Kicking around ideas for focusing our new truck content, we began to debate the best ½-ton truck available on dealer's lots. With no definitive winner determined by our back and forth discussions, a decision was made. Rather than talk a good talk, we'd let the trucks choose their own fates. That led us to this—a ½-ton fullsize truck shootout. We recruited the top light-duty trucks from Chevy, Dodge, Ford, and Nissan (a Tundra was unavailable for our test), and proceeded to drive each one for a week, comparing the strengths and weaknesses in areas that fullsize truck owners genuinely care about. During this weeklong test, we got a feel for how each one stacked up in day-to-day driving, we ran a bevy of performance trials, and looked to see if we were writing a check each month, which truck would be sitting in our driveways. After compiling all of the data, we sorted the marketing hyperbole with cold, hard facts, and some good old-fashioned conviction. Without further ado, we present our 2012 1/2-ton truck shootout.


Fourth Place

Nissan Titan 4x4 Pro-4X

Base Price: $37,340
Price as Tested: $40,025
Engine: 5.6L V-8
HP: 317
Torque: 385
Transmission: Five-speed automatic

Performance
0-60: 6.7 seconds
¼-mile: 15.3 @ 89 mph
Weight: 5,549 lbs
Tow Rating: 9,400 lbs
Observed Gas Mileage: 15.3

Looking at the plastic interior of the Titan and comparing it to the other trucks, it looked more appropriate for a kid's Power ...

First Impressions
Walking up to the Titan we thought to ourselves, "Why has Nissan not changed the Titan in eight years?" Since its 2004 debut, the Titan has received minimal changes coming by way of light/grille freshening, a few more ponies from the V-8, and interior tweaks here and there. Based on a no-frills package, the Titan comes in either a King Cab or crew cab and one engine option, the aforementioned 5.6L V-8.

From the Log Book
After jumping into the crew cab, the first thing we noticed was the cheap and harsh plastic interior. The steering wheel and shifter knob feature black leather with red stitching, which is nice but seems misplaced given the rest of the low-grade materials. Just beyond the steering wheel sits a set of white-faced gauges outlined in orange, reminding us of an '80s Atari game. The Titan has always been known for the many storage compartments inside, which did keep everything organized, but wasn't enough to garner high marks. Adjustable pedals and Pro-4X stitching in the seats and floor mats are a couple of the options that were a part of Nissan's off-road edition. Sitting in the back offers plenty of legroom and a drop-down monitor in the roof gives the little ones something to help pass the time. A large roll-down rear window, which allows access to the bed, is great for retrieving beverages on long road trips. Setting the gear selector to ‘D,' engaged the familiar 5.6L engine that offers enough power to get the 5,000-plus-pound truck up to highway speeds quickly. The RE505A five-speed automatic transmission presents smooth shifts, even with the throttle pinned for freeway merging and passing. Rancho shocks on all four corners provide a firm but forgiving suspension, and when towing a 4,000-pound truck on a double axle trailer, the Nissan had no problem towing up and down grades.

Closing Arguments
Looking at the as-tested price of $40K, and understanding Nissan's had eight years to improve the cabin materials, we were underwhelmed with the Titan. It's no surprise sales have continued to decline, and until a massive overhaul is performed, Nissan's fullsize offering will continue to fall further behind its competitors.

Third Place

Chevy Silverado 1500 4WD Crew Cab LTZ

Base Price: $42,440
Price as Tested: $48,419
Engine: 5.3L V-8
HP: 315
Torque: 338
Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Performance
0-60: 7.5 seconds
¼-mile: 15.7 @ 92 mph
Weight: 5,341 lbs
Tow Rating: 9,500 lbs
Observed Gas Mileage: 16.4

Looking at the competition, the 2012 Silverado is outclassed, outmatched, and out of date.

First Impressions
Another truck that has not changed in several years, the 2012 Silverado received a slight facelift by way of a new front bumper and grille. Other than that minimal refresh, the GMT900 has been the same since 2007. Trailer sway control and hill-start assist are important safety technologies now included in all Silverado models, except the hybrid. A much-needed upgrade was the antiquated navigation unit. Keeping the Ford SYNC-rivaling navigation unit found only in the Escalade, the new unit does feature a higher resolution screen and better graphics. Recent news has it that the truck will get a complete overhaul in 2014, leaving GM faithful with a five-year-old design, which GM had made slightly better with each passing year.

From the Log Book
We are quite familiar with modifying the 5.3L Vortec, but in factory trim, the 315 hp and 338 lb-ft of torque placed the Silverado dead last in this shootout. Granted, the 6.2L Vortec Max engine is an option, but with the 4.8L and 5.3L found in most GM ½-tons, the test results show just how competitive the fullsize game is. Inside the Crew Cab, the leather seats and two-tone gray interior in the LTZ looked classy, however the materials weren't as soft as some of the other truck's leather, and the lack of seat coolers was an odd omission for an as-tested price of $48K. We took the Silverado up the tricky and hairpin corner-laded Ortega highway, which has a tendency to concern drivers due to its sheer cliffs, but the Chevy held its own with good body control, solid brakes, and a stable chassis. During that stretch of twisty highway, the Silverado's heavy steering helped with driver input, but several editors found the steering too heavy for everyday, around-town driving. We averaged 16.2 mpg in the six-speed auto-equipped Chevy, which is an improvement of 1.5 mpg over the last four-speed auto Silverado we road tested.

Closing Arguments
Winning our Truck of the Year in 2007, the then-new Silverado was a breath of fresh air, however, the other manufacturers have upped the ante with more powerful engines, elegant interiors, and designs that now make the Silverado look outdated. We're looking forward to getting more of that fresh air when GM launches the new Silverado hopefully at the end of next model year.

Second Place

Ram 1500 Sport Crew Cab 4x4

Base Price: $39,910
Price as Tested: $48,419
Engine: 5.7L Hemi V-8
HP: 390
Torque: 407
Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Performance
0-60: 6.2 seconds
¼-mile: 14.8 @ 94 mph
Weight: 5,383 lbs
Tow Rating: 10,000 lbs
Observed Gas Mileage: 15.9

Using the Ram Box for ice and beverage storage during a road trip, I was impressed with the Ram's versatility and long-distance ...

First Impressions
For 2012, the Ram received a recalibrated and upgraded 65RFE transmission adding one more forward gear to take better advantage of the 5.7L Hemi's power. Even with no exterior changes, the Ram's bold, in-your-face styling, is still one of the best-looking trucks available.

From the Log Book
Our Ram tester was a Sport model with paint-matched bumpers and grille surround, and billet grille inserts. It also featured 20-inch chrome wheels and a Mopar Performance dual scoop hood. Looking the part of a street bruiser, the 5.7L Hemi performed admirably with the new six-speed auto, sending it straight to the top in our performance trials. The black leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a huge center console made the Ram a comfortable place to cruise around town in. Straightforward and easy to use, the factory touchscreen navigation head unit with steering wheel controls make flipping through radio stations, adjusting the cruise control inputs, or making phone calls a breeze. The optional Ram Box is big enough to hold a few bags of ice and at least 60 cans of your favorite beverage, making it the perfect tailgating accessory. Built-in drains make sure water doesn't get trapped and slots for dividers allow it to be used for keeping your tools, sports hardware, or other stuff uncluttered. Ground-breaking back in 2009, the Ram's five-link coil spring rear suspension doesn't jar, handles varying road surfaces with ease, and still provides support for up to 10,000 pounds of towing.

Closing Arguments
Stylish, spacious, and plenty powerful, the Ram is an excellent choice when looking for a truck that does everything well. Whereas getting 15.9 mpg is no one's idea of a good time, the sweet sound of the Hemi and smooth ride does quell any buyer's remorse. The only thing keeping it from claiming top honors was a well-engineered truck from the Ford camp.

First Place

Ford F-150 FX2 2WD SuperCrew

Base Price: $33,900
Price as Tested: $43,760
Engine: 3.5L Twin-Turbo EcoBoost V-6
HP: 365
Torque: 420
Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Performance
0-60: 6.4 seconds
¼-mile: 15.1 @ 92 mph
Weight: 5,254 lbs
Tow Rating: 9,800 lbs
Observed Gas Mileage: 18.2

With zero turbo lag, the EcoBoost pulls like a freight train all the way till redline, yet still returns 18.2 mpg—incredible.

First Impressions
The 2012 F-150 FX2 offers good looks, impressive fuel efficiency from the new 3.5L EcoBoost engine, and interior accoutrements that are class leading.

From the Log Book
Taking a close examination of the over-styled black and red FX2, we could have done without the lame hockey stick sticker on the sides and white-letter Pirelli tires, not to mention the black side steps on a stock-height truck, but we loved the fact that the headlights and taillights come with black surrounds, unlike the ugly chrome units usually found on the F-150. Also, the grille is blacked out, as are the F-150 badges, and the 20-inch wheels have a flat black texture coating on them giving them a truly custom feel. Even on 20-inch wheels and tires, the F-150's ride was both sporty and compliant, though not as smooth as the Ram's. The interior was superb with black leather seats with red piping and perforations that offer a sport look. A black headliner, black carpet, and faux brushed-steel accents made the interior look as if the designers have been reading Truckin. Power, heated, and cooled driver and passenger seats, fully adjustable steering wheel, and power pedals ensured a comfortable seating position was always at reach. Sony speakers filled the cab with rich, full-sounding music, and the SYNC's ease of use and screen clarity show the other trucks how it should be done. No, we didn't forget to mention the EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6. The data is staggering: 18.2 mpg, 0-60 in 6.4 seconds, and 9,800-pound maximum tow rating. If only they could make it sound like a V-8, there'd be no real reason to buy anything else.

Closing Arguments
We commend Ford for pushing the limits of their FX2 Sport by adding unique looks, an upscale, amenity-filled interior, and performance that proves technology can overcome traditional thinking. Congrats to Ford for stepping out and answering the call of consumers who demanded the best of both worlds—power and mileage.

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