By Cars.com EditorsNovember 10, 2018
About the video
We put five competitors through their paces to find out which is the best half-ton truck for 2018.
We're here just outside Nashville, where we're taking five of the best and newest half ton pickup trucks for our latest competition. The 2018 Best of the Best Half Ton Challenge.
Our competitors for this event, after a week's worth of testing with our three expert judges, are the Chevy Silverado 1500 High Country, The Ford F-150 Lariat, the GMC Sierra 1500 SLT, the Nissan Titan Pro 4X, and the Ram 1500 Limited. And let's head on over to the bunk house and hear what the judges have to say about who won this competition. (bell music) Okay guys, we're all together. All the judges from this most recent half ton challenge, Andy McKonas freelancer for pickup trucks for a long time. Also an owner of a pickup truck and full-size SUVs your whole life. Well yes. Since longer than I care to admit several sized trucks and some body and frame SUVs still. And a freelancer photo journalist for 20 years or so. Excellent that qualifies you. And we've had an amazing time with you here driving these trucks as well. Next to you is Aaron Bragman Detroit Bureau editor for both cars.com and pickuptrucks.com, but knows just about everything there is about everything from luxury, all the way to mid-sized pickup truck. I like to think so yes. We've had a chance to drive all these trucks. It doesn't happen all the time, but we know exactly what the ranking order is. First place, the GMC Sierra 1500. Second place, the Ford F-150. Third place, the new Ram 1500. Fourth place, the Chevy Silverado 1500. And in last place, the Nissan Titan. Any surprises? Aaron, what, what jumps out at you? Well, I'm kind of surprised that the GMC beat out the Ram and the Ram was the judges' subjective favorite. I mean, we scored it the highest out of all these trucks that we tested, we liked it the best, but at the end of the day, when you compare not only what we liked, but all of the empirical numbers, the testing numbers from this truck, how fast it was on the track, the kind of payload that it has, the abilities that it has instead of just how, how it feels and how nice it is. That's really what put the GMC ahead. For an all new truck, that's, that's an impressive result given what, what they've developed. Yeah. The GM trucks have the best brake field, I thought too. Really just right there, not that any other trucks really suffered in that category on average, but that stood out. I gotta say I wasn't impressed with the way the Ram's brakes felt. I mean, I, I agree with you that the GM stuff, the GM trucks, when they were unloaded, the brake field felt great, but when you had something in the bag or you had a trailer behind it, they kind of lost a little bit of their bite. The Ram was always kind of known the entire time. It stopped really firmly. It stopped really well, but a lot of squishiness in the tire. It didn't have the same kind of bite the GM did that I found. I think the tow and I think the grade braking and the transmission felt good. The Ram too, and I thought the stops were pretty undramatic yeah. For towing. Standout feature for me, the transmission on the Ford F-150 it's got multiple different settings, including a sport setting that pipes in some amazing sounds from that throttle. You don't hear it when you're outside the truck, but inside the truck, it sounds like a monster. It sounds like a sport truck and it backs it up with performance as well. I mean, you put that thing in sport mode and it is a genuine, genuinely fun vehicle to drive. I do like the fact that the new Chevy, the Silverados new, all new for 2019, they've now also included and I wish everybody would do it, a setting. So touring mode. Off-road mode. There's an off-road mode. Tow haul mode. And it's all with one easy flick of a wrist with your left hand. It's nice. Although if you don't really know where it is and you just get in and you're looking for the tow haul button somewhere, it took me a minute going through that. I remembered it's in the dial. It's one of the settings. Right well, the one truck had the tow haul on that dial and the other one didn't so, yeah. Yeah and that's a good point to make here between the two GM vehicles. We have the GMC, we have the Chevy, the Chevy was fully outfitted with its high country trim package. The GMC decided to go a different strategy, gave us something with the towing package, so bigger rear axle, better gears for towing, and it ended up proving its worth in a lot of our objective testing. I also say that we have to mention the, there's a fifth truck in this test, the Nissan. Every successive Titan that I drive, it's a little bit better. And this one really, I think is the best yet. What I really like about the Titan is that it still feels like a truck. The other ones have really gravitated towards being smooth and isolated and insulated from, from the outside world. Especially the Ram. The Ram is a luxury car that I'd put on par with a Lincoln or one of the nicest luxury vehicles you can buy in the category. But the Nissan still feels very trucky. It feels very rugged. It feels a little bit bouncy. And the one we had was the pro 4X off-road version. So it's going to feel a little bit more trucky, a little bit more like a big Tonka truck. But I like that. I think that it's a quality that is missing in some of these other vehicles. I felt the same way I felt driving on the, on the road, it had more road feel and feedback. Yeah. And one thing I noticed, it's the one truck with a hydraulic power steering and it was a little numb on center. And maybe think, you know, compared to the trucks with the electric power steering, that system really gives you, it gives engineers a way to tune that feeling a lot better. I mean, once you started turning the old fashioned way, I thought that tightened turn turned into really well. I too was impressed overall with it, but for me, the seats were a real deal breaker. Really? Yeah. I just felt like I was on them instead of in them. And we're pushing up on the back of my thighs and couldn't. Yeah you are sitting up a lot higher in the Titan than you are in the other ones. It feels like you're sitting up higher as well. The subject just interior grade, interior quality interior layout, obviously hugely important. We saw it reflected in the judges points totals. The Ram is the clear leader in a way they know this is the top trim level, but the things that they've done with materials, touch surfaces and, and just beauty, I think puts it so far ahead of everything else. Rams interior was nicer than the last Maserati I drove a couple of weeks ago. I mean, that's not even exaggerating. It was a nicer, better laid out, higher quality, better screwed together, nicer feeling material with leather. That was even better than I saw in that in the Gran Turismo. It's, it's astonishing how well they've done with this. I would, it that this was probably the nicest pickup truck ever made. And we've had a chance to get in and out many, many times over many, many days, you can tell instantly where these manufacturers are putting most of their money to the interior designers or to the chassidy designers or to the power train designers. It's becoming painfully obvious. I think in the GM trucks where they're taking money out. You look at some of the future content that's gone. There's no adjustable pedals. There's no adjustable shoulder belts. Yeah I noticed that too. The largest truck in its category now, I think that's what they said. The biggest cabin in of any pickup. And now you've taken away two features that make it adjustable for a wide range of people. That's, that's costing that's taking costs out of areas where you shouldn't be taking cost out the interior itself. I also have some issues with it's. It's not nice. It's not nearly as nice as the Ram. You look at the top spec Chevy high country. You look at the Ram limited. There is no contest between them. That's an excellent point, but most truck buyers, aren't getting out of one manufacturer and going into another, like, we get a chance to they're getting out of their ten-year-old Chevy and go, holy cow, how great is this? So we do have to understand kind of what an insulated world we get a chance to do here by comparing one truck with another. But that's exactly the information that we have to communicate. Okay, guys, a lot of people who buy pickup trucks use them for towing. Talk to me about what floated to the top with these particular pickup trucks, as we got a chance to tow 6,000 pound trailers. Yeah. Well, my favorite trucks were the GMs. I thought they were, even though some of the numbers were lower on the Chevy that they were pretty equally matched and the towing segment next step down, if I felt the Ram and the Ford were equivalent and interesting to me was that Ford sent a V6 here when everything else is a V8, I've never really put a V6 EcoBoost through its paces before towing. And especially not back to back with some other V8s, but the truck really delivered and DMT fuel mileage was really impressive too. So I don't think it's a truck you'd want to tow day after day, but I could see the appeal for a weekend warrior. And then lastly, the Titan, it really worked hard. It was struggling, but it really, I mean, it did deliver. I thought the Titan did fairly well from my opinion. I think the Pro 4X one that we got was the off-road version. I think that's soaked up a lot of bumps and soaked up a lot of imperfections. Some of the vibration we were getting with some of the other trucks didn't come through with the Nissan. It was, it was stable. It was solid. To your point, Yeah, it did, you know, the engine on that thing did have to struggle a bit harder, but it had fewer gears than any of the others as well. So, I mean, you've got a transmission that doesn't have quite the same level of gear. And plus it didn't have a towing gear like the other ones did as well. I mean, it was geared for a off-road as opposed to towing, but I think it still did very well for what it did. The GM ones were not my favorite ones out of all of them. I didn't like the way they squat. Like if you put any kind of, of load over the, the rear bumper or even in the bed, we noticed a significant amount of squat and the GM trucks that I didn't think was present on the others. The Ram obviously has an air suspension. So it's leveling itself out just fine. That's Ford EcoBoost engine. You're absolutely right. It really is astonishing what they've done with that thing. We had some previous towing experience and the expedition with that engine as well. And the thing just tows all day long with there's nothing behind it. It's really astonishing. It does run out of steam and towards higher RPM. But that mid range turbocharge torque is really impressive. So which ones stood out to you? I think the Ford, I mean there were some mixed bag. I think you're exactly right. Identifying the weaknesses behind a V6 with twin turbos on it sucks a lot of fuel when you put a lot of weight behind it, but those gigantic elephant ear towing mirrors are phenomenal. They extend out four inches. You can even fold them in. If you're trying to get some better track times, that's, that's gotta be a lot of wind resistance that you're pushing, but the air suspension too, in the Ram, I think calmed a lot of irregularities that I saw on the road kept everything very smooth. We had some big Tex trailers, big dump bed trailers with quite a bit of weight in the bed. So everything was towing exactly the same amount of weight. So it was a good comparison for us, but ultimately, I mean, we got a chance to see which ones struggled a little bit. And I think you're exactly right. The Ford was probably the one that stood out the most. But even talking about struggling. None of them really had a problem towing this kind of weight. They all did it without a problem. Most of them did it relatively level. You could tow this kind of level of weight with any of these vehicles without a problem. But that's not the only reason why people buy these trucks, right? Some people just want to know about horsepower. And that's why we've come to Music City Raceway. Eight mile track just outside the city where we've taken our competitors, put them in head-to-head competition on the track empty and at max payload. In first place in our zero to 60 runs empty, the GMC came in first place in 6.46 seconds. In second place the Chevy in 6.49 seconds. In third place the Ford in 6.74 seconds. In fourth place the Ram in 7.41 seconds. And in fifth place the Nissan in 7.63 seconds. Then after calculating max payload for each of our competitors, we filled up the beds and ran them down the track again. This time the Chevy came in first place in zero to 60 with a 7.46 run. In second place the GMC with a 7.49. In third place the Ford with 7.89 seconds. And then in fourth place again, the Ram at 8.04 seconds. And finally the Nissan with an 8.89 second zero to 60. So those are the numbers, but that's only half the story with these vehicles, right? You were behind the wheel for the whole track day. What were your impressions on the trip? The GM trucks were by far and away, the fastest, most responsive, just even trying to get your best acceleration time. I tried brake torquing. I tried switching on traction, traction off the best way to do it for the GM trucks, mash the throttle, just go take your foot off the brake, put on the throttle. And it immediately downshifts. And the responsiveness of it was really quite astonishing at 6.4 seconds to 60 for the GMC, for the winning truck. That's that sports car numbers. That's just astonishing how fast these things are, how quick they are. But everything really, I think did quite well, even loaded and unloaded. Braking is where I think you saw a little bit more of a disparity between them and not in terms of so much of distance, but more of stability. The GM trucks did a whole lot of foreign aft hopping whenever you had a lot of load in the bed. The Nissan had issues with maintaining straight line stability whenever you came to a panic stop before on the ramp or dead solid and repeatable time after time after time, the Rams brake field was not my favorite, I guess I, it's a little squishy in the brake pedal. I really did like the Ford all around in terms of its performance. The GMs have two new 10 speed transmissions sitting behind their six two liter V8s. Also the EcoBoost has a 10 speed transmission designed by Ford and GM as a partnership. So very in fact, identical. Although when you look at them on paper, they don't identify identical numbers. They have different software between the two of them as well. So I mean, you may have some similar mechanical components between the Ford and GM units, but each one has been tuned individually by the different automakers to respond differently and to, to deal with the different powertrain that they have to deal with. All of them behave quite admirably. There wasn't anything that stood out and made me go that didn't, that didn't feel right. When we were towing, I noticed the grade braking feature when it automatically downshifts when you're decelerating, it was very effective on the Ford. And I didn't see that in the GM trucks. Now the GM trucks didn't have a gear indicator, but I started watching the tack to see if I could detect a shift. And I didn't, I don't know if it was the way I was driving it or if that's that's what it was doing. Well, the gear spacing is and all that huge. You got 10 years to play with it and all that. That was a very good point. That drives me crazy that I can't what gear my truck is in the Ram, change that for the nineteens, you can just hit a little button and boom, you can see exactly what gears you're going through. No matter what kind of driving condition your in. As much information as GM does impart to their drivers, it still kind of boggles my mind that that's not one of the pieces of information that they tell you about it. You've got all kinds of gauges, tell you everything from trans tempt oil temp to just about anything. But what gear you are in is something that you cannot be trusted with. Apparently, according to General Motors, It doesn't make any sense to me at all. And we will be spending a lot of money on these trucks. That's true. There's quite a range in pricing on these vehicles. So we have the Ram limited, which is very high level. That's the most expensive, but not crazy, more expensive than the other vehicles that we have here. What's the pricing on the Ram? The Ram was around 67, 68 thousand. Yeah, exactly. And everything else, except for the Nissan was in the $60,000 range. The Nissan was the cheapest at 54,000? Yeah exactly and change. And that's to be expected. I mean, it wasn't equipped the same way as some of these other ones were, but it didn't feel like it wasn't worth that kind of money. The Ram at 68, I thought it didn't didn't feel like it wasn't worth that kind of money either. It definitely felt to me like it was, that was an appropriate price for that. I agree. What I thought was more interesting was where the, the Chevy and the GMC were priced. This is the high country trim level for the Silverado. It was about $65,000. And the GMC was the SLT mid-grade level. Didn't have quite all the bells and whistles. It was only about $2,500 less than the high country. And when you sit in the two of them, there really isn't that much difference in terms of interior quality or leather quality, or even the fake wood trim that is in both of those, you don't really see the fake wood in either one because it's all below your knee level. So I look at this and go, you know, if you can live without a couple of things, like the heads up display and the Chevy, why not go for the, for the mid grade level? It's got a better ride. It's a better value. You get the MultiPro tailgate from the GMC that you don't get with a Chevy. And I think this is partly the reasons that the GMC did better than the Chevy and some of our suppliers. Yeah, I think you're exactly right. That this particular test was different where we didn't have a ceiling that everybody was trying to meet. We basically just made the invitation, send us your best truck. What you think is your best representation for this competition. And the manufacturers each sent a different priced vehicle. The Ford F-150 is a mid-level area. There's still several jumps. You can make up in price on that truck. You can spend a whole lot, you can spend a lot more money than we have here, but, but it did well, but still missing some things that, that may have allowed it to score more points with us. Even at the same price level, I didn't think that the Ford was all that different from the Chevy, even though there are two different trim levels. Again, it was the, the issue of the GM trucks, aren't as nice inside as the others are. And you're still spending the same amount of money that you would for the competitors, so. The GM strategy is interesting because they, I mean, they have the benefit of having two different brands that can deal with, but that high country, top trim level for the Silverado half-ton is just not there. It just, I mean, we want it to be better. Yeah. Especially because we're getting in and out of different vehicles that are better. I can already hear the commentors screaming at us. So we need to address this issue. Judges scores, we pick the Ram to be the winner from our subjective testing, our opinions about how these vehicles compare. However, it played out very differently in the objective tests that we do. I think we had 15 or 16 different objective tests where we do track testing and fuel economy and payload. So how do we, how do we discuss it? How do we explain that Andy, you want to go first? Well, I mean, the numbers don't lie. The dyno testing was a big thing. I'm surprised how low it came out, the track times. A lot of it has to do with the powertrains. They've got a 6.2 liter in the GM trucks that is just more powerful. It has a lot better acceleration. It makes it a very different truck than Ram does. The Ram felt wonderful. I mean, if it was my money on the line here, I'd be in Ram just because it felt like an amazing vehicle, especially for the money at the end of the day, you have to also figure in a couple of other factors, like how well does it tell them what are the, what are the acceleration of the braking numbers and how do those factor into the overall testing? You know, if, if they'd sent us around with a 6.4 liter SRT engine, that would have been great. I mean, there's room for it. And I think we've shown in, in this, you know, head-to-head test that, If you could put a more powerful engine in there, it would make a difference. It's not an accident that we separate our tests. We've done it before, separated between subjective, where we get judges impressions to let our readers know what we think, because we're not normal. We get to drive new vehicles all the time and we've had a chance to get in and out of every one of these vehicles like crazy. But we also want to deliver objective information that we collect at the track from data points that we pulled out from the manufacturer engineering data numbers. And we want that balance, that objective and subjective information, providing the reader so that they can make their own best choice. We don't weight any of our categories. If we thought track tests were more important than we could absolutely weight that data, but we let the readers do that. And we let them know exactly what our impressions are gonna be. So thank you both for all your time and effort and your observations. I think we're going to make a lot of readers happy and many of them very pissed off. We'll have to see. So for more details about this story, go to pickuptrucks.com.