Japanese trucks might not get as much press as their American counterparts, but they have been able to hold their own regardless of what the job might require for a number of decades. Japanese pickup trucks and other sport-utility vehicles offering full-frame designs - or at the very least, a rugged chassis - provide an interesting alternative to domestic trucks for those who want to drive something different. They also offer intriguing cost savings, styling choices, and solid reliability, which are all factors that work in their favor.
Let's take a quick look at 10 of the best Japanese trucks.
Best Japanese Trucks - 01 - 2012 Toyota Tundra
There was once a time when the Toyota Tundra could be thought of as a 3/4 size mockup of its American competitors, but those days are long over. The 2012 Toyota Tundra is a legitimate full-size pickup, and it comes with the full range of body styles, bed lengths, and engines that most expect from a large truck. The Tundra allows buyers to choose from either a 270 horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6, a 310 horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8, or a 5.7-liter eight-cylinder that generates 381 horses and 410 lb-ft of torque. Transmission choices include five and six-speed automatics, and four-wheel drive is of course available with the Toyota.
Best Japanese Trucks - 02 - 2012 Nissan Titan
The 2012 Nissan Titan is another full-size pickup that takes aim squarely at its U.S. market-mates. The Nissan Titan might not offer the same kind of technological advantages offered by newer platforms, but it still provides a stout option for value-focused truck buyers. The Titan features both King and Crew Cab models, each of which can accommodate an extra set of passengers behind the front row, and it lists two different lengths for its cargo bed. Under the hood, the Nissan truck comes exclusively with a 317 horsepower, 5.6-liter V-8. Also capable of producing 385 lb-ft of torque, this mill is yoked to a five-speed automatic transmission that sends output to either the rear or all four wheels (if optional four-wheel drive is selected).
Best Japanese Trucks - 03 - 2012 Suzuki Equator
The 2012 Suzuki Equator is a mid-size pickup truck that shares its platform with the Nissan Frontier. The Suzuki Equator is notable, however, for styling that some feel is sleeker than that of its mechanical cousin, and it also offers a much more extensive seven-year / 100,000 mile warranty. The Equator's Extended Cab and Crew Cab body styles are perfect for hauling around up to five passengers, and the truck is also available in RMZ-4 off-road trim in order to better conquer difficult terrain. A 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine is standard, and its 152 horsepower are bested by an optional 261 horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 (that also introduces the option of all-wheel drive). The Suzuki Equator can be shifted via either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission.
Best Japanese Trucks - 04 - 2012 Toyota 4Runner
The 2012 Toyota 4Runner has is typically pegged as a family transporter, but the truck-based SUV doesn't just excel when it comes to hauling a respectable amount of people and cargo from point A to point B. When equipped with four-wheel drive, the Toyota 4Runner is a capable trail vehicle, thanks in part to a number of electronic driving aides that step in to keep things kosher when the going gets rough. The Toyota 4Runner offers a 4.0-liter V-6 as its sole power plant, and this unit is good for 270 ponies and 278 lb-ft of torque. Each and every 4Runner is outfitted with a five-speed automatic transmission, and when ordered in the Trail edition it can be paired with a trick adaptive suspension system.
Best Japanese Trucks - 05 - 2012 Nissan Pathfinder
The 2012 Nissan Pathfinder represents the final model year that the mid-size SUV can claim to be a direct competitor to the 4Runner. For 2013 the Pathfinder switches to a unibody crossover design, but 2012 versions still come with a truck-style frame that guarantees all-terrain strength and tough towing prowess (up to 7,000 lbs). The Nissan SUV also allows for the option of V-8 grunt in the form of a 5.6-liter motor that produces 310 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque. Entry-level buyers won't be disappointed by the standard 266 horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6, either. Four-wheel drive is can be had on higher trim levels, while a five-speed automatic transmission handles the gear shifting duties across the board.
Best Japanese Trucks - 06 - 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara
The 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara is in some ways a throwback to a time when smaller SUVs were still offering rear-wheel drive and the ability to tackle light off-roading without breaking a sweat. The Suzuki Grand Vitara might not be tough as nails, but it's certainly more capable than most crossovers once the pavement disappears. Four-wheel drive can be had on most models of the Grand Vitara, which is motivated exclusively by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that is good for 166 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. Transmission options for the SUV include a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic.
Best Japanese Trucks - 07 - 2012 Toyota Tacoma
The 2012 Toyota Tacoma is the latest iteration of the best-selling mid-size truck on the market. The Toyota Tacoma's modest proportions don't translate into middling capabilities, as the pickup can be configured to haul people (Double Cab and Access Cab models), cargo (Regular Cab with six-foot bed), or venture into the wilderness (via the TRD Off-Road package). A 2.7-liter, four-cylinder that provides 159 horsepower is included with the entry-level version of the Tacoma, but the vehicle's 236 horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 is a better bet for all-around performance. The latter is offered with the choice of either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic, while the former drops a single forward speed from both its manual and auto gearboxes.
Best Japanese Trucks - 08 - 2012 Nissan Armada
The 2012 Nissan Armada is an enormous, eight-passenger sport-utility vehicle that is also capable of hauling a respectable 97 cubic feet of cargo. Borrowing most of its underpinnings from the Nissan Titan full-size pickup, the Nissan Armada can be decked out for luxury or suited up to get the job done, depending on what trim level it is ordered in. All versions of the Armada - regardless of price point - feature the same 317 horsepower, 5.6-liter V-8 engine that can also generate 385 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is par for the course with the Nissan SUV, and four-wheel drive is offered on the vehicle's option sheet.
Best Japanese Trucks - 09 - 2012 Honda Ridgeline
The 2012 Honda Ridgeline stands alone as the only unibody pickup truck currently available on the market. Despite being down on towing capacity, the Honda Ridgeline has earned a niche following due to its innovative cargo management system and its roomy interior (which can seat up to five passengers). The cargo bed even features a lockable trunk that can handle 8.5 cubic feet of gear. The Ridgeline makes all-wheel drive standard, and the crew cab pickup features a 3.5-liter V-6 that provides 250 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission also comes with the Honda truck.
Best Japanese Trucks - 10 - 2012 Toyota Land Cruiser
The 2012 Toyota Land Cruiser is the priciest truck in the Japanese brand's lineup, but it's also one of the most impressive when dealing with off-road conditions. The Toyota Land Cruiser's heritage is replete with unstoppable all-terrain vehicles, and the modern iteration includes the Multi-Terrain Select system, locking differentials, a dynamic suspension system, crawl control, and standard four-wheel drive. A 5.7-liter V-8 engine lives between the Land Cruiser's front fenders, where it pumps out 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque, corralled by a six-speed automatic transmission. On top of its off-road competence, the Toyota SUV can also tow up to 8,500 lbs and handle as many as eight passengers.