The Testing Regimen...
Hills, cruising, loading, and towing -- we did it all
Written by Kim Reynolds

For this year's Truck of the Year program, we didn't settle on a mere one-prong -- nor even a two-prong -- but a full-blown three-prong assault to amass the hard data and subjective impressions we needed to select our winner.

Phase One commenced just north of our El Segundo offices, taking advantage of the steep climb over the geological obstacle we locally call "the Grapevine." After a 6.4-mile grind up the Interstate 5 grade -- checking downshift response in particular -- we descended along the windy ridge route for a bit of handling evaluation.

Next was our standard battery of acceleration, braking, and figure-eight handling tests at California Speedway in Fontana, highlighted by the entertaining sight of the Nissan NV lifting its inside rear wheel during hard cornering.

The most novel phase began with a 320-mile highway cruise out to Nissan's splendid Arizona Proving Ground, during which we gathered highway fuel-economy numbers (to compare their efficiency to our previous results taken while scaling the strenuous Grapevine). Once there, we loaded each truck with 75 percent of its max payload (giant crates filled with bags of lead shot) and performed acceleration, braking, and drivetrain-flexibility tests (initiated with a throttle tromp at 45 mph and ending at 65 mph). The acceleration and flexibility tests were then repeated towing trailers loaded to 75 percent of each truck's maximum tow rating, except for the Ram's hitch-limited 63 percent.

Then we traced a stitched-together sequence of varied road challenges including part of the high-speed bowl, a mix of road surface roughnesses, and a twisty handling loop.