In the two years he’s been in this world, my son’s never shown interest in the different vehicles I drive each week like he did with this trio of pickups.
Everyday after daycare, it was “peas daddy, picatruck!” and we’d go out to the driveway for some father/son bonding time. Sometime he just wanted to run mad circles in the cargo box. Other times perch on the driver’s seat and manhandle the steering wheel. If I was driving, he’d giggle when I revved one of the mighty V8s.
I’m no psychiatrist, but I think this is why so many grown men buy pickup trucks as daily drivers – even if they’re not going to use them to build decks for a living or follow other macho pursuits. All massive, towering and gruff-sounding, they play to that two-year-old still lurking about in the corners of our subconscious -the same one that still finds farting hysterical.
Hold your applause U of T. I know. I know. This revelation is genius. Kindly mail the honourary doctorate.
The automakers then, are obviously on to this thinking (about the trucks, not the flatulence). It’s why pickups like our trio of four-door, five passenger testers exist: a GMC with more chrome than your Opa’s LeSabre, a Ram with heated and cooled seats and a Ford shoed in 22-inch dubs right from the factory.
We already know that Howard Elmer and his crew picked the Ram as the most capable truck of 2012, but what’s the best one for a fella (or family man?) that just wants to rock a 4×4 pickup because it puts a silly, childish grin on his face? Well, you’ll have to read on to find out.
Third place – GMC Sierra SLE 1500 Crew Cab
The GMC didn’t so much lose this comparo as get out-classed. There’s no way to glaze this in Splenda for the GM faithful: this is an old truck design. Both the Ram and Ford have seen significant updates since the Sierra bowed in five years ago. It doesn’t ride as sweetly, offer the size, or the extent of toys and tech its rivals do.
Wow, wait. Don’t click away in disgust quite yet. Major criticisms aired above, there’s much to recommend in the GMC, especially outfitted as our $52,915 tester was (cheapest truck in test by the way….) We dig the fact that your can spec the outside of the Sierra (and its identical Chevy Silverado cousin) with all kind of chrome and handsome bits, while leaving the interior basic, tough and functional. A middle ground between work and play some people still want. The GM rigs remain the only trucks on the market offering a ‘luxe’ interior stolen from the Tahoe SUV and the ‘work’ design our tester wore. Monochromatic, functional and tough. This is a truck you and the kids can climb in and out of without knocking the grime off of your boots.
Being the err, smallest, of our test trucks at nearly six-metres, the Sierra fit well into my suburban life – most times (ahem, my McDonalds drive thru fail not withstanding…). The 5.3-litre V8 underhood is the mid-level (and most popular) engine offered in the GMC and makes 326 horsepower and 348 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. If you’re not hammering the gas, it’ll run on four-cylinders to save fuel (not quite best-in-test, though 15 L/100 km).
A few more negatives for the GMC: Lots of road noise versus is rivals, a steering wheel so thin it’s like maneuvering with a frozen garden hose and skinny, squishy non-heated (!?) leather buckets up front.
And a few more positives: One-hand fold-up back seats, wide-opening rear doors, great V8 sound and probably the best build quality of the three.
Simply put, this is a truck rockin’ a small block V8 that feels like it will last forever. But also one that feels a weight class down from younger rivals.
Second place – Ford F-150 SuperCrew Harley-Davidson
We admit this F-150 Harley-Davidson edition was not to the taste of our trio of test drivers. That faux-snake skin steering wheel, big sticker down the side and a Harley logo on the centre console was all just a too, well… crass for us. That said, it illustrates just how premium and imposing this rig can get. Says our own Brian Makse: “This is not a work truck. It’s a luxury-filled middle finger to the rest of the motoring world. It towers over Range Rovers and is probably 50 percent longer than one too – with many of the same technologies.”
The sheer size of the Ford’s cabin contributed to its appeal significantly, the front seats are a great blend of comfort and support and this is the only one of our trucks with telescopic steering for that just-right driving position. The rear seat area is also positively cavernous – and bonus, fold up the seats and there’s enough flat floor space to park a Smart car.
Power from our tester came from the top-of-range gas engine in the Ford family – a ridiculously massive 6.2L making 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque. “Hells yeah!” says Brian. We think it will indeed tow your boat – or right the Costa Concordia. It will also average an absolutely abysmal 22 L /100 km (though this was a brand new truck, so the engine was still breaking in). Despite all of that engine – and the fact that the front end equates to moving a Frigidaire freezer through the air, the F-150 breezes along with surprising quiet and refinement. Big points too, for the electrically deploying boards. There when you need them, tucked away when you don’t.
The choice engine here – which we admittedly could not get our hands on for this test – is the EcoBoost 3.5L turbo V6. Making 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, I previously called it “the engine truck guys… have been looking for. We want to drive our rigs everyday, using them equally as the family car and an occasional work machine, but hate the fuel penalty the V8 engines have always brought.”
Without taking any points away from the love-it-or-leave-it Harley package, the F-150 loses points for a few reasons – the first is well, really not a make-or-break if we’re being honest. Tester Jordan Dykstra was asked along because he used to work with his Pop as a landscaper. He knows what it means to live with pickup trucks. The Ford’s foldout tailgate step is apparently a quick way to get a wedgie from other truck guys. “Real men,” he says, “climb into the box by stepping on the back tire.” Okay then.
Our second and third complaints may hold more sway: the F-150’s interior is not of the best quality materials and it has a hodge-podge design, especially as more and more equipment and controls – like navigation, heated and cooled seats and a trailer brake controller – are added. Finally, the Ford drives just a big as it looks. This is quite the beast to wield through traffic or park – back to cruise ship jokes, it’s like docking the Queen Mary in a sailing dinghy’s slip.
Ah, and if you’re going to drop 65,799 large on a pickup truck – do remember there’s an alternative to the Harley – the near-equally priced, I-just-jumped-the-neighbour’s-Saint-Bernard, F-150 Raptor SVT.
First place – RAM 1500 Laramie Crew Cab
Our man Jordan summed it up best: “This is probably the nicest truck of the three. Combination of great comfort, best design, lots of fun to drive and practical storage solutions.”
For the former landscaper to say this means much in our books. Indeed, the Ram (designed under Canadian Ralph Gilles, woot!) is the clear winner for the guy looking for a daily driver truck. We think its styling’s the best too (e.g. check out those integrated dual exhaust tips), but that’s a matter of personal taste.
So what gave it the win? First off, this is a supremely comfortable truck with a luxury car interior – especially ordered the way our tester was at $54,825. You get leather, wood, chrome, heated and cooled seats, a properly thick heated (!) steering wheel, navigation and a backup camera just to name a few features. Continues our Mr. Dykstra: “There’s lots of room for gear inside too, whether in the cavernous centre console, various pockets throughout the cab, the covered bins under the rear seats or even the shelves under the door armrests.”
Combine all this with rear seat room that feels just slightly behind the expansive Ford and this become a truck the family could drive to Florida in complete comfort and style.
The truck’s exceptionally clever RamBoxes ($1,195) are a major part of win here, too. Essentially two long, lockable storage bins in the otherwise wasted bedsides. Our drivers called them “brilliant.” All plastic inside, with drains (so they can double as coolers!), they don’t take away from that all-important cargo bed width – a 4×8 sheet of drywall will still fit in. Added Jordan, “the Ram’s exclusive [in this test] factory spray-in bedliner ($450) is also great for long-term protection (water can get under the plastic molds in the other trucks).”
Of course, our Ram had a Hemi: The ubiquitous 5.7-litre with a cylinder deactivation system similar to the GMC’s. Mated with a six-speed automatic, the engine drank the least fuel of all our testers at 14.3 L/100 km (note: we saw low 10s in an EcoBoost F-150 late last year).
The Ram also had the best ride of our crew thanks to an exclusive independent rear suspension, sort of like what an everyday sedan uses. Chrysler’s engineers finally figured out how to make this setup work in a pickup without compromising towing and hauling capability. It also seriously dials out the rough and bouncy ride the GMC and Ford still exhibit. A smooth operator this is.
Not all is rosy in Ram-land though: first off, that Hemi really needs to sound better when you’re accelerating. Right now it’s more of a sad moan then a rumble; when you flip up the rear seats, yes, there’s covered storage, but this take up precious floor space for carrying larger gear and finally, the steering wheel has some seriously limited travel.
Easy fixes for Ram’s eggheads we’d say and stuff the everyday pickup truck driver can live with. Especially when your truck’s otherwise so darn enjoyable.