2017 Truck King Challenge: Full report

Howard J. Elmer
February 13, 2017
By Howard J. Elmer
Feb. 13, 2017 - The Canadian pickup truck market is huge. It caters to the multiple needs of work, institutional and personal trucks; sometimes all in one. In fact, pickups that serve the workplace and family are becoming the norm. This fact alone makes choosing the right one simply that much more complex.


Trying to offer buyers an unbiased perspective is one of the reasons I started the Canadian Truck King Challenge 10 years ago. Since then, each year, my group of journalist judges continues to fulfill that original mandate: testing pickup trucks and vans the same way that owners use them.

This real-world competition includes empty evaluations but, more importantly, testing while loaded and while towing. The judges are members of the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada. This year judges travelled from Quebec, British Columbia and Saskatchewan to attend the event that takes place at a private 70-acre site in the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario.

This year we had a field of 11 2017 pickup trucks; falling into four classes: mid-size, full-size half-ton, full-size ¾-ton and full-size one-ton.

Each judge drives each truck, empty, then with payload on board and finally towing a trailer over this same route, one after the other, back to back. Trucks are scored in 20 different categories; these scores are then averaged across the field of judges and converted to a percentage out of 100. Finally the as-tested price of each vehicle is also weighted against the average price of the group for the final outcome.

The route we use is called The Head River test loop. It’s a combination of public roads spread over 17 kilometres. It starts on gravel, moves to a secondary paved road and finally highway. Speed limits vary from 50 to 80 km/h and the road climbs and drops off an escapement several times giving good elevation changes. At the road’s lowest point it crosses the Head River twice – hence the name. Finally – 4WD equipped trucks (all our entries were) are driven on an internal off-road course built for that purpose at the IronWood test site.

This year the mid-size trucks carried a payload of 500 pounds and towed 4,000 pounds. The full-size half-tons hauled payload of 1,000 pounds and towed 6,000 pounds; while the ¾-tons towed 10,000 pounds and also used 1,000 pounds for payload.

For the one-ton trucks we changed locations to London, Ont., where Patene Building Supply and IKO let us use 4,000 pounds of singles for payload, while CanAm RV centre lets us tow 15,000-pound fifth-wheel travel trailers.

Mid-size group:

  • Honda Ridgeline – 3.5L V6 gas, 6-speed auto, AWD, Crew Cab, Touring trim. Price as tested: $47,090.
  • Chevrolet Colorado - 2.8L Duramax turbo-diesel, 6-speed auto, 4WD, Crew Cab, Z71 trim. Price as tested: $44, 695.
Between the two mid-size trucks the Honda impressed the judges. As with anything new, it had an edge. The prior generation of Ridgeline was a niche, quirky truck that appealed to a select buyer. This time Ridgeline has moved closer to the mainstream while retaining some of its unique characteristics. It did most of everything well and still offered the most car-like ride. Toyota opted not to give use a Tacoma (which we did test last year) and the Nissan Frontier was also not offered.

Honda Ridgeline – final score of 75.5 per cent

Chevy Colorado – final score of 72.2 per cent

Full-size – half-ton group:

  • Ram 1500 – 5.7L Hemi V8 gas, 8-speed auto, 4WD, Crew Cab, Sport trim. Price as tested: $58,110.
  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500 – 5.3L V8 gas, 6-speed auto, 4WD, Crew Cab, Z71 trim. Price as tested: $59,890.
  • Nissan Titan – 5.6L V8 gas, 7-speed auto, 4WD, Crew Cab PRO-4X trim. Price as tested: $63,050.
  • Toyota Tundra – 5.7L V8 gas, 6-speed auto, 4WD, Crew Cab, TRD Pro trim. Price as tested: $60,025.
The full-size half-ton category is the meat of the market. In Canada it makes up just under 80 per cent of total pickup sales. This year we asked each of the manufacturers to give us a best-seller half-ton with the most popular combination of body style, trim and powertrain. This way we’d test the trucks that Canadians buy most often. Some, as with the Nissan Titan, are all new, while the Chevy and Ram are midway through their current lifecycle. Toyota chose to give us an off-road version of its Tundra – the TRD Pro. As you’d expect it did really well off-road. The Ram emerged as the judges’ choice for best all-round half-ton. However all the scores were close and the Chevy also did well.

Ram 1500 – final score of 79.4 per cent

Chevy Silverado 1500 – final score of 76.7 per cent

Nisan Titan – final score of 74.3 per cent

Toyota Tundra – final score of 73.7 per cent

Ford, the leader in half-ton Canadian truck sales, chose not to supply a test vehicle for the first time since the Canadian Truck King Challenge began in 2006.

Full-size – ¾-ton group:

  • Ram 2500 – 6.7L Cummins I6 turbo-diesel, 6-speed auto, 4WD, Crew Cab, Laramie trim. Price as tested: $86,830.
  • Nisan Titan XD – 5L Cummins V8 turbo-diesel, 6-speed auto, 4WD, Crew Cab, PRO-4X trim. Price as tested: $64,950.
  • Chevrolet Silverado 2500 – 6.6L Duramax V8 turbo-diesel, 6-speed auto, 4WD, Crew Cab, LTZ trim. Price as tested: $82,560.
In the ¾-ton category note that each of the trucks was diesel-powered. As these are the most common big haulers purchased by Canadians we stressed them by towing 10,000 pounds of concrete. The scoring here was close as each truck did well – however the Ram 2500 with the Cummins 6.7L diesel did come out slightly ahead. The Nissan Titan XD is the lightest (GVWR) of the three trucks and has the lowest tow and payload limits – that is also reflected in its price, which elevated its overall score. This was the first time we tested all new 5L Cummins diesel V8. Chevy’s veteran 6.6L Duramax diesel will be generationally updated next year.

Ram 2500 – final score 77.0 per cent

Nissan Titan XD – final score 74.9 per cent

Chevy Silverado 2500 – final score 74.9 per cent

Full-size – one-ton group

  • Chevrolet Silverado 3500 – 6.6L Duramax V8 turbo-diesel, 6-speed auto, 4WD, DRW, Crew Cab, High Country trim. Price as tested: $83,390.
  • Ram 3500 – Cummins I6 turbo-diesel, 6-speed auto, 4WD, DRW, Crew Cab, Laramie trim. Price as tested: $88,085.
For the one-ton trucks we had a field of two – again we missed having Ford, particularly because its 2017 Super Duty trucks are all new. After a full day of driving the Ram 3500 and Silverado 3500 back to back the judges awarded the win to the Silverado 3500. Both trucks worked well, the key difference was ride-quality when towing – judges preferred the Chevy.

Chevy Silverado 3500 – final score 75.1 per cent

Ram 3500 – final score 71.8 per cent

Conclusions
It’s worth noting that all the trucks performed well, and as a group you’ll note how close all the scores are. This reflects how fierce the competition is among the truck builders. This competition brings sharp, constant innovation. These changes give buyers an ever-widening range of choices.

The overall winner of the 10th annual Canadian Truck King Challenge with the highest collective score of 79.4 per cent is the 2017 Hemi-powered Ram 1500.

Read the full report at www.woodbusiness.ca.


RELATED: 2017 Truck King Challenge crowns a winner!

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