Sounding Off: 2015 Midsize Challenge Is Coming

Nissan 19 II

This had to be done. With so much attention on the midsize pickup truck segment we couldn't wait for this test any longer. Two new GM offerings — the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon — along with Toyota's announcement of an all-new 2016 Tacoma by the end of this year make our upcoming 2015 Midsize Challenge timely.

We assembled all the current 4x4 V-6 crew-cab midsize players for a Thunderdome Battle Royale in the form of our 2015 Midsize Challenge, which we'll publish next week. The 2015 competitors were the Chevrolet Colorado Z71, the GMC Canyon SLT, the Nissan Frontier PRO-4X and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro. The current-generation Honda Ridgeline has taken the 2015 model year off since a newly redesigned and reengineered model will debut later this year, so we did not include it.

Our 2015 Midsize Challenge includes some new and interesting tests to provide you with more information about the vehicles you love (or hate). With this Challenge we instituted interior and exterior sound levels at idle, highway speeds and at the exhaust. Adding this test required new equipment and establishing standardized procedures. So for this Challenge, the sound test was a trial run and not scored in the totals for the four trucks.

However, to whet your appetite for the Challenge, we are presenting the results here.

V-6 Group noses II

Our first step was to purchase a sound meter that could measure noise levels in closed or open areas. It had to be compact, adjustable and accurate. The options are many; we chose a basic digital model — the American Recorder SPL-8810 — that anyone can purchase at a music store for less than $100.

We liked its simplicity and ease of use. The unit allows us to select either Db-A or Db-C frequency weighting, fast or slow data reporting, and it has a nice, big LCD display readout we can use night or day. The meter is compact enough to fit in the palm of your hand, and it has large buttons, a half-inch electronic microphone and a foam windscreen.

Settings in all three tests were kept the same: Db-A frequency set to fast weighting.

When testing our pickup interior sound levels at idle, we found a quiet spot behind a huge warehouse after warming up the vehicle with 15 minutes of normal driving on city streets. Sound measurements were taken with the windows rolled up, and the air conditioning and fan in the off position. We held the sound meter between the two front seats at dash height, microphone pointing to the windshield.


When testing sound levels at 60 mph, we chose a well-paved section of a nearby freeway. We did our testing early on a Sunday morning to reduce any traffic issues. In each truck, we sped up to 60 mph, got into our top gear (which meant either 5th or 6th, depending on make), had all the windows rolled up, and air conditioning and fan in the off position. We held the sound meter between the two front seats at dash level.

In our final sound test, we used the same quiet and isolated area behind the warehouse. From the passenger-side rear of each truck, about 2 feet behind the tailpipe, we took sound readings once again.

As you can see, the Chevy and GMC made the least noise overall. Just for fun, the chart with this story offers unweighted scores (rounded to the nearest whole number) for the three sound tests for each competitor. To reiterate, these scores were not included in the Challenge results.

Look for the full 2015 Midsize Challenge next week with all our test results and judges scores, including scoring from in-market pickup truck owners/buyers. Expect more sound testing in future stories. photos by Evan Sears, Mark Williams


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On a vehicle like the TRD Pro they probably put a louder exuahst on that truck vs the regular taco. On my raptor the exhaust is a lot lowder that other f150s with the 5.4L, Land Rover makes the Range Rover sports exhaust louder than the full size Range Rover with the same drive train, they are targeting different markets. So not a true apples to apples comparison. Also the variation in the GM trucks surprises me as I don't think GM would put different exhaust systems in the Twins this means that with the trucks that close there is some variation between different vehicles.

Yes, the new trucks are quieter than the old trucks, especially with the loud exhaust. Toyota should have sent you a RED Sport, with no extras.
We know the new Tacoma will be quieter than the current truck.
Doing this test next year, with the new trucks from Toyota, Nissan, A and Honda will be more informative

Two brand new trucks vs. two decade old trucks. Wow Mark, I wonder who'll win? How about a test on trade-in value.

Is it Mark's fault that Toyota and Nissan has neglected their trucks for so long?

@Mr Knowitall and @Interstate Trucker...

I'd be happy if they did the test again next year too, the GM twins will be further updated and will likely be sporting the 2.8l TurboDiesel. It will be even more of a bloodbath.

This announcement has me cracking up! This test is VERY TIMELY so you can do it before Toyota releases the 16 model truck......... here are some problems with this test.

1. the Tacoma TRD Pro Truck is set up for Off Road Performance not city quiet yet is still that close.

2. The tires at highway speeds with BFG All Terrain T/A KO's will most certainly be louder than a street tire or the Rugged Trail tires even.

3. the Tacoma AND the Frontier are 10 year old designs and when the 2016 Tacoma comes out they have focused on this specific area with acoustical glass, changes in sound deadening and even the headliner gets treatment. So the GM should be WAY WAY quieter so its not completely embarrassed by the 2016 Tacoma.

So lets do a comparison on resale value with data that is already known........... OH no reason there none of these trucks are even on the same playing field as the Tacoma not even the same planet, that is all.

Too bad for all the Toyota whiners...

Perhaps noise levels are on the minor end of the consideration scale but acknowledges that in the beginning of the article as this is just a tease for the more important stuff to follow.

The FACT is the "Taco" soda can is losing its grip on market share and the Americans are fully engaging in this segment - just wait till the Chevy ZR2 diesel comes out and the GMC Canyon Denali - what's that sound I hear? - Could it be more whining from the Toyota owners about the hollow advantages of the inferior trucks that they offer?

I doubt that PUTC specifically requested the TRD-Pro. They have to take what the manufacturers will lend them. For the last full-size challenge they, oddly, sent the Tundra TRD-Pro (which probably didn't do them any favors).
Also, this should be a fun, informative test, even if the results are not that surprising. I doubt PUTC will be able resist getting a brand new Tacoma, Ridgeline, and Colorado/Canyon Duramax together early next year as well. Maybe Nissan will surprise us and have something new by then. Maybe. Maybe not.
Look forward to seeing another comprehensive test.

@ Gregory J. Not Mark's fault for Nissan and Toyota taking way too long between redesigns. Is Mark's fault for not waiting for the new Tacoma and/or Frontier to come out for such an involved mid-size challenge and comparing sound level's using a TRD Pro and Pro-4x.

The reason for the difference is in the photo. The Chevy is a Z71 model which had A/T tires and the other off road goodies. The GMC appears to be an SLT model. The GMC All Terrain model would have come with a body color grill, instead there is a chrome grill. This suggests some sort of luxury package.

Mark, I agree with everyone else. This shootout should have waited until next summer. I understand wanting to put the new twins to the test, but not like this. A full on review or perhaps a comparison/shootout between just GMC and Chevy would have sufficed until next summer. I might be inclined to see a shootout comparing the V6 full size extended cabs vs these mid size crew cabs though, as they represent similarly sized, priced, and equipped vehicles.

The difference in 1 or 2 db is hardly noticeable to most human ear. Doesn't surprise me the exhaust in the Tacoma is louder since it's the TRD Pro tune version.

"I doubt that PUTC specifically requested the TRD-Pro. They have to take what the manufacturers will lend them. For the last full-size challenge they, oddly, sent the Tundra TRD-Pro (which probably didn't do them any favors).
Posted by: BLang | Apr 9, 2015 9:45:11 AM"

Toyota likely sent the TRD-Pro because it is the only trim Tacoma that doesnt look and feel like a cheapo rental car trim. The TRD-Pro at least looks like a truck designed in the current decade.

This test is important just to see the improvements Toyota and Nissan make to their new trucks in the future. The GM twins should win this test handily. The real test will be in a year or so when the new Tacoma hits the street. Good to set the benchmark now.

And of course Nissan will have sent a 5-speed auto with 40% less twist going to the ground in first gear AND worse FE so it won't have a chance to win ANY performance categories.

I'm amazed (although maybe I shouldn't be) at how many people are criticizing PUTC for not waiting to do this test until after the 2016 Taco comes out. Get real, people. These are the trucks that are available NOW. So this is the appropriate test to do NOW. Some of us (many of us, actually) are interested to see the results. Do I expect the GM twins to have an advantage? Of course I do. But that's not evidence of bias on PUTC's part - that's evidence that Toyota and Nissan have sat on their butts for a decade and done nothing to improve their trucks.

And as for waiting until next summer to do this test - guess what? PUTC can do another test next year with the '16 Taco vs. the 2.8l Duramax Canyon/Colorado. So then we can all see how the Taco has improved from '15 to '16 relative to the GM Twins.

Don't you guys come to this site to read about trucks? Don't you want to read more, not less, about trucks? I do! Why in God's name would you want PUTC to do fewer tests, not more? Good grief, folks. It's very simple: you do this test this year, and then do another test next year when the new trucks come out. See how that works?

you people crack me up...... It specifically says in the FIRST PARAGRAPH that the 15 model GM twins are out and the "Announcement" of the 16 Tacoma makes this test "Timely". If you simpletons could read through that it specifically reads as they are TRYING to get this test done without the 16 Tacoma being available.

the only spin is to try to test before and then after but they wont, they will wait for another update to something else and that's ok because everyone that's in the know buys the Tacoma. the new gm twins haven't touched Tacoma sales as you can see with ZERO incentives as always the Tacoma's sales numbers are up 14% with that terrible outdated rental car feel as one of you stated..... funny how no one that drives one feels that way........ Tacoma sales aren't that far away from GMC's TOTAL number of full size trucks! that's 1500,2500, and 3500's......... so I guess the Tacoma is irrelevant LMAO

"It's not Toyota's fault PUTC neglected the midsize trucks for 3 long years. The last Midsize Challenge was was in 2012"

What exactly did you want PUTC to test in those 3 years? Did you want to read a shootout between the Tacoma and the Frontier 3 years in a row? Why? They're the exact same trucks that were tested in 2012, you'd be reading the exact same comparison 3 years in a row. Everybody already know what those truck are like and how they compare due to the thousands of comparisons already done between the two. It makes sense that a new test would be run now that there are new competitors to the segment.

OXI's back, time to have some fun. Side note seen a blue x runner on the side of the road with the hood up last week reminded me of you

It is hard to judge what the sales of the Colorado/Canyon will be since there are fewer of them on dealer lots than the Tacoma. As holding its value yes Toyota has the edge but people buy Toyota's based on past reputation. Nothing wrong with Toyotas but they are not the only manufacturer to make quality vehicles. If anything Toyota has been resting on their past reputation and the competition of the new Colorado/Canyon has at the very least got Toyota to at least update the Tacoma. Even Nissan will come out with a new Frontier. Regardless, Hemi lo I like the fact that there is competition even if Tacoma maintains their top position at least by having added competition Toyota is updating a decade old Tacoma and hopefully a better product. Since I am a consumer and not a salesperson I am more interested in having more competition and having improved products. I do agree that this test would have been better if it was conducted later when a 2016 Tacoma was available.

The Tacoma's noise is coming from the heater blower fan motor, the front wheel bearings and the rear axle gears grinding cause of no gear lube cause the axle seals leak.
and if you listen very closely you can hear the frame rusting away and the plastic bed cracking.

plastic bed?
oh, excuse me! composite material

Interesting story I was reading about the complaints about rusted brake lines on older Chevy Pickups reporting to NHTSA as a serious safety issue in the hopes that Chevy will recall their trucks.
But to everybody's surprise NHTSA blamed the owner of the pickups instead of Chevy saying the owners should "wash their vehicles"
The pickup owners neglected their vehicles by not washing them, washing the salt off not keeping their pickups clean.

sorry if I robbed this story before you had a chance to read it

I've never seen so many grown crying and complaining men in one locations. Do you all live for fighting about every test or comparison that comes out? Just because the design hasn't changed on the other trucks doesn't mean materials it filled with hasn't changed. Correct? I'm sure if you tried to order something from firewall area of the toyota on a 2010 that its probably a different part number than a 2015.

Good thing the Ridgeline isn't included it is NOT a pickup truck!

Just a quick so you know how the db system works.

+3db is twice as loud, for example 33db is twice as loud as 30db
+10db is ten times as loud for example 50db is ten times as loud as 40db.

So for the people that think 2-3 db is not a lot , it kinda is.

For every increase of one decibel equates to a 10 fold increase in noise.

Run these trucks down a rough road for 8 hours a day for a week then repeat the sound test.

Do the test in a noisy environment and while pounding down a dirt road.

I am very surprised at the closeness in cab noise. I would have expected the newer GM twins to have walked away with that comparison handily by a wide margin.

Everyone knows how down I am on the silliness of small trucks (and yes I have owned several, sold a few, and driven them all except for the new GM offerings).

I am always surprised by how poorly the Nissan Frontier tends to fare in these contests. I have driven and sold Frontiers and I owned a Taco. Driving them they seem the same to me although the Taco 4cyl has a lot more power than the Nissan's 4cyl but the Nissans V6 is a lot more powerful than the Toys V6.

A big shocker for me doing my research was how the Nissan had 4 wheel disc brakes and the Taco still had drums on the rear. Also the Nissan had a fully boxed frame and the taco didn't. It seems like a no brainer to me... more V6 horses, fully boxed frame, and rear discs... but the Tacos always seem to score higher and outsell the Nissan 3 to 1.

@Mike What you said is somewhat true when you are using a measuring device and using logarithmic expressions. But sound increase of 1db are hard to distinguish. There's been numerous scientific experiments and tests that proves this. With the numbers provided above of the two in cabin measurements most of us will not be able to decern the difference of noise level.

3 decibels difference are indeed about double, however most people can barely perceive that. It takes a 10 decibels difference for most to perceive as doubled sound.

Greg, I think Clint was referring to the levels in the cab at idle and at 60mph. At Idle the range was 41-44db. At 60mph the range was 63-66db. Thats hardly an earth shattering difference considering the GM twins are all brand new and tout their quiet interiors. Noise levels at the exhaust are equally close with the exception of the Tacoma which IIRC has a performance muffler where as the other 3 have a more standard flow and noise suppressing muffler set up.

You are also a bit off on your decible interpretations. Normal conversation is 60db and a whisper is 15db. To the human ear, that's not an earth shattering difference. You try and show me how you can tell the difference between being slightly louder or quieter during normal conversation. In contrast a jet engine is 120db.

A little clarification maybe. Doubling the amplitude of a "sound" results in a 6dB increase. It does indeed take about a 10dB increase for the human ear to perceive something as twice as loud. And yes, I am a certified level 1 airborne ultrasound inspector.

I'm very surprised to see that the old Nissan and Toyota designs are almost as quiet as the the new GM midsize truck twins. I would have guessed the old Japanese designs would have been much louder.

As someone mentioned on an earlier post. The db levels were different between the GM twins because of the trim packages of each pickup. If the Tacoma was a non TRD Pro that comes with standard exhausts and tires, the results of the db measurements would be nearly identical.

I find the tests here at PUTC is always off with apples to oranges comparison. If you want the manufacturers to send the right truck or trim, specify what tests you are conducting so they can send the right vehicle. Better yet, if you are an expert, you know what kind of tests you will be conducting so inform the manufacturer of which truck and trim you want so you can have an apples to apples comparison.

I am surprised as well to how close the noise level is on all the trucks. The Frontier is a nice truck. You couldn't go wrong choosing any of the current midsize trucks. I prefer the Colorado/Canyon but I would be happy with any of these trucks.

I bet you anything, like all truck test in the past, the truck that rides the closest like a car wins. Nevermind that it's a truck.

I would be interested in seeing how well the newer GM twins stack up against the Taco off road.

I do believe this test is good as it will test the latest generation of midsizers against the older generation.

Off road performance will be up to how good the guy is behind the wheel.

I do believe the Taco will fair okay in this test.

These tests don't do anything. The only real test is to use the trucks in a real world environment. These test are just a big joke and in the end don't even start to tell anyone about any of the trucks.

how about comparing a base dodge and ford against those truck with the base motor

@ Big AL from OZ

With mid-sizers being forever popular in Aussie land - would you have any recent similar comparisons done with the full specturum of mid-sizers from all makes competing for the crown? Any links or articles from local reputable publications will be nice & yearly sales too by brand too...thks

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