2015 Motor Trend Truck of the Year Contenders

Pickup Throwdown: America's Newest Pickups and a Van Battle for the Golden Calipers

By Motor Trend Editors | Photos By Motor Trend Staff | February, 2015
There is arguably no vehicle more distinctly American than the pickup truck. Last year, Yanks bought almost 2.2 million of the work-and-play haulers, ranking them second only to midsize sedans in segment volume in the U.S. Further, three of the four top-selling vehicles in America through October 2014 -- the Ford F-150 (1), Chevrolet Silverado (2), and Ram 1500 (4) -- were trucks. For the 2015 TOTY competition, we invited seven all-new or significantly updated vehicles to compete for the Golden Calipers. From GM came a tandem of revamped midsize offerings -- the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon -- and the Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD pickups. From Ford arrived the updated F-450, the full-size Transit van, and, last but certainly not least, the much-hyped aluminum F-150. We put these seven contenders (with 10 variants among them) through a grueling battery of tests as we set out to determine which was most worthy of the calipers. Armed with market research data on how truck owners actually use their vehicles, and with the SAE's new J2807 tow ratings in full effect, we revised our Truck of the Year program to make the evaluation process more relevant.

2015 Truck of the Year Contenders
HEAVY-DUTY TRUCKS MIDSIZE TRUCKS VAN AND FULLSIZE TRUCK
Chevrolet Silverado HD GMC CanyonFord F-150
Ford F-450 Super Duty PlatinumChevrolet ColoradoFord Transit
GMC Sierra Denali HD 
We began just outside of Los Angeles, where all 10 trucks were loaded up with an average payload's worth of 100-pound rubber horse-stall mats, allowing us to safely weigh down each rig and test how they performed on the road as well as at the pump. The Colorado and Canyon took on five mats each (for a total of 500 pounds), the F-150 and Transit cargo van each got 10 mats per (1,000 pounds), and the heavy-duty trucks received 20 mats each (2,000 pounds).

Seven contenders faced a battery of tests to determine which was worthy of the calipers.

Then it was time to hit the road. Destination: Bullhead City, Arizona, home of Davis Dam. Part of the SAE J2807 testing procedures, the Davis Dam grade is an 11.2-mile climb up a nearly steady 6-percent grade to a 3,000-foot summit. We used the grade to test the trucks' mettle in the Frustration Test, designed to assess acceleration times from 50-70 mph and mimic passing situations with a payload while simultaneously checking cooling and braking abilities. With Davis Dam in the rear view, we headed to Chrysler's Proving Grounds in Yucca, Arizona, where we hitched trailers to the contenders and put the rigs through a slew of tests, including instrumented acceleration and a towing maneuverability course, the latter designed to evaluate how easy it is to hook up a trailer, tow it, and reverse into a tight parking stall. Based on data showing us what weight truck owners in each segment tend to tow, the Canyon, Colorado, and Transit were saddled with 3,000-pound trailers, the F-150 a 7,000-pound trailer, and the heavy-duty trucks 10,000-pound trailers. Research indicates that the vast majority of owners of these trucks seldom go off-road, so we eliminated that subjective test in favor of our newly added objective tests. With all that said and done, there was one more round of testing in store: We headed out on a multifaceted 25-mile road loop around Kingman, Arizona. After some brews, barbecue, and bickering, we picked our winner. So which truck (or van) drove off with the calipers? Read on to find out. -- Christian Seabaugh

THE JUDGES


Edward Loh Editor-in-Chief
Frank Markus Technical Director
Jonny Lieberman Senior Features Editor
Scott Burgess Detroit Editor
Kim Reynolds Testing Director
Scott Mortara Road Test Editor
Scott Evans Associate Editor
Benson Kong Associate Online Editor
Christian Seabaugh Associate Editor

The Criteria

ADVANCEMENT IN DESIGN

Quality execution of exterior and interior styling; innovation in vehicle packaging; good selection and use of materials.

ENGINEERING EXCELLENCE

Integrity of total vehicle concept and execution, clever solutions to packaging, manufacturing, and dynamics issues; use of cost-effective technologies that benefit the consumer.

EFFICIENCY

Low energy consumption and carbon footprint relative to the vehicle's competitive set.

SAFETY

Primary safety -- the vehicle's ability to help the driver avoid a crash -- as well as secondary safety measures that protect its occupants from harm during a crash.

VALUE

Price and equipment levels measured against those of vehicles in the same market segment.

PERFORMANCE OF INTENDED FUNCTION

How well the vehicle does the job its designers and product planners intended.
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