2012 Midsize Shootout: Judgment Day

Midsize Shootout Cat Scales

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.

All maxumum payload numbers were calculated based on each truck's specific factory GVWR, then subtracting their actual weights from that number.

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.

Each judge awarded up to 100 points to each truck based on the truck's percieved value.   

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?

Judge 1

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 four judges awarded up to 10 points in four categories, creating a max score per vehicle of 160.

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

Track Day
Dyno Day
Fuel Economy
Off-Road Day



Given the dispairity of payload of this group, I would have liked to see the loaded testing done with the same ballast- make all trucks do the same job- haul 2 guys and 600# of whatever, since that's what the Colorado can handle. That would further shrink the gap in the acceleration testing.

y do that. i like the test done this way. its a true test of what u say ur truck is rated for n what it can do.

@uh huh - I think I'd have to agree with you. In the compact ranks it probably is more important to know what the maximum capacity is and how well it performs at that level.

I can see any one of these trucks being overloaded much more easily that the trucks used in the Rumble in the Rockies.

I mentioned this on an earlier thread but you can't load 1550 lbs in the Ridgeline's bed. It is only supposed to be loaded to something like 1100 in the bed, and the rest needs to be in the cab. I think this is misleading for a lot of people.

it's not misleading, its bcuz peeps r just stupid, they think payload means amount of weight in the bed. having a payload rating of 1500lbs does not mean 1500lbs in the bed, this applies to any truck.

That is true but most trucks have a high enough rear axle weight rating that they can hit their payload numbers in the bed. I think the Ridgeline is a great truck and is by far the most useful of everything they tested here, but if people plan on doing hauling it may not have the performance they want. Either way the problem with everything tested here is that after adding options to these trucks they come out to cost the same as the half tons, produce less power and can tow and haul less than the half tons, and get the same mileage as the half tons. This entire segment is mostly useless unless you truly need something small for space concerns. All of these manufacturers either need to upgrade their products or reduce their prices substantially.

As a 2010 Ridgeline RTL owner, I tested the Top 3 and picked the RL because of superiority as a daily driver. I would agree with MrKnowitall that any equal ballast test would have been good to include i.e. a typical load like an ATV. I've hauled an ATV with little effect on mpg or handling. As far as off road, I think that there is 1% of drivers that would experience the test conditions. If you don't think a Ridgeline is capable off road, check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2duqpnDBXg

I know this sounds like a Ridgeline commercial but those that have made the RL choice are glad they did. The advantages over a body on frame truck far overweight the any performance with the max load or off roading ability as tested.

Some people who buy trucks like the feel of a truck on road. Bouncing around a little bit. If they wanted something that felt like a car, they would buy a car. Ridge line zero, Tacoma won.

Doesn,t sound like apples to apples, one had a v-8 some had upgraded suspension, different rear end ratios and a lot of other varables that make a difference in milage and performance. Good Review

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