While Amazon shows off its vision of the future of package delivery with Amazon Prime Air using robotic drones, even the delivery of physical goods is becoming more virtual by the day. But, let's face it, around the holidays, even family members who don't see each other in person any other time of the year come together, if only for a day.
And whether your priorities are stuff or people, there are utilitarian vehicles suited for all needs. We picked the current class leaders in the following categories for your holiday people- or stuff-hauling needs.
HD Truck (Towing Capacity): Ram 3500 HD DRW
Capacity: 30,000 pounds
We're not going to get too far into the weeds with this one, as there are a mind-boggling array of different axle ratios, spring rates, and other variables with full-size trucks that can affect payload or towing capacity. But Ram has thrown down with the bold claim of a 30,000-pound towing capacity for the Ram 3500. True, that number is not strictly according to the SAE J2807 standards, but since nobody except Toyota is abiding by them currently, we're going to take Ram at its word.
1/2-Ton Truck (Payload Capacity): Ford F-150 5.0 with Max Payload Pkg.
Capacity: 3120 pounds
There was simply no contest for 1/2-ton payload. The F-150's maximum payload capacity of 3120 pounds was more than 1000 more than the next-closest Chevy Silverado. Interestingly, the 5.0-liter V-8 had a 20-pound-greater max payload capacity than the 3.5-liter EcoBoost and requires the long-bed, regular cab configuration to get to this rating.
Full-Size SUV (Passengers): Chevrolet Suburban
Capacity: Nine Passengers
The 2014 Suburban takes this prize by default for being the only full-size SUV available with a front three-across bench. Although an unusual option, with the majority of Suburbans being equipped with a front center console, It's nice to know you can take nine people in a squeeze. It's unknown whether the front bench option will be retained on the 2015 model. If it is, it may be a fleet-only offering.
Full-Size Cargo Van: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter LWB Cargo High-Roof
Capacity: 547 cubic feet
The Sprinter may have more competition in the full-size van segment now with the Nissan NV3500, Ram ProMaster, and the forthcoming Ford Transit, but when it comes to ultimate cargo capacity by volume, it's still unmatched with a cavernous 547 cubic feet. Short of a moving truck, this is your best choice for cargo capacity.
Small Cargo Van: Ford Transit Connect LWB
Capacity: 130.6 cubic feet
If your needs are not quite as capacious as the Sprinter, the Ford Transit Connect is a good choice for smaller loads. While its maximum cargo volume is less than a quarter of that of the Sprinter, it will likely handle all but the biggest gift hauls. The Nissan NV200 can handle 122.7 cubic feet. However, look for a shakeup come the 2015 model year, with the Ram ProMaster City hitting the market. While we're still not exactly sure which configurations of the Doblo-based van are coming to the U.S., we do know that, model for model, a comparable Doblo has more capacity than a similar Transit Connect, so this slot could be ripe for an upset.
Full-Size Passenger Van: Ford Transit 350HD DRW
Capacity: 15 Passengers
Both Mercedes-Benz and General Motors at one time offered 15-passenger versions of their vans, but neither has them listed as configurable options. Only Ford is actively advertising a 15-passenger option for both its outgoing E-Series vans, as well as the new Transit, due later in 2014. With the high-roof option, the Transit also allows an individual up to 6 feet, 5 inches tall to stand fully upright inside.