Scoring highest in the on-road portion of the test was the Ford Super Duty. Testers felt the Super Duty benefited from the best visibility in the test, smooth power delivery, and precise transmission gear selection. The functional interior was comfortable and quiet with rich-looking trim, abundant storage cubbies, and seats that seemed to fit everybody. Fit and finish was exceptional, and while the dash was full of hard plastics, the color and graining kept the interior from looking or feeling cheap, something Dodge should take note of. For the trailer puller in you, Ford has equipped the Super Duty with the gold standard in factory trailer towing mirrors, dash-mounted Upfitter switches to activate any accessory you might want to add, and an integrated trail brake controller. It also had one of the most inclusive gauge packages in this test, and on the market, as well as a ride deemed smooth enough to commute with. As for power, most noted the Ford's nearly lag-free and smooth power delivery, no doubt thanks in part to the twin turbo design.
The H2 SUT and Tundra CrewMax were also given high praise for highway manners, with the Hummer getting the nod for the interior accommodations. The H2's new 6.2L is well matched, but testers did note some confusion from the new six-speed automatic when driving in hilly terrain. The bed, while small, is an excellent feature for occasional use; whether it be muddy boots or wet camping gear, the deep composite bed is up to holding all sorts of gear you might not want in your beautiful interior. And for those occasions you may need to temporarily expand the cargo room, the Mid-gate and rear seat fold down to expose a flat load floor. Testers did lament the lack of visibility, but praised the new rear-vision system for taking some of the guesswork out of maneuvering.
Where the Tundra left a bit to be desired was in the interior, where the usually impeccable Toyota ergonomics were lacking, hampered by spread-out control placement on the expansive dash that forced the driver to move out of position to operate. The Tundra just feels big for the sake of being big, and doesn't have the space efficiency of the previous generation; it also suffered from mediocre visibility and interior materials that were below expectations. Others commented on deeply inset gauges that were difficult to read and wide flat seats that were hard to get comfortable in. Note to Japan: Not every American is a ham-fisted 400-pounder wearing work gloves while they drive. Out on the open road, the Tundra provided an excellent and compliant highway ride, with bursts of reserve power available at any speed.
Scoring highest in the "fun to drive" category was the midsize Dakota. With no electronic nannies to intervene and a tight limited-slip, oversteer giggles were only a tip of the right foot away. The new 4.7L is a great engine, and the Dakota's chassis is willing to put on a show. The Dakota is also easy to just hop in and go, with no learning curve required, something we quite appreciate. Regrettably, the Dakota features an uninspiring parts-bin interior with hard gray plastics that look cheap in the affordable Dodge Caliber, let alone a $34,000 truck. This is unfortunate because the Dakota offers a decent ride and comfortable seats, and the MyGIG entertainment and navigation system is among the best in the business. We'd also like to see a shifter design that doesn't hide the dash when shifted in to "D", but overall the Dakota is a nice package.
If there was a raging, snorting, hairy-chested gorilla in this group, it had to be the Dodge Ram. At full tilt, the spectacular Cummins mill makes the Ram feel hundreds of pounds lighter, the sweet-shifting 68RFE Orion six-speed fires off shifts like an automatic pistol fires off rounds, and the optional exhaust brake is revolutionary for a factory oil-burner. It may not be quite as smooth as the Power Stroke, but it is more than most people will ever want or need. The engine brake alone might be enough to sway some buyers to grab life by the horns. We can't wait to see this powertrain in the next-generation Ram, as the current chassis is starting to show its age. The ride can be jarring over broken pavement and expansion joints, the driving experience is not as quiet or refined as the Ford, and-like the Dakota-it features less-than-impressive interior materials, taking it worlds away from the Super Duty in terms of appeal. It also lacks the completeness of gauges that the Super Duty provides to its driver, such as boost and tranny temperature. We do love the Ram's rear cargo shelf, something Ford should seriously consider for the Super Duty's odd-shaped load floor in the SuperCab models.
Fuel economy, which was measured and averaged throughout the test, was led by the Dakota with 15.5 mpg. The Tundra impressed with a 14.7 mpg average, while the Ram and Super Duty were at 13.3 mpg and 12.5 mpg, respectively. The H2 SUT managed to slurp fuel at a rate of 11.5 mpg.
What's Hot: Awe-inspiring drivetrain, great ride, quiet interior
What's Not: Inefficient interior, "what were they thinking" styling, odd tire size
Our Take: A great truck if you can get past the looks.
From the Logbook:
* Dampened tailgate rocks."
* Interior is an awful collection of materials and colors, and has gobs of wasted space."
* The new 5.7L engine is a study in what a modern V-8 should be."
* Traction control worked impeccably on our hillclimb."
* Needs more tire and less body."