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Magnificent Seven: Seven New Pickup Trucks Battle Rock, Sand, Mud, And Snow

Posted in Events on March 8, 2017 Comment (0)
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The ’17 model year is a big year for pickup trucks. How big? Well, 2017 is the first year in well over a decade that our annual Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year competition hosted seven all-new or substantially revised trucks. That’s a far higher number than average.

Pickup Truck of the Year (PTOTY) was launched in 1989 as a spinoff event from Four Wheeler of the Year, which traces its roots back to 1974. Four Wheeler began the event as a way to introduce, disseminate, and test the latest and greatest four-wheel-drive pickup trucks, which is a mission that continues today. The reality is that if you’re in the market for a new pickup or just want to be knowledgeable about the newest rigs, you’d have to allocate vast amounts of time for visits to new truck dealerships to scrutinize and drive each rig. That time commitment just isn’t going to happen because you have to work to earn a living. Besides, while new vehicle dealerships are very accommodating, said dealerships are not going to let you have each truck for a week so you can drive almost 1,000 miles and test them in a variety of off-road conditions. This is where we come in. Each year, we corral the latest and greatest pickup trucks for a weeklong test doing all that and more.

To qualify for the 2017 PTOTY, a truck had to be all-new or substantially revised, have a two-speed transfer case, a production run of 1,500 vehicles in the U.S., and be on sale by March 15, 2017. The 2017 lineup included the Ford F-150 Raptor, Ford F-250 Super Duty FX4, Nissan Titan PRO-4X, Nissan Titan XD PRO-4X, Ram 2500 Off Road Package, Ram Power Wagon, and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. Other trucks that qualified but were unable to attend during the test period were the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon with the new V-6 engine and the Chevy/GMC HD trucks with the new Duramax turbodiesel. During the week of testing, we dissected every aspect of each truck. We began by putting each truck on an RTI ramp to measure suspension articulation, and then, we pointed the trucks to a track to measure acceleration and braking. Following that we spent the next four days testing in a wide range of specially selected terrain that included almost every type of wheeling environment. You can read more about testing elsewhere in this story. Our panel of experienced judges rotated into each truck at regular, frequent intervals, and each judge was required to record detailed notes in their official judging book. Judges also scored each vehicle in a variety of areas. The specific testing categories and the judging procedure are outlined elsewhere in this story. In the end, this information was used to detect each truck’s strengths and weaknesses.

The 2017 PTOTY was an eye-opener. We learned a lot about each rig, and we’re excited to share the info with you. Read on to learn what’s new with these seven trucks, what works, what doesn’t, which vehicle was crowned the 2017 Pickup Truck of the Year, and much more.

7th Place

Nissan Titan XD PRO-4X

What’s New
Nissan began producing the Titan XD, a truck touted to offer a combination of 3/4-ton and 1/2-ton traits, with a 5.6L Endurance V-8 gasoline engine for the ’16 model year. Unfortunately, a 5.6L test unit wasn’t available for the 2016 PTOTY, which took place in December 2015, so it qualified for the 2017 PTOTY. Nissan sent us a ’16 model year Titan XD (the ’17 model is largely unchanged) powered by the 5.6L making 390 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque. The new 5.6L engine shares the same displacement as its predecessor, but is all-new. It’s known as the VK56VD, and some of its features include direct injection and variable valve timing and lift (on intake and exhaust). The engine is mated to a seven-speed transmission. Our test vehicle was equipped with the PRO-4X package that included Bilstein off-road monotube shocks, all-terrain tires, electric locking rear differential, skidplates, and hill descent control.

Ramp and Track
The Titan XD traveled 51 1/2 inches up our 20 degree RTI ramp to earn a score of 340 points. At the track, the XD’s impressive 5.6L engine propelled the approximately 6,517-pound truck from a dead stop to 60 mph in a respectable 8.3 seconds (for comparison, that’s 1.6 seconds faster than the ’16 Cummins-powered XD we tested at PTOTY 2016) and through the quarter-mile in 16.4 seconds (1.1 seconds faster than the ’16 Cummins-powered XD we tested at PTOTY 2016) at a speed of 86.6 mph. The 14.17-inch-diameter front and 14.37-inch-diameter rear disc brakes helped to bring the XD to a stop from 60 mph in 138.1 feet.

Exterior/Interior
Judges were just as split about the Titan XD’s exterior styling this year as they were last year. Some really dug the look and the fact the XD stands out from the crowd. “I really like the classy chrome badging and stickers,” noted a judge. Another said, “I love the exterior look but wish the PRO-4X had a taller tire, like the Titan Warrior concept, to balance out the visuals.” Others didn’t care for the front and rear overhangs, which a judge noted as being “unbalanced looking.” Judges unanimously took a pass on the Titan Box storage boxes in the cargo bed, which all felt were a great idea, but felt “clunky and awkward” in use. Inside, the knobs and switchgear was well thought out and the learning curve was short, but the hill descent control and rear locker switch were low and hard to reach while driving. We appreciated that all the switches could be easily operated while wearing bulky gloves. The XD impressed everyone with its well-executed storage areas too.

On-Road
On curvy, undulating roads, the Titan stuck to the road surface well, and handling was very good for such a large truck. Judges noted that the visibility from the driver seat was outstanding. Power from the 5.6L V-8 was well matched to the truck, and it pulled strong on inclines and when asked to propel the truck around slow-moving traffic. The grumbly exhaust note sounded good too. The engine and seven-speed automatic transmission worked in harmony, and there was no wanton gear hunting. Several judges felt that the XD’s ride was a bit on the harsh side—more like a 3/4-ton truck than a 1/2-ton truck. However, at speed, the cabin was tight and wind noise was minimal, which made for a very pleasant place to be and conversations could be held at a normal volume.

Off-Road
We appreciated that Nissan gave the Titan XD PRO-4X a full complement of off-road–centric items. These bits combined to make the big XD surprisingly capable off-road. The truck crawled rocks and climbed waterfalls with ease. Far more ease than one would expect from a truck its size and weight with a not so great approach angle of 21 degrees. Four-wheel-drive system activation and rear locker engagement and disengagement was drama free. In the sand, the XD could be coaxed to be a dune carver with the transfer case in low range and the transmission in Third gear to keep the rpms up. On the trail, we were relaxed knowing the PRO-4X’s belly was protected by oil pan, fuel tank, T-case, and lower radiator skidplates. The XD did exhibit a rougher ride than we expected off-road, as well as wheelhop in sand and snow. Some judges noted that the hill descent control was a bit clunky compared to other trucks in the test. Due to unique circumstances and possibly driver error, the failure of a part on our preproduction Titan XD tester grounded the truck on the last day of our evaluation. Fortunately, it happened at the end of the test, which gave us ample time to evaluate the truck on the RTI ramp and track and in all on- and off-road scenarios. After speaking with Nissan, we don’t expect a similar issue on production XDs.

Bottom Line
The 5.6L-powered Titan XD is a great alternative for those wishing for a Titan XD but not wanting or needing the power or expense of the Cummins turbodiesel. With a max payload of 2,523 pounds and a max towing capacity of 11,000 pounds, the XD is work ready. Best of all, the well-stocked PRO-4X package helps make the truck capable in a wide range of off-road scenarios.

What’s Hot:
Strong power from the 5.6L V-8, electric rear diff locker, good PRO-4X content

What’s Not:
Stiff suspension, wheelhop in sand and snow

Our Take:
A lighter, faster Titan XD with a lower price than a Cummins-powered XD.

Logbook Quotes
“I don’t think I’d pay the premium for the diesel, this is a great engine.”
“Make no mistake, this is a fullsize truck.”
“I’m digging the integrated gooseneck hitch. This truck is ready to work!”
“Heated rear seats? Yes!”

Vehicle/model: 2016 Nissan Titan XD PRO-4X
Base price: $45,970
Price as tested: $53,085
Options as tested: PRO-4X Utility and Audio Package ($1,100), PRO-4X Convenience Package ($3,310), PRO-4X Luxury Package ($1,510), Destination Charge ($1,195)
ENGINE
Type: 32-valve DOHC V-8
Displacement (ci/liter): 342/5.6
Bore x stroke (in): 3.86x3.62
Compression ratio (:1): 11.2
Intake/FI: Naturally aspirated/direct and port EFI
Mfg.’s power rating @ rpm (hp): 390 @ 5,800
Mfg.’s torque rating @ rpm (lb-ft): 401 @ 4,000
Mfg.’s suggested fuel type: Regular unleaded
DRIVETRAIN
Transmission: JATCO 7-spd automatic
Ratios (:1)
First: 4.89
Second: 3.17
Third: 2.03
Fourth: 1.41
Fifth: 1.00
Sixth: 0.86
Reverse: 4.04
Axle ratio (:1): 3.36
Transfer case: Magna TX91A 2-spd
Low-range ratio (:1): 2.72
Crawl ratio (:1): 44.6
FRAME/BODY
Frame: Steel, ladder-type
Body: Steel
SUSPENSION/AXLES
Front: Independent double-wishbone, Bilstein shocks, stabilizer bar/AAM 9.25-in
Rear: Multileaf, Bilstein shocks, stabilizer bar/AAM 9.75-in
STEERING
Type: Hydraulic recirculating ball
Turns (lock-to-lock): 4.6
Ratio (:1): 19
BRAKES
Front: 14.17x1.5-in vented disc, dual-piston caliper
Rear: 14.37x1.2-in vented disc, dual-piston caliper
ABS: Four-wheel
WHEELS/TIRES
Wheels (in): 18x7.5
Tires: LT275/65R18 General Grabber APT
FUEL ECONOMY
EPA city/highway: N/A
Observed city/highway/trail: 10.2
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Weight (lb): 6,517
Wheelbase (in): 151.6
Overall length (in): 243.6
Overall width (in): 80.7
Height (in): 78.4
Track f/r (in): 68.6/68.6
Minimum ground clearance (in): 8.8
Turning diameter, curb-to-curb (ft): 53.8
Approach/departure angles (deg): 21.0/24.5
Breakover angle (deg): 20.2
GVWR (lb): 8,800
Payload (lb): 2,523
Maximum towing capacity (lb): 11,000
Seating: 5
Fuel capacity (gal): 26
PERFORMANCE
0-60 mph (sec): 8.3
Quarter-mile (sec @ mph): 16.4 @ 86.6
Braking 60-0 mph (ft): 138.1
Ramp Travel Index (20-degree, points): 340

6th Place

Ram 2500 Off-Road Package

What’s New
Ram has introduced the Off-Road Package, which is available for crew cab and Mega Cab 2500s, including gas and diesel powertrains as well as long- and short-wheelbase models in all trim levels. The package includes a torque-activated Anti-Spin Differential, hill descent control (borrowed from the Power Wagon), towhooks, a transfer-case skidplate, all-terrain tires, specially tuned Bilstein shock absorbers, and Off-Road stickers. We’re guessing that the Ram 2500 Off-Road Package is intended to fill the void between Ram’s heavy-duty Cummins-powered diesel trucks and the gas-only Ram Power Wagon. Ram is now selling something that is great for towing and a bit more capable off the pavement.

Ramp and Track
The Ram 2500 was not designed to be a flexy beast, and that fact was proven when it earned a score of only 321 on our 20 degree RTI ramp, the lowest of the group of seven trucks. At the track, the 370hp, 800 lb-ft 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel was well matched to the six-speed 68RFE automatic transmission, and it reached 60 mph from a dead stop in a respectable 8.5 seconds. The big truck also fully hauled the mail down the quarter-mile in 16.5 seconds reaching a speed of 84.5 mph. The big Ram slowed from 60-0 mph in 131.8 feet, which was a respectable third shortest of the trucks tested for 2017 despite weighing a hefty 7,625 pounds according to the manufacturer.

Exterior/Interior
Some judges felt the exterior look of the Ram 2500 was “beginning to feel dated” while others felt that it was robust and not overdone, and more utilitarian and less flashy than some other in-class trucks. The front grille design was likened to a “Lite-Brite” by one judge, and no one can deny that it is absolutely slathered in chrome—Ram appears very proud of its huge emblems. Tire size on the Ram 2500 with the Off-Road Package was complimented by one judge as being “big-truck perfect,” but the tire tread of the Firestone Transforce AT tires was “flat and uninspired” and just barely what we would count as “off-road.” The interior of the truck was hit hard by our judges. The Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn interior felt upscale and well-built, but the strange tribal-cowboy accents stitched in the seats and stenciled on the gauges was off-putting at best. We liken it to bedazzling a high-quality leather couch with plastic “jewels.” One judge commented that the comically thick steering wheel was uncomfortable even just a few minutes into a drive. The majority of judges disliked these overdone embellishments. Despite this, the consensus was that Ram has the interior controls and locations of the controls dialed, making them easy to find and use. We appreciate the DEF gauge in the cluster to help keep the driver in the know on this imperative emissions fluid.

On-Road
All in all we were very impressed with the torque, ride, and handling of this big truck on-road. “Very good for a 3/4-ton truck, but you still get your teeth rattled on some highway transitions, potholes, and bumps,” noted a judge. While power and torque never seem to lack, fuel economy for the truck was disappointing, although second best in the test with an average of 14.2 mpg. We were impressed by the decent 43.9-foot turning radius of the Ram 2500, which helped with parking the behemoth in tight parking lots. However, we felt the steering could use a bit more power assist and one judge called the steering “Heavy to the point of fatiguing.” The Ram’s highway power and manners generated word applause from the judges. “Big, long, steep highway grades? Bring ’em! At freeway speeds this thing doesn’t even think about needing to drop a gear to maintain speed. Just build more boost and squirt up the road even faster,” noted a judge. Another wrote, “Awesome highway vehicle; very well planted and steady. Would make a great tow vehicle for getting my Jeep to the trailhead.”

Off-Road
The Ram 2500’s coil-spring suspension rode great on-road for a 3/4-ton truck but still chattered and hopped when traction was lacking, like in sand, loose dirt, and snow. The heavy Cummins made plenty of power, but the weight definitely hurt the truck in the slow stuff causing some head toss. The Ram 2500 may have been the only truck in the test that lacked a rear locker, but a few judges noted that the limited slip (that comes as part of the Off-Road Package) was well matched to the vehicle’s traction control and kept the big truck moving on the trail when on a solid surface. Still, since many of the judges noted their preference for an actual locking differential. Judges loved the large and usable front towhooks. We appreciated the truck’s huge amount of ground clearance but felt it needed more skidplating than just the standard transfer-case skidplate to protect its vitals off-road.

Bottom Line
This is one heck of a capable tow rig that is also quite capable off-road. Several of the judges said they wanted to take this truck home with them after the test. “My choice for a tow rig,” one judge wrote. Another said, “It’s probably the one vehicle I would choose to drive home and start building.” That’s an impressive endorsement from folks who have driven a lot of trucks.

What’s Hot:
Power Cummins diesel, solid axles, durable and familiar platform

What’s Not:
Cowboy-tribal–themed interior styling, lack of a locking rear differential, axle hop in loose terrain

Our Take:
A capable heavy-duty tow rig with decent off-road skills that many of the judges would happily take home at the end of the day.

Logbook Quotes
“More sweet, gooey torque than a Cinnabon has icing.”
“Limited slip and traction control work well together in the rocks.”
“Best cell phone holder ever!”
“This thing shaked and banged on the hillclimb like a $5 motel headboard.”
“If only I had lots of money and a huge ranch…”

Vehicle/model: Ram 2500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4x4
Base price: $57,095
Price as tested: $71,170
Options as tested: Longhorn Package 2FK, DOT Certified Roadside Safety Kit ($195), Protection Group ($50), Convenience Group ($395), Cold Weather Group ($95), Fifth Wheel/Gooseneck Towing Prep Group ($445), Monotone Paint ($225), Off-Road Package ($150), 220-amp Alternator ($100), Tri-Fold Tonneau Cover ($545), Anti-Spin Differential Rear Axle ($435), 6-speed Automatic Transmission, 3.42 Axle Ratio, 6.7L Cummins Turbodiesel ($8,700), Rear Window Defroster ($195), Keyless Enter ‘N Go ($195), Clearance Lamps ($95), Center High-Mount Stop Lamp w/Cargo View Camera ($345), Wheel-to-Wheel Side Steps ($345), LT275/70R18E tires ($245), Destination Charge ($1,320)
ENGINE
Type: 24-valve OHV direct injection turbodiesel
Displacement (ci/liter): 408/6.7
Bore x stroke (in): 4.21x4.88
Compression ratio (:1): 16.2
Intake/FI: Electronic high-pressure common-rail
Mfg.’s power rating @ rpm (hp): 370 @ 2,800
Mfg.’s torque rating @ rpm (lb-ft): 800 @ 1,600
Mfg.’s suggested fuel type: Ultra-low sulfur diesel
DRIVETRAIN
Transmission: 68RFE 6-spd automatic
Ratios (:1)
First: 3.23
Second: 1.84
Third: 1.41
Fourth: 1.00
Fifth: 0.82
Sixth: 0.63
Reverse: 4.44
Axle ratio (:1): 3.42
Transfer case: BW 44-46 2-spd
Low-range ratio (:1): 2.64
Crawl ratio (:1): 35
FRAME/BODY
Frame: Steel, ladder-type
Body: Steel
SUSPENSION/AXLES
Front: Three-link, track bar, coil springs, stabilizer bar/AAM 9.25-in
Rear: Five-link, track bar, coil springs, stabilizer bar/AAM 11.5-in
STEERING
Type: Power recirculating ball
Turns (lock-to-lock): 3.33
Ratio (:1): 15.0
BRAKES
Front: 14.17x1.54-in disc, dual-piston caliper
Rear: 14.09x1.34-inch disc, dual-piston caliper
ABS: Four-wheel
WHEELS/TIRES
Wheels (in): 18x8
Tires: LT275/70R18E Firestone Transforce AT
FUEL ECONOMY
EPA city/highway: N/A
Observed city/highway/trail: 14.2
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Weight (lb): 6,890
Wheelbase (in): 149.5
Overall length (in): 237.4
Overall width (in): 79.1
Height (in): 77.7
Track f/r (in): 68.3/68.2
Minimum ground clearance (in): 7.1
Turning diameter, curb-to-curb (ft): 43.9
Approach/departure angles (deg): 21.8/22.3
Breakover angle (deg): 18.2
GVWR (lb): 10,000
Payload (lb): 2,380
Maximum towing capacity (lb): 17,200
Seating: 5
Fuel capacity (gal): 31
PERFORMANCE
0-60 mph (sec): 8.5
Quarter-mile (sec @ mph): 16.5 @ 84.5
Braking 60-0 mph (ft): 131.8
Ramp Travel Index (20-degree, points): 321

5th Place

Ford F-250 Super Duty FX4

What’s New
The ’17 F-250 Super Duty is the first-ever major redesign of the truck. It has an all-new fully boxed frame that is more than 95 percent high-strength steel and up to 24 times stiffer than the previous frame. The body of the truck is now constructed of high-strength aluminum alloy. Ford says that the new frame and body combine to result in a nearly 350 pound weight reduction. The company says it invested the weight savings into more robust components that provide more towing and hauling capability than ever. Further, the redone suspension and steering have features that set it above the standard work truck. And of course there’s the optional Ford-designed and Ford-built 6.7L turbodiesel engine that generates 440 hp and best-in-class torque of 925 lb-ft.

Ramp and Track
A fullsize truck isn’t always the best for wheeling, but the Super Duty beat others on our 20 degree RTI ramp with a respectable mid-place finish of 358 points- besting the Ram 2500 and Titan XD. On the track, the 6.7L turbodiesel propelled the big truck down the track to a 0-60 mph time of only 7.2 seconds, right behind the First Place Raptor. The F-250’s quarter-mile time was just as good, with a 15.5-second time and a speed of 89 mph. Amazingly, the heavy Super Duty stopped from 60-0 mph in 138.8 feet, which was even better than the Raptor.

Exterior/Interior
The F-250’s exterior is beefy looking, not subtle. Some judges felt that the grille bars were too big and awkward, while others noted that they were not fans at first, but the look grew on them. Because of the F-250s tall stature, judges noted numerous positive comments on the power retractable running boards, which aided ingress and egress. Surprisingly, even after a week of off-road testing the running boards remained unscathed and functional. Inside, you’d think you settled into an F-150 with the big center touchscreen and familiar controls, and that’s not a bad thing. The huge rear seat and flat floor gave a sense of openness and vaulted ceilings—OK, maybe that’s getting carried away, but the inside was huge and luxurious. Judges were impressed by the textures, colors, and feel of the interior surfaces and felt that they lived up to expectations we had of our high-end King Ranch tester. The truck was loaded with technology, but one judge was astounded by the number of interior buttons and controls, so he counted ’em. He said the final tally was 125, not including the multiple functions of some knobs or the many options on the touchscreen or dash. He also noted that there were 10 different towing configurations, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and a host of others. This led him to ask, “When is it too much?”

On-Road
The Super Duty offers a great seating position that adds to outstanding visibility from the driver seat. Power generated by the turbodiesel was outstanding in every situation and the truck was undeniably quick. Handling at speed on curvy roads was very good. There’s no doubt that you’re in a truck when riding in the F-250, but engineers have refined and tuned the suspension for an acceptable ride that makes older 3/4-ton trucks seem antiquated. Judges liked the large outside rearview mirrors and the outstanding features and functionality of the cargo bed including the bedliner, tie-downs, and tailgate step.

Off-Road
Activating the 4WD system was quick and without drama in both 4-Hi and 4-Lo. We loved that the rear differential locker worked in both 4-Hi, 4-Lo, and 2WD, and we think the method of activating the rear locker (by pulling on a ring that’s part of the T-case knob) is very intuitive and easy to use. Judges had high praise for the steering system and noted “Steering is dialed in to a razor’s edge off-road” and “Just goes immediately where you tell it.” Overall, the F-250’s ride was OK, but it was rougher than some other trucks in the test, with the most notable being on rocky trails and in choppy sand. On washboard roads the tires stayed planted and the truck went where we pointed it, though in the sand the truck was challenged by rear wheelhop. The truck’s poor approach angle of 17.9 degrees meant that the air dam spent a lot of time pushing sand and dirt. In the snow, the truck handled “exceptionally well,” and the Michelin LTX A/T2 tires did a great job of providing traction.

Bottom Line
The new Ford F-250 Super Duty FX4 is an awesome vehicle. As some said, “It’s a freight train.” Designed to be the best freight hauler around, this is one fine tow truck, but it’s plenty refined to be a daily driver. It’s also decently capable in certain types of off-road terrain, making it a good tool to have around. We’d love to have an F-250 Super Duty around for just about everything but crossing the Sahara desert—although we could probably tow the entire desert behind it.

What’s Hot:
Huge payload, huge interior, 925 lb-ft of torque, easy rear-locker activation, rear locker works in 2WD, 4WD, and 4-Hi

What’s Not:
Too many interior buttons and switches, wheelhop in sand, poor approach angle, jarring ride in some terrains

Our Take:
A very refined, powerful, big truck.

Logbook Quotes
“A $75,000 truck should ride better than this.”
“I honestly can’t believe how well this thing wheels. Total surprise.”

Vehicle/model: 2017 Ford Super Duty F-250 FX4 Crew Cab
Base price: $57,455
Price as tested: $75,715
Options as tested: Caribou Accent/Ruby Red ($395), Preferred Equipment Package 700A, including 6.7L Power Stroke V-8, Six-Speed Automatic Transmission, LT275/65R20E tires ($8,595), 3.55 Electronic Locking Axle ($390), FX4 Off-Road Package including Skidplates ($295), Adaptive Cruise Control ($740), Fifth Wheel Hitch Prep Package ($370), Quad Beam LED headlamps ($1,080), Blind Spot Info System/BLIS ($540), 20-inch Wheels ($1,240), Trailer TPMS/Cust. Placed Can ($725), Upfitter Switches ($165), dual extra heavy-duty alternator ($0), Spray-In Bedliner ($495), Heated Rear Seat ($300), Tow Technology Bundle ($1,735), Destination Charge ($1,195)
ENGINE
Type: 32-valve OHV V-8
Displacement (ci/liter): 409/6.7
Bore x stroke (in): 3.90x4.25
Compression ratio (:1): 16.2
Intake/FI: Turbocharged/high-pressure common-rail
Mfg.’s power rating @ rpm (hp): 440 @ 2,800
Mfg.’s torque rating @ rpm (lb-ft): 925 @ 1,800
Mfg.’s suggested fuel type: Ultra low-sulphur diesel
DRIVETRAIN
Transmission: TorqShift 6-spd automatic
Ratios (:1)
First: 4.17
Second: 2.34
Third: 1.52
Fourth: 1.14
Fifth: 0.87
Sixth: 0.69
Reverse: 3.40
Axle ratio (:1): 3.55
Transfer case: BorgWarner 44-66 2-spd
Low-range ratio (:1): 2.64
Crawl ratio (:1): 50.8
FRAME/BODY
Frame: Steel, ladder-type
Body: Aluminum
SUSPENSION/AXLES
Front: Coil springs, heavy-duty gas shock absorbers, stabilizer bar/Dana 60
Rear: Leaf springs, heavy-duty gas shock absorbers, stabilizer bar/Ford Sterling 9.75-in.
STEERING
Type: Hydraulic recirculating ball
Turns (lock-to-lock): 3.8
Ratio (:1): 18.5
BRAKES
Front: 14.29x1.50-in vented discs, dual-piston caliper
Rear: 14.29x1.20-in vented discs, dual-piston caliper
ABS: Four-wheel
WHEELS/TIRES
Wheels (in): 20x8
Tires: LT275/65R20E Michelin LTX
FUEL ECONOMY
EPA city/highway: N/A
Observed city/highway/trail: 13.7
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Weight (lb): 7,264
Wheelbase (in): 160
Overall length (in): 250
Overall width (in): 105.9
Height (in): 81.5
Track f/r (in): 68.3/67.2
Minimum ground clearance (in): 8.2
Turning diameter, curb-to-curb (ft): 53.0
Approach/departure angles (deg): 17.9/22.1
Breakover angle (deg): 22.6
GVWR (lb): 3,450
Payload (lb): 3,450
Maximum towing capacity (lb): 15,400 (27,500, fifth-wheel; 32,500, gooseneck)
Seating: 6
Fuel capacity (gal): 34
PERFORMANCE
0-60 mph (sec): 7.2
Quarter-mile (sec @ mph): 15.5 @ 89.0
Braking 60-0 mph (ft): 138.8
Ramp Travel Index (20-degree, points): 358

4th Place

Nissan Titan PRO-4X

What’s New
The all-new ’17 Nissan Titan is the younger, slimmer brother to the Titan XD. The new Titan sits on a completely different chassis than the XD, is about a foot shorter in wheelbase (139.8 inches vs the XD’s 151.6 inches), and is 14.7 inches shorter in overall length. The new aluminum 5.6L Endurance V-8 engine, which powered our test Titan, shares its displacement with the previous-generation Nissan V-8, but from that point on, it is an entirely new powerplant. The new engine delivers 390 hp at 5,800 rpm and 394 lb-ft of torque (a 73 hp and 9 lb-ft gain from the previous V-8) and uses Nissan’s Variable Valve Event & Lift (VVEL) technology that combines hydraulically controlled variable valve timing with electronically controlled variable valve lift on the intake side to punch-up throttle response and power. Direct injection technology and a new piston design (with an 11.2:1 compression ratio, compared to 9.8:1 previously) also help provide better overall performance. A new seven-speed automatic transmission (featuring a fluid warmer) and new transfer case (with a 2.7:1 low range and 38.9:1 crawl ratio) back up the Endurance V-8. The Titan’s off-road performance has been enhanced with Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, and a Brake Limited Slip Differential (BLSD), with an electronic locking rear differential. The front suspension is a double-wishbone coil-spring design, and a solid axle with leaf springs brings up the rear. We tested the PRO-4X model, which added Bilstein off-road shocks and a catalog of additional features including 275/70R18 all-terrain tires and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Ramp and Track
When it came time to get flexy, the all-new Titan PRO-4X scored about mid-pack with a RTI score of 379. While not terribly bad, it only out-flexed the Ford Super Duty and Ram 2500 diesels. The Titan’s all-out acceleration performance was better, scoring higher in the pack (only being beat out by the Raptor and the Super Duty) with a 0-60 mph time of 7.5 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 16.0 seconds at 90.7 mph. Braking from 60 mph to a dead stop was the best of the bunch at 126.7 feet.

Exterior/Interior
Testers found the body styling “Better proportionally than the XD” and “Not as bulbous, porky, and dorky as the XD.” And while it offered good towhooks, it only had a front skidplate. Our test truck came equipped with a well-equipped interior, which included niceties such as seating with leather “appointments,” heating in front and rear, eight-way adjustability in the driver seat, four-way adjustability in the front passenger seat, heat and power adjustability in the steering wheel, a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with 12 speakers, and a coffee maker (just kidding on the coffee thing). It did feel like a luxury condo in there, though. As one tester wrote, “I rate a truck’s interior comforts on how long I can live in it. I could live in this Titan for a couple of weeks.” However, the controls for the truck’s systems received mixed reviews, and prompted tester’s remarks such as “Buttons for things like the rear locker and hill descent are low and hard to reach while driving” and “Gauges are great, but the center stack info seems like Atari technology in an iPad world.”

On-Road
As important as dirt is to us, highway and street performance has to be part of the equation too. In that respect, the Titan PRO-4X did an admirable job. “Powerful engine with great acceleration and a real hot-rod sound,” and “The engine/trans are a sporty combo and feels peppy.” When it came to overall handling, ride quality, road visibility, steering and braking feel, the Pro-4X received mostly middle-high ratings on the 1 to 10 scales provided to our team of testers.

Off-Road
Quite a few test drivers expressed positive surprise at the Titan Pro-4X’s off-road capabilities. Remarks such as “The rear locker and plenty of power, made this a surprisingly good dune scooter” and “This truck did way better than I expected” were echoed by others in the group. Washes filled with whoops did show a tendency for the frontend to dive though, as more than one driver pointed out with comments like, “Front bottoms out; needs more uptravel or softer bumpstop activation.” The group loved the fact that the PRO-4X offered an electronic rear locker but not that it was only activated when the truck was in low range. However, the truck did have extremely good hillclimbing abilities when in low range, and for its larger size, it turned out to be a very capable off-road trail truck.

Bottom Line
If you’ve lived long enough, you know that nothing in life is perfect. That goes for 4x4 trucks too. However, we found much to like and little to not in the ’17 Nissan Titan Pro-4X. It’s a powerful fullsize 1/2-ton 4x4 pickup that would be easy to live with.

What’s Hot:
Peppy new V-8 with good transmission match, very nice interior

What’s Not:
Locker engaged in 4-Lo only, less-than-desirable front suspension travel

Our Take:
It’s a powerful and comfortable truck for the long hauls, with better-than-average off-road performance.

Logbook Quotes
“This thing is super fun in sand, it did great on the hillclimb, and totally killed it in the snow!”
“Parking sensor system and cameras came in handy on tight trails and for rock avoidance.”
“This truck might be the biggest surprise of the week.”

Vehicle/model: 2017 Nissan Titan PRO-4X
Base price: $45,020
Price as tested: $52,305
Options as tested: PRO-4X Utility and Tow Package ($1,820), PRO-4X Convenience Package ($3,520), PRO-4X Luxury Package ($750), Destination Charge ($1,195)
ENGINE
Type: 32-valve V-8
Displacement (ci/liter): 339/5.6
Bore x stroke (in): 3.86x3.62
Compression ratio (:1): 11.2
Intake/FI: Naturally aspirated/sequential multiport electronic
Mfg.’s power rating @ rpm (hp): 390 @ 5,800
Mfg.’s torque rating @ rpm (lb-ft): 394 @ 4,000
Mfg.’s suggested fuel type: Unleaded regular
DRIVETRAIN
Transmission: JATCO 7-spd automatic
Ratios (:1)
First: 4.89
Second: 3.17
Third: 2.03
Fourth: 1.41
Fifth: 1.00
Sixth: 0.86
Reverse: 4.04
Axle ratio (:1): 3.92
Transfer case: Magna TX91A 2-spd
Low-range ratio (:1): 2.72
Crawl ratio (:1): 39.0
FRAME/BODY
Frame: Steel, ladder-type
Body: Steel
SUSPENSION/AXLES
Front: Double-wishbone, Bilstein shocks, stabilizer bar/AAM 8.25-in
Rear: Multileaf, Bilstein shocks, stabilizer bar/AAM 9.5-in
STEERING
Type: Power rack-and-pinion
Turns (lock-to-lock): 2.9
Ratio (:1): 16.1
BRAKES Front: 13.8x1.2-in vented disc, dual-piston caliper
Rear: 13.6x0.8-in vented disc, single-piston caliper
ABS: Four-wheel
WHEELS/TIRES
Wheels (in): 18x8
Tires: P275/70R18 General Grabber APT
FUEL ECONOMY
EPA city/highway: 15/20
Observed city/highway/trail: 13.5
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Weight (lb): 5,684
Wheelbase (in): 139.8
Overall length (in): 228.5
Overall width (in): 80.7
Height (in): 77.2
Track f/r (in): 68.6/68.0
Minimum ground clearance (in): 9.8
Turning diameter, curb-to-curb (ft): 48.0
Approach/departure angles (deg): 22.8/23.0
Breakover angle (deg): 21.7
GVWR (lb): 7,300
Payload (lb): 1,620
Maximum towing capacity (lb): 9,230
Seating: 5
Fuel capacity (gal): 26
PERFORMANCE
0-60 mph (sec): 7.5
Quarter-mile (sec @ mph): 16.0 @ 90.7
Braking 60-0 mph (ft): 126.7
Ramp Travel Index (20-degree, points): 379

3rd Place

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

What’s New
The Tacoma was all-new for the ’16 model year. For ’17, Toyota has introduced the off-road–focused Tacoma TRD Pro. The TRD Pro adds a variety of functional and visual mods that set it apart from all other Tacoma trim levels. The TRD Pro package includes TRD-tuned front springs with a 1-inch lift, a TRD-tuned rear suspension with progressive-rate off-road springs, TRD-tuned Fox 2 1/2-inch internal bypass shocks, 16-inch TRD black alloy wheels, TRD Pro aluminum front skidplate, TRD exhaust, projector beam headlights, Rigid Industries LED fog lights, a special TRD Pro hood, and special TRD Pro badging on the interior and exterior. The TRD Pro also contains 4WDemand part-time 4WD and all traction features of the TRD Off-Road grade including a locking rear differential. The TRD Pro is available as a Double Cab shortbed model with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Our test unit was equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission.

Ramp And Track
On our 20 degree RTI ramp the Tacoma scored a 474, which is a 15 point improvement over the Tacoma TRD Off-Road we tested at the 2016 PTOTY. At the track, the TRD Pro’s 0-60 mph time was 8.5 seconds, which was identical to the Cummins-powered Ram 2500 in this year’s test. The TRD Pro completed the quarter-mile acceleration test with a time of 16.6 seconds at a speed of 87.1 mph. The truck was the second slowest in quarter-mile time but rose to mid-pack on the mph it was pulling at the finish line. Braking from 60-0 mph was very good at 129.8 feet.

Exterior/Interior
Judges thought that Toyota did a good job with the TRD Pro exterior tweaks to make it stand out without being gaudy. “Muscular,” “Handsome,” and “Timeless,” were words used to describe the look. Some judges felt that the TRD Pro hood got in the way of forward visibility though. Inside, the TRD Pro could easily carry four adults or, as we found, a week’s worth of water, snacks, and supplies for over 10 people. Switchgear and controls were easily accessible, though there were a lot of them, and we think some could be combined to declutter the interior. Overall, the interior was a nice place to be, but judges felt that for the price the interior should have more upscale materials and power seats. “It doesn’t feel like a $44,000 truck” is an example of comments from the judges relating to the interior. Some testers complained about the seats being too close to the floor making long highway stretches uncomfortable or that headroom was tight, but we are a physically varied bunch and some thought the ergonomics were fine.

On Road
The TRD Pro seemed very content to be on the open road and other than a slight push due to body roll if going into a turn too hot, the truck felt planted and stable on the highway. However, the transmission kept itself busy on even small hills while trying to keep the V-6 engine in its sweet spot and the forward velocity at the set speed. Judges threw accolades at the TRD Pro for its on-road handling. “Sporty,” “Crisp and light,” and “Easy to whip around” were some of the comments. You don’t often here those words associated with a 4x4 truck. The steering also drew kudos, with one judge writing that it was “Light, controlled, predictable.” We did notice some exhaust note resonance at cruising speed rpms of 2,200 to 2,500, but it became a soothing purr over 3,000 rpm. One annoying thing that judges noted is that when the transmission is in manual mode, the gear indicator in the gauge cluster only show the gear for a moment and then it disappears. We’d love for the gear indicator to stay on all the time when in manual mode.

Off Road
With Toyota’s off-road racing heritage, we expected the TRD Pro to work well off-road. What we didn’t expect is how good it actually works. The TRD Pro equipment combines to create a truck that excels off-road. Engine power is well matched to the truck and rather than spinning all over the place, the Tacoma hooks up. In open terrain, the truck seemed to work better the faster we went and we were astonished at how well it worked in the sand dunes. By locking the rear differential and using the manual-shifting feature to keep the engine buzzing, the Toyota seemed to literally float over the sand. But the TRD Pro is also a capable crawler. On rocky trails the truck just flat worked. The rear locker, traction control system, good clearances, and rugged tires all combined to make the TRD Pro almost unstoppable. The majority of PTOTY judges are anti-electronic traction control, but had to admit that the TRD Pro’s Crawl Control is utterly amazing. We used the system on our loose-dirt hillclimb and were stunned at how well it worked to deliver power to the wheels, making a mockery of the hill other vehicles were struggling to climb. One judge wrote, “Stupid proof. Low range, rear locked with Crawl Control, didn’t have to touch the pedals.”

Bottom Line
The Tacoma TRD Pro is a solid off-road performer. Toyota hit the nail on the head with the package contents and they combine to make a good truck great. For anyone looking at the re-emerging midsize truck market and wondering what to buy, we don’t think you could go wrong with a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro.

What’s Hot:
TRD Pro package contents, outstanding off-road capabilities

What’s Not:
Uncomfortable seats, slightly underpowered V-6

Our Take:
A great truck for those who off-road often.

Logbook Quotes
“Love the traction control. I can’t believe I just wrote that.”
“Crawl Control works but that doesn’t mean I like it.”
“Fun and tossable at speed.”
“Pound for pound, my favorite.”
“Rigid driving lights excellent but they highlight how underwhelming the stock projector lamps are by themselves.”
“Excellent handling in the sand and snow. Overall, a very good off-road contender.”
“I hated liking this truck (not a Toyota fan).”

Vehicle/model: 2017 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab TRD Pro
Base price: $42,760
Price as tested: $44,394
Options as tested: Glass Breakage Sensor ($299), Paint Protection Film ($395), Destination Charge ($940)
ENGINE
Type: Atkinson cycle VVT-iW V-6
Displacement (ci/liter): 210.9/3.5
Bore x stroke (in): 3.70x3.27
Compression ratio (:1): 11.8
Intake/FI: D4S (direct and port) EFI
Mfg.’s power rating @ rpm (hp): 278 @ 6,000
Mfg.’s torque rating @ rpm (lb-ft): 265 @ 4,600
Mfg.’s suggested fuel type: Regular unleaded
DRIVETRAIN
Transmission: Aisin AC60F 6-spd ECT automatic
Ratios (:1)
First: 3.60
Second: 2.09
Third: 1.49
Fourth: 1.00
Fifth: 0.69
Sixth: 0.58
Reverse: 3.73
Axle ratio (:1): 3.91
Transfer case: Aisin VF2CM 2-spd
Low-range ratio (:1): 2.57
Crawl ratio (:1): 36.2
FRAME/BODY
Frame: Steel, ladder-type
Body: Steel
SUSPENSION/AXLES
Front: Double wish bone, TRD-tuned 2.5-in Fox Racing internal bypass coilovers, stabilizer bar/Hino 8-in
Rear: TRD-tuned leaf spring, Fox Racing remote-reservoir shocks/BD22AN 8.75-in
STEERING
Type: Power rack-and-pinion
Turns (lock-to-lock): 3.64
Ratio (:1): 17.3
BRAKES
Front: 10.75-in vented disc, four-piston caliper
Rear: 10-inch drum
ABS: Four-wheel
WHEELS/TIRES
Wheels (in): 16x7 aluminum
Tires: P265/70R16 Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar
FUEL ECONOMY
EPA city/highway: 18/23
Observed city/highway/trail: 16.7
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Weight (lb): 4,425
Wheelbase (in): 127.4
Overall length (in): 212.3
Overall width (in): 75.2
Height (in): 71.6
Track f/r (in): 64.0/64.2
Minimum ground clearance (in): 9.4
Turning diameter, curb-to-curb (ft): 40.8
Approach/departure angles (deg): 35/23.9
Breakover angle (deg): 26
GVWR (lb): 5,600
Payload (lb): 1,175
Maximum towing capacity (lb): 6,400
Seating: 5
Fuel capacity (gal): 21.1
PERFORMANCE
0-60 mph (sec): 8.5
Quarter-mile (sec @ mph): 16.6 @ 87.1
Braking 60-0 mph (ft): 129.8
Ramp Travel Index (20-degree, points): 474

2nd Place

Ram Power Wagon

What’s New
Appearance and sticker packages do not make a vehicle eligible for PTOTY. That said, the ’17 Power Wagon has a new love it or hate it sticker package and a “handlebar mustache” grille derived from Rebel pickup’s styling. So, what’s the Power Wagon doing in the 2017 PTOTY? Mechanically, the ’17 Power Wagon is identical to the model that won our PTOTY 2015 award. And here’s where it gets tricky for the editorial staff. Ram engineers have revised the computer programming, changing the vehicle dynamics when in Tow/Haul mode, as well as giving a major rework of the driving calibration when in 4-Lo. Essentially, the throttle tip in, transmission shifting, stability control, and other factors that actually control how the Power Wagon uses its hardware have been monkeyed with. So, given the extreme changes in off-road drivability and (potentially) performance software calibrations can have on a modern vehicle nowadays, we felt it was at least worth checking out, so we invited Power Wagon back to compete.

Ramp and Track
With solid front and rear axles, four slinky coils, and a front sway bar disconnect system, the Ram scored an impressive 532 points on our 20 degree RTI. While nowhere near the Raptor’s score, it was a respectable showing for a 3/4-ton pickup. On the track, the Power Wagon’s meaty 6.4L Hemi helped to propel the heavy Power Wagon from 0-60 mph in 9.1 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 16.9 seconds at a speed of 84.3 mph. The four-wheel disc brakes brought the truck to a stop in 140.6 feet from 60 mph.

Exterior/Interior
Almost universally, all testers hated the billboardesque “Power Wagon” on the tailgate. We get it, Ram—It’s a Power Wagon. You don’t have to hit us over the head with the fact. As to the rest of the graphics package, some appreciated the throwback styling of the vertical side stripes and hood graphics, hearkening to old Dodge pickup packages of the ’70s. Still, aside from the mustache grille first seen on the Rebel, the exterior styling just felt a tad dated next to the sleek F-250, Nissan, and the insano-bulgy Raptor. The RamBox cargo management system isn’t new, but it’s still a solid winner, swallowing all our recovery gear in secure, waterproof, lockable bins housed in both sides of the bed.

Inside, the interior is admittedly as dated as the exterior in that nothing major has changed in the past few years. That’s not to say the Power Wagon’s interior is a bad place to be. The comfy leather seating is supportive and there’s plenty of legroom, visibility, and cup holders for front and rear passengers. Ergonomics and functionality of the infotainment system, HVAC, lights, wipers, and other controls admittedly couldn’t get much better. It’s a smartly engineered cabin and just plain works, which may be one of the reasons Ram seems reluctant to make major changes at this stage in the game.

On-Road
Pillowy-soft ride with good cornering ability, a steering feel that’s not too hard and not too light, and killer turning ability for snaking into tight parking spots or banging a U-turn are just a couple comments of note from the testers. The Goodyear DuraTracs do make themselves heard on the highway, but with big, generous power folding mirrors, an excellent backup camera system, and no huge blind spots of any consequence, you’re able to lull yourself into a sense that you’re driving a pickup that’s not quite as mountainous as the Power Wagon really is. The tall suspension height perches you atop traffic, with a huge field of view out the ginormous windshield and side windows so merging doesn’t end with a crunch. And in SoCal’s infamous stop-and-go traffic, the big brakes haul the heavy Ram down from speed quickly and with no drama. One tester claimed it “Stops like a much lighter truck.” And as for the newly modified Tow/Haul calibration, former Four Wheeler Editor Christian Hazel, who spent a whole year driving the ’16 Power Wagon long-term test vehicle, noticed absolutely no difference.

Off-Road
Yank on that big old-fashioned shift lever and thunk the T-case into low range with that solid, sure feeling that you’re behind the wheel of a real truck. Spin the diff locker switch to engage the rear locker, nail the front sway bar disconnect button, and ease on into the trail. The newly calibrated off-road throttle tip-in offers more control of right-foot inputs than previous calibrations, helping you to drive more elegantly and avoid jerky vehicle movements in really rough terrain. In short, you can drive the ’17 Power Wagon more elegantly than you probably could a ’16 model. And if (that’s a big if, by the way) you find forward progress no longer easy to come by, you’ve still got a front locker to engage. Just spin that dial again and get all four of those chunky Goodyear DuraTrac tires pulling you forward. Yup, the Power Wagon crawls rocky and undulating, off-camber loose dirt trails like nobody’s business. The Bilstein shocks and spring rates are well matched to keep head toss and body rolls to a minimum in the slow stuff. And fast whoops and graded dirt roads are handled with equal aplomb. The big Achilles heel for this vehicle is in sand and extremely loose terrain requiring heavy throttle input. In these situations, the rear axle starts hopping and chattering to the point of your fillings rattling out of your teeth. Still, for what most people are looking for in an off-road capable 3/4-ton truck, the Power Wagon over delivers. And we didn’t even mention the factory-installed Warn winch.

Bottom Line
If you can only buy one pickup, this is it.

What’s Hot: Twin lockers, winch, RamBoxes, and go-anywhere ability

What’s Not: Atrocious fuel economy, wheelhop and chatter in sand, and overall heavy feel

Our Take: An almost complete balance between off-road, towing and hauling, and daily driving capabilities.

Logbook Quotes
“Tailgate badging is for the legally blind.”
“If every other truck is stuck, the Power Wagon won’t be.”
“A wish list of off-road features.”

Vehicle/model: 2017 Ram Power Wagon Crew Cab
Base price: $51,695
Price as tested: $62,805
Options as tested: Power Wagon Package 22P, DOT Certified Roadside Safety Kit ($195), Leather and Luxury Group ($4,995), Convenience Group ($395) Tri-fold Tonneau Cover ($545), Rear Window Defroster ($195), Power Folding Black Trailer Tow Mirrors with Memory ($195), Keyless Enter ‘N Go ($195), Center High-Mount Stop Lamp w/Cargo View Camera ($345), Uconnect 8.4 Nav ($500), Power Adjustable Pedals w/Memory ($195), Remote Start System ($245), RamBox Cargo Management System ($1,295), Spray-in Bedliner ($495), Destination Charge ($1,320)
ENGINE
Type: 16-valve DOHC V-8 w/ MDS
Displacement (ci/liter): 392/6.4
Bore x stroke (in): 4.09x3.72
Compression ratio (:1): 10.0
Intake/FI: Multiport sequential EFI
Mfg.’s power rating @ rpm (hp): 410 @ 5,600
Mfg.’s torque rating @ rpm (lb-ft): 429 @ 4,000
Mfg.’s suggested fuel type: Regular unleaded
DRIVETRAIN
Transmission: 66RFE 6-spd automatic
Ratios (:1)
First: 3.23
Second: 1.84
Third: 1.41
Fourth: 1.00
Fifth: 0.82
Sixth: 0.63
Reverse: 4.44
Axle ratio (:1): 3.42
Transfer case: BW 44-47 2-spd
Low-range ratio (:1): 2.64
Crawl ratio (:1): 35.1
FRAME/BODY
Frame: Steel, ladder-type
Body: Steel
SUSPENSION/AXLES
Front: Three-link, track bar, coil springs, stabilizer bar/AAM 9.25-in
Rear: Five-link, track bar, coil springs, stabilizer bar/AAM 11.5-in
STEERING
Type: Power recirculating ball
Turns (lock-to-lock): 3.33
Ratio (:1): 15.58
BRAKES
Front: 14.17x1.54-in disc, dual-piston caliper
Rear: 14.09x1.34-in disc, dual-piston caliper
ABS: Four-wheel
WHEELS/TIRES
Wheels (in): 17x8
Tires: P285/70R17 Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac
FUEL ECONOMY
EPA city/highway: N/A
Observed city/highway/trail: 10.5
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Weight (lb): 6,669
Wheelbase (in): 149.3
Overall length (in): 237.3
Overall width (in): 79.1
Height (in): 81.0
Track f/r (in): 68.6/68.0
Minimum ground clearance (in): 8.3
Turning diameter, curb-to-curb (ft): 47.7
Approach/departure angles (deg): 33.6/26.2
Breakover angle (deg): 23.5
GVWR (lb): 8,510
Payload (lb): 1,510
Maximum towing capacity (lb): 10,030
Seating: 6
Fuel capacity (gal): 31
PERFORMANCE
0-60 mph (sec): 9.1
Quarter-mile (sec @ mph): 16.9 @ 84.3
Braking 60-0 mph (ft): 140.6
Ramp Travel Index (20-degree, points): 532

Winner!

Ford F-150 Raptor

What’s New
Ford Motor Company will tell you that it invented the high-performance off-road truck segment with the introduction of the first-gen Ford F-150 Raptor. Well, OK, we can probably give them that. One thing is undeniable: the ’17 model is an all-new beast. The new truck has shed up to 500 pounds of weight through the use of military-grade aluminum alloy body panels. It gained horsepower and torque. The second-gen 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 produces 510 lb-ft of torque (up by 76) and 450 hp (gaining 39) for an increase of 107 percent in torque-to-weight ratio and 94 percent in horsepower-to-weight ratio over the 6.2L V-8. Available in SuperCab (the 133-inch wheelbase model we tested) and a Raptor-only SuperCrew configuration offering a 134.2-inch wheelbase, the ’17 Raptor features a high-strength steel box frame. The suspension system has been redesigned to deliver 0.8 inches more wheel travel (13 inches total) in front and 1.9 inches more (13.9 inches total) in rear. New shocks co-developed with Fox have grown to a 3-inch diameter and provide 9-stage bypass damping and integrated bumpstops. Most impressive was the Raptor’s 30-degree approach, 22-degree breakover, and 23-degree departure angles, a product of an average 2-inch gain in ride height, and redesigned front and rear bumper overhangs. Then there’s the new 10-speed automatic transmission and AWD/FWD combo transfer case with Terrain Management. The transmission can be operated in manual mode through the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, but in auto mode, it can non-sequentially select what it thinks is the right gear based on performance needs. The integrated AWD/FWD T-case system allows the driver to select between five different off-road modes.

Ramp and Track
On the RTI ramp, the Raptor topped this year’s field of tested pickup trucks (and scored higher than any new truck we’ve tested in recent memory) with a score of 627. On the track, the new Raptor did not disappoint either. Say what you will about the small-displacement twin-turbo engine, but it hauled the fullsize pickup down the quarter-mile in 15 seconds flat, topping out at 91.8 mph. Braking, however, was at the bottom of the group, with a 60-0 mph distance of 146.4 feet.

Exterior/Interior
When it came to exterior styling, the Raptor received a lot of “likes” from the group of testers. Its overall aggressive cut and rake said high-performance all over it. One tester remarked, “An epic redesign! It’s rare that I immediately like any new bodystyle, but Ford hit a home run with this one.” Another noted, “Looks like something out of the Transformer movies.” Positive comments concerning the high-clearance bumpers were abundant. The interior, however, took some digs from the judges. The tiny gear-indicator numbers was an especially sore subject, and the steering-wheel–mounted shift paddles blocked the gear indicator numbers for some drivers.

On-Road
The hard truth is that as much as we love being off-road, there are often times a lot of on-road miles that must be driven to get to the off-road miles. So a truck’s on-road manners are important too. The Raptor’s on-road performance was blisteringly fast and silky smooth, but nothing is perfect. We know it’s all about improving EPA fuel-consumption numbers, but the auto engine stop-start feature in this type of truck was not enjoyed by any. Some felt that in auto mode the 10-speed transmission didn’t downshift quickly enough or keep the engine in its power band better. The exhaust note seemed “pretty wimpy” for a truck marketed as a performance vehicle. The Raptor did carve the curvy canyon roads very nicely, offered excellent ride quality on the highway, and the ability to electronically alter the steering feedback in three different settings was well received.

Off-Road
Off-road activity is the bullseye this truck was specifically designed to hit. How did it do? In the sand dunes, a judge called it a “fun sand surfboard.” It took us a while to figure out how to cancel the electronic nannies, but once we figured it out, the truck became even more fun. Many thought the system through which the driver manages the Terrain Management System was not as easy to use (“too many modes, too hard to access” and “overly complex”) as it should be. On graded dirt roads, rocky trails, sandy washes, and hillclimbs, it performed very well, and received glowing remarks. “I honestly can’t believe how well this truck wheels. Total Surprise” came from one of our most experienced and respected testers. Many commented on the fact that the Raptor was one of only two trucks in the group that came with real off-road tires (BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2s) and how liberating it was to not worry about tire damage during our week of testing. The truck featured a compliant and flexible suspension, 4.10 gears, a Torsen torque-sensing limited-slip differential up front, and an electric locker in the rear that came into play in 4-Hi or 4-Lo, all of which made off-roading in this truck enjoyable. Easily accessible and smartly designed towhooks front and rear (which we did not have to use) were also a big plus.

Bottom Line
For a truck that appears to be a single-purpose vehicle, the ’17 Ford F-150 Raptor performed very well in almost every arena of off-road activity. It’s powerful, quick, responsive to many types of terrain, fun to drive on- and off-road, and despite some complexities, it was for many testers in the group the vehicle they would most like to have in their driveway this year.

What’s Hot:
Powerful engine, lots of wheel travel, sharp looks, good overall off-road performance.

What’s Not:
Too many electronic nannies, overly complex drivetrain management system.

Our Take:
The 2017 Pickup Truck of the Year

Logbook Quotes
“The Raptor is the equivalent of an amusement park thrill ride.”
“Feels big and wide, but still light, nimble, and flexible.”
“The most fun you can have in a truck with your clothes on.”
“An impressive redesign both visually and functionally.”
“Point wheels, stab throttle, feel the adrenalin.”

Vehicle/model: 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor SuperCab 4x4
Base price: $48,325
Price as tested: $65,825
Options as tested: Equipment Group 802A ($9,345), Exterior Graphics Package ($1,075), Hood Graphics Package ($900), Foldable Pickup Bed Extender ($250), Tailgate Step ($375), $17-inch Forged-Aluminum Wheels ($1,165), Heated Steering Wheel ($155), Raptor Technology Package ($1,950), Stowable Loading Ramps ($595), Spray-in Bedliner ($495), Destination Charge ($1,195)
ENGINE
Type: 24-valve DOHC V-6
Displacement (ci/liter): 213/3.5
Bore x stroke (in): 3.64x3.45
Compression ratio (:1): 10.5
Intake/FI: High-pressure direct injection and low-pressure port fuel injection
Mfg.’s power rating @ rpm (hp): 450 @ 5,000
Mfg.’s torque rating @ rpm (lb-ft): 510 @ 3,500
Mfg.’s suggested fuel type: Regular unleaded
DRIVETRAIN
Transmission: Ford/GM 10-spd automatic
Ratios (:1)
First: 4.70
Second: 2.99
Third: 2.15
Fourth: 1.77
Fifth: 1.52
Sixth: 1.28
Seventh: 1.00
Eighth: 0.85
Ninth: 0.69
Tenth: 0.64
Reverse: 4.87
Axle ratio (:1): 4.10
Transfer case: BorgWarner 44-66 2-spd
Low-range ratio (:1): 2.64
Crawl ratio (:1): 50.8
FRAME/BODY
Frame: Steel, ladder-type
Body: Aluminum
SUSPENSION/AXLES
Front: Independent double-wishbone, FOX Racing Shox/Ford 8.8-in
Rear: Leaf-spring, FOX Racing Shox/Ford Sterling 9.75-in
STEERING
Type: Electrically-assisted power rack-and-pinion
Turns (lock-to-lock): 3.26
Ratio (:1): 17.1
BRAKES
Front: 13.8x1.33-in vented disc, dual-piston caliper
Rear: 13.7x1.0-in vented disc, single-piston caliper
ABS: Four-wheel
WHEELS/TIRES
Wheels (in): 17x8.5
Tires: LT315/70R17 BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2
FUEL ECONOMY
EPA city/highway: 15/18
Observed city/highway/trail: 13.4
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Weight (lb): 5,518
Wheelbase (in): 134.2
Overall length (in): 220
Overall width (in): 86.3 (mirrors, 96.8)
Height (in): 78.5
Track f/r (in): 73.9/73.6
Minimum ground clearance (in): 11.5
Turning diameter, curb-to-curb (ft): 43.8
Approach/departure angles (deg): 30/23
Breakover angle (deg): 22
GVWR (lb): 7,850
Payload (lb): 1,000
Maximum towing capacity (lb): 6,000
Seating: 5
Fuel capacity (gal): 26
PERFORMANCE
0-60 mph (sec): 6.3
Quarter-mile (sec @ mph): 15.0 @ 91.8
Braking 60-0 mph (ft): 146.4
Ramp Travel Index (20-degree, points): 627

How We Test ’Em

We began our weeklong Pickup Truck of the Year 2017 test in Los Angeles by measuring each vehicle’s ramp travel index (RTI) to determine suspension articulation. We then traveled to Auto Club Dragway in Fontana, where we used a RaceLogic Performance Box to gather acceleration and braking data. From the track we convoyed to the desert via paved roads, along the way gathering important data regarding ride, handling, and fuel efficiency, among other things. For the next three days we spent time in every type of driving situation you can imagine. From stop-and-go city driving to wide open highway. Since our focus in on off-road travel, we spent the majority of time in the dirt, water, mud, sand, rocks, and snow. Each day of driving began shortly after sunup and ended after sundown. We traveled to both high and low altitudes and we drove in the dark to test lighting. On the last day, we made the trek back to the Los Angeles area, which completed the test. In the end, we drove each vehicle approximately 1,000 miles.

How We Score ’Em

Our scoring procedure utilizes five weighted categories. Here’s the breakdown: 30 percent Trail Performance (how a vehicle performs in a variety of wheeling environments and off-road-centric features like 4WD system operation, tires, traction aids, and so on), 25 percent Empirical (RTI, acceleration, braking, price, and so on), 20 percent On Pavement (handling, ride quality, steering feel, and so on) 15 percent Interior (instrumentation, ingress and egress, seat comfort, storage, and so on), and 10 percent Exterior (appearance, stance, body protection, and so on).

Final Results

Raptor F-250TitanXDRam 2500Power WagonTacoma
Trail Performance24.7417.2318.7216.9016.0024.8723.13
Empirical18.9317.6819.1117.1415.3616.2518.57
On-Road Performance14.6412.9312.4711.1812.7613.5813.93
Interior10.3910.719.659.219.8310.838.77
Exterior8.866.105.835.356.607.596.33
Total77.5664.6565.7859.7860.5573.1270.74

Judges’ Picks

We asked the judges which one of the seven trucks in this year’s test they’d most like to own and we asked ’em to pony up the reason why. Official scoring doesn’t matter here, this is all about personal preference. Here’s what each judge chose.

Stuart Bourdon, Jp technical editor
Pickup Truck of the Year 2017 was filled with as varied a roster of subjects as one could possibly hope for. It ranged from the massive Ram 2500 Cummins to the spry Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. All had their high points, and some had some rather low points. However, it was the Ford F-150 Raptor’s twin-turbo 3.5L V-6 that I found myself missing most once the weeklong test was over. Although a complicated machine, with as many performance options as the latest iteration of World of Warcraft, once mastered the Raptor provided the best overall performance and a thrill-filled ride.

Ken Brubaker, Four Wheeler editor
I need a versatile truck and the Ram Power Wagon fits the bill. It has great towing and hauling specs, it’s super nice inside, and it’s packed with a slew of features that make it a great off-roader. I love the convenience of the RamBox Cargo Management System, the locking differentials, beefy winch, and front disconnecting stabilizer bar. In the market today, the Power Wagon is one of a kind, and I want one. Of each color.

John Cappa, contributor
Almost every single truck in this year’s competition has extremely admirable qualities. After spending a week driving them on- and off-road back to back, it’s impossible to deny where each one shines, regardless of your brand loyalties. It’s always a compromise when it comes to selecting which truck I’d want to take home with me. Do I want a tow rig, a commuter truck, extreme off-road capability, or something in between? This year, I’m going with the Ram 2500 Off-Road Package. Of course the tattoo-cowboy interior detail work is a little too gaudy for me, but I absolutely love the torque-infused Cummins diesel engine. The limited-slip rear differential in the Ram is marginal in most cases, and I wish the truck had a rear locker available. Although, I'd probably never actually take the truck where a rear locker would be absolutely necessary anyway. I’d toss my slide-in camper in the bed, hitch up the Jeep-hauler trailer, and hit the road in saddle-scented luxury.

Matt Emery, Dirt Sports + Off-Road editor
I know, I know. I’m supposed to say that the Ford F-150 Raptor is my choice for Pickup Truck of The Year and the one that I’d like to take home with me. Don’t get me wrong; the Raptor did everything that a Raptor is supposed to do. It was big, impressive, came with all the right parts such as Fox shocks and BFGoodrich KO2s to go with the long-travel suspension package, a locking rear differential, a bunch of drive modes including Hill Descent Control, and a roomy interior with good seats and ergonomics. The 3.5L EcoBoost engine that replaces the old 6.2L does its job and gets better mileage, but I kind of miss the V-8. I’m also not entirely sold on the 10-speed transmission, but the paddle shifters were fun. All in all, a great truck, and I enjoyed driving it.

Christian Hazel, 4-Wheel & Off-Road editor
The Raptor was a fun toy and the F-250 really impressed me with how comfortable and good looking it was. But at the end of the day when the chips were down and success and/or survival was on the line, it was always the Ram Power Wagon I turned to. It was ’ol reliable. The St. Bernard rescue machine. The only thing it lacked was a barrel of brandy hanging under the big Warn winch. The RamBox cargo system was stuffed with all our recovery gear, the winch yanked out the Super Duty in the dunes, the rear hitch pulled the Titan XD off the trail. And as for itself, the front and rear lockers let it climb like a goat, the suspension supplely flexed, and the seat heaters and satellite radio kept me cozy and entertained the whole time. To me, the Power Wagon has become a warm security blanket. Even though its styling seems a bit dated, it’s still the most trustworthy, reliable, and capable choice by far.

Jake Headlee, contributor
There are two ways to look at this: which one I’d buy with my own money or which one would I choose if it were to magically become mine for free. In my case, they’d both result in the same truck. My Top Three are the Ford Raptor, the Ram 2500, and the Ram Power Wagon. While the Raptor is certainly fun to drive, it would be mostly a toy to play with. The Ram 2500 would be a work truck. I haven’t started hoarding vehicles yet so I would choose the Ram Power Wagon. It has the best all-around usefulness. Can be played with, can do some severe-duty work, and then it can get cleaned up for a night on the town.

Jerrod Jones, contributor
If there was any new truck I was going to take home, it would be the Cummins-powered Ram 2500 Off-Road Package. Why this truck when there were three trucks obviously built to cater to the desires of off-roaders? I know that I'll never leave any truck stock—my current Super Duty spent seven days new and unmolested before I added a four-link conversion and 37-inch tires—so I’m looking for an excellent platform to start with. I don’t care so much that the suspension rides like a brick or that the stereo isn’t the best—I’ll replace all that. Factory tire and wheel selection do not matter to me either. I also don’t want an overabundance of interior controls that make me question how well it will handle dirt and extreme elements as I drive all over the country (this discounts the ’17 Super Duty). I want an excellent engine, [mildly] good fuel economy, a good-looking exterior, enough room for me to fit inside the cab, and a good frame to build off of. The Ram 2500 offers me all those things, and I get a better bang for my buck.

Rick Péwé, Jp editor
Everybody needs a truck, and when it comes down to the one truck that can do it all, the Ram Power Wagon excels. While not perfect for towing a fifth-wheel camper, it can still do the job, just like it can be a contractors rig for the worst terrain. It’s big, burly, and has the right componentry to ensure that it won’t fail in the outback. Simply add a larger set of tires to fill the wheelwells and you have one of the best out-of-the-box wheelers available. It even still has a solid 4x4 shifter on the floor—winner, winner!

Verne Simons, Four Wheeler technical editor
Picking a favorite amongst the vehicle contestants is hard for me. I was surprised by the Nissan Titan. It sounds good, its quick on-road, and fun to drive off-road, I like the rear locker, but its big and the looks leave a lot to be desired in my opinion. I love the Ram Power Wagon. It’s a 3/4-ton factory-ready rockcrawler. I want one, but it’s big, thirsty, and expensive. The Ford Raptor is amazing. It’s a factory ready pre-runner. I want one, but it’s wide, flashy, and expensive. The Tacoma TRD Pro is a smaller, slightly less rowdy version of a Raptor with rockcrawling capabilities approaching that of the Power Wagon. If I had to take one of these trucks home to drive every day, wheel on the weekend, make payments on, and pay to fill with fuel, that truck would be the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro.

Harry Wagner, contributor
I don’t think that there was a bad truck in the group this year, and I would be happy to park any of them in my driveway. That said, the Ford F-150 Raptor would be my pick. I am not as wrapped up in the sound as the other judges, I already a have a turbo four-cylinder rockcrawler so I guess I am used to it. While I do appreciate the simple lockers and solid axles of the Power Wagon over the electronic gadgets in the Raptor, it felt like a heavy 3/4-ton gas-powered truck to me. The Raptor was the fastest truck in the test, the smoothest riding, and arguably the most capable in most terrain.

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