2011 Heavy-Duty Hurt Locker: Truck and Trailer Specs

2011 Heavy-Duty Hurt Locker: Introduction
Words by Mike Levine, Mark Williams and Kent Sundling, Photos by Ian Merritt

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Of all of the trucks we’ve tested in the past decade, the latest heavy-duty pickups seem to have stoked competitive fires and brand rivalries like no others. Not just among enthusiasts, but also among the manufacturers. Every few months, there have been upgraded power levels and capabilities as truck makers have tried to one-up each other.

We created the ultimate comparison test as a complement to last year’s comprehensive Heavy-Duty Shootout and Rumble in the Rockies tests to find out -- once and for all -- which current heavy-duty pickup is best overall.

It’s a comparison so tough that we call it the Heavy-Duty Hurt Locker.

The Heavy-Duty Hurt Locker is based on lessons learned from previous tests and feedback from readers. It’s a 2,200-mile, four-state slog towing trailers that weigh almost 10 tons each and push each truck’s gross combined weight to more than 90 percent of their gross combined weight rating – levels so high that it forced those of us without one to get commercial driver licenses.

The comparison started in Brighton, Colo. It ended there seven days and 2,200 miles later.

*As of Aug-15, 2011, 2012 GMC Sierra 3500HD pricing has not been announced. Test price is estimated.

The Hurt Locker includes driving up two of the nastiest mountain climbs in the U.S. – from hot summer temperatures of more than 100 degrees in the Arizona desert to the oxygen-starved peaks of the Colorado Rockies, 11,000 feet above sea level. Through it all, we measured fuel economy, acceleration, power and braking and evaluated the confidence that each truck gave its driver.

We teamed up with our friends at Diesel Power Magazine and MrTruck.com, and we partnered with Titan Trailers, which supplied the gooseneck trailers, and Pioneer Sand, which provided about 36,000 pounds of ballast.

The Contenders

To push the trucks and their diesel engines to the limit, we decided to test one-ton dual-rear-wheel models from Chrysler, Ford and GM. These rigs can tow and haul more than any other pickup on the road.

2011.5 Ram 3500 with High Output 6.7-liter Cummins I-6


Remember the one-upmanship battles among the manufacturers that we mentioned earlier? This 2011.5 Ram 3500 is the latest example of how quickly the game is changing in the heavy-duty pickup segment. Ram is listed first because it has had the most work done to it.

In response to major power increases from Ford and GM, Ram collaborated with its longtime diesel engine partner at Cummins to boost torque in the inline-six-cylinder from 650 pounds-feet (in early 2011 Ram HD pickups) to 800 pounds-feet for all 2500 and 3500 models equipped with Chrysler's 68RFE six-speed automatic transmission. That ties Ford’s best-in-class torque rating for the all-new 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 Diesel.

To manage that torque increase, upgrades include a new engine control module with new calibrations that allow the engine to achieve peak power at a more desirable rpm range. The Ram’s six-speed gearbox also gets a new torque converter with updated shift calibrations to handle the increased power and a re-engineered crankshaft damper that reduces engine noise and vibration, for improved drivability.

Rams HDs with manual transmissions stick with the standard 350 hp, 650 pounds-feet 6.7-liter Cummins diesel.


For Ram dual-rear-wheel models, there’s a new Max Tow option package that features a towing-optimized 4.10 rear axle that includes stronger helical gears and upgraded bearings, along with a finned aluminum differential cover to dissipate heat. There’s also a new water-to-oil transmission cooler and new power-steering cooler to help manage the higher trailer towing ratings.

The Max Tow package increases fifth-wheel towing to a best-in-class 22,750 pounds, up from the previous 18,500 pounds. The GCWR rises to 30,000 pounds in certain models.

The 2011 Ram 3500 wasn’t included in the Rumble in the Rockies because, at the gross combined weights we tested at, we exceeded its 24,500 GCWR by more than 2,500 pounds. Now, in the 2011.5 Ram 3500 we tested, the 4.10 rear axle and Max Tow package added an amazing 8,000 pounds of trailer towing capacity over the standard 3.73 setup. That gave it a GCWR of 29,000 pounds, and a spot in our grudge match. Our Ram test truck was configured as a middle-of-the-road SLT model with the optional Big Horn regional package that adds convenience features and chrome and leather highlights. It also came with a 6.5-inch touch-screen multimedia head unit with Chrysler’s new entry-level Garmin navigation system, Uconnect voice command with Bluetooth and a ParkView backup camera.


Also included was a factory spray-in bedliner, perfect for resisting gradual wear damage from the trailer’s breakaway chains.

In classy Mineral Gray Metallic with sharp-looking 17-inch aluminum wheels and stout styling, the Ram 3500 was the best-looking one-ton we tested, but it was also the most expensive at $58,200.

2012 GMC Sierra 3500 with 6.6-liter Duramax V-8


Although it’s a model year newer than the GM Heavy-Duty pickups we tested in the HD Shootout and Rumble in the Rockies, the GMC Sierra 3500 got only marginal changes, including improved messaging about diesel exhaust fluid levels.

The Sierra 3500’s 6.6-liter Duramax V-8 is rated at 397 horsepower and 765 pounds-feet of torque. For 2011, the Sierra and Chevy Silverado HD pickups got all-new front and rear suspensions, brakes, axles and fully boxed ladder frames. The eight-cylinder Duramax is the fourth generation of GM's HD diesel. Sixty percent of its hardware is new, and it’s 97 hp and 245 pounds-feet stronger than the original 2001 Duramax. GM says the new diesel engine is 11 percent more fuel efficient than the previous Duramax.

We’re big fans of the Duramax’s performance, as it has proven itself time and again over the past year, but our Fire Red Sierra continues to show its age inside. Like the Ram and Ford, our GMC in the midrange SLE trim had cloth seats, but the controls and colors made it feel stripped down. Black was the dominant color except for Spartan silver brightwork around the gauges, steering wheel and glove box. The rear of the Sierra felt cramped, especially with five adult males packed in during testing in Colorado.


The Sierra lacked running boards, making entry into the cabin more difficult compared with the other two trucks and exposing the large DEF tank hanging off the passenger side under the front door.

Pricing for 2012 GMC HD pickups hasn’t been announced yet, but based on 2011 pricing, we estimate the Sierra we tested would carry an MSRP of $55,710, the lowest of the three.

GMC's New Best-in-Class Towing and Hauling Ratings for 2012

On Aug. 15, General Motors announced that the 2012 GMC Sierra 3500 and 2012 Chevy Silverado 3500 claim best-in-class towing and hauling among one-ton pickups, continuing the one-upmanship trend that led to this test.

New rear springs, shackles, cargo box mounts and strengthened cargo boxes will enable the Sierra and Silverado HDs to tow up to 23,000 pounds with a fifth-wheel trailer, up from 21,700 pounds in 2011.

Sierra and Silverado will also lead the class in dually payload, with a 7,215-lb. rating for the 3500HD regular cab 6.0-liter V-8 gasser dually.

Finally, upgraded trailer hitch receivers increase conventional towing to 18,000 pounds, up from 17,000 pounds last year. All changes will be on 2012 models arriving in dealerships in the fourth quarter of 2011.

These changes don't have any impact on the HD Hurt Locker test or its results.

2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty with 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8


It’s not hard to argue that Ford’s F-Series Super Duty trucks are the benchmarks in the segment when half of the heavy-duty pickups sold in the U.S. have Blue Ovals in their grilles.

During our HD Shootout last year, we didn’t have the Job 2 tune for the 6.7-liter V-8 Power Stroke Diesel. The free powertrain firmware update became available just a few months after the trucks were introduced, and it boosted power and torque ratings from 390 hp and 735 pounds-feet of torque to an astonishing 400 hp and 800 pounds-feet.

This time, like the Rumble in the Rockies, our Super Duty test truck came with the latest engine and transmission calibrations.

The Dark Blue Pearl Metallic F-350 came in the XLT trim, the volume trim of the F-Series lineup. Its interior featured the same high-quality layout we’ve come to appreciate in Ford’s pickups.


The instrument panel came with a high-resolution 4.6-inch productivity screen that provides easy access and rich graphics to provide critical truck data such as fuel economy, driveline and off-road and trailer information. Our biggest gripe with the Super Duty’s interior is that the center stack is packed with buttons that can take drivers’ eyes – and attention – away from the road.

Although each truck we tested had gooseneck hitches, the F-350 was the only truck to offer a factory-installed gooseneck hitch prep package, including bed floor cuts, frame mount and wiring. The hitch ball that sits in the bed is sold separately. For the Ram 3500, it takes about an hour to install a Mopar gooseneck trailer hitch that attaches directly to the frame rails under the bed. The GMC Sierra 3500 requires aftermarket installation of a similar package.

The F-350 was priced in between the other two trucks, with an MSRP of $56,900.

The Trailers and Ballast


Titan Trailer provided us with three brand-new, 30-foot flatbed trailers (24-foot floor and 6-foot dovetail ramps) with gooseneck hitches. Each empty trailer had a curb weight of about 7,100 pounds. The Ruff Neck flatbeds feature tandem dual-rear-wheel 10,000-pound rear axles to support some of the heaviest loads you can tow with a pickup. They also have electric brakes on all four wheels and LED brake lights.

We traveled to Pioneer Sand in Northglenn, Colo. (just outside Denver), where we placed six pallets of earthstone slabs on each trailer. That’s about 12,300 pounds to bring the ballasted weight of each trailer to 19,400 pounds.

That brought the GCWR for the GMC to 27,600 pounds before five adult males jumped in and added another 1,000 pounds, for a grand total of 28,600 pounds, or 98 percent of the Sierra’s GCWR during our hill climb tests.

The total for the Ford F-350 was 28,160 pounds, or 94 percent of the Super Duty’s GCWR.


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Oh Yay

Whatever the results. Good job Mike and PUTC for putting this together for free. You've made your mark and we appreciate it. Keep up the good work.

All 3 are nice trucks. Good job PUTC.

I sure hope that an American truck wins!


Too bad the Ram wasn't White. I'm impressed that all three trucks leave a good amount of room between the GCW and the Curb+Trailer weights.
@Drive one- please click this button one time: [Caps Lock] it can be found on the left edge of the keyboard, between the [Shift] and [Tab] keys.

Smart buyers will buy the Ram !

Best looking truck !

Best interior !

The Cummins is bullet proof reliable,and I dont know anyone drag racing fully loaded trucks.If you are loaded going up hills there usually is a bus,semi or a slow driver slowing you down anyways,or law enforcement.Guys who want or only want performance out of a Diesel truck usually chip and do other mods to their trucks anyway,so in many cases a RAM will blow the doors off a Ford or GM.I lost merging on the freeway to a 2002 or older Ram Diesel when I was in my wife's 2004 BMW 645 CI,the Dodge left me like I was in reverse ! I took it past 100 and he was still gaining on me ! I slowed back down,I dont need any trouble from the fuzz !

I just realized how ugly the Ford and GM trucks are,those photo's dont do those trucks any good,Ford and GM interiors are too chunky and busy and look very cheap,the Ram is clean,elegant and just gorgeous !! Cant wait for the new transamissions from Dodge,hopefully they will wake these trucks up a bit,a 8 speed is coming !

Ford should've removed that front license plate mount off of the F-350, like the other trucks because the results were so close between the GMC and Ford, that little extra bit of cooling might have helped it tie or beat the GMC IMO. (I know it's a long shot, but I gotta come up with some excuse why the Ford didn't win hehe).

To PickupTrucks.com
Do not use a sans serif font in the video, it looks amateurish.

foot-pound is the unit of torque.
pound-foot is the unit of work.

and to the IT people, how about an automatic deletion of comments that are typed in all caps.

Sad that the fender badge on the Ram looks as bad as it does- hanging off at the top, bent in the middle, and surrounded by horrid orange peel paint

@Mrknowitall - look again. It is dust that has gotten moist then dried. I see that look all of the time.
You'd of thought they would of cleaned the emblem before taking a picture.

I like the colour of the Ram. I wonder if that is because it is the same colour as my F150 ;)

Glad to see the GM came out on top again. I love it.

@Lou- I really think its bent. I can see the splatter, but the top edge looks like its pulled away from the panel.

@Mr Knowitall - I see what you mean. There is a plastic wedge behind the chrome. It looks like it was designed that way. Looks crappy on a 58,000 dollar truck.

I love the interior of the Ford. I love the looks of the Ram. I love the GM engines & transmissions. I still couldn't buy anything but the Ford though. The Ram's powertrain is outdated and GM still refuses to put a real front axle underneath their heavy duty trucks. Add to it the frame is an eyesore on the GM's.. Ever see the Urea tank? I've also heard guys complain about the body durability on the GM's. Not so much on the Ram or Ford though.. Even with that, If GM simply made their frames higher and used a beam axle again I'd go get a new Silverado in a heartbeat. I really like the looks of the 2011 Silverado HD. That axle and frame is a deal killer though. If Ram would update their powertrain I might be interested in one of those as well. Without it, that's also a deal killer. I'm not even a Ford guy but I'm really left with no choice for what I want in a truck with the other two.

If Chevy and Ram fix their deficiencies, Ford just might be in trouble.

GM's out winning drag races again with their trucks. Big surprise. They're the lightest and flimsiest trucks out of the Big 3. Of course they're going to win. It's a Horsepower to Weight advantage. Why is it that off road capability is never tested? Why is it that body and interior durability are never tested? GM scared they might lose in areas where a Real truck matters? I don't buy a rig to race with. That's the typical Chevy/GM mindset for ya. There's a good reason Ford owns the trucking industry. They build a complete truck, not just one good piece of the puzzle.

Obviously you non GM guys dont know anything go look at all other comparison test the fords tail gate buckles and look at how dumb the ram and fords beds look huge balloon flares and that ridiculous looking bed on the ram, and the dodges slanted front end, obviously you are blind if you cant see the chevy is the best looking truck and out preforms both in almost every thing, top gear America did a sort of ridiculous test on these trucks and drove up a gravel runaway ramp, just do a little more research and you will have all your facts straight btw straight front is out dated thats why they got independent front on chevy look at military humvees independent suspension front and rear i wonder why open a book, google search, what ever you need to straighten out you one track minds. Looks and performance... how can you beat that.

@ Mike Levine

Hi Mike Great Test. I wonder if you could answer a quick question on temps. It seems like the Ford was running hot under load, being that its the newest design, I expected it to be the coolest. Is it possible they were running the Job 3 or whatever they call it these days tune and it was running higher boost?

Also The front end on the ford has those huge silver bars running across it, not to be Mr. obvious here but did Ford Engineers choose style over cooling, seems like those brs are blocking alot of potential air coming in.

Do you have any photos of the Ford's brakes on fire after the downhill runs, is it a real concern for steep grade usages?

you will have all your facts straight btw straight front is out dated thats why they got independent front on chevy look at military humvees independent suspension front and rear i wonder why open a book, google search, what ever you need to straighten out you one track minds. Looks and performance... how can you beat that.

Eldon, you're so wrong on that. Let me educate you. Portal Geared Hubs... Repeat that over and over until it sinks in. Look at a Humvee. The is NO low slung frame and the wheel travel is beyond what GM trucks could ever accomplish with their cheap set up. The differential is Higher driving the axles which then turn the wheels via the Portal set up. It has ZERO in common with the GM set up. Ford and Ram's front axle is far sturdier and has far more wheel travel for off road use. It also allows you to run larger tires without voiding the manufacturers warranty. You're not stressing the half shafts on a beam axle like you do on the Chevy. GM trucks come right out of the gate on bump stops for a reason. It's a very very poor set up for a Heavy Duty truck and the sole reason they are not leading in this segment and haven't for some time. Their engines and transmissions are great, their frame strength is great, their fram DESIGN and lack of a Solid Front Axle will AlWAYS be their downfall and hold them back from what they could really achieve if they wanted it bad enough. They used to do it the right way but haven't for 20 years now. They simply will not beat Ford or Ram in the HD segment until the ground up structure is redesigned no matter how good the Duramax is.

Here's a good towing test: http://www.totallycrap.com/videos/videos_ford_vs_chevy/

When your working any of these trucks you have to look at the operating cost involved also. Ford and GM both require DEF Fluid, and Dodge doesn't. That means Ford and GM cost more to operate. You also have to look at the longevity of these trucks. Who's getting the most miles out of their drivetrain, thats the question buyers should be asking. Maybe go back and find people who purchased 08's 09's and see how they're trucks are holding up?

Ford through the years have marketed their trucks so well that today Ford lovers can not accept the fact that the GMC HD is a better truck. GM is completely redesigning it's other trucks and watch, the same thing will happened, Ford lover's will not admit it if GM again makes a better truck.

Eddie, the video link your listed is what is Total Crap.Ford lovers will go to extreme nonsense.

This is the best ever reason for buying any 3 of these trucks:

I disagree with the final placings of the trucks. Ford had the best Fuel economy, Plus best braking with the trailer.

Who cares how fast they can race? If you want to race something, go get a Mustang, Challenger, and Camaro :P HD pickups are about how much they can tow, and how efficiently they can tow it, which the results quite clearly show the F350 as the winner

Plus a King Ranch is better than a Denalli anyway :P

No doubt they are great trucks! But they lack sufficient DEF tank protection for true HD use. Plus, take them off-road. I took a '11 GM 2500 HD off road in my hunting grounds of Northern AZ and bent a tie-rod. Every fall this same area is flooded with hunters and sportsman and for the tie-rods to bend on the new HD is a major disappointment. I've never bent anything in either my Dodge or my leaf-spring SFA Suburban in the same areas, or in much more difficult areas. Either the new HDs are up for Off-Road use, or they are not. Even Jim Mikulec himself won't put them up against Ford or Dodge off-road. Come on Jim, run the HDs against Ford and Dodge on the rough roads of Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Pull the air dams and use them just like ranchers, construction workers and outdoorsmen do every day. That seemingly minor weakness in GMs trucks is a huge selling point for Ford and Dodge.
This follows a long pattern, since the 80s, of Engineering ignoring the true use (abuse) that the products will endure. From light duty rear axles in G-bodies and 3rd/4th Gen F-bodies, to GMT400/800 tire size limitations due to front suspension component weaknesses, 700R4/4L60E, as well as other cost cutting measures.
GM can dominate the market through redesigning some front suspension components, adding larger tires and allowing customers to order a Detroit Locker or Eaton limited slip in place of the failure prone Gov-Loc.

Ford Superduty, Benchmark of the heavyduty picks, this is why.
1. Not base off of a 1/2 frame. Nothing in common with the F150. Engineered that way from the beginning 1999. No limits to engineer in strength. (Just imagine if the frame was fully boxed)
2. Ford is not afraid to adapt and use new technologies. Has lead the way so much so that Chev and Dodge had to follow when the 1999 Superduty was introduced.
3. Frame is engineered for true toughness and durability commerical industries love them. only the front portion of the frame is boxed
4.There are many older model Superduty still going strong
5. The shear bulk and size of the Superduty has set the standard that others are following. One look at these trucks and you can tell that there are none in the picktruck market that truly compares. IN A LEGEND OF ITS OWN

Saw who was overall superior in similar,but supposed to be "entertaining" tests on Top Gear on the Science channel.

The ford won in the burnout tests, then circled the crew doing circles.......While burning OUT!

Plus pulled a train.

The tests done between these three trucks doesn't really account for much accept to sell a magazine. I'm sure all three trucks are great trucks. A true test is to hook up to a 16,000 lb 5th wheel RV. Go on a trip through the rockies and on the flat. See how it handles up and down the hill and in normal conditions. After all, isn't that the way we really drive them?

I thought this was a great test in the real world. The only thing i would like to have seem tested as well, is how they do on a long steep down hill. Which truck needed to use its brakes the least. But still great job. thanks.

Interesting tests. I wish you would really test these trucks with heavier loads and also durability along with cost per mile. I believe the Dodge would win over the long haul. What I believe you need to do is go to any livestock market, probably nationwide, and see what the people that really load and work their trucks are driving..............Dodge. We pull over 25000,lbs. on avg., also you won't see any Chevy or GMC trucks, people have tried them and they self destruct within 30000 miles. Ford also has problems with durability under these heavy loads, however they are better than the General motors efforts. Also nice the Dodge doesn't have the DEF need like the others!!!!!

Why doesn't the Dodge have a 3.73 axle ratio like the other 2? These test never compare apples to apples. Dodge would have gotten better 1/4miles times and better gas mileage if it had the optional 3.73 axle. Redo the test....

In the 2011 hurt locker tests what was the tongue weight of the Triton trailer ???....when added to each truck's GVW what was the total weight as the % of the GVWR ???....what was the total weight on the rear axle as a % of the rear axle GAWR ???....seems to me these are important part of the overall assessment / analysis ...tks !

While I believe the GMC is a clear winner (because I own one) this would carry a lot more credibility if there wasn't so many GM advertisements all over the page.

Does any one know if Gm is going to a Mega Cab in the future like Dodge?

Hellooo is any body home? Nice trucks, good tests, but stupid scoring. Cant belive, most segments won by ford and gmc is the winner? People wake up! Who ever wrote this article either owns one of these crappy outdated gmc truks or was paid by goverment motors to declare gmc winner. Pay attention to all gmc loose segments ,there is a bunch of blaa blaa blaa, trying to excuse why gmc didn't beat ford. On exaust breaking look how they bash ford because gmc did better in only that segment. Who anybody making these tests need to have real neutral knowledgeble judges. Don't hire corrupt ignorant judgers.

Notice how the Ford F-350 is geared lower in every gear than both other trucks. That eans Ford is the Mad Dog puller of the group, not necesserily the fastest. With a 4.30 the result would be even lower. Actually the 4.88 in the F-550 is much lower geared than a 5.13 Per gear.


I knew right off the bat the GMC would win. It has a set up built for quick heavy trailer sprints.

Stephen Heckel:

Good question. That style of extended cab was first seen on a Chevy.

I bought a 2012 chevy 3500 crewcab dually LTZ. LOVE IT!!!! Nothing beats a duramax! In all fairness I test drove a Dodge dually, very comfortable but you can feel the lack of horses under the hood. The one piece rear fender is an improvement. Not a truck I would use for serious hauling. The ford has power but is very rough. Long rides on bumpy roads may requie a kidney transplant.Cost of ownership is highest of the three. It has a serious lag time in response from the time you hit the pedal until it actually picks up speed. The dually version looks like a kit truck compared to GM and Dodge. Yuck! For those of you wondering, I use my truck to pull a 15,000lb 40ft fifth wheel. I live in Montana where mountian passes are common place. This truck has already pulled the trailer up McDonald pass which is 5 miles up at a grade of 8% while maintaining a speed of 65 mph. The allison transmission and exhaust brake combination let me keep my foot away from the brake while going downhill. Heated and cooled seats, bluetooth, onstar, navigation, XM radio, USB plug in for ipods, This truck is a cadalliac on steroids.

i don't think that GMC came out on top again. It never was at the top. Ford is much better. Much smoother at drive. And engine sound. My sweet mother of god... I love it. Ford beat their competition once again.

Go ahead and ask any mechanic who works on all combinations of these 3 trucks. Take it from me. Ford will be at the bottom of every one of their preference lists. Take a good look at the front ends under a ford. The hub set up in a 4x4 combo is absolute garbage. Has been for years. Last year ford produced a quality truck was 1979. As far as dodge goes. Great engine. Rides like a tank. And they have rear end issues time and time again. Yet to see any dodge with a few miles that wasn't already leaking from the rear wheel seals. No one can even comparably dispute the ride of a Chevy. Great engine transmission combo that has stood the test of time. While ford has changed what 4 or 5 times in 10 years. Dodge has made only one change. Then duramax been same forever for the most part.

I will go for the F-350, the Ford is still the best truck manufacturer in the world!

I am a GM fan, and I think that when it comes to the Heavy Duty trucks you don't need to think too much, just go for the GMC Sierra 3500HD - the best heavy-duty truck in the world!

This is the best truck ever, wheres the update for 2018 models?

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