2015 Midsize Challenge: Braking

Nissan 7 II

Panic braking a pickup truck from 60 mph to a full stop can be an unnerving experience. That's why we do all our brake testing on a closed test track with a professional test driver behind the wheel. Although you are not likely to experience this same set of circumstances in the real world, we think how truckmakers tune their vehicles to perform in these conditions can tell potential buyers what to expect from their own braking performance.

The best stopper of the group in empty runs was the GMC Canyon, stopping in just 136.5 feet. In second place was the Frontier, stopping in just 138.7 feet. The Colorado placed third, while the Toyota (the only player in the segment with rear drum brakes) stopped in 158.6 feet, 22 feet longer (more than a full truck length) past our winner.

Cars.com test driver Joe Bruzek noted that the Nissan brakes did well initially but after several stops, seemed to heat up, taking considerably longer to stop with each test. Although squishy, the Canyon had the most confident pedal response of the group and didn't lose any pedal feel after several panic stops. The Colorado, Bruzek noted, seemed to have a mushier pedal feel when compared to the others but whether that's attributable to the Z71 tires or something else we could not determine. Finally, he found the Toyota to have the touchiest pedal feel, giving it a kind of wild-ride flavor during panic stops, squirming quite a bit with a lot of antilock-braking vibration. It's possible that big tires and the oldest braking system of the category didn't help.


During loaded testing with the same payloads used during our acceleration runs, our results were predictable with one exception. Once again the Nissan Frontier — the vehicle with the smallest payload (1,000 pounds) — did well, performing better during loaded testing from 60 mph than it did empty and taking first place. The second-place GMC Canyon also performed well, stopping in 139.2 feet, less than 3 feet longer than when it was empty. In third place (and carrying the heaviest load), the Chevy stopped in just more than 5 feet longer loaded than when empty. In last place, loaded with 1,120 pounds, was the Tacoma.

Canyon V-6 4 II

What can we discern from this? A couple things: First, testing at a maximum payload rating gives us a good idea of how much faith and trust the factory engineers have in their vehicles and at what gross vehicle weight rating they trust their brake system. Newer pickups have both higher payload ratings, and stronger and better braking systems; their stopping distances were more predictable and repeatable.

Second, had we conducted the test a little differently, say only putting the same 1,000-pound payload (for the Frontier) in each truck bed, we would have likely had some different results, but several trucks wouldn't have come close to their maximum carrying capacities. Common sense would suggest that each of the players would likely have done better with less weight in their beds.

Third, how well and confident any pickup feels when carrying or stopping with a load, no matter how close to its limits, is important. Engineers who want to design trucks that are only driven while empty or provide good driving dynamics when conditions are optimal probably aren't doing in-market truck buyers the biggest favor. Our test is designed to see which truck holds up to repeated tests that push the outer edges, just in case future buyers find themselves in that unenviable position.

It's worth noting that when a truck has just 1,000 pounds of payload, once a few normal-sized adults are sitting inside there isn't much room left for cargo (maybe just a few hundred pounds or less). With that said, given how quickly the Nissan heated its brakes during repetitive testing, the Frontier probably had the right payload number.

How We Conducted the Testing

We conducted all our braking tests on the same quarter-mile test track where we did our acceleration tests, Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz. We tried as best as we could to use the same portion of the track surface to initiate our panic braking events. As you might expect, tire grip and road surface can make the results shift a bit, as do temperature and weight conditions. We ran all vehicles to 60 mph in their top overdrive gear, and all braking events were pedal-mashing stomps, engaging the antilock braking system until the vehicle came to a full and complete stop.

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears

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


Toyota 5 II


With everyone complaining that the Tacoma is a ten year old truck I find it hard to believe that the Tacoma braking distance in 2015 is so much worse than the 2012. In the PickupTrucks.com test in 2012 the Tacoma stopped in 133 ft empty (25 ft sooner). The Nissan, also mostly unchanged, stopped sooner in this test than the 2012 test. That would seem to nullify the "different track" argument and begs the question, are these guys really trying to provide objective results? Or are they feathering the brake pedal a little to sway results? The 2012 test is at the following link:


The Tacoma baking distance difference is most likely due to being a TRD Pro model with larger larger tires and more weight.

@ mad max

I couldn't type it fast enough LOL

the only difference here is the SUPER heavy BFG's that are on the Tacoma giving it much more rolling resistance to take off with and stop.

Sorry, Taco fans complaining about larger tires and more weight? The Frontier has larger still tires (largest in test) and even more weight.


The Nissan has P-metric tires like the GMC and Chevy. The Toyota has LT tires. Huge difference.

@ k1500 suburban

your only partly right.

Frontier Rugged trail TA in a 265/75/16 weighs 39.8lbs. load rating 2365@44

Tacoma All Terrain TA KO 265/70/16 weighs 47.7 lbs!!!! load rating 2835@65

these tires are NOTHING alike at all..........

the Tacoma gets a bum rap yet again.

Tire Rack list's the BFG A/T KO 265/70/16 load range D, weighs in at 49 lbs. This is the old style tread. Read stone magnet.

The Tacoma has rear drum brakes. No wonder it can't stop.

rear drum brakes on a modern truck in the 35k+ price range is ridiculous. Huh?

It's amazing how quickly all of these vehicles pull up.

Unless you are racing you pickup you would never brake as short as these vehicles have, even in a panic.

The person performing the brake testing has knowledge of what is to occur and when.

In an emergency situation you don't have this luxury, so these figures also come down to how good the tester can drive and operate a vehicle.

Rear disc brakes are prehistoric in the car world. In the truck real pickup truck world (full size) they are ancient history. In the little pretend pickup truck world they are history. They may still have places in the commercial world but not outside of it. GM and Toy lagged badly on this fact and now that GM has finally fully gotten on with the program Toy is all by itself and badly needs to get with the program on that one. There is no way around that fact. Its not always good to be first... but its almost never good to be last...

The key in this particular vehicle test is tires.

Off road and all terrain tires are lame in the wet on pavement and under any conditions under hard braking.

They are made to get you out of the mud (or snow, LouBC).

too bad the testing couldn't mitigate that factor but they did their best. Great eval and entertaining report.

papa jim - I've been mentioning tire selection as a critique for the last few shootouts.
The 1/2 ton shoutout had the GM siblings, Ford and Ram all coincidentally running Wrangler SR/A's but there is a difference between a 20 inch tire and an 18 or 17.

The Tacoma was at a huge disadvantage due to its offroad bias. Toyota deserves what they got. A TRD package would of been a better choice.

The Nissan looks scary with that huge nose dive. No thanks. I'd take the Colorado or Canyon over the other 2 any day.

Unlike acceleration, braking does make a difference and obviously the Nissan and the GMC are very close. I'm actually surprised the Colorado went that much farther--roughly half a length--though not surprised with the Toyota for obvious reasons. If payload capacity were a major factor for me, I'd give the Canyon the clear thumbs up since it's stopping more weight in very nearly the same distance as the Frontier. Since I'm unlikely to ever load a truck to capacity, it's effectively a draw between the two.

The key in this particular vehicle test is tires. Off road and all terrain tires are lame in the wet on pavement and under any conditions under hard braking. They are made to get you out of the mud (or snow, LouBC).

Posted by: papa jim | Apr 14, 2015 4:31:16 PM

While I agree that tires do make a difference, I disagree with the argument that off-road and all-terrain tires are lame on pavement. Some of those "lame" tires have strong grip even on wet, paved surfaces. I've had a set under my Jeep Wrangler for years and they've impressed me with their grip in all conditions, wet, dry, mud and snow (ordinary mud, not a mud pit).

To "Madmax" Doesn't matter if they had the Toyota model used in the 2012 test where Tacoma would win. Reviewers such as PUTC have to be bias towards the best selling truck that is going to put GM out of business in this segment once again.

All they can do is call the best selling midsize old because that is all they can do. If they had equal trucks the Toyota would win again and sell even more units further putting GM out of business and then they would have nothing to write about.

Go to 4 wheeler magazine and Kelly blue book for honest reviews of Tacoma against the Colorado.

@roadwhale. get a grip! Literally.

P-Rated rubber with a 3 season tread pattern is always going to outperform AT tires unless they're not properly inflated.

The 3 season Wrangler SR/A's on my truck were better on paved road for traction on wet or dry pavement than my General Grabber AT2's. I know that and try to drive accordingly. The AT2's are vastly superior in puncture resistance, gravel road use, mud and snow. Even though they are winter rated they actually were not as good on ice as the 3 season Wranglers.

The take home message is: know your vehicle,and know your tires and drive accordingly.

@LouBc I dont' think any tire is good on ice.

Tank treads aren't even good on ice. Ice is all but a friction-free environment and rubber tires really don't have a place there. Unfortunately we sometimes need our cars/trucks to function in the nasty conditions but the tire engineers and chemists really don't have an answer for ice.

papa jim - some tires are better on ice and like anything there are differences in icy conditions. My friend moved to a warmer climate that rarely gets snow but when they do get it it is hell or maybe hell froze over ;). The snow is wet and heavy and packs quickly to ice but when it does it sheds a lot of water. That is about the worst possible ice scenario.

I've raced dirt bikes on lake ice with tires set up with carbide steel ice racing screws. You get better traction than on dirt. Great fun.

@PapaJim: "P-Rated rubber with a 3 season tread pattern is always going to outperform AT tires unless they're not properly inflated."

I'm running a set of Bridgestone Dueler Revo2 tires under my Wrangler. They're rated as all-terrain light-truck tires and they give me excellent road manners as well as remarkable off-road capability, though admittedly they're not purpose-built off-road tires. They're tires I'd willingly put under any truck in general purpose use.

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