2014 Truck of the Year: Ram 1500
One of the questions we ponder at any Motor Trend "of the Year" event is whether a vehicle is a game-changer. While that term -- that little bit of corporate execu-babble -- is overused and slightly sickening, it really is significant. For years, truck manufacturers did what was safe and didn't upset the status quo. But two years ago Ford rocked the boat with the twin-turbo V-6 EcoBoost. Last year, Ram rocked it again with air suspension and an eight-speed automatic. We were hoping GM would continue the trend and blow us away with something even bigger. We simply weren't expecting Ram to do just that.
The first hurdle the Ram 1500 had to clear was convincing our judges that it deserved consideration. Truck of the Year is only open to all-new or significantly updated trucks and vans. Is a new diesel engine enough warrant inclusion? Yes, because this isn't just a new engine -- this is, strictly speaking, a different technology for the segment.
2013 Truck of the Year: Ram 1500
For several years, it seemed all we ever talked about with trucks was torque and tow ratings. Things have changed, with truck buyers' expectations reaching a long way off the farm or job site. There's no single magic bullet that will meet every truck owner's needs, so even an entry payload model range like the Ram 1500 has to have far more breadth and depth than its forebears of a decade ago did. To demonstrate its half-ton's ability to cover the entire market, Ram delivered a V-6-powered SLT on the efficient and luxurious side and a V-8 powered Sport leaning toward power and performance.
While Ford may be using smaller forced-induction engines for the sake of efficiency, Ram is refining its powertrain options by offering more efficient engines bolted to a new, optional eight-speed transmission. Replacing the old 3.7-liter V-6 is the much-celebrated Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6, which offers 42 percent more horsepower and 13 percent more torque. A new eight-speed transmission is standard on V-6 models and will be optional on the V-8. At launch, V-8s will be available only with the current six-speed automatic, with the new transmission coming at a later date.
2012 Truck of the Year Winner: Ford F-150
You Know that feeling you get when you see a supercar sitting in the parking lot of the local six-buck-a-cup coffee shop? The ache in your stomach, knowing that toddling back and forth from the gated community to the strip mall is all the driving that poor car will ever do? We get that same feeling when we see an F-150 that doesn't have at least 1000 pounds in the bed or 5000 pounds hanging off the hitch. Just like that supercar, the F-150 is a tool built for a purpose. It has a goal in life, and the people who never use it as it was intended are squandering the truck's ability and a heritage that goes back to 1948.
We had a pair of Ford F-150s for our 2012 Truck of the Year testing that represent two of the more popular trim levels: a Platinum Edition EcoBoost and an XLT 5.0-liter V-8. New for this year, but not on hand, are Ford's entry-level 302-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 and the range-topping 411-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 from the Raptor now available in the Lariat, Platinum, and Harley Davidson Editions.
2011 Motor Trend Truck Of The Year: Chevrolet Silverado HD
In the heavy-duty truck world, capability is most important. Folks like to brag about numbers -- horsepower, torque, and payload and towing capacity -- and talk about the monstrous things they can tow. Take, for example, the Chevrolet Silverado HD's 21,700-pound towing capacity. That means it can tow three other Silverado HDs, or 10 Lotus Evoras. Payload capacities in this category mean that each truck is rated to carry a half-ton pickup in its bed, if you crushed it small enough to fit. These are the trucks that haul horse trailers, massive boats, and huge construction equipment; the ones many people pooh-pooh as being too big and too environmentally unfriendly -- until they need to use one, of course. Styling isn't nearly as important in this category, so when the Great Recession hit and GM's development budget was cut, it prioritized function over form.
2010 Motor Trend Truck of the Year: Ram Heavy Duty
Despite the effects of the Great Recession on personal-use truck sales, there is still demand for pickups ready to do hard work. The heavy-duty truck market has gotten smaller, but the guys who buy those pickups are fiercely loyal to the segment-they need the extreme capability these hard-working haulers provide. Some may wonder why anyone would own a truck that can tow nearly 20,000 pounds, but for a lot of people in construction, those who transport vehicles or goods, and those with ranches, this is just a part of everyday life.
Within the next few months, the heavy-duty category will heat up, as all three manufacturers have all-new offerings coming. The Ram Heavy Duty is the first to market, and it's already ahead of the game. When Ford and GM's all-new heavy-dutys come out, both new diesel engines are going to require urea injection to meet emissions requirements that take effect January 2010. The Ram Heavy Duty's Cummins inline-six turbodiesel, which puts out an impressive 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, met those requirements -- without urea -- over a year ago.
2009 Motor Trend Truck of the Year: Ford F-150
This is it. Crunch time. The 2009 Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram are rolling onto the market like a pair of gigantic craps dice, and the companies tossing them are each betting big on this game. Unfortunately, the rules changed while these dice were in mid-air. Fuel prices skyrocketed, the economy tanked, consumer confidence evaporated, and folks who once chose half-ton pickups more for their Marlboro-Man-image-enhancing qualities than for their towing or hauling capabilities are shopping elsewhere.
Ford claims it sells more of its half-ton pickups to work and commercial customers than its competitors do, and Ford predicts this segment will grow to 45 percent of F-150 sales. Toward that end, the truck's fully boxed chassis is further fortified to provide best-in-class rigidity, payload capacity (up to 3030 pounds), and tow ratings (up to 11,300 pounds). As such, the new F-150 is well positioned to capture contractors migrating down-market out of Super-Dutys to save money and gas (did we mention that a new six-speed automatic, a lighter, more aerodynamic cab, and other tweaks boost fuel economy by 12 percent with the 5.4-liter?).
2008 Motor Trend Truck of the Year Winner: Toyota Tundra
When Toyota first announced it was coming out with a full-size pickup truck to go head to head with the big boys from Ford, Chevy, and Dodge, the question arose as to whether an import could truly compete as a heavyweight. The answer is in: The new Toyota Tundra is now ready to take on any American-made pickup truck -- on all levels.
Superiority? Toyota is pulling no punches by introducing one of the biggest, strongest, and most capable vehicles in the segment, as well as investing billions in a new state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in the heart of truck country-San Antonio, Texas. Significance? With Toyota looking to more than double its presence in the hotly contested half-ton marketplace, the Tundra represents one of the most highly anticipated new vehicle launches in many years -- car or truck. Value? The new Tundra offers three different powertrains (one V-6 and two V-8s), with the 5.7-liter V-8 a high-tech wonder and torque monster -- and is among the most powerful engines in any half-ton configuration. Toyota's platform has the entire segment covered with three different bed sizes, three separate wheelbases covering five different cab and bed configurations, combined with three different trim packages (Tundra Grade, SR5, and Limited) in 4x4 and 4x2 drivetrains -- 44 different truck flavors to interested buyers, from work truck to luxury touring.