Truck Rodeo show­cases great pick­ups for 2019

Texarkana Gazette - - AUTO SUNDAY - Bill Owney

AUSTIN—Maserati will be there, Toy­ota’s an­swer to the Ford Rap­tor will be there, as will the well-re­garded new Ram when auto jour­nal­ists from across the na­tion gather to­day for the Texas Auto Writ­ers’ Truck Rodeo.

If there’s an early fa­vorite, it’s the all­new 2019 Ram pickup, win­ner of the open­ing skir­mishes of the lat­est pickup war. Rid­ing on a com­pletely re­designed chas­sis that is lighter, stronger, bet­ter bal­anced, safer and bet­ter able to sub­due noise, vi­bra­tion and harsh­ness than its pre­de­ces­sor, the new Ram came out of the gates fast, rack­ing up a 10-per­cent sales growth in Septem­ber, while chief ri­vals Ford F-150 and Chevy Sil­ver­ado saw yearover-year de­creases.

Crit­ics like the new Ram. In side-by-side-by-side com­par­isons, Car and Driver Mag­a­zine,

Ed­munds.Com and the Chicago Tri­bune all put Ram first, cit­ing a more com­fort­able ride, a cabin as quiet as a ceme­tery at mid­night and, on mod­els equipped with a new light hy­brid sys­tem, fuel econ­omy sim­i­lar to Ford’s ac­claimed twin-turbo V6.

“All three of these are solid trucks and fans of each brand won’t have any trou­ble if they buy a new one,” said Dan Ed­munds, direc­tor of test­ing on an Ed­munds video avail­able on YouTube. “The Ram 1500 is Ed­munds’ top-rated truck. The oth­ers may sat­isfy brand loyalists, but this one could win some con­verts.”

Ram’s shot at 2018 State Truck of Texas was boosted by de­ci­sions by Ford and Gen­eral Mo­tors not to at­tend. Ford won the award the past two years and has taken home the big tro­phy 14 times, the most of any man­u­fac­turer.

Busi­ness de­ci­sions, not com­pe­ti­tion, were be­hind the de­ci­sion not to vie in Texas, ac­cord­ing to Mike Levine, Ford’s North Amer­i­can Ve­hi­cle Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­ager, and Joe Jacuzzi, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of ve­hi­cle brand com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Chevro­let, Buick, GMC and Cadil­lac.

“This is our sec­ond year not at­tend­ing the Truck Rodeo,” Jacuzzi said. “Please know, this de­ci­sion was not made lightly. As the me­dia land­scape con­tin­ues to evolve, we are con­stantly look­ing for ways to lever­age our fi­nite re­sources to de­liver the great­est re­turn on in­vest­ment.

“For ex­am­ple, two years ago, we de­buted the all-new Du­ra­max diesel en­gine at the State Fair of Texas, where Texas own­ers helped us set a Guin­ness World Record for the largest flag pulled by a mov­ing ve­hi­cle. “

Ford’s Levine of­fered a sim­i­lar ex­pla­na­tion.

“We are try­ing new cus­tom pro­grams to bet­ter serve Texas me­dia this year. As a re­sult, we will not par­tic­i­pate in the 2018 Texas Truck Rodeo,” he said. “We’ll come to Texas to en­gage me­dia with Ford-ded­i­cated pro­grams that pro­vide more flex­i­bil­ity to share our new­est prod­ucts,” he said.

“This de­ci­sion has noth­ing to do with our com­peti­tors. As Amer­ica’s best-sell­ing truck for 41 years and the best-sell­ing truck in Texas, we’re fo­cused on serv­ing the needs of our cus­tomers, re­gard­less of what the com­pe­ti­tion does.”

Ford and GM may not be at the dance, but the 69 jour­nal­ists who have signed up will have plenty to drive chal­leng­ing steep and rock-strewn trails on the 1,600-acre Longhorn River Ranch in the Hill Coun­try.

In all. 19 man­u­fac­tur­ers will send ve­hi­cles to gain ex­po­sure to writ­ers come from across the South­west and na­tion. Out­lets ex­pected to send staff in­clude the New York Times and Con­sumer Re­ports. Af­ter open­ing for­mal­i­ties to­day, writ­ers will spend Mon­day and Tues­day driv­ing be­fore se­lect­ing win­ners.

“In Texas, where al­most 25 per­cent of trucks are sold and where many jour­nal­ists are fo­cused in­tensely on

pick­ups, win­ning a head-to­head com­par­i­son is no small task,” said Michael Marrs, host of a Sat­ur­day morn­ing Hous­ton ra­dio show, “In Wheel Time,” and pres­i­dent of TAWA.

Toy­ota will send along some of its TRD Pro trucks, billed as the ul­ti­mate of­froad ex­pe­ri­ence. For 2019, the en­tire TRD Pro fam­ily rides on 2.5-inch TRD Proex­clu­sive Fox In­ter­nal By­pass shocks. Tuned specif­i­cally for each ve­hi­cle by the en­gi­neers at TRD, the alu­minum-bod­ied shocks of­fer damp­ing suit­able for ev­ery­thing from high-speed desert run­ning, to slow-speed rock crawl­ing,

or for sim­ply driv­ing to and from work.

Hyundai, builder of two of the year’s big­gest hits, the Kona and new Veloster, will test the ranch’s trails with the all-wheel-drive Santa Fe Ul­ti­mate. At 3,591 lbs, it is lighter than com­peti­tors like the Jeep Chero­kee, Subaru Out­back, Nis­san Mu­rano, Ford Edge and Kia Sorento.

Crit­ics praise the Santa Fe Ul­ti­mate’s con­trolled brak­ing, torque vec­tor­ing and trac­tion con­trol, say­ing the Ul­ti­mate is as off-road ca­pa­ble as pricier com­peti­tors.

The Le­vanti, Maserati’s mid-size SUV, is a per­for­mance champ. Sim­i­lar in han­dling to the nim­ble Porsche Cayenne, it boasts a 424-hp en­gine and can hit 60mph in 5.1 sec­onds and tops out at 164 mph.

Photo cour­tesy of Toy­ota

■ The 2019 Toy­ota Tun­dra is shown.

Photo cour­tesy of Dodge

■ The 2019 Dodge Ram is shown.

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