As a freelance auto journalist and PickupTrucks.com contributor, most weeks I have a test vehicle on loan from an automaker. I recently had a new 2019 Ram 1500 and a 2018 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 back-to-back. Though these two half-ton pickup trucks were different model years, they were similar in that they were both four-wheel-drive crew cabs with optional V-8 engines, so I thought they would make for an interesting comparison. In fact, the 2018 was actually "newer" when looking at their build dates and it represents what you can buy today.
Their prices (including destination) — $47,435 for the Chevy and $49,120 for the Ram — were similar despite the trucks being equipped differently (see the chart below). The Chevrolet Silverado was more of an entry-level truck with a blackout appearance package and some towing options, while the Ram 1500 was a well-equipped Big Horn with optional tech gadgets and comfort equipment.
My 46-mile fuel-economy mileage loop from central Chicago to the suburbs consisted of approximately 30 miles of urban interstate, 12 miles of 40-55-mph multilane suburban roads with stoplights, 4 miles of city driving and three separate stops with engine shutdowns. Both trucks were topped off at the start and then refueled after the loop at the same pump at the same gas station. The pump was set on the first (slowest) catch and allowed to shut off automatically. The engines were turned off while waiting for the pump.
Dry weather conditions persisted on both days, with air temperatures varying by five degrees. Traffic conditions were similar, except for the Ram 1500 seeing about 2 miles of stop-and-go traffic on one interstate segment. Windows were closed and climate control was on auto setting at equivalent temperatures.
Even though the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 posted EPA ratings of 1 mpg higher across the board, the Ram 1500 edged it out in real-world testing. Some factors that may have worked in favor of the Ram include its lower weight, its eight-speed transmission, a numerically lower axle ratio and a highway-tread tire. However, it should be noted the Ram 1500 calls for mid-grade fuel with regular being acceptable, while the Chevrolet Silverado takes regular. The Chevrolet registered slightly more distance on its odometer over the drive route. The Silverado's trip computer's average fuel economy was higher than my calculated mpg average; the same was true of the Ram 1500.
The Silverado's higher weight seemed to cancel out the higher gross vehicle weight rating number. The Ram 1500, showing a higher GVWR than we've seen before, edged out the Chevrolet on payload. And the Silverado's tire load rating was lower than the Ram 1500's, too.
Both vehicles exhibited civilized road manners. The Ram 1500's coil-spring rear suspension was more composed over bumps and winter-damaged pavement; the Silverado's lower-aspect-ratio tires probably didn't help there, either. Both were quiet on smooth roads, but I thought the Chevrolet Silverado had more wind noise through the A- and B-pillars.
Overall, I preferred the Ram 1500, mostly based on the options it had. The Silverado struck me as the choice for a business owner who wants a flashy truck that's capable of doing a lot of work. I liked the Ram's interior design better as well, but to be fair, the Ram 1500 has the advantage of next-generation engineering. The fact that the outgoing Chevrolet Silverado 1500 can still be so close in performance is a testament to Chevrolet's engineering expertise — and you can save some money. I look forward to doing a similar comparison with the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 at some point in the future.
Editor's note: The chart below has been updated to correct the numbers transposed for the payload and manufacturer tire load rating categories.
Cars.com photos by Andy Mikonis