Truck Warfare: The 2016 Factory Pickup Lineup

No one dreams of owning a Trophy Car, we love trucks here at RDC and it is easy to see why.  While SUVs devolve into station wagons and car models vie for better fuel mileage and aerodynamics, trucks continue to become more capable every year.  Trucks are the last bastion of ruggedness and freedom in the automotive market with full frames and solid rear axles.  Increased power and suspension travel don’t have to be at odds with great handling and comfortable interiors though, making the latest crop of trucks fit for duties as varied as daily driving, camping, prerunning, towing, and chasing.  Here is how the truck market is shaping up for 2016.

Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500- The best part of GM’s trucks continues to be the LS-based engines, which now benefit from direct injection for even more horsepower and torque.  No manual transmission is available, but the standard six speed automatic and optional eight speed do an excellent job of keeping the engine in the fat part of the powerband. These trucks are built on a ladder frame with a coilover front suspension and solid rear axle with leaf springs.  The electric power steering provides good assist and feel, even when the truck has been lifted and fit with larger tires.  Unfortunately the top off-road package is the Z71, which amounts to little more than some stickers and a Gov-Lok, but the aftermarket has solutions for more wheel travel and traction for your new Silverado or Sierra.

Ford F-150- Ford completely redesigned the F-150 for 2015, with the biggest news being the aluminum body that weighs 700 pounds less than the previous steel cab.  While a 5.0L V8 engine is available (the 6.2L is gone due to increasingly strict CAFE requirements) Ford is the only manufacturer offering turbocharged engines in their pickup trucks.  The 3.5L Ecoboost uses direct injection and twin turbos to make 365 horsepower and 420 ft-lbs of torque and is rated to tow 12,200 pounds.  Maybe you don’t need a 3/4-ton diesel tow rig after all. Even you want even more performance out of your F-150, the new Raptor is scheduled to be released as a 2017 model with 3-inch Fox internal bypass shocks and an eight speed automatic transmission.  Better get your name on the waiting list now.

Nissan Titan XD- The Titan was long overdue for an update, and it got one for 2016.  The new Titan XD blurs the line between a half-ton and 3/4-ton truck.  It comes with a 5.0L Cummins diesel engine, six-speed Aisin automatic, and an AAM axle with a 10.5-inch ring gear, but it is still a six lug, semi-float axle.  The Titan XD has a fully boxed ladder frame with a-arms and coilover struts in front and leaf springs with a solid axle in the rear.  While other half-ton trucks use hydraulic, or increasingly electronic, power steering racks, the Titan XD uses a recirculating ball steering box, another heavy duty truck component.  The 12,300 pound towing capacity puts Nissan at the top of the hill for half-ton trucks, if it is truly a half-ton truck.  A Pro-4x model is offered that includes Bilstein shocks, skidplates, all-terrain tires, and an electronic locking rear differential.

Ram 1500- Ram is the only manufacturer offering a coil rear suspension on their pickups, and an optional airbag suspension is even available.  As a result these trucks ride great when there is no load in the bed, however the downside is slightly reduced tow ratings when compared to the competition.  The trucks are available with a Pentastar V6, Hemi V8, or an EcoDiesel V6, something that neither Chevy nor Ford offer.  All the engines are backed by an eight-speed automatic that does an amazing job of keeping the engine in the powerband.  We had concerns that these transmissions would constantly be hunting for gears, but that is not the case. New for 2016 is the Ram Rebel, which comes with 33-inch Toyo Open Country A/Ts and Bilstein shocks.   It is no Raptor fighter, but it is more capable off-road than your average Ram pickup. Slap a Ram Runner kit or go buy a complete Minotaur package from Prefix and now you are making Raptor owners nervous.

Toyota Tundra- The Tundra is updated for 2016 with cosmetic changes, but the architecture remains essentially the same as when the truck was introduced in 2007.  Available engines include a 4.6L V8 or the iForce 5.7L V8 that, despite being down on power on paper when compared to its rivals, has plenty of power to get the Tundra moving in a hurry.  Part of the acceleration can be attributed to the option 4.10 gear ratio in the huge 10.5-inch rear end, which is the only half-ton truck on the market to use a drop out third member like a Ford 9-inch.  Toyota offers a TRD Pro package that includes Bilstein remote reservoir shocks and an aluminum front skidplate.  This is the best factory offering for off-road use… at least until the 2017 Ford Raptor is released.

Downsized trucks are enjoying a renaissance in the United States, although they are a far cry from the “mini trucks” of old.  Instead of being inexpensive, stripped down pickups used for delivery trucks and college transportation, modern downsized trucks have all of the features of fullsize trucks and nearly the same price tag.  Their dimensions and light weight make them perfect for off-road use though, and if you want to row your own gears all of these trucks are available with manual transmissions, something you won’t find in any half-ton truck.

Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon- The downsized GM trucks were completely redesigned in 2015 and pose a serious threat to the Tacoma, a truck that has dominated this segment for the past decade.  The Colorado is available with a 305 horsepower V6 engine, or a 2.8L four cylinder diesel that makes 181 horsepower and 369 ft-lbs of torque.  Both the Colorado and its main rival the Tacoma use ladder frames with a-arms and coilover struts in front and leaf springs out back, but the Colorado has a fully boxed frame.  It has four wheel disc brakes, although Toyota claims that the stopping distances are not any shorter than the Tacoma, which retains drums out back.  Like its big brother the Silverado, the most off-road oriented Colorado is the Z71 package, and that only adds Hill Descent Control and a Gov-Lock differential.

Ford Ranger- Ford stopped sales of the Ranger in 2011, stating that the price and fuel economy of the Ranger were not distinct enough from the F-150 to justify selling the truck in the United States.  A revised Ranger is available overseas though, and there are rumors that we might see the Ranger return to these shores in the near future.  We certainly hope so, as the Ranger is an iconic symbol of desert racing and pre-running in the United States.

Nissan Frontier- The Frontier has remained relatively unchanged since 2004, leaving it behind the new Colorado and Frontier in terms of power, capability, and modern appointments.  Still, it is a good truck with the 261 horsepower 4.0L V6 engine backed by either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.  The older design results in a less complex and less expensive truck, which can both be beneficial for off-road use where Bluetooth and touch screens are not the priority.  The Pro-4x package adds Bilstein shocks and an electronic locking differential to the rear Dana 44 axle.

Toyota Tacoma- The Tacoma is completely redesigned for 2016, with a 3.5L V6 engine and six speed automatic transmission.  It still uses a ladder frame with a steel cab and composite bed, although ultra  high strength steel has allowed for thinner and lighter metal to be used. One thing Toyota did not change was the suspension pickup points on the new Tacoma.  That means that existing aftermarket suspension components will fit the new truck.  The TRD 4×4 package adds an 8.75-inch rear differential with an electronic locking differential and Crawl Control, a feature first introduced on the Land Cruiser and Trail Edition 4Runner.  Like cruise control for technical terrain, Crawl Control uses wheel sensors to provide power to individual wheels to provide traction.  A TRD Pro model is expected for 2017 that will up the Tacoma’s prowess even further with 2.5-inch Fox internal bypass shocks.

Manufacturers are slowly starting to listen to what people want. After the success of the the FORD raptor we find it surprising the manufactures have not been more aggressive with creating “Raptor” like vehicles, there is clearly a market for them as regular vehicles devolve into boxes aimed at punishing us for our daily commutes to work. Thankfully we have the aftermarket manufactures pushing the boundaries for us.

  • M
  • February 25, 2016
Where's Honda ?
  • B
  • November 29, 2016
Well the sidelines is a pos. So why put that on?