2009 Truck King Challenge: F 150 vs Silverado Hybrid vs Ram vs Tundra trucks toyota ford dodge chevrolet
2009 Truck King Challenge. Click image to enlarge

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Article and photos by Howard Elmer

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2009 Truck King Challenge

Head Lake, Ontario – The last Canadian Truck King Challenge was a Fall event: a test of 23 pickup trucks, over three days, by ten judges. That was in September of 2007, and since then, earthquake-like changes have rocked the automotive landscape. Yet, regardless of bankruptcies and truck plant closures, pickup sales continue, and while they are down significantly, they’re still a sizable chunk of the market.

This year, a token four half-ton pickups came out to Head Lake for a Canada Day celebration, and if we weren’t amped enough about doing the third Truck King Challenge, certainly the rain and mosquitoes reminded us that we were experiencing the same world that real truck buyers do. Grant Yoxon, Managing Editor of Autos was on hand, as was old truck hand Eric Descarries of La Presse in Montreal. These two AJAC truck writers and myself spent two days running back-to-back test loops. We did this both with the trucks empty and while towing. We also ran an off-road course, because the purpose of Truck King has always been to test pickups under real world conditions – just as owners across the country do, every day.

2009 Truck King Challenge: F 150 vs Silverado Hybrid vs Ram vs Tundra trucks toyota ford dodge chevrolet
Left to right: Grant Yoxon, Howard Elmer and Eric Descarries. Click image to enlarge

While the field was small this year, it was obvious from our time behind the wheel that each manufacturer’s research and development team works hard at constantly improving the state of their trucks. And even the loss of a year in our testing surprised us with the fact that qualities or components that we considered superior just two or three years ago now seemed second-rate by comparison – that’s how quickly things change in this highly competitive market.

Of the trucks we had to test, the Ford F150 and Dodge Ram are the newest in terms of their most recent updates. Both were ’09 models (neither brand plans any changes of any significance for the ‘10 model year) and both featured body, powertrain and suspension upgrades. In fact, both trucks have scored various wins from automotive publications and writer’s groups. The Chevy Silverado that we were given to test by GM Canada was the unusual one of the bunch, because of its hybrid powertrain. This gas/electric system allows this pickup to start on electric motor power only and during traffic stops shuts the engine down to save fuel. The electric motors also kick in at highway speeds to aid in acceleration, again, saving fuel. This hybrid’s best feature, though, is probably the fact that operations are seamless and require nothing special of the driver.

2009 Truck King Challenge: F 150 vs Silverado Hybrid vs Ram vs Tundra trucks toyota ford dodge chevrolet
2009 Truck King Challenge. Click image to enlarge

The Toyota Tundra we had on hand was one of the first 2010 models available in Canada. It was equipped with the new 4.6-litre V8 engine which replaces the entry-level 4.7-litre motor, and offers an 11 per cent improvement in fuel economy. Toyota is actually just the latest builder to pay special attention to fuel economy. Each of the others has cut fuel consumption also, most by at least 10 per cent from previous generations.

So with these four pickups we spent over 30 hours driving hundreds of kilometres, testing back to back; this last bit is key because as I’ve learned over a long journalistic career, nothing highlights the good (and bad) of one vehicle over another like driving them back to back. But to elevate this technique to the next level we do this type of testing on a fixed loop of gravel/secondary road/highway circus-style, following one another and pooling our conclusions on each truck over that measured track between rounds.