How We Test Them
Four Wheeler's Pickup Truck of the Year is quite a process. First we have to actually get the trucks from the manufacturers, which usually involves plenty of phone calls. Then we have to figure out a time when all the staff can be out of the office for a week, which is short of impossible. Of course there is also a ton of logistics--like where we are going to go, permits, insurance and where we are going to stay. Once we jump through all the hoops and the vehicles arrive, the testing can actually begin.
Over the next four days we go from the drag strip to the desert with plenty of time on the pavement in between. In the desert we get to brave triple-digit temperatures and run plenty of trails. This year we learned that nothing beats trying to free a truck mired in the dunes when it is 110 degrees out. When on the pavement we try to get a nice combination of freeway and twisty mountain roads.
Of course along the way our team of judges is dutifully taking notes and picking each vehicle apart to see what it is good at and what it is not so good at. Finally the judges begin the process of scoring each pickup in five separate categories. The Mechanical category counts for 25 percent of the total score and is where the judges score all the mechanical aspects of the vehicle. Trail Performance is another category and accounts for 30 percent of the final score. Here judges score how a vehicle does in the dirt. Another important category is Highway Performance and it is where the ride and handling of the truck while it is one the pavement is judged. It is weighted at 20 percent of the final score. The inside of the vehicle is judge in the Interior category, which makes up 15 percent of the final score. Finally the outside of the vehicle is judged in the Exterior category, which is 10 percent of the final score. Once all the scores are in a winner can be determined.
The Slow Race
Every year the trucks of Pickup Truck of the Year go through a wide variety of testing procedures. One of these is what we refer to as the slow race. While usually the word slow is not associated with the concept of a race, it fits here cause the idea of this race is to finish dead last. Why? Well, it is a test of the truck's ability to crawl, and in extremely rough terrain the slower you can crawl, the better. Thus the truck that finishes last crawls the best.
Conducting the test is fairly easy. We find a slight grade, line the trucks up evenly, put them in first gear and low range and let go of the brake. When the first truck hits the finish line, everyone comes to a stop. The truck that is in the back of the pack is the winner. This year it was no surprise to find the Ford Super Duty with the 6.0L V-8 diesel was the best crawler. Following closely was the Ford Ranger FX4 Level II with its 4.10 gears and manual trans. The Dodge Ram 2500 and GMC Sierra 1500 rushed to the line in a photo finish for last place.