This year's Pickup Truck of the Year competition had more hype leading up to it than an after-school bout between a high-school quarterback and the student body president. Not to minimize the attendance of the Toyota Tundra 4.6L or the Cummins-powered Ram 2500 Mega Cab, but they were opening acts to the marquee's main match-up. Real money was on two of the competitors and lines in the sand were drawn immediately as staffers got behind their choice. Was it going to be Ram Power Wagon or Ford F-150 SVT Raptor?
The eligibility requirements are simple and remain unchanged from years past. Each vehicle is invited to participate based on it being all new or substantially revised for the upcoming model year. Each vehicle is also required to have a two-speed transfer case, have a production run of at least 1,500 vehicles available in the U.S., and must be available to the consumer by January 15, 2010.
For 2010, our field of vehicles included the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, Ram Power Wagon, Ram 2500 Mega Cab, and the Toyota Tundra 4.6L.
As always, we score each of the vehicles based on a testing criteria of five weighted categories that include Trail Performance (30%), Empirical (25%), On-Pavement (20%), Interior (15%), and Exterior (10%).
Representing the new-school thinking of what an off-road package should be, Ford entered its all-new F-150-based SVT Raptor. The Raptor has been all the rage since its introduction. No doubt because it comes standard with bulging bodywork, a Baja-inspired suspension utilizing Fox reservoir shocks, 35-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires, an electronic rear locker, and around a foot of wheel travel-all for an incredible base price of $38,020; ours managed to hit $46,020 with a number of optional goodies, such as the Luxury Package, navigation system with Sync, and the integrated trailer brake controller. The standard 5.4L SOHC V-8 puts out 310 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque (or 320/390 on E85) through Ford's 6R80 six-speed automatic and 4.10:1 axle gears.
Bringing to the table a more old-school approach, albeit with a modern twist, was Ram, with its duo of solid-axled heavy-dutys. The Ram Power Wagon sets the standard in the HD category for off-road equipment, while the Cummins-powered 2500 Mega Cab is considered by many Ram loyalists to be the tow rig to have.
The 2500 Mega Cab starts at $43,150 in the luxurious Laramie trim. The Ram's giant cab has more than enough room for everyone to stretch out, and rivals some staffers' apartments in amenities. One of those amenities, arguably the most important one, will set you back $7,615. But what you'll get with that is Cummins' excellent 6.7L OHV turbo diesel I-6 with 350 horsepower and an earth shearing 650 lb-ft of torque matched to an excellent 68RFE 6-speed automatic transmission and 3.73:1 gearing. Don't forget that this clean diesel also includes an integrated exhaust brake, a must-have feature when towing the weight this truck is capable of. Other options, such as navigation, reverse backup camera and leather buckets, sunroof, and 32-inch BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires pushed the Mega Cab's as- tested price to $56,895.
Ram's Power Wagon, with its 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires, Bilstein shocks, front and rear lockers, electronically disconnecting front sway bar, and Warn 12,000-pound winch now comes as a Crew Cab only (the previous generation was available as a regular or Quad Cab) and starts at $38,480. Like the Raptor, it is a lot of truck for the money and now has 383 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque from the 5.7L OHV Hemi V-8, which is mated to a five-speed automatic spinning 4.56:1 gearing. The as-tested price of our tester was $51,375 after adding a host of options that included navigation, bedliner, rear-view camera and rear-seat video system that can keep the kiddos happy in the back by broadcasting three channels of live TV via Sirius satellite radio.
Toyota entered the other 1/2-ton in this year's test. The aging Tundra is now available with a substantial powertrain improvement in the form of an all-new 4.6L DOHC V-8 making 310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft of torque partnered with Toyota's A760F six-speed and 4.10:1 axle cogs. Our example, a Double Cab SR5, was the most affordable vehicle in the test with a base price of just $28,690, but adding options brought the price to $33,435, well below the base prices of the other trucks. Part of the reason the Tundra was so affordable is because it lacked the TRD off-road package, which can only be had on 5.7L trucks. However, the P275/65R18 rolling stock do equate to 32 inches in diameter.