Weekly Roundup: Let’s Pick A Truck Edition

As dreams go, it’s not exactly a big one, but it was mine: Our 2017 Silverado was about sixteen months away from being paid off, so I’d planned to buy myself a Genesis G90 this summer while I could still get a new one with a V8. There’s a new G90 coming, and I’m sure it will be very nice, but it won’t have the five-liter. If I wanted a V-6 luxury car, I’d do the decent thing and find one of the 3,453 1982 Eldorados built with the Buick 4.1-liter, of course.

That dream came to a rather abrupt end when a six-point buck stepped out from behind a McDonald’s (I kid you not) and collected my Silverado in a manner that the insurance company deemed a total loss. End of truck. In theory I could replace it with another 2017-era truck, pay it off in a hurry, and still be in my G90 before my fifty-first birthday — but that’s a false economy, because I’d likely be buying someone else’s trouble and I have zero tolerance for problems while towing the race cars.

So it’s time to buy another truck and leave the Korean luxury-sedan game to my brother, who is in possession of a G80 and and a G70. Oh well. Bark was always the lucky kid in the family. After looking at my racing plans for the next few years, I’ve realized that I probably to swap my aluminum single-car open hauler and enclosed Radical trailer for a single big box that will carry both cars at a total rolling weight of around nine thousand pounds. While it’s possible for the stronger half-tons to pull such a rig, it’s smarter and easier to do with a diesel three-quarter-ton.

Which one?

There are really only three players in the market: the F-250, the Silverado 2500, and the Ram 2500. The Sierra Denali HD is basically a Silverado High Country with different door cards and seat leather. If you equip them about the same, the Ford is usually the most expensive, the Chevy is cheapest, and the Ram is somewhere in the middle. These are the four configurations I came up with. All of them have the same approximate spec, which represents an uneasy detente between your long-time luxury-sedan-owning author and his Southwest-born pickup-driving spouse:

  • 3/4 ton truck with 8 foot bed or the Mega Cab with a 6’4″ bed
  • Diesel with the numerically lowest limited-slip rear diff available
  • Maximum possible sound system
  • No sunroof
  • Bedliner
  • Non-black interior where possible
  • No extra “safety” or “active assist” junk
  • Fixed running boards where possible

From most expensive to cheapest:

F-250 Platinum

Ford is very much the upscale player in the truck market. This isn’t the top-end Limited trim, because the blue-and-white leather interior isn’t compatible with doing actual racetrack and/or farm work. (Farm work? Hold that thought, I’ll have more to say about that after the new year.)

Pros: Lightest and fastest 3/4 ton truck, the recognized market leader, made in Kentucky, I know some very good people at Ford.
Cons: Aluminum body not easy to repair, my wife dislikes Fords, not available in plain white, and the current “Power Stroke” is an in-house Ford product, not a Navistar commercial diesel.

Ram Limited Longhorn

This is Ram’s second-place trim, behind the Limited, but the Longhorn has gold interior filigree trim, basically the equivalent of the Medici Velour in a Fleetwood Talisman, so how can I resist? It’s also the MegaCab. I wish we could get a larger cab in all of the trucks, since on most weekends we could use a little extra storage space out of the weather.

Pros: Arguably the most reliable drivetrain, extra interior space, nicest sound system, massive LCD screen, most comfortable ride, Yellowstone vibe
Cons: The 2022 Heavy Duty Rams were supposed to be made in Michigan, but right now they are still being put together in Saltillo, MX. Also, everybody knows that the Ram is the least reliable American truck, even if it’s perhaps no longer true.

GMC Denali HD

The people who drive these things are always so unpleasant, aren’t they? It’s the poser’s truck of choice. You never see one pulling anything. But for just a couple grand over a Silverado High Country you get a nicer interior and, if history is any guide, higher resale value.

Pros: Probably the easiest truck to operate, it’s most like a car or a half-ton, inspires a gnawing envy in the average Midwestern adult man, made in Fort Wayne.
Cons: Unpleasant image, doesn’t have the revised and much improved interior of the 2022 GM half-tons.

Chevrolet High Country

This one is the absolute expressed preference of Mrs. Baruth, and she’d also like it to be Summit White. The looks are certainly an acquired taste.

Pros: Good for my marriage. Most sensible running boards and bumper steps. Almost invisible to police, because it looks like a $35,000 cheapie work truck.

Cons: Looks like a $35,000 cheapie work truck. Worst interior. Inspires absolutely no envy from any neighbors. The only time it appears in Yellowstone is as the truck of the candy-ass llama farmer who gets beaten up and stuffed under a cattle guard.

Those are the choices. All of them are supply-constrained at the moment, but I don’t need a truck until March and I have a few calls I can make. No doubt some of my readers will have ideas beyond the above, so I’ve attempted to address them below:

Dude, just buy a used truck. Have you priced a used truck lately? CarMax is asking $69,995 for Ram BigHorn diesels with 15,000 miles, aka over retail price.

No, I mean a real used truck, something that’s 20 years old. Race weekends are hard enough without wondering if your truck is going to give you trouble, and even a 20-year-old diesel truck is worth real money.

You don’t need all that equipment, get a Chevy LT or a Ford XLT. It saves ten grand. Tops. So you’re still making payments on a $70,000 truck, but you’re sitting on mouse fur and listening to a four-speaker stereo system.

You can tow 9,000 pounds with a half-ton. You can, and I’ve done it, but our Silverado 6.2 ate its first torque converter at the 49,000-mile mark and was showing signs of being hungry for another one.

Nobody needs a diesel truck, an enclosed trailer, or four different race cars. As the kids say, GFY back to Twitter.

You could probably tow your Radical with a Genesis G90 and let your wife fend for herself. This is a brilliant idea, and one I have all the time!

Anyway, I’d appreciate any first-hand experience, second-hand experience, or random opinions in the comments. As I sit around thinking about these enormous stinking pickups, I’m reminded of something I read in a guitar book a while ago: “You get into guitars so you can meet chicks, but you end up talking to other middle-aged men about your fingernails.” Similarly, I got into wheel-to-wheel racing so I could put my foot on the neck of other competitors at instant-death speeds, but I’ve ended up obsessing over E-Z-up tents, “pit bikes”, and trailer-camera systems.

The problem is that there is a vast difference — a vast! difference — between doing trackdays in a street car, even a very nice street car, and running heads-up for real in a sprint race against other talented and committed drivers. If you could sit in my Radical for ten laps of Mid-Ohio, you’d never waste another moment thinking about the Cayman GT4RS or Corvette Z06 or any of the other megabuck cars-and-coffee superstars. Even my Neon is a truer, purer pleasure to drive than the various two-ton track rats you can buy in a showroom. So although the cost of my total race rig would buy a very nice Porsche GT3 or something like that, I’d rather be truck shoppin’. It will end up costing me a small dream, but it will allow me to pursue a big one.

* * *

For Hagerty this week, I:

134 Replies to “Weekly Roundup: Let’s Pick A Truck Edition”

  1. Don Curton

    Have you considered gas engines? For a 9000 lb trailer, that’s a do-able option. Depending on how often you tow, the minor gains in fuel mileage still won’t pay for the $10k diesel option. From what I understand, the 7.3 Ford is a beast. And several people have mentioned that the Dodge engine is more than enough if the payload is less than 10k lbs.

    I’m looking too, for RV towing. And like you, I’m looking at a little less than 10k lbs but definitely interested in the gas option due to the much much higher diesel cost. I just can’t see the diesel paying for itself for 8 to 10 towing trips per year. My preference is for the Ram, but other considerations will have my continuing to tow with my 1/2 ton for several more years.

    Reply
    • Eric Bryant

      Gas motors are OK for occasional towing – like for the dude that rents a dump trailer once a year to do some landscaping. If this thing will be used every couple of weeks to tow 9000 lbs over long distances (and particularly if those distances cover mountains), then a diesel is a no-brainer despite the up-front cost and the potential for jaw-dropping repair costs. And even though a bad tank of fuel might require $5k in repairs and sneezing the turbo guts through the intake tract might be 3-4x as costly, the used market still places a steep premium on diesel performance – maybe not the full $10k sticker price of the option, but still a significant percentage of it past the 200,000-mile mark.

      Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I started this search determined to get a 7.3 Ford, but the killer here is range.

      In my personal experience, you can’t beat 8 miles per gallon towing with a 3/4 gas truck. If you have a 30 gallon tank that means a refill every 200 miles. Four fillups between here and Watkins Glen, in each direction!

      If I didn’t think we’d tow anywhere besides the tracks of our SCCA region, I’d get the Godzilla Ford and never think twice.

      Reply
      • jack4x

        Jack, remember that long bed Ford and Ram trucks come with 48 and 50 gallon fuel tanks respectively.

        I tow a car on an open trailer with a 2019 Ford 6.2 gasser with 4.30 rear gears and get 9-10 mpg. No problem getting 400 miles to a tank.

        I’ve had bad enough luck with modern diesels, even supposedly very reliable ones, that I never considered a Powerstroke for a second when I ordered my truck. The $10K saved was just cake.

        Reply
          • jack4x

            I expect so. I’ve only test driven a 7.3 truck empty, but it did feel noticeably more powerful than mine.

            The 7.3 + 10 speed can probably maintain the same towing performance as my 6.2 + 6 speed truck while equipped with numerically lower gears, making the fuel economy a wash at worst.

            If you’re against a black interior, consider a King Ranch as well. You can get them with a chrome delete package that is actually pretty understated on the outside, while being just as nice as a Platinum inside. You can also get plain white paint.

      • jc

        No matter what you do, you don’t want to tow 9klbs with a half ton. I’ve done it before and I’ll probably do it again but they’re just not happy. It’s like when my gf who’s high school cost more than my college met my buddies from the farm I used to work at. Nobody’s having a good time in those scenarios.

        Anecdotes != data, but my boss loves his 7.3 gasser. But his is a dually with 4.10 gears cause he moves heavy farm things on the reg.

        Reply
    • Ark-med

      The 7.3 “Godzilla” is a punchy, sonorous engine that’s let down by Ford’s terribly clunky transmission software execution. That transmission roughness observation is backed up by friends who own an F250 7.3 and an F150 Powerboost — and decried by me, while driving my 10sp Mustang GT. Our family truckster is 3.0 turbodiesel Tahoe with that codeveloped 10 speed: its smoothness _and_ responsiveness is exemplary.

      Reply
    • Mike

      Second on the gasser. I swore off diesels after ownership of a 7.3 Powerstroke- the diesel that Teh Internat told me was “The One To Get”. Although many of the issues with it could have been the result of the prior owner’s incompetence, I spent more on maintenance of the thing over my 3 years with it than I did actually buying it. I have spoken with other owners of Ford diesels that have had similar ownership experiences. A buddy of mine has a 6.2 that had to have the cab removed for a turbo job.

      I recently bought a used truck. 6.0 gas, Chevy, work truck trim, 160k on the odometer and 12 years old. Just did it’s first round trip race weekend towing ~5k of trailer and car and returning 11 mpg in the process. And not screaming at 4k RPM like that Titan you just reviewed. The 6L90 has enough cogs to keep the mill in its happy place.

      One last thing about diesels. Modern emissions requirements have added a ton of complexity to oi burners and from my experience in the off road diesel world the manufacturers are still very much working through the kinks. Think of it as circa 1981 in the gas engine world. Compared to the pre-emissions diesels, the modern ones suck more fuel, have more frequent (and more costly) maintenance, require DEF (more $, more headaches), and some states are now requiring emissions testing of them, so that loophole is quickly vanishing.

      A base, work truck grade GMC 3/4 ton is about $60k out the door new. And available in white.

      Reply
  2. Fat Baby Driver

    Be the change you want to see – get the Denali and do actual truck things with it. Maybe others will follow suit. Let the kid at the soil place hit it with the loader again if you need some street cred.

    Reply
  3. Kerry Enns

    another vote for gas vs. diesel

    mostly retired and considering ways to escape the great white north for the cold, white months has us looking at RV’s

    we have some experience as my dad had an RV dealership in the ’70’s so I have teenage memories of the 1,000 mile drive to Amish county in Indiana to p/u as many motorhomes and trailers as a family of 3 teenage boys could drive with mom and little sister driving sweep in the 454 Suburban (we got a little old convoy or was that county roads, take me home…) and being the bosses kid meant occasionally being put in a suit to sell ’em when we got home

    unfortunately, Covid supply lines notwithstanding, RV’s are still mostly built like garden sheds so a truck and pull behind trailer seems to be a better choice than a motorhome and a pull behind toad logic being that I have less $ tied up in RV vs. truck – which can be parted out and sold separately as truck holds value better than RV and are undoubtably better built

    so we’re looking at trucks too

    I’d prefer to drive a half ton when unencumbered but the trailers we’re looking at are 5-6k dry and 8-10k loaded which seems to be on the bubble for half tons schlepping 5,000 miles return

    our son is a commercial contractor so we have a small fleet of truck experience, mostly Chev/GM and Ford

    we usually have at least one diesel in the group to pull the heavier loads and without exception, the diesel always cost considerably more to run (net of sale) than the gas over a 5 year window

    based on that experience, the best combination to me seems to be whatever trim level you prefer in the biggest gas engine offered in the 3/4 ton class of pickups

    Reply
    • Nick D

      FWIW, I know the fleet manager for my town of about 300,000 and operator of the largest water/sewer utility in the state. They’ve switched to all gas 3/4 and 1-ton trucks, with the exception of diesels in dump trucks used for winter plowing. Claims they’ve saved tons over diesel on raw fuel as well as lower maintenance. It’s a mostly Chevy town given a major GM plant nearby.

      Has Jack considered an Express with the new 6.6L gasser V8? Rated for 10k trailer and fully enclosed storage, though the interior is, shall we say, slightly dated along with the entire platform.

      Reply
      • Jack Baruth Post author

        Towing with a van is one of those things that you can tolerate if you’re young or if you have no plans to spend a couple of hours cornering at up to 2g in between tows…

        Reply
  4. E. Bryant

    Loved the Hellcat obit.

    There was a time when I bled Bowties, but my eight-lug fleet currently consists of Ford products. I like solid front axles on HD vehicles, and I appreciated the fact that Ford used a bespoke body up until the previous generation. Obviously the latter is no longer a factor and the former is probably a disadvantage for highway trailer towing. Given the apparent superiority of the Duramax (in real-life situations, rather than in paper), I think that swings the calculus towards one of the GMs. And then I hear the rattling idle of a Cummins and momentarily forget all the good reasons to not buy a product from the Dutch company formed from the merger of French and Italian companies with a bit of American detritus thrown in to actually make money. (And before I’m accused of irrational bias, I owned a 300C SRT8 that was nearly flawless over 110,000 miles, but I also know better than to automatically expect the same from anything else with a sibling nameplate.)

    Keep in mind that the above advice is offered by someone who owns a van with a 6.0 Power Stroke, which should pretty much negate anything I’ve ever said about automobiles.

    Reply
      • CitationMan

        How about a Lexus LS460 instead of the G90? I’m looking to use one as an Interstate cruiser, and there’s a seemingly endless supply with low miles out there, and there’s the long wheelbase model, too. I’m just waiting for an economic downturn, as their prices haven’t dropped enough for a cheapskate like me.

        Reply
        • Jack Baruth Post author

          I don’t fit well in the LS460, which is odd because I was fine in the first two Lexus LS models.

          I’ll have a new LS500 for the week starting Monday; as I recall, the car feels a little narrow/insubstantial compared to the G90.

          Reply
          • CitationMan

            Well I’ll have to drive the G90 I guess, I do like it’s presence. The Lexus appeals to me with the V8, big trunk, and 22 gallon gas tank, but admittedly, it looks like a big Camry.

          • Tom Klockau

            I liked the LS until the most recent version, saw one in the porte cochere of the Hyatt and thought it looked like a long wheelbase Altima.

  5. stingray65

    How about a Prevost Conversion Bus? Well preserved units seem to be available for the same sort of money as your pickups, but you can literally live in them and they will tow a trailer with little problem, and commercial grade everything means deer and miles do little resale ruining damage. Downsides is they are 40 feet long and get 5 to 8 mpg.

    Reply
  6. TRUCKTOBER

    I’m all in for GMC or Chev. A 2500HD with a diesel engine is the truck of choice around here. There’d be many more but the local dealer can’t get any and he’s the largest truck dealer in a 800 mile radius. I could write a book on this but I’m currently driving the twin of your late 1500 and recommended it to you on TTAC but in SLE trim. If I needed a HD truck for pulling, I wouldn’t be satisfied with anything but a GM HD Duramax. I prefer the High Country styling over a Denali, but in my eyes they are the same truck. And what an upgrade the current body style is over previous generations. There’s no comparison to handling, power and comfort.

    Yes, a gas engine can tow. It sucks. There’s no comparison. The diesel will never pay for itself in dollars but the returns in comfort are undeniable. Give me a base model diesel before a a high end gas. With the diesel you’ll be cruising at 90 mph and wondering if you actually put the cars in the trailer.

    I like the look of the Ford. Don’t like their interior design or the engine. Ram might be a nice truck. Buddy of mine had 8k miles on his and the fuel pump quit. Waited 10 weeks for parts. Maybe they fixed their front ends from the previous generation, I don’t know. The guys I know that owned them seemed to be working on them an awful lot.

    Currently waiting to trade a ’19 Denali 2500 on a ’21 for about what was paid. Waiting since spring. One finally on its way but not the right color. Another buddy traded an ’18 for a ’21 and got 3k more on trade than what he paid new. Total cost to upgrade was 10k for a truck with 3.5 years and 50k miles.

    As for the GM interior, It looks like the HD might not get it until 2024. If that’s the case, trade it in at that time. You probably won’t be out much.

    Reply
  7. Trucky McTruckface

    The obvious answer is to get the Chevy because that’s what your truck-driving wife wants. Besides, you clearly really liked your old Silverado, so it’d be hard to go wrong with a newer, beefier, Duramax-powered version of it. And if your wife doesn’t like Fords, that should probably be your last choice.

    For what it’s worth, the looks of the Chevy have really grown on me, while the Ram Mega Cab looks like a ridiculous aftermarket hack job. Yeah, the Ram has the nicer interior, but it’s also still stuck using the last-generation cab; that would bother me more than missing out on the GM trucks’ interior updates.

    On the other hand, GM is supposedly cutting an increasing number of features from the trucks for ’22 (including heated seats) due to the continued chip shortage nonsense. Haven’t heard anything about Ford or Ram.

    Reply
  8. JDW

    As discussed, it might behoove you to conceal your flyover tendencies by purchasing a Rivian!

    Failing that, the RAM product is the most antisocial of the selection and would look swell with a TEXAS EDITION badge.

    Reply
  9. Gene B

    Many buy these for work or their businesses and take the full write off with Section 179 depreciation. This is not a work truck for you, so I would go with the one that fits a family lifestyle better, that means the RAM. I couldn’t pass up the sweet interior, and the cheap plastics in the other trucks would annoy me over time.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      We rented a 2021 Bighorn diesel last month… she despised it. To be fair it was a zero option truck that already showed evidence of hard use inside.

      Reply
  10. Matthew H

    From the Book of the Road: “He that toweth many a mile or on the reg shall come to the virtues of compression ignition.”
    It’s gotta be the Ram, because you want the Brougham, bro-ham. You are spending too much bread not to get the butter, ya dig?
    I’ve lived with a 3500 dually for 7 years and roughly 70k with mucho tow miles pulling a large horse trailer. The engine is thing of beauty. Only issue has been the headinit going down (it’s a RAM thang, baby) and recent weeping from the water pump, which is a $60 part. So stuff that useless anecdote in your pipe.

    Reply
  11. Man Irriman

    Borrow and abuse a friends truck? Nothing better than a friend with a truck, or a boat! I know a guy with a cheap 6.0 that has an upgraded sound system he almost never drives he’d probably let someone use in a pinch.

    Reply
  12. Keith

    I’m envious of hellcat engineers not having any program plan. The prospect of making a design review or gateway PowerPoint presentation every week until I’m 60 is too much to bear.

    Reply
  13. dejal

    The GM. Do they still tout the brand as “Professional Grade”? They wouldn’t lie. You’ll be seen as a amateur in anything else. They’ll park you and trailer over by the swamp if you don’t show up in the GM.

    Reply
  14. Keith

    Between the Ford and the Ram, Ford all day, it also got 1mpg better towing mileage for me. Maybe there was an axle gear ratio difference there.

    I haven’t towed heavy with a duramax, but I liked them a lot in a couple gmt800s I’ve driven.

    Towing around 10k with gassers always netted me 6mpg. Absolutely maddening on the 1200 miles trips I was taking between Florida and the Midwest.

    The F350 Drw with 36 gallons and 9mpg towed like a dream.

    But if you pressed me, I’d be rolling with the Denali duramax/Allison.

    In high school my buddy would sometimes tow his mini sprint enclosed trailer to the races behind a GMT800 SWB Yukon Denali. It incited extreme amounts of derision from the locals. As asshole rich kids we absolutely loved it.

    Reply
  15. Mark

    You have first place correct above. Ford 3/4 ton Diesel. Ford makes the best trucks. The other 2 choices are probably okay. If you want a car like truck from the greatest car manufacturer get the GMC Diesel. Maybe me and my mechanic have a dated opinion of Dodges, but I still don’t see them as a viable choice above the half ton trim.

    Reply
  16. NoID

    I’m extremely biased, but regarding reliability (if you believe JD Power, which is a whole other topic) the RAM has had two excellent years. And as someone who’s spent a lot of time in the Longhorn trim Mega Cabs you will absolutely come to cherish that extra space in the cab, be it for passengers or cargo (or both, simultaneously).

    I also have it on, ahem, good authority, that significant changes were made in 2019 to address some of the reliability/quality concerns of the last generation (especially in the powertrain and driveline), and that the warranty rate improvement has been very positive.

    Yeah, it’s built in Mexico. All I can say is that those people gotta eat too, and a strong economy down there helps the immigration situation up here (and if any company has shown a commitment lately to building products in the USA, it’s FCASTLABCDEFG).

    Reply
  17. Binksman

    I have had this discussion twice in the last year, so it comes back quickly. The results of those discussions were helping a friend into a half ton Chevy with the 3.0 Duramax and my brother into a 2500 Ram.

    The Ford is fine when you have a fleet manager and garage at your disposal. They can be reliable with the Pope’s level of religious regular maintenance. Jack puts a lot of miles on vehicles so you are going to see the service department a few times the first year.

    The Dodge is fine also especially with the available air bag suspension. Pay for the trim up front. My brother got the Tradesman because it was cheaper and has spent the difference in the aftermarket making it what he could have got from the beginning.

    The Chevy will also work fine, except the front end WILL need work by the end of your first year- with towing and especially with the type winter you get in OH (mix of everything, salted road, patches of ice and slush with lots of transitions from wheel slip to traction).

    None of them get the mileage the internet advertises, or even the dealers, particularly not at the highway speeds Jack mentions in his stories. All that said, go to at drive and see which is most comfortable, which drives best, which package has the best turning radius, which the wife actually likes best and then go for what you like best. With depreciation, in a year you can sell what you had and be out, what, a grand? That’s a good price for driving a truck for a year.

    Reply
    • JMcG

      My company has a garage and dedicated mechanics for its fleet. We use Fords from F-150s up to F-550s. It’s a utility company, so lots of miles in all kinds of weather.
      My truck is an F550 with the 6.7 Power Stroke. I’ve had it from new, it’s never been abused. I never tow, but the truck weighs around 19,500. The turbo failed at 60k. That seems to be not exactly unusual from what I’ve seen. It failed quietly, wouldn’t boost above halfway and ate oil. I drove it to the shop on advice of the shop manager and I was 8 quarts low out of 14 when I got there.
      I’m a definite Ford guy, I love my F150s and Mustang, but I’d be circumspect about paying that kind of money for a truck I’d be using hard. I wouldn’t even look at the Dodge, to be honest.

      Reply
  18. Gene White

    Having spent the better part of 43 years as the prisoner of an overactive mind that never misses an opportunity to think a decision to death, I feel right at home with this dilemma. I’ve also lived versions of it, albeit in a Catholic guilt-ridden self-imposed fiscal realm.

    Most recently I went from hauling my various decrepit hot rods, Miatas, Subarus et al. with half-ton gassers. A dalliance with a 2500 Dodge Hemi taught me lessons of many types, and then got swapped for a 7.3 Powerstroke turbo, with a few unexpected enhancements.

    Do I need this much truck? Of course not, not in the biblical sense. But it feels wonderful somewhere near my sternum, and the range per tank indeed seals the deal.

    When it’s all said and done, my useless advice would be white Chevy, poverty spec, and all the Lucky Charms the supermarkets of greater Powell can provide.

    Reply
  19. 98horn

    All the go-faster powerboat people I know drive f250/350 diesels. I have an F150 xlt, which I love despite its agricultural nature.

    Reply
  20. Ryan

    Finally, something I can speak (semi-intelligently on).

    You covered most of your bases here. The new Powerstrokes can be a maintenance nightmare. I worked for my uncle who had a F-450 and a wedge picking up lease returns in the Detroit area. The thing was in the shop constantly. To my knowledge, the aftermarket has yet to remedy these issues.

    I loved my 7.3 PSD and it knocked out excellent mileage with the ZF6 (manual). The used market agrees with me on this, and that’s why I bought a new Silverado for the price of a 20 year old diesel with 150,000 miles.

    If you’re just looking for a tow pig, there are still deals to be had on 6.0 Fords. Most of the main issues are an easy fix these days. After that, they’re heads and shoulders above the beloved 7.3.

    Best of luck with the new stuff, all three (four) brands seem to have some sort of compromise. I don’t know what the stock situation is, but my future brother-in-law waited 4 months for his Lariat F-150 to come in. My work has no ETAs on a full-size SUV and the Chevy dealer told me “good luck” on ordering a 6.2 Trail Boss.

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    • Ryan

      On a side note, what brand is your aluminum open trailer and how do you like it? I sold my enclosed and started shopping for something easier to pull that can fit both a race car and 3 quads without hassle.

      R&R quoted me roughly $7000 for an 18×7 with the options I wanted (dual dexter 3500 aaxles, set back jack, spare mounts, extra d-rings).

      A similarly-equipped steel/wood deck PJ is about $5000. I figured the ability to drive a sports car on the trailer and actually open the door is worth the extra money. Resale value would likely be higher too.

      Reply
      • Jack Baruth Post author

        I have an ATC with the shield and tire rack. It’s worked pretty well and I’ve put probably 15k miles or more on it.

        If you want to buy it I’ll beat that R&R price…

        Reply
        • Ryan

          That would work. Is there enough clearance where I can open the doors on the Vette or a Neon without hitting the fenders? That’s my main issue with the PJ I’ve been borrowing.

          I’m in no position to buy anything else until spring. By all means, if you need to move it faster don’t feel obligated to wait for me. I can drop you a line when I’m ready to buy and we can work something out.

          Reply
          • Jack Baruth Post author

            I can open the doors on the wife’s race height MX5 cup so yeah you’ll be fine!

  21. Dan

    I don’t know who makes a better tow truck but I know you’re really going to miss that 1500 as a daily driver. If the cost of that is a transmission rebuild 5 years in I’d pay it.

    Reply
  22. Widgetsltd

    My initial impression was, as a few others have noted, that a 2500 equipped with the biggest available gas engine and the right final drive ratio will do what you need it to do for $10k less than the diesel. We all know that you’re going to get the diesel, though. I haven’t cared much about trucks in general since I left Chrysler ten years ago, so I don’t have up-to-date product knowledge at this point. I do recall being VERY impressed by the Dodge Cummins’ integrated exhaust brake when towing 7000 pounds over the mountain passes in SoCal with those trucks circa 2009-10. I suppose that the other guys have a similar feature by now. I expect that you’d want the integrated trailer brake controller too. I haven’t touched a Diesel engine in over ten years, but I still hold the ASE A9 diesel certification so here are my thoughts on the care of diesels. Good quality fuel is a MUST. Be careful where you buy your fuel. Modern diesel fuel injection systems do not tolerate dirt, rust or water in the fuel. Change your fuel filter at least as often as the manufacturer recommends. Veteran diesel techs will tell you that fuel filter change intervals are even more important than engine oil change intervals! I get the impression that this truck will be Danger Girl’s daily driver. To my way of thinking this is a good thing, as it will ensure that the truck has winter blend fuel in the tank in the wintertime. Fuel purchased in the area where it is being used will be blended by the supplier to prevent gelling in the expected climate conditions; you should not need to dump in aftermarket additives. Modern diesels have a complex (and expensive) exhaust aftertreatment system. The engine is managed very carefully in order to keep the aftertreatment system happy. Additional emissions system maintenance, such as a periodic EGR cooler cleaning, may be necessary. Check the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for details. Any of these diesel pickups will use diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) as part of the exhaust aftertreatment system. Do not add any other fluid to this system. DEF only! If you try to stretch your DEF fill by diluting it with water, the truck will eventually figure this out and will set diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs). The truck is capable of dramatically de-rating the engine output if the DEF is allowed to run out or is tampered with.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      My son asked me if we could go; he wants to see some of the places from Into The Wild, probably as part of an extended cross-country cycling trip this upcoming summer.

      Reply
  23. Mpactwrench

    I was just imagining a Continental on the long wheel base JLR D2a platform last week. One can only sigh.

    Good luck with the tow rig.

    Reply
  24. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Got a fair bit of experience towing, albeit at a heavier load than you’re looking, at for both work and play. No matter where you THINK you will be with the loaded weight of the trailer, it ends up being more in the long run (hey, I’ve got room for THIS in there). Because of that I like the diesel option and also stepping up to the 1 ton series with DRW. 2 reasons for the DRW; better stopping in inclement weather and better stability at highway speeds. I’ve seen too many wrecks where a trailer, probably not a “balanced” load in it (easy to get “unbalanced”) starts “wagging the dog’ with 3/4 ton trucks with SRW.

    As for the diesel over gas; I average around 16mpg unloaded and around 10 towing a 30 foot long, 8 1/2′ wide 7′ inside height trailer with a total weight of around 14K lbs.That’s with a 4.10 rear gear, my older truck with 3.73 was slightly better, but not much. An added benefit of the diesel is they hold value better than a spark engine, even now with diesel costing about a half a buck more per gallon than gas. The downside of diesel is not all stations have it and you will end up at Loves/Pilot/TA etc more than you want to.

    I haven’t heard a lot good about the Ford 6.7 diesel. My buddy that runs a shop has a constant flow of them in for repairs. GM and Dodge a good bit less. Transmissions all seem about the same, edge to the GM for the Allison. At the first sign of torque converter issues, replace the factory one with an aftermarket billet one. Cost is around $500 for the converter and well worth the money. I’ve used then on 2 previous trucks and they were like a Timex even after 100K plus miles. Also added another trans cooler, cheap insurance.

    But; happy wife, happy life. Unless you’re dead set on one she doesn’t much like AND you like sleeping on the couch.

    Reply
    • Keith

      One last reply on gas vs diesel. When towing, the gasser just feels like it’s going to explode when you kick down a gear and run it to redline.

      The diesel just spools up to 30psi and shoves your ass with a “tsunami” of torque. It really feels amazing. My brain knows that either 5000rpm or 30psi aren’t great for an engine, but that damn diesel just feels amazing doing it and begs for more.

      I always found myself setting the cruise at 85 and parking in the left lane. The truck just wants to do it. I have to remind myself I’m rolling 20k down the road.

      Reply
  25. Don Curton

    On a separate note, many thanks for the motorcycle reviews! You teased us some time back, but this is the first (or maybe second) motorcycle review I’ve seen from you. Kyle Smith is doing good work, but there’s still many many bikes out there to look at.

    “The truest, and the least pleasant, thing I can think to say about the XSR900, is this: At no point during our week on these bikes would I have refused a trade with my personal 2014 CB1100.”

    It took me several tries to understand that sentence, but once I did it cemented the article. Seeing as how I also ride the 2014 black beauty, I’ll stick with the Honda. The Kawasaki looks beautiful, but Kyle didn’t seem to like it in his review. What was your impression?

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I liked the Kwacker more than Kyle or Sam did; they gave their hearts to the Speed Twin because it was like a cheat code in the canyons and the engine feels like a living thing.

      We voted at the end of the ride. They gave first place to the Triumph, I gave it to the Kawasaki. The XSR900 was last by default.

      I would enjoy the Z900RS just as much as I enjoy my CB. It’s faster, handles better, and is no less comfortable. All you lose is that feeling of having a very special bike made for a very special purpose; the CB has that in spades.

      Reply
      • gtem

        If you guys can pull it off, it would be cool to see how this new generation of “sort of retro” naked bikes stacks up against their namesakes. Okay, maybe a 1973 Z1 would get totally blown into the weeds in just about every respect except possibly comfort, but how would one of the 1980-ish super bikes (Honda CBX, Kaw Z1-R MkII, Suzuki GS1100E) fair? Braking/suspension I think certainly would go to the new bikes (let’s assume they’re shod in similar modern rubber). Acceleration? Things could get interesting. Comfort as well, I think the old bikes might have that going for them. I’m willing to loan out my ’81 GS1100E if you guys ever want to do some kind of “retrospective” piece on that era of road burners.

        Reply
  26. KoR

    Were it my money, and after having spent a considerable amount of time in all of these driving them never in excess of parking lot speed, I’d go for the F-250 with a 7.3 gasser in Rapid Red Metallic.

    Being that it’s not my money, idk man. The Ram has the nicest interior and ride, the Chevy is *fine* but is the least impressive on the face of it, and the Ford seems to strike a happy medium between them.

    Also, really leaving subtlety on the cutting room floor in that G90 coupe story, huh?

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      The whole story was a bit of 50th birthday self-indulgence; I commissioned that specific artwork from Abimelec, instead of just having him follow his inspiration as he normally does, and then I wrote it to see how many of my personal tropes and amusements I could fit in two thousand words. Forgive me.

      Reply
  27. Sobro

    Sell a few guitars and buy the G90 and the pickup. You won’t have time to play them anyway with all of the driving you’ll be doing over the next five years. A nice bike carrier on the G90 and you and he who will not be named without his permission would allow Danger Girl “me time” with her race car.

    I would have suggested an Excursion for the extra indoor storage without a cheesy bed cap, but new ones are still vaporware.

    Reply
  28. Ronnie Schreiber

    When did the American car companies decide to compete on who could make the worst looking trucks and commercial vehicles?

    The Ram isn’t bad but the Ford looks like a Tonka truck, the GMC is kinda pug-faced, and the Chevy is just plain ugly. Compare the current Chevy trucks to the 88-02 GMT 400 platform and I think you’ll agree that the new model hit every branch as it fell out of the ugly tree.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Nobody’s worried about beauty in a new car; the purpose now is to be striking, memorable, intimidating, wealth-correlated.

      The 1988 Chevrolet was probably the cleanest and handsomest full-sized truck ever built.

      Reply
        • Jack Baruth Post author

          I drove a 1995 F-150 for work. XL trim, 300ci I-6 with a three speed auto. Bench seat, standard cab, 8′ bed, dual tanks. Styled steel wheels. Sticker of $15,700 as I recall.

          Hard to think of a purer or more useful work truck, although I moved heaven and earth to get into a 1996 F-150 XL SuperCab with the 5.0 and just a few more options.

          Reply
      • NoID

        My father had a late-80’s Chevrolet 3500 4×4 diesel dually crew cab in bright red, loaded to the gills, which he had some nice Harley-Davidson graphics placed on the side of since at the time he owned H-D of Annapolis. It had the single-row twin headlamps with indicators below, not the more common stacked headlamp arrangement. Man, that was such a beautiful truck. It was probably the nicest vehicle we ever owned, though the ’94 Roadmaster Estate Limited Edition would have given it a run for its money.

        Rabbit train…I was looking at one of my wedding photos, and based on all the cars in the picture (including the Roadmaster and the Cheyenne pickup featured below) you’d think we were married in the mid ’90s, not 2006. Not a late model vehicle in sight, including the car we were climbing into to start our honeymoon (my 1984 Monte Carlo SS). By then my family’s finances had turned, and so that ’94 Buick was the last new car we’d ever purchase save for a rebellious impulse buy during a particularly harsh winter when my father traded in his early aughts work truck Silverado for a beefy, burgundy Ford F-250 Diesel 4×4 we could ill afford, because earlier in the day he couldn’t get his 4×2 out of the snowy driveway. Up to that point there had never been a Ford in my driveway, and 6 months later when the payments were more than we could bear and he replaced it with a teal ’96 Cheyenne, we’d never see another one. He had that truck until just last year, and put over 300k miles on it, despite loaning it out for a few years to my older brother, who proceeded to dog the ever-loving crap out of it and pretend it was some kind of Hoonigan project and not the basic work truck that it was. But my father, as is his way, took it back with minor grievance and babied it back to health, always dreaming of lowering it and building up the old 400-block sitting in his basement into something cruise-worthy, but simply never having the finances to do so since his fall from financial grace. Now it too is gone, replaced with yet another Chevrolet work truck, this time a single cab 4×4. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it is broke, fix it. If it can’t be fixed, replace it with what you know how to fix. This seems to be his formula.

        Anyways…loved that “Big Red Truck”. I’d love to find one somewhere and buy it for my father, but I’ve committed a few of the same financial sins as he did so the money isn’t as loose as I’d like it to be. The upside is that I committed my sins about 20 years earlier, so I’ve got time to recover.

        Reply
      • Fat Baby Driver

        Indeed. I truly, madly, deeply loved my 1988 GMC 2500 extended cab with the 350, 8′ bed, and whorehouse red interior. It was the only truck I could ever load my dirt bike straight into the bed and close the tailgate.

        Reply
      • gtem

        “The 1988 Chevrolet was probably the cleanest and handsomest full-sized truck ever built.”

        Amen Jack, Amen. Looking around at what clean ones are starting to go for ($10k and up for a nicely kept Z71 4×4) plenty of others are increasingly appreciating just how handsome and usable/maintainable that generation of GM truck is. I will typically see 2-3 being used as work trucks on my 15 minute commute into town. That’s the interesting thing to me: You can buy a rusty beater GMT400 for $1000-2000 all day long, but the well preserved ones shoot into the stratosphere, even with high mileage. The key thing is rust. You can freshen up a small block Chevy all day long, throw in a reman 4L60E, rear ends, etc. Trivial.

        Reply
      • Ronnie Schreiber

        the purpose now is to be striking, memorable, intimidating, wealth-correlated.

        That certainly explains the front end on the Rolls-Royce Phantom.

        Reply
  29. NoID

    Comments on your articles:

    Whoever you spoke to about Durango Hellcat development was is spot on, and we won’t see that kind of thing happen again since the SRT division was dispersed among the mainline engineering teams. The red tape is thicker than refrigerated turkey gravy nowadays, and I don’t think the diaspora can contend with it.

    I play your off-ramp game regularly, and it’s a hoot. I’ve yet to lead anyone into the grass, but one time they got pretty close and I was quite pleased with myself.

    UGH, I WANT A MOTORCYCLE!

    Your vision of future-fornia is closer to prophecy than lunacy than I’m comfortable with.

    Reply
    • gtem

      My little game in our land of multi-lane roundabouts is something similar. Running 50mph followed by some very late braking and carving our Chrysler Town&Country on its Continental TrueContact Tours very neatly through the roundabout. The wife’s Camry SE does an even more impressive job of this of course, but it’s funnier in the van.

      Reply
  30. Eric L.

    1. No one here is going to stand up for the Titan XD with the Cummins?? Wouldn’t you rather be edgy than the envy of every midwesterner?
    2. Farm. Have you also been driven from the suburbs into some rural plot of land wherein you can subsistence farm when the collapse comes? That’s discouraging; I thought the Columbus suburbs weren’t flaming liberal. I don’t know how to shoot a gun, don’t know how to till and tend to crops, and bought a $700 Fjallraven parka to deal with the Idaho winter. I, and by extension my poor family, am doomed.

    Speaking of, do you know of anyone who makes warm jackets in the US? Eddie Bauer probably stitched his last down jacket in 1951. Fjallraven’s founder came to the US in the early 60s to learn how to work with down, because he knew we were kings of the fluffy stuff. Naturally, the Swedish company makes almost all of its garments in Viet Nam. But Arcteryx makes all of its crap in China, now, and has been punished by its own reviewers for how lousy the quality of their coats are now. Gee, I wonder what changed? Oh, maybe selling to a Chinese sports conglomerate?

    (All the labels for Vietnamese products are printing the country name as two words. Curious.)

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Take a look at the latest American Giant coat. I just bought one myself. Wouldn’t call it a sub-zero coat but it should suffice for most non-industrial or farming purposes in Idaho.

      I *am* preparing to depart the suburbs, although it will likely take two full years to complete the plan.

      Reply
    • CitationMan

      USA made but expensive. I’m personally not crazy about how they look.
      https://weatherwool.com/
      As much a I try to buy Made in the USA products, sometimes I have to give up. But most times I would rather do without than buy a Chinese product.

      Reply
      • Eric L.

        Holy smokes, yeah, that’s a seriously expensive coat! I’m really curious whether it’s as warm as they claim. Eddie Bauer nearly froze to death wearing a wool coat, which inspired him to mess with duck down and file a ton of patents. Fjallraven’s Swedish founder had a very similar experience in northern Sweden 30 years later. I’m skeptical that “modern” wool coats are somehow superior to whatever they were suffering in the 1920s and 1950s. Sounds like the Weather Wool guys would say Eddie froze because he wasn’t wearing woolen long johns and a woolen shirt under his wool coat. I actually am on the lookout for a decent wool sweater/fleece to use as a middle layer, as I’ve had such good luck with the Darn Tough wool socks.

        But I agree with the Weather Wool founder’s hilarious statements about wearing plastic outside. How can I knock plastic bikes, but put on a coat with a 100% plastic shell? Stone the hypocrite.

        Reply
        • Idaneck

          Carhartt J131 and J140 serve me well in these somewhat chilly Boise winters. Of course, hard to say for another So Cal transplant. You want cold, go to eastern Idaho. I’ll be swapping the studded tires on the GX and praying for snow.

          Reply
    • JMcG

      Johnson Woolen Mills in Vermont has heirloom quality wool coats made in the USA. Not cheap, but cheaper than that patagucci bull crap that Filson is peddling these days.

      Reply
    • Ronnie Schreiber

      Don’t get me started on Eddie Bauer. My father had an Eddie Bauer parka that he’d wear to football games when the Detroit Lions played outdoors in Tiger Stadium. I inherited it and when the zipper failed due to age and dry rot, the local Eddie Bauer store gave me $185 credit, honoring the lifetime warranty. A USA made down filled Ridgeline parka was then $225 and I figured $40 for a good winter coat was a good deal. A month later, the coat was on sale and Eddie Bauer honored their price guaranty and refunded me the $40. I wore that jacket for decades. My favorite winter coat of all time. The hood was designed so that when you cinched down the ties it still left you with peripheral vision. When the zipper pull tab broke, I replaced it with a split ring from a keyring. Eventually, though, it was time to replace it. To their credit, the local Eddie Bauer store was willing to honor the warranty, but their current coat comparable to the Ridgeline wasn’t anywhere near comparable. It was made cheaply in China and didn’t fit nearly as well. I passed on the warranty and just kept using the Ridgeline until it was unwearable.

      Last winter I drove over to Carhartt’s flagship store in midtown Detroit to check out their winter coats. Carhartt is based in the Detroit area and still makes a lot of their gear domestically but all their warmest parkas were made in Asia.

      Reply
      • Eric L.

        Dang, as I posted that only-slightly facetious comment, I wondered if I’d heard they killed the diesel. Maybe Jack can buy a diesel Hino; can he remove the box and squeeze little Jack in the middle seat?

        Reply
      • Eric L.

        Oh, they are? They popped up in my research, but I don’t look like the high-fashion models wearing their coats. The branding was a little excessive for something costing that much.

        Reply
    • psmith

      Western Mountaineering. No experience with their jackets but their sleeping bags are very nice, and priced accordingly.

      Reply
      • Eric L.

        This thread just keeps on giving. I bought some Outdoor Research gloves on Black Friday, but didn’t even notice they had a made in the US section. <3

        Reply
  31. ScottS

    Lots of replies and I confess that I didn’t read them all.
    0. Gas engine? NO, Just NO!!!
    1. Ford. I have owned five F-series, F100, F150, and three F250 HDs to the combined tune of over 900K miles. The current F-HD has the most refined interior and it’s hard to find any real faults with it. The current Power Stroke seems to have addressed most of the sins of the 6.0-liter Power Stroke, but there is such a thing as an unforgivable sin, and so I can’t recommend the Ford.
    2. GMC/Silverado 2500 HD Duramax: The Silverado is my current DD, and yes I do a fair amount of towing. In Summit White with matching ARE cap it’s understated and professional. With BFG KO2s installed it looks the business with just enough increased grip to keep your ass out of embarrassing situations where there is little or no pavement. With just over 115K miles on the clock I know exactly what I do and don’t like about it. The power train is exemplary, full stop. I am driving a 2018 with the Alison 6-speed, and with 910 lb/ft torque it’s hard to see the need for four more gears. With 5-7000 lbs in tow, tow/haul and cruise engaged, it won’t downshift running I-81 through PA and VA. The Ford 7.3 gasser may look good on paper but it will never give you the drama free effort of any of the diesels under consideration, and with a big box in tow you want drama free. The current GMC/Silverado fixed the ridiculous DEF tank and filler. My biggest concern is involuntary removal of the DEF tank in some of the remote places that this truck takes me. I’m over 6 ft tall and it’s a PIA to refill the DEF tank with 2.5 gallon containers. The interior is the most dated of the three and rear passenger compartment is the smallest. The latest update of this platform was underwhelming. This is the closest any 2500 HD gets to the driving experience of a 1500. My daily driving mileage is about 18 MPG. Straight highway with no trailer is between 20 and 21 MPG depending on speed, and towing heavy or pulling a long “box” is going be about 12-13 MPG. The KO2s consume about 1 MPG on the highway but it’s worth the expense for me.
    3. Ram 2500 Cummins: This is the most dated overall architecture of the 3/4 ton trucks, but the Mega Cab offsets much of this complaint. I have done some long road trips in a 2016 3500 Mega and I think the chassis is too stiff for DD and how I think you will use the truck overall. One of my close friends has a new 2500 Mega and the interior is amazing. The steering response seems much improved in this generation over the previous Ram 2500s. The Cummins seems to have something right in terms of efficiency and I expect it will provide the best return for fuel of any of these trucks. There are differences in power output depending on the specifications and I don’t know all the details that influence this. For a long road trip this one is without equal, and Danger Girl will come around quickly. Ram is the most overdue for a big refresh, but it is anyone’s guess if the Mega will continue on or be replaced with the +4″ longer cab of the 1500.

    Get the Mega Cab while you still can.

    Reply
  32. Felis Concolor

    Having recently obtained both a ’99 F350 dually w/7.3 and both exemptions (170K), plus a ’92 Cheyenne cab chassis w/454, 5 speed and 5.83(?) Dana rear (26K) for a combined total south of $10K, I’m getting a kick out of seeing the stupid money being spent for used trucks these days.

    And I apologize for not sending you a writeup of that wrecking yard dissolution: I promised a friend a day after I emailed you I wouldn’t be sending out any clickbait/sensationalized account of the event, although I’m certain I can put together my various experiences during that week by now. Suffice to say there’s one less mind-blowing Colorado wrecking yard in the world – and after an ill-considered comment from another denizen, one less NSU Prinz 1200 as well. Did I mention I love buzz-bombs? Had I known I was overlooking a buzz-bomb, I would have figured out how to add it to the Eagle and Valiant and Town Car I did score.

    Reply
  33. gtem

    Totally out of my element looking at pricey new HD trucks, but looking at what’s available, I’d go with the Ram Megacab. That massive rear seat and truly-luxo interior really sets it apart. That and “muh Cummins.” My wife, who doesn’t care at all about cars, was really warming up to the idea of a Laramie Ram as her next daily driver when we were poking around showroom last summer, based solely off how nice the tan leather interior was. Never mind that I was there to test drive a coal-bin cloth interior Tradesman 1500 (Hemi, 4wd, offroad package and 3.92 gears). Of course, as you know, I ended up buying a 289k mile ’06 Suburban instead.

    Unrelated to the topic at hand, but that GMT800 Suburban is now 500 miles away from 300k and has been perhaps the best all around vehicle I’ve owned in terms of long haul comfort and utility. Have hauled a few cars home on a uhaul trailer with it, motorcycles, christmas trees (fit inside with the second row in place). 12 foot lumber fits awesome with seats down and poking a bit out the opened rear hatch glass. Did a family road trip down to the OBX in it with some beach driving, where I did have an AC belt tensioner lock up on me driving home in rural WV. No sweat, local parts store had a new tensioner in stock, $40 for it and a new belt and 15 minutes in the hotel parking lot and we were golden. I can just about eke 20-21mpg out of it with some 65-70mph driving, more typically still a palatable 17-18mpg. Scored some studded snow tires mounted on immaculate OE 16 inch wheels, between that and the G80 rear end I rarely if ever engage 4wd. I keep it slathered up in Fluid Film and WoolWax, I fully intend to keep this thing for another 20 years. I keep hearing about the AFM related cam/lifter issues in the newer LS/LT motors, the torque converter problems on the 8spds, etc. And it makes me appreciate my 300k mile OG 5.3L LS and rebuilt (stronger) 4L60E that much more. There’s a ton of the newest IRS Tahoes/Suburbans/Yukons around here in the wealthy Indy suburbs, honest to good they look like bloated minivans from the back. Have a friend in the same boat: bought an ’05 Suburban Z71 new while he worked for Remy, has kept it in immaculate shape. He keeps looking at new generations of Suburbans as they come out but things just keep getting worse.

    Reply
  34. gtem

    On the Hellcat and Mopars in general: I’ve been rooting for them the last few years. In the face of all the EV stuff they’ve just been paying their CAFE fines and releasing one nutzo-supercharged V8 after another. Journos lamenting the “ancient” LX platform can blow it out their ass. I love the Challenger, the Charger, the 300 and all their various iterations. 300 Platinum with the Indigo+linen interior? Yes please. Charger SXT AWD with heated seats and steering wheel? Perfect goldilocks type of commuter rig for the wife that will gobble up bad downtown roads. Black Charger R/T? My dream “cool dad car.” Challenger Scat Pack strikes me as another very attainable dream car. Now I hear the inevitable is happening, they’ve bringing back the old “Direct Connection” stuff, but it’s “D.C” as in, some kind of EV thing. Zero interest, tuning out.

    Reply
    • NoID

      I too was relishing FCA’s “PopCopy” attitude towards the regulators’/woke auto journalists expectations, but now as STLA they’re clearly directing the spirit of that Chappelle skit at the depicted target.

      Reply
    • Danio

      Agreed. I was bummed when the 300SRT was dropped for North America so I took a 2018 300C Platinum with the premium interior and 6.4L swapped it. I love it. Totally subdued but runs into the 11s in the 1/4 and wins bracket races. $1600 in winnings this summer. Drive it to the track with the drag radials in the trunk and get 30mpg. The most fun I’ve had racing in years.

      Reply
  35. Blue Steel

    I say RAM. Just bought one and I demand tribalism. Or, maybe it’s the 1.5years of research and test driving we did, knowing the day would come that we’d have to upgrade from our beloved ’06 Tundra. The day came sooner than expected, and we needed a tow pig by the end of the week. With local options limited, we did miss out on a few features we wanted, but overall very happy with the purchase. A ’21 1500 Laramie Crew with Sport appearance package, Trailer Tow, Level A Equipment, and the VVT eTorque engine. Towing to the track is now an enjoyable experience, and I feel rested when we arrive.
    We did a little research on the “2500” level diesel trucks, but they were out of our price range. However, we did notice that even in the heavy duty trucks, RAM continued to outshine the competition with interior comfort, interior space, and cost per amenities. Love the Mega Cab! And, there is a Brown interior option.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Your truck is very handsome, which is on brand for you and Kyle! I need an ugly truck for the same reasons.

      Reply
  36. Cdotson

    Secondhand experience:
    My in-laws recently returned from a 3-month, 9,000 mile RV tour with their 5th-wheel travel trailer (12k GVWR, loaded a bit shy of that probably) and their 2021 F350 SRW/crew/long/4wd/7.3 gas. His overall trip average was 9.5 mpg towing, but admitted it dropped to 8-8.5 in the mountains and with headwinds. I think he has 4.10s but might be the 3.73. He also is guaranteed to be driving slower than you will. I think he said his tank was 39? gallons or something along those lines. A box racing trailer that isn’t a stacker will probably have better gas mileage than a 5er travel trailer at comparable speeds.

    The FIL bought his trailer before his truck and had almost completely ruled out a diesel ahead of time. I convinced him to go with the F350 over the F250 because of payload rating. His pin weight would have put an equivalent 3/4-ton closer to its payload limit than I thought was prudent expecting my MIL to want to upgrade campers after spending time in one (wisely, they’re now shopping toy haulers). I agreed with his assessment against diesels due to reliability, cost, and the new tech’s maintenance and lack of stellar fuel economy. He towed north through WV/IN/IL/WI and south from ND/SD/NE/CO/NM so he wasn’t doing hard-core Rockies crossings but had no complaints about Appalachia.

    Gas or diesel aside, pay extra attention to your payload rating. The 3/4-ton diesels have way lower payload rating than you would expect especially the higher-trim variants you’re considering. The tongue weight of your trailer is payload. If your payload on your truck as-built (look at the yellow/white sticker in the door jamb) is 2000lbs then you can carry 400lbs passengers and about a 13k total weight trailer, and THAT’S IT. The tongue weight of a box trailer will have to be 10%-15% of it’s total weight (12.5% on average) for it to tow stable at high speed. Even at 9k total weight that’s still a considerable tongue weight and you’ll have to determine if that is within the ratings for use without weight distribution (not personally familiar with 3/4-1 ton ratings on this). High tongue weights unload the front axle and make sway more likely. Shorting tongue weight as a percentage of trailer load makes sway more likely. Anti-sway friction bars are of limited utility and most hider backing. Fifth-wheel or gooseneck towing largely avoids the sway issue at the expense of increasing pin weight to 20-25% of overall trailer weight.

    Short version: strongly consider the SRW 350 over a 250, it’s a very small cost increase for a huge payload increase which you might want if you ever need more trailer than 9klbs gets you.

    Reply
  37. Guns and Coffee

    The responses are endless, and I really don’t have time to read them all (this time), so this might repeat other opinions above. The diesel power arms race has killed the diesel pickup for me. The arms race resulted in a $10K premium, just for the motor. Oil changes cost $160 and finicky DEF systems likely to leave you stranded on race day. I think my Kid’s GMC Diesel has a factory approved DEF delete programed in because the virus AND chip shortage AND 90 days at the dealership AND threats of lemon laws. The dealership bypassed the DEF and got my kid driving.

    Based on the above calculus, I’m going to buy a Ford Godzilla 7.3 Liter Gas F350 for the family truckster towing needs (intentional Holiday Reference). This gets me into a Lariat Model one ton (no mouse hair) for approx. $70K and a reliable tow vehicle. I do not know what GM and Fiat are bringing to the gas motor table with all their eggs in the diesel arms race (seriously what’s not to love with factory torque at 1000 ft/lbs from the factory? See above calculus).

    A youtuber towed a skiploader from Salt Lake, UT to Casper, WY with the 7.3 gas, stupid high gears in the ass, grossly overloaded, and it didn’t suck.

    Gas mileage? How much gas and oil will $10,000 buy you? I ran the numbers when a diesel was a $6k premium. Back in those days (20 years ago), break even was at about 100,000 miles. Diesel engines were designed in those days to be high torque (at the time), high mpg, high reliability high mileage engines. Since the diesel arms race, the reliability and long life advantages of the power plants are gone.

    Reply
  38. danio

    I’m a bit partial, but I did sell fleet for one of these OEMs for a couple years and did a lot of rigorous comparisons. Here is my general points;

    Ford: The 6.7L has shown to be a pretty solid powertrain. FAR better than the Navistar engines that it replaced, of which I would nominate the 6.4L for the tital of Worst Engine Ever Made. Seriously, the last two Navistar sourced diesels Ford used bankfupted the businesses of many of their customers. Nice interior amenities, OK ride and handling, but really is the default “trade me into the exact same truck” choice for existing buyers.

    Ram: The Cummins engine is a very solid choice. After a brief flirtation with the troublesome Bosch CP4 HP fuel pump, they’re going back to the CP3 which was very sturdy for many years. Nicest interior by far. Seats, trim, sound are in a league of their own. Ride is a little harsher than the others, subjectively based on trim, wheelbase and other equipment.

    GM: Nicest ride quality of the three. The interior and amenities are insulting at the same price point of the other two trucks.

    Now, gas vs diesel. Yes a gas full size light duty “half ton” will do it. I towed my 24′ enclosed with a 3900lb car plus all associated gear all over the US and Canada (and in the rockies while passing lesser cars) with my 2018 Longhorn 1500 (5.7L, 6’4″ bed, 3.92 axle) and it never complained and usually returned 8-9mpg avg depending on the wind. The DT trucks have better chassis and much bigger brakes and do the job wonderfully, plus ride and handle much better than the 2500. However, if this thing will be nearly always hooked to a trailer, the 2500 will do the job in a sturdier fashion.

    Maintenance on the diesel is much more expensive, and the emissions equipment can be troublesome with all 3 makers. You first “derate” while towing to a race might be enough for you to swear it off. All 3 makers have gas engiens that make enough power, but yeah 8mpg is what you’re gonna get vs. perhaps 10 in a diesel with more efforless power.

    Finally, new vs used. If you have any sort of manufacturer friends and family discounts available or the like, new all the way right now. No question.

    In summary; Pick the truck that you like best after spending some time in each, they’ll all get the job done. Gas vs diesel, 1500 vs 2500. If you’re going to spend more time towing a trailer than not, get the 2500 diesel. Otherwise consider a gas model or even give a 1500 a try with your desired trailer rig.

    Reply
  39. bullnuke

    I’m a bit late to commenting on your selections but here’s my personal take on this. I owned an F-350 crew 7.3 diesel for 20 years – it got long in the tooth (one of the straps for the fuel tank failed, the tank dropped a bit catywhumpus and it scared my wife) so I had to replace it with something wife-acceptable. I needed something to pull my 16K, 41′ horse trailer on camping trips that required, while not mountain-climbing ability, some amount of hill climbing in hilly horse-camp areas (think: Brown County, Indiana). I searched the internets for clues as to what was available – I specifically did not want a new diesel from any manufacturer. The rich local ethanol and soybean farmers relayed to me the woes of seeing cabs lifted on their trucks fairly regularly for some sort of emissions-related woes. As my old 235hp/500 lb-ft 7.3 was adequate for all those years I began the gas engine search. GM-twins – no go, the engine/drivetrain was inadequate (the 6.0 was the top engine at the time). Ram/Fiat – no go, I learned of the tendency of the Hemi to go into “limp mode” or reduced output when under a steady heavy load. Back to Ford and their top gasser in 2019 – the 6.2 and, when paired with a 4.30 axle, was adequate for my needs. I found one in Zanesville with the requisite 4.30 axle, an XL with all the packages (cameras, Sync 3, sliding heated window, wireless hub, sprayed bedliner, hitch prep (but, sadly, the hitch ball and chain anchors were extra), camper pkg, snowplow pkg (pretty rough springs fore and aft!), among other items. I compared it to his XLT’s and higher models that were significantly more expensive (that chromed plastic costs $20k to $30k – who knew?) and found it very nice for being a base model truck. Stickered for $49k and I got out the door for $46k. I pulls my big trailer as well or better than the old diesel but the downside is fuel mileage. The old diesel: 20mpg unloaded, 12-13mpg pulling; this newer truck: 13-14mpg unloaded, 7-8mpg pulling. The Goodyear (Badyear) tires that came with it are also junk. YMMV but I’m pretty happy with what I purchased. It doesn’t rev like a banshee to pull my loaded trailer as I thought it might. But it’s not my daily driver nowadays thanks to Let’s Go Brandon. As an aside, this truck is a SuperCab with an 8.5′ bed – the distance from my closed front gate to the white edge line of US 36 is 59′ and my truck/trailer is 56′ long so, no crew cab this time…

    Reply
    • JMcG

      Pretty funny that the ethanol farmers drive diesels. Well, not funny as much as infuriating. Archer Daniels Midland I expect this from, not my brothers.

      Reply
  40. ajla

    Here’s the diesel Ram 3500 Longhorn in the family:
    https://i.ibb.co/THhT31g/ramlh.jpg

    I don’t really have any complaints about its towing performance or build quality over the last 6 years. Diesel maintenance (and potential repairs) is a thing for sure, but you’re a guy that owned two Phaetons and does a bunch of amateur racing so I think you’ll be fine there.

    Reply
  41. Gary

    I don’t know shit about trucks but I just read your GV70 review on Hagerty and thought it was excellent.

    How the Raul Julia in Street Fighter reference came to you I’ll never know, but I loved it.

    (impromptu ask jack- help me settle on a color for my 22′ BRZ. torn between wr blue, bright ass red and regretably, silver)

    Reply
  42. Harry

    I currently have a 2016 F150 and an 2020 F350, both in Platinum SuperCrew 6.5ish bed configurations. I recently had an XLT loaner.

    I am going to be the guy who says just get the XLT. Neither the Sony in the 2016 or the B&O sounds all that good, they are better, but not great.

    I think the cloth XLT seats are more comfortable. The leather is too stretched, like the cover on a bike saddle. I am over the cooled seat option and massage. As a pleasant surface I like the Wet Okole covers I got for my FSB and Wrangler, and they are easy to wash.

    I also like the drivers assist feature I have on my trucks, but where I am there are either perfectly lined roads, or no pavement. Not much in between, I have not experienced the issues that you have. I like the adaptive cruise on the interstate, even if sometimes I space out a bit and find myself doing 59/65 or 70 in an 80 for a stretch. Even at the height of the pandemic I rarely found myself alone on cross country drives on 70, 80 or 90. 94 seemed a little more sparse

    I would give consideration to immediately ditching the stock shocks as well.

    I put a steel winch bumper on the F150 after the third low speed animal strike (two elk and a mule deer) that the ungulate walked away from, bruised but otherwise ok, but each resulted in a long stay at the body shop. The winch must intimidate the wildlife because no collisions since.

    If you do embrace a ranch lifestyle, I recommend ditching OH and going to the Rockies. Just make sure you are within a 30 minute drive of a nice resort town with many dining options and a bike park. The “next town over” used to be a dump in many cases, but they are now rapidly gentrifying. I find it is a good balance, and would have saved the money and bought that situation instead of playing the resort town real estate lottery, I currently hold a winning ticket, but might not when it is time to sell.

    If working from home, right now, I think Alta, WY is the spot. Grand Targhee up the road has a good bike park. They like all kinds of music there, Country and Western! No state income tax. Driggs (the commercial center adjacent to Alta, is a nice town that is exploding and Jackson is a short drive over the pass. Acreage in the area is still affordable(compared to Jackson or places in CO you would actually want to live). The Tetons make for a nice view year round.

    Reply
  43. LynnG

    My only experience towing is working 20 summer vacatons on my brother’s farm hauling round bails from fields to abandoned chicken houses. The tow vehicle of choice was a 1988 F-250 4X4 Regular Cab Long Bed with a 300ci I-6 and a four speed manual in XL trim (which means not trim at all). I can testify that engine and transmission set up can tow a 26 foot dual axle trailer with a bed made of casted off railroad ties (small farmers make due with what is available) loaded with 8 750lb round bails. So this is not a recommendation for Ford as I do not belive the 300 ci six is still in production and Jack would not like the four speed manual because it was really a three speed because unless you were pulling tree stumps out of the ground it was not needed.
    Therefore based on that experience and reading Jack’s pontifications, I recommed a GMC Denali K2500 Diesel Crew Cab, Long Bed, Defully loaded with options with the chrome grill delete, White Diamond, with Tan interior…. And do not worry that everyone will think you are all hat and no cattle, line the rear shelf with racing awards. 🙂 Ok if Jack does not have a spare $100K laying around, same truck, Chevy High County, at under $100K.
    My 2cents worth….. 🙂

    Reply
  44. Brian

    I think (for me, at least) that the rear suspension would also also a big consideration. The coil spring rear on the Dodge is a big deal in terms of ride/handing, especially when you’re driving it unloaded. Every one of the Big 3 diesels makes all the torque you could possibly need…but…every single ‘modern’ diesel engine has a Rube Goldberg-level of complexity in design/function of the emission control system. When everything’s working properly, and all feedback signals are present and within normal range, no problem. But when things go south and wiring or sensors flake out, well, things get expensive really fast. This complicated emission control system is absolutely needed to reduce emissions–and no one should want to return to “the good old days” of pre-control engines–but modern diesels don’t have the problem-free reputation that 12-valve Cummins 5.9Ls had in the past. That said, I would work up a few total cost of ownership scenarios, where the short term cost of additional gasoline while towing is weighed against the higher up-front cost and potential for higher repair costs of a diesel.

    Reply
  45. Mark

    My mechanic was just showing me an F-650 flat-bed tow truck that had to be towed in. Forgive my ignorance on the process name, etc. but he had to run some high RPM, super high fan speed, rich fuel mixture computer program to clean the “cats”. Some of that description may be correct, and essentially he was standing there with his laptop complaining, “there is nothing actually wrong with this truck other than government forcing manufacturers to set the computer to say there is.” I asked more about the process and he said essentially we’re wasting a ton of money, diesel, def and time to try to clean a truck whose computer says it has a dirty catalytic converter.

    Nothing wrong with engine, but tow truck company is paying for an “engine repair”

    Reply
    • Widgetsltd

      There seems to be a misunderstanding here. I think you’re describing an issue wherein the diesel particulate filter (DPF) in the exhaust is full of soot. If the engine isn’t being worked hard enough to burn the soot off with exhaust heat during typical operation, then an active regeneration is required. This regeneration can take place while driving, but in this case I can assume that the truck had not been operated in a manner that would allow the regeneration to complete. So, it sounds like the mechanic needs to use a scan tool to command an active regeneration – which uses excess fuel to heat the DPF in order to burn off the soot. The engine is (presumably) OK, but the exhaust aftertreatment system has a problem.

      Reply
      • Mark

        Yes! The misunderstanding was all mine. I was naive to the diesel particulate filter and the active regeneration process. I asked why the filter was not simply changed and the answer was cost. How much could these things cost?

        Reply
        • Cdotson

          I’m sure the filters vary by engine manufacturer but Auto Zone lists a DPF for a Caterpillar for just $4984.99, although I’m sure there’s considerable labor in replacing an emissions-critical exhaust component that’s designed to clean itself rather than be replaced.

          I thought most medium and heavy duty trucks had a dash button to force a manual regen so the truck didn’t try to do one during a hill climb. My understanding is the regen cycle kills power and causes temperatures to go a bit out of whack in addition to consuming a lot of extra fuel.

          Reply
  46. Scout_Number_4

    I had to make this decision 4 years ago. Needed to replace the K3500 crew cab SRW 6.5L TD which we all loved, but it was closing in on 200K miles and needed a lot of work–motor rebuild, injection pump, suspension bits were all shot. The bumper pull RV weighs in at about 7000lbs across two axels. I had a kid in college, so I didn’t want to spring for a new truck. I was looking at lightly used with a *completely open* mind regarding brands and fuels, though I did kinda want another Chevy diesel.

    The used truck market out here in Oregon narrowed my decision pretty fast–very few used Chevy’s for sale and people wanted king’s ransom for the ones I could find. There were lots of Fords, but they were mostly post-7.3L, pre-6.7L diesels with 70-100K on the clock in my price range. Ram 2500 and 3500 were easy to find with both the Cummins and Hemis, though I couldn’t really afford a Cummins with less than 80 or 90K miles.. In the end, I found a 2016 Ram 2500 crew cab with the 5.7L Hemi with only 16K and bought it. My thinking at the time was that I’d rather buy a newer truck, give up the towing of the more expensive diesel.

    Four years in, I wish I’d done some things differently. My truck is an SLT trim, which is near the bottom. Loaded or not loaded the ride is hard on the kidneys. The gas mileage isn’t as good as I’d hoped–8mpg average around here with the passes and gorge winds. Without the trailer, I averaged 15mpg on a run to LA and back. I can go 60 over just about any pass with the trailer, but the gas tank empties fast–range is below 250 most of the time. I’ve got the shorter box, which is sufficient nearly all of the time and makes trailer maneuvering easier.

    If I was shopping today, I would buy new, get a nicer trim for sure. Diesel? Perhaps, but I would also think about a 1/2 ton. My mechanic tows a 9500lb travel trailer with an F150 and uses it for his DD when not towing.

    Reply
  47. Will Mathew Krawczyk

    Can you even find one to buy? This has been a miserable process and ending up with an N-Line Sonata. Accord touring models do not exist and everyone is jacking up the prices. I wonder how much of this product shortage is real vs wanted by the companies? Drove the G80 and G70, not really worth the 20 – 30 grand more than an Accord touring tbh. But here we are, we have economies of scale, but more expensive prices. What’s also funny is the absolute moronic decisions product planners make and the different software there are in trim levels, it’s comical. Pick one screen and run with it, don’t chintz out on the tech. yikes.

    Reply
  48. Will

    Can you even find one to buy? This has been a miserable process and ending up with an N-Line Sonata. Accord touring models do not exist and everyone is jacking up the prices. I wonder how much of this product shortage is real vs wanted by the companies? Drove the G80 and G70, not really worth the 20 – 30 grand more than an Accord touring tbh. But here we are, we have economies of scale, but more expensive prices. What’s also funny is the absolute moronic decisions product planners make and the different software there are in trim levels, it’s comical. Pick one screen and run with it, don’t chintz out on the tech. yikes.

    Reply
    • Gary

      How is the Sonata N Line so far?

      I’m as big an Accord fan as you’ll find but the Sonata and K5 seem like legitimate options this time around, especially if you’re shopping the top trim Accord which gets a bit pricey now.

      Reply
  49. MD Streeter

    I wouldn’t listen to my advice on a truck, since I’ve driven only Mazdas and Subarus since graduating college 16 years ago. I like the Ram best, it looks coolest.

    I love your vision of California in your self-indulgent what-if tale. I want to use it in my own stories.

    Reply
  50. hank chinaski

    Pre-commenting on next week’s roundup….
    If we are talking pie in the sky, how about a Biscayne wagon?
    I’d buy that for a dollar.

    Reply
  51. Idaneck

    My wife’s 2016 GX gets 13 mpg when towing our double axle camp trailer. My 1990 F350 crew cab (460, 5 MT, DRW) gets 10 mpg no matter what I do. Empty or loaded down, trailer or not. Maybe I should sell both and get a newer 7.3 Godzilla. Or not, I don’t see the improvement because my old truck is still usable. I drive the Accord most days, anyways.

    Reply

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