By Mark Williams
This section contains the three remaining scored events that are not covered in the other pieces of our Midsize Shootout: maximum payload calculations, Value and Expert Impressions.
From the beginning stages of this test, we thought it appropriate to have one of the 10 scoring categories reward a vehicle’s ability to carry weight. Whether you choose a smaller pickup because you can’t afford a full-size or don’t need something that large, carrying a good load is likely a priority at some point.
To calculate each truck’s payload capacity, we weighed each truck at the same truck scale and subtracted that number from the pickup’s factory gross vehicle weight rating. That gave us the vehicle’s exact (as it stands) maximum payload number. As you likely know, this is not the manufacturer’s listed maximum payload number because that’s likely to be the most generous and flattering configuration that allows the manufacturer to promote the highest number.
At this stage, we’re not interested in who can make a low-volume vehicle to cook a special number; we want to find out how our exact test units compared with one another. And the midsize that carries the most payload should be rewarded for that.
As it turns out, the vehicle with the highest maximum payload was the Honda Ridgeline, with an impressive 1,550 pounds. The only vehicles close to that number were the Frontier with 1,416 pounds and, impressively, the Supercab Ranger at 1,300 pounds.
In our three more qualitative categories where observation and perception are key (Off-Road, Value and Expert Impressions), the Value section gave the judges plenty of flexibility to distinguish the trucks from each other.
In the Value category, each truck is judged on its bang-for-the-buck proposition. We all had the exact pricing for each truck, we’d spent quite a bit of time in each, and we all spent time watching them perform. The question was this: How much truck do you get for the exact price compared with what you get in the other trucks for their price?
Each judge could distribute up to 100 points to each vehicle. If a judge thought each truck offered an amazing bang-for-the-buck proposition, it was within the judge’s power to score all competitors with 100 points. On the other hand, if a judge saw significant separation, he could also score them in increments of 1, 5, 10, 20 or more.
Clearly, this subjective analysis is completely dependent on the judges' preferences, and as you might have guessed, there was quite of bit of disparity among their scores. But don’t let that scare you. As we’ve said before, this is an area where you can substitute your own score to more accurately reflect your own preferences and priorities.
According to our judges, the Nissan, Toyota and Honda (in that order) offered the best value propositions, with the Ranger, not surprisingly, following the pack. We should note that all of our well-equipped vehicles came in around $30,000 except for the Tacoma, which was about $5,000 more than most of our competitors, and the Colorado, which came in just under $34,000.
Our Expert Impressions section is broken into four smaller sections: handling and performance; ride and suspension; visibility and features; and ergonomics. Each of the four was worth 10 points, with a maximum score of 40 from each judge. Again, each judge was given plenty of latitude, and the scores are completely reliant on their observations and abilities to discern, in some cases, quite subtle differences among the vehicles.
We should note our judges ranged in experience, height, weight and personal biases; that’s why we consider this scoring section qualitative. Of course, given your own preferences, feel free to score this category for yourself and factor in those scores to the overall calculations to determine your own winner.
As a group, our judges saw the Toyota and Honda as the standout vehicles of the test, with the rest of the group a good distance behind. It’s probably worth noting, however, with the exception of the Ranger, most of the pack was within 6 percentage points of one another in scoring.
2012 Midsize Shootout