2011 Heavy-Duty Hurt Locker: Best Overall Heavy-Duty Pickup Truck

Words by Mike Levine, Mark Williams and Kent Sundling, Photos by Ian Merritt

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Best Overall Heavy-Duty Summary and Selection

To determine the best overall truck in the Heavy-Duty Hurt Locker comparison, we considered the data we gathered along with our opinions from living with the trucks for a week and driving them more than 2,000 miles.

We also created a two-part chart (below) that summarizes all of the empirical data we collected for each test and turns those results into relative scores based on individual truck performance against the best-performing truck.

For each test -- the fastest truck by time or the shortest to stop by distance – first place was awarded 100 points, and the second- and third-place trucks were assigned points relative to how close they finished to the leader. For example, if the fastest truck through the quarter-mile finished in 15 seconds (getting 100 points) and the second-place truck finished in 16 seconds, then the second-place truck received 93 points.


Exhaust brake performance had a significant impact on the final scores.

For your own purposes, you can weight each test section to create your own total score based on the results of our testing.

2011.5 Ram 3500 High Output


The Ram has the most improved interior of any of the trucks we tested and the best exterior, and it has made tremendous strides in powertrain cooling. But despite those efforts, it lags the Ford and GMC HDs.

Inside, the seats were the most comfortable over long distances, and its information display has a good selection of important engine information.

The Ram’s exhaust brake and DEF-free NOx reduction approach are the standout performance features. The High Output 6.7-liter six-cylinder engine is a monster, but paired with the enhanced transmission, it feels the least refined of the group. Only half-jokingly, now that Allison Transmission is fully independent from GM, an Allison gearbox should be paired with the Cummins oil burner. The pair would be unstoppable.

The mandatory 4.10 rear gear set that comes with the Max Tow Package to increase GCWR didn't help to make this combo feel smooth and well-integrated. We couldn't help but feel that power was being lost somewhere, slipping away maybe in a torque convertor or clutch plates.

Pricing for this truck was a stretch. The High Output Cummins that is now standard with all Ram HDs with automatic transmissions automatically adds $500 to the window sticker. As equipped, it seemed on the high side for certain options, like the Garmin touch-screen navigation computer, which has an aftermarket feel instead of feeling like it’s factory equipment.

If Ram can continue to improve on its transmission, this truck has the opportunity to seriously rival the other two rigs.

2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty


Integration is probably the most impressive aspect for this truck. The way the transmission shifts is impressive. We love the range select capability in the transmission, but the noticeable absence of exhaust brake effectiveness is troubling, if not unnerving, on big grades. Repeated use of the wheel brakes under heavy load is going to cause issues with long-term wear and cost of ownership. We love the Ford’s rich driver information center. It’s the best trip and truck management computer of the bunch and reflects Ford's superior ability to make life easier for the Super Duty driver/owner.

Looking under the hood at the 6.7-liter diesel V-8 is confusing. There’s a lot going on because of its unique reverse airflow design, where fresh air comes in through the sides and exits through the engine valley directly into the turbo. We prefer Ford’s DEF solution, with the fuel and urea filler tubes next to each other for easy access when refueling.

For towing, the Ford’s electric mirrors are a huge asset that offers excellent visibility. We also like the in-bed trailer plug and integrated tailgate step. Contrast this with the other two trucks and their bumper-mounted plugs that required us to pull the trailer wire over their tailgates, causing one trailer plug to disconnect and the other trailer wire to pull loose the trailer wire from the junction box on the trailer. We had to bungee cord the GMC and Ram trailer cords to prevent those issues from recurring.

When it comes to performance, we’ve yet to drive a 2011-era Super Duty with the strength and capability of the truck we tested. It was closer in performance to the GMC than we’ve ever seen.

Best Overall Heavy-Duty: 2012 GMC Sierra 3500


The GMC Sierra 3500 is our choice for the Best Overall Heavy-Duty Truck in the Hurt Locker test. Its performance continues to affirm what we’ve seen from previous 2011-12 GM HD pickups. Their chassis and on-road performance should be in the crosshairs of Ram and Ford.

The GMC Sierra led with best-in-class performance, with wins in almost every test we put the trucks through.

The Sierra was the most comfortable rig over our long days. It was also the quickest for the driver to get comfortable with the trailer and load.

We were disappointed with the lack of information displayed in contrast to the other trucks. It needs to get a better information center, yesterday. We’re also disappointed in the solution found for the DEF maintenance. The Sierra needs an accurate DEF gauge -- not a low-DEF/empty warning light or an OK indicator. The DEF filler area under the hood next to the engine is awkward, and the tank sits well below the bottom of the doorsill. It’s too exposed, especially if any four-wheel driving is required.

That said, if we were going to shop for a heavy-duty truck today, we'd buy the Sierra.

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Yes, GMC, GMC!!!

Pretty much what I expected, good job ford and GM. I'd personally buy the ford, but both are great. As for the dodge, well, better luck next time.

i really think gm mostly won cause it had good braking down the hill, im surprised dodge didnt win or atleast come in second

The results are exactly what I was expecting. It seems if Ford would/were to have a more developed exhaust brake they might take the crown. Good job for GMC on making a great truck. Competition always means better products for the consumer. I still think Ford has the better overall truck, especially the interior. Thanks Mike and PUTC!

Ha Next year Dodge gets new tranys so there goin to be number one i bet they get truck of the year for 2012 but i still go with dodge over the other two you put a different trany in it and it will liast forever and blow the other two out of the water,at least the dodge will still be on the road in million miles down the road with out any engine rebuilds,DODGE ALL THE WAY!!!I think ford should came in last they have the worst engine history,idk if anybody should trust the new 6.7 yet there power tran warrenty is only 60,000 wonder why look at there engine history,
I think it should been
1. Chevy/Ram-tie,all chevy has on Ram is the trany other than that Ram would be the best
2. Ford

i think they was rotting for the new ram or liked it alot they said it was the monster of the two,every picture the Ram is in 1st place infront of the other two i think ram chevy tie ford last they have a suckish engine history

Another year of putting up with Bob.
Good job GMC.

I'm a Ford guy but I figured the GMC would win and it did so I'm not surprised,I hope Ford takes a good hard look at these results and improves the brake sytem.
Great article Mike!!

Kudos to GM for the performance knocks. Too bad they still can't out sell Ford's HD's. I'm willing to bet that 8 out of every 10 Heavy Duty/ Super Duty truck owners will rarely ever push their trucks to the limits done in this test. The test is necessary to see what the limits are on each truck, in the end it won't cause anyone to change their mind on the truck they purchase. As a former car salesman, I never once had a customer tell me they wanted any vehicle based on any performance tests performed by anyone anywhere.

Great read, Mike!

Finally, the Job 3 Ford was in for a proper test.

I am satisfied with this test.

I am satisfied with the Ford Super Duty having:
1) the best braking
2) the best flat acceleration with a trailer
3) the best visibility
4) the best interior
5) the best fuel economy
6) best sound
7) lowest operating costs

Along with best.....dependability, reliability and work features.

Even though Ford wasn't named the best overall, I am satisfied with this test.

you i think the best test would be to do is to chain the trucks together and have a pulloff and see which truck outpulls the other

It is Awesome to hear that after THREE count them THREE tests that the Duramax wins AGAIN and you know that there will still be Ford and Dodge fans saying...but..and what if, and if they, or they should have or you name it....the point is, if you want a work truck by a GMC or Chevy....the other two have been playing catch up since 2001 when the Duramax first came out...It was first then and still is...Go GM!!

Awesome job Mike and Team!

Hey Ford, looks like its time for Job 4 hahaha

Bow down to the Duramax haters, the king is back on the 1st place step.

No need for a Job 4. Ford is outselling the GM 2 to 1.

I absolutely love my F-350 superduty and now I know it's capabilities without having to push it to the limit.
You guys are the best!
Congrats to GM for the win
The Ford is gaining ground and it's more truck than I need some I'm thrilled to own one!


Relax! Behind a few tenths behind is not playing catch.

However, I Congrat GM and nobody is hating.

These trucks are so close to each other in terms of performance that it will be hard to choose, I know what I would choose and it's not your King of the Hill. LMAO.

Not everyone shares your opinion, hahahahahahah .6 seconds.....and they think it is domination!

@Jason - " if you want a work truck by a GMC or Chevy".

Funny that you say that since I rarely ever seen HD diesel Chevy/GM work trucks.
I'd say there is a farely even split between Ram and Ford. Maybe 10% are GM/Chev.
Too many class 6,7,or 8 trucks around for any of the guys I know to care about how much a 1 ton pickup can tow.

Great article Mike! I'm a Ford guy, but the duramax/Allison combo is hard to beat. Did I miss a page, didn't you guys test the trucks on the dyno?

Thanks for the awesome report. As a owner of a 2011 Denali HD the results do not surprise me. The 2011's are all outstanding drive trains. I honestly don't think this news is going to change the minds of the die hard fans, but it is interesting. I guess we will see what comes out in the upcoming years. Can we get a 1/2 ton diesel now? Thanks again Mike.

@jshoard5: Dyno results still to come from our friends at Diesel Power Magazine and ATS Diesel in Denver.

LOL zip it Frank, if it was the Ford that would have won you would be crying tears of joy, but instead you are just making excuses like you always have to do because Ford never wins the HD shootout, hell no one wins but GM.

If you need a shoulder to cry on, I'm here for you buddy, we will get through this.

@Frank: When Ford updates the exhaust brake, all bets are off. Hope to see Ram put a strong Aisin or ZF 8-speed behind the Cummins. Or, like we said, get an Allison for the Ram. All the trucks are amazing. You'd never know who was a better performer until all three are side by side.

It's amazing how fuel thirsty the Cummins is and yet it's relatively uncompetitive.

Kudos to GM for doing so well with an old engine design.

@Junner, shut up...

Congrats to GM, the new powertrain and chassis are excellent. GM just needs to improve the aesthetics.

@- Junner or should I say bob nobody's crying the GM won by 53 points , the Ford lost 72 points in the exhaust brake test.

So Ford needs an exhaust brake.
I can live with that :)

lol I love how every GM fan on this site is "bob"

first off-

great job Mike, as always.


GM Rules.

I thought the new Cummins was going to own everyone? What happened to that dodge fans?

Duramax/Allison is too good for anyone to beat right now, the only thing I dont like about the GM HD's is the interior, everything else is great.

Ford better do something about its grade braking and fast because when those 2013 tow standards hit and the Ford smokes 'em, they're going get their tow capacities cut, which would be very embarrassing, discrediting... and hilarious.

The GM and Ford are so close. It's the steep up and downhills where GM separates itself, again.

I think it's something that all 3 were reliable while being flogged near their maximum capacities.

GM guys, try and show some class.

Non GM guys, stop making excuses.

I agree tests and shoot outs dont sell trucks. But, pushing to extremes that most of us won't do does show who did their homework and who designed their truck to perform under all conditions and not just some.

I still don't know which one I'd take.

Just embedded videos into the first and last (this one) pages. The 40 mph to zero brake test is amazing.

Well overall good test, I find two things very interesting.

1. Why no dyno comparison to see how much over or underrated these truck come from the factory? You did so well with the f150 why not now that certainly seems relevant in a "no holds power test"

2.along wight that if you were going for all out numbers why not take the traction control off where it limits some trucks and see who has the best acceleration times.

3. Okay so the fords power train is updated and now runs better and you automatically think ford sent a ringer? Yet both times you've had gm engineers with you and not once did you check engine calibrations on the weakest posted power numbers posting the highest performance?

But what would I know I only sell trucks to people everyday that have never asked about acceleration numbers but are more interested in fuel Econ, comfort,ownership costs, and features all of which you placed the least amount of relevance on....

But kudos gm you got xBillion in free loans don't have to pay a soul back and you're still being outsold in hd truck sales by a 2 to 1 margin... Looks like ford paid attention to what people really want .....

Okay so it was three things sorry for the errors been driving all day and typing on an iPad isn't the easiest

lol a bail-out excuse!

I'm suprised it took that long, Well done Matt!

I know which one I would take. Ford Super Duty.

Mike said all bets are off when Ford updates the exhaust brake so that says a lot. This test came down to points given for the exhaust brake.

Exhuast brake doesn't make the top 15 list of reasons to switch brands. In the real world exhaust brake won't matter when it comes time to buy....

@ Matt

Actually reading the article will clear up some of your questions.

You sell trucks for living and as a salesman we're supposed to take your word over an independent test group?

Your welcome Jake wouldn't want you to forget which company plays by the rules of accountability.

This is all nice, but could I get a 3L turbo diesel for my half ton truck already ? I am sick of this stupid monster truck games every year. It looks like useless garbage to me in today's economy anyway.

1.) Hurt Locker Dyno test results are coming soon. Our friends from Diesel Power and ATS did the testing of the trucks. In the meantime, here are dyno results for a Job 2 F-450 and Sierra 3500 at ATS last year. http://news.pickuptrucks.com/2010/09/rocky-mountain-power-test-2011-gmc-sierra-denali-3500hd-and-2011-ford-f-450-king-ranch.html. See the final drive ratios before you slam us for comparing unequal trucks.

2.) I don't turn off TC every time I drive and I don't know anybody else who does either.

3.) Ford calibration opinion is written in the story. No, I don't think Ford sent a ringer. I think it's a new cal you could get today at a Ford dealer if you went in for service. Ford didn't respond to my question about the calibration. That's in the story too. Every new calibration/firmware update isn't announced with a press release.

Excellent review. Very thorough and scientific. These three trucks are VERY capable, as most of the test results showed. Differences were fairly minor across the board, and all three have areas they can improve.

Kudos to Mike and the team for a well-written and fair comparo. I'm not even a huge "truck guy" but i read the whole piece from beginning to end.

Great test!

But before I put my thoughts down on it just let me say this...

I hope that all GM guys are not as idiotic as you guys commenting here. So GM's got the best H.D right now, as a Ford guy I'll be a good sport and say great job GM! The Duramax/Allison combo works great...''though Ford is closing the performance gap'' as this test clearly shows. GM does have a better exhaust brake no doubt about that.

I'll tell ya, what I don't get though is when you GM guys say, Look GM beat Ford and Dodge with a 10 year old engine!...uhh...yeah...First of all the Duramax is about 60% different from the 2001 Duramax, which pretty much should go without saying, The Duramax actually has 60% more new equipment on it than its older 2001 brother...If you REALLY want to brag and say that Ford and Dodge got beaten by a 10 year old engine then put you're money where you're mouth is and lets line up a 2001 Duramax with the 2011 Ford and 2011 Dodge that were tested here. Still think you can win?...Didn't think so. So that covers that...Duramax may have been initially designed 10 years ago...But its seriously renovated to compete since then, and if anything the fact that the Duramax has been around for so long is a serious advantage, GM has had 10 years to work out all the bugs and issues the Duramax has had. Ford's 6.7L is just now only entering its 2nd year of production. So does it not stand to reason that Ford is still working the issues out of its Powerstroke?

Now before all you over defensive fanboi's jump me and whine about making excuses...Let me say this, I'm not making excuses...I said it for the Rumble in the Rockies test and I'll say it for this one two...Ford and in this case Dodge too, lost to GM fair and square, All things being as equal as possible Ford and Dodge lost out...The End. You win some you lose some right? I get sick of all you stupid fanboi's though that either cry foul and blame the testing procedures or the proprietor of the test himself when you're brand doesn't win...Or act like a total child and gloat when you're brand does win...I thought only real men drove trucks like these? I guess I was wrong.

Anyway...My thoughts on the test, great job Mike! You covered all the bases and I was glad to see that the Powerstroke was running closer than ever with GM's Duramax/Allison combo. I agree with many others in saying that I think that Ford's weak exhaust break really hurt in this test. And as for the new Cummins, well...It certainly didn't perform badly, I pretty much expected it to fall behind The Powerstroke and Duramax in all acceleration categories. But none the less I've no doubt it’s a stout towing machine just as the Ford and GM are.

Congrats to ALL 3 manufactures that particapated in this test...You ALL have really come a long ways in the past 20 years.

96 f450 with, cummins, g56 and you have a real truck

I'm happy that I don't need a HD.
It would be a tough choice.
This test provides great data for any guy to make an informed decision as to what truck best meets their needs.
My only critique of the test is that there wasn't any DEF consumption measurements.
I would of liked to see a gravel road component to these tests.
(My own bias as I like to spend a large amount of my leisure time off of paved roads.)

Kudos to PUTC.

Ford's biggest flaw is the engine brake.
Ram's biggest flaw is the transmission.
GM's biggest flaw is the dated body and interior.

I does seem easier to change a set of seats than a turbo or a tranny.

Kudos to GMC.

Great story, Mike L. and crew!!! Thank you for the great detail and specific data!

Congratulations to General Motors!

You can not go wrong with any of these fine, American, pickups! Pickup consumers are the real winners here. We have three great choices; with their own distinctive features and styles.

The Allison tranny is worth its weight in gold, the Duramax has the least amount of power yet it still wins most tow tests, you have to think the Allison really helped with that, and the fact that it seems like GM has a pretty good traction system.

I agree with most, where are the 1/2 ton diesels? I want a 4.5 Duramax 1500 like nothing else...

Great report! I love the stories you guys write up! You sure put these trucks to their max limits. I would say that no one would use these trucks like you tested on a regular basis.
Congrats to GM!!!!!!!!

I thought GM would win again! Yes I am very fond of my GM's. As many people have already said the Allison transmission will help any power plant it is behind. I have always said the best powerplant in the diessel world is the Cummins. Dodges has that market tied down and Chevy had the Allison market (we will see in a few years what happens). GM has been playing with the Duramax/Allison combo for 10 years now and it shows.
I was surpised on the Ford's performance mods that brought it closer to almost winning overall. I think with a few more tweaks it just might win. Yes the GM's interor lacks a few plush features but I am kind of fond of the interior. Ford and Dodge to me look too out of this world with everything looking bulky. I look forward to next years HD shoot-out as I think Ford could win and Dodge could perform closer than it has the past 2 years.
I wonder how the High Output would do without the 4.10 rear? Maybe that is where Dodge is lacking.

Great job to GM, Ford and Dodge for making great trucks! I love it when American Trucks compete to see who is KING OF THE HILL.

Once again great job Mike & PUTC. I hope to read more great stories from you guys.

The great thing about this test is that we get all the data, so we can make out own decisions based on our needs.

For example, I live on the east coast, so most of my towing is over flat terrain to slight hills. Therefore, more important to me, is towing and braking on flatter terrain, and overall fuel economy. With that being the case, I would probably choose the Ford.

(Though, if I was actually going to buy a new HD truck right now it would be the Ram, because it's the only one offered with a stick.)

Never fails. Ford and Ram owners don't like the test results so they start up with the testing was not fair again and gm took money from the govt and goverment motors same old tune.

I guess if you can't win the test, you try and tear the winner down by bringing up testing is not fair crap again. waaaaaaaa waaaaaaa cry me a frigen river. what a bunch of panty wapse. don't like GM, fine than buy something else that you like but quit talking crap about GM.

I guess when your #1 like GM is, there will always be people wanting to knock you down. The thing that bothers me the most is the constant attacks on GM from people on this sit. don't like GM than buy something else but stop with the constant bashing! You have choices and nobody is making you buy a gm product.

The fact of the matter ford fanatics were saying that fords new 6.7 liter power stroke would beat the durmax in the Hurt Locker shootout and when that didn't happen they were surprised! They don't have alot to say now except trying to make every excuse and saying the tests were not fair.

Hay, Lou. For your information, I am not trying convince any ford fans to buy a chevy and fords super doody is still a nice truck but I am glad these test results proved that GM's heavy duty trucks IS THE BEST OF THE BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So now we know Frank and Dave would buy a Ford over a Chevy. What's that Dave? you say the Powerstroke sounds better? Brakes? Acclerates? Whhhhhhat? Well, who won Dave? your posts are so full of crap! and now you want to talk reliability and interiors??? What a joke!

The Durmax has proven reliability with millions of real world experience. Fords 6.7 is all new and doesn't have a long enough track record to make any comparison.

Good for you Frank, you are a barrel of laughs. You love Ford. If you love Ford so much why don't you marry them? Keep those informative posts coming Frank. Laughter is the best medicine and I need a few laughs during my day.

Good comparison, and congrats to Ford for closing the gap.

As a disgruntled former Ford owner, I still have a bias toward the blue oval. (in a positive way)

Regardless of what the salesman said, I bought an '11 Dmax based HEAVILY on the RITR test.

Looks are subjective, but that Ford front end is hideous...LOL!!

The GMC cab/interior need to be upgraded for sure,but it's still the best looking truck out there (looks like the '05 Super Duty to me)

Without getting the exact numbers, I thought one very important area where the GMC excelled (besides the performance numbers) was that it ran a few degrees cooler not only in engine temp but transmission temp.

Transmission problems are what "drove" me away from Ford. 200* is a borderline temp IMHO, and the the Allison stayed below that number.

Have had our Dmax for +2months now and am LOVIN' IT!!

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