One of the biggest friendly rivalries between farm boys is about which brand of pickup truck reigns supreme. Check the rear windows of pickups around town and you’ll see all kinds of graphics that let you know what that truck owner thinks of competitive models, like an image of the cartoon Calvin character doing something unmentionable on a Ford, Chev or Ram emblem.
But for those that aren’t blinded by brand loyalty and want to choose a truck with the right abilities to get farm jobs done, how do you know what the current lineup of trucks on the market really offers? You could watch all the TV commercials claiming “best-in-class” this or that. Really, though, that doesn’t help a lot.
Powertrain engineering has advanced by light years lately. It’s now a whole new ballgame of engine and transmission combinations capable of things not previously imaged.
Unlike cars that are just meant to get you from A to B—albeit at various levels of comfort and performance—trucks are meant to work at a variety of jobs. Are you looking for a truck to pull a trailer, haul a fuel tank, be a grocery getter capable of handling terrible rural roads, or all of the above? Your answer to those questions makes a big difference in what features you should include in your next truck. Spec’ing out the right options package on a pickup will determine how well it does the jobs you want it to do.
So it all comes back to how do you know how well these trucks really perform. Most automotive magazine reviews are only based on journalists driving the truck around the city, and not really making it work very hard. That’s where the Canadian Truck King Challenge comes in.
The Canadian Truck King Challenge is an annual event put on by automotive journalists that are determined to provide consumers with better information about trucks by putting them to real-world tests, making them do the kind of work trucks were built for. And this year, I was invited to be one of the guest judges. Of course, I accepted the invitation. What better way is there to spend a couple of days than get behind the wheels of new trucks and try them out?
So I spent a couple of days in Ontario cottage country doing what every gearhead only dreams about: getting paid to test new trucks.
Having a pretty full range of new trucks to drive one right after the other on the same route really helps highlight the differences between brands, models and features. We drove the latest half-ton rated trucks empty, loaded, pulling 6,000 pound trailers and off road, scoring their performance.
And there were some surprises.
I wouldn’t have given a 2.7 litre engine in a full size truck serious consideration in a trailer-towing evaluation. But Ford’s EcoBoost 2.7 punched above its weight in the tests. It handled the trailer easily. Ram’s air suspension added an impressive level of handling and stability when pulling the trailer along with making it a better than average off-roader. Chevy delivered a pre-production Silverado with the High Country options package that had one of the best-looking interiors I’ve ever seen in a truck.
Those are just some of the things that stood out to me. So, you can see rating one truck as an overall winner is tough to do. But that was the object of the excercise.
The winner, again this year, was the Ram 1500 Ecodiesel. This truck is nice, really nice. It offers lots of power and torque in that small displacement diesel engine, the most comfortable cab and the impressive capabilities of that air suspension. Of course, some of the conclusions we came to on the Ram require a subjective evaluation. So, feel free to argue that we made a mistake in our selection if you want.
We’ll give you a detailed look at the Truck King event and the data we collected in Grainews’ Machinery and Shop section annual pickup truck special later this season. So be sure to watch for that issue.
Maybe the biggest take away from evaluating all the trucks was there isn’t a lot of daylight between the brands. They all offer some pretty impressive vehicles. All of which proves that in those rear-window graphics, Calvin is out of line doing what he does to any of the brands. All of them deserve a lot of respect.