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Thursday Throwdown: Full-sized 1/2 Ton Pickup Trucks

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For this Thursday Throwdown, we compare full-sized pickups, a hugely popular class of vehicles from coast to coast.

There are a mere six pickup trucks from major automakers in the full-sized, half-ton market. Yet they vary a lot in looks, capability, and package offerings. Brand loyalty is a big part of the full-size pickup truck buyer’s makeup. Many people pick a brand based purely on their experience with that brand in the past, and often stick with it when they replace their truck. For our roundup, we’re considering the 2014 models from the six nameplates in the full-sized pickup field. We’ll discuss capability, safety ratings, and a few trim level options for each truck. Used truck buyers will be seeing these models on trade-in lots and other outlets in the next year or so.

Keep in mind that in the half-ton pickup truck market, most buyers are looking as much for a daily driver as they are a capable workhorse. Perhaps more so. With towing and hauling capacities being far more important than they ever have been before, some heavy-duty truck owners, however, may reconsider their needs and increase fuel efficiency (and reduce costs) by going with a half-ton truck instead. Our lineup below includes specifications for the most common configuration for the truck in question, all crew cabs, 4 wheel drive, and standard bed lengths.

If you are looking to buy a Used Pickup be sure to check out Carfax Used Car Listings where you can start your search with vehicle history. Every pickup listed comes with a free Carfax vehicle history report.

Side-by-Side Comparison of Our Picks

2014 1/2 Ton Pickups Drive HP Bed Length   Max
Payload
Towing
Capacity lbs
Chevy Silverado 1500
Z71 LT Crew Cab (5.3L V8)
4×4 285 5′ 8″ 1,830 pounds 11,200
2014 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew
(3.5L V6 EcoBoost)
4×4 365 5′ 5″ 1,900
pounds
11,200
2014 GMC Sierra SLE Z71 Crew Cab
(5.3L V8)
4×4 355 5′ 8″ 1,830 pounds 11,200
2014 Nissan Titan Pro-4X Crew Cab (5.6L V8) 4×4 317 5′ 7″ 1,733 pounds 9,300
2014 Ram 1500 SLT (5.7L V8) 4×4 395 5′ 7″ 1,410 pounds 10,050
Toyota Tundra SR5 CrewMax
(5.7L V8)
4×4 381 5′ 6″ 1,440 pounds 9,000

2014 Top Picks

Best Towing Capacity: Chevy Silverado 1500 / Ford F-150 / GMC Sierra 1500
Fastest Acceleration: Ram 1500 SLT / Ford F-150 XLT EcoBoost
Best Fuel Economy: Ford F-150 XLT EcoBoost
Quietest Ride: Toyota Tundra SR5 / Ford F-150 XLT EcoBoost
Most Refined Interior: 
GMC Sierra SLE Z71
Most Rugged Looks: Ram 1500 SLT
Most Refined Looks: 
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71
Least Expensive: Toyota Tundra SR5

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

Image by RL GNZLZ via Flickr cc.
Image by RL GNZLZ via Flickr cc.

The Silverado was redesigned for the 2014 model year and the 1500 is offered in Regular, Double, and Crew Cab configurations with either two- or four-wheel drive. Three engines are offered as choices, including a 4.3-liter V6, a 5.3-liter V8, and a 6.2-liter V8 running through a six-speed automatic transmission. Four trim levels are offered along with an off-road package option for two of those trims. One of the most common package levels for the 2014 Silverado 1500 is the Z71 LT Crew Cab.

The Silverado is well-known for its well-considered interior and ergonomic driver’s controls. For the 2014 model year, the Silverado 1500 is noted also for its quiet interior on the highway as compared to some other trucks as well as its refined exterior.

Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Z71 LT Crew Cab
Base price: $40,525
Powertrain: 5.3-liter V-8, 355 hp, 383 lb-ft; six-speed auto
Max. payload: 1,830 pounds
Max. towing: 11,200 pounds
Fuel Economy (unladen): 21 mpg

NHTSA Safety Rating*: 5 stars – 5 front / 5 side / 4 rollover
IIHS Safety Rating*: N/A – tested only for moderate overlap at a “Good” rating.

2014 Ford F-150

2014-Ford-F-150-crew
Image by: RL GNZLZ via Flickr cc.

The Ford F-150 is undergoing a complete redesign for the 2015 model year, which will likely mean that used truck buyers will find several 2014 models on the used car lots and in classifieds in the coming months. The Ford F-150 has the largest number of options in terms of cab configuration, trim level, and engine variations. The Regular, SuperCab, and SuperCrew cab offerings have seating from three to six and both rear-wheel and four-wheel drive are available in all three. A base level 3.7-liter V6 engine is augmented by several more V6 and V8 options up to a 6.2-liter V8 as the largest engine for the F-150. All run through a six-speed automatic transmission. The EcoBoost V6 options are becoming the most popular for their better fuel economy, high torque, and horsepower outputs.

Adding to all of those options are eleven trim levels, starting with the base-level XL and ranging up to the Limited. The SVT Raptor is a variation of the F-150 with emphasis on offroad capability. Most owners will note that when towing or hauling, the F-150 is not known for good fuel economy as compared to others in the class. Interior configuration and exterior visibility, however, are some of the high points of the F-150. This truck is also one of the quietest rides on the highway.

2014 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew EcoBoost
Base price: $39,325
Powertrain: twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6, 365 hp, 420 lb-ft; six-speed auto
Max. payload: 1,900 pounds
Max. towing: 11,200 pounds
Fuel Economy (unladen): 23 mpg

NHTSA Safety Rating: Good – 4 Stars – 4 frontal / 5 side / 4 rollover
IIHS Safety Rating: N/G/G/G

2014 GMC Sierra

Image by Abdullah AlBargan via Flickr cc.
Image by Abdullah AlBargan via Flickr cc.

Like its brother the Silverado, the GMC Sierra saw a complete overhaul for 2014. It too is offered in three cabs (regular, double, and crew) with rear- or four-wheel drive. A 4.3-liter V6 is standard and a 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8 option are available. A six-speed automatic is standard with all three engines. Four trim levels mark the Sierra, starting with base, then SLE, SLT, and Denali. The GMC line of pickup trucks is known primarily for its higher interior refinement as compared to other trucks and the Sierra is no different.

Refined exterior looks and small additions such as the step-up cutouts in the rear bumper are all things that set the GMC Sierra apart from other full-sized trucks. Small side mirrors are a concern for some who trailer often, but the interior is also of higher quality than most rivals of similar trim level.

2014 GMC Sierra SLE Z71 Crew Cab
Base price: $40,650
Powertrain: 5.3-liter V-8, 355 hp, 383 lb-ft; six-speed auto
Max. payload: 1,830 pounds
Max. towing: 11,200 pounds
Fuel Economy (unladen): 23 mpg

NHTSA Safety Rating: Good – 5 Stars – 5 frontal / 5 side / 4 rollover
IIHS Safety Rating: N/A – tested only for moderate overlap at a “Good” rating.

2014 Nissan Titan

2014 Nissan Titan Pro-4X - Gowdy 7 - AOA1200pxOf the trucks on our list here, the Nissan Titan is the oldest in terms of time since its last refresh (introduced in 2004). It is due for a new model in 2016, which will mean that the 2014-15 model year trucks will be more common on used car lots and as classified listings. The Nissan Titan is known for its sporty appeal, excellent offroad capability (in the popular Pro-4X package) and unique appearance. It is, however, plagued by a lower-quality interior and less ride comfort than most others on the market today, thanks to its age.

The Titan is offered in two cab configurations, King and Crew, and rear-wheel or four-wheel drive options. A 5.6-liter V8 and five-speed automatic transmission are the only powertrain offered. Four trim levels, starting with S, then SV, SL, and Pro-4X are available.

2014 Nissan Titan Pro-4X Crew Cab
Base price: $40,235
Powertrain: 5.6-liter V8, 317 hp, 385 lb-ft; five-speed auto
Max. payload: 1,733 pounds
Max. towing: 9,300 pounds
Fuel Economy (unladen): 17 mpg

NHTSA Safety Rating: N/R – 4 rollover
IIHS Safety Rating: N/A – G/N/N/G/A

2014 Ram 1500

2014 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman EcoDiesel-1Redesigned in 2013, the 2014 model year continues the new Ram look and is offered in three cab configurations: Regular, Quad and Crew. A 3.6-liter V6 is standard and a 5.7-liter V8 is optional. A new 3.0-liter turbodiesel is also offered as the only diesel engine in the half-ton class of pickup trucks. The eight-speed automatic transmission is standard for the V6 and diesel option while a six-speed automatic is standard for the V8 with the eight-speed as an option. Nine trim levels are available for the Ram 1500, with the base level Tradesman at the start and the Laramie Limited at the top.

The Ram 1500 is noted for its relatively fast speed, excellent options such as the air-ride suspension, high fuel economy, and very comfortable highway drive. The interior is well-done at all trim levels and the customizable instrument cluster with multiple vehicle status readouts is well-received. Of note, however, are the low cargo and towing capacities in comparison to others in the field.

2014 Ram 1500 SLT Crew Cab
Base price: $38,295
Powertrain: 5.7-liter V-8, 395 hp, 407 lb-ft; eight-speed auto
Max. payload: 1,410 pounds
Max. towing: 10,050 pounds
Fuel Economy (unladen): 22 mpg

NHTSA Safety Rating: 4 Stars – 4 frontal / 5 side / 4 rollover
IIHS Safety Rating: N/A – G/N/N/G/M

2014 Toyota Tundra

2014 Toyota Tundra Limited TRD - front corner - AOA1200px

The Tundra offers three cab configurations: Regular, Double, and CrewMax and both rear-wheel and four-wheel drive are available. The standard engine is a 4.0-liter V6 and five-speed automatic transmission with a 4.6-liter and 5.7-liter V8 as options. Five trim levels include the SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum, and new 1794 Edition. 2014 marks a significant update for the Tundra both inside and out.

A high towing capacity and good acceleration are hallmarks of the Tundra for 2014. Conveniences and exterior ergonomics for loading and hauling are low in comparison to others on the market, but the Tundra is noted for its better-than-average reliability. Inside, storage and layout are good, though some rivals may be superior. Road noise on the highway is lower than most and the Tundra has one of the lowest costs of entry of any full-sized pickup truck on our list.

2014 Toyota Tundra SR5 CrewMax
Base price: $35,825
Powertrain: 5.7-liter V-8, 381 hp, 401 lb-ft; six-speed auto
Max. payload: 1,440 pounds
Max. towing: 9,000 pounds
Fuel Economy (unladen): 18 mpg

NHTSA Safety Rating: 4 Stars – 4 frontal / 5 side / 4 rollover
IIHS Safety Rating: N/A – G/N/G/N/G

About the Safety Ratings

*Safety ratings from the government’s tests are given for each vehicle on our list. Insurance tests are given below that.

NHTSA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is tasked with crash testing vehicles for the federal government; it rates vehicles with up to five stars in each of three categories. We list them as follows: Overall Rating – Frontal Crash/Side Crash/Rollover. You can find out more about the NHTSA’s testing procedures here.

IIHS
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a not-for-profit cooperative among automotive insurers that tests vehicles aimed at guiding insurance rates and risks for vehicles and to give consumers a better understanding of the safety of the vehicles they purchase.

The IIHS scores on five separate tests which measure crash worthiness and crash avoidance. Scores are rated as Good, Acceptable, Marginal or Poor. We present these as G, A, M, P or N (not tested) in the IIHS presentation standard in order of testing:

  • Moderate Overlap Front
  • Small Overlap Front
  • Side Impact
  • Rear Crash Protection
  • Roof Strength

You can find out more about the IIHS’s testing here.

In the CARFAX Thursday Throwdown, we compare vehicles in a particular class on important merits including safety, performance, and look and feel. Our goal is to highlight not only the excellence that automakers bring to the table in various categories, but also how these vehicles compare and how they appeal to different buyers within their markets. 

9 thoughts on “Thursday Throwdown: Full-sized 1/2 Ton Pickup Trucks”

  1. I like the fact that someone is giving comparison facts about these trucks but please make sure your facts are correct. The payload and tow capacity of these trucks depend on how they are set up. I have a 2014 Ram 1500 and it has a 10,000 lbs tow rating. It all in the setup. I have 392 gears. I don’t know for sure but to get 12,000 lbs towing on the Silverado you need the 6.2 engine and you have it posted as the 5.3. If you’re going to post their max please post it right. They all do better if you order them for that. This makes it look like you’re favoring a certain truck. Check your facts.

  2. Your facts are wrong. I have a Ram 1500 rated to tow 10,000 lbs and I’m pretty sure you have to have the 6.2 in the Silverado to tow 12,000. They can all tow better than you have them posted for if you set them up for that. This makes it look like you’re favoring the Silverado. Post the facts a let people decide for themselves. 10,000 is good enough for me.

      1. The Ram 1500 with the EcoDiesel V6 cannot tow more than 9,200 pounds. However, a model with the 5.7-liter V8 can tow up to 10,450 pounds per Ram’s specs. The criteria above are tow ratings for crew cab models with four-wheel drive and a standard bed. So equipped, the Ram 1500 SLT that’s referenced in the article can tow 7,900 pounds, or 10,050 pounds when equipped with 3.92 gears.

          1. Here’s a link to an FCA tow chart for the 2014 Ram 1500:

            http://media.chrysler.com/download.do?id=14834

            Page 3 of the pdf shows that a standard cab model can tow up to 10,450 pounds when equipped with an 8-foot bed, rear-wheel drive, the 5.7-liter V8 and 3.92 gears. Crew cab models are on page 6 of the pdf and support the maximum tow ratings I mention above.

            If you scroll to page six of the document you provided a link to you will see the same rating. Suffice to say, tow ratings can vary a great deal within the model lineup of any full-size truck.

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