What’s eligible: All models that are new or significantly revised for the 2019 model year.
Criteria: Our watchwords are power, capability and value. Because these pickup trucks are designed to be used for more than just transporting passengers, we include more functional considerations like payload capacity, towing strength and, above all else, value, among the highest priorities for this award. Of course, they also should be good at sedanlike, family-first duties, given that many are purchased for just such a reason.
2019 RAM 1500
The 2019 Ram 1500 is not only a well-timed redesign in one of the most competitive automotive segments in the world, it also provides a level of quality and design that could have the competition chasing it for years to come. That may sound like an exaggeration, but the more time we spend in the new Ram 1500s, especially in the upper trim levels, the more we’re blown away by the quality and attention to detail — we’ve never seen anything like this in a pickup truck and have been in few luxury sedans, crossovers or SUVs that meet this standard.
But the new Ram half ton is not just a pretty face (or, in this case, interior) that can’t hold its own in the rough-and-tumble world of a hardworking pickup. The entire frame is completely reengineered from different types of high-strength steel, making for a stronger, safer and lighter platform so it can deliver higher payload and towing numbers than ever before.
Additionally, the simplicity and invisibility of the 48-volt mild-hybrid powertrain system (standard on all 3.6-liter V-6 models and optional for the 5.7-liter V-8) worked quite well in just about every real-world situation we could throw at it, and it works seamlessly with the new standard automatic engine stop-start feature. EPA fuel economy estimates are 17/22/19 mpg city/highway/combined, and we even found the truck to return respectable towing fuel economy when pulling a 6,000-pound trailer in our latest Challenge. The new Ram 1500 even offers a quality off-road option with the Rebel, now with an upgraded frame, cabin and powertrain, and, for the first time, in the quad-cab configuration with a lightly lifted coil-spring suspension for a more economical price.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles put its money where the heart of the market is by stuffing more technology and safety systems into the 2019 Ram 1500 than before, and with all the styling details added to the standout interior, the results here don’t lie: This new pickup is turning heads for all the right reasons.
For buyers looking at the half-ton class, there’s bound to be a Ram 1500 flavor just right for you, whether the pickup is for family use or work duty or is dedicated to that rutted trail leading to the hunting cabin. As for how much better this new Ram 1500 is than the other nominees, our half-ton-Challenge judges selected the new Ram (dressed in top-notch Limited clothing) their unanimous winner in subjective scoring, largely based on its exceptional ride quality, best-in-class interior and superior storage capabilities, inside and out. Add to that more efficiency and a more robust frame, and no matter what you need your pickup to do, the new Ram 1500 will do it with more style and composure than anything else with a bed.
2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
One of three half tons to get a full redesign for the 2019 model year, the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 offers a versatile and expanded mix of trim levels and powertrain choices for both work and play. Though the interior and exterior styling have proven polarizing, the truck comes with plenty of innovation under its skin, providing an almost infinite number of build configurations to deliver exactly what practically any customer could want from a half-ton pickup.
Overhauls to the powertrain lineup are at the heart of the trucks. A new turbocharged four-cylinder, two new V-8s and a new turbo-diesel inline-six-cylinder engine have changed the Silverado half ton for the better, making it stronger and more fuel efficient at every level. The all-new frame and suspension drives better on the road, and tows and hauls payload with exceptional confidence. The beds are wider and able to carry more than before. The V-8 engines feature new fuel management technology that in some circumstances allows each cylinder to be controlled independently, providing much greater fuel efficiency without any sacrifice to power output. New Chevrolet Silverado 1500s benefit from a new 10-speed transmission with selectable traction settings as well, which come in quite handy in the all-new Trail Boss models that offer bigger tires, a suspension lift and a burlier look.
Chevrolet also paid close attention to the end of the truck where the work is usually done: The bed has been upgraded with a rolled-steel floor and 12 separate tie-downs that are twice as strong as they were on the past truck. There's also a new trailering app and camera systems available, which makes it easier and safer than ever to hook up, disconnect, tow and do other things, like check the trailer lights and calculate loads — all from your phone.
Although the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 may not have the fanciest interior or use the most expensive materials in its seats and consoles, it still offers a good amount of value and sizzle for those looking for all the modern safety and comfort conveniences. And with eight trim levels and more optional safety features than ever before, this is no doubt the best half-ton Silverado ever made.
2019 Ford F-150
Although the 2019 Ford F-150 has relatively few changes for the model year, it does come to market with a new turbo-diesel engine and 10-speed transmission that provide a unique feel and capability. The single-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 engine delivers 440 pounds-feet of torque and 250 horsepower and hits (in 4×2 configuration) an EPA-estimated 30 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in the city, as well as a combined 25 mpg. In 4×4 configuration, the numbers drop a bit to 20/25/22 mpg city/highway/combined, which are good ratings for a full-size pickup.
This new engine is a version of an earlier Land Rover turbo-diesel, but it has been thoroughly balanced, light-weighted and generally improved by the Ford powertrain engineers, then specifically matched to the 10-speed transmission to make it both a strong-pulling powertrain and a smooth mover when running around town empty. Interestingly, Ford is offering the new engine option only in the middle and upper trim levels at standard Ford dealerships; however, it also will be available at Ford commercial dealerships in the lower trims.
The diesel engine option gives Ford another arrow in a rather large quiver of F-150 performance traits, ready to deliver improved fuel economy, plenty of low-end torque and a means to distinguish special-edition-loving buyers from mid-size Chevrolet and GMC pickup owners and their smallish 2.8-liter diesel inline four-cylinder — as well as the Ram 1500 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 buyer. Ford isn't expecting this new powertrain to be a huge seller, but for those looking for more low-end grunt in a full-size comfort-level package, it could be just what the doctor ordered.
2019 GMC Sierra 1500
Given GM's two-brand pickup truck strategy, the GMC Sierra half ton has frequently lost out to its bigger brother, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500. But that might be changing for 2019. The GMC Sierra 1500 has now found new and more substantial ways to separate itself from its more popular twin.
The 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 offers a unique exterior look with exclusive body panels, trim-specific grille designs and LED C-channel headlights. Big improvements under the hood for 2019 include six different engine and transmission combinations with added fuel-economy benefits from the new Dynamic Fuel Management system (in both the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8 engines) that allows the engine to run on one to all eight cylinders depending on the load. Among the six powertrain choices are an all-new turbo-diesel 3.0-liter I-6 and turbocharged 2.7-liter I-4 gas engine. Additionally, select models get the new Traction Select system that offers five unique transmission/traction settings: Tour, Sport, Snow, Off-Road and Tow/Haul.
Unique interior features and optional equipment (in the six trim selections) are too many to detail, but some highlights include an optional 8-inch info/nav screen, more legroom and headroom, hidden storage in the seatbacks, the largest color head-up display available, a class-first rearview camera in the mirror as well as one of the most sophisticated trailering packages around. Additionally, and possibly most important, GMC offers an exclusive MultiPro tailgate that allows for six distinct positions to provide access to the bed as well as better cargo management. And, finally, GMC will be the first to offer a carbon-fiber bed floor/wall option for those looking for the ultimate in durability and payload capacity.
The 2019 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4×4 crew cab was the winner in PickupTrucks.com's 2018 Best Half-Ton Truck Challenge, surprising many but offering a good balance of capabilities, power, style and comfort for a reasonable price.