TIPS to Choosing Your New Mid-Size PICK-UP
As 2019 approaches, manufacturers are firing out press releases and sending journalists on media events to drive the new products. As it often is, it’s a battle of numbers and brand loyalty.
What they all have in common, albeit in a mind-bending confusion of trim levels, is a full suite of safety features, advanced infotainment systems and connectivity like we’ve never seen before.
Loyalists from each brand can tell you all others are garbage except theirs, but the reality is every brand has had their share of recalls and failed engineering.
Toyota tells us that the 2019 Tacoma has a powerful responsive drivetrain in their proven 3.5L V6 that delivers up to 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque, or for the more economically minded the 2.7L four-cylinder engine that generates up to 159 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. Properly configured the 3.5L V6 engine delivers a 2,950 kg (6,500 lb) towing capacity and a payload of 680 kg (1500lb). This was the number one shown mid-size at SEMA 2018 kitted out for offroad, trail and overland use.
Ford finally announced the towing and payload numbers for the new Ranger. The only engine option (right now) is the 2.3L EcoBoost I-4, which will produce 270 hp and 310 lb-ft, so you can haul up to 843 kg (1,860 lb) and tow 3400 kg (7,500 lb) when equipped with the right tow package. While the numbers are impressive compared to Toyota, we have to ask ourselves if the durability and fuel efficiency of a turbo-powered 4-cylinder, especially under load, is comparable.
The Nissan Frontier is fourth in Canadian sales behind Tacoma, Colorado and Canyon. This is a body on frame pick-up and has a 4.0L V-6 generating 261 hp and 281 lb-ft (with plenty of big-bore low-end torque) with a max tow capacity of 3044 kg (6500 lb) and a payload of 649 kg (1430 lb). It hasn’t been updated in a decade so it looks dated inside and out, but it is an affordable option if you’re not interested in bells and whistles. Watch out for some good deals in 2019 as the updated Frontier is expected in 2020.
The Honda Ridgeline is a unibody construction, FWD or AWD, so I hesitate to mention it here, but we did see one rigged out as an overland vehicle at SEMA Show 2018 so let’s at least make mention of it. The 3.5 L V6 provides 280 hp @ 600 rpm, 262 lb ft @4700 rpm, a max tow of 2268 kg (5000 lb), and a max payload of 721 kg (1590 lb).
Then comes the Colorado, with three
engine choices - an anaemic but efficient and affordable 2.5L I-4 cranking out 200 hp, 191 lb-ft of torque, towing 1588 kg (3500 lb) with a max payload of 653 kg (1440 lb), their money maker the 3.6L V6 gas with 308hp, 275 lb-ft of torque, towing 3175 kg (7,000 lb), with a max payload of 713 kg (1574 lb) and one 2.8L turbo-diesel with 181hp, 369 lb-ft of torque, with segment leading max towing of 3493 kg (7700 lb) and a max payload 686 kg (1513 lb).
Which one is the best? Here are my top tips for getting the right truck for you.
Ignore the max towing numbers, odds are they don’t apply to the truck you want i.e. most are for a 4x2. Similarly the max payload numbers - the only one that stands out is the Ranger at 843 kg (1860 lb), the rest are around 680 kg (1500 lb), but again, this number depends on your configuration and it likely isn’t for the truck you want.
Drive them - they are not same, some aren’t even close, especially in the off-road editions. Seat height, headroom, legroom are dramatically different and all the great numbers in the world won’t make up for years of discomfort in the drivers seat.
Find a good dealer. A great truck that has to be serviced at a sleazy dealer isn’t worth the trauma. If you need your truck, you need great service. Hands down, I buy my number two choice if the dealer for my first choice makes me feel like I’ve been bent over and need a shower.
Think about the aftermarket. Some brands and models have stronger support for accessories, and by that, I mean more choices. Tacoma and Colorado are the strongest right now, but if (when) the Ranger hits the road with big sales numbers, you can expect the accessories to follow.
Think about used. If you are of a mind to turn your own wrench, are willing to forgo the best fuel economy and latest safety tech, there are some solid choices out there. The mid-size market didn’t dry up because manufacturers were building bad trucks, they just couldn’t build them within the emissions/sales quota rules that were in place. Our next project truck will be a 2011 Dodge Dakota. It’s 4dr, 4WD, short box, with a 4.7L V8 hammering out 308 hp, 329 ft-lb of torque, for a max towing of 3040 kg (6700 lb) and payload of 603 kg (1330 lb).
By the numbers, a used mid-size with a proven history is also a good choice.