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Truck Reviews

2020 Nissan Titan SL Crew Cab: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Pickup trucks, especially those that are similar to the 2020 Nissan Titan SL 4X4 Crew Cab, are as much a phenomenon as utilitarian work vehicles.

Think about it. How often do you see a pickup loaded with furniture, cabbages, appliances or potted palm trees? And how often do you see empty pickups with only the driver threading his or her way through urban rush-hour traffic?

2020 Nissan TITAN SL

Of course, much depends on where you live. If you’re commuting in a big city, the pickups you see are likely substituting for the subway or bus. If you live in a rural area in Texas or the Central Valley in California, you’re likely to see them loaded with hay, cabbages or lettuce.

Americans love pickups. Around the world, they are small work trucks for people who need to haul stuff and can afford something more than a skinny-tired motorcycle on crowded streets, piled high with goods—and maybe even mom and one of the kids.

2020 Nissan TITAN SL

In the U.S., pickups are mostly giant vehicles that can carry a ton of cargo and tow motor homes or boats on trailers. They are undeniably popular with buyers, many of whom have no real need to haul trash to the dump or sod for the back yard. They are often family cars used occasionally to haul lawn chairs and kayaks to the beach.

In 2019, a banner year for motor vehicle sales, Americans bought 17,108,156 cars, pickups, SUVs, crossovers, vans and assorted specialty vehicles. Of that number, six full-size pickup nameplates accounted for 2,550,659 sales — or 14.9% of the total.

2020 Nissan TITAN SL

Leading the exclusive pack of six, as it has for nearly 40 years, was the Ford F-Series with 896,526 sales. It was followed by Ram at 703,023, Chevrolet Silverado at 575,600, GMC with 232,323, Toyota Tundra at 111,673 and the subject here, the Nissan Titan with 31,514.

Note that the sales statistics include all versions of a particular pickup. For example, the Ford F-Series includes the light duty F-150 as well as Super Duty models F-250, F-350 and F-450. The same goes for the other nameplates.

2020 Nissan TITAN SL

Unless you are a pickup enthusiast, you might scratch your head over why a buyer might choose a Chevy Silverado 1500 or Ford F-150 over the Nissan Titan SL that is the subject here. After all, they’re all about the same size with plenty of power — in the Titan’s case a 400-hp, 5.6-liter V8 engine that makes 413 lb-ft of torque.

The Titan is 19 feet long with four doors and 98 cubic feet of passenger space, along with a payload rating of 1,697 lbs and the capability to tow 9,240 lbs, according to Nissan’s specifications.

2020 Nissan TITAN SL

Competing pickups obviously can match or exceed that so perhaps the clincher has to do with price. The Titan is not particularly cheap, with a sticker price of $61,160. But the tester was the top-of-the-line SL with four-wheel drive and options that would do justice to a luxury car, including such items as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, Nissan’s comfortable “zero gravity” seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, panoramic sunroof, around-view rear camera, memory settings for the power seats and steering wheel, blind-spot warning, SXM satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity, among others.

The interior was as luxurious as it was accommodating, with perforated leather upholstery and wood grain trim. The back seat offered generous room for three with a center-rear seat that was almost as comfortable as the outboards.

2020 Nissan TITAN SL

So the question might be: Why does the Nissan Titan sit in sixth place among full-size pickup trucks with sales in five digits, way behind the other brands? There are many reasons, but a prominent one is loyalty. U.S. pickup buyers are notoriously loyal to their chosen brands.

Still, to some non-pickup people, pickups are basically alike. They all do pretty much the same thing, so there’s little reason not to shop around and pick what suits you, never mind that your family has always driven GMCs or Rams.

The tested Titan, driven empty, had the choppy ride typical of heavy-load carrying pickups. But it cruised nicely at freeway speeds, with only the muted drone of its mighty V8 engine. The nine-speed automatic transmission shifted easily and the Titan’s handling, even on curving roads, was capable and secure — as long as you didn’t go too fast.

2020 Nissan TITAN SL

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Nissan Titan SL 4X4 Crew Cab four-door pickup truck.
  • Engine: 5.6-liter V8; 400 hp, 413 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with four-wheel drive and two-speed transfer case.
  • Overall length: 19 feet.
  • Height: 6 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 98/47 cubic feet (estimated).
  • Weight: 5,603 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,697 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 9,240 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 15/21/18 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $58,785.
  • Price as tested: $61,160.

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

2020 Nissan TITAN SL

Photos (c) Nissan

Five Reasons To Buy A 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

by Jason Fogelson

I may never need a van like the 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500XD Crew Van. But during my week test-driving one, I found myself thinking about why I should own a Sprinter. Here are my top five reasons to buy a 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

Pressefahrvorstellung Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Amsterdam 2018 // Press test drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Amsterdam 2018

Reason #1: You can load most anything in the back, and still carry passengers. I drove a Sprinter with a 144-inch wheelbase, and it can hold 261.3 cubic feet of cargo. I’m six feet two inches tall, and I can comfortably stand in the back. The back doors open a full 180 degrees, and the door opening is over 72 inches tall and 60 inches wide. The floor is over 70 inches wide at its broadest points. I imagined stuffing a room full of furniture in the back, or a pair of motorcycles, or a pile of mattresses – all behind the removable second row bench seat.

The New Sprinter

Reason #2: It’s easy to drive, and even fun. My test car came with a 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel engine (188 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque) with a seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. While those figures may seem modest, the Sprinter is sprightly off the line, and has no problem keeping up with traffic. The high seating position provides a great view of the road ahead, and there’s little chance that anyone’s going to miss seeing a Sprinter in traffic.

Weltpremiere Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Duisburg 2018 // World premiere Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Duisburg 2018

Reason #3: The Crew Van is a blank slate, perfect for upfitting. If you’ve got an idea for how to use a van, it’s likely that the Mercedes-Benz parts and accessories team has an assortment of workbenches, shelving and other modular parts designed to work inside the Sprinter to turn it into a mobile workshop, store or even kitchen.

The New Sprinter

Reason #4: Available 4×4 can turn the Sprinter into a go-anywhere base of operations. A high- and low-range 4×4 transfer case (part of a $7,800 package) can even be fitted on 3500 models like the one I test drove, which came with dual rear wheels. Just image the terrain you could cover.

Pressefahrvorstellung Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Amsterdam 2018 // Press test drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Amsterdam 2018

Reason #5: Maybe the best (and worst) reason of all to buy a Sprinter: It just looks cool. There’s something about the way the 4×4 Sprinter sits that just says “I’m ready for anything.” And that’s cool, and that inspires my fantasies about all the great things I could accomplish, if only I owned a Sprinter.

Pressefahrvorstellung Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Amsterdam 2018 // Press test drive Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Amsterdam 2018

The Sprinter comes in multiple configurations, starting at $33,790 for a Cargo Van. If you’re really ambitious, you could start with a Cab Chassis (starting at $39,790), and go the full custom route to create the exact vehicle you want. For me, the 3500XD Crew Van that I test drove hit the sweet spot, usable for up to five occupants, but still with enough configurable open space in the rear to be really useful. With an as-tested price of $71,496, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500XD Crew Van will not an impulse buy for me – but it is a thoroughly capable, attractive and inspirational vehicle. If it fits your needs, I’d recommend checking it out.

Weltpremiere Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Duisburg 2018 // World premiere Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Duisburg 2018

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

 

Weltpremiere Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Duisburg 2018 // World premiere Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Duisburg 2018

Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz

2020 Ford F-250 4X4 Diesel: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

So they say you’re not a real pickup truck person unless the $72,955  price tag  on the Ford F-250 Super Duty doesn’t faze you — even the $10,495 extra for the 6.7-liter turbo diesel engine.

Pickup fans are special, not like the rest of us, and many dote on oil-burning compression-ignition engines because of the torque, which translates into ginormous power. The Ford F-250 Super Duty’s V8 diesel conjures 1,050 lb-ft of the stuff, likely enough to pull down your grandfather’s barn or uproot that oak tree in the front yard.

2020 F-250 King Ranch

On the tested Crew Cab pickup, the torque, along with 475 hp, makes its way to all four wheels — if you wish — through a lusty 10-speed automatic transmission. A transfer case allows you to select two-wheel drive or even low range four-wheel drive for maximum grunt in the boonies.

You likely wouldn’t want to test your diesel F-250 in some trackless terrain, however, because it is one huge mother. Despite its 8.5 inches of ground clearance, this cookie is nearly 21 feet long and as tall as an NBA point guard, with all that implies for getting hung up on a rocky hump somewhere. Make sure you have a chase vehicle — a Land Rover Defender or Jeep Wrangler diesel.

2020 F-250 King Ranch

They would be there for minor repairs — changing a tire or refreshing the SXM satellite radio. But forget dragging it out of the muck or riprap. It weighs 6,568 pounds — and that’s empty — and though you probably wouldn’t venture off-road with a load of up to 7,850 lbs, it would be daunting. Maybe try a lift out with a CH-53K chopper from the U.S. Marine Corps, which can carry four Humvees.

No. The F-250 Super Duty likely will find its niche somewhere else, perhaps providing bragging rights at the local truckers’ saloon, or hauling some rich guy’s $300,000 Sea Ray fishing boat to the local marina for an afternoon of grouper fishing with the guys and gals from the corporate Presidents’ Club.

2020 F-250 King Ranch

For some, it likely will be all about image and a certain amount of practicality. The F-250, for all of its capabilities, can function as a family conveyance — as long as the parents and kids can handle the climb up into the cab. Don’t bother bringing the oldsters unless you’re willing to shoulder-boost their fannies.

Once inside, things get commodious. Unlike luxury cars, with their bulbous floor humps, the F-250 has a flat floor, especially important in back, where there are three actual comfortable seats with airy head room and plenty of stretch-out space for knees. Up front, the driver and passenger are similarly accommodated, with a smartly designed console that likely could accommodate a newborn calf but more likely a laptop and a box of decent Dominican cigars for rest stops.

6.7L Power Stroke diesel V8 third-gen

Except for some bouncing around from the choppy ride when empty, the Super Duty F-250 will carry five of you to the beach house in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, with everything you need or want tucked safely away in the cargo box, protected if you’re smart by the old shower  curtains in case of rain — or a custom bed cover if that’s your preference.

On the road, despite its bulk, the Super Duty cruises without curious behavior. There’s some drone from the diesel engine but not as much as you might expect. It tracks cleanly in a straight line and, if you don’t get silly about chasing Mazda MX-5 Miatas or Toyota Supras, handles curves without anxiety.

10-Speed Transmission

You won’t get killed at the gas pumps. Diesel engjnes are way more economical than our usual gasoline chuggers. Though the government doesn’t require economy numbers for machines in the F-250’s class, a test run of city, freeway and twisting roads for this review showed 18.5 mpg.

Though it’s a puzzle to many automobile enthusiasts, who value performance — and especially the tactile handling of sports-oriented roadsters, sedans, GTs and super cars — pickup trucks have much to recommend them.

Sure, they’re big, ponderous, usually thirsty and, by car standards, crude and clunky. But they obviously have a place in the automotive firmament, especially in the United States, their birthplace and nationality. Like Ford’s Super Duty F-250 4X4 Crew Cab pickup truck, they deserve their place, regardless of whether some of us get it.

2020 F-250 King Ranch

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Ford Super Duty F-250 4X4 Crew Cab pickup truck.
  • Engine: 6.7-liter V8 diesel, turbocharged; 475 hp, 1,050 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: 10-speed automatic with four-wheel drive high and low range.
  • Overall length: 20 feet 10 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 10 inches.
  • Ground clearance: 8.5 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 132/65 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 6,568 lbs.
  • Payload: Maximum 7,850 lbs.
  • Towing capability: 24,200 to 37,000 lbs., depending on equipment.
  • Combined city/highway fuel consumption (observed): 18.5 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $53,710.
  • Price as tested: $72,955.

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

2020 F-250

Photos (c) Ford

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave, Renegade Trailhawk 4X4: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

This is a tale of two Jeeps: The flyover model and the Italian Job. Former is the new Gladiator Mojave pickup truck, tricked out to validate those videos showing Jeeps launched airborne off sand dunes; the latter is the Renegade Trailhawk, a small crossover sport utility vehicle with modest off-road credentials.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave

That they are both Jeeps, with what that implies, goes without saying. The vehicles, which date back to World War II, have maintained their reputations as solid, go-anywhere military and civilian machines that can handle almost any terrain anywhere. Jeep now is a division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

The decision to squish two Jeeps into one DriveWays review happens because of circumstances. In the case of the Renegade Trailhawk, which is assembled at a Fiat factory in Melifi, Italy, and uses 63% Italian parts — hence the Italian Job moniker — there have been few changes since the 2019 model year.

2020 Jeep® Renegade Trailhawk

It uses the same 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which delivers 177 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. The Renegade’s underpinnings are similar to that of the less capable Fiat 500X.

On the road, the Renegade Trailhawk is not particularly fast though noisy under hard acceleration. Like almost all Jeeps, it has a choppy ride. The handling, however, is reasonably competent because of its small size.

2020 Jeep® Renegade Trailhawk

Unlike some other Renegade models, the Trailhawk is “Trail Rated,” meaning it comes with off-road equipment, including all-terrain tires, skid plates and a two-speed transfer case for the four-wheel drive. There’s also hill descent control, and four selectable driving modes: automatic, snow, sand, mud and rock.

2020 Jeep® Renegade

If you plan to drive mostly on paved roads, there are other choices in small crossovers, including Renegades that are not trail rated. Among them: Kia Seltos, Hyundai Kona, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Kicks, Toyota C-HR and Honda HR-V.

The Renegade starts at $23,770, including the destination charge. The tested Trailhawk model started at $29,290 and, with options, had a  sticker of $35,770.

*    *   *

At the other end of the spectrum in this evaluation is the Gladiator Mojave 4X4, a new version of the Jeep pickup truck. It is a sort of evil twin of the Gladiator Rubicon, which is designed for serious off-road duty like that found on the famed Rubicon trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and Nevada, traversed by all manner of Land Rovers, Jeeps and trucks with four-wheel drive.

 

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave

The entry-level Gladiator pickup, with a six-speed manual gearbox,  was previously featured in a DriveWays review, and the new Mojave shares many parts and features with that machine. It uses the same 3.6-liter V6 engine with 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and an eight-speed automatic transmission with a two-speed transfer case. However, the Mohave is a higher trim level, more akin to the Rubicon. The base Gladiator with the six-speed manual gearbox had a base price of $35,040 and, as tested, came to $36,330. The Mojave model tested here had a base price of $45,370 and, with many options, climbed to $61,795.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave

Traditional off-roading is mostly done in tough terrain like the Rubicon trail at walking speed, challenging driver skills and vehicle capabilities. But you’d hardly know it to witness some advertising videos, which often show four-wheel-drive vehicles racing at high speeds around desert locales like Mexico’s Baja California.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator – interior

Those machines are often modified. But the new Gladiator Mojave was specifically designed for that sort of off-road duty. It has some of the same equipment as the Rubicon model, and adds a beefed up frame as well as stronger shock absorbers and suspension system parts. Though it can do some of the same rock crawling as the Rubicon model, it can manage higher speeds through rough outback.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator – interior

There was no opportunity to evaluate those Mojave bones. The  introduction in the California desert between Ocotillo Wells and Borrego Springs was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. So for now the focus is on pavement performance.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator 3.6 Liter Pentastar V-6 engine

It has the typical choppy Jeep ride and, with solid axles front and rear, the Mojave requires frequent steering corrections on straight-line roads. But its heft, stiff suspension and fat tires keep it tracking well on curves, though you wouldn’t want to be chasing Porsches or Corvette Stingrays.

But they wouldn’t want to chase the Mojave at the beach either.

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave

Specifications

  • Model: 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave four-door pickup truck.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6; 285 hp, 260 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with four-wheel drive, two-speed transfer case and manually locking rear differential.
  • Overall length: 18 feet 2 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 4 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 109/36 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,970 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,200 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/22/19 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $45,370.
  • Price as tested: $61,795.

*    *   *

2020 Jeep® Renegade Trailhawk

  • Model: 2020 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4X4 four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 1.3-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 177 hp, 210 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 13 feet 11 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 100/19 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,320 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 2,000 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/27/24 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $29,290.
  • Price as tested: $35,770.

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

2020 Jeep® Gladiator Mojave

Photos (c) Jeep

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

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