Tundra v. Ram — Part I: Mechanicals
For our second comparison, we’re going to evaluate the Dodge Ram and the Toyota Tundra to see which truck is best. While we’re not going to evaluate EVERYTHING, we are going to compare the key components and highlight any distinct differences between the two trucks. As always, we encourage you to leave your comments (supportive or otherwise) about our review.
Let the showdown begin!
There are four engines available in a 2007 Dodge Ram 1500. A 3.7L V6 (typically found in a fleet or work truck), a 4.7L V8 Flex-Fuel, a 4.7L V8 Magnum, and a 5.7L HEMI. The HEMI, in addition to being one of the most powerful V8’s on the road, has a cylinder deactivation feature that shuts off half of the cylinders as driving conditions allow, reducing fuel consumption and improving overall fuel economy. Kudos to Dodge for incorporating this feature into their engine. Dodge also offers a flex-fuel engine, but we don’t think it’s much of a selling point. Because most people in the US have limited access to the flex-fuel “E85″, and because it is often times much more expensive than regular gasoline, the benefit of owning a flex-fuel engine is small.
Toyota offers a 4.0L V6, a 4.7L V8, and a 5.7L V8 — very similar displacements to those found in the Dodge Ram. But the similarities stop their — while all Tundra motors feature DOHC design and variable valve timing, the Ram’s engines
are all pushrod designs (circa 1960)(CORRECTION: Dodge’s 4.7 V8 and 3.7 V6 are SOHC, only the HEMI is pushrod) that are incapable of the levels of performance and efficiency found in any of the Tundra’s engines when similar displacements are compared. Because of the dramatic engine technology differences (DOHC v. SOHC or Pushrod), the Ram is at a distinct disadvantage when compared with the Tundra.
The HEMI has quite a bit of power…345hp and 375 ft-lbs of torque, making it comparable to the Tundra 5.7L with 381hp and 401 ft-lbs of torque. We like the feel and the power of the HEMI. Because of it’s older push-rod design, it does very well on the low-end of the RPM range and that translates to decent off-the-line performance. While the new Tundra is definitely faster, the HEMI is very respectable.
The HEMI’s biggest downside when compared to the Tundra is fuel economy. EPA rating on an 07 HEMI Quadcab SLT is 14 mpg city and 18 mpg highway, but we must say this is GROSSLY overestimated. Based on personal experience, it can be difficult for this truck to average 12 mpg with the HEMI engine. Obviously fuel economy is affected by a lot of factors including fuel quality, driving habits, altitude and climate, etc., but it’s clear to us based on other reviews, posts we’ve read in forums, and first-hand knowledge, the HEMI loves to consume fuel at an alarming rate. This is a big downside to the HEMI. Assuming a new Tundra averages 16 mpg (we’ve seen higher) and a new Ram 12 mpg (we’ve seen lower), the Ram will cost 30% more to fuel. Even if you give the HEMI the benefit of the doubt in terms of fuel economy, it is still less powerful, making the winner in this category easy to choose.
WINNER: Toyota. Decent performance makes the HEMI worthy of recognition, but that recognition is overshadowed by poor fuel economy as a result of the old push-rod engine design.
The Dodge Ram is unique in that it is the only truck on the market to offer a 6 speed manual transmission with a V8 in a half-ton. Unfortunately, this manual transmission is only available with the 4.7L V8, making it a feature that most people won’t choose. With the HEMI, the only transmission available is a 5 speed automatic. The Tundra also offers only one transmission choice with it’s most powerful engine, a 6-speed automatic with the 5.7L. When it comes to transmissions, more speeds are better. Combine the Tundra’s extra gear with a tow rating that’s more than 2000 lbs higher, and it’s clear that the Tundra’s transmission is superior.
WINNER: Toyota. Six speeds are better than five, and the higher tow rating indicates the Tundra’s transmission is stronger.
Both the Ram and the Tundra offer 4-wheel disc brakes, but that’s the end of the similarities. The Tundra has 4-wheel ABS, the Ram only rear wheel ABS (unless you purchase a MegaCab or upgrade the system for $$, then you’ll have 4-wheel ABS). Also, the Tundra’s rotors are all ventilated while the Ram has ventilated rotors in the front only. Some may argue that because the front brakes are responsible for 90% of a vehicle’s stopping power, the rear rotors don’t need ventilation. While we agree that is true, we don’t understand why the Dodge’s rear rotors are larger than the front (13.9 inch solid rotors rear, 13.4 inch ventilated rotors up front) but not ventilated. Both trucks also offer electronic brake force distribution.
Taking the specs and setting them aside for the moment, measured stopping distances are fairly similar. A 2004 Ram QuadCab SLT 4×4 stopped from 60mph in 135.6 feet (empty). The most recent test of a similarly equipped DoubleCab Tundra Limited 4×4 stopped from 60mph in 131 feet (empty).
WINNER: Toyota by a mile. While the Ram and Tundra basically tied in terms of stopping distance, we think the lack of 4 wheel ABS, smaller diameter front rotors, and non-ventilated rear rotors will result in brake fade while towing, hauling, or during long trips. Toyota’s superior components win out here.
Tundra’s partially boxed frame is still a question mark when compared to the competition. While Dodge offers a head -to-toe fully boxed frame, it also has fewer cross-members than the Tundra. Without knowing the moments of both frames it’s hard to say which is stronger but we’re willing to bet the Ram’s frame is tougher. However, because the Tundra is built by arguably the most successful car company in the world, we’re inclined to give Toyota the benefit of the doubt here. For the record, we think the Tundra should have a fully-boxed frame to better measure-up to the domestics.
WINNER: Dodge. Fully boxed frame is better than partially boxed frame, even if the partially boxed frame is built by industry stalwart Toyota.
Toyota and Dodge have similar payload ratings in the DoubleCab 4×4 & QuadCab 4×4 configurations. Toyota’s max payload is 1,580 lbs, the Dodge 1,500 lbs. While both trucks are available in a configuration with a higher maximum payload rating we don’t think the max numbers are going to matter to anyone who isn’t a commercial user. For a typical daily driver, payload capacity is only half of the issue. Payload accessibility and utility are just as important, and we think the Tundra edges out the Dodge.
For starters, the Tundra has a tailgate assist feature that makes opening and closing the tailgate easy — even if your hands are full. Second of all, Tundra’s cargo box is deeper, increasing the amount of “stuff” you can fit in the back. Third, the Tundra is rated higher. In defense of the Ram, we really like the Dodge’s “Activgate” cargo management system — if this system was a standard feature the Ram would have beat the Tundra out in this category.
WINNER: Tundra, but it’s too close to matter. Like we’ve said in the past, for a lot of truck buyers, payload rating isn’t a huge concern.
When a truck has a stronger, more powerful engine, it will typically pull more than a truck with a less powerful engine. That couldn’t be more true when comparing the max tow ratings of the the Dodge Ram and the Toyota Tundra. The Tundra is listed as having a max tow rating of 10,800 lbs, the Ram 1500 only 8,750 lbs — of course, these are for the work versions of these trucks. When the typical “average joe” versions of the trucks are compared (say a DoubleCab 4×4 to a QuadCab 4×4, both with the big V8’s), the difference is the same. The Tundra pulls 10,300 lbs in this configuration, the Ram 8,500 lbs. While the Ram’s rating certainly puts it on par with other trucks in the segment, the Tundra wins by almost 2,000 lbs.
In conclusion, we like the Ram’s mechanicals a lot. For starters, the HEMI is a powerful engine that gets up and goes. We like that Dodge offers a 6-speed manual with it’s smaller V8, and we like the fully-boxed frame. However, Tundra is more powerful, a better tower, and it’s a more sophisticated design than the Ram. We think the Dodge has a severe shortcoming in terms of fuel economy…we’ve seen the HEMI get as low as 8 mpg before (lead foot, it’s true) but 8 mpg is unacceptable under ANY circumstances.
Check back for the second part of this comparison, Tundra v. Ram — Part II: Features and Pricing.
Filed Under: Toyota Tundra Reviews and Comparisons