The heavy-duty truck segment has come a long, long way in the last two decades. Never before have manufacturers offered such capable machines to the public. That is, until now. Whether you need to conventionally tow 20,000 pounds, haul a 3-ton payload in the bed, climb steep grades with ease, or prefer a comfortable ride, any of the latest offerings from Ford, GM, or Ram will suit your needs.
Back in July, we teamed up with PickupTrucks.com in Detroit, Michigan, and with the help of Ricardo Engineering, tested the latest trucks the Big Three currently offer (one 3/4-ton and one 1-ton from each manufacturer). During our weeklong performance analysis, the trucks were subjected to 7.2 percent and 16 percent grade testing at General Motors' Milford Proving Grounds, countless passes at Milan Dragway's quarter-mile dragstrip, and concluded with a real-world, 160-mile fuel economy drive through southeastern Michigan. All tests were performed with and without trailers in tow.
Beyond the performance characteristics of each vehicle, key in-cab features such as exhaust brake operation, integrated brake controller placement and usability, and transmission functionality were evaluated. Other pertinent observations included: ride comfort, back seat space, interior amenities, and best overall value. Follow along as we profile each truck, explain how it performed, and reveal what we liked most (and least) about each test mule.
'11 Ford F-250 Lariat
Diesel Power stamp of approval: Best Daily Driver, Best New Look
It's no surprise to us that the heaviest trucks in the test were Ford's Super Dutys. However, due to an extremely lowFirst gear ratio (3.97:1) and a responsive accelerator pedal, these trucks feel much lighter on their feet than last year's 6.4L trucks. The F-250 in our test gets the nod for best daily driver. With or without a 10,000-pound test trailer in tow, getting up to speed in both city traffic and highway on-ramps felt smooth and effortless in this truck. In addition, a respectable 17.6 mpg was achieved while empty, thanks to Ford's use of selective catalytic reduction (SCR, or urea injection) on the new 6.7L Power Stroke.
Unlike GM (which focused its attention on revamping its entire chassis and powertrain) or Ram (which merely upgraded its interior and exterior appearance), the '11 Ford Super Duty received upgrades to nearly every aspect of the vehicle. With a new front end look featuring a massive, can't miss, chrome grille; a brand-new, Ford-built diesel engine and transmission; increased towing, payload, and GCWR; and a redesigned interior-Ford has the freshest product on the market.
- Engine: 6.7L V-8 Power Stroke
- Transmission: 6R140 TorqShift, six-speed auto
- Horsepower: 390 hp at 2,800 rpm
- Torque: 735 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
- Configuration: Crew cab, four-wheel drive
- Color: Royal Red
- Axle Ratio: 3:55
- Curb Weight: 7,840 pounds (full fuel tank, no driver)
- Price As Tested: $60,830
- Radio and navigation controls are large and legible
- Power steering has the strongest assist feel
- New 6.7L engine and 6R140 transmission provide excellent acceleration and improved fuel economy -much better than the '08 to '10 6.4L-powered trucks
- Interior features four different door pockets, six cupholders, four auxiliary power switches, a deep center console, a driving coach for helping owners control their fuel economy strategy, and the best location for an integrated trailer brake controller (right of the driver) and best towing mirrors-by far
- Exhaust brake is only engaged with Tow/Haul mode enabled, and the system seemed more predicated on the transmission's grade braking
- Rougher rear suspension ride than GM and Ram models