That said, it was noted in the off-road portion of our test that of all the trucks, the Tundra has the most play between the box and cab and could use some stiffening up. With the rain pelting (and mosquitoes attacking), we attempted our off-road course in two-wheel drive, First gear with each of the trucks, but in slick mud, we were soon stuck. Still, we noted that the mechanical locker that the Chevy has in its rear differential provided the quickest hook-up before we switched into four-wheel drive. From here, each truck preformed adequately, but the Ford's turning radius once again required that we back up in tight switchbacks; with the other trucks, we didn't need to.
Also on our off-road route, we noted that the Tundra and the F-150 persisted in putting their trailer light connections below the rear bumper. We managed to bend both. We think these belong above, or in, the bumper-as the Dodge and Chevy have them placed.
Our test trailer was a dual-axle, landscape-type trailer with an unladen weight of 2,400 pounds. We loaded two ATVs on it that we had on hand for another test-a Yamaha Kodiak 450 and a 475cc Honda Foreman, and these weighed in at 629 and 639 pounds, respectively. So with the trailer included, we put together a modest tow test weight of 3,668 pounds-respectable for any of these trucks to tow, but far from a real workout. The towing capacity on the new Ford, for instance, has increased to 11,300 pounds, while payload has risen to 3,030 pounds as a direct result of a new frame designed with new high-strength steel (which, despite its increased load-bearing ability, weighs 100 pounds less than the last-generation frame). Our trailer was equipped with "surge brakes," meaning that it didn't require an onboard brake controller-but it's worth noting that while aftermarket units have been the norm for decades, Ford and Chevy now offer integrated controls installed at the factory.
While towing this trailer, once again the power and wheelbase of the Ford and Chevy proved to be the best combinations. The Dodge lacked only in its gearing, where a long Second gear tended to bog a bit on hills while accelerating. While it handled the weight, the Toyota used all its power, and the transmission worked hard to keep pace-an obvious trade-off for the improved fuel economy. On the Chevy hybrid, neither was affected. With its 6.0L Vortec engine, it pulled with strength and confidence, and the electric motors even have enough power on their own to move the truck and trailer from a standing stop on electric power only. As for rear suspension performance, we concluded that our modest load wasn't heavy enough to highlight any significant differences in ride and handling characteristics between the leaf springs found on the Ford, Chevy, and Toyota and the Dodge's coils and links.
As for design, we try to be practical in our evaluations, but we are as swayed as any buyer by a truck's looks. And while there isn't a mutt in the bunch, we have to admit that the current Ram is a very pretty truck, inside and out.