Detroit auto show consumer guide: Trucks

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

There is no truck market in the world like the U.S., and no one makes trucks like Detroit's Big Three. Mid- and full-size pickups sell nearly 3 million a year here, with the full-size Ford F-Series leading the way with some 900,000 sold. The perennial best-seller got some serious heat this year from competitors Ram 1500, Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, which all introduced new steeds.

The fast-growing midsize segment got more crowded as the Ford Ranger and Jeep Wrangler pickups elbowed in — but Toyota (which struggles to sell its Texas-made full-size pickup) still dominates midsizers as the Tacoma towed a 23 percent increase in sales. Yee-haw!

Ram 2500 Power Wagon

Ram Heavy Duty 2500-3500

What it is: Ram follows its North American Truck of the Year award-winning 1500 with the 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty trucks. The 3500’s 6.7-liter turbo-diesel Cummins V-8 hits the magic 1,000 pound-feet of torque threshold — the most powerful truck ever. A Power Wagon trim is available with Jeep Wrangler-like off-road tricks like locking front and rear axles. But the big fella isn’t all brawn; there is also a premium, black-trimmed 2500 Laramie Black edition that shows off the truck’s quiet interior and air suspension.

Payne’s take: Ram Heavy Duty numbers are eye-popping: 7,680-pound payload, 35,100-pound towing capability. It’s 10 decibels quieter inside, Ram says, with best-in-class .409 drag co-efficient. It has tire-pressure monitoring for up to 12 wheels including trailer, and a 12,000-pound Warren winch.

Jeep Gladiator

Jeep Gladiator

What it is: Detroit gets its first look at the long-awaited Jeep midsize pickup that debuted in Los Angeles last fall. Like the Ram Heavy Duty, it goes right at Ford for best-in-class metrics, boasting 7,650-pound towing capability and 1,600-pound payload capacity. The pickup will come in familiar Wrangler trims including premium Sahara and off-road Rubicon. It will be powered by a base Ecodiesel 3.6-liter V-6 that grunts out 442 pound-feet of torque.

Payne’s take: Determined not to repeat the Scrambler debacle of the early '80s, the Gladiator is much more than a Wrangler with a bed. Jeep fortified the rail-frame structure to 212 inches in length to outfit a proper 60-inch bed. Jeep is late to a fast-growing midsize pickup segment swarming with Chevy Colorados and Toyota Tacomas, but Jeep has high expectations for this bruiser.

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