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Detonation: Diesels Dominate PTOTY 2020

Detonation

John Lehenbauer
Nov 5, 2019
I just spent a great week working with Truck Trend magazine, driving all over Southern California and the Golden State's Central Coast, testing new pickup trucks for Truck Trend's Pickup Truck of the Year evaluation. This was my fourth year helping out as a judge and part-time laborer (we move a lot of horse mats that are used as payload and connect/disconnect trailers multiple times during the testing), and I have to say, the event gets better each year.
With 11 trucks in the lineup, #PTOTY20 was the magazine's biggest test effort to date. We had two GMCs (Sierra 1500 and 2500HD AT4), three Chevrolets (Silverado 1500 LTZ, 2500HD LTZ, and Custom), three Fords (Ranger Lariat FX4, F-250 Limited, and Tremor), a Jeep (Gladiator Sport), and two Ram trucks (1500 Rebel and 3500 Laramie). Even though some manufacturers sent more than one of the same type of truck, each one was unique enough (different engines, weight ratings, option packages, and such).
Something that stands out this year is the number of trucks that have diesel engines (seven of the 11 trucks we tested), which I think is a record number for testing at #PTOTY. Normally, we have at least a couple that are diesel in the testing lineup.
Photo 2/7   |   All 11 test trucks gathered for a group photo at the Mormon Rocks in San Bernardino County, California.
Of those seven diesel trucks, there were only five different engines. The GMCs and Chevrolets in our lineup share platforms and engines on both the 1500s and 2500HDs. The five engines we had were a good cross section of powerplants currently available in the U.S. truck market. We had GMs with Duramax 3.0L I-6 engines, GMs with Duramax 6.6L V-8s, a Ram with an EcoDiesel 3.0L V-6 and one with a Cummins 6.7L I-6 HO, and a Ford with the all-new, third-generation 6.7L Power Stroke V-8.
The only oil-burners missing were the 2.8L Duramax I-4 and the 3.0L Power Stroke V-6 (unfortunately the Cummins 5.0L V-8 has been canceled by Nissan), both of which have been tested in past years. It would have been nice to have all the diesels currently on the market together at the same time. Unfortunately, manufacturers never seem to release engines in the same year, which would allow us to bring them together for our testing.
You may be wondering: "Which of the five engines is the best?" Well, that is a tough question, and determining the answer is not exclusively why we test each rig so stringently. But, of course, different engines stand out for different reasons. The way the #PTOTY evaluating is done, even if a certain truck's engine is great, it doesn't mean that particular truck will be chosen as "best" by all the judges. A truck may score lower in other areas like interior, ride quality, infotainment, handling, styling, or any criteria on which the trucks are rated. Jason Gonderman, the editor of Truck Trend, has designed a very comprehensive test regimen to make sure every aspect of a truck is explored. We sometimes find unseen flaws no one expected.
Here is a look under the hoods of each diesel pickup we got to drive during our Truck Trend Pickup Truck of the Year testing.
With that being said, of course, I have favorite trucks from the group. But, for me, not one engine dominated all others. After putting all the trucks through the same paces, each engine stood out for different reasons. It would be hard for me to go shopping for a new truck right now. In some cases, I liked the engine but not the truck it's in and vice versa. If I were planning on buying one and doing a lot of heavy towing, I would gravitate to the Ram Laramie with the 6.7L Cummins, but if an everyday truck is needed, the GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 with the Duramax 3.0L is more to my liking. Or, if I need an everyday truck that can tow, my choice might be the GMC Sierra 2500HD AT4. It is not easy to choose; there is a lot to like about everything diesels offer in the world of pickup trucks right now. All the engines do an amazing job.
If you want to get a better perspective of the trucks we tested and their engines, make sure to check out Truck Trend magazine and TruckTrend.com for all the details on them and the results of #PTOTY.
John

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