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Auto journalists rank new pickup trucks

Annual competition pits brand against brand in a series of tests

These six pickups competed in the 2019 Truck King Challenge in Ontario and were rated by a group of automotive journalists.

The 12th annual Canadian Truck King Challenge took place in the cold and rain of early October. Frankly, that’s the norm for our event. And while it makes for nasty driving, I always remind our judges that we are simply testing in the same conditions that Canadian truck owners encounter every day. Dealing with our climate is just one reason that we pride ourselves on doing “real-world testing.” Another is that our judges are life-long truck owners who come from all parts of the country where their regional experiences add to the depth of their opinions on the new iron we have a chance to test.

That’s why our judges are members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). They make a living writing about trucks. In fact, this year, our five judges combined have over 110 years of experience in the field of automotive evaluation — and trucks in particular.

This year’s competitors

Body: CrewMax
Trim: SR5 TRD PRO 4×4
Engine: 5.7L i-Force V8 gas
Transmission: Six-speed automatic

2018 FORD F150
Body: SuperCrew
Trim: Lariat FX4 4×4
Engine: 3.0L Power Stroke V6 diesel
Transmission: electronic 10-speed automatic

2019 RAM 1500
Body: Crew Cab Trim: Limited 4×4
Engine: 5.7L Hemi V8 w/FuelSaver MDS
Transmission: eight-speed automatic

2019 GMC SIERRA 1500
Body: Crewcab
Trim: Denali Ultimate PKG 4×4
Engine: 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 gas w/Dynamic Fuel Management
Transmission: electronic 10-speed automatic

Body: Crewcab
Trim: LTZ 4×4
Engine: 6.2L EcoTec3 V8 gas w/Dynamic Fuel Management
Transmission: electronic 10-speed automatic

2018 NISSAN TITAN 1500
Body: Crew
Trim: PRO-4X 4×4
Engine: 5.6L V8 gas
Transmission: seven-speed automation

The test process

The five judges drove the new 1500 Series pickup trucks around our Head River loop empty and then all over again with 1,000 pounds of payload in the beds. Finally, each truck towed a flatbed trailer, complete with concrete weights giving each a total weight of 7,000 pounds.

This ritual of back-to-back driving over the same 20kilometre test loop is what makes the Truck King Challenge unique. This routine gives each judge a chance to “feel” the differences in each truck as they drive over the same course, again and again. Over two very long days we managed to drive over 2,000 km on this course.

Trucks were driven over a route when empty, loaded and pulling loaded trailers. 
They were also driven over an off-road course to test their capabilities. photo: Courtesy of Truck King Challenge

The trucks we had a chance to test this year were substantially new – with the exception of the Toyota and Nissan. However, the 2019 Chevy Silverado and the 2019 GMC Sierra both brought generational updates to our event, as did the 2019 Ram 1500. The Ford F150 was unique in that it was the only diesel-powered truck to compete — and the fact that this was the first time we had a chance to test this newest member of the Power Stroke family, the 3.0 litre V6 turbo diesel.

So, what are the judges looking for while driving these loops over and over again? They are considering an extensive list that takes all the build, tech, handling and comfort aspects of each truck into consideration.

Each judge then awards a score using a “10 scale” for each category. These are then averaged over the completed score sheets, one from each judge on each truck. It’s these averaged scores that then give us an “out-of-100” score.

Also note that these scores are subjective. Each judge is familiar with the trucks they are driving in addition to having gone through the technical data and background that each manufacturer provides as part of its entry package. Still, what results is opinion.

The GMC Sierra scored highest, edging out the Ram by less than 2 points in overall ratings. photo: Courtesy of Truck King Challenge

The judges’ notes

This year’s winner was the 2019 GMC Sierra 1500. What did the judges see in this truck? Here are the high notes.

  • A successful style separation from the Chevy Silverado.
  • New lights, which are large and C-shaped anchoring a taller hood to the more powerful shoulders on the truck’s front end.
  • Exterior design elements include bright chrome side window surrounds, integrated dual exhaust tips and a wider range of available tires (18, 20 and 22-inch options).
  • New convertible tailgate is called the MultiPro. It features six unique functions and positions.
  • Sierra’s body is actually larger than the old model. The space increase is mostly devoted to the interior comfort of passengers. For instance, the 2019 Crew cab has nearly three inches of additional rear-seat legroom compared to the current model.
  • A new one-piece bed that uses purpose-specific carbon fibre composite. This box, called the CarbonPro, is not a liner, it is the whole bed bolted to the frame.
  • The Sierra we tested at Truck King this year was powered by the 6.2L V8 with the 10-speed transmission and a Dynamic Fuel Management feature. This industry-first technology enables the engine to operate in 17 different power patterns (using from two to eight cylinders) all governed by demand. Not only did the judges rate this powertrain combination highly, it turned out to be the most fuel efficient in our real-world fuel economy study.

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