2013 Light-Duty Challenge: Autocross

Autocross GMC II

Of all the tests that we perform in a Challenge, the autocross could be the one that truck shoppers might like to do most on their own.

Our small autocross course was set up at GM's Black Lake Vehicle Dynamics Area on the Milford Proving Grounds. The closed-loop course was less than a minute in length when driven aggressively and included several good cornering opportunities, a slalom section, a good-sized decreasing radius corner and several chicane obstacles.

Our "hot shoe" for the drive was Ben Wojdyla, associate automotive editor for Popular Mechanics. Wojdyla is not a professional racer, but he knows how to push and exercise a vehicle. Even more important, he knows how to let a vehicle's capabilities determine how fast and controlled it can navigate sections of a course without pummeling the test truck to a pulp.

All the trucks were run with air conditioning off, in two-wheel drive (although the Ford and GM trucks had all-wheel-drive capabilities), traction control on and with two adult males in the truck (one driver and one data recorder, as in all the other performance tests). Once all the trucks were tested empty, we tested them all again on the same course but with 1,000 pounds of sandbags strapped safely in the bed.

The winner of the empty autocross was the Ram 1500, with a time of 46.0 seconds. Our test driver made note of how well the suspension was able to dive and hold the corners and keep the rear end controlled better than any other in the test, especially in tight hard-right, hard-left transitions.

Autocross Nissan II

Right behind the Ram was the GMC Sierra with a time of 46.3 seconds. It felt very controlled through the course, the driver noted, doing a great job of delivering a flat road feel while keeping tire grip through the tightest corners. The Ford, Nissan and Toyota all had times in the 49-second range; each seemed to do more lumbering than nimble darting, which makes sense since those trucks were three of the four heaviest trucks of our test (F-150 5,820 pounds, Titan 5,520 pounds and Tundra 5,800 pounds).

With the 1,000 pounds of strapped-down sandbags in the bed, we ran the trucks through the course again. This time around, each of the competitors was typically around 1.5 seconds slower, with the exception of the Nissan Titan, which was actually faster by 0.3 seconds. The only way our tester could explain it was by describing how frustrating each of his Titan runs were with its aggressive traction control. The faster time during the loaded run is probably explained by the greater traction capability of the rear tires coming out of corners.

In first place after the loaded runs, the Ram posted a loaded best time of 47.1 seconds. This time, it was Ford in second place with a time of 48.5, and the Chevy came in third again with a time of 48.8.

Autocross Ford II

Autocross sandbags II


Overview | Judges' Impressions | 0-60 Acceleration | 60-0 Braking | Mileage Drive | Hill Climb | Autocross | Payload and Towing | Results


Which ones don't have monotube dampers?
Chevy/GMC are supposed to have Rancho monotubes.

It would be nice to see what would happen if all the dampers were switched out to Bilsteins.

(and same tires pressure)

@GeorgeC - A great point for sure, but I'd argue that the results here have very little real-world value. All the truck owners I know are far more concerned with towing, hauling, and reliability than lap times.

That's not a dig at you (obviously), just pointing out that this comparison probably didn't need to be done (IMHO).

Why is this not needed? It shows stability. The Ford showed it can handle the added weight. Toyota and GMC bombed it. Nissan? Maybe it wanted more weight? But considering the Ford should be at the top considering it has so much more payload rating. Some day they will run them with max weight. Why not? Afraid your favorite might roll over?

I'm not seeing a clear advantage to the added complexity and cost of the air ride in the Ram. The Chevy was close empty and the F150 was close loaded.

Always a excuse for ford.....

I'll admit that I'm not likely to be sporting around with my truck carrying a load in the bed. Even if it's just dirt or mulch or camping gear, things WILL slide unless they're fastened pretty rigidly into the bed. Not everyone ties down a few bags of dirt or whatever when they're just running from the home store to their home with that load.

Still, it's impressive how well the Ram did compared to the others, especially when pickups are so notoriously tail-waggy when empty. The Nissan in particular emphasized this by the simple fact that traction control so severely limited its empty speed.

@ Math - the majority of excuses are being generated by the Ram camp. So what's your point?

The Ford has AWD...in the XLT? Since when? BS...or I guess I'll have to check when my '13 arrives. Ltd, Harley...sure, if they aren't AWD all the time, but in the XLT, pfft...not on the one I currently have.

The XLT does NOT have AWD. You don't even have the choice of "auto" 4x4.
All you get is:2Hi, 4lo, 4Hi.
Neutral is an option.

VIDEOS ?????????????????????

The Ram is the only truck equipped with 20's and lower profile tires, a deffinate advantage in this type of test.

Well I guess truck of the year won again. I had no idea that the Dodge Ram (yes I said dodge) was this good and so much more improved over previous models. This goes to show that Chrysler put their money where there mouth is.

People can make excuses all they want. They're all good trucks. However no surprise the Ram has the edge. There is a reason it is truck of the year.

The only test not done that I would have liked to have seen is an off-road test. Yeah the big 3 can perform on road but so can so many SUV's.

Just go's to show you American made is the BEST

Another comparison were the more you use the truck like a truck not a car the better it performs. Be scared of any truck that performs worse when you use it like a truck. GM and Chevy for years have produced a truck for car buyers, but one which can't handle being put to work. Toyota, same problem. Looks like Nissan and Ford are designed to perform well loaded.

I know this is a bit late...but the author notes the only exception to the longer times was the Titan. But as I read it, the F150 ran 49 empty and 48.5 loaded. So.....

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