Each year, the lines that divide vehicle categories get blurrier, making the "Best in Class" story that much more difficult to put together. It's hard enough to pick winners for each category; factor in determing the categories themselves, and it's exponentially harder! We also strive to make sure the comparisons within each category are as fair as possible.

That's why we continue to work on our Best in Class categories. Last year, we totally revamped the Midsize SUV category, now basing it on towing capacity instead of wheelbase length. That does a better job of keeping competitive vehicles together. Within that, we split them up between those that can tow up to 3500 pounds and those that can tow more, and split them again between vehicles offering luxury amenities and those that don't. We figure that buyers either want to buy capability, luxury cachet, or maybe both.

This year, we have made the Vans category cargo only, giving Full-Size and Compact each its own award.Some things haven't changed. The truck categories remain the same, as do Hard-Core 4x4, Full-Size SUV, Passenger Van, and Factory Power Runner. All vehicles here are from the 2013 model year and all specifications are from the manufacturers' media sites, accurate as of press time. Prices reflect the specific models listed in each category, and in some cases include optional equipment. In the case of Ram Heavy-Duty trucks, specifications are for the 2012 model year, as the 2013s were not on sale as of press time.


Best In Class: Work Truck

Winner: Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 2500HD
Runner-Up: Ford Super Duty F-250

These are the true workhorses, the regular-cab 3/4-ton two-wheel-drive models that would be part of a fleet. This was a difficult category to vote on, more so than usual because we know what the 2013 Ram Heavy-Duty is going to be capable of, yet it isn't on sale yet -- nor have we driven it -- so it would be unfair to have it win here. We know that it will likely have the top towing capacity (estimated at 18,350 pounds), but as of press time, we don't know pricing. The Silverado HD and Ford Super Duty tie in GVWR, but the Chevy/GMC edge the Super Duty's towing capacity by 1000 pounds.

Work Truck, 3/4-ton 2WD Reg Cab
Vehicle Chevy/ GMC Silverado/ Sierra 2500HD Ford F-250 Super Duty Ram 2500 HD
Base price $30,295/$30,295 $30,580 $30,215
Wheelbase 133.7 in 137.0 in 140.5 in
Base engine 6.0L OHV V-8 6.2L SOHC V-8 5.7L OHV V-8
Opt engines 6.6L TD V-8 $7195 6.7L TD V-8 $8095 6.7L TD I-6 $7795
Transmission 6-speed auto 6-speed auto 6-speed man
Opt transmissions 6-speed auto $1200 6-speed auto $500
Power, SAE 360 hp (397) 385 hp (400) 383 hp (350)
Torque, SAE 380 lb-ft (765) 405 lb-ft (800) 400 lb-ft (650-800)
Airbags Front Front Front, cur
Brakes, f/r Disc/disc, ABS Disc/disc, ABS Disc/disc, ABS
Tires 245/75R17 E 245/75R17 E 245/70R17 E
Fuel cap 36.0 gal 35.0 gal 35.0 gal
Seating cap 3 3 3
Curb weight 5788 lb 5936 lb 5464 lb
Max GVWR 10,000 lb 10,000 lb 9000 lb
Payload 4192 lb 4240 lb 3190 lb
Max towing cap 17,800 lb 16,800 lb 15,500 lb

Best In Class: Compact/Midsize Pickup

Winner: Toyota Tacoma
Runner-Up:
Nissan Frontier

While this category has lost one vehicle for 2013, we expect it will return for 2014. When the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon arrive, they will be all-new. In the meantime, the Tacoma is still at the head of this class. Toyota continues to offer a wide variety of trim levels, bed, engine, transmission, and cab options. It also has the best towing capacity, but for power and payload capacity, the Frontier remains a close second.


Compact/Midsize Pickup, 4WD Ext Cab
Vehicle Honda Ridgeline Nissan Frontier King Cab Toyota Tacoma Access Cab
Base price $30,280 $25,500 (est) $25,095
Wheelbase 122.0 in 125.9 in 127.4 in
Base engine 3.5L SOHC V-6 4.0L DOHC V-6 2.7L DOHC I-4
Opt engines None None 4.0L V-6 $1555
Power, SAE 250 hp 261 hp 159 hp (236)
Torque, SAE 247 lb-ft 281 lb-ft 180 lb-ft (266)
Tires 245/65R17 265/70R16 245/75R16
Fuel cap 22.0 gal 21.1 gal 21.1 gal
EPA fuel econ, city/hwy 15/21 mpg 15-16/21 mpg 19-21/24-25 mpg (16-17/21)
Seating cap 5 4 4
Curb weight 4504 lb 4311 lb 4000 lb
GVWR 6050 lb 5690 lb 5350 lb
Payload 1546 lb 1355 lb 1350 lb
Max towing cap 5000 lb 6300 lb 6500 lb