Motor Trend's '93 Truck Of The Year

The Best Of Three

May 19, 2010
The Motor Trend '93 Truck of the Year competition proved that intensity isn't a function of quantity. Although only three trucks answered the call this year, there was no shortage of talent. Each entrant is a standout in its own class. The Ford Ranger, for instance, has been the best-selling compact pickup in America for the last six years. The Isuzu Trooper is the all-time sales champ for import sport/utility vehicles. And the Jeep Grand Cherokee, of course, is Chrysler's sequel to the poopular Cherokee, the vehicle that almost single-handedly built the four-door sport/utility market.
Photo 2/14   |   Truck Of The Year Crew
Naturally, other new trucks were introduced over the past year. But the new Range Rover County LWB, Land Rover Defender, and Chevrolet and GMC turbodiesel extended-cab pickups couldn't meet our minimum annual U.S. sales criterion of 5000 units. Three others -- Isuzu Rodeo with the new 3.2-liter V-6, Toyota T1OO intermediate-size pIckup, and Toyota Land Cruiser with a new inline six-cylinder engine -- didn't have production versions ready in time to participate. And Dodge decided not to enter its Ram pickup with the 5.9-liter Magnum V-8.
However, with fewer entrants to concentrate on, each was scrutinized even more closely. In addition to instrumented testing, each judge took each candidate on an extended loop that included freeway, around-town, and stop-and-go driving, twisty back roads, and a 6000-foot climb up Southern California's Mt. Baldy. This was followed by numerous discussions strong opinionizations, and, at times, heated debate. We felt like an NFL coach trying to decide Sunday's starter among three multimillion-dollar free-agent quarterbacks. We had three of the best trucks on the market, and the challenge of choosing only one as our '93 Truck of the Year.
FORD RANGER XLT
The redesigned '93 Ford Ranger is a prime example of how far pickups have come since the days of the buckboard ride and grin-and-bear-it interior accommodations. The Ranger has been king of the compact-truck hill for the last six years, and for '93, Ford has upped the ante with more contemporary sheetmetal, an updated interior, and retuned suspension and steering systems.
Photo 3/14   |   Truck Of The Year Ford Ranger Xlt
The Ranger's new look brings the pickup solidly into the '90s. "Its modern, yet masculine styling," wrote one judge, "walks the line between 'sport truck' and 'work truck.'" Inside, the Ranger drew mixed reviews. While it was applauded for its thoughtful control placement, comfortable seats, and handy armrest/storage compartment, some criticized the quality of the trim.
Although a carryover, the optional 4-liter V-6 in our XLT is still one of the Ranger's brightest highlights. With 160 peak horsepower, a stout 220 pound-feet of torque, and responsive multipoint fuel injection, it was praised unanimously for its strong output, solid, refined feel, and snappy performance. One tester noted, ''You can climb hills with little effort, and the competent four-speed automatic makes wise gear selections." Another simply said, 'It's the best engine in its class."
Photo 4/14   |   Truck Of The Year Ford Ranger Xlt Engine
For '93, the Ranger's handling and ride quality have been upgraded to complement this impressive powertrain. The truck was quiet and balanced. Roll motion was evident while cornering, but well controlled. Even through the twistiest parts of our driving loop, the truck proved tight and stable, with a surprisingly supple ride. One tester stated, "The Ranger is so comfortable and such fun to drive, you almost forget there's a bed back there." Several drivers, however, felt Ford's over-assisted power steering diluted the driving experience. "The Ranger tracks fine and goes where it's pointed, but lacks the crisper, communicative feel of the Toyota Pickup."
Overall, we found the new Ranger ranks among the best in its class. In subjective scoring, the Ford led the field in the categories of Styling and Design, Quality Control, and Occupant Comfort and Convenience, and three of the six editors scored the Ranger highest overall of the group. For the foreseeable future, the Ranger seems well poised to continue its class domination.
ISUZU TROOPER LS
In redesigning the popular Trooper, Isuzu's philosophy was apparent: 'More IS better. More space, more creature comforts, more power, and more sophistication. In both design and driving experience, the all-new Trooper exudes a feeling of solidity and refinement. In fact, it drew more than one comparison to the much-pricier Range Rover. "In style and execution, wrote a Judge, 'the Trooper is a closer competitor to the Range Rover than either the Cherokee or Explorer."
Photo 8/14   |   Truck Of The Year Isuzu Trooper Ls
The Trooper's true forte is its generous interior, from the ample head and leg room to its cavernous rear cargo capacity. One tester commented, "In terms of utility, it's hard to fault the spacious Isuzu. There's plenty of room inside, and the well-thought-out folding rear seats make It easy to use." Not. surprisingly, the Trooper's scores led the field in the Utility and Function category.
Where the Trooper lost points was in the performance areas. Although the 3.2-liter DOHC V-6's 190 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque felt adequate during normal driving, as one editor noted, "The power-to-weight ratio is just too low for anything more demanding." While ride comfort and overall suspension control were well received, the tall, 72.5-inch stance, formidable 4155-pound curb weight, and long-travel suspension conspired for noticeable body lean during cornering. "The plush suspension is docile as a lamb. But when speeds increase, it tends toward too much rock and roll." One driver summarized the high-speed handling: "It never feels out of control, but it never really feels like much fun either."
Photo 9/14   |   Truck Of The Year Isuzu Trooper Ls Engine
The recirculating-ball steering was generally applauded for accuracy and feedback, although its slow response sometimes left the driver feeling a click behind the action.interior photo
Well appreciated were the excellent driver ergonomics foldback outside mirrors, ample storage compartments, adjustable rear headrests, and smooth, quiet ride.
Photo 10/14   |   Truck Of The Year Isuzu Trooper Ls Interior Seating
The Trooper includes an excellent warranty package plus a free roadside assistance program. Still, with a test price pushing $29,000, one judge considered it "too highly pnced for its own good.
"The lasting impression was favorable. "I could easily live with this on a day-to-day basis." Another editor observed, "Overall, it's a good solid vehicle. I'd be proud to have my family safely riding around in a Trooper."
JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE LAREDO V-8
When the Grand Cherokee was unveiled this past spring, it was readily apparent that Chrysler had succeeded in creating a significantly improved version of the popular Cherokee, without losing its basic identity. Then, not missing a beat, Chrysler capped its achievement by introducing an optional 5.2-liter V-8 for '93, making it the first compact sport/utility, besides the $40,000 Range Rover, to fire on eight cylinders.
Photo 11/14   |   Truck Of The Year Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo
Although the new, contemporary styling was well received, most of the accolades went to the Jeep's V-8, strengthened uniframe chassis, and well-tuned four-wheel coil spring suspension. The V-8 churns out 220 horsepower and a hefty 285 pound-feet of torque, and, with the optional Class IV towing package, allows a class-best 6500-pound tow rating. "The V-8 is what makes the Grand Cherokee such a standout. Where other sportJutes struggle, the Jeep easily lopes along." Fortunately, the Grand Cherokee also provides the handling to match. "Thanks to the firm, controlled suspension and standard four-wheel ABS," remarked one editor, "This Jeep has moved into the upper echelon of its class in handling and braking performance."
Photo 12/14   |   Truck Of The Year Jeep Grand Cherokee V8 Engine
Other areas that drew praise were the standard airbag, CFC-free air-conditioning, centrally located cupholders, counterbalanced hood, and low stance for easy entrance and exiting. Areas of criticism focused on a lack of lateral seat support, random squeaks and rattles, excessive drivetrain noise, inconsistent fit and finish, and a lack of rear leg room.
"The Laredo V-8," one editor summed up, "combines the pulling power of a full-size truck with the car-like comfort and amenities of a sedan, all in a package with the classic utility of a Jeep." Another put it this way: "The versatility and finesse of the Grand Cherokee combined with the power of a V-8 equal a new class standard."
Photo 13/14   |   Truck Of The Year Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior Seats
Our '93 Truck of the Year evaluation procedure is broken down into two major categories: Subjective and Objective.
In the Subjective category, the existing best-in-class vehicles are used as a 100-point baseline, so a score of better than 100 points would mean the candidate truck exceeds the benchmark, while a sub-100-point score would mean it falls short of its existing top competition.
Objective testing constitutes the last two major eadings on the chart, Performance and Handling. Performance is made up of three elements: 0-60-mph time, quarter-mile time, and combined EPA fuel-economy numbers. Handling consists of lateral acceleration, slalom speed, and 60-0-mph braking distance.

Ford Ranger XLT Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo V-8 Isuzu Trooper LS
Fuel Economy in MPG (city/hwy) 14/18 14/18 15/18
Acceleration, 0-60 mph, sec 8.4 8.7 10.8
Quarter mile, sec/mph 16.6/81.4 16.6/83.4 17.9/76.9
Skidpad, lateral g 0.76 0.74 0.74
Slalom, mph 59.8 58.6 56.6
Braking, 60-0 mph, ft 130 134 151
SCORING
Styling & Design 102.37 98.47 100.3
Occupant Comfort & Convenience 101.89 99.68 101.32
Ride & Drive 102.57 105.38 96.21
Chassis Dynamics 102.5 103.83 96.21
Dollar Value/Market Significance 111.17 113.25 83
Utility & Function 101.11 102.33 105.61
Performance 95.3 103.92 95.18
Handling 102.88 114.35 113.67
FINAL SCORE 923.91 942.84 884.91
THE WINNER: JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE LAREDO V-8
In one sense, the '93 Truck of the Year competition was nip and tuck right down to the wire. In fact, in 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, eqnipped 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.
Photo 14/14   |   Truck Of The Year Jeep Grand Cherokee Ladero Rear View
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. "This is the sports car of sport/utilities," wrote one editor. "It has a strong V-8 to launch you down the straights, plus its responsive handling lets you carve through corners with more grace than most sport/utes." Another tester seconded the motion: "Its wonderfully firm suspension and handling makes it feel like a sporty car." The Grand Cherokee is available in four trim levels: base, Laredo, Limited, and Grand Wagoneer. The eight-cylinder engine comes standard in the flagship Grand Wagoneer and is optional for the other models. Chrysler chose to enter the Laredo because it's the volume leader in sales, plus, with the optional V-8 package, it offers an excellent performance-to-value ratio.
With 220 peak horsepower and a hefty 285 pound-feet of torque, the Jeep leads the class in power (with the sole exception of GMC's $30,000, limited-production turbocharged Typhoon). In the objective categories, the Grand Cherokee took a substantial lead based on several strong performances, including an 8.7-second 0-60, 16.6-second quarter mile (at 83.4 mph), and a quick 59.8-mph slalom.
Yet, our test Laredo -- complete with V-8, four-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel ABS, Quadra-Trac, full-time all-wheel-drive, driver-side airbag, cruise control, Class IV 6500-pound towing package, and non-CFC air-conditioning system -- stickered for only $25,140.
In the subjective scoring, the Jeep earned its highest marks in the areas of Ride and Drive, Chassis Dynamics, and Dollar Value. Given its well-mannered handling, stable cornering, amiable ride quality, off-pavement versatility, and long list of available creature comforts, the Grand Cherokee Laredo stands unquestionably among the best in its field. Mix in the potent V-8 and first-in-class standard airbag, and, as one tester put it, "The Grand Cherokee leaps to the head of its class."
Aside from all the sensible reasons for picking the Grand Cherokee as Motor Trend's '93 Truck of the Year, there's one emotional reason: It's just plain fun to drive. As one editor summed it up, "The Jeep is a blast to drive. With plenty of punch, a broad powerband, and great handling, it puts a grin on your grille

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