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2000 Pickup Truck of the Year

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on September 8, 2003 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Michael Rudd

Of all the criteria used to judge a pickup truck, functionality has always been our biggest yardstick. And while it used to be the size of the bed and the payload that largely determined a truck's function, today it seems the hot buttons are the cab size, number of doors, and accessibility to those doors.

For the first time in Four Wheeler history, every truck in our Pickup Truck of the Year test has four doors. This speaks volumes about the needs of today's pickup buyers and lends to speculation about where pickup trends are heading.

This does not mean traditional pickup truck strengths such as four-wheeling ability, load-carrying capacity, and good old-fashioned low-end torque simply got swept under the rug. Today's pickups must do it all and do it all well. So it's no surprise that our Pickup Truck of the Year test is based on those same all-encompassing standards. As always, any new or significantly revised four-wheel-drive pickup truck is eligible for our test. And for 2000, the contenders were the new Nissan Frontier Crew Cab, Dodge Dakota Quad Cab, Toyota Tundra, and Dodge Ram Quad Cab Off-Road Package. Here's how the chips fell.

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Third Runner-Up: Nissan Frontier Crew Cab

Nissan scooped the competition by being first to the market this year with a compact crew-cab pickup. The compact crew-cab truck configuration has been a hot seller for more than 10 years in other parts of the world, and for many buyers, it simply makes sense. It really made sense for Nissan as a way to jazz up its image in the United States and give buyers a new reason to walk into their local Nissan dealerships.

Our Baywatch Yellow (not the official name of the color) Frontier was like the attractive young Hollywood star of the group, causing commotion wherever it went. Civilians raved about this little yellow truck, from Malibu lifeguards to jaded fullsize truck owners. As one observer noted, "This thing is just cool." Despite its being the smallest pickup with the smallest motor and smallest bed, we thought it was cool too. But adding doors does not necessarily make a good truck. Thankfully, Nissan had a solid compact truck platform to start with. Based on the extended-cab regular-bed chassis that placed Second only to the new fullsize ½-ton GM twin's in last year's Pickup Truck of the Year test, Nissan simply traded some bed for two more doors.

And the members of our staff found the chassis as capable in the rough as they did last year, tying for First Place in one book and besting the Tundra overall for the category. This was due in part to the truck's soft springs and easy-as- can-be lever-shifted transfer case and automatic hubs. Although some poo-pooed the backup procedure necessary for disengagement of these hubs, we liked the fact that manual hubs could be an easy aftermarket conversion.

On the trail, the Nissan won over some of the other units simply because it fit where the others did not. And despite the low-slung nerf bars, we never made contact. Although we like to see deeper low-range cogs than the 2.02:1 gears in the Nissan's 'case, the automatic tranny helped multiply the torque and allow the V-6 compact to follow our V-8 pack up the steepest climbs.

Equipped with Nissan's corporate 170-horse 3.3L V-6 and four-speed automatic shared with the larger Pathfinder as well as the new Xterra, our Crew Cab generated 121 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque at the dyno. Although this sounds lackluster, it was enough power to bring the 4,280-pound pickup to 60 mph in 12.35 seconds and across the quarter-mile mark in 18.99 seconds at 75 mph, nary a tick slower than the brawny 5.9L Ram. However, compared to the muscular Dakota and Tundra, our little Nissan left testers a bit uninspired in all-out acceleration and passing.

The payback for pony deficiencies is usually mileage. And the Nissan was no different, scoring Second in that category with an average 15.8 mpg for our 600-mile test. In the twisties, just as on the trail, the Nissan's inherent nimbleness made it a lot of fun for testers.

The soft suspension we enjoyed on the trail rewarded testers with a highway ride that scored in the top two spots in nearly every tester's book. This could be attributed to a low payload rating. Yet, with the ability to haul nearly 1,000 pounds (and tow 5,000), it seems that if it will fit in that little bed, the Nissan will haul it.

Although the interior was sparse compared to some of the leather and wood cabins in our test, staffers appreciated the basic and straightforward controls. The only real stickler inside was the seats, which lost a few points for being under-padded compared to the other thrones in the test. Although it has room for three adults in the back, testers agreed that for ingress and egress as well as long-term comfort, it was better suited to smaller folk.

Aside from this, the fun personality of this truck hit a home run for Nissan and is sure to appeal to those looking for a sporty, economical runabout that can hang with the big dogs on the trail.

Stuff We Liked

Nissan Bed X-Tender

Although the Nissan had the smallest bed of the group, this handy bed extender allowed us to stuff an extra foot of stuff behind the cab. The unit simply folds up and into the bed when not in use and is an option we recommend for Nissan Crew Cabs.

Nissan Automatic Hubs

While manual hubs are our favorite for simple and trouble-free 4WD engagement, automatic hubs come a close second. The main benefit to hubs (manual or auto) is that if anything in the front-drive system breaks (CV joint, differential, and so forth), the hubs will allow you to drive home. With a center axle disconnect or full-time system, at least half of the front-drive system will turn, and most likely so will the broken part.

Second Runner-Up: Dodge Ram Quad Cab Off-Road

Blessed with a new-for-2000 off-road package, the Dodge Ram Quad Cab was the slow-speed trail boss of the group this year. Although we've always known and appreciated the four-wheeling capability of these live-front-axle Rams, engineers decided to up the ante this year by raising the trucks nearly 2 inches with specific springs and shocks better suited to backcountry exploration. In addition to these unique suspension pieces, the off-road package offers an axle truss for the front Dana 44 that wraps around the differential and extends partway down the axletube as well as 4.10:1 gearing, dual front tow hooks, a rear antispin differential, and new 17-inch wheels wearing 275/70R17 Goodyear GSAs.

Although some testers had hoped for some sort of fully locking differential to be included in the package, its absence did not stop the Ram from scoring very high in our Trail Performance section. One tester simply noted, "Point and shoot, given the traction." While we liked the traction offered by the GSA tires, we wondered why an off-road package would consist of 17-inch tires, offering less sidewall than the 16-inchers on normal Rams.

Aside from that, it was hard to stop this beast in the outback. The truck seemed almost modified compared to the others as we traversed some super-twisty four-wheeling sections in the Anza Borrego desert. However, over higher-speed dry wash and whoops, the Ram seemed a bit dated. In those situations, the live axle front suspension would pogo a bit, and in deeper sand, the rear would hop more than the other trucks. This could be partly attributed to the Ram's heft. Regardless, this was a 1/2-ton chassis well-suited to the rigors of off-highway driving and one that could be built to handle more extreme terrain with very few modifications.

Our Quad Cab Ram was equipped with Dodge's stout 5.9L pushrod V-8 combined with the 46RE four-speed automatic, which testers enjoyed for its traditional torquey V-8 feel and quality shifts. Combine this with the lever-operated NVG 231 transfer case with 2.72:1 low range, and you have a powertrain that backs up the Peterbilt looks. On slow-go trails, the gearing combination felt perfectly suited to the tire size. Yet, some testers had a bit of trouble getting the lever into 4-Lo. Letting the Ram roll a bit remedied this, though not without a slight grind and audible clunk.

At the track, however, the numbers didn't reward the seat-of-the-pants feel testers got on the trail, with the Ram scoring an 18.67 at 74.5 mph in the quarter-mile. While the factory-rated 245 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque seemed surely adequate on paper, when compared to the lighter Dakota and Toyota, the Ram seemed a bit sluggish during passing maneuvers. While many people enjoy the benefits of a live-front- axle truck off-road (including us), on-road the trade-offs become apparent. As one young editor noted, "Steering feels looser than other trucks, with a bit of bumpsteer." Once the driver got used to the steering bug-a-boos, though, the Ram was a perfectly competent driver in the twisties despite its girth and tall ride height.

From the suspension to the driveline, rugged simplicity became the buzzwords for this Ram. And many testers found the interior to be just that, simple and functional. All the buttons and stalks operated with a nicely weighted click, and they seemed to be right where you would expect them to be. First on the scene with a four-door extended-cab fullsize pickup in 1998, the Ram Quad Cab has doors that are easy to operate and provides enough legroom to carry three. However, a less-steep rake to that rear seat would make life a bit more pleasant for the longer hauls.

This is a rough-and-tumble 4x4 with the right drivetrain for work in the dirt. However, this being a balanced evaluation of pickups, those rugged, almost purpose-built qualities we liked about the Ram kept it from placing toward the top in other categories. Regardless, we think any buyer in the market for a trail-oriented ½-ton deserves a ride in this new Dodge.

Stuff We Liked

Dodge Ram Dual Tow Hooks

As part of the off-road package, the Ram comes with these stout front tow hooks. While it seems natural that a 4WD pickup should have them, many do not. The Dodge units were perfectly sized for tow-strap use.

Dodge Ram Dana 44

Yes, kids, that's an honest-to-goodness live-axle Dana 44 sitting underneath the front of our Ram. We like solid front axles for their durability and articulation in the rough. As part of the off-road package, Dodge added a gusset/truss around the pumpkin as well as underneath the center axle disconnect (CAD)

First Runner-Up: Toyota Tundra Limited Access Cab TRD

While the T100 could be considered Toyota's first shot at gaining a slice of the fullsize pickup pie, without a V-8, it was a tough sell. Fullsize pickup buyers demand strong motors. And with the new 245hp, 32-valve I-Force V-8, the Toyota Tundra is poised to steal some of that pie.

Plainly speaking, this is a fast truck. It (quite literally) smoked the competition at the track with the best 0-60 and quarter-mile times of the bunch. And with its wide powerband and flat torque curve, nearly every tester rated this pickup at the top of the passing-power category. It had a smooth linear power thrust that felt like the best of the truck and luxury car V-8s in one engine. This was not surprising, since the 4.7L DOHC mill came directly (albeit modified for more torque) from Toyota's flagship Land Cruiser. Yet the icing on the cake was that this remarkable underhood prowess produced the best mileage number of the test at 16.0 mpg. We all agreed that the four-speed automatic could be an even smoother and more precise shifter than the 4L60E in Chevy's Silverado, our fullsize tranny favorite. In fact, the powertrain was so good that the Tundra won our Mechanical scoring section outright.

Reviews were more critical when it came to the highway section. While the steering was very precise and nicely weighted, two testers found the handling to be a bit on the mushy side, and the truck had a tendency to wag its tail in the tight twisties. On-road ride quality, though, scored at the top of nearly every test book, with one tester commenting, "Close your eyes on the freeway and it's a 'Cruiser." While we don't necessarily recommend this blind-driving evaluation, we can say the Tundra is probably one of--if not the--quietest and smoothest trucks available.

On the trail, the Tundra was a bit of a surprise. Many testers were expecting our TRD-equipped unit to have Toyota's wonderful rear diff lock. Unfortunately, market research determined that this low-volume option was not necessary for the Tundra. Suspension tuning was good for rocky trails, and it scored well here with several testers. However, we experienced some rear-end hop in the sand that one tester described as "jiggly."

The Toyota soaked the desert whoops driven at 5-10 mph with ease, but as the speed increased to, say, 15 mph, we felt the frontend unload--much like the Ram--most likely due to street-biased suspension tuning. The transfer case was another sticky point for testers, because the Tundra requires a specific order for the buttons to be pressed to engage and disengage low range. Once learned, this became second nature, but overall our testers preferred the simplicity of a lever.

Inside, comparisons to the Land Cruiser filled test books. From overall fit and finish to the quality of the materials and the feel of the switchgear and seats, the Tundra Limited's interior was probably the finest available in any pickup. The driving position and way the steering wheel fell into hand made this truck the MVP for long-stretch highway. Also, while not usually a major selling point for our staff, the premium stereo rivaled any factory system we've heard.

Overall, this was a very competent fullsize pickup. In many ways, it takes the breed to new levels of comfort, performance, quality, and luxury. Its strengths are benchmark and should give Toyota the healthy slice of the fullsize pie it deserves. Yet, the fact that this impressive truck did not take the gold in our test this year makes our winner just that much more impressive.

Stuff We Liked

Toyota Door Handles

It doesn't take a nuclear physicist to know door handles belong outside the vehicle. However, Toyota is the only manufacturer to incorporate outside door handles for an extended-cab pickup.

Toyota Sound System

It's not too often that we make a fuss about truck stereos, but the optional Premium three-in-one audio system in our Tundra was one of the best factory units we've heard in any vehicle.

The Winner!

Dodge Dakota Quad Cab

Today's pickup truck needs to be more balanced and well rounded than ever. To this end, the new Quad Cab Dakota scored at the top of nearly every category in all our testers' books. From styling to motor and chassis, the Dakota excelled in all our tests. For those who think this is merely an extended-cab Dakota with a shorter bed and two more doors, it is not. Engineers designed a unique wheelbase for this mini Ram as well as special spring rates front and rear and even unique cab mounts.

Motivating our Dakota was the powerful new 235hp 4.7L V-8 borrowed from the Jeep Grand Cherokee and mated to the slick-shifting NV3500 five-speed manual tranny. Now, most big-motor buffs would scoff at this smaller-displacement mill's replacing the venerable Magnum 5.2L V-8, but at the track, this little beast scorched the strip, leaving rubber in three gears and going on to nearly tie the speedy Tundra in both 0-60 and quarter-mile times. In fact, during our loaded acceleration test, with each truck carrying half its payload, the Dakota beat the Tundra by a few ticks to 60 and in the quarter-mile. Since our truck was preproduction and lacked motor-size badging, some testers thought this truck had the bigger 5.2L V-8 motor. Although that motor is history, Dodge still has the 5.9L Magnum V-8 paired with a new five-speed automatic available for those who need some extra torque for towing. The great motor and tranny topped the scores in the test books as the Dakota became the official muscle-truck of our group. One sophomoric tester seldom missed an opportunity to leave some black strips on the pavement and wring each and every horsepower and pound-foot of torque out of the little truck. And while this type of behavior rarely benefits our mileage testing, the Dakota still managed a respectable 14.0 mpg--only 1.8 mpg less than the Nissan.

On the trail, testers found the articulation (only bettered by the live-axle Ram) combined with the grunty V-8 and 43:1 crawl ratio to be one of the best factory crawlers around. And it came as no surprise that the gearing allowed it to handily win our crawl competition (see the "Second Annual Crawl-Off" sidebar). The soft suspension and bulbous (in this day of 17-inch tires) 31x10.50 tires smoothed trail obstacles better than any truck in the test. Over both the high-speed whoops and in the sandy dry wash, at least two testers thought this was the best of the bunch, one noting, "Great suspension. Pound it and it wants more."

Designing a suspension to handle all types of four-wheeling, ride smoothly on the pavement, and take corners like a sport truck is a tall order. The words balanced and grippy filled the test books as we sped along the twisty high-elevation canyons. Oddly, with the most sidewall of the group, the Dakota's 31-inch rubber seemed to do the best job in these high-speed corners, rarely barking a tire. While it didn't have the razor precision of the Tundra, the new-for-2000 rack-and-pinion steering gave testers a good feel for the road and made setting the chassis for the next turn a one-motion affair. Like with the Ram, which shared many of the Dakota's interior bits, testers liked the simple and straight-forward controls. The feel and weight of all the stalks and buttons were just what we liked, and many praised the thoroughness of the gauge cluster.

Since each truck in this contest had four doors, we thought it appropriate to cram three well-fed Four Wheeler staffers in the back seat of each truck for comparison. All unanimously voted the Dakota as having the best seat for legroom, comfort, and ingress/egress. One scribbled in his book, "This is the only one I want for a trip to Vegas."

Anyone familiar with Four Wheeler history will remember that the Dakota won our '97 Pickup Truck of the Year test and the Dakota-based Durango won our Four Wheeler of the Year in 1998. If you're guessing that we like this chassis, you're right. This latest Dakota simply delivers more of a good thing--more power, more doors, more versatility. And it's this balance of talents that makes the Dakota Quad Cab our Pickup Truck of the Year for 2000.

Stuff We Liked

Dakota Wheels and Tires

In a world where 16-, 17-, and even 18-inch P-Metric tires are finding their way onto nearly every truck today, we appreciate those manufacturers that continue to use 15-inch wheels and flotation tires. These 31x10.50R15 Goodyears on our Dakota provided the most sidewall for the trail and, incidentally, rated very high in the books for the street.

Dakota Transfer-Case Lever

Three out of four pickups in our test used a lever to engage 4WD. That must mean people still like to be hands-on when it comes to 4WD systems. The lever in our Dakota was the slickest shifter of the bunch.

The Power Behind The Pickups: PTOTY Engines

Dodge Ram 5.9L V-8

Producing 245 hp at 4,000 rpm and 345 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm, this 360 is still one of our favorite truck V-8s. At the dyno, we recorded 215 hp at 5,000 rpm and 294 lb-ft of torque at a very useable-for-the-trail 2,500 rpm. While mileage wasn't great, the fact that we drove with lead feet and the big beast weighed 5,640 pounds might have had something to do with it.

Toyota 4.7L V-8

The Tundra's V-8 is based on the 4.7L mill that comes in the flagship Land Cruiser and Lexus LX 470 SUVs. This aluminum alloy head, 32-valve DOHC brute has direct ignition, individual ignition coils for each spark plug to produce 245 hp at 4,800 rpm and 315 lb-ft of torque at 3,400 rpm. At the dyno, we measured 198 rear-wheel horsepower at 4,500 rpm and 245 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. Amazingly, this engine produced the fastest acceleration times as well as the best mileage numbers. Kudos to Toyota.

Dodge 4.7L V-8

Borrowed directly from the Jeep Grand Cherokee, this new 16-valve SOHC 287ci V-8 has aluminum alloy heads and 9.3:1 compression. It produces 235 hp at a relatively high 4,800 rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque at a more useable 3,200 rpm. On the dyno, we measured 218 hp at 5,000 rpm with 246 lb-ft of peak torque coming online at 3,500 rpm. The torque peak was more like a torque plateau for this motor, because it made more than 225 lb-ft from 2,500 rpm all the way to 5,000 rpm.

Nissan 3.3L V-6

Although this was the smallest motor in our test, it was bolted to the smallest and lightest pickup. This SOHC mill is rated at 170 hp at 4,800 rpm and 200 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm. At the dyno, it produced peak rear-wheel horsepower at 4,500 rpm with 121 hp. Torque numbers were extremely flat from 2,500 rpm to 5,000, producing a peak 150 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm. This was a nice motor for the application, and the average 15.8 mpg made it that much better.

PTOTY 4WD Systems

Dodge Ram

The Ram has one of the best 4WD systems on the market for those who yearn for rugged function and capability from a pickup. While the NVG 231D (Dodge) transfer case is basically the same unit found in Jeep Wranglers and Cherokees as well as Dakotas, for this application, the internals are strengthened and a wider chain is employed. With a 2.72:1 low range and a lever to engage it, this system is hard to beat, especially with a trussed and 4.10:1 geared Dana 44 solid axle sitting up front suspended by coil springs. Out back is a Chrysler Corporate 9 ¼-inch axle with a Dana antispin limited-slip differential. Instead of hubs, Dodge uses a vacuum-actuator located on the axletube for 4WD engagement.

Dodge Dakota

Like the Ram, the Dakota also uses the NVG 231 transfer case with a 2.72:1 low range and a traditional floor-mounted lever to engage it. Most testers found this to be the slickest-shifting transfer case of the group. Also shared with the Ram is the Corporate 9 ¼-inch rear axle, which outbeefs every compact truck as well as most ½-ton fullsize trucks. Up front, Dodge uses an independent torsion bar front suspension (IFS). The front differential is an aluminum Dana 30 and houses 3.90:1 gears. The NV3500 five-speed tranny is the same unit that's now used in Jeeps and ½-ton Rams. It has a First-gear ratio of 4.0:1, making the crawl ratio more than 40:1.

Nissan Frontier

The Frontier has one of the simplest 4WD systems on the market, and we like that. Automatic hubs provide 4WD engagement and require a few feet of backing before they disengage. Owners wanting manual hubs should note that it should be an easy conversion with either Nissan parts or a kit from Warn. The Corporate Nissan transfer case provides 2.02:1 low-range gearing. While that's certainly sufficient, we'd like to see deeper low-range gears, like those in the two Dodge trucks. Nissan (thankfully) uses a lever to work this case, and low range is accomplished by simply pushing down on the lever and sliding it back. A Nissan Corporate live axle rides in back, while its Corporate torsion-bar IFS sits in front.

Toyota Tundra

Despite being a new design, the Tundra uses several carryover parts from the Tacoma/4Runner and the T100. In V-8 4WD models, the A340F four-speed automatic from the T100 is used and mated to the VF2BM two-speed transfer case. This transfer case, with a 2.56:1 low range, is a version of the Tacoma/4Runner 'case (VF2A) modified for push-button 4WD selection. A Transfer Shift Actuator is mounted at the rear of the transfer case and selects the appropriate 4WD or 2WD function based on the 4WD position signal sent to the 4WD Control ECU. Toyota uses an A.D.D. (automatic disconnecting differential) for 4WD engagement (as with Tacoma and 4Runner), which operates much like the center axle disconnect found on the Ram but uses an electric motor in place of vacuum. The axles also are a carryover from the Tacoma/4Runner/T100 with an IFS 7.5-inch front differential and a Corporate 8-inch in the rear.

Who Liked What?

Each year, at the end of the test, we ask the testers to say which vehicle they would choose for themselves. Being natural blowhards and babblers (journalists), we usually have no trouble spouting off a bit when asked our opinions. On our test this year, we had editorial director (former Four Wheeler editor) John Stewart, editor Mark Williams, the always sexy and vivacious senior editor Jimmy Nylund, editor of our sister magazine 4x4 Power and former Four Wheeler staffer Tom Morr, road test editor Ben Stewart, photographer Michael Rudd, and publisher Joe "It's my pillow now, suckers!" Sebergandio. Michael was too busy generating great photos to score a book for the test, and Joe was too busy barbequing for John, but the rest of our personal picks for PTOTY 2000 can be found below. John Stewart--"The Dakota is the best street/sport truck, the Ram is probably the best crawler, and the Nissan is the best buy. But the Tundra has the best combination of power, handling, and smart engineering."

Mark Williams--"This is the tightest PTOTY I can remember, with lots of close scores. While the Ram Quad is the big bruiser, the Dakota does everything well. But I'd take the Tundra with the best mileage and rocket-launcher motivation. As a second choice, I'd take the Nissan Crew. It surprised the (darn heck) out of me. Compact size with enough bed room to satisfy me enough of the time."

Jimmy Nylund--"Put a locker in the Nissan and go...oh and maybe a blower. Put tires on the Ram and go...oh and maybe some Rancho 9000s. Put CDs in the Tundra and go on your favorite road. Put a gear reduction in the Dakota and go...nearly anywhere you want. But for a do-it-all pickup, I'd have to go with the Ram, with the Dakota a close second."

Tom Morr--"The Dakota is my pick. It's really a jack-of-all trades. Powerful, comfortable, best rear-seat configuration--it handles well, and it has a useable bed as well."

Ben Stewart--"The Ram is the obvious trail king, plus imagine all the cordwood you could stack. As far as motors go, I want the Tundra. The Nissan surprised everyone and is great for the money, but the truck that really excels on pavement and off is the Dakota."

Our Test Procedure

Once the new-for-2000 trucks qualify for our Pickup Truck of the Year competition, our work begins. Our route basically covers all of southern California, starting at Los Angeles County Raceway in Palmdale then moving south to San Diego County and the desert scapes of Ocotillo Wells, near Borrego Springs. We then head back to Los Angeles for sushi and bottled water (just kidding) and on up to Hungry Valley SVRA in Gorman, where facilities include steep hillclimbs, man-made rock trails, backcountry water crossings, dry washes, and various other challenges, including but not limited to finding a good meal. During the test, each tester rotates through each truck in each of the varying terrains, recording in their test booklets impressions, details, and general observations about how each vehicle performs.

Scoring is based on five basic categories weighted as follows: Mechanical 25 percent, Trail Performance 30, Highway Performance 20, Interior 15, and Exterior 10. This year, 4,000 points were available in 38 subcategories (engine layout, front seats, directional stability, attract-the-opposite-sex factor, and so forth) as each judge saw fit. Each judge also votes on the vehicle he thinks should win the test. We've published comments from those pesky loudmouths in the "Who Liked What?" sidebar.

In addition, nine separate objective categories award points based on specific empirical data: acceleration, braking, turning diameter, Ramp Travel Index (RTI), ground clearance, and other stuff. This section is added to the subjective testing and accounts for 20 percent of each truck's total score. In the end, it's helpful if you happen to have a degree in quantum physics when tabulating the scores. Thankfully our overschooled editor, Mark Williams, deals with this chore each year. We print as much data in chart form as we can fit in the story. This is intended to allow any reader, with any given set of priorities, to choose his or her own winner.

The Second Annual Crawl-Off

Last year, we thought it would be interesting to have a crawl race between the pickups down a relatively steep hill at Hungry Valley SVRA. We used this to demonstrate how slowly and controlled a truck could descend a trail in First-gear low range. This capability is normally a function of the crawl ratio. To calculate a crawl ratio, multiply the First-gear ratio in the transmission to the axle ratio to the transfer-case low-range ratio. Basically, the higher the number, the slower (and more controlled) a vehicle can traverse rough terrain. For this exercise, we lined our pickups at the top of the hill in First-gear low range and timed them to the bottom. The pickup with the slowest time to the bottom won.

The Dakota, with a 4.0:1 First gear, a 2.72:1 low range, and 3.90:1 axle gears, had a crawl ratio of 42.4:1 and won our contest with a time of 17.69 seconds. Hail to the crawler.

Past Pickup Truck Of The Year Winners

1989: Toyota SR5
1990: Mitsubishi Mighty Max
1991: GMC K2500 HD
1992: Dodge Dakota Club Cab
1993: Ford Ranger SuperCab
1994: Chevrolet ZR2
1995: Ford F-250 Super Cab PowerStroke
1996: Toyota Tacoma XtraCab
1997: Dodge Dakota Club Cab
1998: Toyota Tacoma XtraCab TRD
1999: Chevrolet Silverado Z71

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