2015 Midsize Challenge: Acceleration

Toyota 10 II

We tested our four challengers on the same day, at the same track (Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz.), with the same test equipment and the same driver (and his test procedures). Since we had all V-6 engines, spinning tires was not much of a problem for these pickups, but much of their success was based on tire grip and transmission software mapping. Interestingly, there was still a pretty good separation between the players.


The Colorado had the fastest time to 60 mph, running in 8.1 seconds. The Frontier, with its impressive off-the-line throttle response, was close behind with 8.18 seconds. Although it has an aging engine, Nissan engineers have done an excellent job of getting the power from the engine to the wheels. The Canyon placed third, and the Tacoma — the smallest and least powerful vehicle according to its Toyota factory specs — finished last.

Maybe not surprisingly, the fastest of our loaded group was the pickup with the smallest calculated payload: The Frontier ran to 60 mph in 9.32 seconds. The Canyon took second place with 9.93 seconds, while the Toyota and Colorado finished third and fourth respectively.


In our quarter-mile testing, the results were similar but not identical to the zero-to-60 mph runs. During our empty runs down the entire length of the track at wide-open throttle, the two newest engines again had the best results, likely due to their strong-shifting six-speed automatic transmissions.

Colorado V-6 3 II

The Colorado ran the quickest at 16.26 seconds at 87.6 mph, while the Canyon ran a little slower but did have the highest speed in 16.41 seconds at 87.8 mph. The Nissan was only a tenth of a second behind and a few mph slower with a third-place finish. The Toyota finished fourth.

In the loaded quarter-mile run, the Nissan did best again, crossing the traps in 17.25 seconds at 81.1 mph, but very close behind was the Canyon at 17.54 seconds at 82.0 mph. The Toyota finished third and the Colorado came in fourth.

How We Conducted the Testing

We began our test with the empty zero-to-60 mph runs. Some may be surprised that the two smallest V-6s were the fastest and most powerful engines, but consider that these are the two most sophisticated and advanced engines around — direct injection, variable valve timing and variable intakes. Add to that the fact the two GM 3.6-liter motors also had the highest (lowest numerically) ring-and-pinion ratios — 3.42:1 — and their performance achievements are even more impressive. We're guessing the transmission mapping had something to do with that as well.

For our loaded testing, knowing how capable these smaller pickups typically are, we calculated the maximum payload of each competitor by weighing each truck at the local CAT scales and subtracting that number from the gross vehicle weight rating as stated on the door labels. With that number in hand, we knew exactly how many 40-pound bags of rock salt to load into each truck bed before loaded testing. Our calculations had us loading 37 bags into the Chevy, 36 into the GMC, 25 into the Nissan and 28 into the Toyota.

All of our track testing was done on the same day, where conditions were calm and cool. Temperatures hovered right around 78 degrees and the humidity was, as it normally is in March in Arizona, low.

FullSizeRender[5] II

Each run was done with our RaceLogic VBOX VB2SX10 and real-time display equipment. For acceleration runs, we usually take three or four runs with each pickup to find out how best to launch the truck. It's worth noting there was a huge difference in tire types for this test, with the Tacoma running on rather large (and knobby) off-road-biased BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires, while the Canyon had street-biased Goodyear Wranglers. As a result, our launches varied quite a bit from vehicle to vehicle, and even from test run to test run due in large part to the condition of the start-line surface. Additionally, Cars.com test driver Joe Bruzek uses his left foot to brake-torque the engine before fully releasing the brake pedal and mashing the throttle. We do not correct the numbers to sea-level performance (like some other outlets do) to give you the best real-world comparison numbers and performance results we can.

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears


Overview | Acceleration | Braking | Mileage Drive | Off-Road | Judges | Results


Nissan 1 II


Seems stupid to load them with different weights, the GMs are getting punished for having significantly more capability here.

put the street tires on the Tacoma and its faster in every category with 70 hp less than the GM twins..........

I believe the PUTC is the best around as far these comparisons go... but I'm not sure I'm sold on loading each truck with a different amount of weight. I see the point, but more apples to apples make sense to me... with that said, I like all four of these trucks and would like to see how they compare more precisely I guess.

Amazing that they are all so close in acceleration. Only .34 in zero to 60 and .41 seconds between 1st and last in the quarter. Pretty close overall. Doesn't make sense loaded since they didn't all carry the same weight.

The trucks are all very equal in straight line performance, based on these numbers.

The creature comforts probably favor GM the most and ding the Toyota. Payload being varied is weird.

You would not go wrong with any of them if you're under six feet tall and don't need half ton performance.

We've spent a lot of time debating how to do the loaded testing in these comparisons and have eventually come down to two different camps. The first is to simply put 1,000 or 2,000 or whatever weight in each truck, regardless of the GVW or capacity and see how they directly compare, or, second, calculate their actual payload capacities given their "as tested" weights and manufacturer GVW ratings, so we know exactly what the OE's have certified them capable of carrying. Obviously, we chose the latter for this one, but certainly there is value to each. For this comparison, we essentially loaded each truck just past their maximum (calculated) payload rating which in some cases seems light, and other pretty substantial. In the end, we thought know how each player handled the max payloads would be more informative. Next time we're likely to take an extra day and do both.

They should have had the same weight. If I'm going to Blowes or Home Despot, I'm not going to get "extra stuff" just because I can haul more. 1,000 lbs of drywall is 1,000 lbs of drywall. Period.

Apples to Apples folks

@Mark Williams. That's a great idea. Doing both be awesome. Look forward to more of these comparisons. Thanks!

As long as a pickup can accelerate 0-60 in ten seconds is good enough.

At most any traffic light if you are leaping off when the light turns green and do a 0-60 in 10sec you will probably be drag racing some alongside of you.

When loaded why would you try and do the times these tester are doing? This is a ridiculous test, how long will a drivetrain last?

Very disappointing empty acceleration times for the GM twins. With their horsepower/transmission advantages they should have stomped the competition. GM has become very good at putting big numbers on paper that don't amount to much in the real world.

It's always easy to ask for more testing as the non paying reader. Both loads are valid. For the sake of a COMPARISON however, a nice even 1000# makes more sense to me. Beyond that, loading the more capable truck to GVW makes more sense for an individual test.

Another false incompetent info about rear end ratio. Just because it says 3.42 doesn't mean the truck is gears taller than say 3.73. Take into consideration the transmission ratio. The GM's 1st gear ratio is way lower than the tacoma's 1st gear ratio, If this hold true throughout the transmission gears, your claim to the GM's impressive performance is with tall 3.42 ratio is flawed.

When does GM upgrade to the 8 or 10 speed automatic?

uh huh - agreed. Rear end ratio's mattered more in the day of 3 speed automatics and a top gear ratio of 1:1.

@Big Al you ask a question: how long will a drivetrain last?

Your implication that hard service will shorten the practical life of these trucks is ill founded. In fact, the service life of these things is amazing considering the pounding they take in daily life.

As a senior citizen I'm not very hard on my truck, but as a young dad I was always in a hurry and my pickups were dealt a pretty hard go, living in the land of stop signs and traffic signals.

Do not let the concerns about durability worry you. The chassis and interior plastic bits failing to last have plagued my cars and trucks, but not the engines/trans.

As far as I'm concerned, they're all dead heats. At worst they were a second apart and most of the time within only half a second of each other. For one complaining about the Chevy being punished, to me it shows the strength of the engine that it still stayed so close to the others despite that disadvantage. Nothing really to see here; they're all roughly equal when empty and when loaded.

The Tacoma is the faster truck in other reviews.

If Toyota sent them a supercharged Tacoma which GM and Nissan cannot do, I would like to see these political writers squirm out of that one.

Tacoma remains the best seller for many reasons, pss off to see bias reports. Reasons that are so important to buyers are reasons Tacoma sell so well yet are never mentioned here.

Resale, turning radius, ease of parking, reliability, toughness, popularity, approach angles, clearances, company profile, manual transmission in a V6, excellent throttle response vs lazy. And TRD options with warranty. Modify a GM or Nissan and say goodbye to your warranty. Cannot even remove the air dam on the GM without voiding your warranty.

@big al from oz- WOT accelleration with a load is certainly valid. I have several on ramps around here where failure to achieve merging speed is a big problem. I maintain that all the trucks should have been tested with the same load.

@BigAl - for most people they will never drive one of these trucks hard enough for long enough to shorten the lifespan.

Guys like my brother who spend most of his time on dirt roads, logging and construction sites can kill a truck easily in less than 100,000 km.

To all the Taco lovers out there-if your main reason for buying a truck is so that you hope you can get more when you sell it, why would you even buy the truck? Did you buy it to sell it or to drive it? Resale values are not etched in stone and are influenced by supply of new and comparably equipped used units, as well as finance and other incentive rates on new models. When new players with better equipment, performance, warranty and features come onto the market you can bet there is going to be an impact on resale values of older, less desireable models. Yoda lovers will blindly pay more for perceived higher quality of a used unit-higher resale value is a self fulfilling prophesy because you perpetuate the myth ! A word about quality-no one makes Yugo's anymore, so all you Yoda lovers might want to take off your blinders and realize there are more manufacturers out there than your precious Yoda's!

@ bat

Have you been in a box for ten years? The tacoma has ALWAYS had the highest resale value, period. It's not flashy junk that breaks it's called QDR or Quality, Durability, Reliability and toyota has it in spades. Blindly paying for a tacoma is like saying Berkshire hathaways stock is likely to crash tomorrow......... Not gonna happen.

I question the hell out of the 0-60 times, The Tacoma's 4.0L V-6 is a very powerful engine with excellent low end torque. I have seen 0-60 times of 6.8 sec flat!!!! Not to mention I have 2011 4Runner with the 4.0L V-6 VVT on all 4 cams 270hp / 278ft/tq it does 0-60 6.9 sec!!!!!
Even with 4x4 and crew cab configuration Tacoma's will have a 0-60 time in the low 7.0's.

Because of the high rpm to torque ratio GM's 3.6 V-6 is highly dependent on the gear ratios of the 8 speed transmission to make the most of the engine low torque spread. The 4.0L's in the Tacoma and Nissan are way better truck engines, with great low end grunt.

latwoods - Does your 4 runner have the same diff ratio, rims and tires as the Tacoma tested? That is why it is slower than a standard 4x4 CC Tacoma.

Please test all the trucks with the same weight in the bed. Most of us already have the 4 wheeler or trailer etc and need to know what truck will pull/haul it the best

Toyota never upgraded the 1gr-fe engine (4.0 V6) to the new cylinder head variant-call it 1gr-fe +. Toyota changed the valvetrain-from direct acting buckets to roller follwer swing arms, added variable exhaust valve timing. The power & torque increased from 236hp@5200rpm, 266ft-lbs@4000rpm, to 270hp@5600, 278ft-lbs@4400 (as last seen in the Tundra).
See GM's car engine in pickup
Well, GM beats the old 1gr-fe from ~3750rpm and higher. Even if Toyota installed the updated 1gr engine, GM still beats it from 5000rpm up.

The same is true with the Nissan VQ40 engine (4.0 V6), GM takes it from 5000-7000rpm.

And GM hasn't upgraded to the 8/10 speed automatic yet. And they could install the newly derived LGX V6 engine, and should produce 320hp, 279ft-bs (single exhaust versus car's dual-335hp, 285ft-lbs)

@hemi lol-you might want to read the latest JD Powers reports about both Initial Quality and Long Term Reliability so you can realize that GM , though far from perfect in the past, has brought their A game over the past 6 years and are building higher quality vehicles. (judging by your nom de plume-you might want to see how Dodge/Ram/Fiat fared-at or near the bottom) So as far as someone being in a box over the past 10 years, you might want to look in a mirror! As far as resale values-go ahead and base your purchase on that if you wish, don't be surprized if you're let down-to coin a phrase from the investment world, since you alluded to Berkshire Hathaway, "Past performance is not a guarantee of future performance" !

@ bat
I own a crew max tundra so Hemi Lol means my tundra is better. Jd power "initial quality" study is about as dumb as CR predicted reliability as neither translate to anything remotely close to the real truth 5 to 10 years down the road. As for past vs future performance stock related so so true, as far as toyota products though none of them score bad so pretty good odds the new tacoma will be the same.

I will never, ever understand why pickuptrucks.com loads different vehicles with different weights and then compares acceleration. When I hook up to my boat it weighs the same no matter which truck pulls it. Come on - apples to apples people.

@George C
I know the changes that Toyota made to the 1gr-fe valve-train to get more power and torque. You are talking about high rpms, thats fine if you like trucks that live at high revs. The 4.0L v-6s from Toyota and Nissan are better pick-up truck engines because they generate most of there torque lower in the rpm range. AND THEY ARE DAMN FAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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