King of Beasts: Results

1 Cool Pair II

Photography by Evan Sears

By the end of our 1,600-mile King of Beasts test drive, our drivers had a clear idea of how these two behemoths performed towing the most extreme amounts of weight. There's no question that the manufacturers have a done a stellar job of making the 2013 Ford F-450 and the 2013 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty the most powerful, strongest and even the smoothest-riding heavy haulers we've ever seen in this segment.

We needed to see how these two creatures performed in the wild, stressed to their limits, each yanking its own huge trailer back and forth across and over the Rockies. Unlike some other comparison tests we've done, this contest was about watching the two combatants as they moved from one extreme venue to another and from one extreme situation to another.

Rather than score each category or each test as if these were two equally matched competitors, which they weren't, we decided to just toss them into the ring, lock the cage behind them and find out which was the last one standing: bull elephant versus lion, whale versus giant squid, Godzilla versus King Kong. We know a 3500 doesn't match up directly with an F-450. In fact, we're not really sure any truck buyer would ever comparison shop those two trucks, but that wasn't what this test was about. We wanted the biggest hauling pickups out there (certainly with the biggest gross vehicle weight rating and gross combined vehicle weight rating numbers), and we wanted to test them together. So we did.

Here's what we found as these two heavy-duty fifth-wheel tugboats took on some of the most serious hill climbs and descents this country has to offer. We can comfortably say that both trucks handled them with incredible skill. But to say there weren't significant differences wouldn't be honest either, so here are our findings.

1 Ford Eisenhower grade II

2013 Ford F-450 Lariat Crew Cab 4x4

There's no question that with 400 horsepower and 800 pounds-feet of torque, the Power Stroke engine delivers gobs of smooth power and low-end grunt. For all-around big-truck comfort and capability, this used to be the ruler of the land, but it's now showing its age. There's always been something regal and majestic about the F-450 because it's been the bar everyone else has been trying to clear since it was introduced in 2008.

It's got plenty of strengths:

  • Visibility: We like the tremendous visibility from the driver's seat with its rounded hood corners, gigantic elephant-like movable ears for mirrors, and large side and rear windows. Even the funny-looking rear dualie fenders make visibility easier for a driver who is pulling narrow or long trailers.
  • Mobility: While you wouldn't expect it, for the most part we like how well it moves around town and on the highway when empty. With only a small bit of bothersome rear-end stiffness, it is impressive to see a truck of this size (and with 4.30:1 axle gears) regularly hit the 14-mpg mark driving around town.
  • Smart Trans: We were very impressed how often the transmission stayed in 6th gear, even while driving on high-altitude grades. It was a challenge to get it to downshift sometimes. 

During our time in the Super Duty we did find a few quibbles:

  • The jitters: When fully loaded, we found the ride a bit stiffer and bucky at times, especially when the roads were bad.
  • Interior: Our Platinum edition had a very nice sound system, but it didn't seem much different or offer the upgraded materials we believe truck buyers deserve in a nearly $70,000 pickup.
  • DEF gauge: Not having an easy-to-find diesel exhaust fluid gauge that lets you know exactly how much you've used and how much you have left is something customers should not settle for, especially those who are going to tow. The Super Duty only offers a "Level OK" readout.

Unfortunately, the biggest areas where the F-450 let us down was in controlling the heavy loads on the steepest hill descents, something we've known from past heavy-duty comparisons as well. The strategy to integrate the turbocharger along with the grade braking of the transmission is perfectly fine about 80 percent of the time, but when we needed it most, it wasn't there. We found ourselves having to combat the engine bumping into the rev limiter several times with only the brake pedal between us and a runaway rig. Maybe it needs bigger, stronger brakes and a stronger transmission, or maybe a more aggressive turbocharger is the simple fix, but something has to be done if Ford wants its crown back. Interestingly, from what we saw at the 2013 State Fair of Texas, Ford could do it with the upgrades it has planned for its Super Duty chassis and upgraded Power Stroke for 2015.


1 Ram Beauty II

2013 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4

Although it may not look like it on the outside, there were quite a few significant changes to the 2013 Ram 3500 HD, not the least of which was employing a higher tensile-strength frame and moving from a five-link front-end suspension design to a heavier-duty three-link setup.

All it takes is a quick look under the front end at the massive lower control arms (more similar now to the Super Duty strategy now) to understand why the new one-tons are so well-behaved and much less prone to the jitters when road bumps or choppy surfaces hit. Likewise, the steering feel is vastly improved as we navigated (at good speeds too) our way through mountain canyons and picked through tight city streets and Wal-Mart parking lots (not easily done with a 32-foot trailer).

Another standout feature was the new-for-2013 Smart Brake, which allows the driver to select one of three settings — off, auto and fully on. We liked letting the computer control the amount of engine braking in "auto" mode for most of our real-world driving, but we appreciated being able to set the exhaust brake into a more aggressive mode when headed toward a big downhill grade. It gave us more control (and a stronger sense of safety) and clearly helped the Ram HD manage its downhill speed.

The overall quality and level of detail offered in the Laramie Longhorn interior package impressed us. This was a cabin that we had to live in for seven straight days, sometimes for 16 hours at a time. The material choices, seams and switch layout seem to be the standard for the industry right now, something that others should be shooting for.

Finally, an important detail that could easily go overlooked is how well this package is integrated. From the engine and transmission working through the midlevel gearing, to the grade braking in the transmission software working in concert with the exhaust brake, to the level of seating comfort and support to make long hauls feel like an easy day's drive, it all works and fits seamlessly together.

This new Ram 3500 HD controls huge amounts of weight as if it were carrying a much smaller load, and you get out of the truck at the end of a long day of towing feeling like you haven't been. What more could you want from your beast of burden?

1 Ford Gauge II

1 Ram Guage II

However, as much as we like this Ram 3500 HD, it is not a perfect truck. There are still characteristics of the Cummins B-motor that take some getting used to, like the trainlike torque at takeoffs that often had us sluggishly tugging away from stops rather than smoothly taking off. Also, visibility over the large front hood and all around the truck could be much better. And we would have liked an option for a larger fuel tank because long-haul towing with just a 220-mile range got old real fast.

Other things we liked:

  • Powertrain: The new Ram and Aisin transmission surprised us with how well it carried the big loads with minimal effort, and it gave us respectable fuel economy.
  • DEF gauge: We appreciated the dedicated DEF gauge that allowed us to see how quickly that eight-gallon tank can run dry when pulling the grade out of Vail, Colo., or over the 11,000-foot passes to get to Denver. Between our two trucks, we burned through 12 gallons of DEF fluid.

Our testing showed that Ram engineers have done a pretty good job of liberating the Cummins power and giving it a lot of midrange "umph" to move strongly up steep grades. Likewise, the brake-touch testing and the brake temperatures we measured really drive the point home that controlling the weight through engine management (auto grade braking) and turbocharger tuning (multimode exhaust brake) can help keep you away from the safety limits of your truck, offering a wider margin for error.

The Ram also had higher top speeds up the steepest grades, handled the heavy loads with more control, and kept the drivers more comfortable and less stressed. With all that said, we finally say congratulations to the 2013 Ram 3500 HD, our winner and last beast standing in this bloody two-truck battle.

1 Ram Cool Road II


1 Ford Highway II


Overview | Acceleration | Braking | Fuel Economy | Comfort and Squats | Results


Congrats to the Ram! Mark and the team, very well done and written! Ford really needs a redesigned Super Duty and chassis, though the engine upgrades for 2015 look great.

Good job Ram.
It takes alot to knock the King off the throne.
Keep up the good work.

Ford has new brakes for 2014 as well.

HAHA Ford has to be embarrassed even Ram's 3500 and GM'S 3500 is whooping Fords F450s in the dirt now. I guess Ford should of done more upgrades on their 1998 Super Turds too funny.

Ram finally got to be Ford? What!? About time...

Impressive win for Ram. 4.10 vs 4.30 and it still beat the F450 in most categories.

RAM is the best truck on the market right now. Congratulations.

I like the way the tests were set up. Job well done by Mark and the crew. Congrats to the Ram!

Now I see why Ford is upgrading the exhaust brake. Lots more touches that's been the knock on this truck for a while. I hope they do another test when the upgraded Ford and GM trucks come out.

I think the biggest surprise is the fuel economy. Though I took a 2013 Cummins 2500 (370/800 w/3.42) for a spin and there was no way it was getting as good as the Ford 6.7 w/ 3.31 or 3.55 axle. So the results here are not indicative of anything that I would buy. I would like to see another shootout like this with configurations that most people would buy. Maybe do it again next year when the 2015 Super Duty is out. Hopefully the 2015 Cummins gets a big power upgrade too.

Let it go. RAM won.

Awesome review! You guys worked hard to get this test done right and it shows. Congrats on a job well done! Glad to know Ford is making the improvements needed for 2015 to catch up to the impressive new Ram. The capability of these trucks is incredible!

@zviera. Someone is forcing you to read my comments? LOL. I'm sorry. I agree with you that Ram is the best truck right now. Hopefully they keep improving too.

Nice report. It's amazing what these trucks are capable of any more. Imagine what this test would look like if you did it with a 12v Cummins, a 1st gen Stroke and the ol' GM 6.5!

No real surprise on the down-hill braking. There's a reason why road-rigs use "Jake brakes" ;)

I don't care for the Ram interior. The Ram may have higher quality materials right now, but it is very gaudy. I'd take the Platinum interior, but will wait to buy the all new 2016 Super Duty.

I also prefer the Super Duty guages.



@Sam, That's why Ram has the Laramie Limited. They realized that not everyone wanted the cowboy motif. The Limited uses the same materials, just toned down and looks better in my opinion.

Excellent review. I would like to know what the trailer brake temp was. I'm a little concerned about the fords brake temperature. I think 1,105 degree temp is kind of high. That's a good way to have a brake fire or loose your brakes.

Well I believe the test was done in a way we should all be able to agree with the final results. When pulling this much weight it's not how fast you can climb the hill,but how safe you can get down it.

I like the cowboy motif, I am sick of the same old grey and beige interiors.

@sam what are you talking about ram hasn't beet duramax in a diesel shoot out in years I don't know where your getting this last 5 shootout number from

Isn't this commercial drivers licence. territory ? Why not just get a big rig and be done with it. Better to be in a big semi going down a steep grade than a f450 or ram truck . Just my 2 cents .

why do people always make comments about rear diff's??? The rear Diff ratio means NOTHING unless your considering the gearing in the trans. Its troubling how many people on here claim to know and understand what they are talking about when they cant grasp this concept

@Johnnie Doe - funny to read your comments since your favorite brand isn't even in the same league as these 2 trucks.

Any savvy pickup truck guy knows that the designation on the truck NO longer has any relation to the truck's actual ratings.

You need to look at the specs:
F450 = cargo 5,440 tow 24,700
3500 = cargo 5,320 tow 28,800
The F450 is rated to carry slightly more than a comparable F350. The F450 is set up to tow much more than the F350. When the F450 first came out, it was a separate beast. Ford changed it because of whiners complaining about weight and speed. The F450 morphed into a F350 with a max tow package.

Congratulations to Ram on the new Cummins powered HO Ram.

"We know a 3500 doesn't match up directly with an F-450. In fact, we're not really sure any truck buyer would ever comparison shop those two trucks, but that wasn't what this test was about."

Anyone else befuddled by this statement? Why would a truck buyer NOT comparison shop these trucks? Similar power, capacities, and price. The "450" moniker is mostly for marketing anyway.

Well I always like Ford Trucks,but seems like they lost my attention.

Every New model looks like more plastic less metal,a huge head lamp looks like a joke,why to make it soooooo much HUGE?

The front end looks like out of balance....

Now,the RAM - very balanced looking truck! It is huge in every way,real beast! The head lamp looks pretty nice.

Now,combined it with Cummins power and we get real winner!!!

Great gob RAM!!!!!

It is actually the last 7 shootouts on
GM hasn't won a shootout in 2 years and has gone 0-7, since the Hurt Locker.

It has been all Ford and Ram the past couple years.

GM needs to step it up.

@Lou_BC That mostly was reject Frank running wild on my name again. GM's 3500 has beat the F450 before thought. If I had to pick one of these two trucks it would most likely be the Ram 3500, as the last two Fords I've owned left a real bad taste in my mouth and burnt big holes in my wallet so never again.

@Johnnie Doe - GMC HD's were tied for 1st this year in JD Power dependability testing. Vincentric gave the nod in durability to the duramax HD for commercial use and the Cummins Ram got the nod for "personal use". Both GMC trucks were 1st for durability with gasser HD's. When it comes to 1/2 tons, Ford was rated 1st by Vincentric and JD Power.
I don't know anyone who has bad things to say about a Duramax powered HD. All of the guys I know with new 6.7 PowerStrokes are happy too. Ram on the other hand..... I know 2 guys who haven't had issues. The rest haven't been happy.
I'd go with the most reliable to run and in the HD diesel Ranks - that is GMC.
1/2 tons = Ford but they've had some issues with their new engine lineup and My Touch. According to TrueDelta, my 2010 rates higher than the 11-13 MY Ford 1/2 tons.

@Wade M & @Sam,

The leather in the Laramie Longhorn and the Laramie Limited is not the same. The Limited version uses an even higher quality leather that is softer than that used in the Longhorn. Counting the trim levels and color choices, there are FIVE different leathers used in the RAM between the "base" Laramie to the Longhorn to the Limited.

That is definitely one of the many positive things that Sergio Marchionne has brought to RAM from Fiat (Maserati)... High quality interiors. The wood is just that, wood. That is why the steering wheel is thick like a baseball bat... it's REAL wood, not plastic made to look like wood. The dash also has wood inlays without varnish. I don't know if this will lead to long term maintenance problems, namely having to rub oil on the wood trim during the summer to keep it from drying out, but if you're going to put wood on the dash, PUT WOOD ON THE DASH.

The other choices or options are not up for debate.

The choices up for comparison here are the Laramie to the Platinum on the Ford.

I stand by the Laramie being gaudy with the western tribal graphics and the white gauges being hard to read and ugly. The Platinum may have lesser quality materials, but is simpiler and looks less ugly - guages are cleaner.

"The wood is just that, wood. That is why the steering wheel is thick like a baseball bat... it's REAL wood, not plastic made to look like wood."

The Platinum wheel does have REAL WOOD and is heated. Using real wood doesn't explain why the Ram wheel is so fat.

RAM wheel is made for man hands. FORD...., you know....

Although I am a ford guy, congrats to Ram for making the best heavy hauler to date!

If I were to buy new truck to haul heavy it would be the 3500.

@zviera - that excuse is the same one Harley guys use for the agricultural nature of the shifter, clutch, and brake controls on their bikes.

I don't drive Harley. I drive Kawasaki Versys 1000.
Harley doesn't have a power.

@Mark Williams,

I just noticed that the dash shot of the RAM shows the brake controller was set up for Light EOH (<10,000 lbs trailer weight) and GAIN was set at 1.0 (lowest setting). Was the whole test run using this setting? If so, what is the logic behind this? I would think given the trailer weights, Heavy EOH would have been a better setting. Maybe the Heavy EOH setting was too aggressive for the trailer's brake actuator and disc brakes vs. drums. Please tell...

By the way, great test! The only other thing I would like to have seen tested was how the Max GCWR stacks up against the J-2807 Standards. Just a simple PASS/FAIL rating to put some truth to the numbers. Looks to me that you went to all the places necessary to test to the standard. The only tripping point for the RAM rating might be the 5 starts/stops to 5 MPH on a 12% grade wihtin 5 minutes. That test really tests the cooling capacity of the tranny!

Where is a photo of the half-track????

It is a shame that Ford had to send an F450 instead an F350 that they try to sell to the general public as a 1 ton.
What would the test results have been if a Ram 4500 was used or an F350?
This test was good but the guy that is looking for a truck to tow his 5th wheel RV trailer will NOT be looking at an F450 but rather an F350!

I had a Ram truck with a 6.7 and now a Ford with a 6.7. You can keep your Dodge I am much happier with my Ford.

Buy American. Ford is the last American automaker.


that statement shows your education level.

not a complement.

The last comment is not needed, show some maturity.

Thank you guys for doing such a great job comparing these 2 beasts. I wished gmc came along for the ride with their new rig. I am in the market for a new truck and I appreciate all the data you pesented. Job well done. I am also considering upgrading my livestock trailer to 30-32ft on lower deck with a 37-39 ft upper deck and perhaps cosidering a triple decker if Barrett/Wilson/Merritt has one.
It does not matter how fast I can go up and down the hill; I am only concerned to make it uphill and most importantly safely down the hill.
The Ram with its 36,000 lbs gcwr would be the ticket based on your 4000 lbs weight upgrade test. Do you thing the truck will be pushed to its limits and should I just consider running a semi-truck due to these trucks low gas mileage under load. I believe semis run at 7 mpg under load.
I do not have any loyalty toward any manufacturer. I needed to get a personal heavy duty truck for ranching and farming purposes/reasons and not just to look good on the road; I currently pull a Barrett gooseneck alu double deck trailer with a 24 ft lower deck and a 31 ft upper deck( I have 3 compartments above and 2 below that i load equally with 150 lbs does and ewes). I scaled once at 26,000 lbs gcw on a short delivery to the slaughterhouse.
Last time i needed a new truck, I turned to a Diesel engine mechanic/tuner friend called Becker performance. He sold me on the ram by stating "it's a 600,000 mile engine". I'll see you at 300,000 miles for an engine rebuilt with the Ford or GM.
So I bought a brand new 2005 3500 SRW Laramie H with the 4 speed auto and a 4.10:1 rear diff, assembled in Mexico just south of the border due to American Corporate Greed; Toyota has more assembly plants in the USA than outside the USA. Do net let the " buy made in the USA fool you".
I loved the duramax/allison performance and quietness. Isuzu is the world biggest Diesel engine manufacturer. I had over 70 engines in MQ power generators that I was running at telecom sites for 21 days non-stop with 3 hrs breaks for lub and refueling. Great engines. Same with the Allison.
Ford had their 5 sp torqshift tranny, a wanna be copy of the Allison coupled to the dud navistar power stroke; I have a lot of friends cussing at ford as we speak just because Ford would not give Navistar more time to test the product; join the ban wagon for the lawsuit. It seems like the new scorpion engine (code name) out of Ford Europe is good so far; it is about time but do no forget that it is made outside the USA like the Duramax
Ram has stepped up with the 6 sp auto (about time) courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, released the longhorn trim as a response to the King Ranch on the Ford which both happen to be beautiful.
Ram introduced the Aisin tranny on the cab and chassis first with 180,000 miles warranty. By the way, all toyotas run Aisin tranny's; that is how the 300,000 mile clubs was created.
Now it is available on the standard pickup truck with the highest torque rating on a 3500 and it blows a 450 in performance. Give them credit for the 50 ksi steel frame...
Forget guys about first on racing day or found on the road dead, made in the USA. Expect the most from your manufacturer as far as capability and quality are concerned for the most economical price. That is what I was tought at engineering and business school. I am not buying Ford because granddaddy bought Fords. You want to buy the truck from the manufacturer who uses billion revolutions rated parts and not the million revolutions...
I've hade my Ram for almost 10 years and I only had to replace a faulty fuel pump which was done under recall. The tranny s ok but you think a 6 sp would give you more efficiency. I would love to have a six speed running at 3.43:1 in 6th sp that switches to a 4.10:1 in 5th gear. That is exactly what the Nissan Titan has. As a joke, a fellow rancher bought the same Titan that pulled the shuttle through the streets of LA. That is think a 4.54:1 and he loves it; he was sick and tired for paying for the diesel engine upgrade on top of the fuel cost and the low mileage;You are not buying a 49 mpg VW either
At 70k, these trucks are close to Volvo rigs (120k)
NB: I have a friend named Al Vionnet who drives a Volvo rig after driving for few years a Ram 5500 can and chassis derated to 305 hp with a 6 speed manual. Al was running a route from sacramento to BC weekly loaded both ways and he was hauling up to 49,000lbs based on the us dot placards on his doors; he used to tell me "I drive an 18 wheeler" and in fact his dually has 6 wheel and his trailer has triple axles with duallies. It was all legal and he hauled LDLs. That cummins engine's power is still intapped; how can you haul 50,000 lbs over 4 passes on I-5. You can ask him if you don't believe it. Vionnet transport

Why can't I find this article posted all over the web like when the government motors trucks were winning these a few years ago? Hmmmm.... Anyway congrats ram, love my 06 cummins 180k 200hp efi live tuning, still running great. If it ever dies ill go ram again, they are all awesome trucks.... The true winners are us, the ones that buy these trucks to use hard

So MotorTrend back to back truck of the year,winning this years golden calibers with its first to market new 3.0L diesel 1/2 ton truck,and then this award as well king of the beast,gee does Ford really the leader in truck design and strength,and durability.Recalls,PCM flash twin spooler designs,and now back to a single spooler variable vane.This why my company chose the Ram 3500 for our fleet pick,it has to much more than ford has too much more to offer. 20 of our ford 1 tons trucks had to be return to the dealership for poor drivability and poor fuel mileage than when our lease came to end we decided to go with dodges ram trucks.we had already had one in our fleet and was doing much better than the ford truck and holding up much better in our mining operations.i glad to hear they are being recognized for there engineering.hats off to Dodge's Ram truck division.

So many people being so mouthy about the RAM winning this contest. Just remember last year it was outmuscled by the other 2. Now here is the fact that all you RAM guys are so vocal about. FORD makes all the drive components on its trucks period!!! Ram, makes nothing, its easy to look at someone else's truck and buy bigger better parts, RAM 0 FORD 10. Even the 1500 had to outsource....nothing to brag about boys. For me I'll buy a truck that the manufacturer takes responsibility for making their own trucks, RAM and GM don't so it's FORD for me.

@Bernie , Your obviously amazed at your own intelligence and a legend in your own mind. Dodge/RAM/FIAT has just started making a better truck, not more than 8-10 years ago. Before that they we're junk...I have as many stories as you do and peoples names to throw down. Unlike RAM, FORD has been at the top for ever, unlike the RAM. The new FORD SD will eat this for lunch and I'm not even knocking the new Ram, nice truck but short lived. Its the Its the Big 3's newest version that keeps raising the bar and the F450 has been in place for a long time as King. Your spewing to much BS dude, I've nodded a few times trying to get through it.

Silver raven, the 6 oh no and the 6.4 were full of problems! Ford didnt have much of a choice than to get rid of navistar. This is the first diesel motor ford built for the super duty. Funny you say that the SD would eat the ram for lunch when we just witnessed the opposite happen. I'm sure the 2015 ford will be more powerful and equipped with an exhaust brake to help with there braking while towing. HavinG said that I'm sure ram will make sure they update theirs as well! All are nice and powerful and are more than capable of what theyre intended for.. Duramax, Cummins, and PS!

I had a ford 350 04 0r 05 and it was a peace of crape, i spent 20,000$ fixing it back up after it keep braking down, 2 times on our family road trip to Canada and 2 times in my home town and it still keeps braking down. Good looking truck but never made it home so i advent ally sold it. This truck really pissed me off, almost mad me go out of business. I never want a another ford truck again.

its funny how ford owns cummins but everybody is talking crap now... when ford had came out with the f450 in 08 the 6.4 was a beast and still is... everybody was complaining how ford ran away with the wider frame smaller/tighter turning radius and how it was not even fair to compair to the rest of the market of trucks as "personal" use. "anything" will last as long as you know how to use it and take care of it... but in my opinion a company that invests its own money in its own research and has 32 years of being top seller, is a company that i have no problems trusting. i havent had any problems with ford. not that anyone here cares but packing up my house and antique car, i left my first base with 16000 lbs attached to my f150 2wd truck. and the 16000 lbs isnt including the trucks weight. i towed 1297.6 miles to my new base and the truck did not miss a beat at all... i averaged the same fuel rating as i did just about empty, its all about how you drive the truck and how you take care of it either way i prefer ford and always will.

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