By Jil McIntosh
- Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab 4×4 LTZ, 5.3-litre V8, $49,805
- Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Extended Cab 4×4 LT, 6.0-litre V8, $45,140
- Dodge Ram 1500 Mega Cab 4×4 SLT, 5.7-litre V8, $45,720
- Ford F150 SuperCrew 4×4 XLT Lariat, 5.4-litre V8, $52,549
- Nissan Titan King Cab 4×4 PRO-4X, 5.6-litre V8, $45,998
- Nissan Titan Crew Cab 4×4 LE, 5.6-litre V8, $51,498
- Toyota Tundra Double Cab 4×4 SR5 Off-Road Package, 5.7-litre V8, $42,325
- Toyota Tundra Double Cab 4×4 SR5 Long Bed, 5.7-litre V8, $40,665
- Toyota Tundra Double Cab 4×4 SR5 Off-Road Package, 5.7-litre V8
The eight trucks in this category made it the largest in the field; as all were 4×4 models, all were taken on the off-road course. Due to time and equipment restrictions, most of the vehicles went through the burdened test carrying a 700-lb weight in the box, but the Toyota Tundra long-box and the Ford F150 towed a trailer.
The two Chevrolet Silverado models included an Extended Cab with 6.0-litre V8, making 367 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque ($45,140) and a Crew Cab with 5.3-litre V8, making 315 hp and 338 lb-ft of torque ($49,805). Despite the power difference, the 5.3-litre felt peppier and more nimble, and was our preference between the two; we rated both trucks the same for cabin noise when unburdened, but found the Crew Cab to have a more comfortable ride. On the off-road course, the Crew also ranked slightly higher for ground clearance, but lost on manoeuvrability to its Extended Cab sibling. When compared to the other trucks as a whole, we were not impressed by the wide turning circles on either of them. Putting them into the 4×4 modes was easy, but the only indication was a tiny light on the dial, which proved impossible to see in bright daylight.
2008 Dodge Ram 1500 SLT Mega Cab (top) and 2008 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab 4WD. Click image to enlarge
Both models towed well, and we ranked them above Ford, Dodge and Nissan, but slightly behind Toyota. GM’s new truck interiors are extremely well done, and earned high marks from both of us. Among all classes, though, GM was the only one without an assist handle on the driver’s side, which we felt was a major omission – trucks are popular with women, and it’s harder for them to pull themselves in by the wheel (which isn’t good for the steering column anyway). Anti-lock brakes are standard on all models, and we felt these trucks hit a good balance of value, price, and aim at their target markets.
The Dodge Ram was massive: a Mega Cab with eight-foot box, powered by the 5.7-litre Hemi V8 at 345 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque ($45,720). With all that length, we figured we’d have to cut down some trees to get it through the woods; to our surprise, it dusted all the other trucks, earning our highest off-road score. Ground clearance was excellent, the turning circle was tight, and nothing stopped it once it got going.
On both the burdened and unburdened loops, its stiff ride lost it points for comfort; acceleration was good, but we ranked it lower than the Tundra models, which pulled effortlessly under load. Of all the half-tons, this was the only one with anti-lock brakes on the rear axle only, but the confident, quick-biting pedal feel was the best of the bunch. We were mixed on the austere dash, although we both thought highly of the many cubbies; the Chevrolet’s dash ranks highest here. Undeniable, though, is the Mega Cab’s rear legroom: if you’re looking for a truck that’ll haul four or five big men to the job site, this is your vehicle.
The Ford F150 SuperCrew came with 5.4-litre V8, making 300 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque ($52,549); some of that money went into the navigation system and rear-seat DVD. We loved the backup camera, set not into the centre screen, but into one side of the rearview mirror; it disappears when the truck is in anything other than Reverse.
2008 Ford F150 4X4 SuperCrew (top) and 2008 Nissan Titan King Cab Pro-4X. Click image to enlarge
The Ford’s stiff ride ranked alongside the Dodge as the roughest of the group, although it rated among the best for its quiet cabin. It towed well, but disappointed us so much on the off-road test that we took it through a second time, just to be sure it was the truck and not us. Its undercarriage scraped on obstacles that others cleared easily, and it got stuck a couple of times, requiring backing up and trying again. This was the most expensive of the eight-truck group, which we felt might limit its appeal in the marketplace.
The two Nissan Titans shared a 5.6-litre V8, at 317 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque: the Crew Cab LE featured a navigation system and rear-seat DVD ($51,498), while the King Cab had a PRO-4X package ($45,998), which included stability control, and side and curtain airbags.
Ride comfort was high in these trucks, especially with a load in the box, but we faulted both on the burdened loop test for their very squishy brake pedals. Even though the stopping distances weren’t too bad by the numbers, we always had that sinking feeling that we’d started braking too late – and numbers or no numbers, confidence in one’s ability to stop is a huge part of towing and hauling.
2007 Toyota Tundra 4X4 double Cab SR5 (top) and 2007 Toyota Tundra Double Cab SR5. Click image to enlarge
The dashes and centre stacks on the Nissan trucks had a heavy plastic appearance, but seat comfort was the best of any truck, in any class. The King Cab outperformed the Crew for ground clearance and manoeuvrability on the off-road course, but both of them did a poor job of transferring torque evenly when required, and whenever the going got gooey, they’d tend to crab sideways, which often put us perilously close to tree trunks. However, we gave highest marks to a transfer case that went from 4High to 4Low almost instantaneously. We found the trucks a bit dated and expensive for their market, but ranked them high on emotional appeal: with their punchy acceleration, sharp handling and spirited nature, they were a blast to drive. We ended up dubbing them “hot rod” trucks for their overall attitude.
The two Toyota Tundras were both Double Cab SR5 models, using a 5.7-litre V8 making 381 hp and 401 lb-ft of torque; one had a standard bed with Off-Road Package ($42,325), the other a long bed ($40,665). Because the long bed contained a fifth wheel hitch, we had to tow on the burdened test, while we carried a weight with the standard bed. Acceleration was strong and smooth, the steering had a confident heft, and burdened ride comfort was excellent: we scored the long-box model highest of the eight for towing, and the Off-Road model tied for second with the Silverado.
Off-road, they both scored about mid-pack: turning circles were tight, but the Off-Road Package got stuck in places where the Dodge Ram sailed through, and the long-box model could have had better ground clearance. The interiors were handsome, but the wide-spread centre console made it tough for shorter drivers to reach all of the controls, and the climate control wasn’t immediately intuitive. Overall, we felt the division would come down to a shoot-out between Chevrolet and Toyota.