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|12,750||Max Towing (lbs)||11,800|
|32||Fuel Economy (hwy mpg)||30|
|305 - 702||Max Horsepower (hp)||285 - 420|
Are you shopping for a new truck? With so many models and different engine and powertrain configurations to consider, it's easy to end up confused. Take the 2021 Ram 1500 vs 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 – at first glance, these two powerhouses seem to offer similar features, but a closer look reveals a very different story.
Ram sets the standard for rugged capability with the full-size Ram 1500 pickup, and with the supercharged Ram 1500 TRX now part of the 2021 lineup, street performance seekers have one more reason to go with a Ram. Sure, GMC manufactures a strong contender, but the Sierra 1500 lineup is more predictable. If you're potentially shelling out over $50,000 for a truck, boring probably isn't on your list of desired features.
Any comprehensive truck comparison relies heavily on specifications. The Ram 1500 bests the Sierra 1500 in several performance and capability categories, but is one a better value overall? What about luxury seekers? It's possible that one of these trucks offers more high-end luxury features. Car and Driver gives the 2021 Ram 1500 a perfect 10/10 and calls it "the best pickup truck" and "raises expectations for the entire breed." Let's see if you agree.
The 2021 Ram 1500 scores an early win in the performance category, thanks to the beastly TRX. The TRX is a supercharged Ram 1500 equipped with a massive 6.2-liter HEMI V8 engine, making a staggering 702 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. With those stats, it's an understatement to claim that the Ram lineup is more powerful than GMC's Sierra. After all, the Sierra's most powerful available V8 engine delivers a comparatively meager 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque.
Even when we set the TRX off to the side (since GMC doesn't offer a comparable truck in its lineup), the next most powerful motors in GMC and Ram lineups are their available turbo-diesels. Diesel engines are all about high torque and better access to power at low RPMs. But the Ram 1500, when equipped with the available 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel engine, makes 480 lb-ft of torque, while the Sierra 1500's available I6 turbo-diesel reaches a torque rating of just 460 lb-ft.
Towing capability is another primary consideration for many pickup truck owners. Which of these trucks offers the most robust maximum towing capacity? The win goes to the Ram 1500 again, with a max rating of 12,750 pounds, while the Sierra 1500 can only haul a maximum of 11,800 pounds, nearly a full half-ton less. Comparing diesel engines is even worse, as the Sierra 1500 maxes out at just 9,200 pounds against 12,560 for the Ram 1500 diesel. That's a huge difference by any standard and one that buyers should carefully consider.
Both trucks offer advanced trailering technology designed to make hitching and towing safer and easier. GMC's ProGrade Trailering system offers access to its system via the onboard infotainment system, and it includes multiple camera views, a Jack-Knife Alert, and a trailer length indicator to help gauge distance with lane changes. The system is also available via the myGMC app.
The Ram 1500 offers similar digital technology, as well as adjustable air suspension, a feature that significantly contributes to better overall towing performance. It also takes guesswork and do-overs out of hooking up a trailer: simply raise or lower the truck height to match the height of the hitch. You can also opt for the 360-degree surround-view camera system for all-around views of the truck, the cargo bed, and a bird's eye view of the hitch.
Setting the air suspension at a low height creates less drag at highway speeds, contributing to better overall fuel economy. This is especially important when hauling cargo, as heavy loads can substantially increase the rate at which you're burning fuel. The absence of a similar feature on the GMC shouldn't be a deal killer, but it's something to think about.
The Ram 1500 is offered in eight different trims, running the gamut from basic to extravagant:
For 2021, Ram introduced a Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary Edition with a list of unique custom interior and exterior equipment and badging not available on any other Ram trim. Meanwhile, the Built to Serve editions are a tribute to the Armed Forces and come with special paint schemes to honor the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.
GMC maintains a slightly smaller trim lineup that many truck shoppers will find familiar:
Within the GMC lineup, potential buyers can choose from nearly 30 optional packages to increase safety features and add capability, convenience, and comfort equipment. Unfortunately, the sheer number of them makes price tag creep a very real issue. Even the fully-loaded Denali offers six total extra cost packages, leading us to the conclusion that "fully-loaded" means something else entirely to GMC.
While the GMC Sierra 1500's simplified trim lineup may seem beneficial at first, Ram's robust trim list removes the price creep of endless equipment package add-ons. Instead, Ram incorporates a variety of features that make sense for the price and eliminates the patchwork GMC requires to outfit a truck with everything you need.
As for safety features, once again, the Ram 1500 shines at any trim level. It's the only full-size pickup to receive the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's coveted Top Safety Pick award three years in a row (2019, 2020, and 2021), which is hard to beat. Even the base Tradesman work truck offers access to advanced safety features for just a few hundred more.
If you want to add driver-assist safety features to the base Sierra 1500, be prepared to spend over $1,000 for the 1SA Driver Alert Package 1 - and that package doesn't even include forward collision alert, a feature that's generally standard even in less expensive vehicles. You have to add yet another equipment package and another $615 to the price tag if you want it.
For off-roaders, Ram offers both the Rebel and the TRX, while GMC only has the AT4. Buying a truck specifically for its trail riding capability means focusing on powertrain and ground clearance, and Ram comes out on top in both areas. Out of the gate, the TRX wins on power, with its incredible 6.2-liter supercharged V8 offering far more power than the AT4's 5.3-liter V8 motor. As for ground clearance, the TRX offers 11.8 inches to the AT4's 10.7 inches.
Why does the 2021 Ram 1500 set the bar for luxury? One word: Limited. The truck's top Limited trim incorporates features commonly only seen in high-end luxury European imports. The available 19-speaker Harman Kardon Premium audio system takes advantage of the truck's cavernous interior cabin, while the massive 12-inch portrait-oriented infotainment touchscreen dominates the dash and puts multiple commands and camera views at the driver's fingertips.
By contrast, GMC's high-end entrant, the well-known Denali, features a much smaller 8-inch touchscreen. Even the Ram's 8.4-inch touchscreen is larger than GMC's top option. As for entertainment, Denali drivers will have to settle for the 7-speaker Bose audio system (12 fewer speakers than Ram's premium system). When it comes to comfort, rear-seat passengers can stretch out and enjoy up to 45.2 inches of legroom in the Ram 1500's back seat, but they'll feel a little more cramped with 43 inches and change in the back of the Sierra 1500.
Taking a closer look at special editions, the Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary edition features a standard multifunction tailgate, while special 10th-anniversary emblems and embedded placards decorate the cab. The 20-inch wheels are paired with all-terrain tires, and the interior boasts a trim exclusive dipped mountain brown leather interior with warm wood grain accents. All-in and fully-loaded, the Limited Longhorn will run just under $65,000.*
GMC embellishes the Denali with an available special edition CarbonPro Package. This also adds a multifunction tailgate, as well as a head-up display, power side steps, a carbon-fiber composite bed liner, and an exterior bed-mounted audio system. These are all unique features, but they'll cost you: fully equipped, you'll be looking at a price tag of over $70,000 despite having fewer tech features than the Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary edition.