Comparing the car-show trucks

We took the opportunity to compare the major American pickups at the New York Auto Show. These are, by far, the market leaders, accounting for nearly all full-size pickups sold in North America.

Ford F-150

The aluminum-bodied Ford F-150, longtime sales champion, has a clean but conservative design. Of the three we tested, it was easiest to get into and out of.

The analog instrumentation was clear and conventional, with a tachometer, speedometer, and other gauges. The back seat was a good size.

ford F150 dash

The F-150 has the most engine choices, with a standard 2.7 liter V6, optional 3.3 and 3.5 liter V6 engines, five-liter V8, and a three-liter diesel option. The top transmission is a ten-speed. Thanks to the aluminum body, the Ford has a higher payload than the Chevy and Ram.

This was the most “pickup-truck-like” pickup we looked at.

Chevrolet Silverado

The 2019 Silverado keeps its somewhat boxy design, which gives it a  substantive, impressive appearance on the outside. Oddly, though, GM had the 2018s out on display, so that’s what we looked at.

2019 chevy pickup

The plain dash is functional, with good analog instrumentation, similar in layout to the Ford. The Chevy on display seemed to have the smallest-feeling rear seat of those we saw. There are Chevrolets with larger cabs, and Ram only had their biggest cabs on display, so this small sample might be misleading.

This was the only pickup with a standard V8 (5.3 liters); buyers could opt for a smaller 3.4 liter V6, or a bigger 6.2 liter V8. A diesel engine is coming, but while the design has apparently been finalized, the factory hasn’t been set up yet, so it’ll take a while. Chevrolet also has a ten-speed automatic.

The 2019 GMC Sierra was also just released; this is essentially the same pickup under the skin.

Dodge Ram 1500

The 2019 Ram 1500 has a bold but clean design; the special “Kentucky Derby” edition on display was nicely done. The interior is very comfortable, with a large rear seat (rear-seat comfort was rather different in the low-end and high-end models).

2019 ram pickup

Inside, having the temperature gauge nested in the tachometer caused the tachometer’s “0” position to be at 10:00; and the rotary knob gear selector, the only one in the group, may take some getting used to.

(Editor’s addition:) The rotary shifter does feel “mechanical,” with clear detents and wide spaces between the gears; it doesn’t rotate freely, stopping at Park on one end and Drive on the other. Paddle shifters handle low gears.

The 2019 Ram’s engine choices are the most limited. The earliest trucks only have a Hemi V8 option; following those, buyers can pick a 3.6 liter V6 with mild-hybrid setup, a Hemi V8, or a Hemi V8 with mild hybrid. The hybrids were engineered to boost launch power and keep acceleration going during shifts; early testers said the trucks were more responsive, making the base V6 a better option for most buyers.

Ram is waiting for the next-generation 3-liter diesel to be finished before that option will be ready; the company said it would be ready by year’s end, but that’s not entirely under its control. The 2018 diesel models are still shipping to dealers.

2019 ram frame

All Ram 1500s have eight-speed automatics this year. They are essentially similar to the ten-speeds sold by GM and Ford; the most important thing is the gear range, which is about the same for both eight and ten speed designs. The GM and Ford transmissions are a joint venture, while Ram buys some from ZF and builds some modified versions of the same design.

Conclusion

All three manufacturers make capable trucks that can be outfitted to meet each customer’s specific wants and needs through packages and options. The Ford has a little more variety, with options such as a Diesel engine (planned for Ram and Chevy, but not available right now — unless you get a leftover 2018 Ram. It’s ironic that Ram was first with diesels by years, but doesn’t have one now).  Ram and Chevrolet do have special editions, like the Kentucky Derby variant and Chevrolet’s Centennial Edition — celebrating its 100th year.

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