For the last few years, not that many trucks have qualified for Truck of the Year. We knew it was temporary, and that new trucks would make a comeback. It seems 2014 is the first wave of this revival. Because of that, the 2014 Truck of the Year event represents the largest group of contenders we've ever had.

There are four categories: 1/2-tons, heavy-duty trucks, small work vans, and full-size vans. The all-new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra have new engines, interiors, and styling, plus the all-new High Country model. Ram introduces the EcoDiesel 3.0-liter turbodiesel for the 1500. Toyota's Tundra has body and cabin refinements, and the 1794 Edition makes its debut. There are two heavy-duties as well, both from Ram, with the new 6.4-liter V-8, suspension changes, and air suspension option as well as a whopping 30,000-pound towing capacity.

There are two small vans (more miniature van than minivan): Nissan's new-for-North America, cargo-only (unless you drive a taxi) NV200 and Ford's totally redesigned Transit Connect cargo van. Rounding out our list of contenders are the squarest vehicles of the group: the redesigned Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which now comes with a new inline-four turbodiesel as the base engine, and the Fiat-sourced Ram ProMaster, the first full-size van Ram (or Dodge) has sold since, well, the Sprinter wore a Ram badge.

The highly diverse group made testing and deliberations a challenge. But our criteria and our test procedures ensured that each vehicle was evaluated fairly and was compared only with its competitive set. Read on to see which contender earned the Golden Calipers.



Testing, Testing…

Our Truck of the Year Test Procedures

The variety of vehicles we had this year brought new challenges to our testing process. We went to Continental Tire's expansive proving grounds in Uvalde, Texas, for a safe, controlled environment where we could conveniently conduct all our testing at the same location.

There were four different types of vehicles this year, and because this is Truck of the Year, it was critical that we evaluate each vehicle not only unladen, but loaded as well. And that means different things for vans than it does for trucks.

As always, we drove all the vehicles empty, evaluating comfort and noise levels, suspension tuning, and acceleration and braking on a loop offering relaxed freeway driving, tight turns on a road course, and uneven surfaces. We also ran them through Motor Trend's performance test regimen -- all 13 trucks and vans went through the quarter mile, 0-60-mph acceleration and 60-0 braking, and were tested on a 200-foot skidpad. In addition, Emissions Analytics evaluated the fuel economy on all the contenders.

We then tested each vehicle equipped for work. In the case of the pickups, each truck towed a trailer with weight that totaled 75 percent of as-tested towing capacity. Testing at that amount gave us a margin of safety while ensuring that the playing field remained level. We still were able to see how well each truck performed while doing what it was designed to do.

We ensured each vehicle was evaluated fairly and was compared only with its competitive set.

For example, the Toyota Tundra 1794 we tested was a four-wheel-drive CrewMax. That truck's towing capacity is 9000 pounds as tested, so we towed with 6750 pounds hooked to the bumper. With the Ram HD 3500, that meant towing with a fifth-wheel loaded with 21,570 pounds. Not only did every judge take every truck through a drive loop, but the test team recorded acceleration with a trailer on each truck.

We determined the best way to test the vans doing what they were designed to do was by loading them with cargo. While some people use their vans to tow, the majority of the work the vehicles do is carrying gear.

We loaded each van with pallets of sandbags, and the vans carried 75 percent of their as-tested payload capacity. As with the trucks, every judge drove every van with and without payload. The test team recorded acceleration, braking, and skidpad data with the empty vans, and then accelerated all of them again with payload.

The combination of empirical testing and subjective impressions was essential for determining the Truck of the Year winner.


THE JUDGES

Edward Loh Editor-in-Chief

Ron Kiino Executive Editor

Allyson Harwood Editor, Truck Trend

Edward Sanchez Online Editor, Truck Trend

Scott Burgess Detroit Editor

Mike Febbo Associate Editor

Scott Mortara Road Test Editor


The Criteria

ADVANCEMENT IN DESIGN

Quality execution of exterior and interior styling; innovation in vehicle packaging; good selection and use of materials.

ENGINEERING EXCELLENCE

Integrity of total vehicle concept and execution, clever solutions to packaging, manufacturing, and dynamics issues; use of cost-effective technologies that benefit the consumer.

EFFICIENCY

Low energy consumption and carbon footprint relative to the vehicle's competitive set.

SAFETY

Primary safety -- the vehicle's ability to help the driver avoid a crash -- as well as secondary safety measures that protect its occupants from harm during a crash.

VALUE

Price and equipment levels measured against those of vehicles in the same market segment.

PERFORMANCE OF INTENDED FUNCTION

How well the vehicle does the job its designers and product planners intended.