SAN FRANCISCO, November 22, 2016 — When it comes to the half-ton truck market, Ford dominates in sales with its F-150 but there have been some worthy challengers – and we’re looking at two of them in this review.
Dodge has done a brilliant marketing job with its RAM line of pickups and has made tremendous strides with its brand-recognition as being one of the “toughest’ trucks available. Its aesthetics are very appealing – both modern and masculine body lines abound and its current line-up of available engines are quite noteworthy.
One the other hand, we’ve also seen Toyota step-up to the plate in regards to revamping its Tundra into a more viable option for full-size pickup owners. While it has enjoyed a long-lasting fan base of off-roaders for its small trucks in the 70s and 80s for their reliability, it hasn’t seem to garner the eyes of the viable “work truck” when compared to its domestic counterparts.
RAM: Our test model was powered by the 5.7-Liter V8 Hemi – Dodge also offers its 3.6- liter Pentastar V6 and 3.0-Liter Ecodiesel as well. While the V8 churns out 395-horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque, we see little advantage to it when compared to the Ecodiesel that has 240-horsepower with a whopping 420 lb-ft of torque.
Since most truck duties are more torque-sensitive, it makes sense – in our opinion – to snag the diesel. You get a bit more torque and have better fuel economy at 29 mpg (highway) compared to only 22 mpg with the V8.
Power is funneled into a 8-speed automatic transmission.
TUNDRA: There are only two available engines for the Crewmax line of Tundra. A 4.6 liter V8 and a 5.7 liter V8. There’s no diesel or V6 option here. Our test model had the 5.7 in it with 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. Additionally, the Tundra has lower fuel economy at 13 around town and 17 on the highway when compared to the RAM.
Advantage: RAM – more power, better fuel economy.
RAM: The current line-up of RAM trucks is the culmination of a design language that started well over a decade ago and has slowly been refined to the point of arguably being one of the best-looking full-size trucks on the road. While looks are purely subjective, it’s hard to ignore the masculine lines of the body, front fascia and tailgate area of the RAM.
Its standard 20-inch wheels are available in chrome and really do a fantastic job of giving the truck a more sporty look.
TUNDRA: The Tundra is a great-looking truck as well, with its “wide-mouth” grill and nice body lines, it does come across as being a bit softer around the edges. There are hints of masculine here but not clearly as evident as the current RAM design language.
Like the RAM, the Tundra Crewmax sits on 20-inch wheels with a six-spoke design.
Advantage: Too subjective to call.
RAM: There’s no question that the interior look and feel of the RAM Longhorn is a bit upscale and Dodge has done a great job of giving it a nice combination of sport, comfort and utility. If there’s one glaring oddity in the whole design it’s how flatly-centered the infotainment screen is. It’s not at all angled towards the driver which means whenever you reach or look over at it – it just feels awkward – as if it’s more effort than it needs to be. Had Dodge tilted it ever-so-slightly towards the driver, it’d be more comfortable to both use and read.
The current version of Uconnect is the best it’s ever been, supporting a good deal of popular apps, however, it can still use improvement – namely in the reaction time between pressing buttons. Additionally, the navigation maps still look antiquated compared to Google Earth. The standard, six-speaker audio system is decent but you should really consider the Alpine audio with the subwoofer for a more immersive and better-sounding audio experience.
Its standard cloth seats (in the Platinum trim) are comfortable, supportive and there’s plenty of leg-room for everyone. Dodge tosses in enough DC power ports to keep every passenger charged-up.
TUNDRA: For starters, leather trimmed seats are standard, along with a 12-way adjustable driver’s seat. And while the infotainment screen has a straight positioning in the dash like the RAM, the fact that it’s slightly tilted back a bit makes using it feel more natural.
Front seating is very comfortable and like the RAM, provide great support in all the right areas as well. The standard leather does have a more upscale look and feel to it, however.
Toyota’s partnership with JBL audio certainly pays off with a great-sounding audio system that provides great low-end bass response, clear mids and crisp highs that culminate into a rich experience.
We found the touch-screen to be very responsive with little lag between pressing “buttons” on its menu. While the mapping system does look antiquated compared to Google Earth, it is intuitive and the screen is easy to read.
Cargo capacity: What use would a pickup be if it couldn’t haul much? Thankfully, both of these trucks are rated at a half-ton which can help make short-work of hauling things around.
Toyota rates the 5.7-liter configuration up to 10,000lbs of towing and up to 1530lbs of cargo capacity.
On the other hand, the RAM, with the 5.7-liter, is rated at 10,650lbs of towing and 1690lbs of cargo capacity.
Overall winner: RAM
Other than the key interior issues we outlined, the RAM Big Horn 1500 Crewcab beat-out the Tundra in what we consider to be key areas of pickup ownership. Power, fuel economy, hauling capacity and towing capacity as well.
Both of these trucks are worth checking out if you’re looking for a half-ton pickup – each have a solid built quality to them and – for most folks – will get most hauling jobs done that you’ll ever need while providing a comfortable ride for four adults at the same time.