In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Truck Trend online staff rounded up 10 current-model trucks and SUVs we're most thankful for. With tightening CAFE regulations, a persistently sluggish economy, and some major changes in the truck and SUV markets, it's easy to get caught up in the "what's wrong" conversation. But we found a handful of winners we think indicate what's right and good in the truck and SUV market today. It's not an exhaustive list, but a compilation of models we feel stand above their peers in significance and excellence.
Ford F-150 Raptor
The F-150 Raptor is probably one of the most talked-about and highly sought trucks in recent memory, and for good reason. The Raptor hits all the right truck-enthusiast buttons: performance, practicality, attitude, and comfort. You sacrifice little when you get the Raptor, especially in SuperCrew form, which gives you a full-size stretch-out back seat, 8000-pound towing capacity, and unmistakably bold styling. Admittedly, it's not the most fuel-efficient choice on the market, but considering its off-road capability and its undeniable strength in so many other categories, it's a slam-dunk to be on our short list.
Ram 2500 Power Wagon
The Raptor may be getting all the attention lately, but we're thankful the Power Wagon is still around after its 21st century revival for the 2005 model year. It may not have the speed and agility of the Raptor, but the Power Wagon stunned back in 2005 for its Jeep-like off-road ability despite its imposing size. Everything that made the Power Wagon great back in 2005 is still present and accounted for: front and rear locking differentials, an anti-roll-bar disconnect, built-in Warn winch, and Hemi power. Sure, we wouldn't mind a Cummins option, but a 10,200-pound towing capacity with this level of capability is hard to argue with.
2014 Chevy Silverado
We're thankful for the 2014 Silverado and Sierra well before they'll be in showrooms because these new trucks represent the determination of the post-bankruptcy GM to be a scrappy and competitive contender in the marketplace. We expect the new Silverado to have all manner of comfort, convenience, and capability features, putting it squarely back in the hunt for leadership of the half-ton market. The new fifth-generation small block V-8 engines promise to bring unprecedented levels of power and efficiency to GM's full-sizers.
Bi-Fuel CNG Trucks
Following the energy markets and fuel prices is enough to make your head spin. In view of natural disasters, foreign demand, geopolitical tensions, and federal energy policy, gasoline and diesel prices are all over the map. But there's one fuel we've got plenty of in North America: natural gas. There's so much of it that everyone from trucking fleets, power companies, and even everyday commuters are adopting the fuel. Third-party conversions have been available for several decades, but the recent interest and involvement by the OEs has brought a whole new level of polish, integration, and assurance to the market. There are still some tradeoffs involved, namely, less bed space, less power, and a still-limited fueling infrastructure, but for those of us in a geographically favorable area for natural gas, these trucks are a compelling option with a gallon equivalent of CNG going for about half that of unleaded.
It's a slowly dying breed, being now totally extinct from the half-ton market, but if you're willing to go bigger or smaller, you've still got options. The Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma, and Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon all offer manual transmission options. We're not totally sure about the next-generation Colorado and Canyon, which may go all-slushbox, but we're keeping our fingers crossed for a DIY shift option. We've got to give a shout-out to Ram for keeping the spirit alive in the Ram HD models by still offering a six-speed manual with the Cummins diesel. You do take a significant hit in torque by getting the stick over the automatic, but for that authentic "work truck" experience, it's hard to beat the combination of a big diesel with a manual transmission.
Widely credited with being the grandfather of nearly all SUVs around the world, the family resemblance with the model that started it all, the Willys MB, is still recognizable in its present-day progeny. Although the round headlights and seven-slot grille are the visual cues to its lineage, the Wrangler still employs live axles front and rear when nearly every other SUV, truck-based or not, has gone to at least an independent front, and in many cases fully independent suspension. Granted, the refinement, power, comfort and capability of the modern Wrangler are in a whole different league from its '40s forebear, but the basic formula remains unchanged, and we think the SUV market is better for it.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
It may not have the rough and tumble, militaristic heritage of its stablemate, but the Grand Cherokee is as legitimate a Jeep as the Wrangler, as we can attest to by a recent trip to Colorado, during which the Grand tackled the same terrain as its square-sided cousin, but in much greater comfort and refinement. Yes, the latest Grand Cherokee has some German ancestry, and may soon beat with an available Italian turbodiesel heart, but it hasn't suffered from its mixed pedigree, and we would argue it's been made all the better for it. We challenge you to find an SUV as simultaneously as refined and capable as the Grand Cherokee anywhere near its $30,000 starting price.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo
When cost is no object, it's hard to do better than the Porsche Cayenne. We're fans of the Cayenne in all its forms, but especially in the Turbo trim, which unfathomably rockets its 5000-plus pounds from 0-60 in the low 4-second range. If the Turbo's six-figure price of entry gives you pause, you can get into lesser Cayenne models, including the surprisingly good Diesel model starting in the mid-to-high $50,000 range. A total of seven models offer something for every level of performance and budget for the luxury SUV shopper.
2013 Mercedes-Benz GL
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL uniformly impressed our Sport/Utility of the Year judges with its refinement, capability, and sophistication. Like the Porsche, there's a flavor for just about every taste and budget, from the frugal, torquey GL350 Bluetec diesel all the way up to a rip-snorting GL55 AMG. Whereas the Porsche's passenger capacity is limited to five, the GL's third row allows you to bring along six cohorts in leather-lined comfort.
2013 Range Rover
Yes, we know our SUV list is thick with rarefied, big-ticket models, but there's a reason they're there. The 2013 Range Rover is a good example of why. A studious and concentrated effort by the Range Rover engineering team has resulted in a massive weight loss on the 2013 model, thanks to extensive use of aluminum. The result is improved performance and fuel economy -- a true win-win. Compared with the radical, edgy lines of little brother Evoque, the Range Rover may seem a bit staid, but Gerry McGovern and his design team have done a skillful job of incorporating more modern design elements while retaining its characteristic profile that makes it instantly recognizable in upscale neighborhoods around the world.