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2015 Pickup Of The Year - Wheeled Warriors

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on March 2, 2015 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Ken Brubaker

Each model year, pickup truck manufacturers integrate new features onto the trucks they create and every few years manufacturers introduce significantly changed or all-new trucks. This perpetually changing truck landscape means that to keep up requires a lot of research. For those who are in the market for a new truck, it translates to a lot of visits to dealerships to inspect and drive these rigs. Dealerships can be accommodating, but they’re probably not going to let you have each truck for a week so you can pile 900 miles on them in a variety of terrain both on- and off-road. And even if they did, you probably don’t have time for that because you need to work to earn a living.

This is where we come in. Each year, we corral the latest and greatest pickup trucks for a weeklong test doing exactly what we just said. For the last few decades we’ve tested substantially changed or all-new trucks, all at one time, in a variety of terrain, and it’s called Pickup Truck of the Year (PTOTY).

For 2015, the field of competitors included the all-new Chevy Colorado Z71, the 6.4L Hemi-powered Ram Power Wagon, and the Bilstein/TRD-equipped Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. The all-new ’15 Ford F-150 also qualified, but Ford was unable to provide a vehicle by the test date. To qualify for PTOTY, vehicles must be all-new or substantially 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 March 15, 2015.

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During the week of testing, we left no stone unturned, as the saying goes. This year, we started out by putting each truck on an RTI ramp to measure suspension articulation, and then we pointed the trucks toward a racetrack to measure acceleration and braking. Once all of that was completed, we spent the next four days testing in a wide range of specially chosen terrain. You can read more about the testing later in the story. This year, we had seven experienced judges at PTOTY, and as testing took place, they were analyzing a wide range of topics from four-wheel-drive system operation and function to cargo bed tie-down function. Judges were required to score each vehicle in a variety of areas as well as record detailed notes in the official judging books. In the end, this information was used to crown a winner. You can read more details of the judging procedure elsewhere in this story.

This year’s test was quite fascinating, indeed. In the end, there were some bumps and bruises to the rigs, but nothing major, which was a testament to their ruggedness. After a week of living with these rigs, their strengths and weaknesses were clear. So read on to learn what’s new with these four trucks, what works, what doesn’t, which vehicle won, and much more.

4th Place

CHEVY COLORADO Z71

What’s New
The midsize Colorado is all-new for 2015. This full-frame truck is available as an extended cab longbed (6-foot, 2-inch bed) or a Crew Cab in either shortbed (5-foot, 2-inch bed) or longbed configurations. The Colorado uses an independent front suspension with aluminum knuckles and a coil-over-shock setup. Out back is a solid axle with a leaf-spring suspension. Depending on configuration, the Colorado is available with either a 2.5L I-4 engine or a 3.6L V-6 engine (mated to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission depending on cab style). The transfer case is a two-speed unit and is electronically shifted. Compared to the previous-generation ’12 model, the ’15 Colorado is almost 6 inches wider and 3 inches taller, and it has an almost 3-inch-wider track. For PTOTY, Chevy sent us a V-6-powered Crew Cab shortbed in Z71 trim. Strangely, the Z71 “Suspension Package” doesn’t include any suspension upgrades, but it does include a G80 automatic locking rear differential, transfer case skidplate, front towhooks, projector headlamps, 17-inch wheels, and all-terrain tires.

Ramp and Track
On the 20-degree RTI ramp, the Colorado earned a score of 391 points. The low 17.3-degree approach angle of the truck meant the low-hanging front air dam desperately wanted to stuff into the RTI ramp as we drove on. To avoid air dam damage we concocted a ramp prior to the RTI ramp using wood blocks. At the track, the 305hp V-6 hauled the approximately 4,450-pound truck to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 16.6 seconds at 86.2 mph. The Colorado’s four-wheel-disc brakes combined with the standard ABS to take the truck from 60 mph to a dead stop in 131.4 feet, the shortest stopping distance of this group of trucks.

Exterior/Interior
Overall, judges liked the Colorado’s styling. “Chevy did well on the design,” one judge wrote. Judges liked the smooth and easy operation of the EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate and the functional features borrowed from the fullsize Silverado like the triple-sealed doors inlaid in the body sides, which made for a solid seal and contribute to the Colorado’s impressively quiet cabin. The Colorado lost points due to a lack of sheetmetal and body protection. The interior scored very high with the judges. “This is a cabin I want to be in,” wrote a judge. “I feel like Chevy used quality materials where it matters most, where the driver interfaces with the truck. Steering wheel, shifter, stereo, and HVAC knobs,” wrote another. And speaking of the HVAC system, we think the Colorado’s system has one of the most well designed digital/manual interfaces on the market. It’s easy to use with no learning curve. The similarities of the Colorado to GMs fullsize trucks were noted numerous times by judges. “There are definitely cues of this truck trying to be a smaller version of its 1⁄2-ton older brother,” a judge wrote. Complaints: Judges felt that the rear seatback was too vertical and several larger-framed judges noted that the front seats felt small.

On-Road
The Colorado’s excellent road manners netted it the highest score in this group of vehicles. Judges noted the solid feel of the truck and the fact that the coil-over-shock front suspension and electrically-assisted power rack-and-pinion steering helped it handle very well on twisty roads. “This truck handles great,” a judge noted. Overall ride quality was very good as well. There were no complaints about the function and feedback of the electric steering, and this lack of complaining from the judges indicates that GM got it right. Brake pedal feel and overall brake operation was excellent, which we speculate would translate to confident braking when the Colorado is towing its maximum of 7,000 pounds. Judges thought that engine power was adequate but that the V-6 was surprisingly noisy. Judges noted that the six-speed transmission shifted in and out of Overdrive regularly at highway speeds. “In and out of OD a lot,” or something similar, was a common notation from the judges.

Visually, it's a very sharp-looking truck with great sightlines, and it seems to ride and drive excellent for a truck in its class

Off-Road
While blasting the Colorado down washboard roads, we were impressed at the solid feel of the truck. “Very solid. No rattles or squeaks,” noted one judge. Judges were also impressed at the truck’s abilities in the sand and snow. When the traction control was cancelled, the Colorado came alive in these terrains. “You get tire-spinning freedom, even in two-wheel drive,” noted one judge. Judges also noted the smooth function of the G80 automatic rear locker, and comments included “smooth” and “it works well.” Judges were less enthusiastic about the placement of the four-wheel-drive selector knob, which was low and left of the driver. Judges were also disappointed at the lack of off-road package content. “GM had Hummer in its portfolio at one point. This means the company is capable of making a worthwhile and extremely competent midsized off-roader (H3T Alpha, anyone?),” wrote a judge. The low 17.1-degree approach angle was the Colorado’s biggest off-road hindrance, and it required diligence to keep the front air dam from stuffing into rocks on the trail or trying to act as a plow in sand and snow.

Bottom Line
The Colorado Z71 has a lot going for it. It feels very solid, offers good fuel mileage, great ride quality, decent power, and a very competitive price in its segment. The truck is decently capable in the dirt, even with the low approach angle. This approach angle is one of the reasons why the truck gets good highway fuel mileage though, so it’s a trade-off. We’d love to see GM get serious with the Colorado’s Z71 package and add tougher shocks, body protection, and more aggressive tires. Maybe even a front suspension height increase.

What's Hot:
Off-road maneuverability
Fuel mileage
Ride
On-road handling
Stiff body structure

What's Not:
Noisy engine
Poor approach angle
4WD selector knob location
Lack of off-road content in the Z71 package

Logbook Quotes
“I guess we can rejoice that it has a coil-over-shock front suspension (finally, no torsion bars), which should open the suspension up to significant aftermarket potential.”
“I’m sure there would be some type of aerodynamic upset, resulting in a fuel economy penalty, but I would ditch the lower valance. It doesn’t look good and hangs too low.”

PhotosView Slideshow

3rd Place

Toyota Tundra Trd Pro

What’s New
The big news for 2015 is that the Tundra is available with the new TRD Pro package. This package fits the Tundra with a variety of items including TRD-tuned high-performance Bilstein piggyback-reservoir shocks. Compared to the non-TRD Pro Tundra, each shock has a larger diameter piston and shaft. The TRD Pro also has TRD-tuned front springs that are said to provide 2 inches of lift and have a decreased spring rate to improve ride quality over harsh terrain. Toyota says that the TRD Pro suspension has 1.4 inches of additional wheel travel up front and 1.5 inches of additional wheel travel in the rear. Other TRD Pro features include 18-inch TRD alloy wheels, Tundra-exclusive Michelin Off-Road Package tires, TRD dual stainless steel exhaust, new TRD front skidplate, unique front grille, special badging (including TRD Pro stamped into the bedsides), multi-reflector halogen headlights with black sport bezels and manual level control, TRD floormats and shift knob, unique seat color with red stitching, and a unique IP ornament insert.

Ramp and Track
The TRD Pro earned a score of 463 on the 20-degree RTI ramp. This is a healthy 61-point increase over the same wheelbase Tundra SR5 we tested at last year’s PTOTY. At the track, the TRD Pro accelerated 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds and cleared the quarter-mile in 15.6 seconds at 91 mph. These acceleration figures are on par with the numbers generated last year, and they are the fastest in this group of vehicles. The Tundra’s four-wheel disc brakes brought the truck to a stop from 60 mph in 140.5 feet.

Best ever version of the Tundra so far. Suspension tuned very well.

Exterior/Interior
The all-business appearance of the Tundra gathered praise from the judges. “This is the best looking Tundra so far,” wrote one judge. “Sexy,” said another. Judges liked the plastic bedrail covers and the 12 hooks in the cargo bed. However, judges questioned the two hard-to-access front towhooks and the lack of body protection on the off-road-centric truck. Inside, judges noted the impressive space with lots of headroom and legroom. “The interior is geared for larger people,” noted one judge. “I love the spacious interior,” wrote another. The large HVAC controls were easy to use, though the garish silver knobs drew criticism. One judge wrote, “The brushed aluminum knobs look like the ones on my dad’s Hi-Fi stereo from 1975.” Some judges felt that there were too many finishes inside the cabin. Front seat comfort was good, though the back seat felt cramped to some judges but there was good headroom, though. Overall, the Tundra didn’t score well in the Interior category. “Compared to other 1⁄2-tons in its class, the Tundra is still a letdown inside. There are some basic controls that we dig, but overall it’s not up to par,” wrote one judge.

On-Road
The Tundra is a large truck, but it handled very well. The Michelin tires did a great job of gripping canyon roads as we sailed through the curves. The TRD exhaust sounded great. “The exhaust note is just flat-out cool and sounds even better when you romp on it,” noted one judge. Another said, “If you like a throaty exhaust, you’ll love this.” Praise was also centered on the 5.7L V-8 engine and the six-speed automatic transmission. “Engine feels powerful,” said a judge. “Fun engine and tranny combo. Lively,” said another. The decreased spring rate of the front TRD springs helped contribute to a smooth, comfortable ride on the open road.

Off-Road
If there was ever a question that a suspension could be good on- and off-road, the Tundra TRD Pro proved that it is possible. As good as the suspension was on-road it was just as good off-road. “Excellent suspension,” and “Soft suspension, smooth for an off-road package,” were some of the judge’s comments. The TRD/Bilstein-equipped suspension soaked up rough terrain, whether it was trail or rutted sand, and this meant our kidneys and tooth fillings stayed in place. It was no surprise that the suspension bottomed out more than others in this test when pushed hard over very rough terrain, but even then, the bumpstops did a good job of providing cushioning. The Tundra was a judge favorite in the sand due to its ample, willing power from the 381hp 5.7L engine. “This thing is a riot to flog in the sand,” wrote one tester. As we threw the Tundra through the sand we were serenaded by the incredibly muscular sound from the TRD exhaust. In the rocks, the truck did surprisingly well, aided by the electronic traction control system. However, all judges questioned the soft, mild-tread Michelin tires that worked well in the snow and sand but suffered chunking and sidewall cuts during testing on rock-strewn trails and hillclimbs.

Bottom Line
The Tundra TRD Pro is a very unique fullsize truck. It has a great look thanks to a number of cool TRD Pro-specific visual mods, outstanding on-road manners, gobs of grumbly power, and it’s capable off-road for what most owners will subject it to. The TRD Pro package puts the Tundra in the upper echelon of off-road-ready fullsize OE pickups. With that said, we wish the Tundra TRD Pro had more aggressive tires, additional underbody skidplating, and a locker or limited-slip rear diff.

What's Hot:
Power, exhaust sound
Soft suspension
Great visual appeal

What's Not:
Street-type tires
Front towhook placement

Logbook Quotes
“The suspension feels very supple and smooth on-road. It doesn’t feel like something you would get from the factory. In fact, it feels like a nice aftermarket suspension, which is a good thing.”
“It’s great to see Toyota caring about the off-road market and creating a platform like this. Sure, there are things I don’t like, but it should be noted that they put forth an effort. It’s not a Raptor effort by any stretch, but an effort nevertheless.”

PhotosView Slideshow

2nd Place

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

What’s New
The new TRD Pro package fits the Tacoma with a variety of items including TRD-tuned high-performance Bilstein shocks. Compared to the non-TRD Pro Tacoma, each front shock has a larger diameter piston and shaft and each remote-reservoir rear shock has a larger piston. The TRD Pro also has TRD-tuned front springs that provide a 13⁄4-inch lift and are said to have a decreased spring rate to improve ride quality over harsh terrain. Toyota says that the TRD Pro suspension has 3⁄4-inch additional wheel travel up front and 11⁄2 inches of additional wheel travel in the rear. Other TRD Pro features include new 16-inch TRD alloy beadlock-style wheels, BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO tires, black OE skidplate, TRD after-cat exhaust, unique front grille, black TRD Pro and Toyota badging, TRD floormats, and a TRD shift knob.

This truck loves speed. The more of it the better (off-road)

Ramp and Track
The TRD Pro suspension helped the Tacoma earn an impressive score of 473 points on the 20-degree RTI ramp. This is a remarkable 93-point improvement over the same wheelbase Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Access Cab we tested at PTOTY 2013. At the track, the Tacoma’s 236hp 4.0L engine pulled the truck from a dead stop to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 16.5 seconds at 84.3 mph. These performance numbers are almost identical to the numbers generated by the Tacoma TRD T|X Baja Access Cab we tested in 2013. The disc/drum brakes brought the TRD Pro to a dead stop from 60 mph in 138.9 feet, which is an improvement of almost 5 feet compared to the TRD T|X Baja we tested previously.

Exterior/Interior
Overall, judges gave the exterior of the Tacoma good marks. “Great stance,” wrote one judge. Another said, “The most visually appealing Tacoma to date, in my opinion.” Judges liked the chrome-free exterior and the TRD Pro-specific items like the black badging, grille, and front skidplate. Judges didn’t care for the low-hanging mud flaps (which miraculously stayed attached even after a week of wheeling) and some judges were bothered by the slight nose-high stance of the TRD Pro. The interior scored the lowest of this group, with comments like “Very outdated and old-feeling,” and “dated” being the norm. Judges also noted that the cabin was noisier at speed than some of the more recently designed trucks. However, age aside, the interior is very functional with no learning curve and lots of hidden storage areas. Judges also liked the fold-flat rear seats and the power outlet in the cargo bed. The shortest judge found visibility from the driver seat to be a problem. “The Toyotas in this test sit nose-high, which is annoying. The fact that you can’t adjust the seat any better in this truck makes it that much worse,” he complained. However, taller judges had no problem and several noted the great visibility from the driver seat.

On-Road
Judges expressed mixed emotions on the Tacoma’s on-road handling. Some felt that the steering was slow to respond and that the brakes were touchy past 1-inch of pedal travel. Overall, judges felt it was fun to drive though. “Very sport truck-like, fun to drive,” wrote one judge. “It was surprisingly tossable on twisty canyon roads,” wrote another judge. The V-6 engine’s power comes on strong in the higher rpms, and the engine worked well with the five-speed automatic transmission. Judges noted the lack of throttle delay, which made power roll-on almost instantaneous, unlike some vehicles we’ve tested where there’s a distinct delay in power delivery. The TRD Pro’s ride was a bit harsh on rough roads at low speed, but the suspension was in its element on rough roads at speed. The TRD after-cat exhaust emitted a bold exhaust note, which was clearly obvious from the cab. “If you don’t like loud exhaust, this is not the truck for you. But it sounds cool in a sport truck sorta way,” noted one judge.

Off-Road
The TRD Pro was in its element off-road. The truck’s great approach, departure, rampover, and ground clearance meant it was one of the judge’s favorite rigs. The TRD Pro suspension owned rough terrain at speed, and we were able to blast along without a care. In the rocks, the truck did great thanks to the enhanced suspension travel, awesome clearances, and the electronically controlled locking rear differential. In the snow and sand, we were able to romp the truck up to a point before the traction control took over. We appreciated the front towhook and front towloop. Complaints: As it was on-road, the suspension was stiff at low speed on rough terrain, which made for a harsh ride; the traction control was often overactive and can’t be completely canceled; and four-wheel-drive engagement was a tad slow.

Bottom Line
We think the Tacoma TRD Pro is the best Tacoma yet for those who want a smaller pickup with big off-road capability, and we think it’s possibly the most capable small pickup available in the U.S. today. If we had a wish list, we’d add a front diff locker and a manual shift T-case, but even without those items, this truck is ready and willing to hit the trail. The new TRD Pro package includes a well thought out group of mods that combine to make this truck very off-road capable and a lot of fun.

What's Hot:
Great stance
Improved wheel travel
Front suspension lift
TRD/Bilstein shocks
great clearances
Impressive power at high rpms

What's Not:
Can’t completely cancel traction control
Slow 4WD engagement
Dated interior, interior noise at speed

Logbook Quotes
“If you drive it hard, you’ll be rewarded with power.”
“A-Trac is terrible. Make it go away. A front locker would make this truck a real contender.”
“Despite the electronic nannies, you can have fun cutting loose off-road.”
“Overall, the suspension is way too stiff and makes for a somewhat unpleasant ride quality off-road. That’s why I scored it lower for rocky trails and sand.”

PhotosView Slideshow

Winner!

Ram Power Wagon

What’s New
For 2014, the Ram Power Wagon received a number of new items, which qualified the truck for competition, but Ram was unable to provide a vehicle last year due to manufacturing schedules. So, the 2014 model was included in this year’s competition (the ’15 Power Wagon, which includes a new hill descent control feature, was unavailable by our test dates). The ’14 Power Wagon, based on the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Crew Cab, has many new features including an all-new suspension system. It includes Power Wagon-specific Bilstein shocks, control arms, spring rates, and more than 2 inches of lift. Up front, the truck has a “Ram Articulink” three-link setup, while out back it uses a five-link coil-spring suspension. The Power Wagon continues to feature the front electronic disconnecting sway bar. The truck also continues to use solid axles front and rear that are equipped with electronic locking differentials, but for 2014, the front axle uses an axle disconnect system that is said to improve fuel economy by up to one mpg. Under the hood is a new 6.4L Hemi V-8 engine that produces 410 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque. The engine features Fuel Saver cylinder deactivation technology, cooled exhaust gas recirculation, variable valve timing, a high-volume oil cooler, oil jets for piston cooling, and aircraft-grade stainless steel gaskets and fasteners for improved durability at high temperatures. Power is routed through a six-speed automatic transmission and sent to the axles via a part-time, manual-engagement transfer case.

Ramp and Track
With the front swaybar connected, the Power Wagon earned a score of 405 points on the 20-degree ramp. As expected, disconnecting the front sway bar improved that number dramatically. With the sway bar disconnected, the truck earned a score of 509 points, which was the best of this group of trucks. At the track, the Power Wagon traveled from 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 17.2 seconds at 84.5 mph. Interestingly, these acceleration numbers are slower than those generated by the 5.7L Power Wagon we tested at PTOTY 2012. The Power Wagon’s four-wheel disc brakes with ABS helped bring the approximately 6,700-pound truck to a stop from 60 mph in 137.5 feet, which is an improvement of over 20 feet compared to the ’12 Power Wagon we tested.

Power Wagon is what a truck should be

Exterior/Interior
From a functional perspective, we like that the 12,000-pound Warn winch is tucked inconspicuously behind the front bumper but is still easy to use. Ram has tried various badging formats since the Power Wagon’s reintroduction in 2005, and this model is only badged as a Power Wagon on the tailgate. Judges liked this format better than the garish badging like what was found on the ’12 model, but we think the Power Wagon and Ram’s Black package are the ultimate all-business exterior matchup we’d like to see. Judges had to nitpick just to find anything wrong with the exterior. “I wish it had rocker protection like the ’05 Power Wagon,” wrote one judge. A couple of judges noted that the tall truck actually makes the 33-inch tires look small. “I wish it had 35s,” was a common notation in the judge’s books, not only for aesthetics, but also for the functional aspect. Inside, the Ram also gathered positive comments. “Not goofy, gimmicky, or over the top. Utilitarian luxury,” commented one judge regarding our tester’s Laramie-trimmed cabin. Another said, “I love the Ram interior. Soft touch. Leather. Quality materials.” Laramie trim notwithstanding, the interior’s basic design was a winner with the judges, who gave kudos to the center-mounted transfer case lever, front seat headroom and legroom, seat design and adjustability, storage options, instrumentation, controls, and the ability to have a flat load floor in the rear passenger area when the seats are folded. Oh, and there were a lot of cupholders. “I don’t think I even own enough cups to fill all of the cupholders,” noted one judge. Judges also liked the RamBox and it’s functionality, as well as the fact that the RamBox locks functioned with the truck’s remote key fob. “Super nice interior with really clever rear cargo arrangement,” wrote one judge. Complaints were minimal with the most mentioned being rear seat headroom seemed limited for taller passengers.

On-Road
The Power Wagon was surprisingly civilized on the road for a 3⁄4-ton truck, even when pushed through curvy canyon roads. “It’s amazing how well it goes around corners on mountain roads,” noted one judge. In an age where some believe it takes IFS and electric steering to help make a fullsize pickup truck handle well, the Power Wagon shows that a large, solid axle truck with “old school” power recirculating-ball steering can hold its own in the handling department. Judges liked the feel and effectiveness of the Power Wagon’s four-wheel disc brakes when it came time to scrub speed. Comments like “solid pedal” and “great brakes” were noted. The ride quality was also noted often, and the judges agreed that the ride was great on the road for a 3⁄4-ton truck. Judges noted increased road noise from the Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires compared to the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO tires that were on the ’12 Power Wagon. The DuraTracs worked well though. The 6.4L engine’s output is 27 hp and 29 lb-ft of torque more than the 5.7L ’12 Power Wagon, and that power increase is welcome but it didn’t wow the judges. Comments included, “Engine makes good power but not sporty enough for the nature of this truck,” and “The 6.4L is still nothing to write home about.” The solution according to one judge? “This is when we insert the 5-millionth notation about wanting, needing, having to have a diesel version.”

Off-Road
Quite simply, the Power Wagon ruled all off-road terrain. It effortlessly navigated everything we threw at it. No obstacle fazed it. On graded roads at speed, the coil spring suspension helped to make the truck “surefooted” and “smooth for a 3⁄4-ton.” The big truck easily crawled rocky trails thanks to the softened throttle response and slightly increased engine idle speed that kicks in when the truck is in 4-Lo; the outstanding ground clearance, approach, and departure angles; differential lockers; and flexy suspension. These items also helped the truck effortlessly ascend our nasty, uneven, loose-dirt hillclimb. In the snow, the Power Wagon was unstoppable with its impressive clearances and lockers. Even in the sand, the Power Wagon worked very well, though throttle response from the engine while romping in the sand and snow was criticized by each judge. One judge summarized it by saying, “Throttle response is very slow. You have to plan ahead when you want to throttle aggressively.” This is the only negative we found with the Power Wagon’s off-road performance. Judges loved the simple and easy-to-use floor-mounted manual T-case shifter (“Shifter on the floor is king!”), easy-to-access huge front towloops (“Not since Hummer have there been towloops this easy to use.”), and generous underbody protection (“Overkill, considering how much ground clearance this truck has.”). The front disconnecting swaybar worked flawlessly as did the differential lockers.

Bottom Line
The Power Wagon easily won this year’s competition, and it isn’t the first time the Power Wagon nameplate has been on the winner’s podium. This is the fifth win for the nameplate since we first started hosting these competitions in 1974, and the fourth since the Power Wagon was reintroduced in 2005. The ’14 Power Wagon is mega functional and is arguably the most multi-faceted, capable fullsize pickup available today. It’s a truck that can carry you to a five-star restaurant in style, haul you down the gnarliest trails, or easily tow a heavy trailer and cargo. Our tester was on the upper end of the price spectrum, but Ram offers the Power Wagon in other trim levels, including the entry-level Tradesman. Base price for the ’15 Power Wagon Tradesman is approximately $45K according to the Ram website at time of print. The Power Wagon has again proved itself to be an outstanding truck that excels both on- and off-road, and for this reason, it’s our 2015 Pickup Truck of the Year.

What's Hot:
Locking diffs
12,000-pound Warn winch
Disconnecting front sway bar
Manual shift transfer case
Suspension lift
Road manners
Trail capability

What's Not:
Throttle lag
Fuel economy

Logbook Quotes
“You can really rail the huge Power Wagon on twisty roads, which is amazing for a 6,700-pound truck. Does not push into hard corners as much as you think it would.”
“There’s virtually no obstacle that can stop this beast.”
-“This truck represents exactly what a truck should be. Something that can haul, tow, and wheel through any terrain or obstacle imaginable.”
“This truck checked all of the want boxes. With selectable lockers, an in-cab disconnecting sway bar, winch, and great suspension, it is the oversized Wrangler for those who think Jeeps are for Barbie.”

PhotosView Slideshow

How We Test ’Em
On the first day of our weeklong Pickup Truck of the Year test we traveled to Willow Springs International Raceway, near Lancaster, California, where we used a RaceLogic Performance Box to gather acceleration and braking data. We then convoyed to the desert via winding paved roads and, along the way, gathered data on how the trucks handled in the twisty environment. For the next three days we tested the trucks in a wide range of terrain. We spent time in almost every type of driving situation you may encounter. From stop-and-go city driving to wide open highway. Since we’re an off-road-centric publication, we spent the majority of time in the dirt, water, mud, sand, and rocks. Each day of driving began shortly after sunup and ended well after sundown. We traveled to both high and low altitudes, we drove in the dark, and this year, for the first time in recent OTY history, we were able test in snow at high elevation. On the last day, we made the trek back to the Los Angeles area, which completed the test. In the end, we logged about 900 miles on each vehicle.

PhotosView Slideshow

How We Score ’Em
Our scoring procedure utilizes five weighted categories. Here’s the breakdown: 30 percent Trail Performance (how a vehicle performs in specific wheeling environments and off-road-centric features like 4WD system operation, tires, traction aids, and so on), 25 percent Empirical (RTI, acceleration, braking, price, and so on), 20 percent On Pavement (handling, ride quality, steering feel, and so on) 15 percent Interior (instrumentation, ingress and egress, seat comfort, storage, and so on), and 10 percent Exterior (appearance, stance, body protection, and so on).

Judges Picks
Scoring gets thrown out the window here. We asked the judges which vehicle they’d most like to own, and why, based on their own personal wheeling style and preference. Here’s what they chose.

Ken Brubaker, Four Wheeler Senior Editor
The Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro was a hoot to drive, and it’s the truck I’d like to own out of this group. I dig how well all of the TRD Pro-specific upgrades work together to make the truck capable and fun both on- and off-road. As a bonus, it’s rated at 21-mpg highway, and it’s one of the least expensive trucks in this group. I think the truck is a great value. I really like the truck’s stance, too.

Ali Mansour, Jp Technical Editor
This is a tough one. All of the trucks this year had extreme highs and lows in my book. The easy answer is the Power Wagon. It checks all the right boxes for what I would want in a fullsize truck that I actually take off-road. I don’t find the 6.4L Hemi all that impressive, but it gets the job done without too much fuss. While I don’t consider any of the trucks in the competition dirt cheap, the Ram does stick out as extra pricey. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a super nice truck, but it would make me second guess how serious I was about getting into more challenging terrain off-road.

Greg Smith, Four Wheeler Art Director
The Tundra was a blast to drive, especially in the sand, due to its really responsive and powerful engine, but overall I have to go with the Power Wagon as my take-home truck. It truly is the do-it-all truck that sets the benchmark in the truck market. The only downside is the fuel economy and of course, the hit to the wallet, but with this much truck, I can overlook that.

Agustin Jimenez, TEN Staff Editor
The Power Wagon is a no-brainer in my book. It’s not to say the competition is lacking, which to be honest is pretty fierce this year. I’d welcome the Ram 2500 Power Wagon into my stable because every off-road enthusiast worth his or her salt should own a good 3⁄4-ton 4x4 truck. The ride quality is pretty smooth for a big 3⁄4-ton truck. If you venture off the beaten path, you never have to worry about getting it stuck in any terrain you might ever encounter. While fuel economy leaves much to be desired, it’s not a deal breaker by any means. Especially since fuel prices are currently floating around $2.85 in SoCal, which means I’d hightail it to the desert towing my prerunner in the lap of luxury. The winch is just the icing on the cake!

John Cappa, Contributor
I really enjoyed the solid chassis and maneuverability of the Chevy Colorado Z71 and the sporty feel of the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. But at the end of the day, I have to go with the most capable pickup ever offered: the Ram Power Wagon. It’s a tow rig, work truck, and off-road toy all rolled into one.

Cody Kanuscak, Contributor
I would love to take the Ram Power Wagon home since it has all the features that I would install on a truck, including a Warn winch, front and rear differential locks, electronic disconnect sway bar, and forged aluminum wheels. It’s equipped with a 6.4L powerplant so I can tow my friends wheeling rigs to the trail, then lead the trail with the Ram Power Wagon

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