Nominees for Cars.com's Best Pickup of 2014

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Each year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, our sister website Cars.com announces their "Best of" awards for the best new vehicles in several categories at the end of press days. For the first time ever, PickupTrucks.com and Cars.com will announce a dedicated award for pickup trucks. The announcement of the Best Pickup of 2014 will happen Tuesday evening at the historic Fillmore Theater. The nominees for the award are:

 

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

To say preseason expectations were high for GM's redesigned 2014 models would be a gross understatement. Not only would this be the first big test for the newly restructured GM, but also the Chevrolet Silverado is the largest selling vehicle it has, and the truck was one of the oldest in the segment. Each of its competitors had been redesigned or re-engineered (or both) at least once since the last-generation Silverado 1500 hit the market in 2007. To be clear, from bumper to bumper, inside and out, this third-generation Silverado 1500 is stronger, smarter, more efficient and more capable, by a wide margin, than the truck it replaces. The suspension and frame are both strengthened and lightened, and the interior is completely redesigned and reconfigured with more gauges, readouts and more functions than ever before. This may not be the grand slam some hoped for, but this is how you get runs on the scoreboard.

 

Ford F-150

If any truck maker understands the formula for keeping buyers coming back to its brand year after year, even on those off years where it doesn't have a new truck, new powertrain or a significant upgrade, it's Ford. Even as new pickup trucks enter or are re-engineered or redesigned in the growing full-size segment, Ford has consistently held its sales lead in good times and bad. And it does that by continually delivering solid core products, good-looking trim packages and functional options. For 2014, Ford introduced the F-150 Tremor, basically the sportiest street version F-150 it makes. Although relying on plenty of existing parts, the little sport truck offers quite a bang-for-the-buck proposition with the 365-horsepower EcoBoost engine, a great power-to-weight ratio, and upgraded seats, door inserts and dash accents. During our most recent half-ton competition, the 2013 Light-Duty Challenge, our EcoBoost-equipped F-150 squeaked out a win in our 13-event head-to-head Olympic-style contest. The F-150 has been the No. 1 selling half-ton in the U.S. for many years, and we considered it the standard for the segment.

 

GMC Sierra 1500

The redesigned 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 gets all of the same vastly improved engineering and layout upgrades that have gone into its sibling, the 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500. With the new frame, suspension tuning, body strengthening and new extended-cab door configuration, the GMC version offers a distinctive look with its unique body panels, hoods, front grilles and headlight/taillight setups. Additionally, GMC will also offer the Sierra 1500 with its exclusive Denali trim package, as well as a special All-Terrain package. Both trim levels offer unique badging, interior upgrades and special front grille designs. All GMC Sierra 1500s will share the three new EcoTec3 powertrains, offering the 4.3-liter V-6 in either two- or four-wheel drive and in each of the three cab configurations. The 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8 engines will be offered in select models. All three engines have cylinder deactivation, direct injection and variable valve timing for higher power ratings and improved fuel economy. We should note that our judges during the 2013 Light-Duty Challenge called attention to the GMC's use of interior materials, dash layout and seating feel. The Sierra 1500 will be a little more expensive than its Chevy counterpart, but for many, the added expense will be worth every penny.

 

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

New for 2014, Ram will be the first to offer (in a long time) a small diesel for half-ton buyers in the form of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. The smallish 3.0-liter turbo-diesel will offer 240 hp and an impressive 420 pounds-feet of torque and is likely to have an EPA highway fuel economy number at or close to 27 mpg. All Ram 1500s got a complete overhaul last year with a new look, several segment-first options and an entirely reworked interior, but by being the first in today's half-ton segment to offer a small diesel, Ram is keeping the spotlight shining on its light-duty player. The diesel option will cost a little more ($2,850 over the Hemi V-8 option), but it will be mated to Ram's segment-leading eight-speed ZF transmission. The Hemi-equipped Ram 1500 we had for the 2013 Light-Duty Challenge was a strong player in all the quantitative testing, with many of the judges especially liking the SLT Big Horn trim package. This new EcoDiesel goes on sale in the first quarter of 2014 and could be the perfect choice for those who need lots of torque and extended fuel range.

 

Ram 2500/3500 HD

Last year, the Ram 3500 Heavy Duty got some significant upgrades in the form of a new frame, a new front suspension setup and a higher-output Cummins turbo-diesel. Those upgrades gave that truck maximum towing bragging rights over the competition by a wide margin. This year, it's the Ram 2500 HD's turn. Yes, all Ram 2500s get the upgraded frame, front suspension and Cummins option, but the biggest news is that Ram HD engineers have included coil springs on all three-quarter-ton trucks, with a heavier-duty, load-leveling airbag spring option for tow junkies. Many will remember how revolutionary it was when the 2009 Ram 1500 went to coil springs when the competition was using leaf springs, and this change looks to be just as impressive. During our time behind the wheel of a new Ram 2500, the ride seemed dramatically changed for the better. Finally, 2014 Ram HDs (both 2500 and 3500) will have an added gas engine choice in the form of a 6.4-liter V-8 Hemi, now offering a cylinder-deactivation mode for better fuel economy.

 

Toyota Tundra

Like the GM half-tons, the Toyota Tundra was also ready for a redesign; however, Tundra engineers took a more studied and calculated approach. With many Tundra buyers reporting that they were happy with powertrain and chassis capability, Toyota focused on interior and exterior upgrades and design changes. Last updated in 2006 as a 2007 model, the 2014 Tundra remains structurally unchanged with the same frame and suspension strategy as the current generation, although many of the spring rates and shock tuning parameters have been improved. The powertrains have not changed either with the 4.0-liter V-6, the 4.6-liter V-8 (introduced in 2010) and the twin-cam 5.7-liter V-8 offered for the lineup. What has changed is just about every body panel on the truck with a larger and more dynamic front grille, enhanced fender flares, new headlights and taillights, and significantly improved interior and cabin features. The new half-tons will also include trailer-sway control and an integrated brake controller to allow drivers to more comfortably and safely tow. Although some may criticize Toyota for not bringing more design drama and technology to this new truck, there are enough improvements here to move the needle.

 

Comments

Looks like a Ram HD, good choice

Look for great deals on the diesel Ram 1500 about six months after they appear in showrooms. Ditto for the Ford and Chevy gas V8s.

Ram will either be under-supplied with the diesel option, or they'll chose to package it with the most expensive option packages. Either way it won't be a huge impact.

Time will tell if the Ford 3.5 V6 sells--judging by the way that Tundra V6's and Ram V6's sell probably not much. The current 3.7 Ford V6 is a dud on the lot. Ford's decision to offer a 3.5 is probably for the fleets only.

In terms of real market impact, expect to see GM's trucks win the award.

Honestly i think the Ram 2500/3500 haven't gotten the attention they deserve. I think they made some of the biggest changes to that segment. Plus they took an extreme risk of offering a coil spring set up in the rear. My dad didn't like it when they went to springs in the front, and i would imagine that many other people feel a little uneasy about it. However, given the technology of today i think it was the right time.

@papa jim: Ram stated that the EcoDiesel would be available on lower trim levels like the SLT and Tradesman, not just high-end Laramies. But I think you're spot-on with them being potentially under-supplied. And yes, the new NA 3.5 V6 will be about as popular as the current 3.7 V6--that is to say, not at all outside of fleets.

But the way I see it, if the 3.5 EcoBoost and 5.0 V8 are replacements for the 5.4 Triton, which was itself a replacement of the 351/5.8 "back in the day," then the new 2.7 EcoBoost is a replacement for the 4.6 Triton and 302/5.0. But where those two engines were less powerful than their respective big brothers while only getting the same gas mileage, the new 2.7 will be leaps and bounds ahead of the 3.5 EcoBoost, at least when unloaded. I'm thinking 28 MPG, same as Ram's EcoDiesel, but without the premium in either up-front or fuel costs. If Ram can't get the EcoDiesel out there in any significant numbers before August rolls around, it's just going to end up being a footnote in the annals of truck history.

My prediction is the Ram EcoDiesel

@Snapdragon

Agree, except to add that--just like any other half ton-- the 2.7 will use a lot of gas under load, when the motor's cold, and in stop/go city/suburb type driving.

It takes torque to move a five thousand pound truck around. Highway mileage should be astonishing for those willing to soft-pedal the right foot.

This is an interesting question....which will get better mileage a steel bodied Ram with the Ecodiesel or the aluminum bodied F150 2.7 Ecoboost? These won't be competitors because the 2.7 EB will be sort of a base/mid-range engine and the Ecodiesels will sticker for over $50,000. In terms of longevity, if that diesel is worth anything it will outlast 2 high-strung 2.7L Ecoboost engines.

In my opinion, GM and RAM have made a big mistake in killing the clamshell doors on the full sized extended cab models. It destroys the advantage of easy access to the area behind the seat. It also destroys the clean lines the extended cab used to have and which Ford retains--making it look less functional and more like a chopped-off crew cab.

Ford on the other hand has retained is Big Rig Wannabe look with that huge nose and too-tall stance while GM and RAM have softened the nose slightly with a lower hood and less chrome for some models. Honestly, the best looking Ford is the King Ranch simply because the grill surround is body colored. I'm speaking of the '14s, not the '15s. With the '15s 'sport' option we finally get rid of that ugly, glaring chrome.

Toyota has followed Ford in making their grill simply too big. I think it's a mistake, especially since all three US brands are lowering the hood somewhat more--GM and RAM, as stated, more than Ford.

Do I have a personal choice? No. Ford's--to me--one advantage doesn't quite overwhelm the features I like about the RAM. BUT, RAM's design mistake does overwhelm their other advantages. I have to add to this that again as a personal view, they're all simply too big for the light-duty work for which they're supposedly designed. I can see that size for the HDs and SDs, but not for LTs. If I had to give just one of them a mark as "the best for 2014", I'm afraid I have to give it to Ford.

Yawn... The amount of truck awards these days is getting ridiculous and hard to follow any more. Seems like everybody has one, and there is a new one announced each week which just lessens the significance/importance of each one IMO.

^What bothers me most about all new pickup trucks is the insidious profit margins. The average profit margin for a Ford or GM 1/2 ton is $10,000. While the profit margins for premium luxury models are closer to $20,000 per truck!!!
I'm all for free markets, capitalism, and profit but a $50,000+ 1/2 ton truck is lunacy as is a $20,000 profit on that truck.

Not a dig but did Ford actually produce any Tremor F150's?

If consumers are willing to pay for these luxury items in their trucks how can you blame the manufacturers?? The truck is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. If people don't like the prices they should speak with their wallets and stop buying them.

@NLP
I can't tell if it's sour grapes or...?

If you want a King Ranch or a Denali shop for one that's a Certified Pre Owned two or three year old truck. I did a CPO on my last truck, bought more truck than I thought I could, reduced my upsidedown loan and still got a great truck.

Depreciation on luxury cars/trucks is staggering in year one and year two, so let someone else take the hit and get what you like. With services like Carfax you can see the vehicle history and make very informed decision before you ever set foot on a dealer's lot.

Yawn... A cars.com 'best of' is a meaningless effort in self promotion.

Papa...not sour grapes. Concern for the economic condition of my fellow neighbors. Median household income in the US is just over $50,000/yr. An $800/month truck payment doesn't work with that level of income.

Like you said, it's actually good for me because I buy CPO and usually pay cash.

In the broader view, if my fellow neighbors are all broke, they come at those of us with money and assets with pitchforks and shovels claiming we are hoarding the wealth of the country and that we stole something. I'm sick and tired of the bottom 90% who squander their money then want a government bailout. Don't get me started on government bailouts!!!!

It's all about efficiencies.

The winner will be the 'greenest' and most efficient.

That only leave the VM powered Ram 1500. It can do the work of a V8, but it will be a lot more efficient at it.

The only problem with the Ram is the load capacity. If you want a 'truck' then at least have it carry a load larger than what a Corolla can carry.

@NLP

Don't lose sleep over the financial decisions of your neighbors--you need your rest!

Totally appreciate your sentiment about the pitchforks and the 99 percent riff.

I have to downsize because of pending retirement and illness, but I still want to enjoy my wheels, my pool, my big BBQ, my dogs, grandkids, etc.

The CPO is a great way to wheel and deal. The dealers love it too.

@Papa Jim, you are correct in that it takes torque to get these beasts moving. From what I understand the 2.7L is supposed to have around 370 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm.

Some other peak torques for comparison:
4.6 3 valve 320 @ 4,000 rpm.
5.4 3 valve 365 @ 3,500 rpm.
5.0 4 valve 380 @ 4,250 rpm.

@ 2,000rpm:
3.5 EB (about 420 lb-ft)
6.2 V8 (about 375 lb-ft)
5.4 V8 (about 315 lb-ft)
5.0 V8 (about 300 lb-ft)

5.3 V8 GM (about 325)
4.3 V6 GM (about 260)
can't find the torque curve for the 6.2

The 2.7 should do the job pretty well, especially with more gears and a 700lb lighter truck.

Man, I didn't know a Toyota Corolla could carry 1100 to 1600 plus pounds, the Corollas must be very beefed up in Aussie!

Why not, the mid sizers can supposedly do work, lol, although it's never is tested at highway speeds. Anybody can put 1500 pounds ona truck and drive in the boonys at low speed!

I guess I will look at my lady's Sentra and check its payload. But I don't think a (smaller) Corolla when at GVWR can stop so well. Matter of fact, they aren't even 4x4! So lets see here, 4x2 to Corolla, my GUESS, 700-800 pounds vs. 1600 plus? Sounds like an upside down comparison from somebody down under.

I know the Ram Ecodiesel 4x4 Crew and Quad have a 150 plus pound GVWR over a hemi, so 6,950 vs 6,800. How much heavier is the v-6 diesel over the v-8?

@Alex
not questioning the 2.7's ability to move the truck--but in stop/go driving the work needed to move the load will come from reduced fuel economy. This is why so many ecoboost F150 owners were surprised that the 3.5 only got middling around town FE. Same for the new engine, except for the weight savings already discussed here recently.

No free lunch when it comes to FE.

AD there are 3 local Ford dealers that come up in my zip-code product search for Tremors, and one dealer has 3 the others have 2 each, one dealer has offered me a decent trade, but the 4x4 Tremors sticker for 45K! for a reg cab toy! yes I drove one and they are fast and handle very well, and I would love to buy one if not for the fact the local excise tax would be outrageous! like $2,800 the 1st year! dropping about 8 a year for the next 3 years, all for the privilege of owning a nice new truck! I hate the taxes!! and will probably wait to see if the 3.5 EB will be available in a 2015 reg cab S/B 4x4! man even a Ram Express Hemi is only 28K locally with the cash on the hood! The reg cab Chevy's seem to be at least 30K though with the 5.3 4x4! WT!!! Dam the black Tremor I drove is nice though!

@Papa Jim, you're absolutely right there. They may be disappointed with their around town mpgs, but I can guarantee they get better than the 11-12 I get with my 5.4 around town. The 700 lb lighter load will help with acceleration fuel economy. That hydraulic hybrid system they were thinking of doing would be a great idea to implement with the 2.7.

It's hard to say what will happen with the ecodiesel, but I would put my money on Ford having more success with their ecoboosts. Maybe for 2015 they will offer the ecodiesel on lower models, but for now you can't build it on anything less than the outdoorsman. The cheapest I can build a 4x4 ecodiesel is $41,000. So most of them will probably be closer to 45,000. If you are willing to spend that much on a 1/2 ton truck I think you would probably be less concerned about MPG. I think more people will opt for the higher performance of 3.5 ecoboost over a diesel and just pay a little more for fuel. The 3.5 ecoboost will still probably achieve 24 or 25 mpg while having a lot more power than the diesel, so it may look like a better package overall to most consumers. The diesel will probably not be rated better than 27 highway since the jeep is rated 28.

@Beebe, i think Ram will lower the price premium for the EcoDiesel at some point. The Ram COULD get better fuel economy than the Jeep because the GC is full-time 4x4, which consumes more energy. Also might depend on the axle ratio for the Ram, the EcoDiesel is available with 3.92 and 3.55. Jeep GC has a 3.45. My prediction is the Ram 1500 with 3.55 will get 28 mpg highway, whereas the 3.92 axle will get 26, though they will be rated the same because I don't think the EPA differentiates the differentials because the EPA is stupid. That's why people think they should be getting 20mpg+ highway AND 10,000 lbs towing capacities.

I looked up the 5.7 and the 3.6 with 8 speed jeep and ram and the ram actually is rated slightly better on both. So you may be right. Looks like you can get a jeep with 2wd though. Not full-time 4wd like in years past I guess.

@Road Whale, Vulpine, or the third name you go by on here.

The Rams hood is lowered on 2014s? No. Same since 2009.

You can have your wrong way doors, (clamshells) I had them on a 2006 Chevy and will not pay for a new truck with them, (the old Chevy doors on ext cab, and what Ford uses on their crowded club cabs.) The door handles like fine to me. Why would I be ashamed of a truck that looks like a 4 door? There is more wind noise, they are less sturdy in a crash (yeah, you don't care) and they are a pain in the butt to get in the back if you want to lay down-incase you ever get tired or take a long trip. I can remember driving the 115 miles from Colorado National Speedway to Col. Springs, at midnight after working on a racecar and many a nights we pulled over and rested so we didn't wreck, you got to shut this door first and that door, vice versa, how dumb.

Traded my Chivy for a Dakota full four door, then a 2010 Ram quad. Not looking back. If I need an old truck considering what's out there, I can MAKE DO with a 94 to 2002 Ram Quad.

If you measured the grille opening of your old 90 Ford, it's not much smaller then the current Ford, if at all. No contest which is more aero.

GM has lowered it's hood? GM has the biggest grille on the market!

You want to compare your 90 to a 2014? It will crumble when wreck, you will be hurt more, and it's because in part you can't stop as good anyway in that old truck. How about wind noise in that 1990? Maybe you only drive 55-60, but those new (Ram/Ford/GM/Tundra) will be just as quiet at 75 as yours at 50.
Plus, you want them lowered more? You must park when there is a few inches of snow on the ground!



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