The North American International Auto Show in Detroit can be the perfect venue for automotive media outlets to announce what they think are the best pickups are in the marketplace. We thought three awards made during the 2017 show stood out.
The first was the 2017 North American Truck of the Year (along with the Car and Utility of the Year), awarded by a broad cross-section of automotive journalists in the U.S. and Canada. North American Car & Truck/Utility of the Year awards are special because they are always announced during the first press conference on the first media day and can provide a good or bad day for the nominated automakers. For 2017, NACTOY truck award finalists were the 2017 Honda Ridgeline, the 2017 Ford Super Duty and the new 2017 Nissan Titan half ton. From our perspective, the completely redesigned and impressive Super Duty was the odds-on favorite given that it won the 2016 Truck of Texas from the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Motor Trend 2017 Truck of the Year. But that didn't happen. Instead, the new mid-size Honda Ridgeline, based off the new Honda Pilot SUV platform, won by a landslide. Astute PUTC readers may recall from our 2016 Midsize Pickup Challenge that the Ridgeline came close to defeating the winner, the 2016 GMC Canyon. So we're not surprised the NACTOY panel of jurors — which includes Cars.com Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder and Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays — liked the Ridgeline's carlike ride, handling dynamics and huge amounts of crossover-like interior room. Our hope is that jurors find a way to do a little towing and payload hauling before determining the 2018 North American Truck of the Year.
Another award that caught our attention was Truck Trend's 2017 Pickup Truck of the Year. Truck Trend chose the newly redesigned and reengineered half-ton Nissan Titan from an impressive crop of 2017 competitors: the Ford F-150 Raptor, Ford F-250 Super Duty, GMC Canyon Denali, Honda Ridgeline, Nissan Titan XD, Ram 2500 Off-Road and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. Truck Trend takes each truck on the road to test performance, payload and towing ability, and then lets the judges have their say. In the end, and to the surprise of many, the Nissan Titan outperformed some strong competitors. As we understand it, in the same way a versatile athlete can win a grueling decathlon by doing well in many of categories without winning any contests, this newest entry to the half-ton marketplace came out on top. We'll likely have a chance later this year to compare the new Titan with each of its competitors to see how it stands up in the segment.
The third interesting award announced at the Detroit auto show — and this shouldn't anyone — is our own Cars.com Best Pickup of 2017 winner, the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor. We had six finalists we determined were significant enough to qualify for the award. We look at which pickups are all new or significantly upgraded, and we make sure all our judges have time to drive eligible competitors to understand their driving characteristics as well as how they fit into their segments. As we winnowed down the contenders for Best Pickup of 2017, two Fords stood out: the 2017 Raptor and the Super Duty. As impressive as the reengineered and redesigned Super Duty lineup is, the Raptor is a stunning example of quality, imagination and astounding all-around capability, the likes of which we have not seen for quite a while. If Ford can replicate the Raptor team's efforts on the car side of its lineup, it could be a huge advantage for the automaker as we move into the next decade. Add to that the impact the Raptor is having on other manufacturers by pushing Toyota to upgrade its TRD Pro lineup, motivating GM to resurrect the Chevrolet ZR2 nameplate and providing Ram with an excuse to likely bring the concept Ram TRX to life, and you can see how Ford has done more than just reset its targets. Ford also is forcing other manufacturers to reset theirs.
Cars.com photos by Angela Conners and Evan Sears