Storage & Transport
And the winner is…
By Howard J. Elmer
The reason pickup trucks are so popular in Canada can be traced directly to the nature of business we do in this wide, vast country. Primary industries such as forestry, mining, farming and construction, along with the businesses affiliated with these sectors, are widespread and demand the use of trucks – but we all know it goes deeper than that. For so many people over the decades, the pickup has been both a work vehicle and a means of personal transportation and Canadians have grown to love it for the flexibility it offers.
This duality of purpose is the key reason the Canadian Truck King Challenge evaluates trucks under loaded, harsh conditions – because that’s the way you use them.
This year’s winner
The 2012 Ram 1500 was selected as the winner of the fifth annual Canadian Truck King Challenge, and let me tell you why.
What we concentrated on first for 2012 was evaluating those half-ton pickups that fill the bulk of the market. We had pickups from the veteran three – Ford, GM and Chrysler, as well as the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan, which are two trucks that very much want to be thought of as North American. We set up a full tow test to work the trucks. But this year, thanks to partnering with Campkins RV Centre, we were able to secure five travel trailers, each with a net weight of around 8,000 pounds, and do all our towing back to back at the same time. To be fair to all of the truck competitors, we also borrowed five brand-new equalizing hitches from Equal-i-zer.
These spread the load across the chassis of each truck and achieved a level attitude for each entire rig regardless of the various wheelbase lengths.
This aspect of a pickup’s ability has become more and more important in recent years as (according to manufacturer stats) the number of owners who tow regularly has increased right across the country – most consumers will have noted that manufacturers regularly advertise the weight-bearing abilities of their vehicles, which continue to increase every year. Eight thousand pounds was chosen because I knew each truck could handle it (according to its published specifications), yet this weight approached the upper limits set by the truck companies. Four tonnes is a very heavy load, and how a truck tows reveals a lot about its overall chassis and powertrain performance.
Our five competitors this year were:
- 2011 Ford F-150, Crew Cab, 4WD, Platinum, 3.5L EcoBoost V6, six-speed automatic – MSRP $64,449
- 2012 Toyota Tundra, Double Cab, 4WD, TRD Off-road Package, 5.7L i-Force V8, six-speed automatic – MSRP $43,975
- 2012 Nissan Titan, 4-door Cab, 4WD, SL CC, 5.6L V8, five-speed automatic – MSRP $52,228
- 2012 Ram 1500, Crew Cab, 4WD, Laramie, 5.7L Hemi V8, six-speed automatic – MSRP $54,825
- 2012 GMC Sierra 1500, Crew Cab, 4WD, SLE, Vortec 5.3L V8 (with active fuel management), six-speed automatic – MSRP $52,915
These trucks were picked by the manufacturers. They chose the engines, transmissions, trim packages and the drivetrain, as well as how they were equipped and what price range they fell into. They know what tests we run and spec the trucks for that (however
All of our test trucks were 2012 models, except the Ford, which was a 2011. However, a 2012 would have had no substantial changes from the truck we did test.
The judges for this year’s competition were average Canadian truck owners. Ed C is a serving Royal Canadian Air Force warrant officer with years of pickup and towing experience, Ed D is a 30-year veteran Toronto Transit Commission driver with his own RV towing history, and Matt E is a 20-something driver for waste management who has driven trucks and towed since he was first licensed.
Finally, there was me (as it is my event) and Jil Macintosh, an automotive journalist for the Toronto Star newspaper. Jil has been helping me judge trucks since the first Challenge back in ’06.
Each of the judges cycled through the five trucks and trailers over a 300-kilometre route that included a long portion of hilly terrain up through Ontario’s Haliburton Highlands, in torrential rain (we call this the “Truck King Curse” as we have never had dry weather for the Challenge), with grades of up to nine percent.
A full day was spent towing the trailers on main and secondary roads – with a final section of highway where speeds of at least 100 kilometres/hour were maintained. After returning the trailers, we refuelled and calculated real-world towing fuel consumption.
Something else new this year was the spreading of the pain during testing, where wives, girlfriends and one husband accompanied the judges, and they were more than vocal in adding their opinions and observations to those of the drivers – plus they got stuck with taking all of the notes.
The second morning, the rain stopped and we headed to RoofMart in Oshawa, Ontario, where we picked up pallets of roof shingles, supplied by IKO, and drove a 200-kilometre route with this 1,800-pound payload. We also kept track of the fuel used during this test.
Lastly, we drove the trucks empty for 150 kilometres and finished with an off-road section near Head Lake, Ontario, that was unfortunately blocked by downed trees. This was too bad, as it is a very nasty, muddy bit of off-road terrain.
So, at the end of the second day of testing, the judges agreed that because we weren’t able to cycle everyone through the pickups in the equal time allotments needed, the off-road criteria would not be scored and we dropped the category from this year’s winning calculation.
Howard Elmer is a truck and ATV writer living in rural Ontario. He produced this report for Eastern Top Crop Manager.