Big 3 Pickup Truck Comparison Test: Which Bang for your Buck?

If you're seeking a work truck or plush 'air-hauler' our Big 3 Truck Comparison Test will answer your questions

Our Big 3 truck comparison test shows one thing very clearly: for today’s truck buyers, there’s not a bad seat in the house.

The days of being a “Chevy Guy” or a “Ford Fella” or a “Dodge Dude” are behind us now, because it’s really hard to find a bad truck between Ford, Chevrolet, and Ram. In fact, it’s becoming exceedingly difficult to find any vehicle that is as good in an all-around sense as the latest batch of American pickups.

That said, all three automakers have updated their flagship pickup trucks within the last two model years, which makes picking a winner even harder. We recently tested all three trucks in a wide variety of weather conditions and road surfaces to bring you our highs and lows from the 2019 class of American trucks.

2019 Ram 1500

Journalists and critics have heaped praise onto the new 1500 and after a week-long drive it’s easy to see why: The Ram is easily the most advanced new truck on the market with an interior that defies logic for what is essentially intended to be a working vehicle. Our Ram 1500 Limited came with a sticker price in the low-$60,000 range and felt like a bargain, even at that price.

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At the top end of the lineup, the Limited is an exercise in tasteful chrome application, with generous amounts of the shiny stuff covering the bumpers and accenting the grille. Even so, the truck isn’t gaudy and pulls off its upscale vibe without a hitch. Other trim levels and special editions switch up exterior bits with body-colored bumpers and blacked-out trim, most of which work well with Ram’s new bodywork.

The Ram’s interior, oh… the interior, is a spectacle to behold – at least in higher trims like the Laramie Longhorn and Limited. Our test truck came standard with a 12-inch touchscreen infotainment unit running FCA’s always-excellent uConnect 3 system. It’s a screen so large and sharp that the first 15 minutes of our time with the Ram were spent pressing buttons – not driving. Both rows of seats are covered in some of the nicest leather we’ve seen in any vehicle, let alone a truck. With the optional panoramic sunroof and plenty of sound insulation on board, it’s hard to imagine a nicer place to be.

The new eTorque mild hybrid system in our truck bumps the fuel economy from last year’s numbers (on paper) by a couple of miles per gallon across the board. It’s a nifty trick for a truck and comes standard with the base V6 engine, optional with the 5.7-liter Hemi. Hybrid or not, the roar of a Hemi V8 is exhilarating and belies the plush nature of the new Ram.

High Points:

  • “Grown-up” new exterior design
  • Exciting powertrain choices
  • Unbelievable interior finishes and quality
  • Excellent infotainment and technology features

The Rest:

  • Not as fuel efficient as a mild hybrid should be
  • Feels bigger in daily driving than it is

2019 Ford F-150

From the driver’s seat of the King Ranch during our Big 3 truck comparison test, it was hard to believe that there are two trim levels above it in the F-150 range – three if you count the Raptor (always count the Raptor). While the Ford is the “oldest” truck in our tests, last fully updated in 2018 (the horror!), most buyers will be hard pressed to find complaints. Our King Ranch came with a sticker price of around $66,000, which brought with it an optional 3.0-liter Powerstroke Diesel V6, heated/cooled/massaging (that’s right) front seats, navigation, a trailer tow package, and an excellent Bang & Olufsen sound system. If we’re nitpicking, the F-150’s interior and tech are the most dated of the three, but it’s not lacking anything in the way of comfort and convenience features compared to the competition.

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Buyers can configure the Ford with five different powertrain options, seven trims, three cabs, two beds, and… it goes on. At the bottom end of the lineup, the XL and XLT models handle basic work truck duty, with plastic bumpers and no-frills interior trim. At the other end of the lineup, the Platinum and Limited trims are nothing short of opulent, equipped with power-folding running boards and posh leather upholstery. Our King Ranch was a Goldilocks “just-right” compromise of the two extremes and will more than please buyers seeking a hearty truck with generous creature comforts.

The 3.0-liter Powerstroke is easily the most refined diesel powertrain we’ve ever tested in a pickup and blends into the daily driving experience without a hiccup. In fact, there’s little indication that you’re driving a diesel truck from inside the F-150 because the sound insulation so is good that only a hint of turbo whine creeps into the cabin. I was secretly hoping for a beefier sound, but Ford has saved that pleasure for its SuperDuty trucks.

High Points:

  • There’s a trim and engine for every buyer
  • Handles and drives like a much smaller vehicle
  • Ultra-comfortable seats and plush interior finishes

The Rest:

  • Dated (though capable) technology features
  • Extremely pricey higher trims

2019 Chevrolet Silverado

Updated for 2019 with a new grille, better fuel economy, and a host of under-the-skin improvements, the Silverado is keeping up with the competition. Change doesn’t sit well with everyone, and the Silverado’s new look is no exception, drawing more than its fair share of controversy over the new grille design. Rounded wheel arches take the place of the outgoing model’s boxy design, giving the whole truck a more “put-together” feel that matches its price tag, especially in higher trims.

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The Silverado is offered in eight trim levels if you include Custom Trail Boss and LT Trail Boss as two trims and not subsets of the Custom and LT trim levels. To further complicate the issue, the Z71 off-road equipment package is available on all models.

On the road, our mid-level 4×4 test truck was stiff but composed, and the 5.3-liter V8 more than handled its acceleration duties. The engine features Dynamic Fuel Management (DFM) and Stop/Start to help save fuel. DFM, which deactivates unneeded cylinders during operation, functions silently in the background with no indication of what’s happening under the hood. And the stop-start is much less obtrusive than other systems we’ve experienced.

The Chevy’s interior betrays its roots as a commercial vehicle. While very nice at the High Country trim level, it’s not as elevated an experience as the higher trims of the other trucks – especially the Ram. That said, the leathers are soft, seats are comfortable for longer drives, and visibility is great. Like the other trucks, the Silverado’s sound deadening and engine tuning does more than expected to mute both road noise and the potential roar from the truck’s V8.

The Silverado offers the most cargo volume in every bed length, with the short-box offering 63 cubic feet of volume, up to 20 percent more than competitors’ short-box versions. Most of that space was created by increasing the maximum width of the bed floor nearly seven inches. The bed can accommodate a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood flat on the cargo floor. The Silverado also offers storage bins that fit over the wheel wells, offering nearly seven cubic feet of lockable cargo space.

View our pictorial review of the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado

While some will appreciate the luxury touches in the High Country, we think the LT Trail Boss, a rugged and capable off-road version of the truck that competes with Ford’s Raptor and the Ram Rebel is worth looking at. Though not as plush as the High Country, it is our pick for value, fun, and capability in the extensive Silverado lineup.

High Points:

  • Strong powertrain choices
  • Straightforward infotainment operation
  • Biggest cargo bed

The Rest:

  • Up-level interiors don’t match the best from Ram
  • Diesel version not ready yet

Where you land on the buying spectrum will depend on what you need to do with your truck. After we completed our Big 3 truck comparison driving these three back to back, it’s clearer than ever that there is no such thing as a “bad” domestic truck in 2019 – only different strokes. It’s also clear that the trend of ultra-expensive, super-plush luxury trucks is growing faster than ever before. Thankfully, the work truck still exists for doing things like… work, and even the most basic model benefits from trickle-down features that grace the high-end models.

Considering a 2018 Pickup? Take a Look at Our Pickup Truck Buyers’ Guide

 



About Chris Teague 21 Articles
Chris Teague covers a variety of automotive topics from new car reviews to industry trends. With a background in business and finance, Chris’ writing is aimed at helping consumers make informed choices about what they drive and growing an understanding of the companies that make those vehicles. Contact Chris at chris@teaguecontent.com