Which Premium Truck Performs Best as a Daily Driver?


Living with a half-ton luxury pickup truck isn't terribly difficult. These premium rigs can cost $60,000 to $80,000 and come with amenities that — until recently — only foreign luxury-brand flagship sedans have provided. But what happens when you go a size bigger on the pickup spectrum? Upgrading from a half-ton to a three-quarter-ton truck means a beefier suspension, more weight, a bigger engine, a larger body, different steering; they're entirely different than their light-duty cousins.

They also don't get a lot of media attention; most comparison tests involve light-duty half tons or the ultimate heavy-duty one tons. But the HD diesel monsters we tested in our 2017 3/4-Ton Premium Truck Challenge are a good stop in between. They're for people who need more capability than half tons can deliver but who still want a relatively easy-to-use vehicle that won't make the daily commute a chore.

Since all four of the lux trucks in our Challenge featured optional diesel engines, we put them through a mileage test to see how efficient they are. Fun fact: HD pickups are not rated by the EPA, and manufacturers generally don't report their efficiency since they're heavy enough to be considered commercial trucks. But fuel economy is important for any buyer — commercial or consumer — so our testing should help determine who is more efficient.

Fuel-Economy Analysis

We took these pickups on two loops of 111 miles in mixed urban and highway driving in the Phoenix area; they were empty for one loop and towed a 10,000-pound gooseneck trailer for the second loop.

The winner of the fuel-economy test for the empty loop was the 2017 Nissan Titan XD Platinum Reserve, which is not surprising given that its turbo-diesel 5.0-liter V-8 Cummins was the smallest, least powerful engine of the field. It got 19.3 mpg, beating the 2017 Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn and its massive turbo-diesel 6.7-liter inline-six-cylinder Cummins by a fraction; it registered 19.2 mpg. Third place went to the 2017 Ford Super Duty F-250 King Ranch and its turbo-diesel 6.7-liter V-8 Power Stroke at 18.3 mpg, while the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 LTZ Midnight Edition and its turbo-diesel 6.6-liter V-8 Duramax finished last at 18.2 mpg.

Hook the trucks to a 10,000-pound gooseneck trailer filled with bags of construction sand and the order changes. When towing a big load, the Ram was the top performer at 13.1 mpg, followed by the Ford and Chevy in a veritable tie at 12.1 and 12.0 mpg, respectively. The Nissan trailed the rest at 11.5 mpg due its smaller engine, which had to work much harder than the others.

As Daily Drivers

As daily drivers, these four luxo trucks were far more pleasant and tolerable than their base-model brethren tested in our 2017 3/4-Ton Work Truck Challenge. That's to be expected for trucks that cost twice what the entry models go for. They still ride stiffer than light-duty trucks, and their sheer size can make parking them an adventure in urban environments. They all feature massive turning circles, and visibility can be a bit compromised by the sheer amount of sheet metal surrounding you, but they all come with aids such as parking sensors and cameras to help alleviate those stresses.

It's when you put them to work that you start to see the real differences emerge. Towing the 10,000-pound trailer opened our eyes to how differently they behave, with the Nissan singled out for how unhappy it was towing that much weight. The engine struggled, but the transmission was truly the weakest link in the Nissan's powertrain. It had such severe driveline slap on deceleration and foot-off-the-throttle liftoff when accelerating that none of our judges thought it was going to last the life of the truck if it was used mainly as a towing rig. The other trucks were more impressive, with the Ford getting the most praise for its smoothness and ability to make work tasks look easy. photos by Angela Conners

| | Towing | Daily Driving | Dynamometer Testing |

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Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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