2014 Motor Trend Truck of the Year Contenders
Strength In Numbers: Four Categories of Contenders Make Up The Largest Slate Ever
For the last few years, not that many trucks have qualified for Truck of the Year. We knew it was temporary, and that new trucks would make a comeback. It seems 2014 is the first wave of this revival. Because of that, the 2014 Truck of the Year event represents the largest group of contenders we've ever had.
There are four categories: 1/2-tons, heavy-duty trucks, small work vans, and full-size vans. The all-new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra have new engines, interiors, and styling, plus the all-new High Country model. Ram introduces the EcoDiesel 3.0-liter turbodiesel for the 1500. Toyota's Tundra has body and cabin refinements, and the 1794 Edition makes its debut. There are two heavy-duties as well, both from Ram, with the new 6.4-liter V-8, suspension changes, and air suspension option as well as a whopping 30,000-pound towing capacity.
There are two small vans (more miniature van than minivan): Nissan's new-for-North America, cargo-only (unless you drive a taxi) NV200 and Ford's totally redesigned Transit Connect cargo van. Rounding out our list of contenders are the squarest vehicles of the group: the redesigned Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which now comes with a new inline-four turbodiesel as the base engine, and the Fiat-sourced Ram ProMaster, the first full-size van Ram (or Dodge) has sold since, well, the Sprinter wore a Ram badge.
The highly diverse group made testing and deliberations a challenge. But our criteria and our test procedures ensured that each vehicle was evaluated fairly and was compared only with its competitive set. Read on to see which contender earned the Golden Calipers.
Testing, Testing… Our Truck of the Year Test Procedures
The variety of vehicles we had this year brought new challenges to our testing process. We went to Continental Tire's expansive proving grounds in Uvalde, Texas, for a safe, controlled environment where we could conveniently conduct all our testing at the same location.
There were four different types of vehicles this year, and because this is Truck of the Year, it was critical that we evaluate each vehicle not only unladen, but loaded as well. And that means different things for vans than it does for trucks.
As always, we drove all the vehicles empty, evaluating comfort and noise levels, suspension tuning, and acceleration and braking on a loop offering relaxed freeway driving, tight turns on a road course, and uneven surfaces. We also ran them through Motor Trend's performance test regimen -- all 13 trucks and vans went through the quarter mile, 0-60-mph acceleration and 60-0 braking, and were tested on a 200-foot skidpad. In addition, Emissions Analytics evaluated the fuel economy on all the contenders.
We then tested each vehicle equipped for work. In the case of the pickups, each truck towed a trailer with weight that totaled 75 percent of as-tested towing capacity. Testing at that amount gave us a margin of safety while ensuring that the playing field remained level. We still were able to see how well each truck performed while doing what it was designed to do.
"We ensured each vehicle was evaluated fairly and was compared only with its competitive set."
For example, the Toyota Tundra 1794 we tested was a four-wheel-drive CrewMax. That truck's towing capacity is 9000 pounds as tested, so we towed with 6750 pounds hooked to the bumper. With the Ram HD 3500, that meant towing with a fifth-wheel loaded with 21,570 pounds. Not only did every judge take every truck through a drive loop, but the test team recorded acceleration with a trailer on each truck.
We determined the best way to test the vans doing what they were designed to do was by loading them with cargo. While some people use their vans to tow, the majority of the work the vehicles do is carrying gear.
We loaded each van with pallets of sandbags, and the vans carried 75 percent of their as-tested payload capacity. As with the trucks, every judge drove every van with and without payload. The test team recorded acceleration, braking, and skidpad data with the empty vans, and then accelerated all of them again with payload.
The combination of empirical testing and subjective impressions was essential for determining the Truck of the Year winner.
ADVANCEMENT IN DESIGN Quality execution of exterior and interior styling; innovation in vehicle packaging; good selection and use of materials.
ENGINEERING EXCELLENCE Integrity of total vehicle concept and execution, clever solutions to packaging, manufacturing, and dynamics issues; use of cost-effective technologies that benefit the consumer.
EFFICIENCY Low energy consumption and carbon footprint relative to the vehicle's competitive set.
SAFETY Primary safety -- the vehicle's ability to help the driver avoid a crash -- as well as secondary safety measures that protect its occupants from harm during a crash.
VALUE Price and equipment levels measured against those of vehicles in the same market segment.
PERFORMANCE OF INTENDED FUNCTION How well the vehicle does the job its designers and product planners intended.
2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (1/2-Ton Trucks) By: Scott Mortara
We Like: The redesigned interiors and smooth, quiet ride.
We Don't Like: For an all-new truck, there isn't anything groundbreaking.
For 2014, Chevrolet stepped up its game in the truck segment with the all-new Silverado 1500. Chevrolet says it's "new from hood to hitch," so we invited it to compete in Truck of the Year.
Chevrolet claims there are "hundreds of improvements" to the all-new Silverado. Here are a few of the key points: three all-new engines, one V-6 and two V-8s; a refined interior that's quieter, more comfortable, and tailored to truck customers; revised steering, suspension, and brakes; and improved ride and handling. The first new engine is a 4.3-liter V-6 with 285 hp and 305 lb-ft. Then there's the 5.3-liter V-8 with 355 hp and 383 lb-ft, and finally, we have the 6.2-liter V-8 with 420-hp and 460 lb-ft. Chevrolet has added direct fuel injection to all its new engines as well as Active Fuel Management (cylinder deactivation) and continuously variable timing, a combination Chevrolet claims no other truck in the segment has.
The interior is definitely improved, mostly in quality materials and a much better layout. "There are more USB ports than I have devices, and I like the toggle switches at the bottom of the center stack," said Burgess. One of the most notable interior changes is how quiet it is, and judges felt the Silverado was also the smoothest truck in the competition.
The High Country is said to be the Silverado's rugged yet luxurious version, as with the Silverado's brother GMC Denali. Most of us were underwhelmed with the High Country, noting some material refinements, but other items that should have been improved were not. "For what this costs, it should feel like a proper luxe vehicle, not a pseudo-luxe vehicle," wrote Febbo. The Silverado is better in every way, but it only catches up to its competition. In some cases, it hasn't even done that. Hence, the Silverado is not our 2014 Truck of the Year winner.
|2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71||2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country|
|Price As Tested||$49,720||$56,820|
|Power (SAE net)||355 hp @ 5600 rpm||420 hp @ 5600 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||383 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm||460 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm|
|Accel 0-60, mph||7.1 sec; 16.7 sec*||6.0 sec; 15.0 sec**|
|Quarter Mile||15.5 sec @ 90.8 mph||14.6 sec @ 96.6 mph|
|Quarter Mile (towing)||21.2 sec @ 66.8 mph*||20.6 sec @ 69.3 mph**|
|Braking 60-0, mph||127 ft||131 ft|
|Lateral Accel||0.74 g (avg)||0.74 g (avg)|
|EPA Econ (city/hwy)||16/22 mpg||14/20 mpg|
|Real MPG (city/hwy)||N/A||N/A|
| * with 7197-lb trailer |
** with 7199-lb trailer
2014 GMC Sierra 1500 (1/2-Ton Trucks) By: Allyson Harwood
We Like: Great styling, quiet interior, modern cabin.
We Don't Like: Stiff suspension; capability merely catches up.
Of all the contenders at this year's Truck of the Year, the Sierra could have earned the Most Improved award, even more so than its sibling Silverado. While the Chevrolet and GMC pickups use the same three new Ecotec3 engines, with Active Fuel Management, continuously variable valve timing, and direct injection, the Sierra has styling that distinguishes it from the Silverado -- the most differentiated looks the two have had to date.
We sampled the 4.3-liter V-6 in a shortbed regular cab and the 6.2-liter V-8 in a crew cab Denali -- the two extremes in GMC's Sierra line. The judges were impressed with both for different reasons. Even the base truck received plenty of the Sierra's cool new cabin features, such as the numerous USB ports, the new gauge and center stack (with a lesser version of the infotainment system offered in more upmarket Sierras), and the wonderfully quiet cabin. The 4.3-liter is fun to drive in this layout, netting a 7.4-second 0-60 time. The 6.2-liter was even more enjoyable, and came wrapped in the classy, stylish Denali package. The biggest engine in the lineup took only 6.0 seconds to reach 60.
So where did the Sierra fall short? It's a massive improvement over the previous generation, but it only catches up to the rest of the ½-ton market. While the 6.2-liter is tops in towing capacity and power, the other engines haven't surpassed the competition. They definitely win battles here and there, but not more than that. With a new truck coming from Ford and Nissan in 2015, plus a new offering from Ram Truck, merely catching up isn't enough. Burgess summed it up: "This is a great truck, but I don't think it pushes the brand that much farther ahead. It needs to do more to become Truck of the Year."
|2014 GMC Sierra 1500 SLE||2014 GMC Sierra 1500 Denali|
|Price As Tested||$38,705||$56,225|
|Power (SAE net)||285 hp @ 5300 rpm||420 hp @ 5600 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||305 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm||460 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm|
|Accel 0-60, mph||7.4 sec; 17.3 sec*||6.0 sec; 14.6 sec**|
|Quarter Mile||15.8 sec @ 88.6 mph||14.6 sec @ 97.2 mph|
|Quarter Mile (towing)||21.2 sec @ 65.4 mph*||20.3 sec @ 69.5 mph**|
|Braking 60-0, mph||130 ft||135 ft|
|Lateral Accel||0.74 g (avg)||0.74 g (avg)|
|EPA Econ (city/hwy)||17/22 mpg||14/20 mpg|
|Real MPG (city/hwy)||15/21 mpg||15/20 mpg|
| * with 5690-lb trailer |
** with 7132-lb trailer
2014 Ford Transit Connect (Small Van) By: Ed Sanchez
We Like: Carlike handling and feel; eager EcoBoost engine.
We Don't Like: Excessive road/interior noise.
Ford's international compact cargo-hauler gets a major makeover for 2014, with more carlike Kinetic Design language inside and out, all-new powertrains, and a new torsion beam rear suspension setup that improves handling dynamics. Our test vehicle was equipped with the optional 1.6-liter EcoBoost I-4 shared with the Escape SUV and Ford Fusion. The engine's 178 hp and 184 lb-ft had no problem propelling the Transit Connect's 3500-pound weight and didn't mind a payload, either.
The Transit Connect's seating position, driving manners, and overall feel were by far the most carlike of this year's contenders. The dash and control layout, including the love-it-or-hate-it MyFord Touch, is instantly familiar to anyone who's spent time in Ford's recent cars and SUVs.
Unsurprisingly for a cargo configuration, the interior of the Transit Connect had some resonance at speed, and pebbles hitting the undercarriage made a loud metallic staccato. Although a little more road noise isolation would be nice, it was important to keep the vehicle's mission in mind when making NVH assessments.
Compared with the Nissan NV200 also present at this year's comparison, the Transit Connect was by far more rewarding to drive, with far less body roll, much better handling and power, handsomer styling, and more appeal to those with an interest beyond schlepping goods from point A to point B.
The Transit Connect's multitude of configurations of seating, glass, and lengths offers something for almost every need and interest. The 2014 Transit Connect builds on the strengths that made its predecessor so popular with small businesses, while adding a dash of consumer appeal with updated powertrains and handsome styling.
|2014 Ford Transit Connect|
|Price As Tested||$31,075|
|Power (SAE net)||178 hp @ 5700 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||184 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm|
|Accel 0-60, mph||8.7 sec; 11.5 sec*|
|Quarter Mile||16.5 sec @ 83.9 mph; 18.3 sec @ 76.6 mph*|
|Braking 60-0, mph||126 ft|
|Lateral Accel||0.81 g (avg)|
|EPA Econ (city/hwy)||N/A|
|Real MPG (city/hwy)||22/32 mpg|
|* with 1275-lb payload|
2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 (Large Van) By: Allyson Harwood
We Like: Frugal yet capable I-4, vehicle refinement.
We Don't Like: High price, lack of storage up front.
When the Sprinter entered the van market in 2001 (first as a Freightliner, later as a Dodge), its Eurocentric styling, excellent V-6 turbodiesel, and overall refinement quickly made it a standout. But competitors are coming: the Ford Transit and the Fiat-sourced ProMaster. Between the approach of new competition and the amount of time since the Sprinter last received any upgrades, it was due for a refresh.
The new Sprinter receives a revised exterior, redesigned interior, and a new engine: a 2.1-liter turbodiesel I-4. And despite the difference in power between the still-excellent V-6 and I-4 (27 hp and 59 lb-ft), the four-cylinder was a pleasant surprise. It has plenty of power, enough that judges didn't feel a noticeable difference between the two. That sense was supported by data at the track, where the 0-60 times were a mere 0.2 second apart.
Judges appreciated the refinement. Kiino explained, "It's a very livable vehicle. It's also well-crafted and solid." They also liked the driver-friendly seating position and the comfortable seats, and appreciated the changes made to the center stack.
There were some downsides. For starters, the team felt there weren't enough storage areas up front. Shallow shelves above the sunvisors are about it. There is a rearview camera, but its angle doesn't provide an ideal view of what's behind the van.
And then the biggest shortcoming: price. Yes, this is the Mercedes of vans, but selling it with the Mercedes of prices (more than $53,000 with the four and nearly $60,000 for the six as tested) would leave plenty of businesses unable to afford them. It lacks the value so many companies seek when shopping for vans, and that price is a weakness in what is soon to be a very competitive segment.
|2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 SWB||2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 LWB|
|Price As Tested||$53,455||$59,685|
|Power (SAE net)||161 hp @ 3800 rpm||188 hp @ 3800 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||266 lb-ft @ 1400 rpm||325 lb-ft @ 1400 rpm|
|Accel 0-60, mph||12.6 sec; 16.1 sec*||12.4 sec; 14.8 sec**|
|Quarter Mile||18.8 sec @ 70.9 mph||20.3 sec @ 66.3 mph|
|Quarter Mile (towing)||18.7 sec @ 71.8 mph*||19.9 sec @ 68.5 mph**|
|Braking 60-0, mph||136 ft||134 ft|
|Lateral Accel||0.61 g (avg)||0.65 g (avg)|
|EPA Econ (city/hwy)||Not rated||Not rated|
|Real MPG (city/hwy)||19/23 mpg||15/19 mpg|
| * with 2148-lb payload |
** with 1655-lb payload
2013 Nissan NV200 SV (Small Van) By: Ed Sanchez
We Like: No-nonsense functionality, practical features.
We Don’t Like: Droning CVT, budget fit and finish, uninspired driving dynamics.
Based on the successful global Nissan NV200, the North American version received specific upgrades for the rigors of American customers and conditions in this market. The 1.5-liter turbodiesel inline-four and manual transmission being offered in overseas markets were dropped for a 2.0-liter I-4 and automatic transmission. The chassis was strategically strengthened, and the wheelbase was extended slightly as well.
Unlike the Transit Connect, which is aiming to cast a broad net appealing to both commercial and consumer customers, the NV200 is marketed strictly as a workhorse. The single powertrain, wheelbase, and seating configuration defines the NV200’s intended role. Its leaf-spring rear suspension, narrow 185-width tires, and rear drum brakes are clearly aimed more at low-cost work duty than dynamic prowess.
Unsurprisingly, the NV200 trailed the Transit Connect in nearly every objective performance category, as well as losing out to the Ford in the area of towing capacity, with towing not recommended for the Nissan, and the Ford offering a modest but useful 2000-pound capacity. Loh summed it up well: “The NV200 is the very definition of a functional implement. It’s a tool, though with a few creature comforts. It’s a solid, if unremarkable, little van.”
Bluetooth phone connectivity, touch-screen navigation, and power windows and locks cover all the basic comfort and convenience features for the driver, and the driver’s seat offers decent long-haul comfort and support.
Our tester’s $23,075 as-tested sticker also made it the lowest-priced entry in this year’s contest.
|2014 Nissan NV200 SV|
|Price As Tested||$23,075|
|Power (SAE net)||131 hp @ 5200 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||139 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm|
|Accel 0-60, mph||10.4 sec; 13.3 sec*|
|Quarter Mile||17.8 sec @ 77.7 mph; 19.5 sec @ 72.4 mph*|
|Braking 60-0, mph||141 ft|
|Lateral Accel||0.71 g (avg)|
|EPA Econ (city/hwy)||24/25 mpg|
|Real MPG (city/hwy)||23/28 mpg|
|* with 1122-lb payload|
2014 Toyota Tundra (1/2-Ton Trucks) By: Ron Kiino
We Like: 5.7's guts, 1794 interior, huge back seat.
We Don't Like: 5.7's thirst, cabin noise, numb steering.
Six years ago, when the second-gen Toyota Tundra won our 2008 Truck of the Year, we noted, "Toyota is pulling no punches by introducing one of the biggest, strongest, and most capable vehicles in the segment." American truck buyers agreed, buying more than 137,000 in the first full year of sale, a number that hasn't been met since. Why? The segment has moved ahead while the Tundra has stayed stagnant.
For 2014, all that changes. Though powertrains carry over, including the best-selling 5.7-liter, 381-hp V-8 and six-speed auto, the front fascia, fenders, and bed are all-new and the interior received a full makeover. While most judges praised the cabin's quality and aesthetics, and the ginormous back seat of our top-trim 1794 tester, we weren't quite as smitten with the interior noise -- "Definitely louder in here than in Silverado," said Loh -- or the refreshed exterior. Mortara observed that the front end resembled "gaudy plastachrome," and the chromed 20s evoked "Pep Boys wheels."
Dynamically, the Tundra 1794 4x4 proved a capable performer, despite complaints of numb steering. With the robust 5.7, it romped from 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and through the quarter in 15.2 seconds at 91.2 mph, 0.4 and 0.3 second quicker, respectively, than the Silverado 5.3. Even better, pulling 75 percent of max towing, the Tundra widened the gap to 1.8 and 0.8 seconds. Guts? Check.
Alas, those guts require lots of gas. EPA rated at just 13/17 mpg city/highway -- we got 14/19 Real MPG -- the Tundra displayed a Texas-size thirst for petrol. Value? At $49,715 as tested, the 1794 undercut the comparable Sierra Denali by $6510, a Texas-size savings. In the end, though, the Tundra needed to display a Texas-size greatness when our notes suggested more New Mexico.
|2014 Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition|
|Price As Tested||$49,715|
|Power (SAE net)||381 hp @ 5600 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||401 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm|
|Accel 0-60, mph||6.7 sec; 14.9 sec*|
|Quarter Mile||15.2 sec @ 91.2 mph; 20.4 sec @ 69.9 mph*|
|Braking 60-0, mph||134 ft|
|Lateral Accel||0.71 g (avg)|
|EPA Econ (city/hwy)||13/17 mpg|
|Real MPG (city/hwy)||14/19 mpg|
|* with 6769-lb payload|
2014 Ram ProMaster 2500 (Large Van) By: Ed Sanchez
We Like: Surprising power/acceleration with Pentastar, useful cargo space.
We Don’t Like: Driving position, nervous handling compared with Sprinter.
The Ram ProMaster is the brand’s answer to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in the company’s post-Daimler era. Based on the proven Fiat Ducato platform, the van received chassis reinforcements and some powertrain changes for North American duty. Whereas all Ducato models in Europe are equipped with a diesel engine, the ProMaster’s standard engine is the company’s familiar 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, producing 280 hp and 260 lb-ft in this application, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Coming later in 2014 is a 3.0-liter, 174-hp, 295-lb-ft turbodiesel I-4 mated to a six-speed single-clutch automated manual, dubbed M40. Our gas-powered ProMaster blew the two Sprinter testers into the weeds in acceleration, being nearly 4 seconds faster from 0 to 60 unloaded.
Unique in its class in North America, the ProMaster has a front-drive layout, resulting in a lower load floor than those of its peers. However, its driving position was the most buslike of any of the contestants here, with a horizontally angled steering wheel that offered only telescopic adjustment, compared with the new Sprinter’s much more carlike steering wheel angle and tilt and telescope adjustment.
While the ProMaster’s zippy acceleration impressed some of the judges, its driving position did not. Compared with the Sprinter’s somewhat stingy front storage options, the ProMaster had much more generous accommodations for beverages, with three large cupholders on the front console, and a cubby shelf on the passenger side.
Although we’d have to give the nod to the Sprinter for overall refinement, driving position comfort, and ergonomics, the ProMaster’s big advantage over the Sprinter promises to be value, with a comparably equipped model likely to come in several thousand less than an equivalent Sprinter.
|2014 Ram ProMaster 2500 LWB|
|Price As Tested||$37,175|
|Power (SAE net)||280 hp @ 6400 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||260 lb-ft @ 4175 rpm|
|Accel 0-60, mph||8.5 sec; 13.0 sec*|
|Quarter Mile||16.8 sec @ 81.3 mph; 19.4 sec @ 71.3 mph*|
|Braking 60-0, mph||148 ft|
|Lateral Accel||0.61 g (avg)|
|EPA Econ (city/hwy)||Not Rated|
|Real MPG (city/hwy)||13/18 mpg|
|* with 2982-lb payload|
Ram 2500 and 3500 (1/2-Ton Trucks) By: Scott Burgess
We Like: Incredible amounts of power are available at low rpm.
We Don't Like: The stiff ride when the bed is empty.
Absolute power tows absolutely. It's an adage well-known by people who have to do heavy hauling. The 2014 Ram 2500 and 3500 dualie certainly arrive with no shortage of power, allowing editors to tow the most in this showdown: 21,000 pounds.
The two trucks gave us a look at two different engines from Ram. The 2500 had the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 under its sculpted hood, and the 3500 dualie, which could barely squeeze through a tunnel leading to the test track, was powered by a 6.7-liter inline-six Cummins diesel. Both provided excellent power, with the Hemi creating 410 hp and the Cummins kicking out 850 lb-ft of torque.
"It isn't crazy fast with the trailer (why would it be?)" said Harwood, "but this truck feels like it can tow much more than we put on the back of it."
It can, as its top tow rating is 30,000 pounds, but the operator would be required to have a commercial driver's license to tow that much.
The heavy-duty trucks also featured a new five-link coil rear suspension that smoothed out its still slightly harsh ride, something that did not surprise us. "Hits to the suspension thud harder and return more rebound," said Loh, "but it's still quite civilized."
Editors were impressed with the interior packaging of the Ram heavy-duty rigs, which share much of the smaller 1500's interior. The shifter to the six-speed transmission is mounted on the column instead of the dash, but it remains out of the way. The Ram UConnect system provides easy Bluetooth connectivity for a driver's phone, and can work different apps from the phone directly on the large screen at the top of the center stack.
The Rams have bold -- but not too bold -- exterior looks. There's lots of chrome and a grille so large that as it barrels down on small cars, they will whimper onto the side of the road and begin to leak oil.
|2014 Ram 2500 Laramie Ltd.||2014 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn|
|Price As Tested||$59,250||$70,165|
|Power (SAE net)||410 hp @ 5600 rpm||385 hp @ 2800 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||429 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm||850 lb-ft @ 1700 rpm|
|Accel 0-60, mph||8.7 sec; 20.0 sec*||9.4 sec; 31.2 sec**|
|Quarter Mile||16.5 sec @ 85.9 mph||17.1 sec @ 81.9 mph|
|Quarter Mile (towing)||22.5 sec @ 64.2 mph*||26.0 sec @ 54.5 mph**|
|Braking 60-0, mph||139 ft||154 ft|
|Lateral Accel||0.71 g (avg)||0.63 g (avg)|
|EPA Econ (city/hwy)||Not rated||Not rated|
|Real MPG (city/hwy)||11/17 mpg||14/18 mpg|
| * with 9316-lb trailer |
** with 21,531-lb trailer