Canadian Truck King Challenge: The Big League

kingchallenge1Heavy-duty models battle for top spot in Canada.

London, Ontario – The GMC Sierra 3500 has been named the winner of the 2015 Canadian Truck King Challenge for heavy-duty pickups, followed by the Ram 3500 and Ford F350.

The event was founded in 2008 by auto writer and truck expert Howard Elmer, who found that most truck awards were handed out after the judges had only driven the vehicles empty. Truck King’s judges do that as well for short distances, but then the contenders must also carry a heavy load and pull a large trailer. This award is all about work in the real world.

The new lineups of light-duty trucks would come to market too late for this year’s event, so the 2015 Challenge focused on heavy-duty trucks. The judges will get together again shortly to similarly test compact and full-size work vans, a first for the event which, up until now, has always been solely about pickups.

Ram Heavy Duty (Photos: Jil Mcintosh)

Ram Heavy Duty (Photos: Jil Mcintosh)

Towing and hauling

The three trucks hauled 4,000 pounds of shingles on the first day of the two-day event, and then were hooked to fifth-wheel RV trailers for the second day. The event even included a few hours at Grand Bend Motorplex, where they were tested for acceleration. You certainly draw a crowd when you’re running trucks and trailers down the drag strip! The judges noted that while the GMC’s torque rating was the lowest of the three, it consistently defeated the other two in the quarter-mile.

All of the trucks were one-ton 4x4s in Crew Cab configuration and with diesel engines and six-speed automatic transmissions. The GMC Denali uses a 6.6-litre making 397 horsepower and 765 lb.-ft. of torque; the Ram carries a 6.7-litre making 385 horsepower and 850 lb.-ft. of torque; and the Ford’s engine is a 6.7-litre making 440 horsepower and 860 lb.-ft. of torque. The GMC and Ram had 3.73 rear axle ratios, while the Ford was 3.55. The event was intended for all to be dual-wheel, but the manufacturer entered the Ford with single rear wheels (which, the judges noted, still resulted in good towing stability and performance when compared to its dual-wheel competitors).

The trucks were judged on engine and transmission performance, steering and handling, ride and brake feel, how they performed when loaded or towing, and on such things as cabin comfort and roominess, visibility, appearance, and features. There was a difference of $6,581 between the as-tested prices from the most to least expensive truck, primarily in the trim levels, and the final scores were calculated with a price factor difference to account for it.

Out of a possible 100 points, the GMC finished at 79.89, while the Ram received 75.16, and the Ford was at 74.26 (all with the price factor calculated in).

Ford Super Duty

Ford Super Duty

Fairly equal footing

The score differences were relatively small, reflecting the fact that all three companies make good trucks that are on fairly equal footing. All three scored high for their engines, but the judges especially liked the GMC’s combination of Duramax engine and Allison transmission, as well as its seamless integration with the exhaust brake and cruise control.

The judges noted differences between the trucks that weren’t necessarily make-or-break, but could be considerations depending on what the buyer needs the truck to do. For example, some found the Ram’s steering weight to be too heavy when the truck was empty, but that translated into a more confident feel when the trailer was attached. Conversely, some felt that the GMC’s light-and-nimble steering could turn a bit twitchy with the weight. The GMC was the quietest of the three, while the Ford let in the most engine and road noise.

And the winner is... GMC.

And the winner is… GMC.

Details make the difference

The GMC’s simple bumper step for box access was preferable to the Ford’s more complicated tailgate-mounted step, but both were better than trying to crawl into the Ram, which has no assist system. The Ram also had the most driveline intrusion into the front passenger foot well, making it a tight fit for those with large boots; Ford had the edge with its roomier compartment. The judges liked the Ram’s flip-up towing mirrors for their simplicity, but most thought the Ford’s mirrors provided the best visibility.

Towing expert Andy Thomson, co-owner of Can-Am RV Centre which supplied the trailers, felt that all three trucks were too tall for an optimum fifth-wheel hookup, due to the current fashion for very large trucks.

The bottom line is that buyers need the best truck for the job, but awards such as these, and the corresponding data gleaned from the testing, can help fleet owners when they’re considering their next purchases. For more information on the event, visit

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