Head-to-Head Comparisons Aren't Easy

Head-to-head-characters II

It's always fun to take a look at how others in the auto journalist realm do their head-to-head comparisons. They're typically done by various car-guys who feel they know all about what pickup trucks are about and how to evalute them. In some cases, it just doesn't work out too well.  

We found these two examples while scouring the internet for unique stories and thought these might be of interest to you. TheCarConnection review does a good job of comparing the 2012 Nissan Fronteir and Toyota Tacoma in a vague and general way and isn't quite clear if they ever had either vehicle in for a drive, let alone at the same time. Although there are specific categories where the author is comfortable offering a value score, you have no idea which models he's talking about or if he's just generalizing to the entire lineup. In the end, the Nissan wins the comparison with perceived leadership in Quality, Performance, and Safety, without any descriptions about what, if any, models he's talking about.

In the Philadelphia Inquirer review of the 2012 Toyota Tundra vs. Ram 1500, the story suffers from many of the same deficiencies, yet it is clear the author drove both vehicles for the intent of comparing the two head-to-head. Not only is it unclear exactly how the specs and trucks match up, the assessment priorities seem to be at odds with what the trucks are built and designed for as well. Maybe that shouldn't be too surprising since the writer, living and working in and around downtown Philadelphia, seems preoccupied with the size and limited views each truck offers when trying to find street-side parking. Oddly, the Toyota offered better real-world fuel economy, was less expensive, likely had better towing and payload numbers, but still ended up losing to the Ram because (and it wasn't quite clear) it had more armrest storage and an overall comfortable ride. 

No doubt both of these articles attempt to offer the most appropriate information (subjective and objective) they can to the audience they believe they serve. But, I can only assume, their readership isn't much interested in knowing much or wanting to know much about these vehicles they're theoretically about to plunk down a good chunk of money to purchase. The only other alternative is that the writers don't care much about these vehicles--and I don't know either of them well enough to know that.

With all that said, there is still plenty of good information and perspective (limited as it might be) from each story here to give it your time. Not sure we'd agree with either pieces' winning selection, but we'll be the last one to suggest they shouldn't be allowed to choose, no matter what their truck-testing credentials. I only wish those same car-guys would allow me that lattitude when I try to offer opinions about cars.  


That's exactly why we trust PUTC for our comparisons of trucks! Keep up the good work...trolls not withstanding.

People have differant views about whats important in a truck. yes the truck part of the truck is important, but for us car guys who are stuck driving trucks for various reasons, thier are other factors then just what a truck can pull or what it can haul, all trucks are capable to some degree.

Picking winners and losers is the least important part of a product comparison. Best and worst tells you what the author was looking for and not what he was looking at.

That's what makes (most of) PUTC's comparisons so much more useful than the rest of the auto media. You go into enough detail on specific tests that the reader can pick the best truck for his own purposes.

The 2008 half ton comparison was the best executed review I've ever come across.

I dont like that review and not because Ram won but because something just seemed off to me.

1. The fact that Tundra offered better FE than Ram makes me wonder how they drove Hemi Ram? Also in the last PUTC shootouthttp://special-reports.pickuptrucks.com/2011/09/30k-shootout-mileage-challenge.html an empty Ram returned 19 mpg so how did they get 16.8? The only way I know of the NA 5.7L Tundra to get better mpg than Hemi Ram is durring towing and hauling.

2. Also how did Hemi Ram with that taller 1st gear and higher axle ratio out accelerate 5.7L Tundra because the test I have seen the 5.7L Tundra is faster http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEwp7qDJYts and http://special-reports.pickuptrucks.com/2011/09/30k-shootout-0-60-mph-test.html, http://special-reports.pickuptrucks.com/2011/09/30k-shootout-quarter-mile-test.html.

I dont mind Ram winning based on anybodies criteria but the facts seem off a little.

The most important thing in a valid comparison for me is the PURCHASE price of the vehicle. Not the msrp. It seems to me that dodge, chevy, and ford are much more likely to offer good rebates on a truck than nissan or toyota. I see it in the ads all the time. 5,000 dollar discounts are common. Sometimes up to 8,000 dollar rebates on a diesel truck. I've never noticed those kind of rebates on a toyota. I bought a dodge truck that had nearly the same msrp as a ford. I think the ford is a better truck, but I went with the better deal.

Wow, that was one of the most pathetic, in accurate reviews (other the the Ram winning :) ) I have ever read!

The Carconnection website looked pro-Nissan if you ask me...

No pics of the Tacoma much and more Nissan comparison's...

Also they show a pic of the Nissan 4wd vs the Tacoma's 2wd...

The Tacoma is clearly the better model overall of the two, that site was too pro-Nissan...

I will never go to that site ever again...

I agree with you, oxi. Very skewed towards the nissan.

They could have at least found a pic with color keyed bumpers on the taco.

can we get the old editor back these articles are horrible?

It's not a pro-Nissan site. Click on Read full specs and you will see that there are the same amount of pics of the Tacoma as there are Nissan.
Edmunds also likes the Nissan Frontier more than the Tacoma.

That's right...Take your truck and go home...cry baby!!!

Reason why people dont put much thought into car reviews...

Everybody has an opinion and some are alot more biased..uneducated and ignorant about vehicles..

Reason I bought a DODGE Ram truck,I love the view,easy to drive,park even in downtown areas,as I work everyday,parallel parking is so easy,with the trailer tow mirrors,no back up camera needed for me !

Reminds me of a saying my Dad used to say when a slow poke or a bad driver was on the road,If you cant drive park it ! Obviously these journelists cant drive ! Was most likely trying to get a journelist job talking about Lady GaGa or b.s ing about food,but ended up getting a job reviewing vehicles..

I remember the old car reviews from the late 60's early 70's they tested the cars 0-60,1/4 mile and it was full throttle off the line pouring smoke out the rear tires making the times totally off !! Also alot were done on dirt roads real accurate times then lol.. dirt roads...,but the icing on the cake is a late 60's Imperial tested in the RAIN !! the guy got a 11 sec 0-60 then complaining it had no traction because it was pouring rain out..I drove one and it will beat any new half ton truck in a race..I bought it for the 440,but ended up using it for a daily driver for 2 years after painting it,was a great car..Or a actual journelist with a head on his shoulders (much like this site)had a 440 Cuda brand new,it ran 14's-15 1/4 mile then they had a brain and added slicks it was a low 12 second 1/4 mile car,totally stock..

Back to trucks,if a stuck up journelist cant drive and is biased about trucks they always say its too big,it uses too much gas,no visability (actually inaccurate better visibility in a truck than a car and easier to park a full size truck than most cars as visibility is better in a truck,great mirrors,commanding view of the road ect) If the journelist is a short little person they always say its hard to get it and complain about it.

How are the two artciles this article refers to any different than some of the childish comments posted on this site?

I agree with the others who find PUTC's reviews much better than most "car" reviews because there is not much emphasis on a "winner," but you give tons of detailed information so that the READER can choose what he/she wants.

And Oxi is pro Toyota so his findings are skewed... Are there any unbiased people out there?

Any of these sites are less biased than the Tacoma extremist oxi.

Some comparisons you win, some you lose. If you lose that doens't mean you cry like a baby and go home. If you learn one thing from a comparison it is worth it.

Maybe Toyota should have kept their truck more updated and they would have won.

I still prefer pickuptrucks.com and they have share some of the same compalints about the Taco: rough ride and handling, the size of the d-cab, stronger V6 not available, etc.

Sometimes you just have to put your bias aside and look at the improvements that need to be made to be the clear winner.


I think you need to take all car and truck reviews with a grain of salt. The reviewers themselves have certain biases. I recently rented a 2012 Chrysler 200 with a 4 cylinder for business and found it very peppy and comfortable. Consumer Reports panned it saying that the 4 cylinder was sluggish and the car was lackluster. If I had the trunk loaded to capacity and four additional passengers I would agree but then I would have rented a larger more powerful car. The same thing with trucks. I have a 5 cylinder Isuzu I-370 and the acceleration is far from sluggish as Consumer Reports claims but I do agree that the fuel economy is not any better than a V-6. You should try different brands of vehicles and decide for yourself. Granted there is good information in Consumer Reports and some reviews but I would not buy anything without driving it.

Another reason PUTC is the best site. No b.s I may not always agree with PUTC's ratings but its always done in a way that a truck guys who uses his truck for a little of everything like me from off road to actual work can relate too. Not the typical Auto journalism B.S

Any test needs to clearly spell out the test parameters and the scoring system. Since there are multiple truck configurations, one also needs to clearly know exactly what options were on the trucks being tested. This site excells in those areas. If I don't see that kind of information, the test isn't much more relevant than asking a random guy in a parking lot for his opinion.

@5.3 LOL: the deal with the Ram/Tundra comparo was a 4.6 compared to a 5.7. It was never stated right? But this was:

I would even try knocking it down an engine size, to the Tundra's 270-hp V6 or Dodge's 310-hp, 4.7-liter V8. (Dodge's V6 with 210 horses seems a little archaic.)

So yeah, better mileage with the Tundra. And contrary to what this sight says, no more towing, actually less with a 4.6 Tundra unless maybe the Tundra had 4.10 as I believe the tow package 4.6 gets and maybe if the Ram had 3.55 gears. Whatever the deal, he didn't mention anything mutch about gear ratios, or power ratings or engines! That review was more about a place for the phone! Duh! I know if I didn't have a place either to the right or in front of my shifter for my phone, (ie, if I didn't have the console!) it fits well in the door! There's a thought!

What a sorry review! He didn't even say what exact model the Tundra was! Nothing said about the tires for either. I know the Ram Sport will have a 33" tire on a 20x9" rim, Tundra's generally will have a 255/70 or optional 265/65 18" in that price range. The Tundra has a lighter, smaller tire with less tire on the ground, there's part of the gas mileage.

As for the the 30K shootout, the Tundra had 4.3 gears and a trans combo better suited for both drag racing and the 7% hillclimb then the Ram with 3.55 gears and less transmission gear. But notice the Ram was building the speed towards the end of both, showing it's a matter of gears. The 08 shootout shows a Tundra winning by .12 seconds? With lower trans gears and a 4.3 vs. 3.92 diff, there's the answer. The Ram with 33" tires in that test almost goes the quarter in almost two gears, then goes straight from the 1.67 2nd gear into 1 to 1 3rd, unless the Electronic Range Select-manual shifting or tow haul is used to enable the 1.5 to 1 "prime" second gear, which would only drop Rpm about 570 rpm, to about 5000 and it would pull MUCH better then dropping about 2,250 RPM to 3350 or so rpm when it goes straight to the 1 to 1 "third". Then it can finish the quarter out pulling strong. In the the 0-60 with 3.92s and 20" wheels the Ram might see only low 4000 rpm, much less gear then the Fords and Toyotas. New gearboxs comming soon! The old Dodge trans though does have a good couple of second gears for maintaining 50-65 mph hour though. Just not as good a drag racer. I guess if you do alot of city towing, starting and stopping, the lower gearsets help, but for maintaining 50-70, I like my coices of the two close "2nd" gears.

When comparisons are done, I would like them to be as even as possible; show me a Tundra 4.3 (lowest) compared to lowest from others. Same type tires, if at all possible, no a/t tires vs. low rolling restance, not the biggest tire from one and smallest from another. The tester SHOULD specify all comparos to be single to single cab, quad to double, extended, super and king cabs, and all crew cabs. I want to know gear ratios, models, tires, options, and if a feature mentioned as not being on the particuler model, is it available on another? My Ram has two glove boxs as well. If performance is talked about, provide times, or speeds, or amounts of gear changes, not just opinion. We need to measure things.

For instance, Consumer Reports, which randomlly test, based on opinion. For their 2009 Ram review a gal drives the truck. She says it has a high step in. Well did she measure the other trucks in it's class, in equal configurations? 4x4 Outdoorsman vs. Z-71, TRD Offroad, FX4, Nismo? Please, don't compare a Ridgeline to a full size for the sake of FULL SIZE RATINGS. Speaking of the Ridgeline, they dog it out for turning circle, while they don't say a thing about others in the class. They don't have enough STANDARDS. They MUST be used!

They said Tundra had no marketing pitch well the current pitch listed on Toyota's website seems to be "When it comes to work, This truck means business." Which to me seems to be the best pitch for this truck because of its best in class relaibility rating and best FE when towing and hauling. The old pitch everybody under the sun knew was "The Truck that's Changing it All." That review was awful and once again not because Ram won but because as it turns out they didnt even compare a like trucks (thanks for the clarification TRX4 Tom).

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