It wasn't that long ago when crew cabs were reserved for one-tons built for commercial ventures. Then Michigan figured out what the Aussies had known for years: Crew-cab trucks make great personal-use vehicles. Now there are six crew-cab half-tons on the market in the U.S. (if you count the Ridgeline), but, Honda aside, access into this elite group requires a V-8.

While Chevy, Dodge, and Ford have been building full-size trucks for more than half a century, Toyota and Nissan are the newcomers. We pitted five pickups against each other, tested by judges with experience ranging from novice to nearly 30 years in the biz.

We tested them as trucks, mindful that many become the second family car and will often be used without load or trailer. To avoid debate over 4WD necessity, we tested faster, more fuel-efficient, cheaper 2WD models.

The Pentagon
"Cheaper" may be irrelevant to certain buyers and a huge factor to others, and these five trucks cost from under $30,000 to a Pentagon-like $40,000; $10 grand can buy lots of gas or a nice, lightly used boat. By the way, we know the Titan isn't a crew cab (logistical problems beyond our control), but don't consider this a deficit or an advantage: With the gear it carried, the King Cab was less than 40 pounds below crew-cab weight, had the same wheelbase and length, and the back seat was preferred in some respects. Those aspects and the price difference were accounted for in "perceived value" scoring.

While we didn't throw any wet dogs or unruly juveniles in the trucks, we did try a variety of road surfaces and conditions and loaded each half-ton with all five testers and 500 pounds of rock. It became an examination of subtle nuances, clear option preferences, and an excellent demonstration of what gearing can do.