We did a similar list on Motor Trend's site, but some (nazdrowie) called us out for not having a truck on the list. We understand not every college student wants a car- many of us want a truck or SUV. Scratch that -- some of us need a truck or SUV in college. Some need the security of four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive simply because snow falls on campus. Others need to carry people or supplies to the mountains or the lake for a weekend of fun and relaxation. We have compiled a list of one new and one used vehicle in the popular truck and SUV categories that should be able to handle any test you put them through. Don't worry, we didn't forget about the street truck guys either.
Coolest Compact Truck
Used: Chevrolet S-10/GMC Sonoma
The second generation S-10 and Somoma are generally in better condition than the early years and were offered in either an off-road ready, four-wheel drive ZR-2 or a lowered, two-wheel drive SS/Xtreme version.
The ZR-2 featured two inches of additional ground clearance and a four-inch wider track than the standard four-wheel drive model. It sported fender flares to cover the 31-inch tires. Power from the 4.3-liter V-6 was transmitted through the four speed automatic to the Chevy 8.5-inch, 10-bolt rear-end with 3.73:1 differential gears.
The SS/Xtreme is the street-fighter version of the S-10. It features a lowered suspension, cosmetic upgrades, and 16-inch wheels. The bumpers and grill are body-colored and a step-side version was available from 1996-1998. All SS versions were regular cabs powered by the 4.3-liter V-6 mated to the four-speed automatic transmission connected to a posi-traction equipped rear-end with 3.42:1 gears. The two-wheel drives S-10/Sonoma are always ripe for small-block Chevy V-8 swaps (including the LS family of engines).
Either version is capable of carrying your party needs -- and school supplies.
New: Toyota Tacoma
The Toyota Tacoma -- whether new or used -- is the top pick for many consumers in the compact market. There isn't much competition in the compact segment, (both the Ford Ranger and the Dodge Dakota are slated to be discontinued), but that doesn't mean the Tacoma isn't a good buy. With Toyota reliability and the most bed, engine, transmission, and cab choices combined with the best-in-class V-6 towing capacity, one can't go wrong with the Tacoma. An added bonus is the optional AC outlet in the bed offered starting with 2005 models. Based on some posts on Tacoma enthusiast forums, this versatile feature is capable of powering everything from cell phones, saws, Christmas trees, big-screen TVs and blenders. Can you say "tailgate party?"
Coolest Midsize Truck
Used: Ford Explorer Sport Trac
The Ford Explorer Sport Trac first arrived on the scene in 2000 as a 2001 model and was based on the Explorer. Ford's venerable 210-hp 4.0-liter Cologne V-6 was the sole engine for the first generation, and had five forward gears, whether mated to a manual transmission or a slushbox. Ford skipped 2006 with the Sport Trac, but the all-new second generation model debuted that year as a 2007 model.
The new Sport Trac was based on the fourth-generation Explorer and added the 292-hp 4.6-liter three-valve Modular V-8 as an option, which was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It also gained the SUV's stronger frame and independent rear end. The Explorer Sport Trac offered room for five and a small bed for those ever important hauling duties to the party.
New: Honda Ridgeline
The Honda Ridgeline earned Truck Trend's Truck of the Year award when it debuted as a 2006 model. Its independent rear suspension allows a lockable "trunk" in the bottom of the bed to secure items one may not want to or be able to fit in the cab. The bed features a dual-action tailgate that either drops like a conventional tailgate or swings out from one side to make loading/unloading kegs easier. The Ridgeline can handle 1546-pound payload- enough to haul your Honda quad or pair of Honda motorcycles -- and tow 5000 pounds -- enough to tow a small boat or a pair of Honda four-wheelers.
Coolest Full-size Truck
Used: Ford F-150 Lightning SVT
Ford's second-generation Lightning hit the streets in 1999 packing an Eaton supercharged 5.4-liter SOHC V-8 with 360-hp and 440 lb-ft of pavement-pounding torque. (Power was bumped 20 horsepower and 10 pound feet in 2001.) The Lightning put its power to the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic and featured a 3.55:1 gear ratio. The half-ton truck has been lowered one inch up front and two inches in the rear and sits on 18-inch wheels. In the June 2003 issue of Truck Trend, Justin Bell achieved a 0-60 mph run in a mere 5.2 seconds and eclipsed the quarter mile in 13.7 seconds before going on to hit a top speed of 146 mph. Driven to its full potential, your roommate's Ikea furniture in the bed may not last long, but you sure won't be late to class.
New -- Tie: Ford F-150 EcoBoost and Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Duramax
Ford F-150 EcoBoost
Ford replaced its aging engine lineup with four new powertrains for the 2011 F-150.The new EcoBoost V-6 trumps the old F-150's most powerful engine: the 5.4-liter V-8. The outgoing V-8 produced 320 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, but the twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 that churns out 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque mated to a new six-speed automatic. The EcoBoost engine provides plenty of power for whatever your needs may be while also achieving class-leading fuel economy.
Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Duramax
Have no fear bow-tie fans, the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Duramax ties the blue-oval boys for "coolest new college truck." The Duramax diesel packs a monstruous 765 pound-feet of torque which makes the towing the heaviest loads a breeze. So, for those weekend parties on the lake or up the canyon, the Silverado HD has room for four of your closest frat brothers (or sorority sisters) and can haul all your toys, no matter what the size, at the same time.
Coolest Compact SUV
Used: 1966-1977 Ford Bronco
The original Ford Bronco is for the ORV (Off-Road Vehicle) connoisseur. It competed against the Jeep CJ and International Harvester Scout. The capable off-roader was a simple design with its axles cribbed from the F-100 pickup. The front suspension was a unique design, but the back used conventional leaf springs. It debuted with inline six-cylinder engines but small-block V-8s made their way under the hood. After 1978 the Bronco grew in size and lavishness to compete with Chevrolet's Blazer, but the original Bronco is held in high-regard by off-road enthusiasts for its purity.
New: Nissan Juke
Nissan's Juke compact SUV offers a 188 horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine mated to either a six-speed manual in the front-wheel drive version, or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) when fitted with all-wheel drive. The Juke provides an entertaining drive and enough room for your school books, if not a whole lot else. Its small size also helps with Monday morning parking after a weekend of fun.
Coolest Midsize SUV
Used: Toyota 4Runner
The third generation 4Runner was built from 1995-2002 and offered a choice of either a 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine or a 3.4-liter V-6. Although the power ratings (150 horsepower and 17 pound-feet for the 2.7 and 183 horsepower and 217 pound-feet for the 3.4-liter) are low by today's standards, the engines are nearly bullet-proof. Good thing to have when you and a few friends spend the weekend off roading -err we mean studying.
New: Jeep Grand Cheerokee
The new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine offers plenty of grunt for those who don't need to tow more than 5000 pounds (but less than 7400 pounds) while at school. Of course for those with enough grant money (or parents with deep pockets) the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 provides plenty of power to haul four close friends and a boat to the lake for some fun and sun.