With retro muscle cars and quirky subcompacts hogging the spotlight, many car shoppers may be left wondering, “Whatever happened to the classic American pickup truck?” They’d be wrong, however, to believe that pickup trucks are dead.
Greener lifestyles and unstable gas prices have helped drive poseurs with little use for truck beds toward crossovers and SUVs. However, true truckers have enjoyed an ever-expanding lineup of pickups that have only gotten stronger, more innovative and even luxurious. With such features as leather upholstery, TVs and even wireless internet, pickup trucks now feel more like Lexus sedans than workhorses. That’s not to say they’re any less capable. Not only have their hauling and towing capacities increased, but many now perform better off-road than ever.
Fortunately, folks are starting to take notice. According to PickupTrucks.com, “Pickup truck sales have rebounded in 2010, with significant volume gains over last year's depressed sales levels for most of the largest players in the full-size and small truck segments.” More specifically, The Detroit News explains, “Americans bought 151,000 pickups last month, 19 percent more than a year ago.”
As of the first quarter in 2010, Ford’s F-Series pickup is the hottest-selling vehicle in the nation. According to J.D. Power & Associates, “[T]he Ford F-150, which sells more units than any other model in the U.S., sold 39,308 units (combined total for light- and heavy-duty models) in April 2010, easily surpassing the 27,899 units sold by the best-selling passenger car, the Toyota Camry.” Sure, Toyota may have experienced a sales slump due to recall issues during that period, but the F-150’s sales figures are still very impressive.
2010 Toyota Tacoma
MSRP: $15,345 - $27,250
If you’re in the market for a compact pickup truck, the 2010 Toyota Tacoma is unsurpassed. Equipped with either a 159-horsepower four-cylinder engine or 236-horsepower V6, the Tacoma has plenty of strength to handle most moderate-labor tasks. Plus, it boasts an EPA-estimated city/highway fuel economy as high as 20/26 mpg, which is pretty truckin’ good for its class. Its highway ride may not be the smoothest, but it excels off-road and certain models can carry a payload of up to 1,570 pounds and tow as much as 6,500 pounds. Inside, the Tacoma’s rear seat is knocked for being a bit cramped, but its quality materials and long list of standard and optional features impress critics and shoppers alike. "Overall, these are excellent compact trucks and easy Best Buy picks," writes Consumer Guide.
2010 Ford F-150
MSRP: $21,820 - $46,500
More than any other full-size pickup truck, the 2010 Ford F-150 was designed for the tasks at hand. With horsepower ratings ranging from 248 to 310, the F-150 is available with three powerful V8 engine options. And drivers who choose the SVT Raptor, Ford’s off-road monster F-150, can even opt for a larger 400-horsepower V8. Not surprisingly, the F-150 is a beast with the ability to tow up to 11,300 pounds. Nevertheless, its exterior and interior features are what draw the most attention. Not only does the F-150 feature a useful bed extender, but drivers can opt for Ford's Work Solutions system. It includes an internet-connected in-truck computing system to track work, a printer to make invoices and even a tool management system to ensure no tools ever get left behind. "All said…the F-150 is still one of the most appealing trucks on the market thanks to its user-friendly features and pleasant driving dynamics," writes Edmunds.
2010 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty
MSRP: $27,215 - $43,395
Available in a range of cabs, bed sizes and wheel configurations, the 2010 Dodge Ram HD is a
heavy-duty pickup designed for heavy-duty work. Drivers can choose between a 383-horsepower HEMI V8 engine or 350-horsepower turbo diesel -- both of which are lauded for their brute strength. And while the Ram HD earns praise for its smooth ride and decent handling, it’s no sissy on the field. In fact, the Ram HD has a maximum payload capacity of 5,050 pounds and a maximum towing capacity of 17,600 pounds. Believe it or not, they’re comfortable to sit in too. With an expansive list of options -- including satellite radio, Sirius Backseat TV and uConnect (a hard drive-based music storage system), the Ram HD makes getting through the work day a bit more bearable. Car and Driver says the Ram HD is "not just the Heaviest Dutiest Rammiest Ram ever, but also the quietest and most comfortable HD truck we can remember."
2010 Honda Ridgeline
MSRP: $28,450 - $36,780
Sport Utility Trucks strike an exciting balance between work and play, and the 2010 Honda Ridgeline is among the best. Combining the utility of a pickup truck with a car-like ride, the Ridgeline packs a solid 250-horsepower V6 engine. Critics are quick to note that competitors offering V8 power can out haul and tow the Ridgeline. But with a maximum payload capacity of 1,546 pounds and the ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds, this SUT is still plenty strong. Plus its in-bed lockable trunk and spacious five-passenger cabin make the Honda Ridgeline easy to live with on a day-to-day basis. "The Honda Ridgeline is the perfect utility vehicle for a soccer dad," writes Cars.com. "It's smart, active-minded, cultured and extremely safety-conscious."
2010 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid
MSRP: $38,340 - $47,820
Hybrid technology isn’t just limited to front-wheel-drive econoboxes. Truckers looking to reduce their carbon footprints can opt for the 2010 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid -- the most fuel-efficient full-size truck available. It won’t net Prius figures, but with a city/highway EPA rating as high as 21/22 mpg, it’s still relatively green. Best of all, the Silverado Hybrid provides plenty of power. It’s equipped with a 332-horsepower V8 engine that allows for cylinder deactivation and runs on gas or E85 ethanol. Mated to an 80-horsepower electric motor, the Silverado Hybrid can even operate on electricity alone. Understandably, it can’t haul or tow as much weight as its gas-only counterpart. But with a maximum payload of 1,459 pounds and tow capacity of 6,100 pounds, it can still get the job done. In fact, Kelley Blue Book says, "If you have serious work to do and want to burn less fuel doing it, this is your truck."