How do we go about deciding the most significant truck of the 2000 model year?

Very carefully. Years ago, in fact, it was easier to evaluate pickups when they were simply utilitarian work vehicles. Back then it was just a question of whether or not they hauled the load and didn't fall apart while doing so. Nobody expected carlike ergonomics, liveability, ride comfort, handling, roominess, or (certainly) performance. Now, a pickup must be all things to all owners: amiable everyday commuter, high-profile sport vehicle, comfortable cruiser, fun-to-drive plaything, and reliable toy-hauler for an active lifestyle.

The range of testing thus needs to reflect the broad range of a pickup's uses. Each truck in our competition was first put through our full battery of instrumented track testing: acceleration, emergency braking, at-the-limit handling, and ultimate cornering grip. Even in a pickup, it's important to know just where the vehicle's limits are. Then we drove them where their owners will typically drive them-through city traffic, on the open highway, up and down mountains, and into building supply centers to load them full. But we also drove the 4x4s in places where their owners might have second thoughts-through deep streams, over craggy rocks, in and out of soft, sandy streambeds, and through lots of slippery mud.

When we weren't driving, we were checking out the fit and finish, the features, the controls' ease of operation-all the things that help give a modern truck that highly sought carlike driving experience. And, of course, we looked at value; just what do you get for your hard-earned bucks? We discussed pros and cons, strengths and weakness, things that worked, and things that didn't. We judged them against their class competition and how well they do the specific jobs for which they were built. But in the end, only one truck could be named Motor Trend's 2000 Truck of the Year. Who's the winner? Turn the page to find out.

The notion that only the domestic "Big Three" can build a proper full-size pickup has finally been eclipsed. In making good in on its longstanding promise to directly challenge U.S. producers of full-size V-8 pickups, Toyota has delivered an exceptional new offering: the 2000 Tundra. On sale since last June, this bold upstart has sent shockwaves through the industry-and handily rolled off with our Truck of the Year award, as well. Although first full-year sales volumes are projected only at about 100,000 units, its mere presence ensures that the Ford/Chevy/Dodge big-pickup game (total volume over 2 million units) will never be the same.