2016 Pickup Truck of the Year
Battle For Glory
2015 marked an important year in the history of Truck Trend. It was the first time we had broken rank from our parents at Motor Trend and stepped out to forge our own tracks. Our inaugural Pickup Truck of the Year test went off without a hitch and our award has quickly become one of the most coveted in the industry. Now, a year later, we’re back with round two. We’ve taken what we learned last year and rolled it into an even bigger, better, and more comprehensive test for 2016. Our judging panel is comprised of some of the most knowledgeable minds when it comes to pickups, and they come to us with backgrounds in street, off-road, diesel, lifted, lowered, new, and classic trucks. We eat, sleep, and breathe trucks. At Truck Trend, we are the authority on all things truck.
For our 2016 Pickup Truck of the Year competition we invited all models that were either all-new or significantly updated. Seven pickups from five manufactures accepted the invitation. Coming off a successful first year, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon both returned to our test, this time sporting a new 2.8L Duramax diesel engine. Chevrolet also entered the Silverado 1500, which received a significant facelift and new drivetrain option with the 5.3L V-8 and eight-speed automatic combination. GMC’s Sierra 1500 Denali also received a freshening of the front fascia and entered our competition with the company’s 6.2L V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission combination. Nissan fielded the all-new-from-the-ground-up Titan XD, which came equipped with a Cummins 5.0L V-8 turbodiesel engine. Fresh off a full redesign, the Toyota Tacoma entered our competition with a full host of off-road wizardry and a revolutionary new 3.5L D-4S V-6 engine. Rounding out our field of seven was the Ram 1500 Rebel, which showed up with an improved suspension, aggressive tires, and assertive styling both inside and out.
Testing began just outside of Los Angeles at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. We ran each pickup through a battery of instrumented testing, which started with checking their weight (full fuel, no driver) on our ProForm digital scales, which we picked up from Summit Racing. Testing included 0-60 mph acceleration, 60-0 mph braking, and quarter-mile elapsed time. Also included was 0-60 mph with each truck’s maximum allowable payload (as calculated by GVWR minus actual weight), quarter-mile elapsed time with payload, and 0-60 mph acceleration and quarter-mile elapsed time with a trailer (loaded to 75 percent of each truck’s maximum). While on private roads at the speedway, our team of judges drove each of the pickups with their maximum payloads. Conducting this test in a controlled environment allowed for more comprehensive assessment of acceleration, braking, and handling while loaded.
Our team hit the road early the second day, running each driver and every truck through a 15-mile urban towing loop with the same trailer and loads (75 percent of each truck’s maximum) as the previous day. This allowed the team to evaluate real-world acceleration, braking, handling, grade climbing, merging, and trailer visibility. Day Three led to a break in the action, a rest day so to speak. However, there’s no rest for the weary, as this time provided the opportunity to assess each vehicle from top to bottom, giving our judges time to scour the inside, outside, and underside while studying interior ergonomics, rear seat comfort, technology usability, build quality, and the features and benefits of each truck.
Day Four put our team back behind the wheel as the caravan rolled along a several-hundred-mile highway route. This exercise gave our judges plenty of time in each pickup to evaluate the field in all conditions, ranging from gridlocked Los Angeles traffic to winding two-lane. This also gave us an excellent read on real-world fuel economy.
Finally, we ventured deep into the Inyo Mountains for a day filled with nearly 50 miles of dirt trails. Through rough roads, muddy basins, rocky climbs, washes, and sand dunes, we were able to evaluate the trucks’ tires, gearing, traction aids, electronic traction controls, ground clearance, suspension tuning, four-wheel-drive systems, thermal management, and overall vehicle dynamics. While it’s true that the average truck owners won’t use a pickup as a strictly off-road toy, the fact still remains that most are marketed towards those who lead an active outdoor lifestyle. And while owners may not consider themselves off-roaders, they still use their four-wheel-drive pickups to get to their favorite hunting, fishing, camping, biking, surfing, skiing, or boarding spots. And if it’s not for recreation, then it’s use on the farm, in muddy fields, rural construction sites, or mines. We wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we didn’t test these systems to their fullest.
Each pickup brought with it a unique skillset, and they all impressed our judges in one area or another. However, in the end, only one could take the top honors. The winner showed exceptional performance in each of the tested criteria and didn’t leave our panel of judges disappointed. Which pickup scored the highest? Read on to find out.