Quarter-mile Drag (Unloaded)

Quarter-Mile Test


We rented the asphalt at Milan Dragway just outside Detroit to find out how fast and powerful the latest half-ton trucks are. The track features an IHRA-sanctioned quarter-mile dragstrip. It's perfect for determining performance over a fixed distance, unloaded and loaded.

The tests we performed represent a reasonable scenario for drivers interested in learning how quickly they can accelerate up to 60 mph or more. These tests determine how well a pickup can join the flow of traffic on the freeway without holding up drivers behind them or causing an unsafe situation in a slow-moving vehicle towing a trailer.

All the tests were conducted in two-wheel drive at wide-open throttle, with traction and stability control both turned on. Tow-haul mode was engaged when towing and disabled when not towing. A minimum of three runs were carried out in each configuration tested. The average and fastest runs are presented in the results.

In the pictures that accompany this story, you'll see the trucks racing each other. However, Ricardo Inc. only collected metrics and data from one truck at a time, using a $50,000 Oxford Technical Solutions RT3102 inertial and GPS recorder. How the trucks performed head-to-head isn't necessarily indicative of the final results you'll read about.

We’re not sure who was more anxious, our team of journalists, starting the first set of tests for our biggest comparison yet, or the manufacturers in attendance, seeing all the 2009-model-year half-tons together for the first time.

Quarter-Mile Unloaded Assessment



Last year, the Toyota Tundra was the powerhouse half-ton. Its six-speed transmission and 381-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 made it extremely difficult to beat in zero to 60 acceleration, challenged only by the low-volume, all-wheel-drive GMC Sierra Denali. If there’s one thing Toyota got right with the Tundra, it’s the truck’s excellent powertrain.

This year, the Tundra’s power ratings were pushed to third place (ranked by automaker; fourth if we rate by brand) behind GM’s 403-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 and Chrysler’s 390-hp, 5.7-liter V-8. Would the six-speed Silverado and Sierra be able to lay down all that power to the rear wheels through the 3.42 ring and pinion to beat the 4.30-equipped Tundra? Could the nine extra horses in the Dodge and its five-speed transmission outperform the Toyota’s six-speed shifting finesse using brute force?


Unloaded, the Silverado was the fastest truck, beating the second-place Tundra by a scant .16 seconds and 1.5 mph. Two features gave the Chevy the edge: higher power ratings and shift points set to deliver peak torque at 4,300 rpm, which is 700 rpm higher than the Tundra. This proved critical in this test because all the trucks revved high into the 5,000 to 5,500 rpm range before upshifting and falling back to 4,400 to 4,700 rpm, which is near the sweet spot for the 6.2-liter V-8. One factor that reinforced our opinion of the Tundra’s unfriendly ride unloaded was a lot of noticeable vibration felt through the steering column and noticed in the interior plastic bits shaking as the Tundra raced down the track. The Tundra was the highest-mileage truck of the rigs we tested, with 8,000 miles on its odometer, versus approximately 1,000 miles for the rest of the test fleet, so perhaps it was showing a bit of wear and tear? The Silverado was very smooth the entire takeoff.

The Sierra took third place, a razor-thin .04 seconds behind the Tundra, though 1.7 mph faster. The Sierra had the extra power and strength at the end, but its stiff offroad suspension likely contributed to its slower start versus the Chevy and Toyota.

The Ram and Titan took fourth and fifth, respectively. They were the only trucks with five-speed transmissions. The Ram was quick off the line — part of its new coil-spring rear suspension’s inherent ability to transmit power to the ground — but the shift from first and second felt sluggish and played a role in making the Ram slower than the Titan through the first two-thirds of the quarter-mile. At the top of 2nd gear, entering 3rd, the Ram found its track legs and hammered home the final portion of the quarter-mile to beat the Titan by .16 seconds and 2.8 mph.

We noticed some unusual behavior in the last-place F-150. Launching the truck cleanly proved difficult because we repeatedly encountered rear axle hop at wide-open throttle. We encountered this condition in only two places: on the sticky surface at Milan and again on an asphalt hill climb at GM’s proving grounds. We were unable to re-create the condition on public roads and highways. We believe it was due to axle wrap, possibly because the 6-inch-longer leaf springs on the 2009 F-150 allowed too much rebound. Once it was racing down the track, though, the F-150’s updated 5.4-liter engine and all-new transmission worked very well together. It felt really good — until we started racing against someone else, at which point we quickly discovered how slow the truck was. Zero to 60 took almost 9 seconds, and it finished the quarter-mile a second later than the fifth-place Titan and 9 mph slower than the first-place Silverado.

Next: Quarter-Mile Drags (Loaded)


I find one major problem with this test, NOBODY drag races leaving off idle. Nobody.

So how can we say these 0-60 and 1/4 mile time are accurage, when a driver is truly racing, you powerbrake it just before the rear wheels start to move and mash the pedal?

I guarantee if that was done (and especially if the traction control is turned off), these 0-60 and 1/4 mile times would be much more indicative of the performance potential of the truck.

And, since drag racers do powerbrake, it would give us truck enthusiasts a better representation of a stock truck's performance.

We power braked when we drag raced each other. But for accuracy in comparing trucks, which is why Ricardo tested one truck/one driver at a time by instrumentation, how would you reliably power brake the same for each truck? We weren't measuring reaction time of the driver or acuracy of the tree, and not even how fast a drver could move his foot from brake to wide open throttle. We only measured WOT for a 1/4 mile.

We wanted to take out human error as much as possible. The test of driver skills and tires is up to enthusiasts at the track.

The Tundra 5.7 gets best quarter mile performance with all the nannies disabled and in 4WD. Crewmaxs regularly post high 14s at that altitude.

Best performance of all would be a 5.7 Tundra in regular cab short bed versions which manage low 14s because of the weight reduction. That would be a serious beat down against the Chev 6.2. Not apples to apples? Yes it is because Chev does not offer the 6.2 in a regular cab. Chev and Dodge powertrains are very respectable, no question there, but if performance is priority one, Tundra wins.

Tundra loses this race. The reg cab is less than 8% of production, hardly a model to hang your overall hat on. The 6.2L GM V8 is the new horsepower king if performance is priority one in a model that is actually sold in volume.

Sales volumes do not appear on time slips. :)

Unless GM gets an exemption from the laws of physics, weight is the sworn enemy of performance, and quad cabs pack on the pounds in quantity. Hard core sport trucks are regular cabs first, and the big motored ones can be bought anywhere...except at GM dealerships.

hell my CrewCab Titan ran a 15.4 stock in FL summer heat....i also raced an 08 Denali (after i did some mods) and he ran a 14.7 with only a tuner...he ran 15.0 stock, these test arent even close to real world numbers IMO....i also dont believe the Chevy will beat the Tundra in the real world, but who knows, my next truck will be between the Silverado and the Tundra

First off ,the Tundra has an unfair advantage its 4.30 gears,It would be nice if they all had 4.30 gears then the Tundra would probably be only faster than the F-150.Look at the local dragstrip on drag cars, real racers dont usually race with 3.42 gears.Remember the older 345 horse single cab Ram runs low -mid 14's with 3.92.Ditto the Silverado SS runs 14's as well.

It is hard to power brake each different truck evenly,I never powerbrake because just a few hundred extra rpm's and its spinsville and my times are actually faster by not power braking,plus its hard on the transmission to do so.,Unless you have a stall converter and slicks so it wont spin,nor harm your trans.

A good example of power braking gone wrong is the old classic/muscle car times,they power braked,and they spun halfway or fully down the 1/4 mile..throwing off all the reported old car numbers by up to 5 seconds through the 1/4 mile eg:A 440 cuda power braking(thats how they tested them back then the magazine articles even noted that along with 1 passenger and 200lbs of test equiptment) 14 seconds,not power braking taking off without flooring it for the first 20-30 feet mid 12's.We did this back when it was new in 1970.Even my dad's 1968 Chrysler New Yorker ran 13 flat with a 440 back in '70 with a set of 8 inch slicks without 16's and a long stripe down the track..

For example on trucks with mine and my sons truck when we, power brake off idle,Our times are slower because of wheel spin.With traction control vehicles I find I get better times with it on then off ,unless it so guttless it cant spin its tires then power braking would help eg.a 1989 honda yeah powerbrake you will gain a few tenths but on a vehicle that spins you probably will be slower.I have a Ram SRT -10 (no traction control)when I power brake it runs 17 seconds in the 1/4,when I dont high 12's-low 13's with a automatic quad cab.My son has a 07 Ram with traction control,with it on I run 15.40's with it off around 16.I have been racing for years,and its like the old classic/muscle cars if you powerbrake,the times are way off like they are reported in the magazines back in the day,because the cars probably wont launch the same all the time tire spin ect..

Rear End ratios are only part of the story, the ratios in the transmission also count and you have to combine both ratios to get the true picture of what the effective gear ratios are for a vehicle.

My bet is that the Tundra's transmission ratios are higher than the other trucks, so the 4.30 rear end isn't the advantage that you might think if you only look at rear end ratios.

Just my .02

Tundra has an unfair advantage??? It it is also much larger and much heavier than the Silverado.

All in all it comes down to effective gear ratio, which takes into account transmission's ratios and drive tire diameter in addition to the axle gear ratio.

The Silverado's gear ratios are:
4.04, 2.36, 1.52, 1.15, .85, .66

The Tundra's gear ratios are:
3.33, 1.96, 1.35, 1.00, .728, .588

As we can see the Silverado has steeper transmission ratios. I don't know what the drive tire difference are, but my hunch is the that the gear ratio "advantage" for the Tundra is small to nil.

Gotta love this comment: "Sales volumes do not appear on time slips. :)

....Hard core sport trucks are regular cabs first, and the big motored ones can be bought anywhere...except at GM dealerships"

Once again, too bad no one is buying the reg cab in the fashion you promote. Reg Cab 1/2 Ton sales, which are few, are dominated by the good 'ole v6 reg cab Work truck. Hard core sport truck? Public has spoken on that idea and little interest there. Time slips will not help you live with the reduced ability of a reg cab, apparently. :)

Can you imagine the 1/4 mile time if the domestics had a 4.30 ratio.

I was hoping the Tundra would fare well in this test but the tire hop problem is pronounced in the double cab version as well (my neighbor who rented one told me about it before I told him about this shootout). It seems like Toyota would have fixed this by now.... given the fact that Ford has been making trucks for over a hundred years now, you'd think Toyota wouldn't even be close. Maybe they're close, but not close enough given the hop issue. I'd bet a regular cab Tundra has the same problem (since the two other cab versions obviously do). Too bad you guys didn't throw in an Avalanche (I know it doesn't have as large of a bed). It was rated as by far the best riding light truck in Consumer Reports due to (they said) the cab and bed not being completely separate entities mounted on a frame. But nevertheless, I find it intriguing that the GMC and Chevy were rated as having a better ride than the winner in this shootout, the F-150. Now if they can just refine that traction control. Another thing GM should carefully consider is the significant differences between the GMC and Chevy in this test. From a distance, since there is no logical explanation, it appears they are not consistent with their quality and it sounds like similar differences could exist even from identical Silverados. The Dodge looks by far the best, in my opinion, but I will not be impressed with any of the American made trucks until the Americans offer the efficiency of 4 valves per cylinder. Toyota and Nissan shouldn't be able to get so close so fast to what the big 3's are turning out. They're just not trying hard enough perhaps (although Ford appears the best engineered in spite of Chrysler's recent relationship with the maker of the best engineered cars in the world).

Regarding the pending bailout, it seems like before we jump to throw money at their problem, we need to get them to change their practices of trying to rip everybody off for as much as possible whenever a new vehicle is sold (I know, I used to sell for a new car dealership). On top of that, American auto-makers' union contracts do not allow them to compete on equal footing with the Japanese given that when you buy a new F-150, Hemi Ram, or GMC/Chibby, part of the price you are paying is for the high cost of healthcare for retirees. I'm just not hearing many people within the media talk about this not-so-minor cost that the Japanese do not have to contend with. With Nissan reaping the most profitability per vehicle of any auto mfgr. selling in the U.S. (Chrysler has the lowest), it appears the Tundra puts the most of your hard earned money into the actual truck. They just need to figure out that tire hop issue. Meanwhile, it appears my buddy with his '06 Tundra, be it 7/8 full-size or not, was the best choice. Go Avalanche to help the U.S. or perhaps a 2010 Tundra to help yourself.

lol @ the 4 valves per cylinder efficiency. thats non sense

I own a '08 tundra, and have had no problem with any of the other 5 at any stoplight. Just for grins, edged a Trailblazer SS to about 90.

Hey Craig, your first post contains the words "race" and "horsepower king" in reference to GMs 6.2 but when a normal production Tundra 5.7 RCSB blows the 6.2 off the track, you continue to claim victory based on sales volume, not performance. Some kind of affirmative action for vehicles?

Hows about you and I meet at a track. You bring a Silverado quad cab with 6.2 and I'll bring a Honda Civic with 1.8L and automatic trans. Honda wins because Civic has more sales volume? Puts a new spin on handicapping. LOL

For a drag test, you put a 4.30 rearend against a 3.42?? Anything to try to help out YOUR japanese buddies, huh? You mention an engine's 'wear and tear' because of 8000 miles. Come ON!!!!

I can find the gear ratios for all the trucks tested except the RAM. From the poor numbers posted it must have been the 3.23, not the 3.92 or even the 3.55.

C&D reported 0-60 in 6.7 and the q-mile in 15.2 on a crew cab 4x4 equiped about the same. And it had the 3.55 and with no brake torquing. The 3.92 should do even better.

That bested all of the times posted here.

To the guy who claims he beat a Trailblazer SS to 90, I call BS! I am the owner of an SSTB and can tell you that even a stock sstb (13.5-13.9 1/4 et depending on where you get your numbers) would smoke even a modded tundra, I know from experience ;) You would have to do some serious modification (bolt ons and probably even internals like cams or head work, or a s/c or t/c) to ur tundra to turn out those kind of numbers. The most likely case here, if you really did edge him out, is that he wasn't WOT like you or he was smart enough to back out before 90mph, which isn't a safe speed in most areas, even on US highways. That said the sstb has performance suspension and braking, and could out handle your Tundra with a blind fold and flat tires, making it a safer truck at speeds nearing 90 mph. My hypothesis is your just an idiot claiming things that aren't true.

just need to figure out that tire hop issue. Meanwhile, it appears my buddy with his '06 Tundra, be it 7/8 full-size or not, was the best choice. Go Avalanche to help the U.S. or perhaps a 2010 Tundra to help yourself.

Ok this test is not accurate. According to reviews from road and track, and popular mechanics, the titan runs 0-60 in 7.1 secs, stock. They tested 4x4, crew cab titans, which absolutely smoked the chink mobile tundra. Oh and by the way if you don't choose a Titan, go Ford USA instead of Government Motors. Do the right thing and go with the company that's making money, not taking it.

Time for another test like this one on the 2011's. My bet is ford will not be last in power again.

For the people complaining that the tundras 4.3 gears give it the advantage, Toyota only offers 4.1(non-tow pkg) and 4.3(with tow pkg) ratios.

I have a tundra and have beaten all these trucks on the street including the new ford, limited edition with the 6.2. It was not even close. Ford needs to come out with something better than its so called 411hp 6.2 if it wants to compete with the Tundra or Chevy 6.2

I just buoght a new chevy crew cab 4x4 and took it to the track with less than 700 miles on it. Ran a best of 14.66 in auto 4x4. The only mod was a hard tonneau cover.

funny how thay use the crew cab tundra..been better if the use a D-cab tundra that way all the trucks are the same size..

I think that everyone is crazy. the tundra wins hands down against all other junks. i own a 2010 tundra and haven't had any other junk beat me yet. especially a chevy.

So, when a vehicle, say a 2011 gmc sierra 4.8 2w/d auto is launched from the line and stabilitrac and traction control are turned off there should be better off line acceleration than if the controls were left on..??.. As for power braking w/ the goodies turned off it would seem like the tires should smoke a little when you nail the throttle while leaving a red light. However, while power braking in said vehicle the power goes down and there will be a bogged down launch while the goodies are engaged or turned off it operates the same. I thought the stabilitrac sys was sort of like a launch control but for me it is not. GM tells me it is an inherent problem with the 2011's. True or False.

Just trying to get some rear wheel action out of the 302 flywheel hp but vehicle fuel monitoring syst which should be turned of when you turn the trac control goodies off does not seem to happen. My old 97 5 ltr GMC would run circles around this 2011. I'm a 68 year old motor head and have owned corvettes/early dodge road runners/42 Ford/63 Impala/57 Ford/Audi 100 in Europe/Motorcycles and grocery getters and can't get speed or power out of my wish list. Just for once, I'd like to smoke these tires after power braking from a stop at a red light. Just will not work for some reason. All thoughts welcome.

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