They say one can learn a great deal about someone from the car they drive…especially if that car is a truck. Predominantly American and chosen for their utility, the full-size pickup truck is often driven by the blue-collar workingman, people who love country music, or off-color crazies. In fact, the bigger the truck, the bigger the crazy: tattoos and long hair (or no hair), loud music, firearms and a general middle finger to the world — fuel economy doesn’t apply to them, creature comforts don’t appeal to them and neither does style.
Truckin’ Off-Road: Dakar Rally | Traversing Bolivia | Red Bull Frozen Rush
Thankfully, the following four standouts are changing those perceptions (prejudices) with a nod toward miles per gallon, interiors to rival luxury sedans and stylish designs appealing to buyers who may never haul a spaceship (seriously)… and they have us damn proud to be American.
The No-Nonsense Truck: Boxy and chiseled, this Japanese monster truck literally pulled the space shuttle Endeavor across a freeway in L.A., and looked damn good doing it. The commanding stance and design of the Tundra made a lasting impression on us. The front end looked like a solid steel samurai sword, and the rest of the truck was as imposing as the exterior, littered with badges and decals shouting its accolades like a four-star general quite clearly saying “don’t mess”. Trimmed in chrome, this four-doored chariot hauled us from NYC to Maine and surprised us on the freeway with its smoothness and comfortability. Though it lacked kind of plush interior that other manufacturers are presenting customers these days, overall, the Tundra was an intimidating, capable, no-frills stalwart in the full-size truck category.
Engine: 5.7-liter V8
Torque: 401 lb-ft
Towing: 9,800 pounds
Mileage: 13 City /17 Highway
GMC Sierra 1500 Denali
The Luxo-Truck: The Sierra is the kind of truck that could make you leave your sedan life behind and never look back — especially with the chrome-tastic Denali trim. With the upgraded 6.2-liter V8 boosting this 5,500-pound metal box to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds — faster than a GTI — you’ll wonder why you hadn’t purchased this antithesis of subtlety earlier. Sure, it has horsepower for days and can tow more than 9,000 pounds, but what really impressed us was the interior. The driver alert package vibrated the left side of the driver seat when we drifted out of the left lane and vibrated the right side when we drifted right and the whole seat buzzed to warn for curbs, parking garage pillars and cross traffic. Noise canceling technology made it quiet in the cabin so we utilized our iPhones/iPads to watch movies, and with a plethora of USB and 110V plugs we never wanted for juice. Another convenient technology was the cylinder shutdown, which deactivated four cylinders when not needed. We rarely found this technology in use… but that was probably our lead foot’s fault.
Engine: 6.2-liter V8
Torque: 460 lb-ft
Towing: 9,200 pounds
Mileage: 16 City/23 Highway
Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
Captain Planet’s Pickup: Diesels have been the engine of choice for many mega-truck owners due to better fuel economy, durability and pulling power, but the implementation of a diesel on small(er) trucks is a newer trend that we totally endorse. We were thrilled when Ram dropped one in their 1500. The 3-liter turbo V6 EcoDiesel (same as the Jeep Grand Cherokee we had for six weeks) brought 420 lb-ft of torque, which, coordinating with the 8-speed automatic, made for an off-the-line leap that pleasantly surprised us each time. The design is as striking and in-your-face as the other three trucks, but has a less boxy approach. The interior typified rugged luxury, the kind of materials that keep you comfortable without feeling obligated to remove your work boots. The side-mounted Ram Boxes with interior lighting and individual locks were brilliantly practical additions. Our tester, in deep cherry red, crystal pearl and black gloss along with 20-inch black gloss wheels, had us thanking Ram for assembling such a good-looking truck. Aero suspension dropped the truck’s height when we reached highway speed for additional efficiency and provided an extremely smooth ride. Dodge outdid themselves with a highly capable, attractive, practical truck that conveniently gets sedan-like fuel economy.
Engine: 3-liter turbo V6
Torque: 420 lb-ft
Towing: 9,200 pounds
Mileage: 19 City/27 Highway
The “Light Is Right” Truck: 700 pounds. That’s how much weight the 2015 F-150 lost by going aluminum. The obvious benefits to this were cornering abilities and 0-60 sprints far superior to previous generations, but by cutting down the weight, the F-150’s performance as an actual workhorse improved greatly as well; towing capacity jumped to 12,200 pounds, and the truck’s payload grew to 3,300, an increase from the outgoing model by 900 and 180 pounds, respectively. But on-the-road and on-the-job performance aside, the FX4-equipped F-150 we tested made traversing mud, rocky inclines and knee-deep water feel like an absolute cakewalk. Without a doubt, the new F-150’s performance chops impressed us the most, but the cab certainly was a great place to be. Small ergonomic touches to the steering wheel, arm rests and seats made for a seating position appropriate for long hauls, and the new productivity screen was seamless in providing important information while on the road, in the mud and towing. Though some critics claim that the 2015 F-150 looks remarkably similar to the outgoing model, in the metal everything is sharper and more aggressive. It almost looks a bit like a freight train — an apt comparison for America’s best-selling truck that just got much, much better.