Truck of the Year Winner: 1979-Present
The complete listing Truck of the Year Winners from 1979 to present.
2014 Truck of the Year: Ram 1500
One of the questions we ponder at any Motor Trend "of the Year" event is whether a vehicle is a game-changer. While that term -- that little bit of corporate execu-babble -- is overused and slightly sickening, it really is significant. For years, truck manufacturers did what was safe and didn't upset the status quo. But two years ago Ford rocked the boat with the twin-turbo V-6 EcoBoost. Last year, Ram rocked it again with air suspension and an eight-speed automatic. We were hoping GM would continue the trend and blow us away with something even bigger. We simply weren't expecting Ram to do just that.
The first hurdle the Ram 1500 had to clear was convincing our judges that it deserved consideration. Truck of the Year is only open to all-new or significantly updated trucks and vans. Is a new diesel engine enough warrant inclusion? Yes, because this isn't just a new engine -- this is, strictly speaking, a different technology for the segment.
2013 Truck of the Year: Ram 1500
For several years, it seemed all we ever talked about with trucks was torque and tow ratings. Things have changed, with truck buyers' expectations reaching a long way off the farm or job site. There's no single magic bullet that will meet every truck owner's needs, so even an entry payload model range like the Ram 1500 has to have far more breadth and depth than its forebears of a decade ago did. To demonstrate its half-ton's ability to cover the entire market, Ram delivered a V-6-powered SLT on the efficient and luxurious side and a V-8 powered Sport leaning toward power and performance.
While Ford may be using smaller forced-induction engines for the sake of efficiency, Ram is refining its powertrain options by offering more efficient engines bolted to a new, optional eight-speed transmission. Replacing the old 3.7-liter V-6 is the much-celebrated Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6, which offers 42 percent more horsepower and 13 percent more torque. A new eight-speed transmission is standard on V-6 models and will be optional on the V-8. At launch, V-8s will be available only with the current six-speed automatic, with the new transmission coming at a later date.
2012 Truck of the Year Winner: Ford F-150
You Know that feeling you get when you see a supercar sitting in the parking lot of the local six-buck-a-cup coffee shop? The ache in your stomach, knowing that toddling back and forth from the gated community to the strip mall is all the driving that poor car will ever do? We get that same feeling when we see an F-150 that doesn't have at least 1000 pounds in the bed or 5000 pounds hanging off the hitch. Just like that supercar, the F-150 is a tool built for a purpose. It has a goal in life, and the people who never use it as it was intended are squandering the truck's ability and a heritage that goes back to 1948.
We had a pair of Ford F-150s for our 2012 Truck of the Year testing that represent two of the more popular trim levels: a Platinum Edition EcoBoost and an XLT 5.0-liter V-8. New for this year, but not on hand, are Ford's entry-level 302-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 and the range-topping 411-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 from the Raptor now available in the Lariat, Platinum, and Harley Davidson Editions.
2011 Motor Trend Truck Of The Year: Chevrolet Silverado HD
In the heavy-duty truck world, capability is most important. Folks like to brag about numbers -- horsepower, torque, and payload and towing capacity -- and talk about the monstrous things they can tow. Take, for example, the Chevrolet Silverado HD's 21,700-pound towing capacity. That means it can tow three other Silverado HDs, or 10 Lotus Evoras. Payload capacities in this category mean that each truck is rated to carry a half-ton pickup in its bed, if you crushed it small enough to fit. These are the trucks that haul horse trailers, massive boats, and huge construction equipment; the ones many people pooh-pooh as being too big and too environmentally unfriendly -- until they need to use one, of course. Styling isn't nearly as important in this category, so when the Great Recession hit and GM's development budget was cut, it prioritized function over form.
2010 Motor Trend Truck of the Year: Ram Heavy Duty
Despite the effects of the Great Recession on personal-use truck sales, there is still demand for pickups ready to do hard work. The heavy-duty truck market has gotten smaller, but the guys who buy those pickups are fiercely loyal to the segment-they need the extreme capability these hard-working haulers provide. Some may wonder why anyone would own a truck that can tow nearly 20,000 pounds, but for a lot of people in construction, those who transport vehicles or goods, and those with ranches, this is just a part of everyday life.
Within the next few months, the heavy-duty category will heat up, as all three manufacturers have all-new offerings coming. The Ram Heavy Duty is the first to market, and it's already ahead of the game. When Ford and GM's all-new heavy-dutys come out, both new diesel engines are going to require urea injection to meet emissions requirements that take effect January 2010. The Ram Heavy Duty's Cummins inline-six turbodiesel, which puts out an impressive 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, met those requirements -- without urea -- over a year ago.
2009 Motor Trend Truck of the Year: Ford F-150
This is it. Crunch time. The 2009 Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram are rolling onto the market like a pair of gigantic craps dice, and the companies tossing them are each betting big on this game. Unfortunately, the rules changed while these dice were in mid-air. Fuel prices skyrocketed, the economy tanked, consumer confidence evaporated, and folks who once chose half-ton pickups more for their Marlboro-Man-image-enhancing qualities than for their towing or hauling capabilities are shopping elsewhere.
Ford claims it sells more of its half-ton pickups to work and commercial customers than its competitors do, and Ford predicts this segment will grow to 45 percent of F-150 sales. Toward that end, the truck's fully boxed chassis is further fortified to provide best-in-class rigidity, payload capacity (up to 3030 pounds), and tow ratings (up to 11,300 pounds). As such, the new F-150 is well positioned to capture contractors migrating down-market out of Super-Dutys to save money and gas (did we mention that a new six-speed automatic, a lighter, more aerodynamic cab, and other tweaks boost fuel economy by 12 percent with the 5.4-liter?).
2008 Motor Trend Truck of the Year Winner: Toyota Tundra
When Toyota first announced it was coming out with a full-size pickup truck to go head to head with the big boys from Ford, Chevy, and Dodge, the question arose as to whether an import could truly compete as a heavyweight. The answer is in: The new Toyota Tundra is now ready to take on any American-made pickup truck -- on all levels.
Superiority? Toyota is pulling no punches by introducing one of the biggest, strongest, and most capable vehicles in the segment, as well as investing billions in a new state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in the heart of truck country-San Antonio, Texas. Significance? With Toyota looking to more than double its presence in the hotly contested half-ton marketplace, the Tundra represents one of the most highly anticipated new vehicle launches in many years -- car or truck. Value? The new Tundra offers three different powertrains (one V-6 and two V-8s), with the 5.7-liter V-8 a high-tech wonder and torque monster -- and is among the most powerful engines in any half-ton configuration. Toyota's platform has the entire segment covered with three different bed sizes, three separate wheelbases covering five different cab and bed configurations, combined with three different trim packages (Tundra Grade, SR5, and Limited) in 4x4 and 4x2 drivetrains -- 44 different truck flavors to interested buyers, from work truck to luxury touring.
2007 Motor Trend Truck of the Year: Chevrolet Silverado
Did you ever notice that the model-lifespan of most new vehicles is about the same as a presidential term of office? New-car models get voted in about every four years, but pickups -- being immensely popular in the United States of Home Improvement -- generally hang in for two terms. And because full-size pickups are also immensely profitable, the major parties tend to spend those eight years paying their best and brightest product planners and engineers to research and develop the next blockbuster pickup. These folks are not dummies, so when one of the new breadwinners arrives -- and the rivals always stagger their intros to hog the limelight for a year -- it's big news and a strong contender for Truck-of-the-Year glory. This year, it's the Grand Old Car Company's turn, with a new Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra.
One of the three pillars of every "of the year" contest is significance, and on that score this contest was the GMT900's to lose. Sales of the two brands tally well over a million units year in and year out, owing to the squillion different combinations and permutations of cabs, beds, drivetrains, and suspensions offered. There truly is a truck for every purse and purpose from the entry-level construction worker's no-frills V-6 work truck to the fully loaded limo version his big-boss will drive to the building's gala grand opening. But market significance doesn't energize the Truck of the Year voter base, so at the beginning of our hellish week of testing, the Silverado and Sierra had plenty to prove -- and each other to beat.
2006 Truck Of The Year: 2006 Honda Ridgeline
You'd IMAGINE the unanimous vote for the Honda Ridgeline would be a surprising conclusion to our 2006 Truck of the Year showdown. Truth is, after two long days thudding over concrete freeway expansion joints, howling around a tight handling course, and skittering along a stony off-road trail, this one was about as simple as it gets. Which only makes the truck market's hesitance toward this newfangled but remarkable machine all the more puzzling.
We'd wager more than a few of those check-writing hands have been frozen by the Ridgeline's eye-of-the-beholder angular bodywork and bent-bed profile. We can understand that. Others have balked at its premium price, which ranges anywhere from $28,250 to $35,190 for our loaded, moonroof- and nav-equipped RTL example (the average out-the-door tab being about $32,000). Yet, it's tricky to gauge the Ridgeline's value without a reference to judge it against, and at the moment the Honda's in a class of precisely one. Compared with some of this year's other contestants, the Ridgeline's price really doesn't seem too far out of line. But for the same number written on the check, you could just as easily have, say, a V-8-engined Ford F-150 4x4 -- and on the face of it, a lot more hardware than the V-6-engined Honda.
2005 Truck of the Year Winner: Toyota Tacoma
The resounding thud emanating from the pickup bed as we exited a sweeping lefthander got our attention: A 100-pound toolbox riding in the bed had come loose. To our amazement, the sides of the sheet-molded compound cargo box took the shunts from the toolbox with zero damage. It was a pleasant surprise, one of many we experienced in the new Tacoma, Motor Trend's Truck of the Year for 2005.
Like you, we appreciate a truck that can take abuse. All too often in the past, that meant some industrial-grade machine with not much more than a whiff of creature comforts and sophistication, but we're betting you don't want to be stuck driving something that dishes out its own abuse. And that may just be the essence of what Toyota has achieved with the new-from-the-ground-up Tacoma.
Motor Trend 2004 Truck Of the Year Winner: Ford F-150
The question of the decade, at least for Ford Motor Company, must have been "how do we redesign America's best-selling motor vehicle without degrading the formula that makes it so successful?" The significance hinging on Ford's answer is awesome to consider: In 2002 (2003 statistics aren't yet finalized), Ford sold over 800,000 F-Series pickups, accounting for two in every five light-duty, full-size pickup trucks or one in every 20 vehicles sold (including cars and SUVs). Because the stakes are so high, one might think Ford would do very little to a truck that's been so well received. On the contrary.
Representing 23 percent of its total domestic sales, the F-150 is critical to the health of FoMoCo. And the competition within the full-size pickup category has become so fierce that Ford left not a single part of the 2004 F-150 untouched, unimproved, or unperfected. After 55 years of the F-Series, the 2004 Truck of the Year contest was Ford's to lose. Ford literally invented and has now reinvented America's pickup -- carefully and with consideration of every aspect related to styling, capability, safety, driveability, durability, and special features.
2003 Truck of the Year: Dodge Ram Heavy Duty
From the onset of our Truck of the Year competition, we knew the Ram Heavy Duty was a prime contender. It fulfills the promise set forth last year by the introduction of an all-new Ram and now offers the power and capability expected in the three-quarter and one-ton segments, plus features, content, and capacities that in many ways raise the bar for this class of truck.
Time and again, we gravitated to the Ram HD's potent new V-8 Hemi, 8.0-liter V-10, and Cummins turbodiesel powertrains. We were impressed by the HD's living-room-like interior, high feature content, and big-rig styling. The Ram exhibits fine driving manners, hauls a bed full of concrete blocks with ease, and pulls loaded trailers without breaking a sweat. Think of it as a burly lumberjack dressed in a tux.
2002 Motor Trend Truck of the Year: Chevrolet Avalanche
Remember when trucks were regarded as workhorses or construction site haulers? Today, that simply isn't the case. Last year, the Big Three collectively sold more pickups than cars or sport/utilities. Why? Because trucks are today's go-anywhere/ do-anything-anytime conveyances. They're asked to provide daily transportation to work, haul clients, shuttle the kids, take the whole gang away for weekends in the woods, and haul home-improvement supplies for those honey-do projects. Today's truck buyer demands maximum versatility and function along with the safety, convenience, and entertainment capabilities found only in premium luxury cars a few years back.
From the onset, we knew the Avalanche was a solid Truck of the Year contender. We continually gravitated back to this new Chevy for its potent powertrains, commodious interior, feature content, aggressive styling, workaday capability, and innovative convertible cab.
2001 Truck of the Year: Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty
It used to be that 3/4- and one-ton trucks were tools. Long on anvil-like, workaday toughness. Short on creature comforts. Thirty years ago, you'd have been lucky to get sunvisors and an AM radio on a one-ton dualie-and those were options. Drive one every day? Not unless you're a tow-truck driver. Take one on vacation with your family or out to dinner with friends? Fughetaboudit! Leather seats and a six-CD changer? Stop it, already!
Today, things are different. Times have changed. Trucks have changed.
Although this year's field of candidates was widely varied in its makeup, the Chevrolet Silverado HD won us over with its do-it-all portfolio of power, passenger room, cargo capacity, feature levels, and towing prowess. Yet this bruiser drives beautifully, can be trimmed out as nicely as many luxury cars, and functions amazingly well as everyday personal (and family) transportation.
2000 Truck of the Year Winner: Toyota Tundra
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.
Taking on these huge sellers (the Ford F-150 is perennially the largest-selling vehicle in America) required Toyota to marshal all its U.S.-based resources. That process yielded not only one superb truck, but a top-notch network of suppliers and a brand-new $1.2 billion assembly facility in Princeton, Indiana. To better accommodate the record numbers of people now choosing pickups as primary personal-use vehicles, the broad-based Tundra lineup includes regular and Access Cab configurations; base, SR5, and Limited trim levels; two- and four-wheel drive; and a choice of V-6 or V-8 engines. Factor in a host of buyer-specific options -- from primo sound systems to a TRD-spec off-road package -- and you've got the makings of one outstanding pickup. Priced from just under $15,000 for a base regular cab to around $30,000 for a fully loaded 4WD Access Cab Limited, the new Tundra delivers a wide range of choices, as well as a dose of solid value.
1999 Truck of the Year Winner: Chevrolet Silverado
Having the right tool for the job is critical. Ask any master plumber, carpenter, electrician, or farmer. The wrong tool or the wrong-size tool just doesn't get it done properly, safety, or economically. For '99, Chevrolet completely reinvented its pickup, widely recognized as one of America's top cargo-hauling tools.
The Silverado clearly raises the pickup standard with an array of improvements that will certainly touch many people's lives; after all, its predessor, the C/K gas traditionally been GM's single largest-selling vehicle line, car or truck. Last year, the Bow Tie division sold better than a half-million of these trusty workhorses. In our thorough testing of the totally reengineered '99 Chevrolet Silverado, Motor Trend's editors discovered it to be a more sophisticated, tougher and more versatile benchmark among full-size pickup trucks.
1998 Truck of the Year Winner: Mercedes-Benz M-Class
Movie-Goers got a sneak peek at the Mercedes' innovative new sport/utility vehicle in "Jurassic Park: The Lost World." Now, stripped of its special-effects appendages, the M-Class is poised and ready to conquer your personal urban jungle.
As the first entry in the Mercedes-Benz sport/ute line, the ML320 grafts a fresh, new strain into the SUV mix. While other sport/utility manufacturers claw over each other to make the next Ford Explorer or Jeep Grand Cherokee, the M-Class is quite clearly -- and proudly -- a Mercedes. It's a masterful blending of elements designed to address the myriad needs of the SUV buyer. In one fell swoop, Mercedes has redefined what a sport/utility can be and brought it to market at a bargain price.
1997 Truck of the Year: Ford F-150
Sailing the rising tide of truck popularity, Ford's F-Series pickups have held the coveted title of best-selling vehicle line in the United States for an amazing 14 consecutive years. During that time, we've seen a partial paradigm shift where trucks, particularly pickups, have made the transition from work-oriented utility vehicles to versatile personal transport modules. Full-size pickup trucks with their myriad equipment variations have become the enthusiastic vehicle of choice for an entirely new group of buyers-from businessmen to homemakers.
So far, so good. But how does a company go about the daunting task of replacing its perennial top-selling line with an all-new successor? Ford was faced with just this dilemma when it decided to modernize its broad F-Series lineup. Its self-imposed task was to take the pickup truck to a higher level of design, style, safety, and comfort, yet to do so without sacrificing the ruggedness that put the slogan "Built Ford Tough" into the American vernacular.
1996 Motor Trend Truck Of The Year: Chevy Tahoe SS
Tahoe SSChevy can hardly deliver an example of Motor Trend's 1996 Truck of the Year to a dealer before customers are kneeing each other for the right to pay more than the sticker value. The Tahoe, especially the four-door version, is a mammoth hit.
Still, competition is on its way in the form of the '97 Ford Expedition, and the imminent conversion of GM's Arlington, Texas, assembly plant to full-size sport/ utility production (there will be a lot more Tahoes to sell) means that Chevrolet won't be able to rest on its laurels. Toward that end, the division showed its idea for a seriously sinister two-wheel-drive Tahoe Super Sport. Without mimicking the blackness of the Impala SS, the Tahoe SS imparts much of that car's high-performance appeal-the result of a six-inch lowering, crossed-flag emblems on each front fender, massive BFGoodrich tires on 17-inch wheels, and enough Emerald Green paint to redecorate Oz.
1995 Truck of the Year Winner: Chevrolet Blazer
A dozen years ago, Chevrolet scored its first sales success in the compact sport/utility segment with its S-Blazer. In what was a fairly small market niche, the Blazer held its own against the Ford Bronco II and Jeep Cherokee. Until the introduction of the Ford Explorer, that is. Then it was soundly whipped by the Ford and, later, the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Largely due to these newcomers' more refined, nearly car-like manners, millions came to view SUVs as attractive alternatives to station wagons, minivans, and even luxury cars. By last year, not only was the Blazer the oldest compact SUV in the segment, but quality competition from Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Honda, and Land Rover, in addition to Ford and Keep, flooded the market.
The Blazer's disadvantage grew such that it appeared infrequently on comparison-shopping lists. Chevy management took small consilation in the face that the essential package was good enough -- and priced loe enough -- to attract about 168,000 diehard Bowtie loyalists in '93. bUT THAT WAS JUST 20,000 MORE THAN THE LITTLE Blazer's intial season and only a small slice of a segment that some predict will peak near 1.2 million sales annually -- almost a quarter of all light-truck sales.
1994 Truck of the Year Winner: Dodge Ram Pickup
Some people say that Mount St. Helens erupts more often than big news breaks in the full-size pickup class. It's not unusual for model cycles in this category to exceed a decade. Even facelifts occur only slightly more often than Mars probes. That partially explains why the revamped Dodge RAM is creating such a stir this year. More important, however, is that in several ways, the Ram has created a new standard by which full-size pickups will be judge.
Chrysler last introduced an all-new full-size pickup 22 years ago; the Vietnam war was still winding down. That's a long time even for this group. Thus, in recent years, the Ram has become a low-volume player in the truck wars. In a segment that sells over a million units a year -- about one of every sex vehicles sold -- Dodge moved only about 80,000 last year, largely on the strength of its popular cummins turbodiesel. Ford's F-Series and Chevrolet's C/K have dominated this class for the last several years, establishing themselves as the number one and two bestselling vehicles, respectively, of any kind in the country.
1993 Truck of the Year Winner: Jeep Grand Cherokee
In one sense, the '93 Truck of the Year competition was nip and tuck right down to the wire. In face, the subjective scoring, the six judges were split 3-3 over the first-place finisher. Yet, in another sense, the competition was a clear runaway. The Grand Cherokee Laredo, equipped with the optional 5.2-liter V-8 engine, establishes such a high mark for its class in terms of performance and capability, it emerged as a solid winner.
With its combination of abundant power, well-tuned suspension, versatile drivetrain, and array of welcome features, the Grand Cherokee is a vehicle that has something for everyone.
1992 Truck of the Year Winner: Ford Van Chateau Club Wagon
The competition was tight. Each of the entries was a clean improvement over its predecessor, but in the final tally, it was the Ford Chateau Club Wagon that emerged as our '92 Truck of the Year. In fact, the Chateau was rated first by seven of our eight judges.
One staffer called it "a quantum leap in full-size vans." Another said, "The new edition is superior in every way." And a third wrote, "Ford did an excellent job of designing a full-size van for the next decade."
1991 Truck of the Year Winner: Mazda Navjo
According to many leading automotive analysts, the sport.utility market will be the hottest segment of the '90s. Attesting to that fact is the presence of no fewer than four of these dual-purpose vehicles in our '91 Truck of the Year field. Hoping to attract many first-time buyers who demand a generous measure of civility along with basic ruggedness in their sport/utilities, Mazda has introduced the new Navajo.
Developed in conjunction with longtime partner Ford Motor Company and built in Ford's Louisville, Kentucky, assembly plant, the two-door Navajo is based on mechanical from the successful Ford Explorer. But the creative staff of Mazda's Irvine, California, R&D Center gave the newest family member its own unique interior and exterior styling treatments. Along with enthusiast-orientated looks, the roomy Navajo boasts a strong, torquey 4-liter, V-6 engine that gives it sufficient power to handle any day-to-day driving chore, weather matched with the standard five-speed manual gearbox or optional four-speed automatic. And the base 3500-pound trailering capacity can be augmented to 5000 pounds with the optional towing package.
1990 Truck of the Year Winner: Ford Aerostar 4WD
While it's never a simple thing to determine what's "best" in a field of contemporaries, it's at times decidedly straightforward. That's the message offered by Motor Trend's 1990 Truck of the Year competition. Ford's sleek and stylish Aerostar was introduced in May 1985 as a rear-drive space shuttle-like harbinger of mini-van styling of the future. The new 4wd version of this year's hands-down winner.
In Truck of the Year's objective categories, Aerostar's substantial mechanicals and roadworthy feel brought it to a strong 2nd place. And in subjective scoring, Aerostar won in three categories and finished well in all the others.
1989 Truck of the Year Winner: Toyota Truck Xtracab SR5
When any kind of vehicle handles, accelerates, and brakes with glee, effectiveness, and safety, it deserves special recognition from enthusiast drivers. If this vehicle also has the cargo capacity of a circus train, it becomes a double threat. The example to which we refer is the '89 Motor Trend Truck of the Year, the Toyota Xtracab SR5 V-6
Toyotas are the best-selling imported trucks in America, and our new Truck of the Year is one of the significant reasons why that's so. If distinctive transportation for everyday driving is your aim, the Xtracab SR5 V-6 should be among your first considerations. This vehicle is at once more car-like and performance-orientated than some sport coupes, and its styling and versatility offer much more than standard sport coupe fare.
1979 Truck of the year Winner: Chevrolet 4x4 LUV Pickup Truck
Light Utility Vehicle (LUV), with emphasis on Utility, best describes Chevrolet's 1979 4-wheel-drive pickup truck, winner of the Motor Trend "Truck of the Year" Award.
This is the second year such an award has been made to honor one of the fastest growing segments of the automotive market. As we enter into the '80s with smaller, more efficient passenger cars, buyers are looking for more than just a family sedan. They want and need versatility, a vehicle of many uses, from daily commuting to recreation. Pickups and vans are running neck and neck in popularity with 4-wheel-drives accounting for a fair share. Many owners of vans and small pickups invest heavily in converting these vehicles to 4-wheel drive to further increase their versatility. Go anywhere with anything is the name of the game with truck and van owners.