2017 Chevy HD vs. Ford Super Duty vs. Ram HD: Gold Hitch Awards Towing Review

2017 Chevy HD v. Ford Super Duty v. Ram HD: Ike Gauntlet

The 2017 HD contenders are: 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD, 2017 Ford F-350 Super Duty, and the 2017 Ram 3500 HD. Which heavy duty truck is the best towing machine in the land? This is precisely the reason we run the Ike Gauntlet extreme towing test and the Gold Hitch awards. We load the trucks up with a heavy trailer (22,800 lbs in this case), and run them down and up the toughest highway we call the Ike Gauntlet. This is an 8-mile stretch of interstate I-70 with a 7% grade, 60 MPH speed limit, and a maximum elevation of 11,158 feet above sea level. Truck’s braking systems, engines, and transmission are put to the ultimate test in this review.

Ike Gauntlet: Downhill

The trucks must be safe and practical on the way down. This is a test of a truck’s stopping and load handling abilities. The ability to stop a heavy load on the way down is more important than pulling it up the mountain. Truck’s transmission and brakes are put to the ultimate test here.

The measurement is simple. The trucks must maintain a safe and practical speed at or below the 60 MPH on the way down. Going westbound on I-70, we exit the tunnel at 50 MPH. The trucks are set in Tow/Haul mode and exhaust brakes enabled (if so equipped).

The point is to remove the driver’s skill from the test. The driver is not shifting the transmission manually. (Note: all of the trucks we have tested over the last several years were equipped with an automatic transmission.) The driver allowed the truck to accelerate naturally down the hill. If the truck and trailer go over the speed limit of 60 MPH, the driver applies the brake firmly (not slamming on it) in order to bring the truck down to 50 MPH. If required, the brake application procedure is repeated until the eight miles of downhill are completed. Some trucks require one or a few brake applications. These are the trucks that have especially smart “grade shifting” algorithms in their transmissions, and all systems, including the brakes, work at their best. Some truck require ten or more brake applications. These systems require more work. The goal is to have the least number of brake applications as to overheat and wear them out. There are two runaway truck ramps on this stretch of I-70 that serve as a constant reminder of the downhill danger. We monitor transmission and engine temperatures on all runs. Some transmissions can heat up as they work hard on the way down.

Ike Gauntlet: The Way Up

Truck’s engine and transmission will be stressed to the maximum gaining more than 2,000 feet of elevation over just eight miles. The maximum grade of the climb is 7%. The engine will be starving for oxygen and struggling to make power at the 11,158 ft finish line. The test is to use maximum throttle input on the way up in order to maintain the 60 MPH speed limit (or the maximum speed the truck is able to maintain). The driver makes best effort to not go over the 60 MPH speed limit. This is a serious test for the driver as very slow moving semi trucks and other vehicles are obstacles to maintaining momentum and staying at or near 60 MPH.

We reset each truck’s trip computer at the start of the test. We time each run up the mountain and record the trip MPG as reported by the trip computer.

At the end, each truck is scored on a scale of 100 points. The truck has a maximum score of 25 points for the downhill section. The truck loses one point for each brake application on the way down. The benchmark time up the hill is 8 minutes. Every 5 seconds over the benchmark time subtracts a point from the truck’s overall score. The truck cannot gain points for going under 8 minutes. The benchmark MPG number is 6.0 MPG. Every 0.2 MPG below that, and the truck loses a point. The truck can gain points for doing better than 6.0 MPG.

The Ike Gauntlet test is extreme and may seem unreasonable for some. It is a challenge that many truck owners and truckers/transporters must deal with on a regular basis. If a truck does well towing on the Ike Gauntlet, you know you have a solid towing machine, no matter where you live.

2017 Heavy Duty Trucks:

Towing a 22,800 lbs gooseneck trailer.

Year Make Model Up (Time) Up (MPG)  Subjective (Avg) Ike Score
2017 Chevy Silverado 3500 Crew 4×4 6.6L 10:16.99 2.8 21.5 52.5*
2017 Ram 3500 Crew 4×4 6.7L 10:28.86 2.9 20 49*
2017 Ford F-350 Crew 4×4 6.7L 10:31.88 2.6 17.5 44.5*

* all final scores are adjusted 12 pts lower than stated in the video, due to an error in original calculation.

Here are the 2016 and 2015 Ike Gauntlet towing results.

Here is the video with all of the details.