Truck of the Year, Unless It Isn’t
I have to say I am against including all-wheel drive vehicles in your Four Wheeler of the Year and Pickup Truck of the Year evaluations (“Firing Order,” Sept. ’11). While there are many fine vehicles out there that may surprise your readers, I feel your cardinal rule of a two-speed transfer case should stand. I would not mind the feature articles about them, but not in the FWOTY or PTOTY testing. I think it would dilute the magazine’s original intent. If there are no contenders, just ignore it for that year. If there is only one, run it up against the previous year’s winner to see who is on top. Just don’t change your principles.
It surprised me that Douglas McColloch claims that your Truck of the Year tests have always generated a lot of reader interest and industry buzz. I have subscribed to several four-wheel-drive magazines since 1983 when I purchased my CJ-7. I have never really cared for the test results for any of the Pickup or 4x4 of The Year articles. They just don’t make any sense to me. I mean, should I go out and spend $65,000 on a VW Touareg because it won 4x4 of the year when what I really need is a ¾-ton to pull my travel trailer to the dunes or the ski slopes? Or would I purchase a $50,000 dually because you guys picked it when what I really want is a small 4x4 to use on the off-road trails in our local Sierras? Of course not!
I’d like to see you spread the testing out over several issues and compare all SUVs against each other, making sure you give extra points for value. The next month, you could do ¾-tons, then ½-tons, and of course pit the unique Jeep Wrangler against a Land Rover and anyone else that may have something in their class.
If you do decide to stick with the format of using only vehicles that have substantially changed for the next model year, I think you should always include the previous year’s winner so we have some sort of baseline. I’m sure there are times when the winner of the current year may not actually be as good as the winner from the previous year. Thanks for asking for our input.
Steve “Kal Kan” Roones
Instead of watering down the test for lesser 4x4s (the all-wheel-drive street cars), what about having a “Best Of” test where you review the Pickup Trucks or SUVs that won over the last five or six years. Just a thought.
The dilemma with your Truck of the Year test is one that I am surprised hasn’t happened earlier. I personally like the concept of only testing “new metal,” but how often does a truck get redesigned? So the rules virtually guarantee a different manufacturer will get the nod every couple of years or so. The problem I see is that just because a truck is new, it doesn’t mean it will beat last year’s winner. And so I propose that the top three finishers from last year’s event get invited back in their current form to see if they can hold their spot against the new contenders. Who knows—maybe the “upgrades” to the previous winner somehow help it lose its edge, and it falls to the new blood or its rival from the previous year.
The way I look at it, the competition is to see which truck currently offered is the best of the lot for what we wheelers are looking to buy. Let Sport Truck cover those that don’t meet the 4-Lo requirement. They are obviously built for a different market segment.
How about taking the past five winners and putting them up against one another for a “Best of The Best” contest? Whatever you decide, I’m sure it will be great.
What makes a 4x4? There is a section of Imogene Pass from Ouray to Telluride that requires a low gear. Any stock SUV can make it to the top of Imogene Pass as long as it has that low gear. Otherwise, one has to turn around and reach Telluride by paved road. That trail is the definition of what at minimum makes a 4x4. Love the magazine!
In all the years I’ve been reading Four Wheeler, I’ve always enjoyed the shoot-outs, be it “Best Taco” or “Best Truck.” Whether or not I agree with the outcome, it doesn’t diminish the entertainment value. And after all, isn’t that what a magazine is for?
As to your question: Most state Departments of Motor Vehicles have a strict definition of what constitutes a truck, a station wagon, a sedan, etc. Why not use their definition (which is right on the registration slip)? Then it is just a matter of four-wheel drive or not. You’ve already answered that one in previous tests.
As far as the two-speed transfer case goes, let me ask this: If Jeep were to come out with a pickup based on the Wrangler Unlimited platform, and shock the world with an all new electronically controlled variable-ratio constant-mesh transfer case, would you discount it because it doesn’t have “two speeds” in the transfer case? I would hope not.
There was a time when a “real” four-wheel drive had a manual transmission and manual locking hubs. Progress is good. And this magazine has always embraced progress. When it’s forward progress, you sing its praises, and when it’s backwards progress, you light the lanterns in warning.
So I’d say, write the shootout with whatever you deem newsworthy. I’ll enjoy reading it, even if it’s Holman in a Barbie car versus Brubaker on a skateboard, battling through the Hammers. Because you guys always put on a good show. And that is what a great magazine is about.