Face-off: RAM 1500 versus Ford F-150

Dodge's RAM 1500 has some of the best EPA stats and entertainment systems among trucks, but the Ford F-150 has the reputation of being the best-selling pickup truck in America. Put side by side, which truck wins?

Rick Wilking/Reuters/File
A row of new Ford F-150 pickup trucks are parked for sale at a Ford dealer in the Denver suburb of Broomfield, Colo., in 2011. Although the Ford F-150 has long packed a reputation for being one of the best-selling trucks in the US, Dodge's RAM 1500 is quickly becoming a strong competitor.

The Ford F-150 is the best-selling pickup truck in America. Even so, it doesn't have it so easy. Not only does it fend off the pair of excellent new GM pickups this year, it's also challenged by the former Dodge Ram--now the Ram 1500, now every bit the competitor to the other big sellers in the full-size truck class.

Now that the Ram 1500 has some of the best EPA stats and infotainment features in the truck segment, does the Ford F-150 have more to worry about?

It does, though we'll give away the ending and tell you upfront we rate both trucks at the same numeric score, for different reasons.

Let's start with styling. The F-150 has heavy-duty, Tonka sensibilities and lots of sharp angles. It's tough-looking outside, no doubt, but it moves smartly into luxury territory inside once it treads into Limited, Platinum, and especially King Ranch trims. It was the first of the big trucks to go countrypolitan, and it's never suffered for it. The Ram? It adapted quickly, and since 2011, it's been at least on par with the F-150 in terms of interior quality--maybe a shade nicer, especially if that shade is brown. From the outside, the Ram just nails its semi-semi style, wrapping in some heritage with some modern cues like its mesh grille and LED lighting. We'd tip our hat to the Ram here.

For performance, both trucks lay out a range of V-6 and V-8 drivetrains, with four-wheel drive available. The Ram 1500 makes hay with an eight-speed automatic that lifts fuel economy on its base V-6 to the highest numbers in the class, though towing and hauling ratings fall behind the competition, to 10,500 pounds max. The F-150's V-6 six-cylinder/six-speed fares fine as a work truck, almost hitting the same EPA numbers, but it's the turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 that'd lure us out of a more thirsty V-8--with no loss in towing of 11,300 pounds. (We'll just leave the one-of-a-kind Raptor...right...there.)

Both the Ram and F-150 steer via electric motors, with the F-150's tuned for a really wide range of weight, from parking-lot light to mid-corner meaty. The Ram's rack responds with a little more calm, just as its optional air suspension does. So equipped, the Ram's the smoothest full-size truck of all, a point the less composed F-150 concedes cleanly.

On the comfort and utility front, both the F-150 and Ram come in three body styles and bed lengths, for myriad combinations and ten or eleven trim levels, depending on which brand you're shopping. The cabin comfort and seating features are roughly equal, with more storage bins built into some Rams, where there's more raw space in an extended-cab or crew-cab F-150. Both bed can be spray-lined, fitted with step bumpers, and lighting; the Ram Box's in-fender storage carves out even more useful little niches, while the F-150 has a built-in tailgate ladder.

Both the F-150 and Ram have been crash-tested, and the scores aren't perfect. The F-150 has a Top Safety Pick under its belt, though its front-impact scores give as much pause as the Ram's roof-crush ratings. Both have safety features such as a rearview camera and Bluetooth available, and include trailer-sway control.

Finally, the luxury and infotainment front leaves Ram with a slight edge over the F-150. Its UConnect touchscreen system is simply easier to use, and has available wireless internet service with tethered data. Ford's MyFord Touch system has more confusing screens, though it's been around longer. Premium audio, leather seats with ventilation, and navigation can be had with either truck. By the time you're stepping into a King Ranch F-150 or a Ram Laramie Longhorn at nearly $50,000, you're a long, long way from the bare-bones versions.

For our money, there's just a fine point or two to separate the Ram 1500 from the Ford F-150. You may save more gas in low-end Rams, and might make more of an entrance--but you'll tow more in high-end F-150s and could have a slight safety edge.

Which side of the fence are you on?

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