If you stick with something long enough you are bound to get lucky; or so it seems. I’m referring to rain and the Canadian Truck King Challenge (CTKC).
Each fall for the past nine years we did on-road testing in the Kawartha’s, in central Ontario, and each year we were rained on. It became known as the “Truck King curse”. Now it’s year ten and the odds finally worked in our favour – sunshine and warm temperatures were a welcome change to the norm for the home-grown truck test that has now put its first decade behind it.
DON’T MISS: Full Fuel Economy Report from CTKC 2017
Assembled at the IronWood test site this year were 11 pickup trucks, falling into four classes. Midsize, Fullsize ½-ton and Fullsize ¾-ton. The Fullsize 1-ton trucks were tested in London, ON a few days later. In the Midsize we had the all-new Honda Ridgeline and the Chevy Colorado diesel. Toyota opted not to give use a Tacoma (which we did test last year) and the Nissan Frontier was also not offered. No doubt because it’s in the last year of its current cycle before a major upgrade.
ALSO SEE: Detailed Scoring for CTKC 2017
Between the two Midsize trucks the Honda impressed the judges. As with anything new, it had an edge – while the Colorado diesel was a big splash last year. However it wasn’t just the new factor that pushed its score past that of the Colorado. 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 characterises. It did most everything (payload, towing, even off-road) well and still offered the most “car-like” ride. The judges rewarded Honda for a significant generational update.
Amongst the midsize trucks, the judges awarded the following totals:
Honda Ridgeline – final score of 75.5%
Chevy Colorado – final score of 72.2%
The Full-size ½-ton category is the meat of the market. In Canada it makes up just under 80% of total pickup sales. As such it is one of the most competitively fought over among the builders and for us at the Challenge it’s a segment that we annually consider carefully – as in- what to test and how.
Despite the competition, as I mentioned, there are rarely more than two “new” half-tons in a given year. Generational upgrades are typically every seven years, while lesser changes do come along in-between. These facts leave us with a problem when it comes to testing. How do we field a full spread of pickups where perhaps only one is really “new”. This year we came up with an idea that should appeal to Canadian buyers. We asked each of the manufacturers to give us one half-ton – the one that was their best seller – as in bodystyle, cab and powertrain combination. This way we’d test the trucks that Canadians buy most often. We had a Ram 1500, Crew cab with the 5.7L Hemi V8; the Chevy Silverado, Crew cab with the 5.3L V8; the new Nissan Titan, Crew cab with the 5.6L V8 and the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, Crew cab with the 5.7L V8. For Toyota the TRD Pro (or off-road version) of the Tundra was the newest truck they had; not really the most often purchased. But that was their choice to enter it. The others were exactly what we asked for.
Of course I have to mention what is missing from the list. Ford. The leader in half-ton Canadian truck sales choose not to compete. Despite having entered trucks in every other Truck King competition since 2006 this year they declined. No specific reason was given and while I certainly have my own theories as to why, I won’t speculate. They were invited – they said no – we continued on without them.
As always, all pickups are tested in the same way, by six automotive journalist judges who drive them back to back in each condition. The test loop we use is 17 kilometers long and combines, gravel, class B pavement and highway. There are twists, turns and elevation changes. An off-road course on the IronWood site is saved for the last afternoon of testing. The trucks are always driven empty first. Then we add payload and do the loops again. Finally with tow loaded trailers and do the loops again. Yes it gets repetitious, but this is the best way to feel the differences between the trucks.
This year the Midsize trucks carried a payload of 500 lbs and towed a total of 4,000 lb. The Fullsize half-tons used payload of 1,000 lb and towed 6,000 lb; while the ¾-tons towed 10,000 lbs and also used 1,000 lb for payload. These figures take into consideration the lowest manufacturer set limits among the entries. The weights we use never exceed any of those limits.
Amongst the ½-tons the judges awarded the following totals:
Ram 1500 5.7L V8 – final score of 79.4%
Chevy Silverado 1500 5.3L V8 – final score of 76.7%
Nisan Titan 5.6L V8 – final score of 74.3%
Toyota Tundra TRD Pro 5.7L V8 – final score of 73.7%
Three-Quarter Ton Pickups
In the ¾-ton category note that each of the trucks was diesel-powered. As these are the most common big haulers being bought by Canadians we stressed them with 10,000 lb of concrete and the judges made a point of saying that under load was when they really felt how well they behaved. 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. What was more interesting was the Nissan HD tied with the HD Silverado. The first uses the all new 5L Cummins diesel V8 – new this year – while the Chevy had the veteran 6.6L Duramax diesel under the hood.
Amongst the 3/4-tons the judges awarded the following totals:
Ram 2500 6.7L Cummins I6 – final score 77.0%
Nissan Titan XD 5L Cummins V8 – final score 74.9%
Chevy Silverado 2500 6.6L Duramax V8 – final score 74.9%
For the one-ton trucks we had a field of two – again we missed Ford, particularly because its 2017 Super Duty trucks are all new. However we still performed a full field of tests on the Ram 3500 and Silverado 3500 in and around London, ON. With the help of Patene building supply and IKO we did payload testing using 4,000 lbs of singles. Then with the assistance of CanAm RV centre we towed 15,000lb fifth wheel travel trailers. After a full day of driving both trucks back to back the judges awarded the win to the Chevy Silverado 3500.
Amongst the one-tons the judges awarded the following totals:
Chevy Silverado 3500 6.6L Duramax V8 – final score 75.1%
Ram 3500 6.7L Cummins I6 – final score 71.8%
It’s worth noting that all the trucks performed well, and as a group you’ll note how close all the scores are. If anything this makes it tough for the judges to crown a winner because none of these trucks is “bad”. That is thanks to the fierce competition among the manufactures. Never the less this group of judges worked through the field of trucks creating a mass of data in 20 key categories. Each of these judges, hails from different parts of the country, is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and collectively they bring over 200 years of trucking experience to this intensive testing. Over three long days they drove almost 4,000 km while evaluating these trucks
The overall winner of the 10th annual Canadian Truck King Challenge with the highest collective score of 79.4% is the 2017 Hemi-powered Ram 1500.
Words by Howard Elmer