Think about it: If you truly have a need for the towing and hauling capacity that only a truck can provide, the deals have never been better. Incentives of more than $6000 have been spotted on some GM and Chrysler trucks. Gas prices are falling--and national averages are pushing back toward $2 a gallon, something of a miracle for drivers who were dreading $5 a gallon gas just a few short months ago.
At the same time, trucks have never been more refined, or more capable, or more rugged, if the brand-new Dodge and Ford full-size trucks for 2009 are any indication.
TheCarConnection.com has reviewed this year's crop of new trucks, and some clear winners have emerged. To tell you which trucks we think deserve a nod as the Best in Class, we've consulted a wide range of reviews from other trustworthy Web resources to gather opinions on today's top trucks. Then our own experts combine our driving impressions with those other opinions to give you the best, most inclusive information possible--information that helps you decide which truck is best for you, and why. We also produce a numeric rating to make comparisons among trucks even easier.
After breaking down this year's pickups into three groups--the traditional full-size trucks, the mid-size and compact trucks, and a group of small-bed pickups derived from SUVs we call sport-utility trucks--we've highlighted the highest-rated pickups below, with a couple of other names to consider when you go shopping.
The best in class pickups for the 2009 model year, as rated by TheCarConnection.com, are:
2009 Dodge Ram 1500 ST
Full-Size Pickups: 2009 Dodge Ram
The latest version of Dodge's full-size Ram is the company's best pickup truck yet. It's smart in the same way that the company's minivans are smart: every interior inch has been outfitted with storage bins, even under the back seats. The interior's also one of Dodge's finest efforts yet, a marked contrast to Chrysler's latest cabins. And of course, there's the big power of the Ram's available HEMI engine - which takes a toll on highway mileage but pours on the power to provide the Ram with great towing and hauling numbers. The biggest change for the 2009 model year, though, may be in the Ram's hugely improved ride, which isolated and cradles occupants better than even the GM trucks that TheCarConnection.com's editors preferred until recently. The 2009 Dodge Ram is the leader in the full-size pickup trucks--the best in class for a class that's growing stronger and more sophisticated with each passing year.
2009 Nissan Frontier XE
Mid-Size and Compact Pickups: Nissan Frontier
A repeat winner from our Best Bang for the Buck comparo, the Nissan Frontier does everything expected of a less-than-full-size truck. Its rugged styling wraps around a choice of regular and crew cabs, with rear-drive and four-wheel-drive underpinning a choice of four- and six-cylinder engines. The V-6 Frontier is a grunty, powerful truck, and four-door Frontiers have good interior space to go with numerous bins and cubbies--and Nissan's flexible bed and cargo options stand out among the mid-size trucks. For those of us who don't live on a ranch, the 2008 Nissan Frontier is large enough to haul real people and cargo, but sized for the urban-congestion reality.
Other Choice: Toyota Tacoma
2009 Cadillac Escalade EXT
Sport-Utility Trucks: Cadillac Escalade EXT
TheCarConnection.com's other picks in pickup trucks are clear-cut--but when it comes to sport-utility trucks, there's a little more leeway to judge a vehicle's merits. This type of pickup includes everything from the HUMMER H2 SUT, to the Honda Ridgeline and Ford Explorer Sport Trac, to the Best In Class, the Cadillac Escalade EXT. All these vehicles have SUV-style cabins and short pickup beds--but only the Cadillac has the superb V-8 drivetrain, refined handling and plush interior, not to mention an exhaust note that would make Challengers and Mustangs nod in appreciation, if they could. The Escalade EXT is silky and somewhat usable--though TheCarConnection.com's editors have their doubts about how often buyers will actually drop its Midgate and turn the rear seats into part of the pickup bed. Nonetheless, the 2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT stands out as the world's only transforming luxury truck/SUV.