With our field assembled, we headed out to the track for instrument testing. This year, our testing took place on the tarmac of the former El Toro Marine Base (www.eltorofield.com) in Orange County, California, where we were assigned an abandoned runway for our acceleration and braking runs.
Performance stood out among our trio of competitors. Whether it was gas or diesel, none of these trucks made less than 397 horsepower or 434 lb-ft of torque.
In the race to 60 mph, the Raptor, with an impressive run of 7.17 seconds, was nearly chased down by the 1,200-pound-heavier Chevy, which posted a remarkable run of 7.23 seconds. The 7,800-pound Super Duty, which was no slouch itself, went to 60 in 8.48 seconds. In the quarter-mile, it was more of the same, with the Raptor crossing the line in a blistering (for a truck on 35s) 15.57 seconds at 90.38 mph and the Chevy close behind with a run of 15.75 seconds at 86.54 mph. The heavier Ford brought up the back of the pack with a run of 16.49 seconds at 82.86 mph. And in case you were wondering just how much of a difference the 6.2L makes in the Raptor, our 5.4L-powerd Raptor in last year's test did the deed in 17.17 seconds at 82.85 mph, with a paltry 0-60 run of 9.47 seconds. It should be noted that our Super Duty came with 3.55:1 gearing, while the Silverado HD had 3.73:1. Try as we might to get similarly optioned trucks, you cannot get equivalent axle gearing in these 3/4-tons.
One area where the American OEMs have made great strides in their products is the braking systems. Once an afterthought on full-size trucks, this crop of vehicles shows that braking is as important as ever, with all of the trucks offering solid pedal feel, good braking feedback, and reasonable braking performances. From 60 mph, the 6,000-pound Raptor had the shortest distance with a stop in 158.56 feet, while the big Chevy and Ford put a stop on forward momentum in 164.68 and 165.83 feet, respectively.
The next test we performed was our Ramp Travel Index. However, this year we were without our 20-degree ramp, so we improvised by using a forklift and a special formula that translates the lift height into a 20-degree ramp equivalent number. The Raptor proved to be the flexiest of the group with a 494 RTI, followed by 361 for the Super Duty and 221 for the IFS-equipped Chevy.
With our lead feet attracted to the floorboards like Brubaker to sleeveless shirts, the Chevy won fuel economy honors, with an overall observed fuel economy of 14.56 mpg, followed by the Super Duty (13.88 mpg) and Raptor (11.25 mpg). The best tank of the test also went to Duramax, with a high of 15.6 mpg.
During the course of the testing, the staff often joked that the Chevy Silverado HD was the most updated truck that no one knows about. The fact is that the Silverado HD has a completely new chassis and powertrain, yet it looks exactly like the old truck, with exterior changes that are so minimal, they are hard to notice even by ardent observers. And if the exterior changes are minimal, the interior changes are nonexistent.
If you were magically plopped into the driver's seat, you would have no idea you were in a completely new truck. And herein lies the problem for the Chevy; with no noticeable interior upgrades, it doesn't feel like a new truck when compared to the outgoing model. Nor, at $55,000, does it feel like a value. While the Super Duty is more expensive, it feels like a much more feature-packed vehicle, especially when you consider all of the technology stuffed into the Ford. With small, crowded buttons, no navigation system on our tester, and interior styling that hasn't aged well, stepping out of the Super Duty and into the Chevy was an exercise in disappointment.
However, once we settled into the still comfortable leather seats and got used to the view past the plastic armadillos growing out of the hood, criticisms were quickly forgotten. If there is one thing that the Silverado excels at, it is putting power to the ground. The Duramax starts with authority, and while the cabin isn't quite as insulated from diesel sounds as the Super Duty, it isn't obtrusive at all.
Pulling away from the stoplight under restraint will challenge the willpower of the most responsible driver. However, letting go and stomping on the throttle results in an unholy amount of power delivery that makes you wonder just how the wheels don't spin around inside the tires. On two-lane roads, the passing power felt unnatural, with gobs of tire-chunking pop available at any speed.