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

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

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | Index

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.

Specs-and-scores

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

Ram-front

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

Ford-front

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

Gmc-front

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.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | Index

Comments

I don't know how this can be called close when the GMC beat the Ford handily in uphill towing, and downhill braking. The Ford was 84 seconds behind the GMC up an 8 mile grade, and the Fords brakes were smoking on the way back down. The Duramax/Allison combination proved to be the more refined package.

I live in a very flat area, based on these results I'd probably go with the Ford. The Ford was marginally slower than the GMC in the flats, but all three of these trucks are plenty capable of pulling the trailers in this test. The Ford's better fuel economy and better braking performance won me over. I understand that the GMC's better mountain performance means it deserves the overall win, but why should I care about mountain performance?

All three trucks are good and you really can't make a bad choice here.

So if you live in the mountains the GM would be a better choice, but everywhere else the Superduty would be a better choice.
Im sure Ram fans are disappointed, even I figured that HO Cummins would have done better in acceleration tests.

I think the reason why Ford suffers a bit when going up hill might have something to do with the gearing and not the engine, as we all seen Ford did get the best MPG so Ford probably geared the truck for max MPG at cruising speed, where GM geared their trucks in the sweet spot for power at cruising speed. Then again big rigs dont necessarily race uphills quickly either and they ride the brakes along with using jake brakes to the point where their drums glow bright red.

I am surprised and confused that the Ford was so close in the performance test compared to earlier test. According to the score system you guys used the Ford lost by approx. 53 points overall. It was 72 points behind in the engine brake testing alone. This wold seem like an easy fix that definitely needs addressed. For all intense purposes their is not a bad truck among the three. I am a "Ford guy", but I would probably consider the Ram because it is by far the best looking truck and all 3 are overkill for what I would ever need performance/towing wise.

@Mike Levine

After driving all of these trucks, do you know why the Ford is slower than the GM when unloaded but faster when loaded (flat ground). I have seen several tests where that is the case. It seems like the Ford doesn't come alive until there is some weight on it? Any thoughts?

@Ken, I wouldn't say the Powerstroke comes alive with weight on it, it's more like weight burdens the Duramax more than it does the Powerstroke.

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.

Well, there you have it Ford and Dodge fans, GM wins again and the results were exactly what I expected with Ford finishing second and Dodge's new High Output cummins engine 3rd place. Those are the facts and nothing but the facts and they are undisputed. Now, is this test or any tests going to change what truck consumers buy? No, but in this highly competitive class, the GM truck and Duramax Diesel and Allison transmission is the class leader. Great Job GM.


I asked for dyno results mostly to see where these trucks made power and more to which trucks are over/underrated. I was in no way accusing of not comparing similar trucks. I guess what I'm really saying is the numbers tell us that the ford "should" win I think a further analysis of why they didn't? Overrated power ratings, trans setting, etc...

Second to whoever asked if why you're supposed to listen to me because I sell trucks for a living? I'm not sure what you're talking about I was merely saying that most of the people I sell trucks to are less interested in who can get to the top of the hill the quickest and more about overall package.

Regardless good job to GM for getting the power to the ground most efficiently!

Ken E,
I am just stating my opinion based on the articles that I have read. Possibly one of the reasons the ford does better loaded is that it had a tendency to power hop on the start when drag racing when it was unloaded. That alone will kill some time.

PUTC,
Thanks for the great write up. One question regarding comfort on the interior I have is A/C. Especially for the rear seat passengers. Ford and Ram have the buckets and have the A/C vents for the rear seat. The GMC had the 40/20/40 and did not have the rear vents. One of the changes that GM made on the pickups in the 2007 redesign was on buckets they removed the rear seat vents in the center console. My 2006 has them and makes a world of difference for the rear passengers.

Thanks again

Great test, another Great win for GM, Duramax/Allison, the ford ran HOT(Job 4 programming lol), I am impressed with all three. I love my Chevy Silverado but I would still probably lean towards a Megacab in the HD world and chip it over the others. The Ford is Fughly, looks like something from the transformers.

Once the new body/interior GM's come out with 500HP Duramax in a few short years, it will a bloodbath!

Thank You very much for this article. Awesome work.

Go back to your corners Ford boys, you just lost the fight again. Will you boys ever learn GMC makes the the best HD trucks offered today.

Good test. Yes the ford exhaust brake is a weak one. I have an 08. Knowing that the exhaust brake is not as aggresive as it should be I adjust for it and have no problems.

A banks speedbrake takes care of it for now.

"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."

Yep...Ford did something fishy with their "truck".

subtract the "exhaust brake" and the Ford wins by 19, i understand the importance of the engine brake, but should it count that much!

@D: The F-350's brakes were literally smoking every time we finished descending Eisenhower. We couldn't even smell them on the GMC. Depending on how you use the truck and terrain, you might have a much shorter brake lifespan (and higher maintenance costs) on the F-350 than the Sierra.

Good job, GM.

Ford's certainly not going to sit on this for very long, guaranteed.

Sorry, Ram, close but no cigar.

Good read, very in-depth.

My only gripe with the whole test is that the exhaust brake test perhaps gets a bit much weight. It puts the Ram within .5% of possible points behind the Ford, when the overall test doesn't seem like it was nearly that close.

This is by far the best review of these 3 trucks I have ever read. Accurate testing, good numbers, and real world examples of how the trucks will get abused. I am a little surprised by how far behind Dodge was from Ford and GMC. Overall I won't lie I am a GMC fan, but Ford has a really good thing going on right now, and I think it's great that the competition is still there between GMC and Ford. All are excellent trucks that are raising the bar on performance, technology, and fuel economy. Oh and people please stop saying... "well if I tuned this, and put this exhaust on it would smoke that truck." This was a straight from the lot comparison of vehicles that was meant to be looked at as, " If I am looking for a one ton truck right now, which one is best and why." Great job on the Article and GO BIG 3!!!

How will Ford get over this second place finish?

Oh I know, by selling twice as many pickups as General Motors!

A question for Mike. Could you give us some indication of the criterion used for the exhaust brake scores? I'm confused why the Ford was docked 122 pts for a poor exhaust brake (that some of us use very seldom if ever) and the GM was only docked 37 pts for having the worst wheel brakes in this test?
I use my wheel brakes daily but my exhaust brake not so much. Without this scoring bias the Ford wins hands down.

Great job, Mike! Once again, you guys are THE place for true truck info. Fair and in-depth, that's why this site is the best. Keep it up! Thumbs up!

Buy America-

Mcdonalds sells the most hamburgers, are they the best?

Dell sells the most computers, are they the best?

Toyota Camry is the best selling car in the country, is it the best?


point is, the top selling things sometimes arent best in class, and that is the case here...

New GM HD's in 2013 are going to be sick! Hell this truck is already great, cant wait to see an upgraded interior and exterior.

@Maxwell

White Castle makes terrible burgers and they dont outsell McDonalds. Point taken.

Good Job GM - but over all I liked the Ford...Gm needs some styling up grade's Inside.dodge has made a huge Improvement, but over all I like the Ford for 2011...... .Ive been a GM man for 30 years and still have an old 1988 GMC 6.2 with 472,000 KM that hauls my 8 ft camper around like its not even there! But Im Buying 2011 F-250 Diesel, love the whole look of the truck I can't wait to get it. We have 2008 FX4 and Impressed with that truck, so going to try the diesel!!....Great test!

Sometimes who sells the most does sell the best.

Ford may not have been picked the winner here but not every measurement that matters is gathered here.

For example....
Some people value reliability, dependability, fuel economy, operating costs, visibility, styling, interior, work features more than "beating" someone in a test up the hill by a few seconds that requies a CDL and a little bit better exhaust brake.

This is where GM fans and Ford fans differ. GM fans like the small things. Ford fans look at the bigger picture.

But Ford is cheaper? Nope. GM was the cheapest truck in this test.

GM really needs to relocate that DEF tank, seriously thats a big hazard off road im sure they can tuck it up somewhere in the frame rails, that would also give them a chance to relocate the DEF filler too.

Ford just needs to upgrade their exhaust brake or make the standard brakes even better and maybe get a new frame under there.

Ram needs to upgrade everything lol they can talk the talk in their commercials, but they dont necessarily walk the walk.

Nice testing but your scoring doesn't work for me. Glad you included all the details. You make exhaust braking twice as important as fuel economy; I would put it the other way around.

First off, from a Ford guy, congrats to the GMC on the win. No "ifs," "buts," or other qualifications. Subjective ratings were left off the final scores, as they should be given that you can't argue with taste, and the performance numbers speak for themselves. That being said, all three trucks have outstanding capabilities.

To Mike and everyone at PUTC, thank you. This is simply the most comprehensive, detailed, accurate test possible, short of buying each truck and living with them for 5+ years. To all the flatlanders out there saying mountain tests don't matter to them, fine, ignore them. But by the same token, skidpad numbers, lap times, and top speeds for muscle cars must not matter either, since most of us won't take our Mustangs, Camaros, or Challengers to a track any time soon. Testing in extreme conditions is the best way to sort out the capabilities and shortcomings of any vehicle.

@Hoss: Good question. All of the scores are relative to the best-performing truck in a specific test. The Ford needed more than twice the number of brake applies as the Sierra during the exhaust brake test, so it has a low score. But in the wheel brake test, the Sierra didn't stop twice as far back as the Ford. That's also why, even though the Ford had better fuel economy, the Sierra was awarded 95 points.

Got it?

@Bitchagain Bob - please point out where I have been slagging the Sierra or am trying to convince people to buy a Ford?
Each truck has strengths and weaknesses. Talking about those facts is neither slagging or selling.
You posts kill many people's opinion of GMC.
There are only 2 things that sour me towards GMC - bailout and you.
I'm starting to come to terms with the bailout.

@Luke in CO: You're welcome. Thanks for reading the story!

LOL @ Lou

@ Mike Levine

Are the curb weights shown in your report the manufacturer's curb weights or actual scale weights? Thanks!

@Screwey Louie, awe did we hurt your little feelings Lou??? Your ford got beat AGAIN, and I know you have a hard time accepting the facts. Look, I know ford is your brand, no problem and you and ford were made for eachother. Maybe ford will win next year eh Lou? NOT! Hold your head up Lou, ford still has the only "man step" and that surely has to make you proud.

Now, GM is first, ford finished second aka first loser and dodge was 3rd. Oh, well Lou, there is always that half ton shootout to look forward to hay Lou?

i still think yall need to chain the trucks together and have a pulloff/ or go to a tracter pull

Nice report M.L. and the video's a great!, I guess were all realy proud of these great American Trucks! it is good to know you can't go wrong with either of the 3. Here's a novel idea M.L., how about finding 3 older 1t or 3/4t trucks with oil burners milege as close as poss. and see how they match up still! Just a thougt, remember to not let the CDL get dusty now huh?

@Mike/Aug 15/1:00:29. Thanks for the reply. BTW this is by far the best report of real world situations I have seen yet. And yes I "got it", that part at least. And I appreciate the two very important qualifiers you put at the bottom of the score sheet. But I work with statistics in my job. When you assign a weighting of 2 or 3x to the exhaust brake over all other performance parameters then the result skews in that direction. I'm not challenging what was done..only why? Why is exhaust brake performance the single most important factor (by a country mile) in your scoring of these 3 trucks?

Another fact to consider when talking about who sells the "best", Heavy-Duty sales also include gas trucks.

I have been hearing from several dealers that the gas trucks are selling really well and faster than diesels in many instances.

The diesel trucks have been tested several times already on pickuptrucks.com and other outlets. The gas trucks only once on pickuptrucks.com and not much anywhere else. Who won the gas test? That's right. Ford Super Duty was the best gas truck during the HD shootout testing.

So once again this proves my theory that Ford the truck leader not only sells the most trucks, Ford sell the best trucks.

If there are going to be many more heavy-duty pickup tests, I'd like to see more on the gas trucks. The diesels were tested at least 4 times. The HD gas trucks were only tested once and with the HD gas trucks growing in popularity they should be given more attention.

@Bob - thank you for your informative, factual, and extremely brilliant prose.
How would any of us make a decision without you.
I am humbled by the greatness that you exude.

My bad.
Typo - I meant Mike Levine;)

How come Ford can not come up with modern headlights?
H13 dual beams are not acceptable on $20,000 vehicles, what makes them think they are acceptable here?

I like the part where the "American Revolution" is powered by an Isuzu Motor.

Good job GM, Keep up the great work. Ford and Ram now have something to aim at beating. Ford just needs to improve a couple small things which would make it the best of the best.

Thanks PUTC and ML for this great test for all of us to read. Good job.

@Bob- Im a Ford guy and I am not sad that the Ford didnt win. It was a very well done set of tests, with thorough charts, specs, etc. being laid out in front of us, but its not going to change anybodies opinions. Anyone who is actually angry/sad that their truck didnt win likely has an unhealthy level of attachment to said brand.
Now, your comments... they reek of hypocrisy. You b!!ch and moan, crying foul at any comment you deem slanderous towards GM, claiming you never do the same, yet you make sarcastic, condescending comments all day long about Ford and to their fans.
Lastly, your right. Ford does indeed have the 1/2 ton shootout to look forward to. When they win, I will make no comments bashing GM, nor will I say "told you so!" or any of the other drivel you spew. Instead I will LMFAO at the thought of you angrily typing posts in defence of GMs tried and true 5.3 that is rated for 21 highway in 4x4, a number NO other truck can match!<<<<<< See that? See what I did there?

@Benchimus,

Not to mention how he claimed the Worktrucks shootout was unfair because Ford has a new V6.

Total domination by Ford with the worktruck shootout, none of us criticized GMs poor V6, yes, it's very poor!

You Ford guys keep crying over the exhaust brake for the Ford finishing second. Look at the grade climbs, it was not even close. The grade climbs are the real world and not running the quarter mile. You guys not admitting which was the best truck just shows how stupid you really are. You guys keep saying Ford sells more HD trucks but where are your facts. You are guys are always all mouth without anything to back it up. They should have done the frame twist test also because then the Ford would have finsihed third because of their outdated frames they put under their trucks.

You guys keep saying GM has outdated bodies. All Ford did was put a new body on an old frame. GM has an old body on a new frame. It is how the truck is built that makes it a truck, not the looks. I drove a 2004 one ton King Ranch to Watkins Glen for a company I work for part time. My back is still bothering me because the seats have no support what so ever. And you guys brag about how great the King Ranch is. Must not take much to satisfy you Ford boys and that is why you buy a Ford in the first place. It is too bad you will never experience a real truck in your lifetime.

THE GM Fanbois still cry when a GM Truck wins.

They are never happy.

I just hope they will not be reading the Half-Ton shootout because their precious GM trucks are going to get slaughtered.

@Mike Levine,

How about a "HD GAS SHOOTOUT."

gm have the older engine whit upgrade ,,ford and ram have something to prove not gm....so just imagine the new dmax,whit all the experience gm have to build this new engine,,and y thing ford engineer start to have problem to sleep..



The comments to this entry are closed.