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Best Pickup Truck of 2018: Nominees

2018 Chevrolet Colorado

2018 Chevrolet Colorado

The 2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 is not just an interesting example of a new pickup truck, but is quite possibly the most distinctive vehicle that’s come along in years. This is the kind of vehicle that off-road enthusiasts would build in their garage, giving it a good suspension lift, upgraded approach and departure angles, bigger wheels and tires, front and rear locking differentials, and some high-tech racing shocks planted at each corner. 

There’s really nothing special about all those parts and pieces when considered individually or even when collectively installed on a single vehicle, except that it’s been done by one of the largest and most conservative companies on the planet.

That’s what makes this vehicle so special. During the development phase, there must have been hundreds of steps along the way where someone could have said the truck doesn’t need to be this good; even the most casual Chevrolet or GMC fans have had to endure their fair share of sticker shock when looking for a more aggressive 4×4. But those road blocks did not happen here. All we see is an almost-perfect combination of passion and technology, producing an amazing amount of fun to be had during both high-speed runs through the desert or on a crazy rock-strewn trail through the mountains. 

Additionally, many will be surprised by how well the ZR2 performs on the pavement as a daily driver and how well it does standard pickup truck work, like hauling 1,200 pounds or more of payload in the bed or towing a 5,000-pound trailer off the bumper. 

And we know it can handle the rough stuff because we’ve tested it to its limits and found that it has all the right parts in the right places, taking a leadership position in a segment where Chevy has never had it before. We like that the Chevy Colorado has not only pushed a growing pickup class to great heights, but it’s also raised the bar. Yes, the ZR2 was a big risk for GM, and like the huge investment it made in making a new Colorado two years ago, this off-road-focused experiment looks like it will be turning the heads of new-truck buyers as well as impressing off-road enthusiasts who get to watch it perform in the backcountry. We say congratulations to the 2018 Chevy Colorado ZR2; this award is well-deserved.

2018 Chevrolet Silverado 3500

2018 Chevrolet Silverado 3500

The big news for the Chevrolet Silverado heavy-duty pickups, which includes both the three-quarter and one-ton models, is all under the hood — specifically in the form of the upgraded and modified 32-valve, turbo-diesel 6.6-liter Duramax V-8 and strengthened Allison 1000 six-speed transmission, now with 445 horsepower and 910 pounds-feet of torque. 

Although the same size, the Duramax engine has a new cast-iron block, larger-diameter crankshaft, stronger connecting rods and cast-aluminum pistons, as well as a stiffer cast-aluminum cylinder head with newly polished intake and exhaust passages. Likewise, the injection system is now smarter and better able to provide injection events at a much higher rate, making the engine stronger, much quieter and more fuel efficient. Of course, like most heavy-duty diesel engines, the key to getting more power comes from a larger and smarter turbocharger. The new GM HD pickups now use a bigger variable-vane turbocharger that gets more boost, as well. The bigger turbo also provides better engine braking while towing. 

On the exhaust side, there are now three catalysts employed to reduce emissions by as much as 35 percent. Chevy has also designed a clever dual-route air intake that provides more air for the engine.

2018 Ford F-150

2018 Ford F-150

Although just a mid-model refresh, the 2018 Ford F-150 includes some substantial upgrades and changes that allows it to qualify for our award. Both of the naturally aspirated engines — the all-new 3.3-liter V-6 and 5.0-liter V-8 — are now direct-injection engines that offer more power and torque than ever before. The new  V-6 is rated at 290 horsepower and 265 pounds-feet of torque; the new V-8 is rated at 395 hp and 400 pounds-feet of torque. The three EcoBoost engines carry over from the 2017 model year, though the 2.7-liter got more port and direct injection for more torque. 

What isn't a carryover on F-150s that aren't the 3.5-liter-equipped or Raptor versions, though, is the all-new 10-speed transmission. This will be the standard transmission across the lineup, with the exception of the base 3.3-liter V-6 engine. This 10-speed will also allow for selectable auto stop-start modes, which helps fuel economy. Additionally, the F-150 will come available with a new Bang & Olufsen sound system and new Wi-Fi system that can accommodate up to 10 wireless devices, as well as an updated Sync 3 multimedia system. Also, 2018 F-150s now have a stop/start function in traffic, as well as pedestrian detection and autonomous emergency braking.

2018 RAM 3500

2018 RAM 3500

The 2018 Ram 3500 has been making big trim package additions as well as updates to important towing numbers. In fact, maybe better than any of the other heavy-duty pickup truck makers in the class, Ram is coming up with more creative special editions than ever before to serve its diverse customer base. 

For model-year 2018, the 2500 and 3500 will come to market with two unique, high-dollar top-level luxury trims: the Laramie Longhorn Southfork Edition and the Limited Tungsten Edition. There also are two more functionally equipped special editions: the Lone Star Silver Edition and the Harvest Edition, the latter of which comes in Case IH Red and New Holland Blue.  

The Ram 3500 dually equipped with the high-output Cummins diesel engine and Aisin six-speed transmission now offers the most fifth-wheel trailer capability, due in large part to a stronger bed-mounted hitch and accessories package. But most important of all, for the 2018 model year, Ram has upgraded the turbo and boost control software to deliver the highest torque ratings the Ram 3500 has ever seen at 930 pounds-feet of torque at 1,700 rpm.

2018 Toyota Tundra

2018 Toyota Tundra

Although relatively untouched since it debuted in 2014, the Toyota Tundra will offer a brand-new performance model for 2018 in the form of the TRD Sport

Debuted at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show, the Tundra TRD Sport has an interesting mixture of on- and off-road performance. It offers a sporty hood, unique chain-link mesh grille, LED headlights with black surrounds, special 20-inch alloy wheels, a TRD exhaust, bed decals, a heavy-duty front sway bar and specially tuned Bilstein shocks. 

The TRD Sport is a selectable trim package stacked on top of Toyota's most popular Tundra SR5 trim; it's offered in both Double Cab and CrewMax configurations. Along with the addition of this new, sportier trim, the Tundra also received an upgraded standard safety system that includes precollision warning, pedestrian detection and automatic braking, along with lane departure warning, automatic high-beam detection and adaptive cruise control.