There's no question that the truck industry has changed a lot since Truck Trend debuted in 1997. In fact, changes within the truck and SUV world led to the formation of the magazine. The 1990s marked the start of the SUV craze, when vehicles like the Ford Explorer, Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, and Chevrolet Tahoe were some of the top sellers in North America. (In some cases, these vehicles still are.) Combine that with the ongoing popularity of pickup trucks -- the F-150 and Silverado continue to be top-selling vehicles in North America, outselling family sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord -- and dedicating more space to these vehicles made perfect sense.
In the November 1995 issue, Motor Trend magazine started a new section called "Truck Trends." But it quickly outgrew its allotted space. As Source Interlink archivist and previous Truck Trend art director Thomas Voehringer explains, "That scope was too immense for a simple four-page layout. The growing volume of new models and advancing technology demanded a resource devoted solely to living with, and understanding, these unique vehicles."
We've seen amazing innovations and huge increases in horsepower and torque over the last 15 years.
Then-publisher Petersen Publishing launched Truck Trend in February 1998 -- a year that also marked the 50th anniversary of the Ford F-Series -- changing the name to Truck Trend, which made more sense than calling it "Truck Trends," as the magazine is directly related to Motor Trend.
Original editor Mike Magda had to hit the ground running in that first issue, as that was the same year that Motor Trend selected the Mercedes-Benz ML320 as Truck of the Year. That proved a huge controversy for Motor Trend, first because it isn't a truck in the traditional sense -- there's no bed -- and second, because it was more car-like than traditional body-on-frame SUVs. Says Voehringer, "Dissenting views were aired, but all roads still led to the same conclusion: It was the right choice at the time, and with some historical perspective, it seems even better." It became clear that, as the SUV market expanded to include luxury, unibody, and car-based vehicles, it was getting very difficult (and increasingly unfair) to compare them with pickups. That prompted the launch of a separate Sport/Utility of the Year award the following year.
As time passed, the focus of the magazine shifted more toward trucks used for work and play, as daily drivers and for the family vacation, for towing RVs and work trailers, for off-road adventures, and for hauling gear. We know owners expect their trucks to be able to do all this and do it well. That's why we have a long-term fleet -- it currently includes a Nissan Frontier and EcoBoost Ford F-150 -- to see how these trucks work on a daily basis, performing all the tasks truck people expect of them. We take trucks on on- and off-road adventures, put them through tow tests for further evaluation, and bring them together for comparison stories. We also present you with aftermarket installations that can make your truck faster, more efficient, and a better tow vehicle.
5th Anniversary Cover
10th Anniversary Cover
15th Anniversary Cover
Yet through all this, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The last SUV that won Truck of the Year was that previously mentioned Mercedes, and it redefined the way we do our vehicle of the year contests. For 2013, after 15 years, the Sport/Utility of the Year is another Mercedes. And it's a great choice that also reflects the constantly changing SUV landscape. As crossovers threaten to take over the SUV field, we are thrilled to see vehicles like the GL, which still embodies the ideals of traditional SUVs and manages to outsell car-based models. It was by far the most capable SUV in this year's event, out-muscling the rest of the field on the road and on the trail. It's available with low range and plenty of ground clearance, holds seven people comfortably with room for plenty of gear, and its base engine is a fantastic turbodiesel. That last boast is something no half-ton or compact/midsize truck can make.
So despite government fuel economy mandates, despite the Great Recession, and despite changes in the marketplace, we know that real trucks are thriving and continue to outsell cars. We've seen incredible changes in the truck and SUV market over these last 15 years, things like the use of Diesel Exhaust Fluid to ensure that diesels can pass new emissions laws, technology like Quadrasteer, which we hope makes a comeback someday, and common-sense additions like the "man step" and the RamBox. We look forward to seeing -- and reporting on -- whatever new innovations are just around the corner. Thank you for letting us bring you the hottest, newest, and best in the pickup and sport/utility world for the last 15 years, and we look forward to what's coming next.
Top 10 Concepts
Our Favorites From the Last 15 Years
A production version of this was poised to be Hummer's competitor for the Jeep Wrangler. It was going to be the smallest vehicle in the Hummer line, and was the sport/utility star of the 2008 North American International Auto Show. It used a 3.6-liter V-6 and featured cool suspension technology, easily removable doors, and awesome off-road capability. Unfortunately, the Hummer brand was killed off before the HX made it onto the showroom floor -- or the trail. Click here to read more about the Hummer HX concept.
This is the truck Jeep (and small-pickup) fans continue to drool over, even though it was first shown eight years ago. The concept was designed to have the same off-road capability of the Wrangler on which it was based, with the same fold-down windshield and removable doors, but added the capability of an expandable pickup bed. Jeep CEO Mike Manley continues to be very enthusiastic about bringing a Jeep pickup to market. We hope it happens, and that it's close to what you see here. Click here to read our full First Look on the Jeep Gladiator concept.
Toyota Diesel Dualie
OK, this one wasn't a concept vehicle like the rest of the trucks and SUVs on this list, but it was one of the best realistic project vehicles we've ever seen at SEMA. When it showed the Tundra Diesel Dualie in 2007, Toyota was very clear that this truck was not a concept -- but as far as we're concerned, it should've been. Toyota put a Hino 8.0-liter diesel under the hood of a Tundra CrewMax, plus some heavy-duty Hino underpinnings, a 6.5-foot bed, and a dual rear-wheel axle. Click here to our full first look on the Toyota Diesel Dualie.
Back in 2002, Dodge showed the retro-styled M80 at the NAIAS. The bright yellow truck was made to look like the classic Dodge Power Wagons from the 1930s and 1940s. While the styling of this concept first grabbed headlines, there was more to it than just good looks. The press release said the 3.7-liter, 210-hp, 235-lb-ft V-6 and five-speed manual transmission would propel the M80 from 0 to 60 mph in 8 seconds -- not bad for 2002. The bed had racks that could hold long cargo (or a surfboard), plus was reconfigurable like the Avalanche's bed.
This was another concept vehicle that created a ton of buzz on the auto show circuit, yet unfortunately never made it into production. The Ford Bronco was designed by J Mays, and reflected a modernized version of the lines and look of the classic 1966-1977 Bronco. Not only was its size and packaging instantly appealing, but the vehicle was shown with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel. That combination of compact size and diesel power is something buyers continue to call for. Click here to read more.
Dodge Ram T-Rex
Honestly, who doesn't like the idea of a 6x6 truck? Frankly, we're disappointed that only military vehicles get to enjoy something with three axles. First shown in 1997 as the first issue of Truck Trend was being put together, the T-Rex uses a tandem-axle setup in back, which rode on a narrower track than dualies of the same era, and was said to have a tighter turning radius than DRW trucks. The T-Rex also had an electronic air suspension and was powered by an 8.0-liter V-10 engine.
Jeep Mighty FC
One of our top-10 favorites came out in early 2012, was seen at Moab, and would be next to impossible to produce because of crash-test concerns. This concept, the Mighty FC, is based on the Wrangler platform (and powered by the same Pentastar V-6), and is a revival of the Forward Control trucks from Jeep's past. Mopar added portal axles to the front and rear, along with King shocks. The eight-lug axles use gear-reduction units in the hubs, which increases ground clearance and creates lower gearing. Click here to read our First Drive.
Ford F-250 Super Chief
This 2006 concept was an attention-grabber for two reasons. The first was the Ford pickup's clever styling, elements of which the next-generation Super Duty adopted, especially in the front end. The concept's design was inspired by locomotives, which is why it got its name. Under the hood was the second intriguing feature: a V-10 engine with a tri-flex fuel system that could run on gasoline, E85, or hydrogen. The range was said to be 500 miles, and, on hydrogen, it would provide 400 lb-ft of torque while offering incredible fuel economy. Click here to read our full First Look on the Ford F-250 Super Chief.
International SmarTruck III
This medium-duty truck was shown in 2004, designed to be a military vehicle based on a new platform from International that could be used under a civilian version as well. The concept was shown with a hydraulic hybrid drivetrain, plenty of weapons, air suspension, and night vision. The commercial version would end up being sold as the CXT. The SmarTruck III concept was powered by a 4.5-liter common-rail twin-turbodiesel making 230 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. Click here to read our full First Look on the International SmarTruck.
GMC Sierra All Terrain HD
The off-road-biased Sierra All Terrain HD offers something neither the Ford Raptor nor Ram Power Wagon does: an HD truck with diesel power. This one, seen at the Detroit show in 2011, is based on a Sierra HD. It was powered by the production 397-hp, 6.6-liter turbodiesel and Allison six-speed automatic. It uses a short bed and suspension modifications that increase ground clearance 3.6 inches over stock, plus there's an electronically disconnecting front anti-roll bar, jounce shocks at all four corners, Fox Shox, and new upper and lower control arms. It also rides on 35-inch tires. Click here to read our full First Look on the Sierra All Terrain HD.
Truck and SUV Of The Year Winners
Truck of the year our 2002 event included the escalade ext, sierra, ram, and lincoln black
Truck of the Year
1998 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
1999 Chevrolet Silverado
2000 Toyota Tundra
2001 Chevrolet Silverado HD
2002 Chevrolet Avalanche
2003 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty
2004 Ford F-150
2005 Toyota Tacoma
2006 Honda Ridgeline
2007 Chevrolet Silverado
2008 Toyota Tundra
2009 Ford F-150
2010 Ram HD 2500/3500
2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD
2012 Ford F-150
At the 2013 sport/utility of the year, we didn't do any hard-core off-roading, but every s
Sport/Utility of the Year
1999 Lexus RX 300
2000 Nissan Xterra
2001 Acura MDX
2002 GMC Envoy
2003 Volvo XC90
2004 Volkswagen Touareg
2005 Land Rover LR3
2006 Nissan Xterra
2007 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
2008 Mazda CX-9
2009 Subaru Forester
2010 Subaru Outback
2011 Porsche Cayenne
2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class
To Read more about these Sport/Utility of the Year winners, click here.