Americans bought nearly 15.6 million new cars and light trucks in 2013, an 8 percent increase over 2012. Sales of full-size pickups grew even faster, with a 19-percent gain. That’s partly testament to the recovering commercial and construction economy. It’s also evidence that automakers have their finger on the pulse of pickup buyers. With redesigned full-size models, new compacts, and startling innovations on the horizon, the truck market is hopping.
The CarPreview 2014 Pickup Truck Buying Guide looks at the six full-size, four compacts, and one midsize pickup in showrooms now or coming soon. Model-year 2014 highlights include the redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and its GMC Sierra companion, plus the new Toyota Tundra. Chrysler’s Ram brand makes history as the first to offer a diesel engine in a half-ton pickup. And Ford is readying an all-new 2015 F-150 with revolutionary aluminum body construction.
In the compact ranks, General Motors roars back with the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon in a category long dominated by Toyota’s aging but still-appealing Tacoma. Familiar or fresh, big or not-so big, workhorse or show horse, our guide has something for every truck buyer. The base prices listed, by the way, include the manufacturer’s destination fee, which average around $850. And the fuel-economy numbers are the model line’s lowest and highest in combined city/highway EPA ratings.
Here is our 2014 Pickup Truck Buying Guide:
2015 Chevrolet Colorado
Fuel-economy ratings span: 20-24 mpg city/highway combined (estimated)
Base-price range: $20,000-$31,000 (estimated)
Colorado returns to the lineup for the 2015 model year, relaunching Chevrolet into the compact-pickup category. Loosely based on a General Motors truck on sale for several years in overseas markets, the U.S.-market Colorado is customized for American buyers with a sturdier frame and styling cues based on those of the full-size Chevy Silverado pickup. GMC gets a mechanically identical version as the Canyon. Colorado’s dimensions are close to those of the Toyota Tacoma. It offers two cab styles: a four-door extended cab with a 6-foot-2-inch bed and a four-door crew cab with a choice of 5-foot-2- and 6-foot-2-inch beds. Colorado launches with a choice of 193-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine or a 302-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6. Both are available with 2wd and 4wd. WT, LT and off-road-oriented Z71 models are on tap. The four-cylinder WT is available with a six-speed manual transmission; all other versions use a six-speed automatic. Chevy pegs towing at more than 6,700 pounds with the V-6. It also plans to offer Colorado with a 2.8-liter four-cylinder diesel engine for the 2016 model year. It would deliver better fuel economy than the four-cylinder gas engine and more torque than the V-6.
2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
Fuel-economy ratings span: 18-20-mpg city/highway combined
Base-price range: $26,670-$50,275
Chevy’s full-size Silverado 1500 pickup is redesigned for 2014, and while it gets an updated appearance it remains familiarly boxy and broad-shouldered. The interior receives a more significant update, gaining vitally needed passenger room and a fresh layout with more legible gauges and larger controls. Again offered in regular-cab, extended-cab and four-door crew cab versions, all models feature long- and short-bed cargo boxes ranging from 5-feet-8-inches to 8 feet, depending on cab. All beds have a step built into the rear bumper for easy access into the box. Three engines with familiar displacements return: a 285-horsepower 4.3-liter V-6 and 5.3- and 6.2-liter V-8s with 355 and 420 horses, respectively. All are new designs, however, and deliver both improved performance and fuel economy thanks to the latest powertrain technology. Available features include the MyLink infotainment/smartphone connectivity system with natural speech recognition. Even with this redesign, Silverado comes across as more conservative than its Ford and Ram competition. It’s roomy and refined, though, and while ride and handling are good, little about this new truck is class-leading.
2014 Ford F-150
Fuel-economy ratings span: 13-18-mpg city/highway combined
Base-price range: $25,640-$55,025
Continuing for one more model year in its present form before a major redesign that will make extensive use of aluminum as a weight-saving (and, in turn, fuel-saving) measure, the F-150 remains America’s top selling vehicle, car or truck. Offering an expansive assortment of cab, cargo-bed, wheelbase, payload, and trim level configurations, the F-150 delivers ample utility as a work truck and can be configured as a posh luxury pickup or a street-legal off-road race truck. A sporty “Tremor” version joins the line for 2014. A 302 horsepower V-6 is standard on entry-level versions; other models feature a choice of a 360-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 or a more fuel efficient twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 with 365 horsepower and an impressive 11,300-pound maximum towing capacity. Meanwhile, the ferocious SVT Raptor version packs a 6.2-liter V-8 with 411 horsepower. A six-speed automatic is standard across the line.