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Truck Reviews

2020 Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4X4: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Comparing the 2020 Ram pickup truck to a luxury car is tempting, but it’s something like putting a manatee in the same tank as an Atlantic salmon.

The manatee is big, lovable and graceful but slow moving, like the Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4X4 that is the subject here. A smaller Atlantic salmon has quick, fluid moves — not unlike the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLS450 4MATIC Coupe four-door reviewed here earlier.

2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn EcoDiesel

That Mercedes had a starting price of $73,445. The Ram tested for this review, with options, checked in at $74,910. So the only thing these two vehicles have in common is a nosebleed price tag.

That’s becoming increasingly common as fans of pickup trucks seek out the most expensive, well-equipped models. They do double duty for hauling, towing and formal nights at the opera — or black tie and boots at the rodeo.

If there were any doubts that this Ram truck is a luxury vehicle, start with the gleaming paint job: “Diamond Black Crystal Pearl Coat.” Follow that inside to the black, leather trimmed seats with the red and black designer inserts.

2020 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn EcoDiesel

At its starting price of $58,660 the Ram Limited Crew Cab comes with four-wheel drive and a load of standard safety and convenience equipment: blind spot warning and cross-path detection, air suspension system, pushbutton and remote starting, and remote tailgate release.

Inside: Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity, SXM satellite radio, wireless smart phone charging, dual-zone automatic climate control, wood and leather wrapped heated steering wheel, power adjustable pedals with memory, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats.

About those seats. There are five supportive and comfortable spots for almost any torso. Unlike most luxury cars, which have seatbelts for five but an impossibly uncomfortable center-rear seat compromised by a hard cushion and prominent floor hump, the Ram 1500 has a flat floor and a center-rear seat that is as roomy as the outboards.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

The rear seats are divided two-thirds and one-third. Seatbacks fold for extra cargo carrying capability. There also were cargo box dividers under the optional tonneau cover on the test truck.

Where the price starts to climb comes with the optional $4,995 diesel engine. It is a 3.0-liter V6 that makes 260 hp and a whopping 480 lb-ft of torque to enable effortless towing. Power gets to the rear wheels or all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

This diesel Ram can tow up to 12,560 lbs and carry a payload of 2,040 lbs. Its EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 21/29/24 mpg—not bad for a nearly 20-feet long monster that weighs 5,735 lbs.

2020 Ram 1500 Limited

It’s also tall so it should satisfy drivers who like to sit up in the stratosphere and look down at smaller humans in lesser machinery. The tested Ram makes it easy even for height-challenged owners with running boards that automatically deploy when the doors are opened.

Besides the diesel engine, the tested Ram came with a load of luxury options that included: black aluminum wheels and exterior trim, premium audio, a tri-fold cargo tonneau cover, tow hooks, adaptive radar cruise control with stop and go, lane-keeping assist, forward collision warning, surround-view rear camera, perpendicular and parallel parking assist, multifunction tailgate and a dual-pane panoramic sunroof. It also had a 33-gallon fuel tank, which could give it a range of nearly 800 miles.

2020 Ram 1500 Limited

For the driving experience, go back to the manatee comparison. Sure, the gentle marine mammal is sometimes referred to as the sea cow. But it is as graceful under water as a mermaid ballet dancer, though in slow motion.

The Ram 1500 Limited 4X4 fits that template. Its size limits anything that resembles pinpoint handling. Though the steering is responsive, full attention is required on twisting roads to avoid any quick moves. With the air suspension system, decent insulation and good seats, the ride is quiet and comfortable, even without a load. Braking is capable, and the adjustable pedals and steering wheel make it easy for most people to find a comfortable driving position.

The diesel engine delivers strong and steady power, especially for towing, even managing a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time of less than eight seconds. Moreover, most people would be surprised to know there was a diesel engine clattering under the hood because of the engineered-in silence and sound deadening materials.

2020 Ram 1500 Limited

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Ram 1500 Limited Crew Cab 4X4 four-door pickup truck.
  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6 diesel; 260 hp, 480 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with four-wheel drive high and low range.
  • Overall length: 19 feet 5 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger volume: 126 cubic feet.
  • Payload: 2,040 lbs.
  • Towing capability: 12,560 lbs.
  • Weight: 5,735 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 21/29/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $58,660.
  • Price as tested: $74,910.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2020 Ram 1500 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel engine

Photos (c) FCA

2020 NACTOY Winners: A DriveWays Report…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Detroit, Mich. — North American automotive journalists, voting in secret ballots,  revealed on January 13, 2020 that they had selected two quintessentially U.S. vehicles and one from South Korea — but built in the U.S. — as the best newcomers of the past year.

In an announcement at TCF Arena, usually the home of the North American International Auto Show at this time of the year but now moving to June, the journalists picked the all-new mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette Stingray as the Car of the Year and the Jeep Gladiator as Truck of the Year. The Gladiator is manufactured by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

2020 TellurideThe all-new Kia Telluride, a midsize three-row crossover sport utility vehicle from the South Korean company but built in a plant in West Point, GA, was awarded Utility of the Year.

The 50 professional automotive journalists who made the selections are dues-paying members of the North American Car of the Year organization. They represent newspapers, magazines and other publications, as well as television, radio and online outlets in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. All NACTOY officers and jurors are volunteers; there are no paid staff positions.

NACTOY describes itself as the premier independent organization that judges excellence in automotive design, technology safety, performance, driver satisfaction, technology and value. (The writer of this article is a member).

Voting is done by secret ballot. A starting list of eligible vehicles, substantially new or redesigned, is drawn up by the leadership. Members then vote for semi-finalists, finalists and winners in the three categories. Votes are tallied by Deloitte, world-wide financial and accounting firm.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette StingrayThe Corvette Stingray, the Car of the Year, is the first in the brand’s 65-year history to feature a mid-engine design. Its 490-horsepower, 6.2-liter engine is mounted in back, ahead of the rear axle. Previous Corvettes had front engines and rear-wheel drive. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic that can be manually shifted. Prices start at $67,495.

Runners-up for Car of the Year were the all-new 2020 Hyundai Sonata midsize sedan and the 2020 Toyota Supra sports coupe, which uses an engine and drive train from BMW of Germany.

The Utility of the Year, the Kia Telluride, beat its fraternal twin, the Hyundai Palisade, in the voting. Kia is partly owned by Hyundai and the two brands share engines and transmissions, though they operate independently and do their designs.

The Telluride’s prices start at around $32,000 and climb to more than $47,000. It is powered by a 291-hp, 3.8-liter V6 engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

Besides the Hyundai Palisade, the third nominee in the utility category was the 2020 Lincoln Aviator, a luxury three-row SUV with prices that range up to $83,540.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator North EditioThe Jeep Gladiator’s two competitors for Truck of the Year were the midsize 2020 Ford Ranger and 2020 Ram Heavy Duty, with the Gladiator all pickup trucks but different in personalities, design and execution.

NACTOY’s Best of 2020: DriveWays . . .

by Frank A. Aukofer

Besides singing “Auld Lang Syne,” the end of every year heralds a flowering of “best of” motor vehicle awards from consumer organizations, enthusiast publications, and web sites.

Except for Consumer Reports, which doesn’t permit advertising of its conclusions about the reliability and efficacy of cars, trucks and utility vehicles, it’s something of a business proposition. An enthusiast magazine that names one or more “best of” or “top rated” vehicles typically gets paid if the manufacturer publicizes the honor in its advertising.

CarUtilityTruck copyThat’s also the case with the premier awards from the North American Car of the Year (NACTOY) organization, whose membership consists of 50 professional automotive journalists from all over the United States and Canada. Their reviews appear in newspapers, magazines and other publications, as well as television, radio and  online.

However, those journalists do not personally benefit. They are dues-paying members who vote for what they consider to be the best car, utility vehicle and truck of the model year. Though the NACTOY organization can benefit from advertising charges, the money is used for operating expenses. All NACTOY officers and jurors are volunteers; there are no paid staff positions.

It is that and its widespread reach that leads NACTOY to describe itself as the premier independent organization judging excellence in automotive design, safety, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value. (Full disclosure: the writer of this story is a NACTOY juror).

There are three rounds of voting. An initial list of new or substantially upgraded vehicles is compiled by the leadership. Members then vote to determine a list of semi-finalists, then finalists and winners in the three categories of car, utility and truck of the year.

The system works something like the movie Academy Awards. Votes are counted in secret by Deloitte, a world-wide financial and accounting firm. Winners will be announced in Detroit on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020.

For now, however, there are three finalists in each category, which have the distinction of winning the votes of the independent jurors. Following are brief descriptions of the vehicles.

Car of the Year

2020 Chevrolet Corvette StingrayChevrolet Corvette Stingray. This is the long-awaited C8 Corvette, the first in the brand’s 65-year history to feature a mid-engine design, with its 6.2-liter V8 mounted behind the driver’s shoulder blades and ahead of the rear axle. It sends 490 j[ and 465 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through an eight-speed  automatic transmission. Starting price is $67,495.

Large-39629-2020SonataLimitedHyundai Sonata. Redesigned midsize sedan from the South Korean automaker that better competes against the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. It has innovative blind-spot warning in the instruments and a self-parking system. Powered by a 180-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 195 lb-ft of torque and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Priced $24,530 to $34,365.

White Front 3q LeftToyota Supra. The resurrection of a storied sports/grand touring car that was produced from 1978 to 2002. In this new guise it features a power train from BMW of Germany with a 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine that delivers 335 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Prices start at $50,945.

Utility of the Year

Large-36538-2020PalisadeThis category is intriguing because two of the three finalists are fraternal twins: the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride from South Korea. Kia is a subsidiary of Hyundai. The two brands share engines and transmissions, though they operate independently and do their own interior and exterior designs, as well as suspension system tuning and other components.

2020 TellurideBoth are critically acclaimed midsize, three-row crossover sport utility vehicles, powered by 3.8-liter V6 engines with 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. Available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission, their prices range from about $32,000 to more than $47,000.

2020 Lincoln AviatorThe third finalist in the category is the all-new Lincoln Aviator, which competes in the rarified world of mid-size, three-row luxury sport utilities. Available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, it is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 engine with twin turbochargers that delivers 400 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque through a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Prices range from $52,095 for the base rear-drive model to as much $83,540 for the Black Label all-wheel drive version.

Truck of the Year

It would be difficult to find a category with more variety among the finalists, although all three are pickup trucks.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon on the Rubicon TrailThe Jeep Gladiator is the first pickup truck in 28 years from the manufacturers that got their start building military general purpose, or GP, all-terrain vehicles in World War II. The last Jeep pickup was the Comanche, sold until 1992.

The midsize Gladiator comes in a variety of trim levels for on-road and off-road work and recreation. It is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque delivered via a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic transmission. Prices start at $35,000 and can range up to more than $60,000 for the top-line Rubicon model with options.

RangerFX2_01_HRFord Ranger. This is a new midsize pickup that reprises the name of Ford’s earlier midsize pickup, which had a 27-year run until it was discontinued in 2010. It is a comfortable long-distance highway cruiser, powered by Ford’s 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which makes 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. A 10-speed automatic transmission gets the power to the pavement with standard rear-wheel drive or optional four-wheel drive. Prices range from about $25,000 to $45,000.

2020 Ram Power Wagon Crew CabRam Heavy Duty. Though stylish and refined as pickups go, this full-size truck is the brute of the finalists. With three engine options, including two diesels, it is available as a three-quarter ton (2500) model or one-ton (3500) model and single or dual rear wheels.

The stunner is the 6.7-liter Cummins in-line six-cylinder diesel engine with 400 hp and a whopping 1,000 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, making it capable of towing 35,100 pounds with a payload of 7,680 pounds. Prices start at around $30,000 and, depending on trim levels and equipment, go up to the sky.

Photos and Images courtesy NACTOY, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Toyota, Kia, Lincoln, Jeep, Ford, and Ram.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

The folks at Chevrolet are convinced that the 2020 Silverado heavy-duty pickup truck will substantially reduce towing anxiety among their devoted customers as well as newcomers.

They consider that there are two groups at risk: The working men and women who need the hauling and towing capabilities of a heavy-duty truck for their livelihood, as well as owners anxious to protect prized possessions like sport fishing boats or designer-home trailers.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Z71

There’s a country music song that says, “Worry’s like a rocking chair; it don’t get you anywhere. Back and forth and you’re still there. Worry’s like a rocking chair.”

Chevrolet calls its new anti-worry system the Transparent Trailer. It is designed to eliminate anxiety experienced by both independent truckers and the people who fret about their prized possessions.

Though the design was a collaboration between Chevrolet and an outside supplier, Ndikum Atang, the engineer who put the system together, installed as many as 15 strategically placed cameras on the trailer and the truck — for this review a Silverado 2500HD High Country crew cab with Chevy’s 445-hp, 6.6-liter turbocharged V8 diesel. It makes a humongous 910 lb-ft of torque — the twisting force that enables towing of 18,500 pounds and beyond.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Custom

The cameras are hard-wired — no trusting of wireless here — and are accessed from the now-ubiquitous center screen in the truck cab. Touch the screen and the driver can see right through the giant box trailer out back.

Of course, it’s an illusion. There’s a camera at the back of the trailer, as well as others, so the center screen can display both sides of the trailer as well as a transparent view, seemingly through an invisible trailer.

With a touch of the screen, the driver also can check the truck’s cargo bed, as well as look at the hookup between the Chevy 2500 and the trailer in enough detail to determine whether anything needs attention.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Custom

As important, another touch of the screen activates a camera inside the trailer so the driver can check the trailer contents—a car, a couple of motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles, or the tangle of beach chairs and umbrellas for the family vacation.

The system also enables a driver to back up his Silverado HD and place the towing ball precisely under the trailer hookup. This maneuver has been done by others before but this system also allows the driver to program up to five different profiles to simplify the process.

Though the Transparent Trailer system — a $1,800 option — gets  the most attention, the 2020 heavy-duty Chevy pickups, in 2500 and 3500 load capability as well as dual rear-wheel 3500s, get the power to the wheels through an all-new Allison 10-speed automatic transmission.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD High Country
2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD High Country

In addition to the 2500 turbo-diesel, with its extra cost of $9,750, you can also order the heavy-duty Silverado with a 6.6-liter V8 gasoline engine that delivers 401 hp and 484 lb-ft of torque. You won’t get the all-new Allision 10-speed automatic transmission but the six-speed automatic works fine.

The gasoline-engine 2500s can’t haul quite as much as the brutish diesel model but with a trailer weighing up to 16,900 pounds another tester moved as effortlessly as the diesel towing a ton more. Either way, there’s little of the back-and-forth lurching that sometimes characterizes a tow vehicle and trailer.

With the gasoline V8 and six-speed automatic, the Silverado 2500 4WD crew cab in LT trim had a base price of $46,195, including the destination charge. With a short list of options that provided 18-inch aluminum wheels, all-terrain tires and a spray-on bed liner, the bottom-line price came to $47,985.

The Silverado High Country turbo diesel had a starting price of $62,695. It came with a long list of features that rivaled high-priced luxury cars, as well as performance and convenience items specific to truck use.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD High Country

Among them: the Transparent Trailer camera system, powered up and down tailgate, Durabed cargo box liner, assist steps both on the bed sides and rear bumper, power driver’s seat and heated towing mirrors with memory settings, and power sliding rear window.

Other luxury items included heated and ventilated leather upholstery, motorized sunroof, Chevrolet infotainment system with navigation, eight-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SXM satellite radio, Bose premium audio; dual-zone climate control, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Options, mainly the Duramax turbo-diesel engine, brought the suggested delivered price up to $76,215.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Custom

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 4WD High Country Crew Cab four-door pickup truck.
  • Engine: 6.6-liter V8 turbo-diesel; 445 hp, 910 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed Allison automatic.
  • Overall length: 20 feet 10 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 8 inches.
  • Passenger volume: 139 cubic feet.
  • Standard cargo bed volume: 70 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 7,467 pounds.
  • Payload: 3,597 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 18,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: Heavy-duty not EPA required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $62,695.
  • Price as tested: $76,215.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2020 Chevrolet Silverado HD

Photos (c) Chevrolet

 

2019 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

In all the hoopla around the new Ford Ranger midsize pickup truck, what few people mention is that it is a decent long-distance road runner.

Except for the buckboard ride over rough surfaces at lower speeds — expected of an empty pickup truck with load-carrying leaf springs in back — the 2019 Ranger SuperCrew Lariat 4X4 driven for this review delivered a comfortable, fatigue-free ride on Interstate highways over hundreds of miles.

2019 Ford RangerThe front bucket seats could have used a bit more support, but the softness was welcome during hours at the wheel. Few steering corrections were needed as the Ranger tracked steadily with a steering feel more akin to that of a European luxury car than a Yankee pickup.

With plenty of power from the four-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost engine, operating through a smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission, the Ranger never felt challenged in high-speed maneuvers. The adaptive cruise control held a steady speed up and down hills, also slowing and speeding up in heavy rubber-band traffic.

Though the Ranger name has defined a number of Ford products since the ill-fated Edsel Ranger back in 1958, the midsize Ranger pickup truck has not been marketed in the U.S. since it was discontinued after the 2010 model year. It had a 27-year run from 1983.

2019 Ford RangerGiven the growth of pickups in the last decade, it’s hard to think of the new Ranger as a midsize, though that’s where it is parked in today’s market. In 2008, the full-size Ford F-150 was 18 feet 1 inch long, 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighed 5,360 lbs, with a payload of 1,480 lbs and a towing capability of 6,200 lbs. It offered a choice of two V-8 engines of 4.6 and 5.4 liters with 248 and 300 hp and 294 or 365 lb-ft of torque. The transmission was a four-speed automatic.

The 2019 Ranger is 17 feet 7 inches long, 6 feet tall, weighs 4,441 lbs, with a payload of 1,560 lbs and a towing capability of 7,500 lbs. Its 2.3-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers 270 hp and  310 lb-ft of torque to the pavement through its 10-speed automatic transmission.

City/highway fuel consumption for the old V-8 F-150 was 13/17 mpg. The 2019 Ranger, using a subsequent stricter EPA measurement, has a city/highway/combined rating of 20/24/22 mpg.

2019 Ford RangerThe tested SuperCrew Lariat 4X4 is the top-of-the line with a base price of $39,580, including the destination charge. Equipment included pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, reverse sensing with rear-view camera, idle stop-start, tire-pressure monitoring, capless fuel filler (though the cover does not lock), leather-trimmed seats (heated in front), dual-zone automatic climate control, Wi-Fi hotspot, SXM satellite radio, power front seats (though seatback adjustments are manual), heated and powered outside mirrors, tow hooks, trailer sway control, and LED headlights, taillights and running lights.

Options were few and included the adaptive cruise control, composite cargo bed liner, an off-road package and a trailer tow package. With the options, the suggested sticker price came to $44,960 — not cheap but way less than what some full-size pickup trucks go for these days.

2019 Ford RangerWith its four-wheel drive setup, the tested Ranger was fairly tall, so not easy to load from the sides, and it takes a bit of athletic ability to hoist oneself up over the tailgate.

Except for the rear bumper, there are no side- or rear-side steps to help climb into the bed. The remote control automatically locks and unlocks the tailgate with the doors, but it seems superfluous unless the cargo area has a cap or cover.

There was no opportunity to take the all-wheel drive Ranger off-road. It has favorable approach and departure angles for rugged terrain, though its sheer length is a limitation. The wheelbase measures 10 feet 7 inches, not optimal for hump and rock crawling.

2019 Ford RangerThe competition in midsize pickup trucks has started to heat up. Most recent, in addition to the Ranger, is the new Jeep Gladiator, which is oriented more toward off-roading than any competitors. At the other end of the midsize spectrum is the Honda Ridgeline, which leans more toward passenger car ride and handling, though it has load-carrying and off-road attributes as well.

Other Ranger competitors are the similar Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon models, the best-selling Toyota Tacoma midsize, and the Frontier from Nissan. There are enough variations to satisfy the inclinations of any midsize intenders.

2019 Ford Ranger

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Ford Ranger SuperCrew Lariat 4X4 four-door pickup truck.
  • Engine: 2.3-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 270 hp, 310 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 17 feet 7 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 98/43 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,441 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,560 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,500 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/24/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $39,580.
  • Price as tested: $44,960.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019 Ford Ranger

Photos: Ford

2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

You can almost hear the cheering from far-flung outposts of off-road and truck country, welcoming the 2020 Jeep Gladiator, the famed brand’s first pickup truck in 28 years.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Launch Edition

The original Jeep — a name derived from GP, for general purpose military vehicle, made its debut in 1941 for duty in World War II. It was originally built by Ford and the Willys-Overland vehicle manufacturers. Eventually it became the Willys Jeep and, later, was owned by American Motors and Chrysler, and now by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

From 1947 to 1992, Jeep marketed a variety of trucks, the last of which was the Comanche pickup. Now, after years of entreaties from both Jeep owners and truck enthusiasts, especially those with off-road interests, the Gladiator arrives as a complete package that can be customized for almost any motoring taste.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon

But the Jeep folks are not catering only to the faithful. They expect that the Gladiator will attract new customers for midsize pickup trucks like the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado, and especially those who have gravitated toward the most popular midsize, the Toyota Tacoma.

The Gladiator slots in firmly as a competitor of the Tacoma TRD Off-Road, which comes in standard and long bed versions. It is 18 feet 2 inches long, four inches longer than the Tacoma standard bed and eight inches shorter than the long bed.

Its 3.6-liter V6 engine delivers 285 hp with 260 lb-ft of torque compared to the Tacoma’s 278 and 265. The Gladiator’s automatic transmission is an eight-speed; the Tacoma’s is a six-speed.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Rubicon

The new Gladiator inevitably will be compared to the four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, which has become Jeep’s best-selling model. But the Gladiator is bigger, stronger and more capable in many ways with a heftier payload, towing capability and price tag.

There are four Gladiator models, each of which is available with a six-speed manual gearbox as well as the eight-speed automatic transmission. Base prices range from $35,040, including the destination charge, for the base Sport model, to $38,240 for the Sport S, $41,890 for the Overland and $45,040 for the top-line Rubicon.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator – interior

But those are starting points. At the Gladiator’s national introduction, Jeep officials estimated that a Rubicon loaded with options could easily top $60,000. And that doesn’t include the many extras from the Mopar aftermarket company to tempt well-heeled enthusiasts.

Chosen for this review was the base Sport with the six-speed manual gearbox and four options: trailer towing package ($250), anti-spin rear differential ($595), SXM satellite radio ($295) and Mopar rubber slush floor mats ($150). That brought the tested price to $36,330, which is about the average price of a new car in the U.S. these days and a lot of truck for the bucks.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator – interior

But don’t expect much in the way of frills. Though it had all of the fundamentals for serious off-roading, this Gladiator came with comfortable cloth upholstery but without power locks, seats, windows and mirrors, and automatic climate control. But, so what? You have to hand-crank the windows but you can remove the doors anyway. Reach out the windows to adjust the outside mirrors and fiddle with the air conditioning and heating controls to get comfortable.

Many Jeep adventurers don’t bother with that anyway. The Gladiator’s doors all can be removed and the windshield folded down for open-air adventures in the boondocks. Same for the fabric roof, which can easily be flipped back to open to the sky. The framework and truck bed are steel but the doors, fenders, hood and tailgate are aluminum.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator – interior

With solid axles front and rear, and an array of off-road assists, including a grille-mounted forward camera, the Gladiator easily conquered a serious off-road course at a ranch near a town with the neat name of Cool, California. Its disadvantage is size; a two-door Jeep Wrangler would do better. The course was complicated by mud with a peanut butter consistency from heavy rains.

The Gladiator also performed admirably on paved roads, except for light steering that required frequent corrections to keep a straight line. That was the price of a compromise to handle difficult off-road maneuvers. Instead of the ubiquitous rack-and-pinion steering, the Gladiator uses a recirculating-ball setup.

The surprise was the low intrusion of mechanical and road noise with the soft top. Though there was more wind noise than in a closed truck, the Gladiator was reasonably and amiably quiet at highway speeds.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Launch Edition

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport midsize pickup truck.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6; 285 hp, 260 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual with four-wheel drive, high and low range.
  • Overall length: 18 feet 2 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume:103/36 cubic feet.
  • Cargo box length: 5 feet.
  • Weight: 4,650 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,600 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 7,650 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/23/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $35,040.
  • Price as tested: $36,330.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Overland

Photos (c) FCA North America

2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD 4X4 Off Road: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Toyota has not been able to scale the wall of buyer loyalty to full-size U.S. pickup trucks. But it perches at the pinnacle of the midsize class, of which its 2019 Tacoma is the latest example.

Among the big guys, the Toyota Tundra is an also-ran in sales behind the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram and GMC Sierra, besting only the last-place Nissan Titan.

2019_toyota_tacoma_off_road_001_46e6b73e2c3bfc00e65384bbb61115fcebe259ffBut against the slowly-increasing midsize nameplates, it is the unchallenged champion. In 2018, it was expected to sell more Tacoma pickups than nearly all of its competitors combined, including the Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier, GMC Canyon and Honda Ridgeline, although the Ridgeline is in a class by itself as a more car-like amalgam.

The curious trend in all of this is that the new crop of midsize pickups are nearly as big — or even bigger — than some earlier full-size pickups.

Bumper to bumper, the Tacoma 4X4 Double Cab Long Bed is nearly 19 feet long and it is six feet tall with a 6 feet 2 inch cargo bed. It weighs 4,840 lbs, can tow a trailer weighing up to 6,400 lbs and carry a payload of 1,120 lbs. A decade ago, the full-size 2008 Ford F-150 was 18 feet 1 inch long, 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighed 5,360 lbs, with a payload of 1,480 lbs and a towing capability of 6,200 lbs.

2019_toyota_tacoma_off_road_003_ef9b7576d7ba7efd9f2e7049634af8ee0bb87a2fMost big trucks back then got their grunt from large and thirsty V8 engines. Engineering advances over the years have squeezed ever more horsepower and torque from smaller-displacement power plants. The tested Tacoma gets its power from a 278-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine with 265 lb-ft of torque. On the TRD Off Road 4X4, the power routes to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

The tested Tacoma, with a base price of $38,120, came equipped for pasture and logging-road duty. It had a part-time four-wheel drive system with a two-speed electronically-controlled transfer case and an off-road tuned suspension system with special shock absorbers, a locking rear differential, hill-start assist and multi-terrain crawl control.

But because of its length and wheelbase — the distance between the front and rear axles — of 11 feet 5 inches, the Tacoma Off Road could not be expected to handle seriously pockmarked terrain as well as a smaller machine. However, the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator midsize pickup truck will have nearly the same shortcoming with a wheelbase of 10 feet 7 inches and an overall length of 18 feet 2 inches.

2019_toyota_tacoma_off_road_004_3a8248857bb7d0324f488932f4ab596d5d58f2afFull safety equipment, including pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning are part of the standard equipment. The tested TRD Off Road also had options that included blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, sonar rear parking assist, leather-trimmed upholstery with heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, motorized glass sunroof, JBL premium audio system with integrated navigation, and a cover for the cargo bed.

All of that brought the bottom-line price to $42,430, which is not inexpensive but looks reasonable compared to the $60,000 and up sticker prices on many full-size pickups. Price is one reason manufacturers are closely monitoring the midsize pickup market. Ford recently reintroduced its midsize Ranger pickup.

2019_toyota_tacoma_off_road_007_331b22b457d747c6db5b552ac7cca61ecb8d9327On paved roads, the tested Tacoma mainly displayed its off-road characteristics. The ride was bouncy and stiff with seemingly direct connections between road irregularities and the driver’s lower back and bottom. It tracked decently in a straight line, but the beefy suspension system makes for problematical comfort on a long trip.

Mitigating that somewhat are front seats that are supportive and middling comfortable. Though they have only manual adjustments, there are enough to accommodate most body sizes. There’s space in back for three, though seating is upright and knee room is tight. The center-rear position is compromised by a floor hump, hard cushion and intrusion of the center console. Rear vision is limited by back seat headrests so it’s important to get those big outside mirrors properly adjusted.

2019_toyota_tacoma_off_road_006_ed9ebf5e42a922ed31dba8561df5a18e2f1414efThe V6 engine makes plenty of power but you have to slam the pedal to engage it. In ordinary driving, the throttle is stiff, making the engine/transmission combination feel sluggish. Engine drone is loud under hard acceleration.

Overall, don’t expect the Tacoma — especially in the tested trim — to be anything other than what it is: a rugged, solid truck with an enviable reputation for durability and reliability.

2016_toyota_tacoma_trdor_28_170ad64be7d4e750a886f7dc942f15fd173fb26bSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road 4X4 Double Cab Long Bed midsize pickup truck.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 278 hp, 265 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with part-time four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 18 feet 10 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet.
  • EPA passenger volume: 100 cubic feet.
  • Cargo bed length: 6 feet 2 inches.
  • Weight: 4,840 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,120 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,400 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/22/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $38,120.
  • Price as tested: $42,430.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2016_toyota_tacoma_trdor_31_07d7a0e69594c5d39805f91df23a6d5373bf81dePhotos (c) Toyota

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT TB Crew Cab: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With big pickup trucks like the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, it’s  about little things and loyalty.

Full-size pickups, of which there are six currently marketed in the U.S., do essentially the same things. They carry big loads, tow heavy trailers and serve as family conveyances. When you check the price tags of some models, you also realize they can substitute for luxury cars.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

In addition to the Silverado, they are the GMC Sierra, Ford F-Series, Ram, Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan. Each has its cadre of loyal followers. Many Ford owners would summarily reject a Chevy or a Titan, Ram devotees might sniff at a Silverado, and a Tundra guy would possibly ignore a GMC.

With brand loyalty and muscular hauling as givens, full-size pickup manufacturers seek to win new and conquest sales by concentrating on smaller things like tailgate design, interior luxury appointments and styling, built-in storage boxes, or even marginal increases in fuel economy.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

In addition, the all-new Silverado seeks to impress potential buyers with its off-road capabilities, which is the sort of activity usually associated with smaller vehicles like Jeeps, sport utility vehicles and even some crossover SUVs.

That was the point of an introductory exercise that Chevrolet organized to advance the notion that the Silverado, despite its humongous size — more than 19 feet long and weighing over 5,000 lbs — could conquer a dedicated off-road course.

It was located at the Monticello Motor Club in New York state, a vehicle-oriented country club for wealthy members who enjoy wringing out their exotic rides on a 4.1-mile road racing course. The complex also includes a moderately challenging off-road course where the racing is mostly limited to single-digit speeds as vehicles churn their way over ditches, berms, steep hills, creeks and frame-twisting mounds.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Tested on that course for this review was the 2019 Silverado LT Trail Boss Crew Cab, powered by a 355-hp, 5.3-liter V8 engine that makes 383 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, transferred to the dirt through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

It came with the Z71 off-road equipment package that included a driver-selectable four-wheel drive system with a low range for tough terrain, along with a two-inch suspension lift, brawny shock absorbers, skid plates, automatic locking rear differential, hill start assist and hill descent control, and off-road tires on 18-inch wheels.

With all that and practiced drivers, the Silverado made short work of the off-road course. But it also is an accomplished pickup on the public roads with what Chevrolet claims is best-in-class cargo volume of 63 cubic feet in the short box on the four-door crew cab model, enough to carry 2,190 lbs of cargo. Properly equipped it can also tow up to 11,600 lbs.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Chevrolet, in its running battle with the all-aluminum Ford F-150, also emphasizes that the 2019 Silverado’s cargo bed uses a higher-strength steel floor than the previous model, along with a dozen tie-down points and a choice of four tailgate variants: standard manual lockable with key; lockable with lift assist; power lockable with automatic release, and an exclusive power up and down version.

Most big pickup trucks, and the Silverado is no exception, offer dizzying numbers of choices in how they are equipped. Besides the 63 cubic feet for cargo, the tested LT Trail Boss had a whopping 139 cubic feet of space for the driver, four passengers and indoor lockable storage cubbies.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado High Country

Of course, many Silverado buyers with no need to venture off the pavement likely will forego the Z71 off-road package, which is available as an option on any of the eight models. They range from a basic two-door work truck to the High Country version, which is equipped as well or better than some ultra-luxury cars, making for serene long-distance highway jaunts.

The GMC Sierra, essentially a fraternal twin of the Silverado in the General Motors family, also lards on the luxury touches in its full-size pickup line, especially in its Denali versions. Not to be undone by the Silverado’s four tailgate choices, it offers a six way tailgate that can double as a small table or chair for outdoor events.

There’s solid imperative for the Silverado and other full-size pickup trucks to pay attention to all the details. In 2017, highly profitable big pickups, including heavy-duty models, accounted for more than 2.4 million sales in the United States — or 14% of the entire car and light truck market.

 

The Durabed truck bed, standard on all 2019 Silverado 1500 models, includes larger cutouts in the GM-exclusive CornerStep bumpers to better accommodate steel-toed boots.

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss Crew Cab pickup truck.
  • Engine: 5.3-liter V8; 355 hp, 383 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 19 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 139/63 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,008 pounds.
  • Payload: 2,190 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 11,600 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/22/18 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $49,795.
  • Price as tested: $57,285.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Photos (c) Chevrolet

2019 Ram Big Horn Sport Quad Cab 4X2: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Because full-size pickup trucks all do essentially the same chores for their owners, marketing them entails offering new and desirable features, as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has done with the 2019 Ram 1500.

It’s not entirely that, of course, because pickup customers are notoriously loyal to their chosen brands. Still, something on the order of the Ram’s brand-new eTorque mild hybrid system has the potential to prompt alienation of affection.

ETorque combines a belt-drive electric motor-generator with a 48-volt battery, which provides short boosts of extra power for the gasoline engine. It also enables a sophisticated idle stop-start function that, for the time being, is the smoothest and least intrusive system experienced by this reviewer.

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn

Stop-start, which enhances fuel economy, is popular in Europe, where fuel prices are way higher than in the United States. But the systems are becoming more common on vehicles sold here. In many cases, however, the stop-starts are so annoying that owners switch them off — unless they happen to be on Chevrolets and other General Motors vehicles, which do not have off switches.

In a typical stop-start function, the engine shuts down at stoplights or in other situations when the vehicle is motionless. Lift your foot off the brake or tap the accelerator pedal and the engine automatically starts, often with a noticeable shudder and hesitation before getting underway.

The Ram eTorque is a notable exception. Unless you pay close attention, you are unaware that the engine has cranked up. Ram engineers say the engine re-starts in 400 milliseconds.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

Vibration and noise are nearly nonexistent, unlike with some systems — especially in vehicles with powerful engines — that cause violent shaking. Stop-starts comparable in smoothness to the eTorque are in low-powered hybrid cars.

For 2019, eTorque is standard equipment on all Ram 1500 pickups with the 305-hp V6 engine, which delivers 269 lb-ft of torque. For truckers who need or want more power, a step up to the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine costs $1,195. For an additional $1,450, the Hemi eTorque is available with 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque.

All Ram 1500 trucks use eight-speed automatic transmissions, which like the eTorque go about their business quietly and without drama. Add to that the Ram 1500’s independent suspension system, with air suspension on the rear wheels and vibration damping on the steel frame, and the Ram rolls like a luxury car, even when empty. Most pickups bounce around unless they are loaded.

Many modern full-size pickup trucks, however, also are priced like luxury cars. Some Ram models — the Limited Crew Cab with all-wheel drive, for example — have prices that nudge $70,000 or more, depending on equipment.

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn

Driven for this review was a more modest Ram1500 Big Horn Sport Quad Cab 4X2 model, which had a base price of $37,340 and, with options, a bottom-line sticker of $43,960. The base price for the entry-level Tradesman Quad Cab with rear-wheel drive is $33,340, including the destination charge.

Ram 1500 pickups come with four doors. Crew Cab models are the roomiest. Quad Cab models have shorter rear doors and tighter accommodations in the back seat. Head room there is generous, but knee room is in short supply. Still, the tested Big Horn Sport had 117 cubic feet of passenger space, which is nearly that of a full-size car.

Out back, the pickup bed measures 6 feet 4 inches and accommodates 62 cubic feet of cargo up to the gunwales. Total payload is 1,910 lbs and the tester had a towing capability of 6,640 lbs.

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn – Black Diesel Interior

Though it was among the lower priced Ram models, the tested Big Horn Sport was a comfortable road companion that could easily be used as a daily driver.

Mechanical, road and wind noises were minimal, there was plenty of power on tap for passing on two-lane roads and the handling and ride were exceptional given the truck’s bulk and 19-foot length. Comfort was enhanced by supportive seats upholstered in cozy cloth.

The test truck came with full safety equipment, including electronic stability control, roll mitigation, trailer sway damping, back-up camera, hill start assist, trailer brake control and antilock brakes with rain-braking support.

Options included FCA’s UConnect infotainment system with navigation, power-adjustable pedals, powered rear sliding window, audio system with HD and SXM satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED bed lighting and 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels.

2019 Ram 1500 – 5.7-liter HEMI® eTorque

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn Sport Quad Cab 4X2 four-door full-size pickup truck.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6 with eTorque; 305 hp, 269 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 19 feet 1 inch.
  • Height: 6 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 117/62 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,891 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,910 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,640 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/25/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $37,340.
  • Price as tested: $43,960.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn Sport

Photos (c) FCA

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