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How Dare We Test Trucks? Well, Somebody Has To - The Lohdown

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 12/3/2014 Edward Loh
How Dare We Test Trucks? Well, Somebody Has To - The Lohdown

Truck of the Year has the smallest field of all of our of the Year programs. This year, there were only six trucks and one van in contention for TOTY compared to 19 sport/utility vehicles for Sport/Utility of the Year and 23 cars for Car of the Year. But every single truck and van in our small group came with capabilities unmatched by anything in the car, crossover, or SUV segment.

Research

To wit, we had three heavy-duty trucks in the mix. The biggest, the Ford F-450, has a max towing rating of 31,200 pounds. That's over 15 tons -- and 5,200 pounds beyond the limit of a California Class C driver's license.

Also in the mix was Ford's new Transit, a replacement for the long-running E-Series van that is available in a stunning array of configurations, including three engines, three roof heights, and three wheelbases. In its most voluminous layout, Transit can carry 15 people or 487.3 cubic feet of cargo.

Our Truck of the Year featured three potential game changers. In the Transit, Ford brings its dominant European heavyweight into a resurgent category that has seen many new entrants in the last few years. In the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, GM returns to the midsize truck class it (and Ford and Ram) abandoned to Toyota and Nissan. But the most compelling story is the long-awaited aluminum Ford F-150, a huge gamble for FoMoCo given that F-Series trucks have been America's best-selling pickups for the past 37 years and the country's best-selling vehicles for the past 32.

2015 Truck of the Year Contenders Preparation© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Truck of the Year Contenders Preparation Our TOTY contenders are truly heavyweights, not only in power and torque but also in physical and sales volume. They embody the core values of America: strength, reliability, durability. So how do we dare test them?

First we did the research. We talked to every major truck manufacturer and looked at data compiled on how truck owners use their rigs and what prospective buyers look for in a new one. We examined capabilities, from maximum payload and towing capacities to the standards set up by the Society of Automotive Engineers. Then we looked across the American West, from Mojave, California, to Uvalde, Texas, for a suitable place to test.

And when I say test, I'm not talking about simple drive loops and spec comparisons. Against our award's efficiency criterion, we compiled and compared three sets of MPG data for each truck: the EPA rating, our own Real MPG figures, and the MPG we got after hauling hundreds of pounds of payload for hundreds of miles. We performed instrumented "frustration tests" up the infamous Davis Dam to simulate what it's like when a load-carrying truck needs to pass slower-moving traffic. We attached trailers for instrumented acceleration tests and then ran through a tricky handling course. We even measured the sound levels inside each vehicle at idle, wide open throttle, and while cruising at 70 mph.

2015 Truck of the Year Contenders Group© Provided by MotorTrend 2015 Truck of the Year Contenders Group

We used these test results along with driving impressions distilled over hundreds of miles to select our 2015 Truck of the Year. I will be the first to tell you that neither the tests nor the program are perfect. We are always looking for ways to improve all of our of the Year programs. But I can say that this is the most comprehensive and rigorous Truck of the Year program Motor Trend has ever executed. I hope you agree.

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