America’s top trucks square off

The Ram pickup has long been a major player in the full-size pickup segment, though it usually trails the Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-150 in overall sales. Nevertheless, the Ram continues to push innovation, design, and interior development within the segment. Likewise, the F-150 has been highly competitive with those criteria, introducing its all-aluminum body, EcoBoost line of engines, and a large number of useful technologies.

Ram’s laundry list of innovations includes the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6, the eight-speed automatic transmission, and its multi-link coil spring rear suspension. Both trucks have far more to boast about, but these are the ones most often seen in advertisements.

Of course, brand loyalty plays a huge role in pickup sales. Customers fiercely defend their purchase decisions, backed by automaker’s quibbles over tow ratings, fuel economy, and “other mines-better-than-yours” talking points. However, there are plenty of customers who don’t have an established brand loyalty. That’s who we’re targeting here – the undecided buyer wanting to know all the options between the Ram and F-150.

Let us know what you think of the two trucks in the comments below. You can also check out our comparison between the F-150 and the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 here.

Continue reading for the full review.

Exterior

2016 Ford F-150 vs. 2016 Ram 1500 - image 681325

The F-150 and Ram each have their own unique appearance that is rooted in its respective company’s corporate styling. The Ram, for instance, has retained its large grille and lowered front fenders since 1994. The F-150 has more fresh approach, but is quickly catching on elsewhere in the Ford lineup. This includes the upcoming Super Duty HD pickup.

"The F-150 has more fresh approach, but is quickly catching on elsewhere in the Ford lineup"

Both the F-150 and Ram 1500 offer the three main cab and bed configurations. This includes the regular cab, extended cab, and crew cab; along with five-foot, six-foot, and eight-foot bed lengths. Not all cab and bed combinations can be made, as both trucks have a restricted number of wheelbase lengths.

Both trucks are also available in a slew of trim levels, from the basic work truck to the leather-lined family hauler. These trim levels affect the exterior, trading black plastic grilles for honeycombed chrome, steel wheels for large rollers and low-profile tires, and vinyl for cloth and leather.

"Mid-level trims get chrome, and the range-topping Ram now has an all-new grille design with horizontal bars and large nostrils flaking the RAM logo"

Both trucks have different grille designs. The F-150’s base XL trim has thick, black, horizontal bars. The mid-level trims have thin horizontal bars. Top-line trims move to a three-bar, honeycomb grille covered in chrome. Most Ram 1500s comes with the traditional crosshair grille. The lower trims have an all-black grille. Mid-level trims get chrome, and the range-topping Ram now has an all-new grille design with horizontal bars and large nostrils flaking the RAM logo. There’s also the Ram Rebel, with its blacked-out grille and massive RAM lettering.

For those wanting a sporty truck, Ram offers its Sport trim that includes a monochromatic paint scheme, large wheels, and smoked headlight lenses – all with the Hemi V-8.

Of course, it should go without saying that looks are subjective. Everyone has their own opinions and tastes. There’s no right answer to which truck looks better.

There are objective points to cover, though. Utility wise, both the F-150 and Ram 1500 offer several innovative tricks within their cargo beds. The F-150 has an optional, built-in step system for getting into the bed. It also has unique tie-down points that work with dealer-optional accessories like bed ramps and toolboxes. The Ram offers its exclusive Ram Box system, which provides dry storage within the bed walls. It does sacrifice some room within the bed, but many folks find the lockable boxes more usable than the extra square footage of unprotected bed space. The Ram, however, does not offer a clever way of entering the bed with steps or ladders. You’ll have to search the aftermarket for that one.

Both the Ford and Ram offer factory-installed trailer hitches and wiring harnesses. Factory tow hooks are often standard equipment on 4WD models.

Interior

2016 Ford F-150 vs. 2016 Ram 1500 - image 681324

Things get even more complicated and competitive inside the pickups. Both offer a very wide range of materials and features. Like the exterior, it all coordinates with trim levels. Base XL and Tradesman trims comes with vinyl flooring, vinyl seats, small displays for the radio, and little more than power windows and door locks. Check the box for the range-topping F-150 Platinum or Ram Limited, and you’ll be getting leather and wood, 360-degree camera systems, large infotainment systems with GPS navigation, and even massaging seats. Yep, leave that one up to Ford.

"Both have their high and low points, though most customers will be thrilled with the high level of build quality and available features"

Aesthetically, personal preference dictates which truck looks better. Both have their high and low points, though most customers will be thrilled with the high level of build quality and available features. The F-150 offers that handy 360-degree camera system and the massaging front seats. It also offers a full panoramic moonroof – a segment exclusive. There’s also a 110-volt power outlet on the dash, along with several USB ports. The gauge cluster features an incredibly detailed driver information center that shows an impressive number of vehicle stats.

The Ram’s optional 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system is arguably one of the best in the entire automotive industry, setting the bar for easy of use and visual appeal. The Ram also features a large driver information screen on upper trim levels. Like the Ford, it shows a wide range of vehicle stats.

Main differences between the truck include the gear shifters. The Ram features a rotary dial for shifting. Manual shifting is done via buttons on the steering wheel. The Ford, on the other hand, comes standard with the traditional column shifter and optional with a center console-mounted shifter. Manual shifting is done with buttons on the column shifter’s handle and the console shifter’s side.

Drivetrain

2015 Ford F-150 - image 538815
2013 - 2014 Ram 1500 - image 447829

Modern trucks give customers more engine choices than ever before. The Ram boasts three engine options while the Ford has four. Transmission choices in either truck have no fewer than six gears, making both more efficient with fuel.

"Transmission choices in either truck have no fewer than six gears, making both more efficient with fuel."

Starting with the Ram, its base engine is the venerable 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. It makes a respectable 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The engine is used throughout FCA’s lineup and has proved itself a tough engine. Folks wanting a beefier option will love the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. Old-school pushrod technoldoy mixes with variable valve timing and cylinder deactivation to make a powerful yet efficient engine. It kicks out 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque, making it the choice for hauling or towing. Diesel lovers will want the highly regarded 3.0-liter EcoDiesel. It makes 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, yet can achieve 29 mpg on the highway. Each of these engines comes mated to the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.

Ford’s powertrain lineup is includes both V-6 and V-8 options, two of which are turbocharged. The base 3.5-liter V-6 is the choice for fleet buyers and pool guys. Most consumers will want to look elsewhere. Next is the new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 It makes a respectable 325 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque – matching V-8 engines from a decade ago. Those who still want a V-8 can opt for the 5.0-liter. It’s naturally aspirated, but makes 385 horsepower and 387 pound-feet of torque. Power hungry people will want the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. This is the engine that started the EcoBoost craze in the F-150. It makes an astonishing 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Pick the right cab and bed configuration, and the EcoBoost will achieve 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA.

The F-150 is currently employing a six-speed automatic across the board, but a 10-speed automatic co-developed with GM is on the horizon.

Both trucks can be had with 4WD. Ford goes one step further and offers an electronic locking rear differential. Ram makes do with a limited slip rear differential.

Ford F-150 Engines

Displacement Cylinder Arrangement Horsepower Torque Fuel System Best MPG*
3.6-liter V-6 282 @ 6250 rpm 253 @ 4250 rpm Sequential Multi-Port 18 City/25 Hwy
2.7-liter V-6 325 @ 5750 rpm 375 @ 3000 rpm Turbocharged, Direct injection 19 City/26 Hwy
5.0-liter V-8 385 @ 5750 rpm 387 @ 3850 rpm Sequential Multi-Port 15 City/22 Hwy
3.5-liter V-6 365 @ 5000 rpm 420 @ 2500 rpm Turbocharged, Direct injection 17 City/24 Hwy

*Based on Ford’s website, citing the optimal cab, bed, and gearing combination.

Ram 1500 Engines

Displacement Cylinder Arrangement Horsepower Torque Fuel System Best MPG*
3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 305 @ 6400 rpm 269 @ 4175 rpm Sequential Multi-Port 18 City/ 25 Hwy
5.7-liter Hemi V-8 395 @ 5600 rpm 410 @ 3950 rpm Sequential Multi-Port 15 City/22 Hwy
3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 240 @ 3600 rpm 420 @ 2000 rpm Turbocharged, Direct Injection 21 City/ 29 Hwy

*Based on Ram’s website, citing the optimal cab, bed, and gearing combination.

Pricing

2015 Ford F-150 - image 537937
2016 Ram Laramie Limited - image 616776

Prices on modern trucks vary wildly depending on cab, trim, and drivetrain options. This makes the pickup segment one o the widest appealing in the automotive industry. At the bottom, prices start in the mid-$20,000 and can swing into the upper $60,000 range. It all depends on trim level and the options chosen.

The 2016 Ford F-150 carries a starting price of $26,540 for a regular cab, short bed example in the base XL trim. This truck comes powered with the naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6. The XL trim can be had in every cab and bed configuration. The XLT brings a host of improvement and upgrades, with prices starting at $31,905 for a regular cab version. On the high end, the F-150 Limited starts at $58,885 and comes only in the crew cab configuration with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost.

The Ram’s base trim, the Tradesman, caries a base price of $26,145. No less than 11 trim levels are available. Mid-grade trims include the Lone Star and Big Horn, with prices hovering in the mid-$30,000 range. The range-topping trim is also called the Limited. It starts at $52,320. Check all the option boxes, and the price crests at around $55,000, making it bargain compared to the F-150.

Conclusion

2015 Ford F-150 - image 537936
2016 Ram Laramie Limited - image 616740

Both the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500 offer plenty of room for personalization, with tons of options and features, several engine options, and plenty of high-tech, in-dash technology. Both are good-looking trucks with comfortable and well-designed interiors.

As mentioned in our comparison between the F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado, full-size pickup trucks are big money-makers for their automakers. These things pull in huge profits that help sustain company coffers for rainy days and special projects. Truck sales aren’t slowing up anytime soon, and if gas prices continue to drop as they have, sales will continue to rise.

So which is the better truck? Well, that all depends on a long list of variable determined by the customer’s needs and preferences. It’s impossible to call one a clear-cut winner – especially with the race so tight. Still, that won’t stop you, the reader, from having a favorite truck. Let us know in the comments below.

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