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2013 Ram 3500 HD vs. 2013 Ford F-450 Tow Test

In Search of the Tow King

Text By , Photography by Courtesy of Pickuptrucks.com

Whether it’s horsepower, torque, payload, or towing capacity, the unceasing numbers battle between the Big Three continues to rage on. The industry’s latest bombshell occurred back in January 2013, when Ram broke the news that its ’13 3500 HD would have a 37,600-pound gross combined weight rating (GCWR). As you can imagine, this had the truck world buzzing, and our friends at Pickuptrucks.com got right to work formulating their next mano a mano test. The Ram’s competitor would be none other than the truck sitting atop the towing capacity heap the previous five years: the Ford F-450 Super Duty. Upon delivery, the trucks were tested empty—then spent the next week (and 1,500 miles) at or near their GCWR, thanks to being saddled with 24,500 pounds worth of gooseneck trailer and bricks.

The driving route would span hundreds of miles through the steep, winding Rocky Mountain terrain of Colorado and Utah, and the desert grades of Nevada and Arizona. Grueling performance tests were held at Davis Dam near Bullhead City, Arizona, and the infamous Eisenhower grade (“King of the Hill,” Feb. ’11, and “King of the Hill Rematch,” Nov. ’11), which spanned from Dillon, Colorado, east to the Eisenhower Tunnel. Along the way, each truck’s ability to accelerate and brake effectively with the massive load in tow was evaluated. In addition, hand-calculated fuel economy data was collected and compared directly to each test mule’s computer readout. So, does the new Ram perform as well in the real world as it claims to on paper? And can the somewhat dated F-450 still hold its own in this segment? Read on to find out.

What jumped out at us was just how similar both of these top-of-the-line tow monsters really are. For instance, both trucks have a 14,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), pack 6.7L engines (obviously, the difference being the I-6 Cummins in the Ram, and the V-8 Power Stroke in the Ford), achieve their peak horsepower and torque numbers at the same rpm, come with six-speed transmissions and high-end luxurious interiors—and both list for a little less than $70,000.

Similarities
What jumped out at us was just how similar both of these top-of-the-line tow monsters really are. For instance, both trucks have a 14,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), pack 6.7L engines (obviously, the difference being the I-6 Cummins in the Ram, and the V-8 Power Stroke in the Ford), achieve their peak horsepower and torque numbers at the same rpm, come with six-speed transmissions and high-end luxurious interiors—and both list for a little less than $70,000.

The Ram
Without a doubt, the redesigned Ram 3500 HD was the reason for implementing this test. By besting the F-450’s maximum towing capacity (a segment it was designed to rule), the folks at Ram effectively challenged Ford’s dominance in this category. Ram upped the ante on its dual-rear-wheel 1-ton model for ’13 in a big way, thanks to a stronger frame, Hotchkiss-style rear leaf spring suspension, 11.8-inch ring gear rear axle, and a high-output version of the 6.7L Cummins. The H.O. inline-six now makes 385 hp at 2,800 rpm, 850 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm, and mates to the commercial-grade Aisin AS69RC six-speed automatic transmission.

2013 Ram 3500 HD Specs
Price: $68,960
Trim: Crew cab Laramie Longhorn, 4x4 DRW
Engine: OHV, 24-valve 6.7L (408 ci) I-6
Horsepower: 385 hp at 2,800 rpm
Torque: 850 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
Emissions Equipment: EGR, DPF, SCR
Transmission: Aisin AS69RC six-speed automatic
Weight: 8,680 pounds
GVWR: 14,000 pounds
GCWR: 37,600 pounds
Max Payload: 5,320 pounds
Max Tow: 28,800 pounds
Ring and Pinion: 4.10

The Ford
When the ’08 F-450 debuted in early 2007, it was unquestionably in a league of its own. Back then, its 24,500-pound towing capacity was unrivaled by any other brand, and the same 33,000-pound GCWR holds true today. Unlike ’08 to ’10 models, however, the newest F-450 doesn’t receive a detuned engine. You get the whole enchilada—meaning you have 400 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque at your disposal just like the ¾- and 1-ton trucks do. To be fair, the F-450 is a Class IV, 1½-ton vehicle, whereas the Ram is a Class III truck. So if there were an underdog in this test, the Ram would be it.

2013 Ford F-450 Super Duty Specs
Price: $69,430
Trim: Crew cab Lariat Platinum, 4x4 DRW
Engine: OHV, 32-valve 6.7L (406 ci) V-8
Horsepower: 400 hp at 2,800 rpm
Torque: 800 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
Emissions Equipment: EGR, DPF, SCR
Transmission: Ford 6R140 TorqShift six-speed automatic
Weight: 8,560 pounds
GVWR: 14,000 pounds
GCWR: 33,000 pounds
Max Payload: 5,440 pounds
Max Tow: 24,700 pounds
Ring and Pinion: 4.30

"It works fine 80 percent of the time, but when we needed it most, it wasn't there."
— Mark Williams, pickuptrucks.com, on the F-450's strategy of integrating the turbocharger along with the grade braking of the transmission

Desert Grade Testing
Acceleration tests performed at Davis Dam began on Highway 68 in Bullhead City, Arizona, and spanned east roughly 10 miles. Along the route, elevation rises 3,000 feet, and various portions include 6 percent grades. The test was simple: hold the accelerator to the floor for the duration of the 10-mile climb, with the quickest elapsed time indicating the winner. Surprisingly, the data below shows how evenly matched the two trucks were in this test.

However, when it came to braking, the Ram easily walked away the victor. While descending back into Bullhead City along the same, 10-mile course, both trucks’ Tow-Haul modes were engaged, and the selectable “ON” option for the Ram’s exhaust brake was utilized (Ford still offers no selectable exhaust brake option, rather it’s on when you’re in Tow-Haul mode). With cruise control set at 50 mph, the speed limit on this particular stretch of highway, the goal was to keep both trucks under 56 mph. Once 56 mph was achieved, the brakes would be applied until the truck’s speed dipped to 45 mph. The number of times the brake pedal had to be used was then recorded, as was each vehicle’s brake rotor temp upon completion.

Time To Complete 10-Mile Course
Ford: Ram:
12 minutes, 17 seconds 12 minutes, 20 seconds

Top/Low Speed During 10-Mile Course
Ford: Ram:
56.3 mph / 45.5 mph 57.8 mph / 43.5 mph

Number of brake touches (one run)
Ford: Ram:
18 7

Brake rotor temp. at end of run
Ford: Ram:
375 degrees 262 degrees

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193 comments
Bryan Ramey
Bryan Ramey

I think they are all good for the individual that buys them diesel is diesel owner. And to everyone that talks crap on another grow up. I have seen fords built that have destroyed others and I have seen dodges that do the same. And I have also seen chevys that have dominated on all levels as well I am glad that people buy diesels no matter what they are because that help support diesel enthusiasm everywhere. All you people that are being childish you need to read the new DP mag February edition on "Don't Be That Guy".

MrandMrsstone Stone
MrandMrsstone Stone

I want to see this competition with a ram that has a manual transmission just to see how the comparison goes.

Weston Penrod
Weston Penrod

Ford can build them better hmmm 6.0 end of story, duramax has been around for how long, 5.9 used how long? How many disels has ford have to use? Lets count 6.9 7.3idi, 7.3 idi turbo, 7.3 powerstroke, 6.0 , 6.4, 6.7 hmmm they can build them alright

Erik Johnson
Erik Johnson

International semis don't use just their own motors anymore. They tried selling just the navistar, couldn't make emissions, and now they offer Cummins again since they have no 15L option. As far as their midrange engines go, they only have a very small share of that market.

Johnny Froese
Johnny Froese

Haha, I don't live in a house, I'm a hobit and I know how to spell better than you

jgrauvogl
jgrauvogl

So I'm curious,  Ford is supposed to be this great power house, but I need to know something. Why is it every time there is a competition between the big three names (GM, Dodge, and Ford) GM and Dodge supply 3/4 ton trucks but Ford has to supply a 1 ton truck?  And now Dodge supplies their new 1 ton truck and Ford follows usual suit and supplies a 1.5 ton truck.  Curious as to when will they compare apples to apples?  Sounds to me like Ford has to always bring the next bigger thing just to be competitive.  So my next question is, are they (Ford) going to supply a 3/4 ton diesel at the next half ton truck competitions just to be competitive?  I find it funny that Ford can never bring the same as the rest to the table, but yet they boast that all their diesel models carry the same engine and trans.  So if that's the case, why can't they provide an equal truck.  If anyone is the underdog here, it is the Ford.  If they wanted this to be a 1.5 ton comparison, then I'm sure Ram would have supplied that truck,  of course then the Ford would have supplied the 2 ton model, so what am I thinking?  Say what you want about Ram or Chevy,  but I don't see anyone putting Powerchokes under the hoods of Dodge or Chevy.  And on that note I sure see and hear a lot about how those mean ol'  Fords have been taking up space in the repair garage, while those underdog Dodge's and Chevy's are out rolling on the pavement.  Say what you want,  Ford is hot garbage and I wouldn't recommend wasting your money on them.

i.ikerherrera7.3
i.ikerherrera7.3

Johnny Foroese your VW  couldnt pull a damn Smart Car!

Jake Meacham
Jake Meacham

And Johnny Faroese cars suk if I new we're you live I would go whith my diesel and set my power brake and burn out smoke the exaust and blow it all over your hippy house so suk stupid hippy

Johnny Froese
Johnny Froese

Or I would do that with a Proud and get better fuel mileage

Johnny Froese
Johnny Froese

You guys are all out of your minds, my vw jetta tdi would pull a 40,000 pound trailer up any hill faster than any of your junk

Karl Barnesjr
Karl Barnesjr

The last I remembered International made Powerstrokes, and yes, International trucks use their own motors, so guess what, those are Simi-trucks, as far as Ford making motors Ford has made only one diesel motor for the Super Duty and that's the 6.7, the 6.9, 7.3, 6.0, 6.4, the same 6.4 that won D.P.C two years straight, yeah that one, are made by Navistar/International, that's why Ford can always make changes so much quicker that the competition, the truck, transmission and motor is all in house now, they can always upgrade at the drop of dime.

Robert Milone
Robert Milone

I bought my 2007 classic durimax brand new and it never let me down. Chip cold air intake and exhaust it runs 12.9 in the quarter mile. Forgettabouttit!!!

Brian O'Neal
Brian O'Neal

I got a 7.3 liter power stroke that's outlasted em all!! It's Ford tough!! Nothing is better!! It's sat out in the backyard in pieces for 15 years now!! It's the best!! Nothing can match it!!

steve 61
steve 61

If powerjokes are so great, why are there so many people putting Cummins in their fords? I have never heard of anyone putting a powerjoke in a Dodge.

Tyler Green
Tyler Green

BTW Chrysler is owned by fiat now... Good going dodge guys let that sink in

Clayton Stewart
Clayton Stewart

Jose do you see any cummins brand equipment. Ha ha nope ih

Jose Rodriguez
Jose Rodriguez

Power stroke P S pure sh... , CUMMINS on big trucks, there's no P S or Duramax on big trucks

Alvin Rose
Alvin Rose

or understands what it is saying.

Dustin Witte
Dustin Witte

Power stroke anyday. No need for a fancy coffee maker like cummins. Hey dodge lovers, 1 question...... Ahhhhh that's cute, does it come in guys? Hahahahaha. Ford for life.

Kyle Rodney
Kyle Rodney

Ram ...proof that enough govt funding can build anything

Chris Sapp
Chris Sapp

I would have a dodge over a ford anyday but if it was a must it would be a Gm before anything

Tim Cerasuolo
Tim Cerasuolo

Of course Cummins is the best, I don't see Power strokes or Duramax Diesel engines being used in semi trucks!

Tim Cerasuolo
Tim Cerasuolo

So they had to use a Ford F450 to compete against a Dodge 3500 was the F350 not compatible?

Jordon Vieira
Jordon Vieira

I think the dodge and i am not a fan of dodges but i will say dodge

Joel Bishop
Joel Bishop

Cummins all the way... Was in a 2013 and it was killer. Wish my 24 valve 1999 was like these new ones..

JM JB
JM JB

The best is the f-550 power stroke and I got it,, don't mess with that "cummins" Sabás Juarez B

Colter Douglas
Colter Douglas

Can I have 70k I will haul 1 load for who ever gives it to me

Agustin Avila
Agustin Avila

Love my 12 valve 5.9 Cummins. Cummins all day. ..Ford is for frat dudes and gas savers

Ken Syvret
Ken Syvret

none of them can beat a dodge even the hemi will kick all there butts

Derrick Cox
Derrick Cox

When it comes down to it we all love our trucks no matter what make or model. That's what makes it fun.

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