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Detroit News - 4X4 Face Off


Full Member
May 11, 2002
Royal Oak, Michigan
An interesting story off the GM intranet.
4x4 Crew Cabs Face Off

Personal preference tips balance in sizing up trucks
The Detroit News

July 17, 2002

By Anita & Paul Lienert / Special to The Detroit News

DETROIT -- Jay Verlinden stood in the parking lot of Pointe Dodge on Detroit's east side, studying a row of imposing-looking Ram trucks. Earlier in the day, he had stopped at Stu Evans Lincoln-Mercury in Garden City on the first leg of his shopping trip to take a peek at the Lincoln Blackwood pickup.

The 58-year-old Grosse Pointe Park retiree was on a mission: Find the perfect American-built full-size pickup truck.

"I used to drive Cadillacs," Verlinden explained. "But now, it's only trucks. For me, it's a convenient vehicle. I have two places up north, and I tow boats. I've owned several Dodges, and I'm guessing I'll end up with a Dodge truck unless a GM or Ford strikes me."

Our shopping paths had crossed that balmy summer evening. Verlinden looked over our shoulders as we studied our clipboard with notes comparing the most popular domestic pickups, which account for nearly two million sales a year.

We've driven a variety of big trucks from each of the Big Three, in a number of configurations. Our mission last week was not to buy a truck, but to give consumers like Verlinden some advice as they shopped in this highly competitive category. We comparison-shopped at local dealers, weighing features and sticker prices.

We homed in on three popularly equipped 2002 models, priced in the $32,000-$34,000 range. They are the 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 SLT 4X4 Quad Cab, the Ford F-150 XLT 4X4 Super Crew and the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LS 4X4 Extended Cab.

Our first surprising revelation: Detroit automakers are cashing in handsomely on the continuing craze for big trucks. The typical full-size pickup on Detroit-area dealers' lots is lavishly equipped and starts at around $27,000. If you want four-wheel drive, a V-8 engine and an extended cab with four doors -- the most popular configuration among truck buyers -- plan on spending at least $30,000, before discounts and incentives.

In comparing the Ford, Dodge, and GM trucks, parameters such as power and payload are easily quantified, with clear-cut winners in each case. More subjective are such issues as styling and value -- and that's where personal preference often tips the balance.


No doubt the macho favorite here is the Dodge Ram, according to our rearview-mirror test. When you see that gaping grille looming up behind you, it's hard not to get sweaty palms. The Ram is definitely the most intimidating domestic pickup on the road. But all that testosterone may not be suitable for some buyers. The more traditionally styled Silverado, with its rather boxy lines and a classic chrome grille, may be the right choice if you are conservative and hope to keep your truck for many years. Silverado won't go out of style any time soon.

And there's a good reason why Ford in 2001 sold a record 911,000 F-150 pickups. The truck's rounded flanks and flowing lines give it a contemporary, fashionable look that is a crowd pleaser with both men and women.


In measuring the performance of truck engines, size doesn't always matter. Consider that the Ram we shopped came with a massive 5.9-liter V-8 engine. But it only delivered 245 horsepower, and returned a dismal 11 miles per gallon in city driving.

In comparison, the 5.4-liter V-8 in the F-150 provided 260 horsepower, yet is rated at 14 miles per gallon in city driving.

The Silverado, with an even smaller 4.8-liter V-8, blew away its two crosstown competitors, with an output of 270 horsepower, and tied the F-150 with a city mileage rating of 14. However, the Silverado engine ranks well below those of the Ram and the F-150 in terms of torque, which affects the truck's towing capacity.

All three pickups were equipped with four-speed automatic transmissions.

Payload and Towing

All of these trucks can handle big chores.

The 4.8-liter Silverado 4x4 is the weakling -- relatively speaking -- with a towing capacity of 5000 pounds and a payload rating of 1480 pounds.

If hauling a boat or trailer is critical, you might want to opt for the 5.4-liter F-150 4x4, with a payload rating of 1715 pounds and a towing capacity of 7700 pounds. The 5.9-liter Ram 4x4, equipped with the optional 3.92 axle and 20-inch wheels and tires, falls in the middle of the pack with a towing capacity of 7000 pounds, and has a payload rating of 1390 pounds.


If you haven't shopped for a new truck in awhile, be prepared for a kinder, gentler world inside the cabin. All of the trucks we shopped were equipped like luxury cars. The surprising exception: None came with leather upholstery or side air bags.

But all have standard four-wheel disc brakes with antilock (rear ABS only on the Ram). All came with the usual amenities, including power windows, power mirrors and power locks, plus air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering column, plus premium audio systems with CD player or changer as part of their optional equipment packages.

All three trucks were fitted with optional wheels and tires -- a major consideration in the purchase equation, consumers tell us.

The Ram, with the $1,610 Sport Appearance Group, came with massive Goodyear Wrangler HP tires mounted on 20-inch cast-aluminum wheels. The big tires fill in the wheel wells nicely on the Ram and give it a more finished look, but you give up payload and towing capacity.

The F-150, with the $965 FX4 Offroad Package, was shod with smaller Goodyear Wrangler RT/S tires on 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels. The Silverado came with even smaller Firestone Wilderness AT tires (a $365 option) on 16-inch cast-aluminum wheels (part of a $685 offroad package).

Among the other notable features, our test Ram and the F-150 came with overhead consoles (the Silverado has a center console between its bucket seats) and sliding rear windows. The F-150 added a six-disc CD changer.

Anyone shopping these trucks must take into consideration number of doors. All three trucks come with four doors, but the Silverado Extended Cab has the narrower and less-convenient clamshell-type doors that are hinged at the rear and can only be opened or closed when the front doors are open.

(Only the Silverado heavy-duty models can be ordered with a full four-door crew cab.)

The Ram Quad Cab and F-150 Super Crew were equipped with four full doors, which gave each the convenience of a sedan, but with a much greater leap required up into the seats.

Value Equation/Conclusion

What Jay Verlinden is looking for -- the perfect American truck -- probably doesn't exist. Each of the vehicles we shopped comes with compromises.

While the plain-Jane Silverado, with its 270-horsepower V-8, seemed like the true workhorse of the bunch, it fell short in towing capacity, and lacks a distinctive personality. The Chevy's 16-inch wheels and tires looked puny next to the Dodge, with its oversize 20-inch rubber.

The Ram's looks captured the American truck spirit the best, but it came in last in terms of horsepower and merely average in terms of payload and towing capacity.

The Great Compromise -- the F-150 -- looks like the winner by default under the circumstances.

Unless, of course, you're a Dodge or Chevy loyalist.

This comparison seemed to be too uneven and unfair for the Silverado. It had to have been by far the smallest truck. At least it should have had the 5.3 liter engine and the Z71. That or like midlifecrisis said, they should have just put in the AV and won hands down, especially because they had the Ford Super Crew in the comparison. ;)
I agree, what were they thinking ???
The silverado they choose was about as close to base as you can get. They choose the best in the Dodge and Ford truck lines :7:. An Av, Silverado HD, or even a Silverado Z71 would have been on the same level, and would have blown them away by comparing features and performance!
I do not like the idea of someone telling me what looks good in the style category....I am my own judge!!!!

I actually do not like the look of the New Dodge with those big wheels and huge bug sucking grill....but your opinions may vary. >:D
One can definitely assume the comparisons were done to achieve a desired outcome. To compare apples to apples, why not include the Silverado 1500HD Crew Cab instead of the extended cab version. The 1500HD is not the same HD as the 2500/3500 HDs as the article seems to imply. It is a 1/2 ton crew cab justlkike the Ford and Dodge. It has the 6.0 Liter pumping out 300 hp and 360 lb-ft torque as we all know. But that would have been an UNBIASED comparison not yielding the obviously planned outcome.