2013 Light-Duty Challenge: Calculated Max Payload and Towing

Payload F-150 II

Eleven of our 13 quantitative scoring categories are determined by objectively testing each pickup truck for time or distance (acceleration, braking, autocross), but two of our scored categories are simple math. We award winners 100 points and the other competitors whatever percentage below their calculations, whatever that might be. That means that if our winning truck got 30 mpg and the runner-up got 27 mpg, then the winner would get 100 points, and the runner-up would get 90 points (since 27 is 90 percent of 30).

In order to reward pickup trucks that offer the highest capabilities that are most likely to be of interest to buyers (or enthusiasts) of this type of truck, we created an as-tested maximum payload and maximum towing capacity category. To calculate each truck's numbers, we began by weighing each truck at the same CAT Scale outside Ann Arbor, Mich., with a full tank of fuel and nothing else inside.

The Silverado weighed 5,480 pounds; the F-150, 5,820; the Sierra, 5,420; the Titan, 5,520; the Ram, 5,600; and the Tundra, 5,800.  

To calculate the maximum payload, we subtracted the truck's weight from the gross vehicle weight rating number on the door sticker, then subtracted 200 more pounds for a normal-sized driver. The Ford F-150 won this category with a calculated capacity of 1,630 pounds. The Ford was the heaviest truck in the test, with the highest GVWR by more than 400 pounds over the next closest player. The only other truck equipped with a max towing package (which often does not impact GVWR) was the Toyota Tundra, which had a calculated payload capacity of 1,200 pounds, finishing just ahead of the Ram. (We should note that the Chevy and GMC pickups did not have a max tow package, because it won't be available for a few months.) The Ram had just 1,000 pounds of calculated payload capacity.

Payload Ram II

As for maximum towing capacity, we calculated that number in much the same way. We subtracted the actual weight of each pickup from the manufacturer's gross combined weight rating, then subtracted 200 pounds for a driver.

Again, the Ford F-150 won this category handily, offering more than 11,000 pounds of calculated towing capacity with its EcoBoost engine and Max Tow Package. In second place was the Tundra with 10,000 pounds, and the GMC Sierra and Nissan Titan essentially tying for third. We should note that although the Ram 1500 only offered a calculated maximum towing capacity of 8,350 pounds, it did all our towing tests and fuel economy loops with the 8,500-pound trailer with confidence and control. Maybe that's another good reason to hope that all these truck makers adopt the Society of Automotive Engineers' towing standard J2807 very soon.

Towing GMC II





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


There's a huge problem with this portion of the test, unfortunately: Because your comparison uses the manufacturer-provided numbers, you're starting with bad data. Can the F150 *really* tow 11,000 lbs? If so, why doesn't Ford announce that rating is SAE J2807 compliant?

Ditto for Ram, GM, and Nissan.

The problem with this "test" is that it rewards manufacturers that cook their towing and payload numbers. To win this portion, all you have to do is overstate your truck's capabilities.

This is the one, test I find issue with. Why are you going to find it a fault of the truck when it meets the demand that you set for it? That is like saying, you need an "A" to pass this test, but because your "A" wasn't as high as others, you still failed.

You said you wanted a truck that tows 8500lbs, Ram sent a truck that tows 8500lbs, but you docked it points because of it? Why don't you test to see how well it tows that 8500lbs instead? It could very well be, because of the Ram's panhard bar, that the Ram actually tows that 8500lbs better then the Ford. Edmonds has shown that the Ram does tow 5500lbs better then the Ford.

Maybe if you asked the makers to send a truck with max towing, then you could dock it, but on the other hand the Ram does have an 10,000lbs option.

I do think it is ok to give some grief to the Ram for it's low payload numbers. It is well behind the competition on that front, and there is no option that can raise it. But it isn't like you had to change any tests because of the low numbers.

I would also like to point out that the Tundra should be rewarded a few points for being the only truck that uses the SAE standard.

"The Ford was the heaviest truck in the test, with the highest GVWR by more than 400 pounds over the next closest player."

Not bad for a heavy truck!!!

yep, RAM is doing well but, they need to find a way to get more payload & higher towing capacity rating. I love my 2012 RAM I stand firm on my decision trading my 2011 sliverado for a 2012 RAM anyway. Its not the perfect truck although, its getting better all the time every redesign their pushing harder & thats enough for me to continue supporting the endeavors of RAM/Chrysler with future pickup truck purchases.

I've heard that the 2014 GM truck numbers are SAE J2807 compliant, but that GM doesn't want to say as much until Ford does. The belief is that Ford is sandbagging their ratings a bit, and that once they downgrade the F-150's towing, GM will announce that their ratings met the standard the whole time.

But who knows...that's just something I heard. ;-)

Like I said before if you are going to do a test how about doing it in a real world test from Seattle to Idaho up to the #3, Lethbridge in Canada over to the coquihalla, then back to Seattle, That gives you lots of steep up and down grades that will actually test a vehicle, real world.
If a manufacturer says their vehicle will carry a few thousand pounds more than the others well load it to the max and then they can brag about it or explain their failure.

I been saying it for awhile; the Ram air suspension does everything BUT add payload, and they are not getting the most out of it until it does. A 7100 or maybe even 7200 pound GVWR would be more like it. The axles are there. I know from using airbags, it will hold it steady.

As far as towing, the GMs and Fords just went crazy with numbers and just threw them out there. The Ram eight speed is alot more realistic, the thing that works against their max tow is the payload and GVWR. But then ago, alot of new to towing people, or just plain idiots don't have any idea what a weight distributing hitch does.

So look at the torque, the gearing, and the ratings, and tell me which one is alot more realistic after you see the performance?

The Ram here has more torque, a better set of gears with gears closer together, and good brakes. That and rated to tow less then any 4.3 geared 5.7 Tundra. How real you want it, as far as towing goes?

And like John Pringle says, wish they would test them at max to see how they handle that, things like stopping, slalom. Must won't want that, but do you want to see how your truck would do at GVWR when you crank the wheel to avoid some wreck?

Any company can inflate their ratings.

This part of the test seems odd. As others have pointed out, whomever lays on the thickest coat of magic spring dust wins.
Even with the oddity of this math test, the Ram has a p-ss poor cargo capacity. 1,000 lb with air ride WTF?
Too many "suspension overheat" warning lights and too many "limp home mode" episodes during preliminary testing?

Any truck with poor cargo capacity will ride nice, ask any Raptor owner.

"Even with the oddity of this math test, the Ram has a p-ss poor cargo capacity. 1,000 lb with air ride WTF?"

Sounds more like a Station Wagon. I agree very poor payload indeed.

This is the only test that I have any real issue with. All of the other test we didn't have any dead ringer that we knew 100% would win. Not if we're being honest with ourselves. For example, I (a DIEHARD Chevy guy) would have never thought the 5.3 would have beat the 5.7 Tundra or the 5.7 Ram in any acceleration test but it did. The F-150 had no choice but to win this test.


Will hold it steady? Have you used structly an airbag with no spring? Nothing produced I can think of uses only air and no spring. Not even semi trucks. That would be my big thing would be support for the axle and suspension with 8k+ lbs behind the truck and only an air bag. Dodge would have been better off using the air bag as a helper bag to level and aid with weight rather than a strictly air set up.

Tyler: that was the purpose of the loaded autocross, which shows the Ram handled it just fine when holding the same weight the others used. The GMs sorta went backwards there.

But Motor Trend seemed to think that the Ram felt more confinent then the F-150 towing. With air.

Edmunds thought the coils were better then the Ford getting is tail wagged.

FWIS Tyler: I had two engine blocks, two four speed manual transmissions, a couple of crankshafts (340 Dodge) 2 or 3 sets of heads, flywheels, clutches, rotors, a Lakewood blow bell, engine parts, and then some. Then on the the trailer I had 2 complete doors, two fenders, 6 15x8" steel wheels, a 3150 pound racecar, the interior had parts crammed in it. All this with 33 pounds of air in air bags, and a weight distibuting hitch, to put tongue weight back to the trailer. Do the math.

Oh, it all fit under a Backflip G2 and sat level. Tires are LT275/70 R17 that are standard and hold more weight then any GM 1500 tire.

So yeah it held it steady for 700 plus miles. Otherwise I would not have felt comfortable @70 mph on a 70 mph zone such as I-44. But alot of the way was through Kansas @65-70. Thats a $90 airbag set. Installed by me.

Have you used a strictly airbag? The links and panhard bar hold the suspension in place. This is not some old Monte Carlo suspension, which I drove my friends car in high school, he had about an 82. Rear end was all mushy. My 69 Dart had better stability. So I guess I can't blame you for the way you think, but they came a long ways. The Monte Carlo supension is nothing as modern as a Ram in the way they mounted the links.

On the other hand, the 67-72 GM truck suspension is the base for most Nascar top classes, and holds steady, but the factory had weak springs. I had a 1969 longbed.

FWIW, the manufacturers do conduct "real world" tests. I saw two disguised test mules hauling trailers along Utah Highway 12 a week and a half ago. Lots of marked grades, up to 10%, along there.

@RobertRyan - 1,000 lb is a joke. My wife's Sienna probably can carry more.

Well I am proud of the Ford F-150, given that my 11 Ecoboosted 3.73 rear FX-4 Supercrew 6.5 ft bed truck has been perfect thus far after 53,000 miles. I will admit tho, the 5.0 shoulda been the appropriate matchup for 5.3. Shoulda done a 6.2 Ford and maybe one 6.2 GM truck to compare by. Dodge 3.92 rear woulda yielded better tow ratings, tho still lower than Ford. Chevy or GMC shoudla provided one 6.2 truck witht he Maximum tow package (I guess not available yet) or a Ford with a 3.55 rear. Well in any case Ford did weill for being oldest of big three. Go Ram for super Hemi performance. Chevy has nice trucks here too. Still wanna c how 6.2 with trailer tow rear does. I really wanna c a Ford 6.2 XLT with 3.73 rear tow test.

Hey TUNDRAHQ!!! I can attest that the 3.73 rear 3.5 Ecoboost truck tows 11,100 pounds nicely, having towed three horse trailer loaded with horses and lots of equipment, I was weighted in at a trailer weight station at 11,100 lounds trailer alone, and thru the hills of PA Poconoes rt 309 truck handled, accelerated, stopped, trans performed beautifully, no sag since I do have a weight dist hitch and heed the proper tongue weight. There are quite a few long up and down hill stretches that challenge any truck towing this much weight and my 11 FX-4 3.73 rear Ecoboost Supercrew w/ 6.5 ft bed did excellent. No white knuckling, truck was stable, and trailer sway control and int. brake controller rock. I love this truck!!

I carried 2000 pounds of pavers for my patio/driveway remodel from Colorado to NJ in my 11 Ecoboost 3.73 rear FX-4 Supercrew 6.5ft bed, and truck never faltered. Gush Gush Gush. Sorry I love my Ford, but haters do not hate me for I love all makes of trucks.

This one comes out quite interesting, especially when considering how each vehicle did in the dynamic tests when loaded. In almost every load-carrying/-pulling test the Ram was overloaded according to these figures, yet still came out high in the pack in actual capability and leading in many. That's rather surprising and leads me to question Ram's GVWR when taking those results in mind.

That said, if as some people seem to insist that you dare not exceed GVWR or risk a ticket or worse, then obviously Ram is the loser here. Of course, that also assumes you intend to carry a capacity load frequently enough to really make a difference. If you're like the majority of new pickup owners I see around where I live, they spend far more time empty than loaded and if they're running loaded they're almost always 3/4 ton or heavier trucks. These figures are obviously good to know, but it appears that every brand needs to recalculate their ratings based on a common standard rather than arbitrarily selecting what sounds good to them.

@Vulpine - I do agree. There needs to be a tow haul rating standard and most pickups, especially the crewcabs - are SUV's minus the canopy.
The oddest part of this test is the Ram did well on the hill but sucked on the flat.
There has to be something that needs sorting out in the electronics that control the Ram.

TRX-4Tom: I have some news for you, but you know this anyway, the real reason the 69 Dart handled better than the Monte Carlo? was because when all else is equal, torsion bars and leaf springs, will out handle coils any day! as the Monte Carlos all had coils, and the Dart? they all had bars/leafs. But like I said, all else being equal, late 60's car and late60's early 70's cars. From what I remember from that time, the Mopar cars did handle better than any GM or Ford cars of the day, and as far as the suspension in NASCAR? from what I have read and been told, the front suspension from the mid 60's Ford Galaxies was the standard for yrs. but I am not sure now.

@sandman4X4 - I had heard the same thing about Galaxie frames and suspensions. They were used to underpin other badges.

this whole dodge ram ratings is odd; the owners manual reads max tow capacity of 10,000 plus. what gives????

They should have tested apples against apples. They all should have had the max tow package. Oh well. They will all do well on the road. Just pick the one you like (except the Nissan) and go with it! Get one for me, too! LOL

@Sandman 4x4: ah, maybe it is I HAVE NEWS FOR YOU? Look under thos a Monte Carlo, you won't find a panhard bar, atleast stock. That controls the side motion.

My Dart on the other hand, the 1969, was a non disc brake, non sway bar 6 cylinder. The rear end wasn't mushy meaning if you jerk the steering wheel back and forth, it didn't feel like jello in the back end. Now I could and did break the rear end loose while corning hard in the Dart. When it has no sway bar and standard small torsion bars its pretty easy. Yes, the suspension design is there, they are worlds better then the crappy GM Monte Carlo geometry. So much that I have friends that have big heavy Chargers beating metric GMs on oval tracks, and they try like hell to slow down the Dodges. One friend got a championship with his 17 year old son racing a 72 Charger against metric GMs and Camaros. They bitched about them weighing 3600 by rule so now they weigh 3300.

So you aint telling me anything new, I have a 3 time champioship winning car out back. Cam aros, metrics, old Chevelles, and Mustangs and Cougars had nothing on it in the Seattle area figure eights.

@THatguY01 , I know with the RAM you can get from 7200# to 9200# o 10000# by selecting differntial ratios from 3.21 to 3.55 to 3.92.

I'll have to read these test specs to see how they were tested.

Just a couple of thoughts because I am looking at all brands right now and am willing to buy any of them. If you are engaging tow haul just to engage it that makes no sense. A real world comparison of towing; while towing a friends enclosed snowmobile trailer up and down the hilly terrain I had my ford locked in at 65 mph with the cruise control on (no need to engage tow/haul). It never dropped out of overdrive. My friends Chevy doing a similar run was constantly dropping out of overdrive and on one trip spewed all of his transmission fluid into the engine compartment. Additional I have towed my 10,000 lb enclosed trailer without ever using tow/haul with no issues. I think all U.S. trucks are high quality out of the box but what I really want to know is how are they when you get 100k miles on them. That is the one thing this test leaves me wondering.

P.S. to the guys defending Dodge regarding rusting my 2005 has no rust and it sits out side.

I pulled my 7x14 enclosed tandem 7ft high with a Arctic Cat 2up quad and at least 5-600 lbs of tools and spare tires etc, at 150 kph with no problems,probably avg 130 kph,up hills and passed everything in sight;wanted to hit 170 but the trailer fishtailed too much,truck pulled effortlessly over the 120 km trip. All the power you would want,oh yeah 2013 f150 HD v6T long box supercab:7 LUG wheels 12mpg pulling at that speed;no issues

No surprise that Ford leads in payload trailer, towing, yet with the same truck leads or is midpack in fuel economy empty/loaded. Hey Dodge owners, how would you like to pull a trailer at max capacity and a slip tank, while getting good fuel economy, without worry about getting pulled over for overloading. Well you can't because the more you load the truck bed the worse it performs. I can tell you running loaded in BC, while towing you will get pulled over, have your trailer parked until you bring a real truck that can handle your trailer and payload. Looks real shiny inside though, compared to a fleet spec Ford. Really wish the had fit an FX4 into this testing which should have come in at a similar price range, with similar options. Would probably improved the style categories and the Rancho shocks would have performed better.

I think everyone makes great points and for the most part they are all good truck's. One thing we have to take in account is JB power and associates , moter trend mag don't take there trucks lightly. Ram isn't ranked number one for no reason. I never owned a Dodge product and started selling trucks. I always had ford but, after going to many classes and testing these trucks apples to apples I believe we need to look at the whole picture. As far as performance as a whole the Ram truly does stand above the rest. This is not only towing or payload but also handling, durability, mpg and frame strength.Ford did very well although the mpg with the Ford eco boost is highly disapointing, but none stood above the ram when you look at the whole picture. Ram is now my pick and for good reason. But still not hating on anyone, to each there own.

The comments to this entry are closed.