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Comparison Test: Ford F-350 Super Duty v. GMC Sierra Denali 2500 HD

Drew Dowdell

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<h2 style="text-align: center;"><big><big>Battle

of the Beasts</big></big></h2>

<div style="text-align: center;"><img

style="width: 363px; height: 273px;"

alt="2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty"


  <img style="width: 362px; height: 271px;"

alt="2011 GMC Sierra Denali 2500"


<div style="text-align: center;"><big><big>Ford

F-350 Lariat Super Duty v. GMC Sierra Denali 2500 HD<br>



December 27, 2010<br>

Drew Dowdell – Chief Editor CheersandGears.com<br>


Media Gallery: <a


target="_blank">Ford F-350 Lariat Super Duty</a><br>

Media Gallery: <a


target="_blank">GMC Sierra Denali 2500 HD</a><br>


<big style="color: rgb(51, 102, 255);"><big><big>Battle

of the Beasts</big></big></big><br>


The battle for truck supremacy in the U.S. market has been raging since

the 1960s. The two main contenders are Ford and GM with Dodge popping

up guerrilla warfare style to rock the boat every few years. 

Dodge, ahem, Ram, won Motor Trend's truck of the year for 2010 leaving

the field for 2011 open to the two new HD entries from Ford and General

Motors. <br>


For this test, GMC sent the big daddy GMC Sierra Denali 2500HD Crew cab

while Ford sent a monster F-350 Super Duty Lariat Crew cab. 

Both have been heavily redesigned for 2011 and Motor Trend selected the

GMC's brother, the Chevrolet Silverado HD over the Ford, so let's have

a look at how they compare and see if we agree.<br>


<h3><span style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(51, 102, 255);">GMC

Sierra Denali 2500 HD Crew Cab</span><br>


<div style="text-align: center;"><img

style="width: 412px; height: 406px;"

alt="2011 GMC Sierra Denali 2500 HD"


<br>I'm still not sure how he got it in my driveway without hitting the

CR-V. GMC dropped off the Sierra the day before Thanksgiving and due to

the altered holiday schedule, arrived at my house way before I did. I

came home to find 240 inches of truck squeezed in between the house and

the Honda CR-V parked on the back pad. <br><br>

The exterior and interior of the Sierra may not look new compared to

the 2010 version, and that's because it isn't.  Nearly all of

the improvements to the GM's 2500 line are beneath the skin. While the

cab and bed may look the same, they sit on an all new box frame and

independent front suspension that boasts a towing capacity up to

21,700lbs and a payload capability of 6,635lbs. The new Duramax diesel

is now rated at 397@3000rpm up from 365@3200rpm last year and the

torque is up to an eye popping 765@1600rpm over last year's

660@1600rpm. GM claims a segment best conventional trailer rating of

17,000lbs. The gasoline engine is carryover from last year. <br>


New safety and control features include the previously mentioned

independent front suspension, an exhaust brake feature, trailer sway

control, integrated trailer brake control, hill start assist, automatic

grade breaking, and larger brakes. <br>


The Denali model takes all of that capability and dresses it in a

tuxedo with luxury appointments more typically found on Cadillac's

Escalade line. <br>


<h3 style="color: rgb(51, 102, 255);">Ford F-350 Super

Duty Lariat Crew Cab</h3>

<div style="text-align: center;"><img

style="width: 417px; height: 375px;"

alt="2011 Ford F-350 Lartiat Super Duty"


<br>Not willing to be outdone by General Motors, Ford sent and F-350 Super

Duty Lariat. Like the GMC, the interior and exterior of the Ford are

largely carryover from last year, though the Ford does get a new grill

and headlamp treatment, much to its benefit. I wasn't a fan of last

year's Super Duty styling, but even just this mild refresh is enough to

move my opinion from "clumsy" to "handsome". <br>


The F-350 gets all new engines for 2011 with this example getting the

new 6.7 litre Power Stroke diesel V8.  Ford initially released

this engine with 390hp @ 2,800rpm and 735 ft-lb @ 1,600rpm, but later

offered an engine controller upgrade that boosted horsepower to 400 @

2800rpm and torque output to a crazy 800 ft-lb @ 1,600rpm. All new

F-350s with the Power Stroke get the new spec automatically. <br>


The transmission, regardless of engine, is a new heavy-duty 6-speed

automatic with select shift.  A "Live Drive" power take off

option is available for powering accessories like snowplows or cement



Towing capability is up to 24,400 pounds and payload is 6,520 pounds. <br>


Safety and control enhancements include, hill start assist, hill

descent control, electronic locking rear differential, and trailer

brake control. <br>


<h3 style="color: rgb(51, 102, 255);">Round 1 – Fight!</h3>

In drive and handling, both of these trucks have big pluses and big

minuses that result in no clear winner. <br>


<span style="font-weight: bold;">Ride: Advantage – GMC</span><br>

This one wasn't exactly fair to the Ford. An F-350 is a 350 instead of

a 250 mostly because of the beefier suspension bits that get it those

sky high towing and payload ratings. Those upgraded suspension bits

also sacrifice ride in favour of capability while the vehicle is

unloaded.  To be a truly fair comparison in this department,

the GMC either needed to be a 3500HD or the Ford should be an

F-250.  Still, unless you are consistently pushing payload and

towing capabilities to their absolute maximum, the GMC is the clear

winner here. <br>


<span style="font-weight: bold;">Drive: Advantage – GMC</span><br>

Once you get the GMC out of the driveway, it's the easier truck to live

with. Both of these trucks feel soft in the gas pedal at first which is

simply part of the nature of large turbocharged engines. 

However, once things get spinning, the GMC comes on stronger. 

Much of this comes from the GMC's transmission which goes about its

work in an unobtrusive way.  Shifts are super smooth and,

while not as willing as I'd like it to be, it will give you downshifts

sooner than the Ford will and will jump two gears if called for. The

Ford's transmission had rather abrupt shifts particularly when it was

still cold.  The F-350's transmission did have the advantage

of better control over which gear you were in when in manual select

mode. <br>


GMC's 765 ft-lb is a LOT of torque. Ford's 800 ft-lb is even

more.  To put that into some perspective, the GMC Duramax has

about the same twisting force as five and a half Chevrolet Cruze

4-cylinder engines tied end to end. The Ford has about the same as six

Ford Focuses.  However, the difference between the Ford and

the GMC in torque is less than half of one air-cooled Volkswagen apart.



Here is why that minimal difference matters; In the F-350, the torque

comes on so strong when you mash the pedal that the traction control

system has to fight to keep you in line. This becomes an issue because

inducing tire slip can happen completely unintentionally. Accelerating

the F-350 up an onramp can suddenly become a handful even on dry

pavement.  The vehicle stability control is there, but in at

least one instance, it let the truck get too far off course before

offering correction. Driving both trucks on the same road in the same

conditions, I found that the F-350 simply couldn't get the power to the

pavement the same way the GMC could. Indeed, even when timed against

itself, the F-350 was slightly faster in 4x4 mode than 4x2 mode simply

due to better traction. <br>


The Sierra on the other hand, was able to put the power down with

minimal slipping and little need to wake the traction control gnome up.

It didn't even occur to me to test the acceleration in 4x4 mode because

it simply wasn't necessary to get good grip.<br>


GMC has another big advantage with their exhaust brake. Used primarily

when towing or hauling a heavy payload, exhaust brake used the

turbocharger to help slow the engine when descending a hill. 

In the GMC this works at any speed once the system has been

activated.  The F-350 has a similar feature, but it only works

at speeds below 20mph.<br>


Finally, the GMC takes it home in the engine department as well. The

Ford may have the advantage on paper, the Duramax has a much more

linear power delivery and while the Ford is quieter at idle, the GMC is

smoother and quieter everywhere else on the power band. <br>


<span style="font-weight: bold;">Maneuverability:

Advantage - Ford</span><br>


spending a week struggling to get the GMC in and around the tight

corner at the end of my driveway, the tighter turning radius of the

Ford was a very welcome relief.  The listed turning radius of

the Ford

is technically 1 inch greater than that of the GMC; however, the Ford's

wheelbase is also 3 inches longer. In the real world this resulted in

easier parking in tight spaces despite the Ford's extra 6 inches in

overall length. Despite the GMC winning the previous two catagories,

this is a big enough area to be a deal breaker for many shoppers. <br>


<h3><span style="color: rgb(51, 102, 255);">Round 2

– Fight!</span><br>


<span style="font-weight: bold;">Interior: Advantage –

Ford, by a lot</span><br>


<span style="font-weight: bold;">Sierra:</span> I

know General Motors was having a rough couple years there, but when

they were refreshing the frame and engine of this truck; they really

shouldn't have left the interior as a carry over. That's not to say the

interior is bad, it is just getting long in the tooth.  The

interior is done up in a very conservative, yet handsome way, but there

are little things that really stand out from "old GM".  <br>


<div style="text-align: center;"><img

style="width: 509px; height: 383px;"

alt="2011 GMC Sierra Denali 2500 HD Interior"



Although this is a "Denali" which is GMC speak for "most luxurious", in

many ways GM simply wrapped mediocre hard plastic in leather and plood.

There were a few things I felt were missing on a truck stickering over

$61,000. The first thing that jumped out at me about the Sierra was the

turn signal stalk that was borrowed straight from a 2001 Oldsmobile

Alero.  The entire steering wheel switchgear, while usable,

needs to be updated to GM's more modern setup offered in cars like the

2011 Buick Regal and Chevrolet Equinox. Another thing I felt was

missing was auto-up windows. This wasn't even available on the driver's

window. <br>


The navigation system in the GMC feels a full revision behind the

Ford's in usability. You can also hear the NAV system search the map

DVD over and over when you first open the door, even before you put the

key in to start it. Speaking of the map DVD, at least in this truck, it

needed to be updated. The exit numbers for Interstate 376 through

Pittsburgh are all out of date.  One last thing that I felt

was missing was a 110v outlet for the rear passengers. GM has gotten

good about putting these in their newer vehicles and in something with

this high of a sticker price… it should just be included. <br>


The heated seats in the GMC are good but unremarkable. The center

console storage is huge but still manages to get dwarfed by the

Ford's.  Ingress and egress are made possible by the $700

optional assist steps, a necessary option for this truck. <br>


<span style="font-weight: bold;">F-350</span>: The

interior makes the slight deficiencies in the GMC that much more

dramatic. First, the two tone leather seats are like slipping into an

overstuffed leather chair at some country club… they're heated and

cooled too.  The overall interior looks more modern and

"truck" without coming off as toy like. There are hard plastics around,

but nothing that feels low rent.  The center console is

massive, probably more than it needs to be, but offers lots of storage

room. There are 4 large cup holders with easy to remove (and clean)

inserts in the front, and two more serving rear seat passengers. The

seating position is so high, I can see Russia from my house. 

There is a bank of auxiliary switches at the bottom of the center

stack, presumably for operating accessories you hook up to your truck,

that look like something out of the lab of an evil scientist on Dr.

Who. <br>


<div style="text-align: center;"><img

style="width: 525px; height: 393px;"

alt="2011 Ford F-350 Lariat Super Duty interior"



Ford's Sync system is here in all its glory.  I find some of

the voice activated commands cumbersome to use (and that seems to be

the case on all Sync equipped cars) but it's clear that Ford Sync is a

full generation ahead of General Motors in this area. <br>


In fact, I only have three minor gripes with the F-350s interior:<br>

  1. Side rail steps need to be standard on a truck this large. Getting out of this truck is more like falling out if you're not careful. "Climb in" is not a euphemism.
  2. There are large exposed metal brackets sticking out from under the rear seats with no attempt made to hide them. You just have a large bracket out there on the floor with a bolt going down through the carpet.
  3. The turn signal – The 2011 award for fixing what ain't broke goes to…. FORD!<br>


Ford, since I know you are reading this, move in closer. What the hell

is up with these new fangled turn signals?! I want positive affirmation

that the turn signal is indeed on without having to look at the dash.

This F-350 has the damn turn signals from the Mini-Cooper that return

to central position even after they're activated, and you have to push

it completely the other way to cancel the signal. But sometimes, if you

tap the turn signal to signal an actual turn and not just passing, you

find that you didn't tap it hard enough and you only get three blinks

and the turn signal shuts back off automatically. Of course you can't

rely on its position by touch to know what your turn signal is doing

because it always returns to center. So you find yourself looking down

for the flashing arrow only to find you're not signaling anything other

than that you're an asshole who doesn't know how to use his blinkers.<br>


As nice as the GMC's interior is, the Ford's is just a much nicer, more

comfortable, and more modern place to spend your time.<br>


<span style="font-weight: bold;">Exterior: Advantage – Ford</span><br>

Both trucks are handsome.  My personal preference is for the

GMC, but I cannot deny the good looks of the F-350 as well. 

However, additional features like Ford's tailgate "man step", the

Freight liner sized mirrors, the bed extenders, and slightly larger bed

add the extra utility to put the Ford over the top. <br>



<h3 style="color: rgb(51, 102, 255);">Winner – You</h3>

In the end, we have to pick a winner. The winner in this case will be

you if you buy one of these two heavy duty trucks. The truth is, 60

years of fierce competition between Ford and General Motors has

produced two of the most capable trucks for the price this world has to

offer. <br>


If it were my $61k and change on the table, I would probably go with

the GMC simply because I prefer the look, the ride, and the power

train. However, I would still long for the interior of the F-350. For

those of you asking, "Well that's crap! Which is the better truck?"

Trucks in this league are generally purchased for a specific

purpose.  Which means the answer is an affirmative, "It

depends".  <br>


Other publications have put these two up against each other in all out

hauling tests, something currently beyond the scope of my testing

ability, and gave the General Motors HD truck the nod. <br>


My conclusion is: Even if you're planning to put these trucks to the

extreme of their capabilities; either way, you win. <br>


*I have to appologize to you the reader and to General Motors. My

Camera's SD card snapped, literally in half, and I lost all of my good

pictures of the Sierra. Some of the pictures used in this article are

GM Media supplied as a result.




2011 GMC Sierra Denali HD 2500 - cold start and acceleration run<br>



2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty - Accleration runs<br>



2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty - walk around and start up<br>

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Keep in mind that these are the loaded up versions that you probably wouldn't buy. A Sierra 2500 HD 4x4 work truck starts at $30,920, the Ford F-350 SD bases at $32,025

True, but if he is looking for diesel that price jumps to close to $41k.

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ouch... $61,000 i know that when you are at the dealership looking at the trucks this wouldnt cross your mind but a few thousand more takes home a vette or cts-v these days... how would the match have stacked up against an f-250? does it still have the same powertrain options as the 350?

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