It seems like low-hanging fruit at this point, but in 2018 the scarcity of ‘full size’ trucks still has the ability to have many scratch their scalps. Australia, as with a growing number of other markets, is seeing the almost meteoric rise of the truck, or ute, from beyond being just a commercial workhorse to one that’s versatile enough for anyone to benefit.
Each month with the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger seeming to constantly trade places with top sales numbers, it would only seem natural that the local selection be made more abundant. In North America, where the craze has also taken hold, the larger full size trucks are the de facto standard bearer.
With so much interest surrounding this type of vehicle, and the inherently wider margins they allow for, automakers are more willing than ever to invest in their development. This virtuous circle has led us to an automotive landscape that prioritises them over passenger cars, toe to toe with the venerable SUV in terms of profitability and consumer demand. We might already be, or quite close to, ‘Peak Truck’, but the party has yet to spread to countries outside USA and Canada.
With their imposingly large bulks, brutish engines, and unparalleled load carrying attributes, their appeal is of little wonder. For Australians, speciality importers and converters have supplied the very keen with a small volume of these large trucks, most prominently being the RAM 2500 and 3500, for a reasonable premium.
However, HSV are already ramping up efforts to start selling the Chevrolet Silverado 2500, with the larger 3500 due for the same treatment in mid-2019. But what of the slightly more conservatively sized Silverado 1500 and its rivals? Indeed, General Motors recognises the potential here, and are reported to be exploring that possibility of a right-hand drive conversion and subsequent Down Under debut.
While that’s encouraging, and the idea of these machines being introduced with full support of the automakers behind them tantalising, what are some of the other full size trucks that seem ripe for a spot on our roads?
Technically a mechanical twin of the Chevrolet Silverado, the GMC Sierra does offer some noteworthy differences that amount to an interesting alternative to its bow tie badged counterpart. It offers a supple ride and a standard naturally aspirated V8 that, in its most potent guise, can have the behemoth reach 100km/h in around 6 seconds, aided by optional all-wheel drive.
GMC have styled the Sierra to offer a more muscular, but somewhat boxy, outward appearance that almost succeeds in elevating it to being called sophisticated. However, it does come at the expense of off-road capability relative to its competitors.
Inside, there’s plenty of amenities that are matched to the Silverado, and in top-spec Denali trim there’s also quite a bit of luxury thrown in and choice tech such as magnetic ride suspension, a properly plush interior, and a full suite of active safety kit. And, after all it’s good to have more choice.
Armed with undoubtedly the best sounding name of this bunch, the Japanese full sizer is Nissan’s latest attempt at perfecting a formula potent enough to sway North American buyers away from their local selection and into the ‘import’ fold.
Nissan’s first-generation Titan did manage to do just that in the naughties, garnering it a solid foothold in a segment and class then completely foreign to them. Since then, rivals have clawed back market and mind share. The Titan remains venerable, if underrated.
Under its bonnet lives the atmospheric 5.6-litre V8 found in the Patrol while the heavy duty Titan XD has the option of a Cummins turbodiesel if hauling cargo is the ultimate priority. In all, the petrol motor definitely has its merits and gives it a slightly more lively personality on roads. Offering better off-road capability than most in its class, the Titan can be further equipped with the Pro-4X package.
That said, the 2nd-generation Titan does lag behind the competition somewhat in terms of its interior, looking a little dated not 3 full years after its debut and offering a lacklustre technology suite.
The Toyota full sizer can trace its roots even deeper than the Nissan, more or less pioneering foreign presence in a space previously hallowed territory of the American automaker. Today’s Tundra is by far the oldest member still on sale, first appearing in 2007.
That said, it has managed to guard its keep admirably through those many years thanks to an abundant updates, a wide spread of variants and options, a solid line of V8 engines, surprisingly competent handling, a reputation for reliability, and cushy ride.
Though aged, the 2014 facelift has managed to revive some of the Tundra’s youth enough to not look out of place against its leaner rivals. Its on-road manners are matched by a stellar record of ability off-road too, culminating in a very impressive Tundra TRD Pro that leveraged Toyota’s performance division’s know-how to develop a truly impressive dune conquerer.
Ford F Series, F-150
Ford’s pride and joy, the F-150’s success is no stroke of luck as the Blue Oval has done plenty to keep it at the forefront through a vigorous engineering focus and incremental year-on-year improvements. It’s also been liberal with riskier moves, more recently with the 13th-generation’s move to smaller turbocharged engines and aluminium-intensive body.
While the F-150 Raptor halo model has been the headline-grabber, Ford is happy to let the rest of the range quietly collecting orders for the less flashy, less expensive versions that also feature some class-leading attributes.
Its relatively lightweight body and nimble steering make in-town driving a far less intimidating affair, and its suspension setup is deft enough to soak up bumps with aplomb without removing a sense of connection between the driver.
Ford has managed to combine advanced construction, car-like refinement, impressive fuel economy, in a package that’s arguably the most tech-focused of the bunch. In a segment that has traditionally shunned the march forward, Ford has tamed with one of their most painstakingly engineered vehicles.