As always, our weeklong test begins with a day at the track---in this case, the Auto Club Dragway at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, to measure acceleration (0-60 mph, quarter-mile) and braking (60-0 mph) numbers.
Performance testing was impressive with this group of trucks. Each pickup was within one second of each other from zero to 60, narrowing that spread through the quarter-mile to under a half second. Braking was also within 15 feet of each other.
Leading the field to 60 mph was the lightest truck with the smallest engine, as the 5,385-pound Tundra hit the mark in 8.62 seconds, while crossing the line after a quarter mile in 16.84 seconds at 84.98 mph. The slowest truck, but not by much, was the Raptor which hit 60 in 9.47 seconds and crossed the quarter in 17.17 seconds at 82.85 mph, just a tick behind the Mega Cab, which hit 60 in 9.36 seconds and did the quarter mile dash in 17.09 seconds at 81.87 mph. The Power Wagon, with its times of 8.68 seconds to 60 and 16.88 seconds in the quarter with a trap speed of 81.72 mph, was solidly mid-pack.
Surprisingly, it wasn't the lightweight Tundra that won the braking honors; it was the heaviest truck in the test, the 7,495-pound Mega Cab that defied known physics to come to a complete stop from 60 mph in only 143.33 feet. The Tundra came close by doing the same in 144.35 feet. The 5,863-pound Raptor stopped in 153.10 feet, while the 6,621-pound Power Wagon brought up the rear in an even 158 feet.
For those of you who need a helping of fuel economy with your pickup, nothing in the test came close to the 15.09 mpg average that the Tundra delivered, despite our incredibly aggressive testing procedures. In fact, the Tundra's best tank was 17.3 mpg, the highest single tank in the test. The Raptor had the next best tank at 16.32 mpg, but averaged 12.07 mpg in a test in which it was flogged mercilessly. The Mega Cab was like Old Faithful, churning out consistent fuel economy numbers, no matter the use. The overall average for the Mega Cab was 13.67 mpg, with a tank best of 14.47 mpg. The Power Wagon only averaged 11.74 mpg in our testing, but surprisingly delivered its best tank with 15.36 mpg.
We are no strangers to the SVT Raptor at Four Wheeler, having been the ones to have broken the story about the existence of the program. And as such we have followed the development of this truck closely, and the collective staff has been waiting impatiently to finally test one in Pickup Truck of the Year.
In person, the design is especially gripping, with a presence that no other truck can compete with. Muscular bodywork bulging at the corners, tires akin to clenched fists, and a toothy grin that screams "purpose" define the Raptor's stance. The Raptor is one tough-looking truck that appears ready to pounce on command.
The functionally tough look transfers in to the interior, where the staff judged the Raptor tops in terms of the interior's quality and look. About half of us could do without the gaudy orange inserts, but there is no denying the function of the gauges and the secondary controls. The stereo may be the best you can get from the factory in any truck, and the Microsoft Sync system, when mixed with Sirius satellite radio and navigation, offers an unrivaled amount of user-friendliness and features. Curious about sport scores, gas prices, or movie information? Check the screen. Want to see weather radar imagery overlaid on top of where you are on the navigation map? No problem. Want to sync your iPhone to take calls and play music wirelessly over Bluetooth? You got it. And don't forget that navigation will also display current traffic info. We just love it.
On the road, the generously bolstered seats were judged excellent by all but one dissenting tester, and the overall driving experience on-road was given kudos. As we have stated before, the Raptor isn't as supple and you might also wish the steering were a tad quicker and there were less understeer. Those two things, coupled with an only adequate 5.4L and merely adequate transmission shifts, make the Raptor drive heavier than it should.
Another truck with exceptional seats was the Ram 2500 Mega Cab. With leather and Viper-like bolsters to hold you comfortably in place for hours, it is hard to imagine a seat getting much better. That is, until you find the heating and cooling feature. And that is just the front seats. Those riding in the back row won't feel relegated when they discover more legroom than an NBA locker room and an entertainment system that streams TV. Don't forget that the reclining rear bench . . . er, couch. It makes the rear cab a lot nicer space than many of our living rooms. No plywood and cinderblock bookshelves here-those get relegated to the bed in this truck, which incidentally can haul 2,100 pounds of the stuff.