1999 Ford F-250 SuperDuty vs. GMC Sierra 2500

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From the July 1999 issue of Car and Driver.

According to Jim Kornas, who is GMC’s Sierra brand manager, roughly 75 percent of all pickup sales are light-duty, half-ton models—­Ford F-150s, GMC Sierra 1500s, and Dodge Ram 1500s. Fifteen percent are the so-called three-quarter-ton variety, and the remaining 10 percent are heavy-duty com­mercial vehicles.

For this comparison test, we decided to have a look at the three-quarter-ton trucks—the middleweights. Unlike their lightweight brothers, which can often be seen trolling suburban streets hauling peat moss and garden supplies, three-quarter-­ton trucks are bought by those needing more capacity—both towing and payload. Komas estimates that 50 percent of three-­quarter-ton pickups are registered to busi­nesses. Contractors and construction foremen use these brutes not only to haul supplies and equipment around but also to serve as rolling offices.

Our competitors here are the two newest entries in a field of four vehicles. Ford actu­ally makes two distinct trucks in the three­-quarter-ton class: the regular F-series that debuted in 1996 as a 1997 model and the SuperDuty version that appeared late last year. For this test we chose the newer SuperDuty model to get a feel for how it operates and also to check out the SuperDuty’s bigger, optional engine—a 6.7-liter V-10. The largest engine in the reg­ular F-250 is a 5.4-liter V-8. Also new late last year was GMC’s Sierra, so we ordered a 2500 Heavy Duty with the largest available gas engine—a 6.0-liter V-8. We omitted Dodge’s Ram from this test because it’s been around since 1994 and a new Ram is expected early next millennium.

We set a price ceiling of about $32,000 and specified three must-haves—four-­wheel drive, an extended cab, and the largest gas engine available. We got two capable trucks. Both can tow 10,000 pounds and have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of at least 8600 pounds. In truck-speak, the gross vehicle weight rating is the vehicle’s payload plus the vehicle’s weight. Subtract the vehicle weight from the GVWR, and you have the payload—the weight of passengers and cargo that each vehicle can carry.

Although these big trucks are not known for their agility and speed, we put each through our standard battery of per­formance tests and spent two days driving them on highways, back roads, and dirt trails. Here’s how they stacked up.

2nd Place: Ford F-250 SuperDuty

Among the Ford SuperDuty vehicles, the F-250 is the lightweight of the bunch. The SuperDuty chassis is available in F-250, F-350, F-450, and even F-550 guise—that one has a GVWR of 17,500 pounds. Our test truck was rated for 8800 pounds.

Our truck’s base price was $25,395. We added $5955 worth of options, including the V-10 engine and an auto­matic transmission, air conditioning, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, a cassette player, keyless entry, a power driver’s seat, auto-locking hubs, and running boards.

HIGHS: Rugged styling, four doors, gutsy V-10 engine.
High load height, choppy ride, vacuum-cleaner engine note.
Wins the mine’s-bigger-­than-yours contest, but that size doesn’t pay off with increased capability.

You have to have the running boards, a $370 option, because, at least in the Midwest, this truck qual­ifies as a mountain, and you’ll need help climbing into it. Its roofline is a half-foot higher than the GMC’s, and the floorboards are 26 inches above terra firma. That height translates into 8.3 inches of ground clear­ance—only half an inch more than the GMC—but we’d gladly give up a few inches to bring this high rider closer to earth. With the tailgate low­ered, the load height is almost 39 inches. Trust us on this one—hoisting objects into the F-250’s bed is a serious chore. What good is a pickup bed if it’s a pain to use? The GMC’s cargo box rides at a more convenient elevation, five inches lower.

More than its unruly height rel­egated this Ford to second place. The optional $335 V-10 engine has plenty of grunt—its 410 pound-feet of torque out-twists the GMC’s by 55—but it’s saddled with a 6300-pound curb weight, 800 pounds more than the GMC. The V-10 also makes 25 less horsepower than the GMC V-8, so the truck with the bigger engine is slower. And under full-throttle acceleration, you’d swear there’s an exhaust leak.

The F-250 uses rigid axles and leaf springs front and rear, which gives it a bouncy, stiff-legged ride when the truck’s bed is empty. Freeway expansion strips are especially painful, and bumpy off-ramps send the back end skittering. The steering is slow; we had to drive this Ford 4 mph slower than the GMC through our emergency-lane-change test to avoid spinning.

The payoff for the SuperDuty’s unruli­ness should come in increased payload and towing capability. Unfortunately for Ford, that isn’t the case here. The F-250’s 10,000-pound towing capacity is equaled by the GMC truck’s, but its 2500-pound payload is 600 pounds less than the GMC’s, despite a GVWR that’s 200 pounds higher. High curb weight strikes again.

Still, the Ford has a few excellent touches. The optional trailer-towing mir­rors ($155) include small blind-spot mag­nifiers and afford an excellent view. The rear seat can be folded to become a flat load area—perfect for hauling stuff inside the cab. And the four doors are a must-­have in our opinion.

Before you start howling about how we should have chosen the regular F-250 and not the SuperDuty model, let us remind you that the most weight a regular F-250 with four-wheel drive and an extended cab can tow is 8300 pounds. Before we ven­tured into this comparo, we might have assumed that a rough ride was the price one had to pay to haul around big weight, but the General’s new truck proves that notion was wrong.

1st Place: GMC Sierra 2500

A glance at the voting numbers by cat­egory reveals why the GMC won. Although the Ford rated many sevens, the GMC didn’t score lower than eight. What accounts for these consistently better marks?

Let’s start with the engine. At 6.0 liters, it’s smaller than the Ford’s V-10, but you’d never know that during real-world driving. The transmission downshifts promptly and smoothly, and there’s also a towing-and-hauling button that GMC says delays upshifts and makes them firmer so that you won’t feel any performance dif­ference while towing big loads. In every acceleration test, the lighter GMC is quicker—most notably in the 50-to-70-mph acceleration test, where it’s a second and a half quicker.

HIGHS: Comfortable interior, good ride for a pickup, lots of useful details.
LOWS: No fourth door—and the third one is on the passenger’s side.
VERDICT: Able to tow 10,000 pounds, yet it’s reasonably civilized and comfortable.

On the road, the GMC doesn’t feel like a truck that can pull more than four tons. Although we wouldn’t call the ride smooth, it isn’t nearly as punishing as the Ford’s. Through the lane-change test, the GMC handles more assuredly than the Ford, and this emergency maneuver is more easily executed with the GMC’s tighter steering (3.3 turns lock-to-lock versus Ford’s 4.0).

For the 2500 series, GMC upgrades the rear brakes from single-piston calipers to double­piston units, just like the front, and hydraulic power assist sup­plants the 1500’s vacuum booster. We think these brakes should be on all GM pickups­—our test truck’s brake pedal didn’t have the vague, mushy feel of lesser GM trucks. The GMC brakes were less prone to fade than the Ford’s, which would cer­tainly make us more confident while towing a heavy load.

The interior of the GMC is a much more inviting place, too. Leather covers the seats. Although you can’t seat three abreast as you can in the Ford, the bucket seats are well shaped and have a power backrest and power passenger seat—two of many features the Ford doesn’t have.

We were surprised by the rear seat, which was actually comfortable for two medium­-size adults. The rear seat of the GMC’s backrest is reclined to a more comfortable angle than the Ford’s and the bottom cushion is longer. There are also two adjustable headrests.

We were not happy, however, with the absence of a fourth door. This problem is exacerbated by a driver’s seatback-release latch that forces you to pull the backrest forward manually. If you can wait, a fourth door should be on the 2000 model.

Both of these trucks have dash-mounted knobs to switch over from two-wheel to four-wheel drive, but only the GMC truck has a full-time four-wheel­-drive knob position. Basically, you leave the GMC in the “auto” position—on any roads—and when the rear wheels slip, elec­tronic clutches automatically send power to the front axle. Ford recommends using four-wheel drive only in slippery conditions.

Loaded with similar hard­ware, the Sierra 2500 costs about $2000 more than the F-250, but we think its extra standard fea­tures—a CD player, leather seats, overhead console, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror—make up for it.

Things might have turned out differently if the GMC hadn’t been able to haul or tow as much as the Ford, but since it has equal or better capa­bilities, is more comfortable, and rides better, this time picking the winner of a comparison was relatively easy.



1999 Ford F-250 SuperDuty
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear/4-wheel-drive, 6-passenger, 4-door pickup


Base/As Tested: $25,395/$31,350

SOHC 20-valve V-10, iron block and aluminum heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 412 in3, 6747 cm3
Power: 275 hp @ 4250 rpm
Torque: 410 lb-ft @ 2650 rpm 

4-speed automatic


Suspension, F/R: rigid axle/rigid axle
Brakes, F/R: vented disc/vented disc
Tires: General Grabber TR


Wheelbase: 141.8 in
Length: 231.4 in
Width: 79.9 in
Height: 80.4 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 66/49 ft3
Towing Capacity, Max/As-Tested: 10,000/10,000 lb
Curb Weight: 6300 lb

30 mph: 3.0 sec
60 mph: 9.6 sec
1/4-Mile: 17.4 sec @ 77 mph
90 mph: 26.6 sec
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 9.7 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.4 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 7.1 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 92 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 231 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.69 g 


Observed: 12 mpg 

1999 GMC Sierra 2500
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear/4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 3-door pickup


Base/As Tested: $30,110/$33,727

pushrod 16-valve V-8, iron block and heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 364 in3, 5967 cm3
Power: 300 hp @ 4800 rpm
Torque: 355 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm 

4-speed automatic


Suspension, F/R: control arms/rigid axle
Brakes, F/R: vented/vented disc
Tires: Firestone Steeltex Radial R4S


Wheelbase: 143.5 in
Length: 227.6 in
Width: 78.5 in
Height: 74.4 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 64/50 ft3
Towing Capacity, Max/As-Tested: 10,000/10,000 lb
Curb Weight: 5500 lb

30 mph: 3.3 sec
60 mph: 9.2
1/4-Mile: 17.1 sec @ 83 mph
90 mph: 20.8 sec
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 9.3 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.1 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 5.6 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 96 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 200 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.70 g 


Observed: 12 mpg 


Source: Reviews -


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