If you are looking for a luxury car, a German vehicle is probably your best bet. If you want efficiency of both space and fuel economy, Japan usually delivers. And if you want a full-size pickup, look to the good ol’ U.S. of A. A comparison of the Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra is a perfect example of America’s dominance when it comes to trucks.
It’s not that the Tundra isn’t sufficiently brawny. Like the Ram, it’s offered with three cab configurations, three bed lengths, and four- or rear-wheel drive. Styling is beefy where it counts, though the body’s not quite as crisply styled as the American-brand trucks. Inside, it’s cleanly laid out, with chunky controls, and truly swanky trim on the Platinum and 1794 Edition models.
MORE: Read our latest reviews of the 2016 Ram 1500 and 2016 Toyota Tundra
With its easily distinguished Freightliner looks, we think the Ram looks better, though. Every trim level gets its own grille design, and the overall look, depending on the model, ranges from simple to chrome laden to the blacked out “Death Race 2000” of the Ram Rebel. The Ram’s interior looks fantastic and features a big central screen.
Performance and Powertrains
The Ram offers three engines. A 3.6-liter V-6 is the base engine. Rated at 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, it has enough power for hauling and is EPA-rated 17 mpg city, 25 highway, 19 combined. The 5.7-liter V-8, which generates 395 hp and 407 lb-ft, is the best choice for towing and it offers the quickest acceleration performance, but fuel economy falls to 15/22/17 mpg.
Ram also offers a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 that produces 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. It’s priced nearly $3,000 higher than the Hemi V-8, but fuel economy is much higher at 21/29/24 mpg.
The Tundra offers only a pair of V-8 engines. The base 4.6-liter makes 310 hp and 327 lb-ft of torque and delivers similar performance to Ram’s V-6. It’s reasonably quick when not laden to its payload and towing limits, and has good low-end acceleration. The 5.7-liter V-8 is good for 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. It’s stronger overall, but, like the 4.6, it tends to run out of steam as speeds rise. The max tow rating of 10,500 pounds is close to the Ram’s but far below the 12,000 (or more) pounds of the GM and Ford trucks.
Gas mileage isn’t a strong suit of the Tundra, either. The 4.6 earns a 15/19/16 mpg rating while the 5.7 comes in at 13/18/15 mpg. Our real-world experience confirms the lower ratings.
On the street, the Tundra acquits itself better. Ride quality is fairly good, though pavement seams and surface bumps translate into larger-than-normal impacts in the cabin. The Ram’s ride quality, however, is the smoothest in the class thanks to its rear coil springs. The Ram’s optional air suspension is also great for load-leveling while towing.
Interior and Bed
The Ram’s interior may be its best attribute. Interior finishes range from nice enough to extravagant. Attention to detail can be seen on upper models, which have leather-covered handgrips with cross-stitched seams. Noise is also kept to a minimum.
Toyota has updated the materials of the Tundra, but it’s not finished as well as the Ram or the Ford F-150. The plush seats do a good job of keeping things comfortable, and the Platinum and 1794 Edition models do offer plenty of luxury.
Ram also offers more bed options, highlighted by the RamBox storage system in the bed sides A factory spray-in bedliner and an integrated gooseneck hitch are also available. The Tundra has a deck rail system with four tie-down cleats, but not much else.
Features and Safety
The Ram has other features that distance it from the Tundra as well. First and foremost is the more complete lineup, which includes trucks outfitted for work, luxury, off-roading, and everything in between. Notable features start with the easy-to-use Uconnect infotainment system and its available big 8.4-inch touchscreen. It offers navigation, access to apps, a tether to Sprint 3G data service, and Wi-Fi hotspot capability. Also offered are a 7.0-inch configurable gauge cluster, a DVD player for front- and rear-seat passengers, and wood interior trim harvested from fallen fenceposts.
The Tundra is available in about half the number of models, but base, high-end, and off-road models are available as well. Buyers can also get Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with a 7.0-inch screen and access to apps, perforated and ventilated leather seating, and, on the 1794 edition, ultra-suede upholstery inserts.
The Tundra does beat the Ram in one category: safety. Both trucks receive four stars from the NHTSA, but the Tundra gets a slightly better rating from the IIHS. It receives an Acceptable rating in the roof strength test, while the Ram gets the worse rating of Marginal. Otherwise, the IIHS ratings are the same. The Tundra also offers blind spot warnings and rear cross traffic alerts, while the Ram does not. It should be noted that neither truck offers some of today’s active safety features, but GM and Ford do.
Despite its win in safety, our numbers show that the Ram is clearly the winner in this battle. It stands out for its comfortable cabins, smooth ride, and excellent fuel economy from the diesel and V-6 engines. The Toyota Tundra offers a strong record for durability, but when it comes to fuel economy, ride quality, and comfort and utility features, the Tundra is outperformed by its U.S. competitors, the Ram among them.
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