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RECENTLY DRIVEN

Pickup Trio: Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150, RAM 1500

Introduction

The Chevrolet Silverado and its twin, the GMC Sierra are redesigned this year. The Ram was extensively updated in 2013, while the current generation of the market-leading Ford F-150 was introduced in 2009, and saw evolutionary changes in 2011. The APA evaluated crew cabs that feature four full doors, with seating for up to six when equipped with a front bench seat. All the pickups tested featured four-wheel drive for all-weather traction, and a towing package; towing ability is one of the chief reasons buyers chose a pickup. The RAM and the F 150 were powered by V6 engines, normally-aspirated in the RAM and turbocharged in the Ford. The Silverado had GM's new 5.3L V8 under the hood, which features cylinder de-activation to save gas. All the pickups in this trio offer available rearview cameras, which permit surprisingly precise parking and remove most of the guesswork when hooking up a trailer. The APA strongly recommends this feature.

Pickups boast excellent longevity, outlasting cars as a group by two-to-three years. To protect your purchase, the APA recommends you consider extra-cost non-dealer rustproofing for your new pickup. For residents in Central and Eastern Canada, even a casual look at what’s on the road will provide plenty of evidence of older, still serviceable pickups, whose bodies have been ravaged by the combined effects of salt and humidity. With a superior quality corrosion treatment (APA recommends Krown nationally, and Barry’s Rustproofing in Montreal) you’ll keep the body intact, postpone expensive work to replace brake and fuel lines, and repair running boards and electrical circuits -- which become more common after the eighth year in service. As a rule, the APA does not recommend dealer rustproofing as the quality is very uneven.

If you're in the market for a new pickup, this is a segment where the APA buying service really shines. Our recommended dealers have good product knowledge and the potential for savings on a pickup using the APA pricing service and recommended dealer network is substantial. 

Chevrolet Silverado

 

(GM Canada photo)

The Silverado's square-rigged styling makes it easy to place in tight spaces 

General Motors  
Chevrolet Silverado GMC Sierra
Base price range Silverado: $36,010 (1WT) to $53,315 (High Country). Sierra: $36,625 (Base) to $58,890 (Denali)
Engines 4.3L-V6 (285 HP), 5.3L-V8 (355 HP), 6.2L-V8 (403 HP)
Transmission Six-speed automatic
Observed fuel consumption 12.8L/100 km (5.3L-V8)

 

 

(GM Canada photo)

Recess in the Silverado's rear bumper is a step allowing access into the load bed

All-new for 2014, APA's Silverado was a standout. It’s powered by a creamy, responsive 5.3L V8 that is the most economical eight cylinder gasoline engine in this group. It rides very well for a truck with a nicely-sorted standard suspension. Braking is very good but pedal effort is high compared to the other pickups. The conservative, square-rigged styling pays dividends in terms of visibility, as the end of the hood is literally the end of the vehicle, and the square shape makes the vehicle easy to place in tight spaces. Although overall visibility was good, some drivers found the windshield pillars a little too bulky. The lowish windshield header rail makes for a more car-like seating position and ambiance. The interior is comfortable and very quiet. Some of the APA's drivers thought the standard seats were on the soft side. The Silverado’s lower silhouette allows an easy view into the load bed and recesses at the corners of the rear bumper ease access to the bed itself. The giant chrome grille on the some trim variants of the Silverado is gaudy. The GMC Sierra is a somewhat better appointed version of the Silverado, at a higher price point. APA has no reliability info on this all-new model; the previous generation ranged from average to above average. At launch time, rebates were small, but they increased as GM ramped up production. Top-ranked by the APA in this group.   

(GM Canada photo)

The Silverado features a very car-like cabin 


Ford F-150

(Ford Canada photo)

Bold, larger-than-life styling holding up very well

Ford F-150  
Base price range  $41,099 (XLT) to $61,099 (Platinum)
Engines 3.5L-V6 EcoBoost twin turbo (365 HP), 3.7L-V6 (302 HP), 5L-V8 (360 HP), 6.2L-V8 (411 HP)
Transmission Six-speed automatic
Observed fuel consumption

14.5L/100 km (EcoBoost turbo V6)

 

  

(Ford Canada photo)

The F-150's dash centre stack contains conventional climate and audio controls if you want to avoid the Sync touchscreen

The F-150 is the pickup everybody seems to want. It’s the top selling new vehicle in Canada, outpacing the combined sales of GM’s Silverado and Sierra by roughly 30 percent and outselling the RAM nearly two-to-one

Our truck had the potent EcoBoost V6, which is equipped with two turbochargers. It handily out-accelerated the other trucks in timed performance runs and gave the impression of massive reserves of power regardless of engine speed. Hard acceleration was accompanied by sonic verve as the Ford’s turbocharged induction emits an intoxicating wail. Forget about achieving the advertised fuel economy -- consumption is considerably higher than the 5.3L V8 in the GM pickups – we saw 14 to 15L/100 km in mixed driving during our test. The EcoBoost engine accepts regular gasoline, though premium is recommended for maximum performance. With the 5L V8, performance is very respectable and fuel consumption is about the same as the EcoBoost V6. Ford also offers a 3.7L V6 in the F-150, but not in the SuperCrew version.

The interior of APA's primary test vehicle, a loaded Limited model, had throne-like leather seats, and acres of rear seat legroom. The sumptuous leather upholstery co-exists uneasily with the hard plastic dash and door panels that are common across all trim levels of the F-150 model range. Controls are less complicated than on many new Ford cars, and the Sync system is backed up by conventional redundant controls that reduce driver frustration and distraction. The Ford feels less refined and exhibits more “shudder” on rough surfaces than its competitors. Compared to the RAM and the all-new GM pickups, the F-150 is beginning to feel less fresh.

The 20 inch tires standard on the Platinum and the 22 inch wheels which are the sole choice on the LImited will be expensive to replace. You're probably better to avoid the huge 20 inch rims available on most other models of the F-150. The APA found the ride with the smaller 17 inch wheels on the mainstream XLT model was more compliant. Check with the APA for rebates available on this truck, which are fantastic during most of the model year. Reliability of the F-150 has been average to below average overall, and is uneven depending on the model year and power train. There is no long-term data on reliability of the EcoBoost engine, but the base 3.7L V6 and the V8s appear to be surer long-term bets. The F-150 was ranked third overall in this trio, by a small margin.  

 RAM 1500

 

(Chrysler Canada photo)

 The RAM's bulky hood styling makes it difficult to place in tight conditions

RAM 1500  
Base price range  $38,295 (ST) to $55,495 (Laramie Longhorn)
Engines 3.6L-V6 (305 HP), 5.7L-V8 (395 HP)
Transmissions Six-speed automatic (V8s), eight-speed automatic (V6)
Observed fuel consumption 11.8L/100 km (3.6L-V6)

  

(Chrysler Canada photo)

Stylish cabin features logical controls which combines conventional knobs and switches with Fiat-Chrysler's excellent touchscreen. The touchsceen as well as the audio and climate controls are shared across a wide range of Fiat-Chrysler products

Fiat-Chrysler made a lot of noise by making RAM a standalone make, but to the public it's still a “Dodge” Ram, no matter how many advertising dollars Fiat-Chrysler spends on establising the RAM name. The APA's test vehicle was powered by Chrysler’s relatively recent 3.6L “Pentastar” V6 which was mated to a sophisticated new eight-speed automatic transmission. The engine had plenty of power, even when towing the 5000 pound trailer we arranged for the test. It recorded the lowest fuel consumption of the three trucks, between 11 to 12L/100 km, lightly loaded in mixed non-city driving. Our vehicle had the optional air suspension, which provided a limousine quality ride but results in somewhat more vague cornering than with the standard steel springs.

Even modest versions of the RAM are nicely appointed. The cabin is roomy and has the most comfortable standard seats of the trio. Control placement is mostly logical and their operation straightforward, but the rotary-dial transmission selector caused some initial confusion and may be less intuitive in an emergency. The optional air suspension is unproven on the RAM, and similar systems used by other vehicle makers have been unreliable after the fourth or fifth year in service. The RAM is a very solid feeling and refined pickup, ranked just behind the Silverado. As a daily driver, it was preferred to the Silverado by some test team members. RAM has announced a diesel for 2014; it’s the same Italian-built engine used in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which will give RAM a unique offering in the light-duty 1500 pickup class.