Particulate Matters #iplaywithtrucks
First Truck Trend Magazine Pickup Truck of the Year Experience
This month's column is inspired by a phone conversation I had with my mother shortly after returning home from my first experience at Truck Trend magazine's weeklong Pickup Truck of the Year test.
"I remember that's all you used to do when you were little, KJ: play all day with your (toy) cars and trucks," Mom says. I have to confess, it's true. While I participated in all the other "normal" childhood activities (riding bikes, spending hours on the playground, competing in various sports, and such), virtual-driving my toy vehicles—and I had hundreds of them—across the floor in the house or through dirt and mud outside was my Zen.
As I fast-forward several decades to the present, I can't help being amazed by and grateful for the fortune I've had. Somehow, some way, and for more than 21 years, I have managed to make my love for the car (and now truck) game my career. It's not a destiny I mapped out as a kid, but I really am happy things worked out the way they have.
On social media, I have adopted the hashtag #iplaywithtrucks to close posts that are associated with my job and/or truck-related travels, drive opportunities, interesting sightings, and so on. That's also what I tell people who ask me what I do for a living. Folks who follow my exploits have commented that I have (in their opinion) a "cool job," or even "the best job in the world." I won't argue that notion, but I have to say, it's work nonetheless. At times, the love/hate can be excruciatingly real.
While Truck Trend's Pickup Truck of the Year's "best truck" winner is determined based on scoring, in my opinion, #PTOTY isn't really a competition in the traditional sense. In my first time participating, I found it to be an exhaustive, detailed, largely (and legitimately) objective evaluation of the upcoming year's new trucks—gas and diesel, and midsize, light-, and heavy-duty. The trucks are put through a battery of tests to measure their "capability (the magic word in truck-manufacturers' jargon)," highlights, and lowlights. Of course, some criteria can only be critiqued subjectively, especially those based on seat-of-the-pants impressions—literally—like, "are the seats rock hard, or plush and comfortable?"
In the big picture, those are minor caveats. We evaluated 11 new rigs fairly and very, very thoroughly. Seriously, what I do goes far beyond "playing" with trucks purely for the sake of having fun, and I really encourage all of you, whether you're in the market for a new truck or not, to check out the January 2020 issue of our sister magazine's Pickup Truck of the Year results.
Yes, Diesel Power publishes annual buyer's guides containing review capsules and specifications for SUVs, trucks, and vans powered by oil-burners, but Truck Trend takes a broad range of pickup details to the next level. Revealing which truck won is not my place. But I will say one of the new fullsize rigs we tested impresses me to no end right now. OK, remember I'm saying this first: From a performance standpoint, Chevrolet's four-wheel-drive '20 Silverado 1500 crew cab—yes, I'm talking about the one with the new 3.0L Duramax I-6 engine and Allison 10-speed automatic transmission—is the real deal.
While the truck itself (chassis, body, interior, amenities, and such) doesn't have anything radically new or out of the ordinary that knocks my socks off, the drivetrain, in a word, is amazing, and I am hereby officially on a mission to explore its virtues, hopefully by spending some more quality time with a '20 Silverado 1500 at the dragstrip. Yes, I did say "more" time. When #PTOTY20 closed, I extended my run with the truck we tested and made a few laps down the quarter-mile at Auto Club Famoso Raceway outside Bakersfield, California. Keeping in mind that track and test variables between Famoso and Auto Club Dragway at Fontana (the #PTOTY20 test track) are different, I jockeyed the 5,200-pound (approximately) rig to a 15.55 e.t. at almost 87 mph. Yes, it's really that quick, and I am pretty confident the time can be lowered with driving adjustments and setting changes (launch rpm, transmission/drivetrain modes, and so on)—and obliterated once ECM tuning and bolt-on parts (clean and CARB/EPA/CAA-legal, of course) are developed.
The Duramax-powered Silverado is definitely the hot rod of the segment, and I wouldn't have been able to figure that out if I had not been part of Pickup Truck of the Year. To my buddy, Truck Trend Editor-in-Chief, Jason Gonderman, and his main staff guy Brett Evans, thanks for letting me come play!