- I’ve driven and reviewed all five of the full-size pickup trucks that dominate yearly new-vehicle sales in the US.
- After another big year in 2019 for pickups, I decided to compare the Ford F-150, the ChevySilverado, the RAM 1500, the ToyotaTundra, and the Nissan Titan.
- The global coronavirus pandemic has hurt auto sales, but in the US, pickup trucks have continued to attract customers.
- I reviewed a variety of trim levels and price points, as well as option packages and engines, so this comparison isn’t perfect. But it should give you an idea of how the pickups rank
- And speaking of ranking them, I’ve done just that, from No. 1 to No. 5.
- Sign up for Business Insider’s transportation newsletter, Shifting Gears, to get more stories like this in your inbox.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
America loves pickup trucks, especially full-size pickups! In 2019, about 17 million new cars and trucks were sold in the US, and of those, many millions were half-tons.
Despite the global coronavirus pandemic and its negative impact on auto sales, pickup trucks have continued to attract customers in the US. In March and April, USA Today reported, passenger-car sales were cut in half, relative to a year ago, but pickups declined less than 20%.
The king of the hill, for 43 years, has been the Ford F-150. But the Chevy Silverado (and its stablemate, the GMC Sierra) did pretty well too. The RAM 1500 was Business Insider’s 2019 Car of the Year, an indication of how important pickups are to automakers’ bottom lines.
And lest we forget, the Toyota Tundra and the Nissan Titan are both made in the USA and have been in the market for over a decade each.
So let’s get to it and see how these big guys ranked!
Let’s start at the top of the mountain. The Ford F-150 has been America’s bestselling vehicle for 43 years.
My 2019 Ford F-150 4×4 SuperCrew was very well optioned, with an added Limited package that took the price above $US74,000.
The F-150’s design refresh wasn’t anything dramatic. The biggest difference was the beefed-up front grille, lending a more aggressive demeanour to America’s favourite truck.
The “agate black” paint job and shimmering chrome highlights gave this pickup a near-luxury vibe. As you can see, my tester came with a short bed. We generally don’t get the longer box for our review vehicles.
The short box is more than adequate for most jobs that don’t involve ranching, farming, or serious construction. The bed liner protects the metal from rust and corrosion.
Let’s take a look at the Ford’s EcoBoost engine — the only V6 in this comparison!
This high-output variant of the 3.5-litre V6 is something: The turbocharged mill cranks out 450 horsepower with 510 pound-feet of torque. That beats the 5.0-litre V8 engine by a notable margin (395 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque).
The power is routed to the four-wheel-drive system by a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Fuel economy is so-so, at 17 mpg city/21 highway/19 combined. But the Raptor-grade motor yields a 0-60 mph time of just over five seconds. Acceleration is sort of staggering for a truck that weighs in at almost 5,700 pounds and can tow 12,000 pounds.
Weirdly, I had trouble running the gas out of my tester, though I didn’t take it on an extended road trip.
The F-150 has a multifunction steering wheel, leather-wrapped, and an analogue-digital instrument cluster that can be customised to display a wide range of vehicle info.
The “camelback” two-tone leather interior on my F-150 test truck was el primo. The front seats are heated, cooled, and exceptionally comfortable.
The F-150’s infotainment system runs on what is by contemporary standards a modest 8-inch central touchscreen. The Sync 3 system is generally superb, with excellent navigation, easy Bluetooth device pairing, USB integration, and a SiriusXM introductory subscription. Bonus points for the wonderful Bang & Olufsen premium audio setup.
I also sampled the high-performance version of the F-150, the Raptor, a few years back. It was stupendous.
In summary, the Ford F-150 is … the friggin’ Ford F-150! A truly great pickup that truly deserves its reputation.
On to the usually No. 2 player in the US full-size-pickup market: the Chevy Silverado. Chevy redesigned and relaunched the perennial aspirant to the throne in the US, putting it on sale for the 2019 model year.
My “summit white” Silverado 4×4 LTZ Crew Cab stickered at $US57,000, well above the base work truck ($US30,000) but far below the $US74,000 F-150 Limited 4×4 SuperCrew. The Silverado simply wasn’t as fancy.
This Silverado isn’t a huge departure from the previous generation. But with that massive grille and bow-tie badge, it retains road presence.
My tester featured a tonneau cover for the bed.
The short box could swallow up pretty much everything I threw at it. The spray-on bed liner is $US500 extra.
The Silverado could be outfitted with a 2.7-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, a 4.3-litre V6, a 5.3-litre V8, a 3.0-litre inline-six-cylinder diesel — or, in the case of my tester, a 6.2-litre V8.
At full bore, the 6.2-litre V8 makes 420 horsepower with a whopping 460 pound-feet of torque. That’s 65 more ponies than the 5.3-litre V8 mill. It can propel the truck to 60 mph in about six seconds, sending the power through a 10-speed automatic transmission. The MPGs are actually respectable, at 16 city/20 highway/17 combined.
The V8 motors have a cylinder-deactivation feature that can drop the engine down to a fuel-sipping two, if all you’re doing is humming along at highway speeds. (Chevy calls it “dynamic fuel management.”)
The “Gideon/very dark atmosphere” interior is oddly named but still quite pleasant, if a bit on the utilitarian side.
The Silverado’s as-tested interior wasn’t as flashy as the Ford’s — nor the RAM 1500’s, as we’ll soon see — but it had most of the same features …
… including a multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel. And the Silverado gets extra points for having a good old-fashioned column shifter!
Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system is good, but the Chevy’s is better. The 8-inch centre touchscreen isn’t huge, but it is responsive, with a few buttons and knobs to fall back on.
There’s SiriusXM radio, plus a full array of USB and AUX ports, and even a 120-volt outlet. OnStar provides 4G LTE WiFi connectivity, and, as with the F-150, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available.
I had also checked out a Chevy Silverado Z71, Chevy’s version of the Ford Raptor.
To sum it up, I couldn’t find anything substantial to dislike about the Silverado. And I found plenty to enjoy.
Time for our 2019 Car of the Year, the formidable RAM 1500.
The 2019 RAM 1500 Crew Cab I originally tested was a Western-themed Laramie “Longhorn” edition, which was $US54,000 before many extra features. As tested, the price was $US68,500. We drove the vehicle a total of three times, in Los Angeles and the New York-New Jersey metro area.
The RAM’s front end is a study in forcefulness, intended to invoke semis and deliver a singular road presence.
The RAM 1500 weighs about 5,400 pounds and can tow 12,750 pounds.
Each of my two East Coast test trucks had short beds, and one of them had a nifty retractable tonneau cover.
Engine time! Let’s pop that hood.
The mighty Hemi powerplant in our test truck featured a mild hybrid “eTorque” system coupled to the 5.7-litre V8, making a total of 395 horsepower with 410 pound-feet of torque. The 0-60 time is about six seconds. Fuel economy is OK: 17 mpg city/22 highway/19 combined.
The 2019 RAM 1500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab 4×4 is a staggeringly good pickup. The secret weapon, of course, is the four-corner coil or air suspension. (Competitive pickups from Ford and Chevy continue to use rear leaf springs.)
The RAM lineup is known for plush interiors. Here we have one in all black, but crammed with subtle details and elegant textures.
Crew cabs are all about transporting fully grown adults. The back seat of the 1500 is comfortable and quite roomy. Tall humans won’t want for legroom.
The 12-inch centre touchscreen is stunning. The infotainment system is FCA’s Uconnect, which we’ve found to be excellent.
GPS navigation is solid, and the system offers a suite of apps to go along with USB/AUX ports for device connection. Bluetooth pairing is easy, and the RAM 1500 has wireless charging. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available.
The 2019 RAM 1500 is the best full-size pickup truck I’ve ever tested. I even got to challenge the 4×4 system with about a foot of snow at our suburban New Jersey test centre, and the RAM brushed it off like it was nothing.
It’s Toyota Tundra time!
You’re not going to confuse the Tundra for anything other than a full-size pickup. Ours had a 5-foot-5 doubled-walled bed and a power-sliding rear window.
Our “super white” test truck was the CrewMax 1794 edition, well appointed and well optioned at almost $US53,000. I tested it officially a few years ago. The Tundra is an ageing platform; it hasn’t been redesigned in over a decade.
Tundra badging on the liftgate was subdued.
I was able to make good use of the bed for a run to my kids’ summer camp.
A full-size pickup with a tow rating of 10,000 pounds indicates some serious business under the hood.
The motor is a 5.7-litre V8, making 381 horsepower — but more importantly, supplying 401 pound-feet of bone-crunching torque. A six-speed automatic transmission gets the job done, but I found it to be antiquated relative to the competition. Fuel economy is a thoroughly unimpressive 13 mpg city/17 highway/14 combined.
The interior is roomy and comfortable. The 1794 Tundra is a close second to the RAM 1500 for sheer interior bliss.
The rear seats aren’t as plush, but they aren’t bad. The fronts were heated and cooled, while the rear bench design allowed for three passengers.
That’s a NICE steering wheel, with the kind of wood-and-leather combo you’d expect to see on Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus. To be honest, the Tundra 1794 is kind of the Lexus of pickups.
Infotainment works fine, with GPS navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, device integration, and satellite radio. The touchscreen interface, however, is small and rather outdated — it’s more or less the same as what I have in my 2011 Prius. The JBL audio system is an 11-speaker rig that sounds pretty good, though it doesn’t quite cross into premium territory.
No one is asking Toyota to mess with a good thing — and the Tundra is pretty darn good — but the segment is modernising, and Toyota can’t wait forever to roll out a next-gen Tundra. That said, it can wait a few more years without enduring significant damage.
Now let’s check out our final contestant, the Nissan Titan.
My 2020 Nissan Titan Pro-4X crew cab was basically brand-spankin’-new, fetchingly attired in a “Baja storm” paint job. Nissan hadn’t officially priced this truck, but a little back-of-the-envelope maths suggested a sticker just over $US50,000.
Nissan has updated the Titan a few times since its 2004 introduction. But the full-sizer has never managed to crack the Big Three’s sales, nor really even pester Toyota’s Tundra all that much.
Thus the Titan is the forgotten pickup. In 2010s, the Titan sold more than 50,000 units only once, in 2017, while Ford was moving close to 1 million F-150s annually. Sales more than doubled in 2017 and 2018, however, amid a pickup-truck boom, so Nissan figured it was well worth it to upgrade the Titan.
The 4×4 trim level is probably the sharpest option available. My tester sported a crew cab and a 5.5-foot box. Still, I found the Titan’s overall looks to be sort of homely.
The all-important bed! As with all our tester trucks, which are usually upscale trims, the bed was lined. I put it to work on a run to my local recycling centre, hauling A LOT of cardboard and some glass and plastic. That was literally nuthin’ for a truck that can handle over 1,800 pounds.
Let’s talk towing for a second.
The Titan is rated in the low end of the segment: 9,660 pounds. You pretty much need 10,000 and above to run with the big boys. However, 9,600-pounds-plus is perfectly respectable, and the truth is that many pickup owners typically need to be above 7,500 pounds to satisfy the majority of their towing needs.
Once you get into the Big Three’s reaches, it’s great to have the extra capacity, but jumps up in towing weights can send those folks scurrying for heavy-duty trucks. There is a difference between a horse trailer and, say, a small camper.
So for my money, the Titan is good enough, towing-wise. But on paper, its lower capacity is going to be something it’s endlessly getting knocked for.
It’s hood-poppin’ time!
Here we find a 5.6-litre V8, making 390 horsepower with 394 pound-feet of torque! Nissan isn’t known for V8s, but it had to commit when it entered the full-size-pickup market.
Inside, the Titan has perhaps the coolest interior in the segment, with its only proper rival being the aggressively styled Ford Raptor.
Some reviewers have dinged the Titan’s cab as skimpy on rear legroom, but I thought it was adequate.
No driver would be surprised with this configuration, but while other automakers have started to update their multifunction steering wheels and instrument clusters for 21st-century duty, Nissan is entering the third decade of the millennium with a vibe that’s still circa 1998.
About the infotainment system … Nissan is TRYING. The NissanConnect setup runs on a 9-inch touchscreen. And while the system is respectable, it lacks the ease of use I found in the F-150s, the Silverado/Sierras, and the RAM 1500s. Nissan’s foe here is Toyota; the Tundra’s system also suffers by comparison with the Big Three.
Nissan’s system gets the job done. The navigation is excellent. Bluetooth pairing is simple. There are abundant options for charging, including always useful outlets. And there’s a SiriusXM radio trial subscription. And the Titan has Fender’s audio system, one of my favourites. It’s ideal for garage rock and outlaw country!
The Titan is a good pickup at an appealing price with suitable stats and a V8 that I rather enjoyed but that doesn’t match up well against the redesigned generation of half-tons from Detroit.
Now for our ranking of the contestants! Well, our Car of the Year, the RAM 1500, is No. 1. It remains the best full-size pickup truck I’ve driven.
The Ford F-150 is No. 2!
The updated F-150 edged out its traditional rival, the Chevy Silverado, in this battle royale for full-sizers.
There’s a reason the F-150 has been America’s bestselling vehicle for 43 straight years: If you want a half-ton pickup, you can simply choose an F-150 and never look back. The F-150, complete with the once radical innovations of added aluminium construction and the EcoBoost turbocharged V6 engine, also demonstrates that the Blue Oval is taking the risks necessary to keep its most important vehicle at the top of its game.
The F-150 is sort of like the Porsche 911 in this respect. You might be tempted by the charms of other sports cars, but when push comes to shove, if you want to make a choice you won’t really have to defend, the 911 is a no-brainer.
Likewise, the stalwart from Ford.
The Chevy Silverado is No. 3!
The Nissan Titan is an unexpected No. 4, beating out the better-selling Toyota Tundra.
What I liked most about the Titan was, in the end, its non-Titanic-ness. It functions more like a midsize pickup than a full-size, though it has full-size capabilities. It’s also crammed with driver-assist technology, a helpful addition when tooling around on the freeway (though not mission-critical in the truck world).
I also liked the price. With an estimated sticker of about $US50,000, the Titan Pro-4X was extremely well equipped for the category. And while I didn’t have the chance to test the truck off-road, the combination of Bilstein shocks, General Grabber tires, that torque-y V8, steering that was rather heavy and precise, and a ride that was less than plush indicated that the Titan 4×4 could be a budget Raptor.
And No. 5 is the Toyota Tundra.
The Tundra platform is, to be blunt, ancient. The current generation of the pickup has been around since 2007. Everybody expects Toyota to update it soon, to keep pace with new full-size trucks from Ford, Chevy, and RAM.
Except, of course, there’s no rush. The Tundra, while a dandy truck, isn’t even remotely competitive with the Big Three. And yet Toyota continues to crank out the vehicle to satisfy what is, by its standards, robust US demand.
You may have anticipated the punchline, set up by that clunky six-speed automatic transmission, that gas-chugging big V8 motor, and the circa-2010 infotainment system. That’s right: Toyota doesn’t need to expend resources on the Tundra because it isn’t a combatant in the great pickup war among the Detroit Big Three.
The crusty old Tundra ain’t broken, so why fix it?
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.