We started our Ultimate Three-Quarter-Ton Heavy-Duty Challenge at the Milan Dragway, about 30 minutes south of Ann Arbor, Mich. We've used this facility several times before for PickupTrucks.com comparison tests, and appreciate having the dead level track and tons of grip at the start line, plus full use of the Christmas tree (stacked red, yellow and green lights that let racers know they can launch).
Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek, our resident Cars.com "hot shoe" and all-around muscle-car enthusiast, had no trouble getting the best times out of each truck on the grippy track surface, but it typically took three or four passes to figure out exactly how to get the pickups (especially when running empty) to hook up best off the line. We also had our VBOX wizard, Joe Lachovsky, in the cab during each run with his recording gear. The total added weight in each vehicle amounted to about 320 pounds. Of course, that weight, when combined with our payload, put our HD trucks at, or right on top of, their maximum gross vehicle weight rating numbers. For our empty runs it was a nonissue.
Track conditions were good but outdoor temperatures fluctuated throughout the day. Track temperatures were about 80 degrees at the start, but by the afternoon when it was warmer but cloudier, temperatures on the track surface climbed to almost 120 degrees.
During our empty zero-to-60-mph runs, the Ram 2500 left little doubt as to which truck felt more at home on the drag strip, running almost a half-second faster than the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 and 2/10ths of a second faster than the Ford F-250 Super Duty.
To some, since Ram had the biggest engine and 4.10:1 axle gears (where the Ford was only equipped with 3.73:1 axle gears), the outcome was not unexpected. But it's worth noting here the Ford did outweigh the other trucks by at least 120 pounds (more than the Ram and 380 pounds more than the Chevy), yet it gave our driver the most thrilling launches off the line. Clearly, the Ford engineers have done the best job of allowing the most power to get to the rear wheels for hard acceleration starts. Of course, that also meant we'd have to be careful at stop-sign launches in the rain.
During our loaded runs, which included 62 bags of rock salt (weighing 40 pounds each) moved from one bed to another by a team of Cars.com editors, we had, as you might expect, no trouble with spinning tires at the start line. Again, the bigger and stronger Ram 2500 muscled ahead of the other two competitors.
This time the Ram beat the Chevy by a wider margin (maybe to be expected given its smaller, older-tech Vortec engine, but don't forget that the Chevy was a few hundred pounds lighter) and beat the Ford by a smaller margin than it did when running empty (see chart below).
In the quarter-mile runs, the Ram again showed its dominance with 16.8 seconds at 86.5 mph, setting the fastest time and top speed in both the empty and loaded runs down the track. It's worth noting the Chevy did a pretty good job when empty, holding the 2nd-to-3rd shift for a good while to keep the engine rpms in the strongest part of the power band; that's probably why it came in second (not to mention its 4.10:1 gears) during empty running but had a little more trouble getting enough breath to move out of third place when hauling more than 2,500 pounds (including driver and passenger), finishing in third with a time of 18.8 seconds at 78.5 mph.
It's worth taking a look back at the times we collected in our 2010 Heavy-Duty Shootout, when we tested three-quarter-ton diesels and gas engines as well as one-tons. The Ram 2500's 5.7-liter Hemi is a strong powertrain, and it was even back in 2010. These new trucks seem several generations faster off the line and down the strip with just a single upgrade to the powertrain tuning and software upgrades. Of course, the Ram's larger Hemi is a completely new entry.
How We Did the Testing
We used the same driver in each vehicle during the acceleration runs to keep as many variables as possible constant as we moved from truck to truck (windows up, air conditioning off, Tow/Haul off when empty, on when loaded).
Cars.com photos by Evan Sears