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Best pickup? No such thing

From heavy lifters to luxury loafers, choosing the right truck depends on what you want it to do

Published June 10, 2013

Despite what many brand-loyal fans say, there really isn’t any “best” pickup truck.

That’s because there are too many variables. Trucks come in an enormous range of sizes, cab configurations, powertrains, trim levels and capability, because buyers want everything from a base work vehicle to a luxury liner, for tasks ranging from carrying a load of dirt to towing a huge trailer.

It really comes down to assessing your requirements, so you get a truck that will do what you need, without buying more than you’ll ever use. For that reason, my top picks include a selection of sizes and configurations.

Chevrolet Silverado

The Silverado and its mechanical twin, the GMC Sierra, are all-new models for 2014. Although the engine sizes are the same as before — 4.3 L V6, 5.3 L V8, and 6.2 L V8 — they’re all completely new.

All three of these engines are equipped with new fuel-saving technologies: direct injection, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation that seamlessly drops them to four cylinders when full power isn’t needed, such as during highway cruising.

The old Silverado had a horribly dated interior, but the new one is first-rate, even in the lower levels, and you can get such features as a heated steering wheel, connectivity packages, high-wear upholstery, and heated and cooled leather seats.

What you really notice is the sounds of silence: thanks to sealing and sound-deadening, this is probably the quietest truck available.

Ford F-150

Talk about longevity: the F-150 has been the best-selling truck in Canada for 47 years and, for the past three years, it’s been our best-selling vehicle overall.

Introduced for 2011, the 3.5 L V6 EcoBoost engine now accounts for close to half of all F-150 sales.

It uses twin turbochargers to provide power when needed — 420 lb.-ft. of torque, which is more than the 380 lb.-ft. made by the 5.0 L V8 — while returning small-engine fuel economy during less-strenuous driving. It’ll also tow up to 11,300 pounds.

For the fun factor, my favourite F-150 is the SVT Raptor, an off-roader on steroids, with a 6.2 L V8 and 307 mm of shock-absorber travel, for higher-speed yee-haw off the beaten path.

Honda Ridgeline

Truck purists turn up their noses at this SUV-based model, especially with its front-biased all-wheel-drive system, but they’re missing the point.

This is the Swiss Army Knife of pickups, with voluminous interior storage (the rear seats fold up when you need maximum space, but you can slip a golf bag under them even while the chairs are occupied), half-ton payload, a lockable waterproof box hidden under the composite cargo bed, and a dual-action tailgate that drops conventionally, or opens sideways like a door. You don’t fully appreciate that until you have to slide a load out, and you’re not reaching across the gate to grab it.

It was comparably sized to conventional pickup trucks when introduced for 2006, but stayed the same while those others bulked up, so it’s easier to park, and to get in and out of, than full-sized trucks.

Nissan Frontier

One of two compact trucks currently available, the Frontier combines capability, a compact footprint, and available off-road capability with its two-speed transfer case.

The Toyota Tacoma does as well, but the Frontier’s superior seating position is far more comfortable, especially on longer drives.

The King Cab comes only with a four-cylinder and two-wheel drive. The Crew Cab is the better choice, with a standard V6 engine and an available 4×4 driveline, along with higher payload and towing capacities. Upper trim models include a factory spray-in bedliner and a Utili-track channel system that lets you move tie-down cleats to the spot in the box where you need them.

Ram 1500

The best-looking of the truck offerings, the 2013 Ram offers a new and more powerful 3.6 L V6 engine in place of the previous 3.7 L. It provides more torque and horsepower, and is paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission and start-stop system that can shut off the engine at idle for improved fuel economy. That eight-cog gearbox can also be optioned to the 5.7 L Hemi V8 if desired, in place of the standard six-speed automatic.

The Ram also offers an optional air suspension, which improves the ride, allows you to lower the truck for easier entry or lift it for off-road, and automatically levels itself when there’s a load in the back.

The available RamBox system carries over — a handy set of storage compartments hidden inside the bed sides — but those boxes, and the tailgate, can now be locked with the key fob.

2014 CHEVY SILVERADO

PRICE: base: $25,540 (4.3 L), $30,995 (5.3 L)

POWER/TORQUE: 4.3 L V6: 285 hp/305 lb.-ft., 5.3 L V8: 355/383, 6.2 L V8: TBA

TOWING CAPACITY: 4.3 L: 5,800-7,200 lb. (2,630-3,265 kg), 5.3 L: 9,100-11,500 lb. (4,127-5,216 kg), 6.2 L: TBA

2013 FORD F-150

PRICE: $19,999 to $61,849

POWER/TORQUE: 3.7 L V6: 302 hp/278 lb.-ft., 3.5 L V6 EcoBoost: 365/420, 5.0 L V8: 360/380, 6.2 L V8: 411/434

TOWING CAPACITY: 3.7 L V6: 5,500-6,000 lb. (2,494-2,721 kg), 3.5 L V6: 7,300-11,300 lb. (3,311-5,125 kg), 5.0 L V8: 7,500-10,000 lb. (3,401-4,535 kg), 6.2 L V8: 7,300-11,300 lb. (3,311-5,125 kg)

2013 HONDA RIDGELINE

PRICE: $34,990 to $42,250

POWER/TORQUE: 3.5 L V6: 250 hp/247 lb.-ft.

TOWING CAPACITY: 5,000 lb. (2,267 kg)

2013 NISSAN FRONTIER

PRICE: King Cab: $20,898, Crew Cab: $27,698 to $37,398

POWER/TORQUE: 2.5 L I4: 152 hp/171 lb.-ft., 4.0 L V6: 261/281

TOWING CAPACITY: I4: 3,500 lb. (1,587 kg), V6 4×2: 6,300 lb. (2,857 kg), V6 4×4: 6,100 lb. (2,766 kg)

2013 RAM 1500

PRICE: $26,995 to $51,695

POWER/TORQUE: 3.6 L V6: 305 hp/269 lb.-ft., 4.7 L V8: 310/330, 5.7 L V8: 395 hp/407

TOWING CAPACITY: 3.6 L V6: 3,950-6,500 lb. (1,791-2,948 kg), 4.7 L V8: 5,700-7,700 lb. (2,585-3,492 kg), 5.7 L V8: 4,900-10,450 lb. (2,222-4,740 kg)

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