The 10 Worst Options for Pickup Trucks

By Tori Tellem & Drew Hardin

Most of the time, manufacturers have a pretty good handle on the kinds of options pickup buyers want in their trucks. The key words here are “most of the time.” There are, actually, quite a few that leave us with a big fat case of “What were they thinking?” Here are some of the worst we’ve seen.


10. Wake Up!

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Several vehicles are now equipped with sensors that can tell if the driver is drowsy or otherwise inattentive behind the wheel. If the vehicle wanders too far outside the lane, an audible warning goes off to snap the driver back to focus. Figuring a pickup driver also needed more than just a gentle nudge, one manufacturer is offering a similar alert system, but with a little more kick — the equivalent of a household 120-volt current zaps the steering-wheel rim, certain to wake up even the sleepiest driver — and restart his heart, too.


9. Urgent Solutions

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You’ve probably heard of the “trucker’s helper,” or using a plastic bottle that functions as an, um, portable relief station for those long hauls. Given recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation about average commuting times and traffic flow being in crisis mode, we’re not entirely surprised to learn that doctors and scientists recently released their own related stats about a rise in kidney stones and other ailments. That’s why we think one pickup has, buried deep on the options list, a more forward-thinking version of the helper. It uses the center console and a space-age polymer container that’s dishwasher safe. The console is self-cleaning.


8. Food Holder

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There’s an option that costs less than $80, and it could be as lifesaving as the texting-while-driving ban. So what makes our eyes roll? Even though advanced safety technologies are drawing all the attention, a couple of automakers are offering simple ways to keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel by holding “dangerous” foods — like tacos and barbecue sandwiches — in a plastic vice while you’re driving. One automaker calls it the Food Assist Replacement Tray. Worse, we don’t know how they missed that acronym.


7. Special-Edition Trucks

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We sort of hit on this with the appearance packages, but what we’re totally not digging are the movie-inspired trucks. When the Chevy Camaro went all “Transformers,” it caught buyers’ eyes, but we think mainly because customers thought there was a chance for some Bumblebee action. But what we’re wondering is if we really need that “Hunger Games” trim level supposedly in production for the sequels. We have to admit, though, we are a bit curious about what exactly the Katniss Edition’s postapocalyptic badging will look like.


6. Hybrids

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We might stir up some controversy here, but all new vehicles are “clean” these days, so that’s not really a good argument for why you should be in a hybrid pickup. Truth be told, fuel economy of hybrid trucks isn’t all that impressive compared with their counterparts, and the MSRP can start close to $40,000. Plus, has anyone told you you’ll lose thousands of pounds of towing capacity to boot?


5. Interior Camera

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What makes us cringe more than an off-road camera? A steering-wheel-mounted camera. Due in 2013 from an import automaker is a special camera that can zoom in to focus just on you, or zoom out to capture the entire cab so that you can instantly update your Facebook or Twitter status with pics of you driving, or of your passengers passengering. It’s said to be hands-free and voice-activated, of course. Safety first.


4. Front-View Camera

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We kick it old school and do what we learned in driver’s ed: Use windows and mirrors to see what we’re doing and what’s happening around us when we drive forward and backward. But we know the age of backup cameras is upon us, and if the government has anything to say, the cameras will be mandated by 2014 in all vehicles. But what we really have trouble getting behind — or in front of, technically — is the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor’s front camera, designed to outsource the work of spotters or your own eyes, by giving drivers a view what’s directly in front of the truck, then displaying it on the navigation screen.


3. Calling All Diesel Engines

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Along the same lines as no stick shifts for full-size trucks, how come full-size pickups get diesel engines but compact trucks don’t? We came close — real close — with the pickup from Mahindra, but that whole situation seems to be dead in the water, so who knows when — or if — we’ll see an oil burner in a compact anytime soon.


2. Aesthetic Packages

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Why cough up money for all form and no function? We’re pointing at you, Ford, and your King Ranch and opulent Platinum editions. Sure, if upscale is your thing, you’ll likely be in hog heaven sitting in a truck swathed in saddle-tooled leather. But do we really need all those logos on the seatbacks, floormats, center console and other body parts? Of course, Ford’s not alone in this. The pricey Ram Laramie Longhorn and Limited editions have an equally leathery Southwestern and excess theme. Then there’s the Texas-only Ram Lone Star, with its Texas state emblem on the doors and tailgate. Wouldn’t that money be better spent on equipment that actually does something instead of just looking pretty?


1. What, No Manual Transmissions?

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Where are the stick-shift trucks? True, compact pickups like the Chevy Colorado and Nissan Frontier get a manual in small numbers, but what about their full-size brethren, the Silverado and Titan, or any of the other full-size trucks, beyond the Cummins Ram HD? We’d prefer the option of a manual transmission across the board, not multiple choices in automatic gearboxes. Not only do they typically offer better fuel economy numbers but you're likely to get better/stronger gearing ratios. 


The biggest advantage I can see with having a manual transmission in a full size pickup is when heading down steep grades while hauling a heavy trailer or load. I was pulling a loaded 30 foot car hauler trailer with my Chevy 3500 (8.1L gasoline V8) and wished I had a manual transmission for heading down the mountains. Brake fade is real, happens while riding the brakes down steep grades, and is dangerous. Would have rather downshifted a manual (the torque converter on my 4L-80 would not lock up in a lower gear, so downshifting didn't make any appreciable difference).

I have a 2000 f150 w/man. Trans, as well as 231,540 mi. I've been wanting a newer one, but so far the pickings r zilch. I want a manual tranny with the same dependability that I have with my current ford. Dealers want me to trade in my current pick up for a newer one but sofar they ALL fall flat, ford, Chevy, Toyota, and dodge.

MANUAL TRANSMISSION!!!! I would switch brands in a heartbeat for a manual trans option! A mans truck! They are more fun to drive, and better for certain traction / towing situations. My pet peeve is calling an auto trans an OPTION, charging an extra 1500 for it, but saying manual trans. is not available! Insurance should be cheaper because 90% of the last two generations couldnt even steal it because they never drove a manual!

I agree that the major manufacturers should seriously consider manual transmission as an option across the board.

What is really the deal with no manual transmissioned trucks any more?this is one of the 1st things I look for on the top of my list when shopping for a vehicle

The feminization of America. truck manufacturers don't offer manual transmissions because women won't drive them. American men have given up their manhood. Hoorah for RAM for keeping our choices. Ford, Chevy and GMC WAKE UP!

The excuse that American won't buy manuals is bull. There are none to buy.

go outside of north America and you will find diesels in mid sized trucks and in SUV's with manual transmissions.

all the extras as good if you want them and have 50K for a truck.
but a lot of us need a base truck like you could get 3 to 5 yrs ago for 18k and in slippery snow and ice i will take a stick any day i now have a 99explorer and a s10 5sp
would buy the explorer with the same equipment now it a car with a suv body no thanks and the ranger is history
so i will buy a used and less manf. job

ok i have a automatic in my 01 ram 1500 sport but i bought what i could find and dont have the money to convert it to stick like i want and yes you can do that you morons

If you think for a second that your automatic is giving you control, you are a fool's fool. There is not a single automatic that can hold a precise speed, and engine braking on a PRND3L died in the 90's. If you think that an auto is going to out-torque a manual AND beat it in fuel economy, you probably don't know how many speeds your slushbox is pulling, and it's news to you that auto efficiency only comes from clutched autos, which don't have ANYTHING like the pulling power of an expertly piloted stick. You can have your auto if you're that lazy, but if you trust GM, Ford or Dodge to time your shifting for you, you're already a mile behind.

It's simple, you can have a torque converter with no speed control, and a little extra torque, in exchange for a 10-15% power loss. You can have a clutched auto, with no low end torque, decent efficiency, decent control, and enough power, or you can shift yourself, and time your shifts to save fuel when you can and get power when you need it. Any male who can't be bothered to drive with both feet is not a real man.

@kemo, it's great when someone who can't spell calls others a moron.

My Tacoma will outlast your Ford/Dodge/Chevy by a lot, and be less expensive in the process. Ford used to be pretty good but quality hasn't been Job 1 in a while. Dodge and Chevy had to be bailed out, that's all you need to know about those two.

Seems the primary focus for the transmission debate tends to come from flatlanders, east-coasters, and those that use their trucks, primarily, for highway towing. These are all fair considerations for consumer segments in our country, however, this misses a large segment of those of us in the mountain regions of the country (sorry "Mountain State", I'm talking West of the Mississippi) who benefit greatly from the winter and "off-road" functionality of fully controllable torque modulation. It just seems foolish that no one offers a half-ton pickup in a manual anymore as these are the best sportsman and daily-driver rigs that still have the benefits of being a truck. This combination has also had a steady stream of support for their resurrection since the beginning of their death by the hand of the marketing bafoons over a decade ago. Just another example of a massive disconnect between the suits and their customer's wants, needs, and allegiances (I'm looking at you Fiat). Capitalism just works better when manufacturers listen. Oh well... Our "leadership's" always got a bailout...

been driving man.trans. pickups for over 40 years.first one was a 1956 chev. apache.never owned an auto.trans.wouldnt have it any other way.i bought new in 03 a ram 1500 5 speed, today at 154,000 miles the clutch is starting to go.

We have 3 vehicles in my family. 2 cars with auto and under 100K miles, and 1 daily driven 88 F-150with 338,000 miles. Guess which ones have had transmission problems? I have replace the clutch twice in the truck at a cost of 300 each time. To rebuild the cars transmissions it was from 1 to 3K. To make an automatic strong enough for a truck (that is actually used as a truck) it would probably be too heavy to be practical.

since I rolled my last auto truck, I will only drive a manual tranni. the loss of control and response is stupid. Who cares a bout gas mileage in a truck anyway, you should buy a sedan! My wifes Bimmer is auto stick and it doesn't matter, the trans will shift when it wants either way. but since I'm in the market for a new truck it does suck that a lower optioned ram is my only option.

I spent three weeks in Argentina a few years back. Got to drive a Ford Ranger with a 2 Liter diesel. Great little truck, and it got around 35 mpg. They would be wildly popular here, but I don't think Ford will ever do it.

Love the thought that "autos get as good mileage as manuals".

Not true, will never be true, only applicable to hybrid vehicles with CVT.

Automatics take the engine torque, and use it to power a hydraulic system (the trans). Manuals take the engine torque, run it through gears, and thats it. Automatics will ALWAYS have more parts, and will ALWAYS have parasitic loss that manuals do not.

Bad driving does not equate to autos getting better mileage. Present EPA ratings are based on the WORST driving habits, not people knowing how to drive. If all you get is the EPA ratings, you aren't a good driver.

And by the way, any well designed manual will last FAR longer than an auto due to less components (typical autos have 30+ clutch disks in them) and your brakes last longer as well. 134K as of today, original brakes and clutch. Owned since new.

Standard all the way in the 1/2 tons what a shame
Not an option :(

The dealer where I bought my 2011 4X4 1500 called me today and wanted used trucks. I told them if they could get me a full sized 4X4 with a V8 and a straight shift I would come and trade today. I could care less about fuel economy. I have more control over my truck when it has a straight shift. Call me what you want but I hate the automatic in my truck. That is the first truck I have owned that wasnt a straight shift and will definitely be the last. Im looking into a good restored truck for my next one.

I am one of those lucky ones that learned to drive a stick shift by experience manual transmission are the best and cheap, I'm very disappointed manufacturers, with a manual transmission there is always the right gear when towing, going down hill, up hill, you can get some engine brake also, but now on the full size truck p/u 1\2 tone that everyone use for everything, yea they have a good V8 4.7L , 4.8L, 5.3L , 5.6L 5.7L but of course if you want to go cheap you will get stock witch a "junk" 4speed automatic transmission on one of those engines, seems like manufactures don't want to sell you the best and cheaper. My point is if I have the choice to manual transmission on a basic or luxury vehicle I always will get manual, 6speed manual the best .

No one understand that all this foucking companies sell you what they want not what you want or need.

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