Decades ago, pickup trucks were only used by farmers, tradesmen, and commercially-oriented operators. In a ploy to increase sales and counter the SUV’s immense popularity, pickup truck manufacturers added more amenities and tech features, making the once rugged utility vehicles luxurious enough for daily use.
Their efforts paid off because, in the last decade, pickup trucks have risen to become the top-selling vehicles in the USA. However, the car-like feel and SUV-rivalling interiors are inadequate without performance, practicality, and reliability. The manufacturers are aware of this and so year after year, they strive to outdo each other in the production of new models — and the improvement of existing ones.
Needless to say, the constant growth and revolutions in the pickup truck segment can be confusing to even the most seasoned user. Therefore, we have selected four of the most dependable pickup trucks, from the compact, light duty, and heavy duty categories, with particular consideration to value, dependability, and versatility.
The compact trucks are small and offer the best value to consumers with occasional hauling or towing needs.
2017 Chevrolet Colorado
The 2017 Chevrolet Colorado is arguably the best compact-sized pickup truck in the market. Its offers the ride and interior amenities of a luxury crossover without sacrificing its ability to handle the demands of work. Equipped with features that most trucks in its class can only dream of, it offers a rather choppy ride, as befitting a pickup, and highly responsive handling.
The Colorado offers an array of three versatile engines: A vigorous 4-cylinder, a capable V6, and the only diesel in the class. The standard 2.5-liter I-4 engine is good for 200 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque and can tow up to 3500 pounds. The engine is fitted with either manual or automatic transmission and EPA fuel estimates shows that a gallon of fuel is sufficient for 20 miles in the city and 27 miles on the highway.
The optional 3.6-liter V-6 cranks out 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque and tows a maximum of 7000 pounds. It is backed by a highly responsive automatic transmission, and a gallon will carry you for 18 miles in the city and 26 miles on the highway. The new 181-hp “Duramax” four-cylinder diesel engine produces best-in-class 369 pound-feet of torque and hauls a respectable 7700 pounds. Fuel efficiency is estimated at 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
The Chevy Colorado is available in RWD and 4WD drivetrains and can seat five adults. Featuring advanced safety features, it received an overall government safety rating of 4 stars. Its closest competitor is its more upscale sibling, the GMC Canyon, which offers almost identical capabilities with more high-end features. Regardless, the Colorado’s lowest 5-Year Cost to Own for the second year in a row reputation puts it at an advantage over its rivals.
Light Duty Category
Perhaps the most common pickup truck segment, it strikes a balance between the other two categories and offers the widest variety of vehicles.
2017 Ford F-150
Undoubtedly America’s sweetheart, two Ford F-150s are sold every minute — and for good reason. They are refined and sophisticated but still brutish and brawny enough to tackle just about anything. Step into the F-150 and you will realize just how much the truck world has revolutionized. It was redesigned in 2015 and now features an elaborate infotainment system that is intended not just to entertain and keep you connected but also to show you the way and help you park. The use of aluminum instead of steel makes the body more resilient and substantially reduces the truck’s weight.
2017 Ford F-150 is available in six trim levels: The XL, the XLT, the LARIAT, the King Ranch, the Platinum, and the Limited. It is available as a 2WD Regular Cab and 4WD Super Cab and Supercrew Cab, but only the XL and the XLT offer all three cab options.
Before the latest F-150, we could not imagine that six-cylinder engines could drive full-sized trucks. In a show of innovativeness, Ford availed the F-150 in a choice of three V6 engines. The highly popular 2.7L EcoBoost® V6 gives 325 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque while the high-performing 3.5L EcoBoost® V6 releases 365 hp and 420 pound-feet of torque. The model’s middle child, the 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 coughs out a respectable 282 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque whereas the most powerful 5.0L Ti-VCT V8 spits out 385 galloping horses and 387 pound-feet of torque.
Electronic 6-speed automatic transmission drives all 2017 Ford F-150 trucks, and EPA estimates place them at 16-22 mpg combined. Following a 5-star collision rating from NHTSA on every side and an IIHS Top Safety Pick for every cab configuration, the 2017 model was dubbed the safest F-150 ever. A properly equipped Regular Cab 4×2 with 5.0L V8 and Heavy Duty Payload Package can carry 3,270 lbs and tow a maximum of 12,200 pounds.
Its only con is that the MSRP is quite hefty at $39,245 to $57,240, but the truck’s durability sufficiently compliments this.
2017 Ram 1500
Although not as sought-after as its Ford counterpart, the Ram 1500 truck is just as appealing and is in itself a force to reckon with. It is available in four trims and special editions: The Tradesman, the Ram 1500 Express, the Big Horn, and the Rebel. It has received several awards and accolades for fuel economy and off-road performance. With a price range of between $27,340 and $53,860, it is better priced than the F150, ultimately offering better initial value to owners.
The current Ram 1500 truck comes with a choice of two V6 engines and one V8 engine. The entry level 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 engine makes 240 horsepower and an impressive 420 lb-ft of torque. It boasts of a Payload capacity of 1,600 pounds and tows a maximum of 9,210 pounds. Its fuel economy is ranked at 21 mpg and 29 mpg in the city and highway respectively.
Second in line is the 3.6L PENTASTAR® V6 engine that employs Variable Valve Timing (VVT) technology to produce 305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. The engine has a towing capacity of 7,610 pounds and a payload capacity of 1,880 pounds with 18/25 mpg (city/highway). Both V6 engines make use of a Torqueflite® 8 eight-speed transmission. The 395 hp 5.7 HEMI® V8 engine gives 15 city/22 highway mpg and 14 city/20 highway mpg with eight-speed and six-speed transmissions respectively. It tows a capacity of 10,650 pounds and carries a load of 1,810 pounds.
Heavy Duty Category
The trucks in this segment are mainly suited for buyers that use their trucks for hauling and towing heavy loads as opposed to those that require a truck for day to day usage.
2017 Ram 2500
Most heavy-duty pickup trucks feel like lumbering lugs and are a task to maneuver. Although the manufacturers of the Ram 2500 trucks do not eliminate this problem, they go a great way in reducing it and improving drivability. They have also managed to create the classiest interior on the market without the truck losing its beastly demeanor. They have also made the usual unladen pickup bounciness a thing of the past with the standard coil-spring rear suspension.
With over ten configurations ranging from the entry level $31,780 Tradesman to the class-topping $57,680 Power Wagon Laramie, the latest Ram 2500 ensures that shoppers are spoilt for choice.
Consumers can opt for a six-speed automatic or manual transmission and a 410-hp 6.4-liter V-8 engine; a 383-hp 5.7-liter V-8 engine; or a 6.7-liter turbodiesel inline-six engine with 350 or 370 hp, depending on transmission. Maximum towing capacity is 17,980 lb; payload is 3990 lb. Apart from the fact that it guzzles like a camel — certain trucks can travel for as little as 11 mpg — the Ram 2500 is the best heavy duty truck in the market.