less expensive 87 octane to run. Also, in the owners manual for GM it states you will get less fuel economy running 87 octane in the 6 2L. How much will fuel economy drop if you use 87 octane?

Looks like Ford was afraid to send their Ecoboost model. Need to give the fanboys something to hold onto as the internet would break if the 6.2 outperformed the Ecoboost!

GM sent 6.2L twins because currently, that's the only way to get the 8l90 transmission. First year of the tranny, I'm sure the 16's will get something different for 5.3's

@mike - it was a V8 shootout.

Ford trucks a friend of mine owns a body shop and he said very few shops have the tools or know how to work on aluminum and because of that the insurance companies will charge the truck owners about thirty five percent more a year for coverage. To me this is going the wrong way how is that saving money?

You guys crying about the 6.2L and it's premium fuel recomendation are just rediculous. Premium fuel is roughly 20 cents more per gallon. With the tank being a 26 gallon tank you'd likely fill up when the low fuel light comes on at 22 gallons used. That means $4.40 more per tank to run premium. Hell, I spend more than that for lunch. If you can't afford another 4-5 dollars per tank when you buy a brand new vehicle then you shouldn't be buying a new vehicle.

To Mike, who made the comment about Ford being afraid to offer the 3.5 Ecoboost? A V8 challenge usually means that the said vehicle should have 8 cylinders. lol

Yes It would be nice to have the 5.3 GMC to compare to 6.2. I have Sierra 1500 with 5.3 and towing package pulling a 7500 # trail trailer in mountains of NC and Tenn. It does a good job but not great, have considered trading up to 6.2 but not without some valid trials to compare.

I am happy after getting simoleons for my sims free play game account without paying money.



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