Who Liked What?
Each year, at the end of the test, we ask the testers to say which vehicle they would choose for themselves. Being natural blowhards and babblers (journalists), we usually have no trouble spouting off a bit when asked our opinions. On our test this year, we had editorial director (former Four Wheeler editor) John Stewart, editor Mark Williams, the always sexy and vivacious senior editor Jimmy Nylund, editor of our sister magazine 4x4 Power and former Four Wheeler staffer Tom Morr, road test editor Ben Stewart, photographer Michael Rudd, and publisher Joe "It's my pillow now, suckers!" Sebergandio. Michael was too busy generating great photos to score a book for the test, and Joe was too busy barbequing for John, but the rest of our personal picks for PTOTY 2000 can be found below. John Stewart--"The Dakota is the best street/sport truck, the Ram is probably the best crawler, and the Nissan is the best buy. But the Tundra has the best combination of power, handling, and smart engineering."
Mark Williams--"This is the tightest PTOTY I can remember, with lots of close scores. While the Ram Quad is the big bruiser, the Dakota does everything well. But I'd take the Tundra with the best mileage and rocket-launcher motivation. As a second choice, I'd take the Nissan Crew. It surprised the (darn heck) out of me. Compact size with enough bed room to satisfy me enough of the time."
Jimmy Nylund--"Put a locker in the Nissan and go...oh and maybe a blower. Put tires on the Ram and go...oh and maybe some Rancho 9000s. Put CDs in the Tundra and go on your favorite road. Put a gear reduction in the Dakota and go...nearly anywhere you want. But for a do-it-all pickup, I'd have to go with the Ram, with the Dakota a close second."
Tom Morr--"The Dakota is my pick. It's really a jack-of-all trades. Powerful, comfortable, best rear-seat configuration--it handles well, and it has a useable bed as well."
Ben Stewart--"The Ram is the obvious trail king, plus imagine all the cordwood you could stack. As far as motors go, I want the Tundra. The Nissan surprised everyone and is great for the money, but the truck that really excels on pavement and off is the Dakota."
Our Test Procedure
Once the new-for-2000 trucks qualify for our Pickup Truck of the Year competition, our work begins. Our route basically covers all of southern California, starting at Los Angeles County Raceway in Palmdale then moving south to San Diego County and the desert scapes of Ocotillo Wells, near Borrego Springs. We then head back to Los Angeles for sushi and bottled water (just kidding) and on up to Hungry Valley SVRA in Gorman, where facilities include steep hillclimbs, man-made rock trails, backcountry water crossings, dry washes, and various other challenges, including but not limited to finding a good meal. During the test, each tester rotates through each truck in each of the varying terrains, recording in their test booklets impressions, details, and general observations about how each vehicle performs.
Scoring is based on five basic categories weighted as follows: Mechanical 25 percent, Trail Performance 30, Highway Performance 20, Interior 15, and Exterior 10. This year, 4,000 points were available in 38 subcategories (engine layout, front seats, directional stability, attract-the-opposite-sex factor, and so forth) as each judge saw fit. Each judge also votes on the vehicle he thinks should win the test. We've published comments from those pesky loudmouths in the "Who Liked What?" sidebar.
In addition, nine separate objective categories award points based on specific empirical data: acceleration, braking, turning diameter, Ramp Travel Index (RTI), ground clearance, and other stuff. This section is added to the subjective testing and accounts for 20 percent of each truck's total score. In the end, it's helpful if you happen to have a degree in quantum physics when tabulating the scores. Thankfully our overschooled editor, Mark Williams, deals with this chore each year. We print as much data in chart form as we can fit in the story. This is intended to allow any reader, with any given set of priorities, to choose his or her own winner.
The Second Annual Crawl-Off
Last year, we thought it would be interesting to have a crawl race between the pickups down a relatively steep hill at Hungry Valley SVRA. We used this to demonstrate how slowly and controlled a truck could descend a trail in First-gear low range. This capability is normally a function of the crawl ratio. To calculate a crawl ratio, multiply the First-gear ratio in the transmission to the axle ratio to the transfer-case low-range ratio. Basically, the higher the number, the slower (and more controlled) a vehicle can traverse rough terrain. For this exercise, we lined our pickups at the top of the hill in First-gear low range and timed them to the bottom. The pickup with the slowest time to the bottom won.
The Dakota, with a 4.0:1 First gear, a 2.72:1 low range, and 3.90:1 axle gears, had a crawl ratio of 42.4:1 and won our contest with a time of 17.69 seconds. Hail to the crawler.
Past Pickup Truck Of The Year Winners
1989: Toyota SR5
1990: Mitsubishi Mighty Max
1991: GMC K2500 HD
1992: Dodge Dakota Club Cab
1993: Ford Ranger SuperCab
1994: Chevrolet ZR2
1995: Ford F-250 Super Cab PowerStroke
1996: Toyota Tacoma XtraCab
1997: Dodge Dakota Club Cab
1998: Toyota Tacoma XtraCab TRD
1999: Chevrolet Silverado Z71