The basic HI-PO formula has been around for years: take a small vehicle and shoehorn your largest powerplant into the engine bay. That's exactly what Dodge did when it introduced the Dakota 5.9 R/T in April 1998. With its box-stock small-block OHV Magnum V-8 putting out 250 hp at the crank and a hefty 3850-lb curb weight, at 15.4:1 the Dodge didn't fare as well in the power-to-weight ratio department.
Feeding power through a 46RE four-speed automatic to the Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires (P255/55R17), the R/T posted a 0-60 time of 7.08 sec, passing through the quarter mile in 15.50 at 88.72 mph. "About 1500 rpm are required to get a good launch," noted chief-tester Chris Walton. "More than that, and you'll only spin the tires." The R/T pulls hard, but we encountered a flat spot in its acceleration curve around 3500 rpm (nearing 70 mph) in third gear. This appears to be commonplace, as we've experienced this phenomenon with other R/Ts.
Fitted with 11.3-in. vented discs front and 9.0-in. drums out back (with rear-only anti-lock), the Dakota stopped from 60 mph in a decent 136 ft, but did so with harsh ABS kickback through the pedal and an occasional wander off course.
That wasn't the case with the TRD-fortified Tacoma, which stopped in a pavement-peeling 106 ft--that's better than an '02 Porsche GT2 with $10K worth of ceramic brakes. Part of the Toyota's success came with TRD's 9.9-in. vented front discs and 10.0-in. rear drums (with full ABS), and optional 235/45ZR17 Toyo Proxes RA1 (DOT approved) race tires mounted on Gram-Lights 57C 17x7.5 wheels.
When Toyota launched the 3125-lb S-Runner in 2000, TRD saw it as an open invitation to take sport trucks to the next level. By mounting a screw-type blower (set to a conservative 6 psi of boost) atop its 3.4L V-6, power bumps up 64 ponies for a respectable 12.5:1 power-to-weight ratio. Facing the timing lights, the Toyota beat the Dakota to 60 by a full second at 6.07, pulling an impressive 14.96 at 93.96 in the quarter mile.
Breaking onto the scene in '93 (and now in its second generation), the SVT almost needs drag slicks to harness power from the blown 5.4L Triton V-8 (rated at 380 hp with 8 psi of boost and boasting a power-to-weight ratio of 12.3:1) to the rear wheels. With the stock Goodyear Eagle Eagle F1 GS rubber (P295/45ZR18) straining for grip, easing into the throttle, then mashing it to the floor garnered the best time of 5.24 to 60 and 13.75 sec at 101.56 mph for this 4670-lb truck.
Fitted with 12.1-in. front and 13.1-in. vented discs in back (with full ABS), the SVT'd F-150 was the only truck to pull a 100-0-mph stop, doing so in 347 ft. Braking 60-0 was also powerful and linear at 122 ft. Noted Walton, "The Lightning's brakes were impressive and fade-free after several runs."