2011 Heavy-Duty Truck Comparison Test

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

2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Truck

(6.0L V8 4x4 6-speed Automatic 6.6 ft. Bed)
  • 2011 Heavy-Duty Truck Comparison Test

    Who's the boss? 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty, 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD or 2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500? All have a diesel engine, crew cab and four-wheel drive, and the as-equipped tow ratings range from 15,800 pounds to 16,800 pounds. | January 28, 2011

1 Video , 100 Photos

  • Comparison Test
  • 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Specs and Performance
  • 2011 Ford F-350 Specs and Performance
  • 2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Specs and Performance

Our buddy James doesn't realize it yet, but he wants a new truck. Of course, he'll still say, "I don't need a new one. Mine is fully paid off."

But we've never met the truck owner who doesn't toy with the idea of upgrading his rig, and especially now that all three of the big hitters in the heavy-duty category are hawking new product.

James might be playing it cool, but we know he wonders if he couldn't do better. So we've taken matters into our own hands by acquiring each of the potential replacements for his pickup. Here's the list: 2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500, 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty and (filling in for the Chevrolet Silverado) 2011 GMC Sierra 3500 HD.

These are serious heavy-duty 1-ton pickups. Each has diesel power, four-wheel drive and single rear wheels, and each wears a crew cab and a 6-foot-something short bed.

Of Rumbling and Getting Ready
James regularly uses his bright-yellow 2005 Ford F-350 Super Duty to tow a bright-yellow, triple-axle enclosed trailer. Inside you'll find one of his bright yellow cars, so the trailer's loaded weight can range from 11,000-13,000 pounds. If you've got a serious pickup, you're probably a serious tow guy, which is why we've knocked on his door before and asked to borrow his trailer. Of course we're obliged to provide our own ballast vehicle, so we're bringing along 3,860 pounds of decidedly un-yellow 2009 Audi A4 Avant to increase the loaded weight to 12,480 pounds.

If you're thinking towing is a big part of our test plan, you're right, since we'll be visiting 11.5-mile Jacumba Grade, our usual tow-test slope. But of course no one tows 100 percent of the time, so we'll spend a considerable amount of time driving these trucks trailer-less on the straight and level. Finally, we'll put the trucks through the usual paces at the test track.

Meet the Fresh Meat
We last did something like this with HD iron back in 2006, although they were enormous trucks, duallys with 8-foot beds. This time around the trucks are all a bit more usable in an all-around way, and each can be had with a six-speed automatic transmission, each has an integrated diesel exhaust brake and each has an electronic trailer-brake controller.

Our 2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4x4 is an example of a truck that had its extreme makeover in 2010 with new sheet metal and a fresh interior. This truck's 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel inline-6 produces 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, so the Ram is vulnerable in the power department. On the other hand, its 24,000-pound Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) and 16,450-pound tow capacity are impressive.

The lineup of 2011 Ford Super Duty pickups has been redone, notably with the replacement of the controversial 6.4-liter V8 PowerStroke diesel built with Navistar. This Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4 features the all-new 6.7-liter PowerStroke V8 turbodiesel designed by Ford, and it churns out 400 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque. Equipped with the standard 3.55:1 axle ratio, this F-350 has a 23,500-pound GCWR and is rated to tow 15,800 pounds.

The lineup of 2011 GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado HD pickups features new running gear and a substantially beefier frame beneath familiar sheet metal, while the revised 6.6-liter Duramax V8 turbodiesel makes 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque. We've brought the 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali Crew Cab 4x4 because the top-level Denali trim is newly available on GMC's trucks. With the standard 3.73:1 final-drive gears, this Denali carries a 24,500-pound GCWR and is rated to tow 16,800 pounds.

3rd Place: 2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4x4
Let's get one thing straight. That is, 3rd place does not make our Dodge Ram a bad truck. There's a lot to like here, and it's the least expensive truck in this group.

We're using pricing for the 2011 Ram to keep our test scoring on the level (it works out perfectly because the electronic brake controller is now standard instead of optional). The Laramie's base price of $51,465 might seem high, but that's largely because the diesel engine is baked into the price as standard equipment. What's more, dual rear wheels are standard, so you can deduct $995 if you pass on the dually configuration like we did.

And then there's the Mega Cab. It offers a massive 44.2 inches of rear legroom, plus rear seats that recline into a void for cargo that's big enough for a couple of carry-on suitcases. Go for an equivalent Laramie 4x4 with a mere Crew Cab (like the other trucks here) and you'll save $700. Dressed in heated and cooled leather seats, a navigation system and other goodies, the Mega Ram's final price comes to $56,945.

The front half of the cab is every bit as welcoming as our fondly remembered 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab. The interior design and materials say "truck" without hitting you over the head with it, the controls make good sense and the seats are firm and supportive over the long haul. The Ram is also the only one here with side curtain airbags.

Ride comfort is another matter entirely, as our 3500-Series Ram 4x4 is more stiff-legged than either of its opponents. The cabin isn't the quietest one here, but it's not far off. But our sample truck sometimes emits an annoying drone when cruising at about 60 mph.

When the Ram's steering is discussed, this 4x4's solid front axle produces a surprisingly natural level of feel and response. The Ram backs it up by winning the slalom with an effort of 56.5 mph (not so speedy, but it's a big truck, after all). A stop from 60 mph takes 152 feet, which sounds awful until you realize this behemoth weighs 7,640 pounds.

Things go a bit south when we press the Ram's accelerator. No surprise, since it gives up about 50 hp and well over 100 lb-ft of torque to the others. It takes 9.1 seconds to reach 60 mph from a standstill (8.8 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip), a second quicker than a Prius but 1.6 seconds behind our Denali. All of 16.8 seconds go by before the Ram 3500 finishes the quarter-mile at 81.7 mph, no less than 6 mph slower than the GMC.

With the trailer in tow, the Ram's performance is more of the same. It crests the summit of Jacumba Grade in 12 minutes and 12 seconds, some 36 seconds behind the winner. Minimum speed sags to 49.8 mph in the steepest section, slowest of the bunch by more than 7 mph. We didn't directly measure time spent at wide-open throttle, but the Dodge languishes below our target speed window for 6 minutes and 41 seconds with the throttle mashed — that's well over half the trip.

Through it all, the Ram's rear suspension handles the tongue load with ease, and the truck remains steady and composed through the bends, bumps and crosswinds on the winding descent. The diesel exhaust brake is effective, but it also isn't quite as proficient or adaptive as the other trucks, so we have to prod the brakes a time or two.

No fuel economy ratings exist for heavy-duty trucks, so we measured our own. Unladen, the Ram rolls along at 14.2 mpg. This drops to 6.4 mpg on our 35-mile tow-test loop. Both are the lowest in the test, but not by much.

Bottom line: The Dodge Ram 3500 is a very good truck that needs a stronger engine to keep up with the others. Of course, those who don't tow much (or live in places where it's as flat as Kansas) might not care.

2nd Place: 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4
The 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4 makes the most horsepower (400) and generates the most torque (800 lb-ft) in this group, so why doesn't it take the prize? For one, it's mighty expensive.

That's not the whole story, but let's start there anyway. Compared to the Dodge Laramie, the $49,725 base price of our King Ranch appears lower. But then you have to add another $7,835 for the optional diesel engine. A moonroof adds another $995 and 20-inch rubber adds $1,375 more. Navigation ($1,875), bed upgrades ($1,075) and other assorted options inflate the as-tested price to $64,965, of which $2,500 represents fluff we could do without. Yet even without that stuff, the F-350 would still be the priciest truck here.

Inside the cabin, the King Ranch lives up to its price tag, as it looks like a saddle shop, with the brand of King Ranch stamped and sewn into the leather. The Ford crew cab might not be as long as the Ram's Mega Cab, but 42.1 inches of rear legroom is still mighty healthy. The spell is broken because the dash screams "truck" louder than necessary. The glovebox door is even molded with those indentations you normally find at the bottom of a truck bed. Ford tough, and all that. We get it.

Thankfully, Sync is part of this F-350's array of features, plus a new trip computer that has clever displays, including programmable trailer settings and fuel consumption feedback. The Ford is also the only truck here with a telescoping steering wheel. And the F-350 has power-operated extendable tow mirrors, while the Ram and Sierra's tow mirrors must be manually deployed.

Once under way, the Ford is a mixed bag. The ride is smooth (for a 1-ton truck) and admirably quiet. You know there's a diesel under the hood, but the sounds are muted. But that telescoping steering wheel barely feels connected to anything and it takes lots of steering lock to get anything done. All together, the F-350 does not inspire in the corners, and steering it is like tapping a microphone while asking, "Is this thing on?"

The F-350's character affects its behavior on the track as well. It reluctantly navigates the slalom at 52 mph, some 4 mph slower than the rest. And not only does the F-350 take 159 feet to stop, brake fade (not to mention the stink of smoldering brake material) makes an unwelcome appearance. The physics of this package help explain some of this, as the F-350 stands 80.8 inches (2.5 to 3.4 inches taller than its rivals), weighs 7,900 pounds (260-400 pounds heavier) and has a fractionally narrower track.

The F-350's weight and size might also be the reason why the PowerStroke's big power numbers don't translate into stomping performance on the drag strip. Sure, the Ford bests the Dodge, but the margin is thin. The F-350 accelerates to 60 mph from a standstill in 8.8 seconds (8.4 seconds with 1 foot of rollout) and covers the quarter-mile in 16.5 seconds at 83.8 mph.

Towing is where the Ford comes into its own. Jacumba Grade's 11.5 miles are history in 11 minutes, 44 seconds, only 1 minute, 9 seconds of which are spent under the target climbing speed. Even at its worst, the F-350 loses only a little pace, slowing to 57.6 mph. Through it all, there's not a single shift, as the Ford transmission settles into 5th gear in tow-haul mode and stays put.

But on the way up the throttle feels somewhat reluctant to respond to small adjustments. Like the vague steering, it's a bit unnerving. It's not an engine issue; it's more of a throttle pedal calibration characteristic, and we're not big fans.

The F-350 does as well as we could want downhill, as the six-speed transmission and exhaust brake make all the right moves. The Ford is the only truck here that doesn't have an exhaust brake switch on the dash — its activation is controlled exclusively by the ECU in response to conditions.

When it comes to the consumption of diesel fuel, the Ford isn't much better than the Ram, as the F-350 earns 14.6 mpg in mixed normal use and 6.5 mpg on the steep tow-test loop. (We call this a tie.)

Bottom line: The 2011 Ford F-350 King Ranch 4x4 is a strong truck that tows quite well. It's quiet, smooth and well equipped. But it's big, heavy and aloof to the point that even the driver can sometimes feel like a passenger. And the price is substantial.

1st Place: 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali Crew Cab 4x4
The 2011 GMC Denali 3500HD Denali Crew Cab wins this comparison by a narrow margin primarily because it's a well-rounded truck. It performs well, is efficient and doesn't cost a lot of dough.

Starting at $47,150, the top-of-the-line GMC Denali has the lowest entry price of our trio. But because the diesel engine ($7,195) and the mandatory six-speed automatic ($1,200) are priced separately, diesel power is actually an $8,395 jump. Once you add navigation ($2,200), a rearview camera ($450), a heated steering wheel ($150) and other options, this Denali prices out at $59,545.

Things don't start out well for this GM truck because the Sierra's redesign for 2011 has skipped over the cab. Yes, the new Denali trim is handsome, but the center stack with its fussy tiny buttons still annoys us. There's room in the front of the cab, but adult-size passengers might be troubled by the 39 inches of rear legroom in the back of the Sierra's crew cab. The other trucks in this roundup have it covered.

Turn the steering wheel and the GMC begins to show its strength. It rides on independent front suspension as before, but the geometry is utterly new and all of the components have been significantly beefed up. The 2011 Denali goes down the road arrow-straight and turns into corners with a predictable honesty that the Ford can't manage.

And the Sierra 3500HD has a reasonably quick steering ratio, so less input is needed to do just about anything, such as make a U-turn within 50.5 feet, the tightest turning circle in this bunch. At the track, the GMC slips past the slalom cones at 56.3 mph. Stops from 60 mph take 147 feet, the shortest of all these trucks. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the 7,500-pound GMC is the lightest of these three.

But the throttle is the Sierra's biggest trick. Power delivery is deceptively smooth on the way to a 7.5-second sprint to 60 mph (7.2 seconds with 1 foot of rollout) and the Allison 1000 six-speed automatic makes quick shifts until the quarter-mile ends in 15.6 seconds, 87.7 mph and total domination of the F-350 and Ram 3500.

With a big yellow trailer latched onto its hitch, the Sierra does almost as well. It surmounts the mountain in 11 minutes, 36 seconds, a handful of seconds quicker that the F-350. Throttle response is much more immediate and linear in the Sierra, allowing us to accurately hold the target speed with much less fuss on the lower slopes. Once we encounter the steeper upper sections, the Sierra has a similar minimum speed (57 mph), but it does spend a little more time (2 minutes, 44 seconds) at the bottom of our speed range during a couple short bouts of full throttle.

On the winding 6 percent downgrade, the Allison six-speed transmission and the diesel exhaust brake comfortably regulate the Sierra's descent speed. As with the F-350 and Ram, manual shifting capability is provided, but there's no need to partake. Engage Drive, select tow-haul, set the cruise and you're done.

Through it all, the Sierra uses the least fuel. Our routine driving is good for 16 mpg, and the truck earns 7.3 mpg on the tow test loop, about 10-12 percent better than the other guys.

The 2011 GMC Sierra Denali wins because it does the important truck things well. It accelerates, brakes and just plain drives better in just about any situation, towing or not. And on the big hill it holds its own with the slightly more powerful Ford. On top of that, it costs significantly less to buy and it drinks less fuel.

What Have We Learned Today?
All of these trucks have improved significantly since our last heavy-duty roundup in 2006, and now none of them is a bad choice.

If anything, the 2010 Dodge Ram 3500 proves that standing still on the motor front is not a viable option in this crowd. The 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty's commanding size and weight set it apart in this group and could become a liability as fuel efficiency and cost of ownership loom larger in the future, since such concerns certainly cut into its theoretical advantage here.

For now, the 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali is our idea of the winning combination, albeit by the thinnest of margins. There's no denying its strong all-around performance and good driving manners, but it's overdue for a new cab and a fresh interior. With those it could have won this contest by a landslide.

As for our friend James, he reminds us once again that his truck is paid for. But since he's a truck guy, he's always interested in a better ride and we've essentially done his research for him. When it comes to hauling his own trailer, at least, his choice comes down to two of the three. We'll poke our head around the back of his shop in a few months and let you know if a new yellow truck appears in his driveway.

The manufacturers provided Edmunds these vehicles for the purposes of evaluation.

Top 14 Features

Our Dodge Ram 3500, Ford F-350 and GMC Sierra 3500HD test trucks are all 1-ton, diesel-powered machines with crew cabs (or better) and four-wheel drive. All are built around the top trim level that each truckmaker offers. But trucks are nothing if not confusing when it comes to equipment and pricing. It's almost impossible to disentangle all of the detail differences, especially when the trucks aren't configured exactly the same.

In order to balance the pricing aspect of our scoring, we score features, too. The idea is that a higher-priced vehicle should offer more features in order to justify the higher price and create value. There is no limit to the number of features we select, but they tend to fall into two categories: significant options that appear on the window sticker; and features that are relevant to the mission of the vehicle in question. Features common to all vehicles in a test, no matter how relevant, are not included: for example, things like 4x4 and diesel engines in this case.

Here then, presented in no particular order, are the 14 features we selected.

Features

  2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4x4 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali Crew Cab 4x4
B20 biodiesel capability N/A S S
Bedliner O O O*
Chrome side step O O O*
Heated and cooled front seats O O* O*
Heated steering wheel O O* O
Independent front suspension N/A N/A S
Integrated tailgate step N/A O N/A
Mega cab with reclining rear seats S N/A N/A
Power-extendable tow mirrors N/A S N/A
Side curtain airbags S N/A N/A
Snowplow prep O O* O*
Sunroof O* O O*
Telescoping steering wheel N/A S N/A
Upfitter switches N/A O N/A


Key:
S: Standard
O: Optional
O*: Optional, but not present on test vehicle
N/A: Not Available

B20 biodiesel capability: Alternative fuels are fast becoming more available and sought after, so B20 capability is quickly becoming a must.

Bedliner: An undeniable truck-y feature that shows up as an option on some of the trucks in this test.

Chrome side step: See "integrated tailgate step." The justification is almost exactly the same.

Heated and cooled front seats: Heated front seats are becoming common, but heated and cooled front seats (usually paired with an upgrade to heated rear seats) are the new frontier in bun-comfort technology. The Dodge Laramie includes all of it for the $500 price of leather seats, a bargain.

Heated steering wheel: Invaluable if you live in the frozen North, and equipped on a couple of these vehicles.

Independent front suspension: It used to be thought that independent front suspension didn't allow enough front gross axle weight (GAWR) for some heavy-duty truck folk, including those who fit snowplows in winter. The freshly uprated 2011 GMC truck is as beefy as the others in this regard, so the ride, steering and handling benefits of independent suspension need no longer be sacrificed for "tough truck" reasons.

Integrated tailgate step: This is another one of those exclusives that represents money on the window sticker. And remember that HD 4x4 truck tailgates are mighty tall, so this isn't just a gimmicky curiosity.

Mega cab with reclining rear seats: This makes a difference in both sticker price and function, so of course we've included it.

Power-extendable tow mirrors: Don't laugh; this is a useful difference. You'll understand the first time you pull away with a trailer latched on while the mirrors are retracted.

Side curtain airbags: When you're talking heavy-duty 3500 series, side curtain airbags surprisingly only come on the Dodge. The answer is different in 2500-series trucks, as two truckmakers offer them here.

Snowplow prep: It's a necessity for heavy-duty 4x4 trucks in some regions, and it represents money on the window sticker of one of our trucks.

Sunroof: We neither particularly want nor need a sunroof in our heavy-duty truck, but one of the trucks in the test had one, and it represented real money, so we included it here.

Telescoping steering wheel: We wish every vehicle made had one of these. This will always be on any list of desirable features.

Upfitter switches: Hey, that's what Ford calls them, and since they're the only one that has them, we'll use Ford's name. Use these to neatly integrate off-road lights, controls for that snowplow or any number of other aftermarket add-ons you want to control in the cab without first visiting Radio Shack for a crummy-looking toggle switch.

Data and Charts

Dimensions
Engine & Transmission Specifications
Warranty Information
Performance Information
Tow Test Information


Dimensions Exterior Dimensions & Capacities

  2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4x4 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali Crew Cab 4x4
Length, in. 248.4 246.8 240.1
Width, in. 79.1 79.9 80.0
Height, in. 78.3 80.8 77.4
Wheelbase, in. 160.0 156.2 153.7
Front track, in. 68.3 68.3 68.8
Rear track, in. 68.2 67.2 67.3
Turning Circle, ft. 52.5 51.8 50.5
Curb weight, as tested, lb. 7,640 7,900 7,500


Interior Dimensions
  2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4x4 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali Crew Cab 4x4
Front headroom, in. 41.0 40.7 41.2
Rear headroom, in. 40.3 40.8 40.5
Front shoulder room, in. 66.0 68.0 65.2
Rear shoulder room, in. 65.7 68.0 65.1
Front legroom, in. 41.0 41.1 41.3
Rear legroom, in. 44.2 42.1 39.0
Bed length, in. 76.0 81.8 78.8


Engine & Transmission Specifications Engine & Transmission
  2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4x4 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali Crew Cab 4x4
Displacement
(cc / cu-in):
6700 (409) 6700 (409) 6600 (403)
Engine Type OHV inline-6 turbodiesel OHV V8 turbodiesel OHV V8 turbodiesel
Horsepower (SAE) @ rpm 350 @ 3,000 400 @ 2,800 397 @ 3,000
Max. Torque, lb-ft @ rpm 650 @ 1,500 800 @ 1,600 765 @ 1,600
Transmission 6-speed automatic 6-speed automatic 6-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, mpg Exempt Exempt Exempt
Observed fuel economy Unladen, mpg 14.2 14.6 16.0
Observed fuel economy Tow Test, mpg 6.4 6.5 7.3


Warranty Warranty Information
  2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4x4 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali Crew Cab 4x4
Basic Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain 5 years/100,000 miles Unlimited 5 years/100,000 miles
Roadside Assistance 3 years/36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles 5 years/100,000 miles
Corrosion Protection 5 years/100,000 miles 5 years/100,000 miles 6 years/100,000 miles


Performance Track Test Performance
  2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4x4 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali Crew Cab 4x4
0-60 mph acceleration, sec. 9.1 8.8 7.5
Quarter-mile acceleration, sec. 16.8 16.5 15.6
Quarter-mile speed, mph 81.7 83.8 87.7
60-0-mph braking, feet 152 159 147
Lateral Acceleration, g 0.72 0.71 0.73
600-ft slalom, mph 56.5 52.0 56.3


Tow Test Performance
  2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4x4 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali Crew Cab 4x4
0-60 mph acceleration, sec. 25.7 23.8 22.2
Quarter-mile acceleration, sec. 24.2 23.6 23.2
Quarter-mile speed, mph 58.3 59.9 60.9
Time to climb 11.5 mile grade, min. 12' 12" 11' 44" 11' 36"
Time spent below 59 mph, min. 6' 41" 1' 09" 2' 44"
Minimum climbing speed, mph 49.8 57.6 57.0


Tow Test Payload & Towing Capacities
  2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4x4 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali Crew Cab 4x4
GVWR, lb. 10,100 11,500 11,500
Curb weight, as tested, lb. 7,640 7,900 7,500
Payload, rated, lb. 2,610 3,790 4,004
Payload, as equipped, lb. 2,460 3,790 4,004
Axle ratio, x:1 4.10 3.55 3.73
GCWR, lb. 24,000 23,500 24,500
Max tow capacity (5th wheel), lb. 16,450 15,800 16,800
Trailer weight, empty, lb. 8,620 8,620 8,620
Trailer contents, lb. 3,860 3,860 3,860
Loaded trailer weight, lb. 12,480 12,480 12,480
Driver and passenger weight, lb. 535 535 535
Hitch assembly, lb. 100 100 100
As tested GCW, lb. 20,755 21,015 20,615
Percent of GCWR 86% 89% 84%
Percent of max towing capacity 76% 79% 74%

Final Rankings and Scoring Explanation

Final Rankings
Item Weight 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Denali Crew Cab 4x4 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4 2010 Dodge Ram Pickup 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 4x4
Personal Rating 2.5% 55.6 88.9 55.6
Recommended Rating 2.5% 77.8 77.8 44.4
Evaluation Score 20% 71.4 75.8 72.9
Feature Content 15% 31.0 52.4 40.5
Performance 20% 98.2 87.7 79.2
Fuel Consumption 20% 100.0 90.4 87.3
Price 20% 95.4 85.9 100.0
Total Score 100.0% 81.0 80.0 76.4
Final Ranking 1 2 3


Personal Rating (2.5%): Purely subjective. Each participating editor was asked to rank the vehicles in order of preference based on which he or she would buy if money were no object. The weighting of this factor is low in order to dampen the all-or-nothing nature of picking a favorite.

Recommended Rating (2.5%): Purely subjective. Each participating editor was asked to rank the vehicles in order of preference based on which he or she thought would be best for the average consumer shopping in this segment. The weighting of this factor is low in order to dampen the all-or-nothing nature of picking a favorite.

Evaluation Score (20%): Each participating editor rated the contestants using a comprehensive 30-point subjective evaluation system. The evaluation includes dynamic impressions such as drivability, ride, handing and quietness, functional aspects such as seat comfort, driving position and ergonomics, as well as many other details, inside and out.

Feature Content (15%): For this category, 14 significant distinguishing features were selected on the basis of their possible impact on either price or relevance to the mission of the segment. Features common to all test trucks were removed from consideration. The final score is based on the chosen features, with points awards differing based on whether a particular feature is standard, optional or unavailable.

Performance (20%): Like all vehicles, these heavy-duty trucks were subjected to our standard battery of objective performance tests at the track. But unladen performance isn't enough in this category, so we measured additional performance attributes when towing a suitably loaded trailer on flat ground and up a test grade.

Fuel Consumption (20%): Fuel consumption is a critical factor in such vehicles because, frankly, they use a lot of it and a difference of just 1 mpg at the low end of the spectrum can be a significant percentage difference in terms of operating costs. And because of the workhorse nature of these trucks, a lot of businesses are shopping in this segment, so these considerations are doubly important. There are no EPA ratings for heavy-duty trucks, so we're using our observed fuel consumption data here.

Price (20%): Our price score is based on the as-tested price of a given test vehicle. The least expensive vehicle gets 100 points, and the others are awarded points on a proportional basis from there.

Vehicle
Model year2011
MakeGMC
ModelSierra 3500HD
StyleDenali 4dr Crew Cab 4WD SB (6.6L 8cyl 6A)
Vehicle Type4WD 4dr 5-passenger Pickup
Base MSRP$47,150
Options on test vehicleDuramax 6.6-Liter Turbodiesel V8 Engine ($7,195 -- includes 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 engine; exhaust brake; dual heavy-duty 730-CCA batteries; engine block heater); Navigation Radio With CD/MP3 ($2,250 -- includes AM/FM stereo with MP3-compatible CD player, speed-compensated volume, DVD-based navigation with voice recognition, USB port, XM Satellite Radio with XM NavTraffic, Bose premium speaker system with subwoofer in center console); Allison 1000 6-Speed Automatic Transmission ($1,200); Rearview Camera System ($450); Power Rear Sliding Window ($250); Heated Steering Wheel ($150); Diesel Engine Winter Covers ($55 -- includes covers for radiator grille and front bumper openings for diesel engine-equipped vehicles in winter weather [automatically included in ME, NH, VT, MN, ND, SD, MT, AK, ID, WI, WY, MI, CO and NY]); Front License Plate Holder ($0 option in states where front plate is required); 3.73 Axle Ratio ($0); 11,500-Pound GVWR ($0)
As-tested MSRP$59,545
Assembly locationFlint, Michigan
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front-engine, part-time four-wheel drive
Engine typeTurbocharged and intercooled direct injection diesel V8
Displacement (cc/cu-in)6,599cc (403 cu-in)
Block/head materialIron/aluminum
ValvetrainPushrod, 4 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio (x:1)16.0
Redline, indicated (rpm)3,250
Fuel cutoff/rev limiter (rpm)3,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)397 @ 3,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)765 @ 1,600
Fuel typeUltralow-sulfur diesel or B20 biodiesel
Transmission typeSix-speed automatic with column shifter, manual shift buttons and tow/haul mode
Transmission ratios (x:1)I = 3.10; II = 1.81; III = 1.41; IV = 1.00; V = 0.71; VI = 0.61
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.73
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent double-wishbones, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearNon-independent solid live-axle, leaf springs
Steering typeHydraulic-assist, speed-proportional, recirculating-ball power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)16.1
Tire make and modelGoodyear Wrangler SR-A
Tire typeAll-season
Tire sizeLT265/70R18 125S
Wheel size18-by-8
Wheel materialPolished aluminum
Brakes, front14-inch ventilated cast-iron discs with 2-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rear14.2-inch ventilated cast-iron discs with 2-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.9
0-45 mph (sec.)4.8
0-60 mph (sec.)7.5
0-75 mph (sec.)11.1
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)15.6 @ 87.7
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.2
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.2
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)5.2
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)7.9
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)11.5
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)15.9 @ 87.6
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.5
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)38
60-0 mph (ft.)147
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)56.3
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON54.0
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.73
Sound level @ idle (dB)49.5
@ Full throttle (dB)90.4
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)74.1
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)1,700
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsThe Denali gets off the line smartly and with a minimum of turbo lag, but power braking really made the turbodiesel come alive. Impressively quick down the drag strip, with reasonably quick shifts at about 3,200 rpm each time. It was fairly easy to achieve just the right amount of wheelspin with traction control turned off.
Braking commentsFrom the first 60-0 panic stop, the Denali's brake pedal was travelling almost all the way to the floor -- a bit disconcerting. Nevertheless, all six runs were within just a few feet of each other, and they were short compared to the other trucks in this test.
Handling commentsSlalom: Compared to the Ram and the F-350, the Denali felt like the sports car of the bunch. Steering is quick and precise and the suspension is less prone to body roll. Also, it feels as if it has a lower center of gravity, aiding its ability to slither around the cones. But the ESC system did cut in at times, even when it was turned "off." Skid pad: The Denali performs at about Prius levels -- which might not seem like a compliment, but it is. The ESC system added brakes periodically, and was so rough about it that the Denali would suffer from massive chassis-jacking.
Testing Conditions
Test date11/9/2010
Test locationAuto Club Speedway
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)67
Relative humidity (%)29
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.91
Wind (mph, direction)1.4, headwind
Odometer (mi.)798
Fuel used for testUltralow-sulfur diesel
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)60/80
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)Exempt from EPA fuel economy ratings
Edmunds observed (mpg)16.0 (unladen), 7.3 (tow test loop)
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)36.0
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)7,496
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)7,500
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)60/40
Length (in.)240.1
Width (in.)80.0
Height (in.)77.4
Wheelbase (in.)153.7
Track, front (in.)68.8
Track, rear (in.)67.3
Turning circle (ft.)50.5
Legroom, front (in.)41.3
Legroom, rear (in.)39.0
Headroom, front (in.)41.2
Headroom, rear (in.)40.5
Shoulder room, front (in.)65.2
Shoulder room, rear (in.)65.1
Seating capacity5
Bed dimensions, L x W x H (in.)78.8 x 62.4 x 21.0
GVWR (lbs.)11,500
GCWR (lbs.)24,500
Payload, as equipped (lbs.)4,004
Tow capacity, as equipped (lbs.)13,000 (conventional), 16,800 (5th wheel/gooseneck)
Ground clearance (in.)8.4
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/100,000 miles
Corrosion6 years/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance5 years/100,000 miles
Vehicle
Model year2011
MakeFord
ModelF-350
StyleSuper Duty King Ranch 4dr Crew Cab 4WD SB (6.2L 8cyl 6A)
Vehicle Type4WD 4dr 5-passenger Crew Cab Short Bed Pickup
Base MSRP$49,725
Options on test vehicle6.7-Liter PowerStroke Diesel V8 ($7,835 -- includes 3.55 axle ratio; 40 psi turbo boost gauge; 26-gallon fuel tank [37.5 gallon fuel tank on SuperCabs and Crew Cabs with Long Beds]); Navigation Radio With Satellite Radio and HD AM/FM Radio ($1,875 -- includes voice-activated controls; HD AM/FM radio; 10GB hard drive; Sirius Satellite Radio and Sirius Travel Link real-time traffic with complimentary 6-month subscription); 20-inch Premium Wheels and Tires ($1,375 -- includes all-terrain tires and cast-aluminum wheels); Power Moonroof ($995); Tough Bed Spray-In Bedliner ($450 -- includes spray-in bedliner; tailgate guard; black tie-down hooks and bed attachment bolts); King Ranch Chrome Package ($445 -- includes chrome exhaust tip; chrome tow hooks; unique chrome mirror caps; chrome pickup bed tie down hooks; 6-inch angular chrome step bars); Electronic Locking Rear Differential ($390 -- includes 3.55 axle ratio); Tailgate Step ($375); Stowable Bed Extender ($250); Upfitter Switches ($125); 200-Amp Alternator ($75), Engine Block Heater ($75 -- standard in AK, CO, IA, ID, ME, MI, MN, MT, ND, NH, NY, SD, VT, WI, and WY), Electronic 6-Speed Automatic Transmission ($0); 11,500-Pound GVWR ($0 -- available only with diesel engine and 20-inch wheels and tires)
As-tested MSRP$64,965
Assembly locationLouisville, Kentucky
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front-engine, part-time four-wheel drive
Engine typeTurbocharged and intercooled direct-injection 6.7-liter diesel V8
Displacement (cc/cu-in)6,651cc (406 cu-in)
Block/head materialIron/aluminum
ValvetrainPushrod, 2 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio (x:1)16.2
Redline, indicated (rpm)4,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)400 @ 2,800
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)800 @ 1,600
Fuel typeUltralow-sulfur diesel or B20 biodiesel
Transmission typeSix-speed automatic with column shifter, manual shift buttons and tow/haul mode
Transmission ratios (x:1)I = 3.97; II = 2.32; III = 1.52; IV = 1.15; V = 0.86; VI = 0.67
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.55
Chassis
Suspension, frontNon-independent solid live-axle, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearNon-independent solid live-axle, leaf springs
Steering typeHydraulic-assist, speed-proportional, recirculating-ball power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)20.4
Tire make and modelMichelin LTX A/T 2
Tire typeAll-season, all-terrain
Tire sizeLT275/65R20 126/123R
Wheel size20-by-8
Wheel materialCast aluminum
Brakes, front13.7-inch ventilated cast-iron discs with 2-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rear13.4-inch ventilated cast-iron discs with 2-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)3.3
0-45 mph (sec.)5.7
0-60 mph (sec.)8.8
0-75 mph (sec.)12.9
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)16.5 @ 83.8
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)8.4
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.7
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)6.0
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)9.1
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)13.1
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)16.7 @ 84.8
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)8.7
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)41
60-0 mph (ft.)159
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)52.0
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON51.1
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.71
Sound level @ idle (dB)49.3
@ Full throttle (dB)67.2
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)65.0
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)1,650
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsWith traction control on, the Ford was extremely sluggish off the line and then the turbo hit hard, spinning the rear tires a little ways after it left the line. Spooling up the turbo via power braking let the truck spin the tires in a more controlled fashion for a better launch. There was a bit of turbo lag following each upshift.
Braking commentsThe Ford's brakes struggled to cope with the truck's immense weight (over 8,000 pounds with a driver aboard). After the second stop, each run got progressively longer until a final run of 177 feet, at which point the pedal was going all the way to the floor and the brakes felt like they were barely keeping up.
Handling commentsSlalom: The Ford requires so much steering to get around the cones that I almost felt the need to shuffle-steer to keep up. It's clear that this big, tall and cushy truck is not designed for anything even remotely resembling a slalom course. Skid pad: We ran only with ESC on here to keep from demolishing the tires. The Advancetrac ESC system was surprisingly adept at keeping the King Ranch on its intended arc by reducing throttle. I could keep my accelerator foot flat to the floor and let the computer do all the work. Surprisingly good grip for such a big and heavy truck.
Testing Conditions
Test date11/9/2010
Test locationAuto Club Speedway
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)67
Relative humidity (%)25
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.9
Wind (mph, direction)5.4, headwind
Odometer (mi.)2,275
Fuel used for testUltralow-sulfur diesel
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)65/80
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)Exempt from EPA fuel economy ratings
Edmunds observed (mpg)14.6 (unladen); 6.5 (tow test loop)
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)26.0
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)7,900
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)60/40
Length (in.)246.8
Width (in.)79.9
Height (in.)80.8
Wheelbase (in.)156.2
Track, front (in.)68.3
Track, rear (in.)67.2
Turning circle (ft.)51.8
Legroom, front (in.)41.1
Legroom, rear (in.)42.1
Headroom, front (in.)40.7
Headroom, rear (in.)40.8
Shoulder room, front (in.)68.0
Shoulder room, rear (in.)68.0
Seating capacity5
Bed dimensions, L x W x H (in.)81.8 x 69.3 x 20.0
GVWR (lbs.)11,500
GCWR (lbs.)23,500
Payload, as equipped (lbs.)3,790
Tow capacity, as equipped (lbs.)14,000 (conventional), 15,800 (5th wheel/gooseneck)
Ground clearance (in.)8.2
Approach angle (degrees)19.3
Departure angle (degrees)20.8
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/60,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance5 years/60,000 miles
Vehicle
Model year2010
MakeDodge
ModelRam Pickup 3500
StyleLaramie 4dr Mega Cab 4WD (6.7L 6cyl Turbodiesel 6M)
Vehicle Type4WD 4dr 5-passenger Pickup
Base MSRP$51,465 (2011)
Options on test vehicleLaramie Quick Order Package ($1,575 -- includes 6-speed automatic transmission; 3.73 axle ratio; auxiliary transmission cooler; Tip start); Chrome Accents Group ($1,175 - -includes chrome body-side molding, tubular side steps and exhaust tip); Media Center ($800 -- includes AM/FM stereo; single-disc CD/DVD player; MP3 playback; 30GB hard drive; 6.5-inch touchscreen display; audio jack input; Uconnect phone with voice command; 1-year Sirius Real-time Traffic Service; GPS navigation); Leather Trimmed Bucket Seats ($500 -- includes leather-trimmed lowback bucket seats; 115-volt power outlet; heated and ventilated front seats; heated rear seats; power 10-way driver seat with power lumbar adjust and memory; power six-way passenger seat; rear 60/40-split-folding seat); Under Rail Box Bedliner ($245); Inferno Red Crystal Pearlcoat Paint ($225); Parkview Rear Back-Up Camera ($200); LT265/70R17E OWL All-Terrain Tires ($200); Remote Start System ($185); Power-Adjustable Pedals With Memory ($150); Heavy-Duty Snow Plow Prep Group ($135 -- includes transfer case skid plate shield; 180-amp alternator); Engine Block Heater ($90); Add Clearance Lamps ($80); 4.10 Axle Ratio ($50); Rear Window Defroster ($85 -- includes fixed glass window that replaces the standard equipment rear window); Single Rear Wheel Group ($995 -- includes single rear wheel; 11.50 rear axle; 17-by-8-inch aluminum wheels; Michelin LT265/70R17E black sidewall all-season tires); GVW rating of 10,100 pounds; 5,200-pound-rated front axle included when ordered with four-wheel drive; deletes clearance lamps and wheel spats).
As-tested MSRP$56,945 (2011)
Assembly locationCoahuila, Mexico
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front-engine, part-time four-wheel drive
Engine typeTurbocharged and intercooled direct injection 6.7-liter inline-6 diesel
Displacement (cc/cu-in)6,690cc (408 cu-in)
Block/head materialIron/iron
ValvetrainPushrod, 4 valves per cylinder
Compression ratio (x:1)17.3
Redline, indicated (rpm)3,400
Fuel cutoff/rev limiter (rpm)3,500
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)350 @ 3,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)650 @ 1,500
Fuel typeUltralow-sulfur diesel
Transmission typeSix-speed automatic with column shifter, tow/haul mode and manual shift capability
Transmission ratios (x:1)I = 3.23; II = 1.84; III = 1.41; IV = 1.00; V = 0.82; VI = 0.63
Final-drive ratio (x:1)4.10
Transfer-case ratio (x:1)2.72
Chassis
Suspension, frontNon-independent live-axle, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearNon-independent live-axle, leaf springs
Steering typeHydraulic-assist recirculating-ball power steering
Tire make and modelBF Goodrich Rugged Trail T/A
Tire typeAll-season front and rear
Tire sizeLT265/70R17 118R
Wheel size17-by-8 inches front and rear
Wheel materialForged aluminum
Brakes, frontVentilated cast-iron discs with 2-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rearVentilated cast-iron discs with 2-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)3.4
0-45 mph (sec.)5.8
0-60 mph (sec.)9.1
0-75 mph (sec.)13.6
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)16.8 @ 81.7
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)8.8
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)39
60-0 mph (ft.)152
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON56.5
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.72
Sound level @ idle (dB)51.0
@ Full throttle (dB)72.3
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)66.7
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)1,900
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsThe Ram felt more sluggish than the others and never has the rush of turbo power for brief instants like the Denali and F-350. It always shifts at 3,000 rpm, and manually shifting the automatic via the rocker switch on the shifter stalk proved slower than pure automatic mode.
Braking commentsThe Ram's brake pedal felt solid and stops were consistent. The first run and the final (sixth) run were both 152 feet, which indicates zero fade (in the unladen condition, at least).
Handling commentsSkid pad: Even though the stability system wasn't helping us at all, the Ram posted a respectable number. Its understeer could be controlled by breathing the throttle, but care was required to not feed back in so much that it switched to power-on oversteer. Slalom: Despite the Ram's long wheelbase and soft suspension, it's an agile handler thanks to sharp steering and the lack of interference from the electronic stability control system, which never cut in even though we never fully disabled the system.
Testing Conditions
Test date11/9/2010
Test locationAuto Club Speedway
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)67
Relative humidity (%)28
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.87
Wind (mph, direction)3.9, headwind
Fuel used for testUltralow-sulfur diesel
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)60/75
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)Exempt from EPA fuel economy ratings
Edmunds observed (mpg)14.2 (unladen); 6.4 (tow test loop)
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)34
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)7,424
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)7,640
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)61/39
Length (in.)248.4
Width (in.)79.1
Height (in.)78.3
Wheelbase (in.)160.0
Track, front (in.)68.3
Track, rear (in.)68.2
Turning circle (ft.)52.5
Legroom, front (in.)41.0
Legroom, rear (in.)44.2
Headroom, front (in.)41.0
Headroom, rear (in.)40.3
Shoulder room, front (in.)66.0
Shoulder room, rear (in.)65.7
Seating capacity5
Bed dimensions, L x W x H (in.)76.3 x 66.4 x 20.1
GVWR (lbs.)10,100
GCWR (lbs.)24,000
Payload, as equipped (lbs.)2,610
Tow capacity, as equipped (lbs.)12,000 (conventional), 16,450 (5th wheel/gooseneck)
Ground clearance (in.)7.5
Approach angle (degrees)23.4
Departure angle (degrees)27.6
Breakover angle (degrees)18.3
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain5 years/100,000 miles
Corrosion5 years/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance3 years/36,000 miles
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