The best half-ton trucks are the ones that can get the job done, each and every time. The only thing is not everyone is facing exactly the same task list at the start of the day, which means that above all, half-ton trucks have to be versatile. This is why you see so may different versions of each of the major pickup players, ranging from inexpensive, work-oriented models all the way up to luxurious cruisers that make excellent daily drivers. There are few segments of the auto industry more diverse than the full-size pickup market.
Let's take a quick look at 5 of the best half-ton trucks available and see what each of them has to offer.
The 2014 Ford F-150 is the latest edition of the best half-ton truck to have lead the market in sales for more than two decades. Why do so many full-size pickup buyers like the Ford F-150? It's a combination of style, affordability, reliability, and utility - essentially the holy grail of truck attributes - that keep owners coming back for more on a regular basis.
A lot of people consider pickups to be task-oriented affairs - and the Ford F-150 very much can be - but it's instructive to examine how many luxury-oriented models that the Blue Oval has added to the F-150 lineup over the course of the past few years. In addition to very nice trucks like the Lariat model, you can also order King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited versions of the pickup that are dripping with high end features. This is aside from the F-150 SVT Raptor, a desert-racing truck that offers the kind high speed off-road capability that just isn’t available from any other pickup model. Body styles cover the standard Regular, SuperCrew (extended) and SuperCab (four-door) bases.
The 2014 Ford F-150 also offers an impressive range of engines. Base models offer a 302 horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6, with a 5.0-liter V-8 that delivers 360 horses and 380 lb-ft of torque representing the next step up. The F-150's optional, twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 is a class-exclusive, and it churns out 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque while providing fuel mileage of 16-mpg city and 22-mpg highway. Finally, a 6.2-liter V-8 (standard in the SVT Raptor) produces 411 horsepower and 434 lb-ft of torque. Four-wheel drive is optional across the board, and a six-speed automatic transmission is included with each and every model.
The 2014 Chevrolet Silverado is all-new for the current model year, and while most of the changes that have been made to the half-ton truck are evolutionary, not revolutionary, they have significantly refined what the vehicle has to offer full-size buyers. The Chevrolet Silverado pickup now provides a much quieter and calmer cabin, and one which is replete with storage space, USB connections, and a more organized control layout. Of its three body styles, the Crew Cab that was the first to go one sale offers the most interior room, with an astounding amount of space waiting behind the front seats for up to three more passengers (for a total of six).
The Chevrolet Silverado isn't exactly at the same level as the F-150 when it comes to attracting premium customers, but in addition to its old LTZ stand-by trim it has gained a version of the truck called High Country. The Silverado High Country adds finer leathers as well as a full complement of luxury gear (such as the MyLink vehicle interface) to the equation, giving the brand a legitimate upscale competitor for the first time in years.
Under the hood, the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado has seen each of its three available engines significantly updated with direct injection and cylinder deactivation technology. The base 4.3-liter V-6 is no longer a consolation prize as it delivers 285 horsepower and 305 lb-ft of torque, along with fuel mileage of 18-mpg around town and 24-mpg on the highway. The truck's base 5.3-liter V-8 now features 355 ponies and 383 lb-ft of torque, while an available 6.2-liter mill generates 420 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. Like its Ford rival, four-wheel drive can be ordered with the Chevrolet, and a six-speed automatic transmission handles the gear-shifting duties.
The 2014 RAM 1500 takes a different tack when compared against its Ford and GM rivals. Sure, the Ram 1500 comes with the same range of body styles as its competitors, but last year's re-design gave it a new, stronger frame as well as an available air suspension system that provides load-leveling. The Ram 1500 is also the only truck in its class to feature rear coil springs for improved comfort over the traditional leaf springs found on most other half-ton truck models.
Ram is slowly but surely jumping on the luxury truck bandwagon, with the Laramie Longhorn and Laramie Limited trims joining the already well-equipped Laramie on the 1500's options list. A bigger announcement, however, came in the drivetrain department with the revelation that the 2014 Ram 1500 will be the eventual recipient of a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 engine. With 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque on tap, this motor promises to provide exceptional towing capability alongside real-world fuel mileage that should flirt with 30-mpg on the highway (official numbers have yet to be released).
A big part of the turbodiesel's efficiency push can be traced back to its eight-speed automatic gearbox - a feature that is also available with its base 305 horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine. The Ram 1500's 310 horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8 relies on a six-speed autobox, as does its 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 (395 ponies and 407 lb-ft of twist), although the latter is slated to receive the eight-speed unit at roughly the same time as the turbodiesel model becomes available (late 2013). Four-wheel drive can be installed on the Ram 1500 as an option.
The 2014 GMC Sierra is in many ways the mechanical twin to the Chevrolet Silverado. This means that it benefits from the same redesigned platform and fresh range of engine options. Where the Sierra stands apart is in its styling. Blocky like that of the Silverado, it features a number of cues inside and out that make it clear that this is no mere carbon copy of its Bowtie-wearing sibling.
The GMC Sierra might come with the same integrated step bumpers as the Silverado, but the brand still carves out its own identity in the luxury segment with the impressive Denali trim level. The Sierra Denali's reach has been broadened this year to include both the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8 engines (previously restricted to the larger motor), and it can be ordered with low-range four-wheel drive instead of all-wheel drive. The Denali features its own unique exterior styling as well as a passenger compartment that is veritably dripping with leather. It's a different experience than the Silverado - even in High Country form - and it shows that GMC is still one of the go-to rides for premium half-ton shoppers.
The 2014 Toyota Tundra is another refreshed half-ton truck looking to improve its sales position. The Toyota Tundra's upgrades are essentially cosmetic, as the truck maintains its three traditional body styles, (Regular, Extended, and CrewMax), but piles on new sheet metal to give the vehicle an even more imposing first impression.
Of greater importance for the Toyota Tundra is the treatment that has been given to the truck's interior, which has been reorganized in order to better present its features and controls to the driver as well as increase its luxury appeal. Enter the 1794 trim level, which complements the Tundra's upscale Platinum trim and matches the western theme of several of the truck's rivals in the form of saddle-style leather. Of course, the Tundra's TRD Off-Road package remains available to do battle when the going gets rough (if four-wheel drive has been specified).
Those seeking drivetrain updates to the Tundra will be disappointed, as there aren't any differences between 2013's engine lineup and that offered for the current model year. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the 2014 Toyota Tundra comes with the choice of either a 270 horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6, a 301 horsepower, 4.8-liter V-8, or a range-topping 5.7-liter V-8 that is good for 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. Powerful as they are, however, and despite the presence of a six-speed automatic transmission, the Tundra's array of engines isn't quite as efficient as those offered by the domestic brands.