All three U.S. heavy-duty pickup makers have new trucks on the market this year, and competition for sales in the segment has never been tougher.
The new models appeared together for the first time at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show. Ford lifted the veil on its refreshed 2020 Super Duty, and General Motors introduced its redesigned Chevrolet Silverado HD. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brought its new Ram HD, which had debuted a few weeks earlier in Detroit.
Trucks.com examined key features and dimensions that will factor into buying decisions when these powerful pickups hit dealer lots. Based purely on specification analysis and observation, here are the highlights.
Ford only lightly updated the exterior design of its Super Duty. The new look smooths out the front fascia and is immediately recognizable as belonging to the brand. The new Ram HD is a more dramatic style, having ditched the brand’s familiar crosshair grille for a gaping air intake and large center badge. The hood is almost wavy compared with those of competitors, lending the truck a muscular and aerodynamic presence. Chevrolet made an interesting decision to adopt swooping vertical headlights and a flat, wide grille that makes the truck look brick-like in person. The bowtie on the High Country trim adds a classic touch, but the enormous stamped “Chevrolet” on other models does not flatter.
All three trucks come with a push-button start and classic column-mounted transmission shifters. Climbing into the Chevy and Ram is easy, especially using running boards. The Ford, however, requires a slightly awkward entry angle that requires ducking low and grabbing the A-pillar handles. Interior materials on the higher Silverado and Super Duty trims are pleasing but durable. The Ram interior, especially on higher trims, is extremely high-quality, with an incredible level of detail and finish throughout.
The Silverado and Super Duty feature typical center-mounted touch screens with knobs that can be operated with work gloves. The Ram has that too, but top trims have a stunning 12-inch touchscreen available with SiriusXM 360L. These pricey models aren’t likely to see many construction sites but introduce a level of technology not seen before in heavy-duty trucks. The Ram also leads in device charging with up to three USB ports, two USB-C ports and a 115-volt charger in the front. The Chevy is available with two USB, two USB-C, one 115-volt and one 12-volt plug. Top Ford trims have one of each.
Ram also has optional adaptive cruise control. It’s a useful safety feature, but large radar sensors attached to the windshield clog forward visibility. The Ford has ACC too, which takes up less space. It’s also got a swooping side window design providing excellent visibility that is immediately noticeable. And its Trailer Backup Assist knob is a feature the other two trucks do not share.
BED AND GATE
The light-duty pickup segment has seen fascinating innovations such as GMC’s MultiPro and Ram’s MultiFuncton Tailgate. Heavy-duty trucks remain more traditional. But some key features set the three models apart.
As trucks have grown, so have the beds. The tailgate of the Ford and Chevrolet at their highest point rise to nearly collarbone level of a 6-foot-tall person. The Ram is about 2 inches lower, making it easy to reach inside the bed. Reaching over the side of the bed, the same-sized person could place their fingers nearly flat on the floor of the Ram bed while barely grazing the floor of the Ford and Chevy.
Chevrolet has an easy solution to address the problem: huge steps. The 2020 Silverado HD has enlarged rear-corner bumper steps and a new, integrated step on the side of the box, just behind the cabin. The step fits two feet in work boots and holds up to 500 pounds. The Super Duty has a pull-out step that extends from the gate when lowered but adds extra weight. Caution also is advised because the extended step leaves a gap of exposed metal at shin level. Ram has optional running boards that provide access to the front of the bed and an available step that pulls down from the back corner of the bumper. Neither is as intuitive as the integrated Chevy step.
The Chevrolet also has the most tie-downs in its bed. The 12 fixed ties – six on each side – are far more than its competitors. And there are nine accessory tie-downs. The Ford has two fixed ties and two rotating plastic ties on each side. The Ram has two fixed ties on each side.
Top trims on the Silverado also the easiest power gate to operate. Owners can lower the gate using a one-touch button. Some Silverado HD trims offer a power-raise gate as well. The Ford and Ram offer one-touch power lowering but no power raise feature.
The added visibility from side mirrors is extremely important on a heavy-duty truck potentially towing many tons. Chevrolet and Ford stick to a similar script with big standard side mirrors that sit vertically on top of smaller, concave wide-view mirrors. Both offer a power-extending and -retracting feature with buttons that are well within reach. The Silverado side mirrors also have small rearward-facing spot lamps that illuminate in the dark for better visibility.
Ram took a different approach. Its large mirror is set on the inside of the housing, while the concave mirror is mounted on the outside edge. It is also fixed, meaning the mirror can’t extend to new positions for better visibility in certain circumstances. (However, it can fold to fit in tight parking spaces.)
Having enough space is critical in a heavy-duty truck. Whether a construction crew needs to stash tools or an outdoor adventurer wants to hide valuables, every cubic inch counts.
Ram came to play this game. The 2020 Ram HD borrows the highly configurable center console that debuted on its smaller Ram 1500 sibling. It offers huge volume and a center tray that can slide fore and aft to fit different-sized items. Crew cab versions offer in-floor bins hidden under the rear mats. The extended MegaCab has fold-flat rear seats with standard storage bins in the space behind. Ram’s optional RamBox system with lockable storage is built into the box sides. Inside the large space are lights and a 115-volt plug on the driver’s side.
Ford and Chevrolet don’t hold a candle in comparison. Both have decent center console space, dedicated areas for smartphones and small trays on top of the dash. The Super Duty has dual cupholders with an extension that adds two more. There are small storage spaces throughout the inner door, and the space under the rear seats is slightly modular. Chevrolet has an available wireless charging station and the largest dash tray in the group. But its rear under-seat storage is only configurable with the Rear Seat Storage package. There are small hidden storage spaces inside the rear seat backrests, but they are slim, oddly shaped and do not lock. Locking bins inside the bed, similar to the RamBox, carry over from their introduction on the light-duty Silverado 1500. It’s a welcome layer of available functionality, but Ram’s storage capacity is superior by comparison.