The lowdown on the towing showdown.
January 30, 2014
By: Nick Saporito
PHOENIX - During the recent 2015 Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD media drive, General Motors arranged for the trucks’ primary competitors to be there. Specifically, GM rented a 2014 Ford F-250, a 2014 Ram 2500 and had a 2015 Silverado HD, all comparatively equipped. All three trucks hauled identical flat bed trailers with exactly 10,000 pounds evenly distributed on each trailer. While the tests were far from scientific, it was enough to fully demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of each of these brutes when it comes to trailering.
All testing was performed on the infamous Rye Grade near Payson, Arizona. The grade is sometimes utilized by automakers for testing during development. The weather during testing was a fantastic 70 degrees with minimal wind. All three pickups had less than 1,000 miles on the odometer, but more than 500 miles, suggesting they were all at least broken in.
Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD
Max Conventional Towing: 19,600 lbs.
To be fair, let’s start in alphabetical order with the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD. As mentioned in our recent first drive of the 2015 GM HD pickups, their capstone is their confidence. It is a confidence both exerted from the truck itself and gained by the driver piloting it. With 397 horsepower and 765 foot-pounds, the GM duo is the least powerful of the bunch, however GM claims theirs put more torque to the wheels. The Silverado feels slower off the line both loaded and unloaded, however the power delivery of the Duramax feels more linear than in the F-250 and Ram. The Duramax feels more consistent at putting torque to the pavement, especially at the high end of the rev range.
In terms of trailering, the Silverado was the best behaved of the three. GM's extensive work at integrating the exhaust brake, auto grade brake and cruise control pays many dividends while hauling. At no point did the Silverado allow its speed to increase more than five mph above the cruise limit and the transmission was not gun shy to downshift for deceleration. The trade-off is that the more aggressive downshifts probably have a negative impact on fuel economy but save your brake life and reduce the driver's need to constantly nanny the truck and trailer.
We also noted that the Allison six-speed was the smoothest of the three in terms of shifting, both up and down.
While none of the three pickups are going to win awards for steering feel, the Silverado's steering felt the least connected during trailering. For a pickup that exerts so much confidence to the driver, the steering is a real weak spot and one in which the other two pickups have slight advantages.
Max Conventional Towing: 18,500 lbs.
To be fair, let’s start in alphabetical order with the Ford F-250 Super Duty. The tester on hand was a modestly equipped XLT crew cab with the 6.7-liter PowerStroke diesel. The PowerStroke generates more power than both the GM twins and Ram, coming in at 400 horsepower and 805 foot-pounds of torque. Without question, the extra power is felt in the Ford, even while hauling. In particular, the F-250 was noticeably quicker off the line than Ram and Silverado, though the PowerStroke seemed to become winded once the driveshaft was spinning and the engine was north of 2,000 rpm in the rev range. Also of note is the staggering amount of turbo whine from the PowerStroke - something we've noted from previous experience with the F-250. While the PowerStroke itself is similarly quiet to the Duramax in the Chevy, the whine is so loud in the cab that long road trips could become annoying without cranking up the radio volume.
As for towing the trailer, the F-250 did so with no effort; not a huge shock considering it has enough torque to move a single-family home a few feet. Where the F-250's luster begins to fade is in self-control, because frankly, it has none. The exhaust brake provides only minimum deceleration on grades and at times, the exhaust brake and six-speed automatic seems to work against each other with the transmission holding off downshifts even though the exhaust brake is, well, exhausted.
Of the three pickups, the F-250 was, without question, the least behaved while trailering. It routinely allowed the truck's speed to climb up to 15 mph more than the set limit on downhills and even had trouble maintaining control when the cruise was shut off, with the transmission continuing to be too conservative. It feels that Ford has tuned the transmission for conservative downshifts to net better fuel economy.
Where the F-250 is the clear winner is off-the-line acceleration. There's no question a loaded down trailer will start moving fastest when the accelerator is mashed in the F-250.
It is worth noting that Ford has updated the Super Duty for the 2015 model year, and we look forward to giving it a try once it hits the market later this year.
Max Conventional Towing: 17,970 lbs.
The modestly equipped Ram 2500 crew cab was equipped with the brand's signature Cummins 6.7-liter turbo diesel. Even with two fewer cylinders, the Cummins generates 370 horsepower and 800 foot-pounds of torque, slotting it between F-250 and the GM twins in terms of power output. Both off-the-line and mid-range power is linear throughout the rev range, unlike the F-250, and it sounds fantastic in the process. It is without a doubt the loudest of the three, but when the engine note sounds good, it serves as a nice reminder that you opted for the pricey diesel engine.
Concurrently, the Ram had the nicest ride quality when not loaded down. Its well-mannered ride is likely due to its new five-link coil spring rear suspension; the only truck of the three to have it. On the other hand, while hauling the loaded trailer, the truck exhibited some shimmy at times. The Ram also acted like a wild child--like the Ford--on the Rye Grade with its trailer. While not quite as misbehaved as the Ford, the Ram struggled to maintain its speed going down the grade with the cruise set. It routinely exceeded the cruise control by 10 mph at times.
Like the Silverado and F-250, the Ram does feature a diesel exhaust brake, however Chrysler Group engineered two selectable modes for it. The first mode simply engages it, however it will only come on in the event that the driver taps the brakes first. The second mode is called "auto" and in it, the brake behaves like that of its two competitors.
When the exhaust brake was unable to decelerate the truck enough, the Ram was less hesitant to downshift than the F-250, though still not as aggressive as the Silverado. We also noted that shifts in the Ram were very jerky and generally unpleasant. The Ram's steering feel, however, was the best of the three, though that isn't much of an honor.
Spending a couple of hours in equally equipped heavy-duties with identical trailer setups tells a lot about each truck's personality. They are all incredibly capable and all three have their own merits, however when it comes to towing ability, the GM twins are the clear leaders for now. The Silverado was very well mannered while towing and exhibited no surprises to the driver, which is really the best possible situation when it comes to towing heavy loads. With a better steering system and the Ford's power output, the Silverado would be an even clearer towing leader, mostly because of the meticulous integration GM has performed on it.