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Whale Watching: The Trucks of Texas

The Trucks of Texas

G.R. Whale
Nov 28, 2016
With Truck Trend management tied up at the State Fair of Texas, I drew the Truck Rodeo put on by the Texas Auto Writers Association and sponsored by the Steel Market Development Institute. The pickup material war is just getting started.
Photo 2/6   |   Whale Watching Texas Bull
The 2017 Rodeo was a two-day flog that pitted 64 trucks against more than 70 journalist judges to hand out four big trophies—Truck, SUV, CUV and Truck Line of Texas—plus name a slew of other vehicle class winners and a handful of technology, feature, and powertrain awards. I’ve been doing vehicle evaluation only for a few decades, but there is no way that I could test-drive 64 vehicles in 13 hours of drive time. Nor can I vote on all of them—a five-step process for each of the 64 trucks—and write comments for all in my allotted two hours. However, since doing the same thing expecting different results defines insanity, I keep trying.
Photo 3/6   |   Whale Watching Texas Dickies
As Texas is the largest fullsize pickup market in the country, this is a big deal. Manufacturers send small fleets of trucks and armies of personnel that include top executives and chief engineers, neither of which are typically found at such events. Judges are primarily Texans, though there are some “foreigners,” and while we have been told more than once that things are different in Texas, apart from the Texas special editions and some badges, these vehicles are all exactly the same as the ones us “foreigners” get in New England, California, and Nebraska.
Photo 4/6   |   Whale Watching Texas Lone Star
Vehicles and their classes were proportionally split, with 23 pickups for the five categories (midsize, fullsize, heavy-duty, luxury and off-road), one in commercial, and the remaining utilities spread amongst 10 classes.
Average price of all this new iron, aluminum and composite? More than $60,000. Only three classes had any entrants less than $40,000 as tested, again not unreasonable given the lowest-price in class won two categories while the priciest in class won the majority. Fullsize lux SUVs hovered around $100,000, but the priciest vehicle there was a plug-in hybrid in the luxury crossover class.
Photo 5/6   |   Whale Watching Texas Ford
Ford came away with the Truck and Truck Line of Texas award despite winning only one pickup category of the four entered, Volvo’s XC90 took Crossover and Nissan’s Armada won SUV of Texas. One of six utilities at the event with a frame and low-range, the $61,400 Armada was middle of its class ($43-$84K) on price, its main weakness fuel economy.
Photo 6/6   |   Whale Watching Texas Tacoma
The TRD Tacoma beat out the Ridgeline for midsize, I’d wager primarily on its off-road performance. The Ridgeline went everywhere the TRD did but the TRD is faster and looks more like a truck. Power Wagon won off-road pickup and the Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn beat Ford’s Platinum and GMC’s Denali for luxury pickup. Nissan grabbed two as well, with the Texas Edition SL Titan winning fullsize pickup and the new regular cab XD diesel besting gas ProMaster, gas Transit cab-and-chassis flatbed, and diesel Sprinter 2500.
FCA’s Uconnect winning a connectivity award is nothing new. Judges voted Honda’s in-bed audio best feature against things like Jag’s active key or the new Acadia Denali’s rear-seat reminder. Powertrain voting surprised me a bit with the turbo 3.5L V-6 EcoBoost (no transmission mentioned and 10-speeds only available for rides in a Raptor) winning against a turbocharged and supercharged DI 2.0L gas-electric plug-in hybrid that delivers the same power on less fuel.
Then again, I’m not from Texas, as I’m sure someone will remind me next year.

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