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2014 Pickup Truck Of The Year

2014 Ram 2500 Chevy Silverado And Toyota Tundra
Ali Mansour
| Brand Manager, 4Wheel Drive & Sport Utility
Posted January 8, 2014
Photographers: Ken Brubaker

Fresh faces, supple suspensions & big-time bragging rights

Dirt, trucks, and backcountry exploration-it’s not only what we enjoy, but the core of our annual week-long wheel-fest that is Pickup Truck of the Year. Pickup Truck of the Year (PTOTY) isn’t about which truck can do one thing the best, but rather, what model is the top all-around contender. We don’t haul trailers or excessive amounts of cargo, but we do rake in over 1,000 miles of on- and off-road driving conditions. To participate in the late-model truck showdown, the pickup has to be all-new or significantly revised from the previous model year, have a two-speed transfer case, a production run of at least 1,500 vehicles available in the U.S., and be on sale by January 15, 2014.

Over the course of the week, we cover an immense variety of terrain and specific challenges to uncover the trucks strengths and weaknesses. Each truck is then scored based on how it performs in a series of categories. Since we are an off-road-based magazine, the wheeling portion of our judging carries the most weight. The total points breakdown is as follows: Trail Performance 30%, Empirical 25% (price, payload, mpg, ground clearance, etc.), On Pavement 20%, Interior 15%, and Exterior 10%. We test each vehicle just as the manufacturer offers it—this means no modifications are done to things such as tire pressure, low-hanging bumpers, or the easy-to-kill steps.

This year’s participants included a Chevy Silverado 1500 Crew Cab Z-71, Ram 2500 Outdoorsman Crew Cab, and Toyota Tundra SR5 CrewMax. Other eligible vehicles/companies included the Ford F-150, Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, Ram Power Wagon, Ram 3500, and GMC 1500. The aforementioned companies were invited to participate, but had to decline for various reasons. Our testing arena is sunny Southern California. Why? Because SoCal has mountains, desert, rocks, sand, and endless roads—ranging from fast and windy to smog-soaked and traffic-filled. If there is one state where you can get your fill of a truck’s overall performance and quality, California is it.

We start off our test by taking a closer look at items that are not so easy to see. We’re talking about transfer case skids, suspension geometry, and undercarriage layouts. For this, we racked the trucks on a series of vehicle lifts at Mel Wade’s premier 4x4 shop, Off Road Evolution, located in Fullerton, California. Once we view what’s hiding beneath, we twist the trucks on a 30-degreee ramp to gather ramp travel index scores. After the preliminary testing, we set out to the outreaches of the Southern California desert, where we spend the remainder of the week hitting trails and twisty backroads.

This year’s competition was as close as it gets and full of surprises. So, sit tight, hold on, and read closely as we break down our top three contenders—and crown one pickup that just edged out the competition.

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