We're immensely thankful to all the involved manufacturers for their support putting this event together; any aid aside, you’ll still be doing yourself a favor if you consider their products when shopping for your next truck or accessory. We'd also like to thank the team from Ricardo Inc. who instrumented all the trucks and certified our quarter-mile, hill climb, autocross and brake tests.
And, of course, we're very thankful to you, our readers. We do this for you.
Some are likely to be disappointed with the results because their favorite truck didn’t finish where they expected. Our test is only a snapshot of how these specific trucks performed in a week-long test under rigorously controlled conditions; it’s not a comparison of manufacturers’ half-ton lineups. The results could have been dramatically different had we included other engines or different cab configurations.
To determine the best overall half-ton in our comparison, we created a scoring system that measured the trucks subjectively and analytically. We believe our scoring system reflects how core truck buyers drive and evaluate their half-ton pickups during everyday use. Tests involved moderate to difficult towing situations, and considered towing confidence and safety to be the factors worth scoring, not cupholder size.
The maximum number of points a single truck could have scored was 99 — if it had performed better than every other truck in every test. Analytical scores (power, pulling and fuel economy) and subjective scores (driving impressions and features) were given nearly equal weight: empirical data accounted for 48 points (48.48 percent of a truck’s final score) and impressions were worth 51 points (51.52 percent).
The first component of our ratings was points assigned for driving impressions. Impressions were split into three categories: driving empty, pulling a trailer and performance over an offroad obstacle course. For each category, we gave the best-driving truck six points and the least-comfortable truck one point. The rest either drove similarly or had pluses or minuses that canceled out any advantages or disadvantages, so we scored them all with three points. The maximum a truck could have earned for this component was 18 points.
The second component awarded points based on the trucks’ power and pulling capabilities. Points were earned according to where the trucks finished in various time, distance and suspension-travel tests, with the top finisher getting six points and the bottom finisher getting one. The maximum a truck could have earned was 42 points.
The third component awarded points for key features that we think are important in determining how usable a truck is and how confident it makes its driver feel when working the truck hard. Unlike the other components, where points were assigned according to where the trucks ranked relative to each other, each truck could have potentially earned the maximum three points available for each feature. The only feature worth more was storage, which we assigned a maximum of six points because we thought the new RamBox deserved extra merit. For a truck to earn the maximum points available for each feature, the feature had to be both available and well-executed. We compiled a list of 10 important features, meaning a maximum of 33 points was available in this category. Each truck earned points according to availability and execution of each feature.
The fourth and final component ranked the trucks — assigning six points for the best-performing truck and one for the worst-performing — according to how well they did in our fuel economy test.
With 61 points (out of the maximum 99 possible), the Ford F-150 earned the title of 2008 PickupTrucks.com Shootout Best Overall Half-Ton Pickup. The only thing this truck is missing is a powerful V-8 — it finished last in two of the three pure-power towing tests — but the rest of its performance and packaging was excellent. It took top spots in both our timed ride-and-handling test and our fuel economy test, and it offers value and features the other trucks couldn’t compete with — like trailer-sway control, which can manage the trailer’s brakes, and excellent road manners when towing.
The Chevrolet Silverado ranked right behind the Ford, with 58 points. It so tremendously dominated the power and pulling tests that it only barely lost to the better-equipped, better-riding F-150. If the Silverado’s fuel economy performance had been even in the middle of the pack rather than last, it would have won this contest.
One interesting side note: The Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado were the only trucks we tested that didn’t have fancy navigation screens.
The Toyota Tundra, with 56 points, took third. If we catch any flak over this Shootout, it will be because the Tundra jumped ahead of the all-new 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 and the GMC Sierra. Like the Silverado, the Tundra had excellent power and performance numbers. While it couldn’t beat the Silverado in that category, it beat the Sierra by nine points and bested the Ram by 14 points in those tests. That was enough to push its score up to the third spot. It did very well in the brake and traction-control tests, even though its stability control performance in the autocross was poor. Its lack of towing-support features also lowered its score.