Pickups haven’t always led such a charmed life. Back in the dark ages, when trucks were the sole province of tradesmen, farmers, and other commercially minded operators, looks and luxury weren’t part of the plan. But a few decades back, the buying public began to see the beauty in the rugged utility they offered, and sales took off as more folks adopted them as their daily vehicles.
Now, of course, pickups are routinely the top-selling vehicles of any calendar year, and manufacturers have engaged in a nonstop trend of adding features, capability, and technology. To keep tabs on the ever-evolving segment, we grab seat time in and strap our test gear to the latest pickups at every available opportunity. The competition has never been fiercer—so buckle up.
7. Toyota Tundra
Try as it might, the graying Toyota Tundra is not quite up to the challenge of the competition despite standard active-safety features and a spacious interior. Powertrains include two V-8s, with maximum towing and payload ratings of 10,500 pounds and 2080 pounds. The stiff suspension makes for a bumpy ride, and the light steering requires you to make constant corrections on highway trips. Toyota’s largest truck is showing its age, as much hasn’t been touched since its last major redesign way back for the 2007 model year: fuel economy is abysmal, tech is basic, and exterior styling is outdated.
6. Nissan Titan
Nissan’s second-generation Titan is a valiant attempt to challenge trucks from Ford and General Motors, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Although it can giddyap and go and has sufficient stopping power, its ride, steering, and handling aren’t as refined as the competition’s. Its large, comfortable cabin has cushy seats, but the infotainment system disappoints. The Titan can tow up to 9740 pounds, which is more than enough for most owners, and every model can pull at least 9110 pounds with a max of 9740 pounds.
5. GMC Sierra 1500
Despite having much in common with the equally new Chevrolet Silverado, the Sierra 1500 has a uniquely chiseled design—some might say the GMC is better-looking than its over-styled Chevy sibling, but we’ll let it be your call—and exclusive features. It alone is available with an adaptive suspension, a versatile multi-position split-folding tailgate, and a resilient carbon-fiber cargo bed. The Sierra has a rougher ride than the Ram 1500, but at least the steering is responsive and body roll decently restrained. Too bad the high-priced Denali model fails to feel high-class; like the Silverado, the Sierra is saddled with an interior that, despite being all-new, feels carry-over and old, with subpar materials. Although GMC’s marketing types would like you to believe that the Sierra is no longer just a pricier Silverado, the two remain very similar in their execution.
4. Chevrolet Silverado 1500
Chevrolet’s weapon in the ever-raging truck wars is the rugged, adaptable, and trusty Silverado 1500. A range of engines—including a V-6, three V-8 choices, a turbocharged four-cylinder, and a diesel inline-six—means there’s a Silverado for any job. On the road, the big truck drives smaller than it is; handling is surprisingly agile, and the suspension delivers a generally smooth ride but the rear axle suffers hop and chatter on washboard surfaces. Clever storage cubbies dot the cabin, though we wish the plain-looking interior took a bigger step forward in the truck’s 2019 redesign, particularly on the higher-end models that are pushing $70,000.
3. Ram 1500
Ram’s new-for-2019 1500 has yet to prove itself in one of our comparison tests against its segment rivals from GM and Ford, but it’s so good that we’ve placed it third behind the reigning full-size 10 Best Trucks champ, the F-150 and F-150 Raptor. Efficiency takes a front seat, with automatic stop/start, active aerodynamics, and a 48-volt hybrid powertrain option. Another class exclusive—air suspension—smooths out the ride, and the truck is outstanding to drive. Two cab styles—quad and crew—join three engine choices that top out at 10,620 pounds of towing capability. Several carryover 2018 trims, badged Classic, help fill in the gaps as the 2019 trucks enter production.
2. Ford F-150 Raptor
The F-150 Raptor is the best pickup for pulse-pounding desert running and pure, dumb fun—and it more than does its part to hold the F-150 ahead of the Ram 1500 (for now). The Raptor features a 450-hp twin-turbo V-6 that can deliver zero to 60 mph acceleration in 5.1 seconds. Braking is a weak point—thanks to the off-road tires—but the Raptor’s soft suspension provides a comfortable and surprisingly controlled ride on- and off-road. Of all Raptors, the SuperCrew has the best max tow and payload ratings, at 8000 pounds and 1200 pounds, but the stubby SuperCab model looks the most like a trophy truck and therefore is much cooler. Fuel economy is decent—we saw 18 mpg in our 75-mph real-world highway testing.
1. Ford F-150
Beloved for its legendary capabilities, the F-150 is our favorite full-size pickup, netting multiple 10 Best awards. Those accolades help the aging Ford edge out the new Ram 1500 in the absence of a definitive comparison-test result (we have yet to pit the trucks against one another). Engine options include a 3.3-liter V-6 (265 lb-ft), a 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 (400 lb-ft), a Power Stroke diesel 3.0-liter V-6 (440 lb-ft), a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 (470 lb-ft), and a 5.0-liter V-8 (400 lb-ft). All engines save the base V-6 get a 10-speed automatic transmission. A touchscreen infotainment system is optional, as is 4G LTE Wi-Fi, adaptive cruise control, and automated emergency braking.