How We Test Them
Lots of work goes into Four Wheeler's Pickup Truck of the Year. First, we have to get all the vehicles and staff together, a chore which is a lot like herding cats. Then we head out to our testing grounds in the desert of Southern California. Over a period of four days, we cover lots of ground with plenty of rocky trails, high-speed washes, and sand dunes thrown in. In between the dirt sections, we try to traverse a good mixture of highway and twisty back roads in the effort to find the best performing pickup on and off the road.
Throughout the test, the judges are constantly evaluating the pickups and making illegible notes in their books. Judging consists of five separate categories each with many subcategories. The Mechanical category counts for 25 percent of the total, and takes into account such aspects as performance of the engine, transmission, transfer case, brakes, and steering. Next is Trail Performance, which makes up 30 percent of the total points and consists of performance on high-speed trails, rocky trails, and sand dunes. Accounting for 20 percent of the points total is the Highway Performance category. Here highway ride, handling, maneuverability, visibility, and other aspects are judged. The Interior compromises 15 percent of the scoring and every aspect of the interior is evaluated. Finally, the Exterior accounts for 10 percent of the score. Fit and finish, quality of paint, and overall appearance are evaluated here. In the end, the scores are tabulated and a winner is determined.
The Four Wheeler Slow Race
One of the tests to which we submit every set of Pickup Truck of the Year candidates is the slow race. We intend it as a simple and graphic demonstration of how each vehicle uses its particular combination of idle speed and gearing. What we're looking for is a long, slow crawl. We stick each vehicle in low-range, shift each into Drive (or First gear), and when someone hollers "Go!" into the walkie-talkies, then we take our feet from the brakes. We crawl for about 50 feet, and when someone yells "Stop!" into the radio, we stop.
This year it was clear that the Avalanche had the best combination of idle speed and gearing, for it finished at the back of the pack. Almost as slow, however, was the Dodge Ram. Next came the Tacoma, then the Ford, then the Tundra, and, fastest of all the crawlers, the Frontier.