The Detroit floor features lots of sexy curves, but boxy pickups are America's sales leaders. The Ford F-150 — totally redesigned for the 2015 model year — sells more than 700,000 units a year. That's double the best-selling sedan. With sales volumes over two million, the truck market offers a buffet of offerings for everyone. Bargain hunters can find $20K small pickups. Business owners can relax in the leather surrounds of $70K luxury tanks.
Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
What it is: Ford's rad off-roader gets a makeover. Wider, faster, meaner, the Raptor sheds 500 pounds thanks to the F-150 line's conversion to aluminum skin. Under the big truck's swollen hood lurks a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that blows away the current 6.2-liter V-8's 411 horsepower. The bad news? It likely won't come to market until late '16.
Payne's take: Dude, are you ready to ruuuuuumble? The Raptor is a different pickup animal, with a heavily reworked chassis and suspension that make this monster Baja-worthy. The Terrain Management system will offer settings for Normal, Street, Snow and Ice, Mud and Sand, Baja, Rock, and Climb-the-Face-of-Empire-State Building (kidding about the last one).
Hyundai Santa Cruz truck concept
What it is: Aimed at what the Korean maker calls "Urban Adventurers," the Santa Cruz is a small pickup for owners who navigate streets instead of creek beds. The Cruz features a 2.0-liter turbo diesel and clever innovations like rear-hinged doors and an extendable bed.
Payne's take: Hyundai has become a serious player in sedans, but the Cruz signals that the brand is keen not to be left behind in the growing SUV segment. A crossover of sorts, Hyundai's first pickup would marry a small CUV to a pickup.
What it is: Nissan's pickup gets new armor to do battle in the full-size truck wars. The Titan debuts a stump-pulling 5.0-liter Cummins diesel engine, which can tow 12,000 pounds while not robbing you blind at the gas pump. The functional interior features a center storage that can swallow a laptop and a fold-up rear seat.
Payne's take: Unlike sedans, where Detroit's Big 3 play catch-up to the Japanese, the pickup market is dominated by Detroit iron. And Ford aluminum. The Titan tries to keep up with the heavy artillery rolled out by RAM (2012), Silverado (2014) and F-150 (2015) with the remade Titan. That's a tall hill to climb. Good thing the Titan has four-wheel drive.
RAM 1500 Rebel
What it is: The Rebel is 21/2 tons of mud-stomping, forest-foraging, rock-flinging fun. Standing on top of 33-inch tires with a howling Hemi V-8 (3.6-liter Pentastar optional), the Rebel is to pickups what Gene Simmons of Kiss is to bass players. Loud, obnoxious fun.
Payne's take: The pickup with attitude. The Rebel even rebels against the signature RAM, cross-hair grille with a cool "inter-locking" theme. But for all its blacked-out, skid-plated tough exterior, the Rebel is quite civilized inside, with red-stitched accents and a media-holder for your phone/tablet.
What it is: Toyota updates its "junior" pickup (the Tundra is the Japanese maker's full-size entry) for the first time since 2006. The rebuilt Tacoma comes with two engine choices — a 2.7-liter four-banger and 3.5-liter V-6 — as well as a box-full of interior upgrades such as blind-spot assist and leather-trimmed seats.
Payne's take: Starved of Big 3 entrants, the compact pickup segment has been dominated by the Tacoma. But with GM's introduction of the stylish Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon in 2014, the battle is on for class supremacy. Texas-made Tacoma counters the GM's pickup revival with new styling and good ol' Toyota reliability.
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