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Arguably, the most important part of a pickup truck is where you toss the cargo and hitch the trailer. While a truck's bed is shortest when backing a full crew cab, the Titan was so far ahead in truck utility, the short bed would've made little difference.

At first, the Titan's utility option seems pricey at $950; compared with a $300 bedliner, the value improves. With a nonskid sprayed in, five cargo rails (two sides, two floor, one front) with four adjustable cleats, four fixed tie-downs, and a locking external storage compartment good for greasy tow balls or wet tire chains, the Nissan led the pack in cargo flexibility. In addition, there's a bed extender, lights that illuminate the tailgate when it's down, assists to help lower and lift the gate with ease, and, like the Ford, the tailgate locks. The Titan also has the highest tow rating and was the only tester with an identical spare tire and wheel.

Chevy led the payload pack, ranked second in lightness and max GVWR. Unfortunately, the Chevy's ride deteriorated the most with a load because the Silverado seemed undershocked to begin with. It also took the longest to stop, though this could be attributed to the narrowest tires, new-for-2005 rear drum brakes, ABS programming, or all three.

Our towmeister noted four- and seven-pin plugs on the Ford but only four tie-downs and no marked cutouts for stake pockets; the plug is in the bumper on the Dodge, making it the first to require a longer trailer harness; and the Toyota had the most open safety chain loops, but, despite the only rubber-sealed plug, it collected as much dust inside as the others.

One new 2006 Dodge item is a spoiler similar to Chevy's, a roughly four-inch-long flat trim strip atop the tailgate. These are becoming more common for improving air departure and reinforce the notion that dropping the tailgate doesn't improve fuel economy.