2016 Ram 3500 HD 800W ・ Photo by FCA Media
Can’t decide between a pickup truck or cargo van? Choosing the best work vehicle is a complicated task these days. The advent of world cargo vans has brought a revolution. Ford put the long-running Econoline out to pasture in 2015, in favor of the Transit and Transit Connect, and conventional body-on-frame cargo vans will soon be a thing of the past. Your decision criteria might start with price, payload and capacity. It’s easy to compare those numbers, but it can be difficult to estimate work truck fuel economy. Unfortunately, the EPA does not publish ratings for larger pickup trucks and cargo vans. If you need an all-wheel-drive work truck, you’ll most likely choose a pickup. The only cargo van currently offered with AWD is the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter delivers proven longevity and versatility, as well as low operating cost thanks to its fuel-efficient turbodiesel engine. The Sprinter's offered in two wheelbases and three roof heights, with a positively cavernous maximum cargo volume of 516.5 cubic feet in the Super High Roof 170-inch wheelbase extended version. Over the years, the Sprinter has worn Freightliner and Dodge badges in America, in addition to the Mercedes-Benz star. It first arrived in America in 2001. All US-bound Sprinter cargo vans are manufactured in Düsseldorf, Germany, before they are disassembled, loaded into containers, and shipped by boat to South Carolina, where the trucks are reassembled. Mercedes-Benz jumps through these hoops to avoid paying a hefty 25 percent “chicken tax” import duty on every truck.
Photo by Mercedes-Benz
Ram offers a dizzying array of configurations for its 1500, 2500, and 3500 pickups. If you’re in the market for a value-priced half-ton work truck, the RAM 1500 Tradesman fits the bill. It’s the least expensive model in the RAM pickup line up, with a starting MSRP of $26,145. A 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine and 8-speed automatic are standard in the Tradesman, with a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 available for an additional $1650 (with an upgraded transmission). If your half-ton work truck rolls up lots of miles, you may want to step up to the Tradesman HFE to gain the torque and fuel-economy benefits of the 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel engine. Diesels aren’t just for the big boys anymore.
Photo by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
While the versatile Ford Transit van has been available overseas since the mid-1960s, it wasn’t offered in America until the 2015 model year. The Transit became an instant success and was the top-selling cargo van in America in 2015, with over 117,000 units sold. The Transit is available in 58 different configurations, with three lengths and three heights. The largest high-roof configuration provides a generous 81.5 inches of cargo height, with up to 487.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Dual rear wheels are offered in the long wheelbase, extended-length high-roof version. Engine choices cover all the bases. The standard FlexFuel 3.7-liter V6 produces 275 horsepower, and a CNG/Propane conversion is available. A 310-hp 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and a 3.2-liter Power Stroke 5-cylinder turbodiesel are offered as well.
Photo by Ford
With slightly over 52,000 units sold, the compact Ford Transit Connect was the third best-selling van in America in 2015, outselling the RAM ProMaster City, Nissan NV200, and Chevrolet City Express combined. The Transit Connect arrived in America in 2010 and is currently built in Valencia, Spain. Ford dances around the 25 percent import duty by importing Transit Connect passenger vans, which are converted to cargo vans after they arrive here in the States.
The Transit Connect's compact platform makes it a popular work van for urban settings. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter Duratec inline-4, which produces 169 horsepower. The optional 1.6-liter EcoBoost inline-4 four delivers 178 horsepower and is rated by the EPA at 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway.
Photo by Ford
The Chevrolet Silverado is the second best selling pickup truck line in America, after the Ford F-Series. Chevrolet likes to crow that its trucks are still built with steel bodies, not aluminum. But at what point does the type of sheet metal on your work truck make a difference? The more heated discussions come when you pit the Silverado’s naturally aspirated V8 vs the F-150’s turbocharged V6... The Silverado 1500’s optional 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 engine produces 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque; this 2wd pickup is rated by the EPA at 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway. Need to haul some serious potatoes? Pick up the Batphone and call in the Silverado 3500HD. Its 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel cranks out 397 horsepower and a heroic 765 lb.-ft. of torque, giving this pickup a maximum towing capacity of 23,200 pounds.
The Ram ProMaster is a rebadged Fiat Ducato cargo van that competes with the Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. It arrived in America in 2013 and nipped at the Sprinter’s heels in 2015, with over 28,000 units sold. The ProMaster’s front-wheel-drive architecture draws a clear difference between it and the competition, providing the Italian van with a class-leading load floor height height of 21 inches and a good 36-foot turning radius. Long story short, the ProMaster is a breeze to drive. Although the ProMaster’s front-end appearance is unconventional, the design allows for cost-effective modular repairs, with separate corner pieces. A 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 is standard, with a fuel-efficient 3.0-liter EcoDiesel inline-4 available for an additional price. Two roof heights and three wheelbases are offered.
The 2016 Nissan Titan XD is one of the newest entries in our list of best work trucks and is available with either a 5.6-liter V8 gas engine or a mighty 5.0-liter turbodiesel Cummins V8. The gasoline V8 produces 390 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque, while the Cummins V8 delivers 310 horsepower and 555 lb-ft. Our choice, not surprisingly, is the Cummins. Fiat/Chrysler gambled when it decided to use its own turbodiesel in the Ram 1500, rather than using a Cummins engine, as it does in the Ram 2500 and 3500. A certain percentage of Ram Cummins owners are more loyal to the engine manufacturer than they are to Ram.
If you need a conventional work van, there’s only one brand. The Chevrolet Express is the last domestic body-on-frame cargo van sold in America. It’s available in 2500 and 3500 configurations, with regular or extended wheelbases. Two gasoline-powered engines are offered in the Express: a 285 horsepower 4.8-liter V8 or a 342-hp FlexFuel 6.0-liter Vortec V8. A Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 is available as well. It produces 260 horsepower and a substantial 525 lb.-ft. of torque. When those hauling needs are severe, the turbodiesel is your best best. Being the last van standing may have its advantages. The Chevy Express was the number two selling van in America in 2015. How many more years does it have left?
Photo by Chevrolet
The 2016 Toyota Tundra is a capable work truck. In Tundra TRD Pro form, it’s particularly wells uited to use off the beaten path, although it’s a tad down on power. The Tundra’s base 4.6-liter V8 produces 310 horsepower and 327 lb.-ft. of torque, putting it in the same league as Chevy’s base V6. The optional 5.7-liter V8 delivers 381 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque. While the TRD Pro isn’t as outrageous as Ford’s Raptor, its off-road-tuned suspension, Bilstein shocks and 1/4-inch aluminum skidplates are built to tackle the tough stuff. The Tundra earns high marks for its deck rail system, which provides four adjustable tie-down cleats, making it a snap to secure cargo.
Ford F-Series pickups are the best-selling trucks in America year after year, from the half-ton F-150 through the Super Duty F-250, F-350, and F-450 models. If you need a 4x4 work truck that’s capable of reaching the toughest sites, the 2017 Ford Raptor fits the bill, whether you need to crawl through the rocks or blast through the sand. How tough is the Raptor? It’s good enough for the U.S. Border Patrol... The B20-biodiesel capable Super Duty is built to haul, with an available 6.7-liter PowerStroke V8 turbodiesel that churns out 440 horsepower and an mind-boggling 860 lb.-ft. of torque, delivering a maximum conventional towing capacity of 19,000 pounds.