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Best pickup trucks

Best pickup trucksBest pickup trucks

Pickups are like blue jeans: They’re durable, rugged, and versatile. Full-sized trucks make towing and carrying heavy cargo a breeze. And compared with trucks of yore, modern pickups offer an improved ride, quieter cabins, and the same convenience features found in cars. Most trucks come in endless combinations of engine size, bed length, and cabin configuration. Full-sized trucks are the most widely sold, but compact pickups cost less, have cargo beds that are easier to access, and are still handy.

Drawbacks: Full-sized trucks can be big, bulky gas-guzzlers with a high step-up and clumsy handling, and anything left in the open bed is exposed to the elements. Compact pickups usually have mediocre fuel economy, and given big incentives on full-sized trucks, they often don’t cost much less.

Ram 1500 (5.7L V8)

It trails the Silverado in our Ratings, but for daily use we would all choose the more comfortable and refined Ram 1500. The 5.7-liter V8 delivers effortless power and returned 15 mpg overall with the smooth eight-speed automatic transmission. The roomy cabin is luxurious, with plenty of connectivity features, but the Ram is fully capable of hard work. Its coil-spring rear suspension smooths the ride without hurting towing and hauling abilities. The diesel engine, unique among half-ton trucks, promises to improve fuel economy.

Price as tested: $42,810
Overall mpg: 15

Honda Ridgeline

If you don’t need the heft of a full-sized truck, consider the agile and carlike Ridgeline. It has a supple, steady ride and several unique features, including a weatherproof, lockable storage compartment below the composite bed and a tailgate that can swing out or drop down. The V6 provides ample power and a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds. The standard backup camera not only improves rear visibility but also helps when hooking up a trailer. But the
Ridgeline’s fuel economy isn’t any better than that of more capable full-sized trucks.

Price as tested: $30,825
Overall mpg: 15

Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (V8)/GMC Sierra 1500 (V8)
Ford F-150 (V8)
Toyota Tacoma (V6)

Any full-sized pickup can be set up to maximize its cargo and towing capabilities, but we were impressed with our Silverado’s native abilities when we tested it. The easy-lift tailgate is a plus, and toeholds integrated into the back bumper make it easy to climb into the cargo bed. The F-150 offers many work-truck features and generous towing and payload capacities, and it offers a unique and handy pull-out step in the tailgate, as well as side-bed steps. The compact Tacoma has impeccable towing and hauling credentials and is a great off-roader. Unfortunately, it has a dreadful ride and handles clumsily.

This article also appeared in the April 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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