2006 Heavy-Duty-Truck Comparison Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests
  • Comparison (1)
  • Long-Term

2006 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Mega Cab

(5.9L 6-cyl. Turbo Diesel 6-speed Manual 6.4 ft. Bed)
  • 2006 Ford F-350 Super Duty Picture

    2006 Ford F-350 Super Duty Picture

    Even with no weight holding it down, the F-350 isn't a bad cruiser on the highway. | September 25, 2009

32 Photos

  • Comparison Test
  • Stereo Evaluation
  • Top 5 Features
  • Tow Test Explanation
  • Final Rankings and Scoring Explanation
  • Editors' Evaluations
  • 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 Specs and Performance
  • 2006 Ford F-350 Super Duty Specs and Performance
  • 2006 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Specs and Performance

Turn on ESPN any weekday afternoon and you can't miss it. Squeezed in between the National Chainsaw Championships and the fourth rerun of SportsCenter, you'll find the World's Strongest Man competition. It pits neckless giants from various Eastern European countries in a contest to see who can pick up boulders the size of big-screen TVs and pull Volkswagens up hills like human John Deeres.

It's bizarre, pointless and strangely appealing, so much so we decided to conduct our own World's Strongest competition. Rather than scouring the Ukraine for guys who can bench-press BMWs, we used the vehicles themselves as contestants. And not just any vehicles: the biggest, strongest, most abnormally pumped-up pieces of street-legal machinery you can buy without a special license.

We're talking about heavy-duty trucks, and the bigger the better. There were no rules against foreigners, but it was an all domestic field consisting of the 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500, the 2006 Dodge Ram Mega Cab 3500 and the 2006 Ford F-350 Super Duty.

Like the bald-headed big men on TV, these trucks would be subjected to plenty of heavy lifting. Most of it came in the form of towing a trailer up the steep Jacumba grade near the U.S./Mexico border in Southern California. There would be no cheering crowds and no prize money: only the distinction of being crowned the World's Strongest Pickup. Let the grunting begin.

Battle of the big three
Since this was going to be a test of serious hauling capability, all three of our 1-ton trucks were equipped with dual rear wheels and four-wheel drive. An extra set of wheels in back helps stabilize loads when you're towing, while the ability to send power to the front wheels is added insurance when the pavement ends.

We also specified crew cab body styles and the longest beds possible for maximum passenger and cargo room. The Chevy and Ford trucks were your standard crew cabs, while the Dodge was a super-sized Mega cab. The extra-large Mega Cab adds serious passenger room, but reduces the bed length to 6 feet, 4 inches. Both the Chevrolet and the Ford had full-size 8-foot beds.

Our final criteria were diesel engines and automatic transmissions. With their massive amounts of torque, diesels are the ticket for heavy-duty hauling, and although all three trucks come standard with manual transmissions, we tested automatics since they're easier to live with on a day-to-day basis.

Going with diesel power isn't cheap. On the Chevrolet Silverado, the Duramax V8 is part of a $6,705 package which, along with a few other extras, boosted our test truck's price to $48,855. Ordering Ford's Powerstroke V8 and Torqshift automatic for our F-350 tacked on $6,240. It also had the King Ranch appearance package and several stand-alone options that upped the total price to $52,575. Our Dodge Ram Mega Cab came standard with a 5.9-liter Cummins inline-six turbodiesel, but when combined with a long list of additional options, the final price topped out at $55,715.

Real test for real trucks
Although many full-size trucks are used as day-to-day commuter vehicles, these types of trucks are bought primarily for heavy-duty towing and hauling, so we tested them accordingly. This involved calculating each truck's Gross Combined Weight Rating, then loading them up to 81 percent of their maximum before heading for the mountains.

For weight, Axis Wheels in Santa Fe Springs, California, was kind enough to lend us its 30-foot, three-axle racecar hauler. Usually it carries the company's Super Unlimited 350Z drift car, but we pulled the car out to keep the trailer weight down to just over 8,600 pounds. Any extra weight required was added by stacking retaining-wall blocks in either the beds or the trailer. Since they won't always have a trailer hitched to their backside we also drove each truck empty, as well as testing them at the track and otherwise driving them around town like most pickups.

More truck than you'll ever need
After putting all three trucks through the ringer for a week, it was clear they're made for work and little else. Without a couple tons of something holding them down, they're miserable on the highway. They also suck down diesel at furious rates, and they're so loud your neighbors will think you're a UPS truck every time you turn the corner.

Although all three rigs were similarly equipped, each truck had a very different feel on the road. With its living-room-sized cab and well-laid-out controls, the Dodge Mega Cab is the truck to have if your family is bigger than your trailer. High-grade interior trim, a huge center console and the only navigation system in the test made it the most comfortable and convenient vehicle in the test. It has a formidable engine with competitive ratings, but when you go with an automatic it's only a four-speed — a disadvantage against the five- and six-speed transmissions offered by its competitors.

Between the chrome exterior trim and the Castano brown leather seats, the Ford F-350 looked like the most expensive truck in the test. Too bad the rest of its interior is so dated. It detracts from what many editors considered the most refined package of the three. But this was a test about brute power, so when the Ford lagged up the grade and made a huge racket in the process, the Super Duty lost points.

That leaves the Chevrolet Silverado, the oldest truck of the three. It hasn't received many styling updates since its introduction in 2001, but the engineers in the powertrain department have been working overtime. Consistent improvements to the Duramax diesel engine, along with the segment's only six-speed automatic transmission, proved hard to beat. It handled heavy loads better and more efficiently than the other trucks and was comfortable along the way. Throw in the fact that it was also the cheapest vehicle of the three, and our choice for the World's Strongest Truck was an easy one.

First Place: 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500

If style points mattered in this contest, the Chevrolet Silverado wouldn't have had a chance. Its interior is so '90s it might as well come upholstered in flannel, and the dashboard materials are comically cheap for a nearly $50,000 vehicle.

But this test wasn't about the touchy-feely stuff. It was about which truck makes a 30-foot trailer feel as light as a couple of Jet Skis, and in that respect, nothing could touch the Silverado.

Older, not weaker
On sale since 2001, the Silverado 3500 was the oldest truck in this test. It's getting a full redesign sometime next year, but Chevrolet added a significant number of upgrades for 2006. Our test truck was a top-of-the-line LT, so it had all the usual high-end features including a Bose stereo system and 10-way power-adjustable leather seats. Adding the Heavy Duty power package got us the Duramax diesel, along with the Allison six-speed automatic transmission and a locking rear differential.

When it debuted in 2001, the 6.6-liter Duramax V8 was the most powerful diesel on the market, with 300 horsepower and 520 pound-feet of torque. By late 2003, both the Dodge Cummins straight-six (300, 555) and the Ford Powerstroke V8 (325, 550) had surpassed those numbers.

In 2005, GM's engineers cranked up the Duramax to 310 hp and 605 lb-ft to keep pace. For 2006, they squeezed it a little more, adding upgrades like a revised turbocharger, higher-pressure fuel system, sturdier block, thicker connecting rods and a more powerful engine computer. The result is 360 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque — and big-time bragging rights.

As if that wasn't enough, the Allison automatic transmission was upgraded with an extra gear for a total of six. It's another overdrive gear designed for maximum fuel economy on the highway. The first five gears remain the same as before. Also new is an electronic gear-selector switch on the transmission stalk that allows for manual shifting, a feature exclusive to the Silverado.

Duramax dominance
Big numbers on paper don't always translate directly to the pavement, but in this case the Silverado backed up its spec sheet. At the test track, the 7,420-pound Chevrolet ran from zero to 60 in just 8.4 seconds and crossed the quarter-mile in 16.5 seconds at 83.1 mph. Those numbers not only leave the Ford (9.6, 17.1) and Dodge (10.1, 17.4) sucking diesel smoke, they're in the range of several midsize SUVs we've tested recently.

Hitching up the big Axis trailer was the real test, however, and the Silverado walked away from the Dodge and Ford there, too. With the trailer in tow and over a ton of bricks in the bed, the Chevrolet maintained the highest average speed up the pass and covered the 12-mile distance nearly a minute faster than both the Dodge and Ford. On the steepest sections of the grade (up to 7.2 percent), the Silverado was the only truck that could maintain constant acceleration. It also delivered the best overall fuel economy for the climb at 7.3 mpg.

We kept the transmission in tow/haul mode throughout the climb and it worked flawlessly. Every shift was firm and its timing was perfect. With six gears to play with, we thought it might get too busy trying to find just the right ratio, but it didn't jump around any more than the others.

It was the best transmission on the way down the hill, too. As soon as we touched the brake pedal, it downshifted a gear. And as our speed gradually slowed, it kept on dropping gears, all the way down to 1st by the time we hit the stop sign at the end of the off-ramp.

Daily driver
Even when we weren't dragging the Axis trailer up a hill, the Chevrolet was a solid driver. Its suspension barely sagged under the weight of the bricks and the ride quality was tight, with minimal sway in crosswinds. Road noise was surprisingly low, and with the engine turning less than 2,000 rpm on the highway, clatter from the diesel engine wasn't intrusive. Its overall mileage while towing on flat terrain was the best of the three as well at 14.1 mpg.

If there's a weak point, it's the nonexistent steering feel. There's little feedback in a straight line and it's not any better through corners. We weren't expecting precision from a six-year-old truck, but with the trailer out back we would have preferred a little more road feel.

Modulating the brakes is another problem with the Silverado. For the first few inches the pedal is soft; then it bites in hard and firms up quickly. It turned in the second shortest stop at the track (142 feet), but our test-driver didn't like the way it shuddered during full-lock stops.

Easy to live with
With the lowest ride height of the three trucks, the Silverado requires less of a climb to get into the driver seat. It doesn't feel massive from behind the wheel either, and the seats have a good range of adjustment. In fact, after several days of nonstop driving nearly every editor found the Chevrolet's front seats the most comfortable of the truck trio.

It's the exact opposite in the backseats. There isn't much legroom and the seatbacks are too upright. There are decent amenities like rear-seat audio controls and usable cupholders, but the lack of space makes it uncomfortable for adults.

We've never liked the design of the Silverado's interior, but it makes up for its lack of style with a functional layout and plenty of storage space. There are easy-to-use satellite radio controls on the steering wheel, well-placed cupholders and a solid audio system. You get all the necessary gauges and a comprehensive trip computer, too.

It doesn't get any stronger
If you want a massive cabin or seats that look like saddles, the Silverado isn't your truck. This Chevrolet is about utility first and everything else second. Don't expect to see it towing Volkswagens on ESPN, but rest assured it's the World's Strongest Pickup.

Second Place: 2006 Ford F-350 Super Duty

If the Ford F-350 Super Duty were a contestant in the World's Strongest Man competition, it would be the one with the coolest haircut, cleanest outfit and best interview skills. It would also be the one that finishes a close second after failing to lift a 400-pound boulder over its head.

You see, after hundreds of miles behind the wheel, most editors considered the F-350 the most refined, well-put-together truck in the test. It feels substantial and solid on the road, but it's not intimidating, thanks to its strong brakes and well-weighted steering. Yet when it came time to climb the Jacumba grade, the Ford lost its cool. It was slower, noisier and less refined than either of its competitors. And in this test, that's what mattered most.

King of style
We didn't request it, but our top-of-the-line F-350 Lariat test truck came decked out with the decorative King Ranch package. For an extra $3,185 you get two-tone paint, a power-sliding rear window, lighted side steps and a belt-buckle-sized "King Ranch" badge on the quarter panel. There's also special Castano Brown leather on the seats, steering wheel and center console. It looks tough enough to make a saddle out of it, yet it's so soft the rivets in your jeans leave marks.

As on the Chevrolet, diesel power is optional ($4,750), as is the five-speed Torqshift automatic transmission ($1,490). Other additions to our F-350 included the Tow Boss package, which adds a factory trailer-brake controller and 4.30 rear-end gears. Stand-alone options consisted of a power sunroof, automatic climate control, all-terrain tires, electronic four-wheel drive, skid plates, premium audio, 2.5-inch trailer hitch and auxiliary upfitter switches.

What started out as a $38,855 F-350 Lariat crew cab ended up topping out at $52,575. Leave off all the fancy stuff and this truck wouldn't cost anymore than the Silverado, but we tested what Ford gave us.

New and improved?
Although not a complete redesign, the F-350 received a mild refresh in 2005. The designers revamped the grille, while the engineers strengthened the frame and added a coil-spring, monobeam front suspension to four-wheel-drive models. In a first for the segment, a factory trailer-brake system was added to the options list. It synchs up the brakes on the trailer with those on the truck, and it's usually the first thing buyers add through the aftermarket.

Tweaks to the Powerstroke diesel added another 10 pound-feet of torque. It's now listed at 570 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm and 325 peak horsepower at 3,300 rpm. Taken together, the Ford's improvements combined with its low rear-end gears gave it a GCWR of 26,000 pounds, the highest of the three trucks.

Not improved enough
When it came time to show its hand during the hill climb, the Ford didn't fold, but it didn't exactly lay down a full house. It accelerated smoothly and showed no signs of heating up, but it also had the slowest average speed and took the longest to make it to the top. When the grade got tough, the F-350 slowed to 46 mph while the Silverado never dipped below 52 mph. The Ford's struggle was punctuated by a cooling fan that couldn't decide whether to stay on or off.

Its five-speed automatic shifted every bit as smoothly as the Chevrolet, holding gears when necessary to keep the V8 in the meat of its power band. On the way down, it didn't fare as well, with clunky downshifts that didn't happen as predictably as they did in the Silverado.

The factory trailer-brake controller worked flawlessly, however, allowing for quick adjustments and smooth integration of the trailer's brake system. We would be surprised if Chevrolet and Dodge don't start offering similar systems soon.

With an empty bed and no trailer, the F-350's performance was more middle-of-the-road. It beat the Dodge from zero to 60 by half a second (9.6 vs. 10.1) and through the quarter-mile by three-tenths (17.1 vs. 17.4). Its 135-foot stop from 60 was the shortest of the three trucks and our test-driver noted it was the most refined and easy-to-handle truck during panic stops.

Feels as big as it looks
When you see the F-350's vertical door handles, it's pretty obvious this isn't a truck for running errands around town. Smaller drivers felt like they were scaling K2 every time they got behind the wheel. And unlike the Chevrolet, and to some extent the Dodge, the Ford still feels big when you're behind the wheel.

It sounds big, too. The few times we squeezed it into a drive-thru we had to shut the engine down just to hear the person squawking on the speaker. Other than its minor inconveniences, the F-350 was a surprisingly comfortable truck to drive. It bounced around less when empty, and once you're up to cruising speed the clatter of the diesel fades into the background. Its steering was slightly heavier than the others, but we liked it anyway as it gave the truck a solid, substantial feel.

Low-speed maneuverability wasn't as good, as the F-350 had the largest turning circle of the three. Large mirrors help in that regard, and the power-sliding rear window made it easy to communicate with a spotter as we hitched up the trailer.

Novelty wore thin within
As slick as the F-350 appeared with its unique leather trim, the novelty wore off quickly. The overstuffed seats weren't as comfortable as they looked and the fake wood trim seems odd when it's thrown in among the truck's average-looking plastic panels. There's not enough usable storage space either, and some drivers found it hard to find a good seating position.

Passenger room in back is better than the Silverado, both in terms of legroom and shoulder room. Plenty of grab handles and good-sized map pockets on the backs of the front seats were nice touches. It's almost cramped compared to the Dodge, but you could say that about anything short of a Winnebago, so it didn't lose any points. There's also a fold-down utility tray if you flip the seats up, but again it didn't offer as much room as the Dodge.

Slick, but not strong enough
We know there are buyers who will choose the Ford no matter what we say, so for them we'll admit the F-350 is a pretty good work truck. It feels solid, pulls smoothly and looks good doing it. And if you want a vehicle to match your horse stables, the King Ranch package is hard to beat.

With a little more power, a little less weight and an updated interior, the F-350 would be a front-runner. Until then, it's a truck that looks a little bit better than it tows, and that's only good for 2nd place in this contest.

Third Place: 2006 Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab

With its ridiculously wide fender flares, huge chrome grille, and a cab the size of a small condo, the Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab looks like a prop from a Mad Max movie.

Yet when it came down to deciding which truck is the baddest thing on six wheels, the Ram rarely topped the list. It wasn't the fastest up the grade or the quickest at the track. The acres of interior space were nice for those in the backseats, but if you're looking to pull a sizable fifth-wheel trailer, the Mega Cab's shorter bed won't work. These are minor shortcomings, but they piled up, and when we factored in its price, the Dodge dropped to last place.

Loaded with options
Our Ram 3500 Mega Cab was about as expensive as a Dodge truck, or any truck for that matter, can get. The Cummins turbodiesel engine comes standard on the 3500 Mega Cab, so even without options, the base price is $47,795. With all the extras added to our test truck, the Ram's as-tested price was a staggering $55,715.

Some of those options were necessary for our test, like the four-speed automatic ($1,095), dual rear wheels ($535) and extendable side mirrors ($100), while the navigation system ($1,595), rear-seat entertainment system ($1,200), sunroof ($895) and UConnect hands-free phone connection ($275) fell into the "nice-to-have" category. Additional add-ons included leather seats ($490), side airbags ($490) and a limited-slip differential ($285).

Middle-aged
Older than the Ford but younger than the Chevrolet, the Ram received a midcycle refresh in 2003. Dodge engineers stiffened the frame, revised the coil-spring/live-axle front suspension and added quicker steering. Although two-wheel-drive models switched to a rack and pinion steering setup, four-wheel-drive models retained a traditional recirculating-ball system. Like every truck in this test, leaf springs support a straight axle in back.

Improvements to the Ram's 5.9-liter Cummins diesel straight-six in 2003 upped its ratings to 305 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque. In 2005, more changes boosted the numbers to 325 hp at 2,900 rpm and 610 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm. A manual transmission was the only gearbox available initially, but a four-speed automatic option was added later.

Unlike most full-size trucks, the Ram now offers two sizes of crew cabs. It had a standard-size version for years, and then in 2006, Dodge introduced the Mega Cab, an extended crew cab designed to offer more passenger and cargo space than any other truck on the market. It delivers on the promise of interior room, but shortens the exterior cargo bed by 21 inches.

Half the equation
Its shorter bed means hooking up a fifth-wheel trailer might have clearance issues, but our standard racecar trailer wasn't a problem…at least until we hit the Jacumba grade. Although the Ram's torque rating is higher than the Ford's, with only four gears to work with, it was slower to the top than the F-350 and Silverado. The Ram didn't struggle on the steep sections as much as the Ford, but when it came time to upshift there was a bigger fall-off in power. That drop in power not only slowed the Ram's pace, it reduced its fuel economy to 7 mpg, making it the thirstiest of the three.

On the plus side, the Ram made the least amount of racket on the way up. Unlike the Ford's nearly constant fan noise, the Ram's cooling fan remained off for most of the trip, engaging for only a few minutes at a time to keep the Dodge cool.

The lack of an extra gear or two may have hurt the Ram's towing performance, but the transmission worked fine otherwise. You get smooth shifts from gear to gear without any lurching or unexpected downshifts. On the way down, the transmission played dumb and stayed in whichever gear we left it, which wasn't always a bad thing.

Nice driver
When it wasn't tackling hills, the 3500's transmission was less of an issue. In fact, several editors preferred the Ram's feel on the road to either of its competitors. Its steering is light like the Chevrolet's, but far more precise, and the Ram's 49.7-foot turning radius is 6 feet shorter than the Silverado's. Without the trailer hooked up, you could almost see yourself driving the Ram on a regular basis, it's that comfortable behind the wheel.

Even without the trailer in tow, the Dodge was the slowest of the three. The Ram's 10.1-second run from zero to 60 was nearly 2 seconds slower than the Chevrolet's and a half-second behind the Ford. With tall rear-end gears and an extra 460 pounds of measured curb weight versus the Chevrolet (7,880 vs. 7,420), the Ram surprised no one in its lag against the clock.

Brake performance was an issue, too, as the Ram needed 149 feet to stop from 60 mph. The Silverado's best stop was 7 feet shorter, the F-350's 14 feet shorter. The four-wheel disc brakes didn't feel underpowered on the road, however, although we did cook them pretty good on the way down the mountain with the trailer in tow.

Mega interior comfort
Towing performance was the most important factor in this test, but the Ram still managed to score some points with its monstrous interior. And it had more than just loads of space, it had the nicest materials, the most features and the best-sounding stereo. If there was an award for the world's largest center console, it would have won that, too.

A simple layout with minimal clutter makes the cabin seem that much bigger, and although the seats weren't quite as good as the Silverado's, the seating position was the best of the three. The navigation screen is a little small and we were a little disappointed it couldn't point the way to diesel pumps, but the other trucks don't even offer one, so it's hard to complain too much.

If backseat passenger room is a priority for you, just buy the Mega Cab and be done with it. There's not only more than enough room to stretch out, there's room left over for extra storage behind the rear seats. It's that big. And when you fold the seats flat it looks more like a spare bedroom than the cab of a pickup truck.

Strong, but not strong enough
A six-speed manual is the standard transmission on a Ram 3500 and we're guessing it would put the Dodge a whole lot closer to the Chevrolet in terms of performance. Ditch the Mega Cab and go with the slightly smaller Club cab and you can get an 8-foot bed, too.

But this test wasn't about the potential of the Ram, it was about what you get with four full-size doors, an automatic and enough weight on the hitch to make it sweat. Under those conditions, the Ram is good, but the Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-350 are better.

Second Opinion

Director of Automotive Testing Dan Edmunds says:
For several years, I owned a crew-cab dually similar to these test trucks. I put 100,000 miles on mine, 95,000 of which were spent towing a 10,000-pound, fifth-wheel car hauler. Unhitched, it was, as my crew described it, the Beast.

From my experience, there are few, if any reasons to buy a dualie unless you plan on towing a large trailer frequently. Unladen, these trucks, like my Beast, make you jiggle in places you didn't know you had. They skip across L.A. freeways like an Unlimited Hydroplane. They make you wonder about your cup size. But take heart: When towing or hauling heavy loads, things smooth out just fine and they reveal their special purpose.

On that basis, the Chevrolet Silverado wins hands down. Its 6.6-liter Duramax V8 turbodiesel spanks the others up the 11.5-mile Jacumba grade — arguably the steepest and hottest interstate grade any tow vehicle is likely to see. Equivalently burdened, the Ford and Dodge need full throttle when the grade gets steep at mile 3.5, while the Chevy gets to mile 7 or 8 before it needs to be floored.

Additional credit goes to the Allison six-speed transmission, which has the appropriate gear for just about any operating condition. As the grade varies, this combo doesn't hunt like the others, even though all three trucks feature a tow/haul shift mode. And the transmission works just as impressively downhill, with seamless downshifts automatically performed as you roll up to a stop sign. Beautiful.

Yes, the Ram's Mega Cab is humungous and has the largest rear seat short of a limo, but it can't be paired with an 8-foot bed and is therefore no good for fifth-wheel towing — you need the smaller Ram Quad Cab for that. And Ford's integrated brake controller is mighty nifty, but the Chevy and Dodge are pre-wired and can be set up easily.

When, not if, I get another racecar and trailer to haul it around in, I'll be heading to my Chevrolet dealer for a Silverado.

Engineering Editor Jay Kavanagh says:
These are draft horses, pure and simple. Even with modern creature comforts, daily driving is still something better left to lighter-duty vehicles. The paint-mixer ride quality and Brobdingnagian proportions relegate all three of these brawny steeds to schlep-only status. But, boy, can they schlep. Once saddled up with a massive payload, these duallies are in their element.

The Ram's crew cab offers rear-seat accommodations in a class of it own, and the short wheelbase makes it the nimblest of the bunch, if nimble is a word you can apply to a vehicle that requires a stepladder to get into. However, the Ram's oddly recalcitrant steering and lowest GCWR hurts its standings in my book.

The F-350 is conflicted. The "King Ranch" interior looks inviting, but the ballooned seats had me constantly wriggling to get comfortable. Its steering had a slow ratio, but intuitive off-center response. Loaded up, the Ford was uneasy with its admittedly massive payload capacity, hunting for the correct gear and bumping on its bumpstops.

It's the Chevy's drivetrain that could do no wrong, thanks to the mind-reading six-speed transmission and refined V8. Sure, the brake pedal's a bit mushy initially and the steering is vague immediately off-center. But combine its "no sweat, boss" capability with the most comfortable driver seat of the bunch, and the Silverado is my top choice for a long, loaded haul.

Consumer Commentary

2006 Ford F-350 Super Duty

"This vehicle is a fully loaded Lariat with all options except leather captain's chairs and chrome package. The tow boss package with 4.30 rear, eight-cylinder diesel, and five-speed automatic makes towing child's play. The incorporated trailer brake and exhaust brake make pulling heavy loads simple. The turbodiesel shows no signs of struggle with hilly terrain. The larger disc brakes and exhaust brake in tow mode make downhill journeys more pleasurable. While towing fully loaded during a recent trip through the mountains of Tennessee, this truck showed no signs of slowing going uphill, and the descent was not at all a problem for this truck to handle." — Gary, August 4, 2005

"This truck is awesome. It is very quick off the line for its size thanks to the turbodiesel engine. I love everything about it. I bought it to tow with but I find myself driving it almost daily." — Toyboxford, September 15, 2005

"The F-350 '06 KING RANCH Crew Cab 4WD is the very best Ford I have ever owned. The torque and hp are matched perfectly. I have pulled my 16,000-pound boat and trailer with great ease & handling. We have also had 17,000 pounds on bumper pulling a tractor behind; front end due to tractor load was somewhat light. The KING RANCH option is well worth the added money as the comfort level and feel is awesome. The turning radius on this coil spring setup is far superior to the 2004 we owned." — Yeloironman, November 25, 2005


2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500

"I had a Dodge and a Ford and I like the Duramax as an overall truck. We pull to horse shows and when we get there we are not drained from the ride. The new Duramax is so quiet, it is often mistaken for a gas engine. The power is equal to the Ford, the seats are more comfortable, so in closing I would say to look at the Duramax dually before you buy." — Marv Eiler, January 18, 2006


2006 Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab

"Third Dodge truck in our family going back to '97, and they keep getting better. I ordered this the first day you could back in July and have been counting the days. Who else can say they drive a truck that the backseat legroom is compared to an S-Class Benz? Go for the bucket seats up front and hog all the room for yourself, roll back the sunroof and enjoy. Cummins has more power than 99.5 percent of us need and after the break-in should see 20 mpg highway or better. The backseat headrests make for a few blind spots, but the oversized mirrors more than make up for it and make it so you never have to turn around to back up. Quiet, smooth, fancy, powerful." — Christian in Texas, October 14, 2005

"This is the third truck I have owned and it was worth the wait. Big dually with wonderful pulling power for my horses. Comfortable interior, excellent pickup and handling and super stability. It is so much quieter than my old diesel. What a wonderful investment." — Robin, February 3, 2006

"I bought this truck to pull a 30-foot fifth-wheel camper and to travel in. The first time I had a chance to pull my camper the Cummins engine had the rig going 80 mph merging into an interstate highway off-ramp with lots of power to spare. This truck and engine combination can't be beat for comfort and power. The first mpg for towing a 12-foot-tall, 30-foot-long fifth-wheel camper was 15 mpg. No bad at all for only having 1,500 miles on the truck and not being broken in." — JW, January 4, 2006

2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500
2006 Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab
2006 Ford F-350 Super Duty

2006 Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab

System Score: 9.0

Components: The upgraded Infinity audio system in our Dodge Ram test truck consisted of upward-firing dash tweeters, two 6.5-inch midrange speakers in the front doors, two 5.3-inch midrange drivers in the rear doors and Chrysler's navigation/satellite radio head unit. Steering wheel satellite controls on the front and back of the wheel make for easy hands-on adjustments.

Performance: This was the cleanest-sounding system of all the trucks in the test. Crank it into high gear and you can enjoy distortion-free music, regardless of how deep the bass goes or how high the cymbals crash. We found the sound stage up front to be more clearly defined than both the Chevy and Ford, allowing crisp vocals to come through with more depth. The Chrysler head unit isn't perfect, as it crowds too many buttons together. However, most of the buttons are related to the navigation system and don't interfere with stereo operation, and once you remember to press "set" before setting a radio preset there's little to complain about.

Also, when playing an MP3 CD, the various folders are difficult to navigate and not much information is displayed considering the nice large screen. However, the satellite controls are still the best around, and we like the clean, easy-to-read manner in which artist and song title are displayed.

Best Feature: Perfectly placed satellite controls.

Worst Feature: Clumsy head unit controls.

Conclusion: This system might surprise truck owners with its clarity and all-around performance. — Ed Hellwig

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2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500

System Score: 8.0

Components: The Silverado's optional Bose audio system consists of a midrange speaker in each door, door-mounted tweeters up front, a subwoofer to handle the low stuff and an auxiliary power amp. The faceplate is the same setup GM has been using for years. It's not much for looks, but it gets the job done from a practical standpoint with its big, well-marked buttons and easy-to-use tuner knob, plus XM Satellite Radio functions are well integrated.

Performance: This is a better-than-average system for a truck, but compared to the top-scoring setup in the Dodge, it could use a little work. The Silverado's Bose stereo doesn't offer the same clarity as the Ram's, and the Dodge system overall seems to have more punch. Other than that, the rest of the system sounds pretty good. There's plenty of solid midrange and strong bass that's both deep and clean thanks to the hidden sub. Considering this system comes standard once you go with the LT trim level, it's a pretty nice setup.

Best Feature: Perfectly integrated satellite radio capability.

Worst Feature: Muddy highs from low placement of the tweeters.

Conclusion: Fortified with plenty of power and an easy-to-use interface, this system displays only minor faults. — Ed Hellwig

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2006 Ford F-350 Super Duty

System Score: 7.0

Components: Our F-350 test truck had the standard audio system, upgraded with the in-dash six-disc CD changer. The system consists of four full-range speakers and the standard Ford head unit.

Performance: Given the fact that this system is essentially a completely stock unit, save for the CD changer, we considered its performance above average. You don't get the crisp, clear highs that separate tweeters in the dash deliver, and the woofers fail to keep up much past two-thirds volume, but stay with moderate volume levels and the door-mounted speakers manage to produce a solid dynamic range that most buyers will find satisfying. The head unit controls are nicely spaced, but could use a little improvement in the labeling department. We also missed having a tuning knob and could do without the retro green LED readout.

Best Feature: Solid sound for a stock system.

Worst Feature: Head unit lacks labels and a proper tuning knob.

Conclusion: Not a bad setup for a stocker, but compared to what the Chevrolet and Dodge offer, it's a definite step down. — Ed Hellwig

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With price tags spiking well over $50K, these trucks were loaded. They had all the basic features and then some, making it a tough task to find features that weren't standard across the board. We ended up choosing a Top 5 list based on the few remaining features we think are most useful to buyers in this segment. Not all five are required of a good tow truck, but each one is worth having if you're going to drop this much cash on a vehicle built for towing and hauling.

Features

lt;table cellspacing="0" class="chart"> Features 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 2006 Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab 2006 Ford F-350 Super Duty Brake Controller N/A N/A O Eight-Foot Bed S N/A S Navigation System N/A O N/A Power-Sliding Rear Window N/A N/A O Six-Speed Automatic S N/A N/A

Key:
S: Standard
O: Optional
N/A: Not Available

Integrated Trailer Brake Controller: Heavy trailers typically have brakes of their own, but in order to keep them synched up with the brakes on your truck, you need an electronic trailer brake controller. Ford is the only manufacturer to offer this as a factory-installed option; on all other trucks you have to add one from the aftermarket. Not only does the Ford unit integrate nearly into the dash, it works well, with clear indicators and simple operation. Don't be surprised to see GM and Dodge offer a similar option in the near future.

Eight-Foot Bed: This one is about more than just having extra space for cargo. Fifth-wheel trailers, which place their mounting point inside the cargo box, need room to swing from side to side. Without a full-size 8-foot bed, the leading edge of your trailer could easily go plunging into your back window. Both the Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-350 offer 8-foot beds, but because of the length of its passenger cab the Dodge Ram Mega only offers a shorter 6-foot, 4-inch bed.

Navigation System: This is more of a nice-to-have feature, not an essential element of a good work truck. Having on-demand maps is comforting when you're traveling long distances often, especially when you need to find a gas station or rest stop in the middle of nowhere. The Dodge Ram was the only truck in the test to offer onboard navigation, but we were a little disappointed that it wasn't able to indicate which stations sold diesel fuel.

Power-Sliding Rear Window: Crew cabs are great for hauling people, but when you're going solo and you're trying to hear your spotter when you're hitching up a trailer, that rear window is really far away. The ability to hit a switch from the driver seat to get the rear window open is a little-thought-of feature that can make a big difference. Only the Ford offered this feature as an option.

Six-Speed Automatic Transmission: An automatic transmission with six speeds is able to provide a wider spread of gear ratios for improved low-end power and maximum economy on the highway. The Chevrolet Silverado was the only truck in the test to offer this feature, and its performance speaks for itself. It was the quickest truck in every measured test and still delivered the best fuel economy of the three trucks. Ford is only one step behind with its Torqshift five-speed, but the Dodge Ram suffered with only four speeds.

Since we couldn't determine the exact specifications of our three test trucks, there was a small problem when it came to comparing them side by side. With various combinations of engines, transmissions, rear-end gears and suspensions, each truck had a different maximum towing and hauling rating. With that in mind, we had to come up with a test that wouldn't favor the truck with the highest capacity. In other words, adding 10,000 pounds to a truck designed to handle 12,000 pounds is a bigger burden than doing the same to a truck designed to pull 15,000 pounds.

In order to even the playing field, we loaded up each truck based on a percentage of its maximum rating. But instead of using maximum tow ratings, we based our calculations on each truck's Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR). Unlike tow ratings, which don't always take into consideration all the factors involved, GCWR includes everything. We're talking the truck, the driver, all passengers, optional equipment, fuel, cargo in the bed and the trailer.

With a GCWR of 21,000 pounds, the Dodge Ram had the lowest overall rating. Adding the weight of our test trailer, along with passengers, fuel, etc., put the Dodge at 81 percent of its GCWR. With a GCWR of 23,500 pounds, the Chevrolet Silverado needed a little help to get to the 81 percent mark so we added 2,440 pounds of cinder blocks. Serious rear-end gears gave the Ford the highest GCWR at 26,600 pounds, requiring an extra 3,700 pounds of cinder blocks.

All three trucks were first weighed at a certified truck scale to determine their as-tested curb weight. Then we added the trailer and any additional ballast and weighed them again. For additional explanation of towing terms, a glossary follows the chart.

Towing
2006 Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab 2006 Ford F-350 Super Duty 2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500
Axle Ratio 3.73 4.3 3.73
GCWR 21,000 26,000 23,500
Curb (published) 7,318 7,750 6,552
Curb (measured) 7,880 8,180 7,420
Driver weight 150 150 150
Persons 2 & 3 390 390 390
Trailer 8,620 8,620 8,620
Ballast 0 3,700 2,440
Percent of GCWR 81 81 81

How is Towing Capacity determined, and how do I know where my truck stands? It's actually pretty simple. But first you need to know about GVWR, Tongue weight, GCWR and Curb Weight.

GVWR
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR,) arguably the most familiar of these terms, is the maximum amount that the vehicle can weigh, fully loaded with passengers and gear. It is therefore one of the main design factors engineers use to size suspension components and tires. For towing applications, trailer Tongue weight is considered part of GVWR.

Tongue Weight
Another familiar term, this is the portion of a trailer's total weight that bears down on the trailer hitch. It typically runs from 10-15 percent of total trailer weight on standard hitches and can be as much as 25 percent on 5th-wheel applications. The amount of tongue weight depends on the design of your trailer and, more importantly, how you load it. Tongue weight in itself isn't what gives the stability to a rig, but rather the location of a trailer's center of gravity forward of the trailer axle that does it.

GCWR
Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) is the maximum allowable weight of the entire rig, loaded and ready to go. It includes not only the weight of the tow vehicle, but also its fuel, passengers, cargo, the dog, the canoe on the roof, plus the weight of the trailer and everything inside of that. GCWR is the design metric used by engineers to size things like the cooling system, engine and transmission, axle ratio and brakes.

Curb Weight
Curb Weight is the weight of your tow rig by itself as it sits in your driveway, with a full tank of fuel, but with no one or nothing in the truck. Key point: Manufacturers usually publish the Base Curb Weight in their manuals. The Base Curb Weight usually includes only a bare minimum of common options. So if you bought the dual rear wheel version of a truck with the optional extended cab, tow hitch and sunroof, the weight of those options is probably not reflected in the Base Curb Weight. Your truck's actual Curb Weight might be as much as 500 or more pounds heavier than the manufacturer's published number.

Towing Capacity
Simply put, the Towing Capacity is the GCWR minus the curb weight of the truck and minus the weight of everything in the truck — driver, passengers, dog, cargo, etc. Maximum Towing Capacity, the number manufacturers publish and advertise, is importantly different. That number is typically equal to GCWR minus the manufacturer's Base Curb Weight, minus a 150-pound driver.

Is the light going on? Where are the passengers and cargo? Where is the weight of my optional sunroof and dual rear wheels? And I don't weigh 150 — more like 220.

Right. The actual Towing Capacity for your truck is less than the Maximum Towing Capacity by (a) the amount that your truck outweighs base curb; (b) the weight of your passengers; (c) the weight of your cargo; (d) the weight of your aftermarket brush guard and bed cover, and; (e) the amount that your own personal bulk exceeds 150 pounds. If you have a fully optioned truck and a family of four riding along, your actual Towing Capacity might be 1,000 pounds less than the Maximum Towing Capacity listed by the manufacturer.

GCWR rules
So in most cases it is the GCWR that ultimately determines what the towing capacity of any given truck will be. A rare few manufacturers, such as Honda, include more options and people in the tow capacity calculation, but they are the exception, not the rule. In order to really know where you stand, read your owner's manual, find out what your GCWR is, and head for a commercial truck scale.

The best time to do it is when you have your trailer and truck loaded with everything, including the family, as you head out for a typical trip. If you can find truck scales that measure each axle separately, it's very simple. They charge truckers about $6 per measurement, but usually because truck drivers need an official certificate. Since you don't really need a certificate, just the numbers, you might get it for less, or perhaps for free.

1) Weigh the truck with the trailer attached and everyone on board.

a) The total of all axles returns actual GCW, which you can compare to GCWR. b) Adding the front and rear axle weights together, but leaving the trailer axles out, gives you GVW, including trailer tongue weight, which you can compare to GVWR.NOTE: If the scales you have access to do not have separate axle readouts, and the approach is level, back the trailer tires off the scale to get the 1b) weight of the truck with the trailer connected.

2) Disconnect the trailer, keep everyone and everything inside the truck, and weigh again.

a) Subtracting 2) from 1a) will give you your trailer weight. If this is under the manufacturer's claimed towing capacity, you're OK. If not, then you'll know how much over the limit you are. And never exceed the published limit.
b) Subtracting 2) from 1b) will give you your tongue weight. Most manufacturers give a recommendation that you should be shooting for. If your tongue weight is incorrect, and you don't have a line of truckers behind you, you can move items around in your trailer to get it right. (NOTE: if you are using a weight-distributing hitch, the spring bar chains must be hanging loose when measurement 1 is taken to get the real tongue weight.)

So in one visit, you get to learn your trailer's weight, the amount of tongue weight you have, and you can see if you are at or below the GVWR, GCWR and Maximum Towing Capacity.

Final Rankings

Final Rankings
2006 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 2006 Ford F-350 Super Duty 2006 Dodge Ram 3500 Mega Cab
Personal Rating (10% of score) 100% 66.7% 33.3%
Recommended Rating (10% of score) 100% 66.7% 33.3%
Evaluation Score (20% of score) 70.6% 67.2% 70.9%
Feature Content (20% of score) 40% 27% 13%
Performance (20% of score) 97.5% 68% 58.8%
Price (20% of score) 100% 86% 92%
Total Score 81.6% 63% 53.6%
Final Ranking 1 2 3

Personal Rating: Purely subjective. After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the trucks in order of preference based on which one he or she would buy if money were no object.

Recommended Rating: After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the trucks in order of preference based on which he thought would be best for the average consumer shopping in this segment.

22-Point Evaluation: Each participating editor ranked every truck based on a comprehensive 22-point evaluation. The evaluation covered everything from exterior design to cupholders. Scoring was calculated on a point system, and the scores listed are averages based on all test participants' evaluations.

Feature Content: Editors picked five features they thought would be most beneficial to a consumer shopping in this segment. Each test vehicle was then given a score based on which of those features it possessed. More points were awarded when these features were standard versus optional, and no points were given if the feature was unavailable on a given vehicle. The score given here represents the percentage of points, out of a total possible 15 points.

Performance Testing: Each truck was subjected to a set of standard performance tests. In order to emphasize truck-related performance, we substituted our normal slalom and skid pad figures with minimum speed while climbing a grade and total elapsed time climbing the same grade. Both were measured by a GPS-based Vbox data-acquisition system. Scores were calculated by giving the best truck in each category 100 percent. Subsequent vehicles were awarded points based on how close they came to the best performing truck's score.

Price: The numbers listed were the result of a simple percentage calculation based on the least expensive truck in this comparison test. Using the "as-tested" prices of the actual evaluation vehicles, the least expensive vehicle received a score of 100, with the remaining vehicles receiving lesser scores based on how much each one cost.

Evaluation - Drive
Evaluation - Ride
Evaluation - Design
Evaluation - Function

Evaluation - Drive

Overall Dynamics
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.8 1
Dodge Ram 3500 6.8 3
Ford F-350 7.0 2
Engine Performance
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 8.3 1
Dodge Ram 3500 6.7 3
Ford F-350 7.0 2
Transmission Performance
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 8.3 1
Dodge Ram 3500 6.7 2 (t)
Ford F-350 6.7 2 (t)
Brake Performance
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.3 2
Dodge Ram 3500 8.0 1
Ford F-350 6.7 3
Steering Performance
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Dodge Ram 3500 6.3 2
Ford F-350 7.0 1 (t)
Handling
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Dodge Ram 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Ford F-350 7.0 1 (t)
Towing Performance
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 8.3 1
Dodge Ram 3500 6.7 3
Ford F-350 7.0 2

Evaluation - Ride

Overall Comfort
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 2
Dodge Ram 3500 7.5 1
Ford F-350 6.6 3
Ride Comfort
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 2
Dodge Ram 3500 7.3 1
Ford F-350 6.7 3
Wind Noise
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Dodge Ram 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Ford F-350 7.0 1 (t)
Road Noise
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Dodge Ram 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Ford F-350 7.0 1 (t)
Front Seat comfort/Space/Access
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 8.0 1
Dodge Ram 3500 7.3 2
Ford F-350 6.3 3
Rear Seat Comfort/Space/Access
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 6.7 3
Dodge Ram 3500 8.3 1
Ford F-350 7.0 2
Driving Position
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.3 1
Dodge Ram 3500 6.7 2
Ford F-350 6.3 3

Evaluation - Design

Overall Design & Build Quality
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 6.9 2
Dodge Ram 3500 7.2 1
Ford F-350 6.4 3
Exterior Design
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 6.7 3
Dodge Ram 3500 7.7 1
Ford F-350 7.0 2
Interior Design
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 6.7 2
Dodge Ram 3500 7.7 1
Ford F-350 6.3 3
Interior Materials
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 6.7 2
Dodge Ram 3500 7.3 1
Ford F-350 6.3 3
Interior Control Tactile Feel
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1
Dodge Ram 3500 6.7 2 (t)
Ford F-350 6.7 2 (t)
Squeaks & Rattles
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Dodge Ram 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Ford F-350 7.0 1 (t)
Panel Fitment & Gaps
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Dodge Ram 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Ford F-350 6.3 2

Evaluation - Function

Overall Function
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1
Dodge Ram 3500 6.9 2
Ford F-350 6.5 3

Headlamp Illumination
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Dodge Ram 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Ford F-350 7.0 1 (t)

Visibility
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.3 1
Dodge Ram 3500 6.7 3
Ford F-350 7.0 2

Instrument Panel (IP) Layout
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 2
Dodge Ram 3500 7.3 1
Ford F-350 6.3 3

Climate Control Layout
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Dodge Ram 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Ford F-350 6.7 2

Audio System Layout
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1
Dodge Ram 3500 6.7 2
Ford F-350 6.0 3

Secondary Control Layout
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 6.7 2 (t)
Dodge Ram 3500 7.0 1
Ford F-350 6.7 2 (t)

Interior Storage
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 2
Dodge Ram 3500 7.7 1
Ford F-350 6.3 3

Cupholders
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Dodge Ram 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Ford F-350 7.0 1 (t)

Truck Bed Space &
Features
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 3500 7.0 1 (t)
Dodge Ram 3500 6.0 2
Ford F-350 7.0 1 (t)
Vehicle
Model year2006
MakeChevrolet
ModelSilverado 3500
StyleLT Crew Cab
Base MSRP$40,920
As-tested MSRP$48,855
Drivetrain
Drive typeFour-wheel drive
Engine typeV8
Displacement (cc/cu-in)6600
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)360 @ 3,200
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)650 @ 1,600
Transmission typeSix-speed automatic
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent torsion bar
Suspension, rearLive axle with leaf springs
Steering typePower recirculating ball
Tire brandGeneral
Tire modelAmeritrac
Tire size, frontLT215/85R16
Tire size, rearLT215/85R16
Brakes, frontFour-wheel vented discs with ABS
Brakes, rearFour-wheel vented discs with ABS
Track Test Results
0-45 mph (sec.)5.2
0-60 mph (sec.)8.4
0-75 mph (sec.)12.8
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)16.5 @ 82.8
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)8.4
60-0 mph (ft.)142.25
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)53.3
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.64
Sound level @ idle (dB)48.2
@ Full throttle (dB)73.7
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)65.9
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsThis Chevrolet is noticeably quicker than the other two trucks and its driveline is the slickest by far. Smooth, quick shifts every time.
Braking ratingPoor
Braking commentsSquishy pedal and tons of giggling and shuddering. Spooky under full ABS, doesn't deserve the short stop it managed.
Handling ratingAverage
Handling commentsDecent seat bostering kept me held in place and the ability to pick which gear I wanted helped. Slow steering was its ultimate downfall.
Testing Conditions
Elevation (ft.)1100
Temperature (F)60.1
Wind (mph, direction)2
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)N/A City N/A Highway
Edmunds observed (mpg)14.1
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)34
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)6,552
Length (in.)258.5
Width (in.)96.1
Height (in.)77.3
Wheelbase (in.)167
Legroom, front (in.)41.3
Legroom, rear (in.)39.1
Headroom, front (in.)41
Headroom, rear (in.)39
Seating capacity6
Cargo volume (cu-ft)N/A
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)N/A
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain3 years/36,000 miles
Corrosion6 years/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance3 years/36,000 miles
Free scheduled maintenanceNone
Safety
Front airbagsStandard
Side airbagsNot Available
Head airbagsNot Available
Antilock brakesStandard
Electronic brake enhancementsNot Available
Traction controlNot Available
Stability controlNot Available
Rollover protectionNot Available
Emergency assistance systemNot Available
NHTSA crash test, driverGood
NHTSA crash test, passengerAverage
NHTSA crash test, side frontNot Available
NHTSA crash test, side rearNot Available
NHTSA rollover resistanceGood
Vehicle
Model year2006
MakeFord
ModelF-350 Super Duty
StyleCrew cab King Ranch
Base MSRP$38,855
As-tested MSRP$52,575
Drivetrain
Drive typeFour-wheel drive
Engine typeV8 Diesel
Displacement (cc/cu-in)6000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)325 @ 3,300
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)570 @ 2,000
Transmission typeFive-speed automatic
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent i-beam with coil springs
Suspension, rearLive axle with leaf springs
Steering typePower recirculating ball
Tire brandBFGoodrich
Tire modelRudded Trail T/A
Tire size, frontLT245/75R17
Tire size, rearLT215/85R16
Brakes, frontFour-wheel discs with ABS
Brakes, rearFour-wheel discs with ABS
Track Test Results
0-45 mph (sec.)5.5
0-60 mph (sec.)9.6
0-75 mph (sec.)14.8
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)17.1 @ 79
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)8.4
60-0 mph (ft.)142.28
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)53.8
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.67
Sound level @ idle (dB)54.2
@ Full throttle (dB)71.2
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)65.8
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsUsed 1,500 rpm to keep from getting wheelspin. Transmission is nearly as smooth as the Silverado's but the acceleration was noticeably slower.
Braking ratingGood
Braking commentsCompletely undramatic stops with no shuddder and no steering required for a straight stop. Second firmest pedal next to the Dodge. Third stop was the best.
Handling ratingAverage
Handling commentsWith no manual gear selection, it was hard to maintain a good engine speed. Big King Ranch seats aren't very supportive. Extremely slow steering ratio made it almost unmanageable. I almost had to go hand over hand to get it through the cones.
Testing Conditions
Elevation (ft.)1,100
Temperature (F)60.1
Wind (mph, direction)2
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)N/A City N/A Highway
Edmunds observed (mpg)12.4
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)38
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)7,550
Length (in.)26.2
Width (in.)95.5
Height (in.)80
Wheelbase (in.)172.4
Legroom, front (in.)41
Legroom, rear (in.)41.7
Headroom, front (in.)41.3
Headroom, rear (in.)40.8
Seating capacity6
Cargo volume (cu-ft)N/A
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)N/A
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain3 years/36,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance3 years/36,000 miles
Free scheduled maintenanceNone
Safety
Front airbagsStandard
Side airbagsNot Available
Head airbagsNot Available
Antilock brakesStandard
Electronic brake enhancementsNot Available
Traction controlNot Available
Stability controlNot Available
Rollover protectionNot Available
Emergency assistance systemNot Available
NHTSA crash test, driverNot Available
NHTSA crash test, passengerNot Available
NHTSA crash test, side frontNot Available
NHTSA crash test, side rearNot Available
NHTSA rollover resistanceNot Available
Vehicle
Model year2006
MakeDodge
ModelRam Pickup 3500
StyleLaramie Mega Cab
Base MSRP$47,795
As-tested MSRP$55,715
Drivetrain
Drive typeFour-wheel drive
Engine typeInline six-cylinder diesel
Displacement (cc/cu-in)5900
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)325 @ 2,900
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)610 @ 1,600
Transmission typeFour-speed automatic
Chassis
Suspension, frontLive axle with coil springs
Suspension, rearLive axle with leaf springs
Steering typeRecirculating ball
Tire brandGeneral
Tire modelAmeritrac
Tire size, frontL235/80R17
Tire size, rearL235/80R17
Brakes, frontFour-wheel vented discs with ABS
Brakes, rearFour-wheel vented discs with ABS
Track Test Results
0-45 mph (sec.)5.9
0-60 mph (sec.)10.1
0-75 mph (sec.)15.7
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)17.4 @ 77.3
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)37.7
60-0 mph (ft.)149.44
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)55
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.65
Sound level @ idle (dB)50
@ Full throttle (dB)71.2
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)69.6
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsEven with all that torque, there was no tire spin on launch. Transmission wasn't very smooth, with aburpt shifts.
Braking ratingAverage
Braking commentsBrakes grew soft after the first run. Nothing special, but nothing to complain about either. Firmest pedal of the group.
Handling ratingGood
Handling commentsFeels like a sports car compared to the Chevrolet, thanks to much quicker steering. Gearing wasn't helpful, as 2nd was too low and 3rd too high. Seating position wasn't helpful either; feels like you're sitting on a bar stool.
Testing Conditions
Elevation (ft.)1,100
Temperature (F)60.1
Wind (mph, direction)2
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)N/A City N/A Highway
Edmunds observed (mpg)13.1
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)34
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)7,318
Length (in.)247.9
Width (in.)80
Height (in.)79.1
Wheelbase (in.)160.3
Legroom, front (in.)41
Legroom, rear (in.)44.2
Headroom, front (in.)40.8
Headroom, rear (in.)40.5
Cargo volume (cu-ft)7.7
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft)72.2 cu-ft
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain3 years/36,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance3 years/36,000 miles
Free scheduled maintenanceNone
Safety
Front airbagsStandard
Side airbagsOptional
Head airbagsOptional
Antilock brakesStandard
Electronic brake enhancementsNot Available
Traction controlNot Available
Stability controlNot Available
Rollover protectionNot Available
Emergency assistance systemNot Available
NHTSA crash test, driverNot Available
NHTSA crash test, passengerNot Available
NHTSA crash test, side frontNot Available
NHTSA crash test, side rearNot Available
NHTSA rollover resistanceNot Available
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