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After two long days of testing and hours of deliberation, we have come to a conclusion.
To decide on the winner, we looked for the truck that not only provided the strength and capability that buyers expect, but also the truck that offers the most in its segment.
These three pickups were chosen because they were the most significantly updated for the 2016 model year. Some other trucks, like the Ram Rebel and 2016 Chevy Silverado could have been included, but we chose to leave them out as the upgrades and changes that came to them were not that significant.
Before we get to the winner, let’s recap the highs and lows of each of the three pickup trucks in this year’s Truck of the Year Challenge.
2016 Toyota Tacoma
Toyota’s scrappy midsize pickup impressed us when the pavement came to an end, offering ground clearance and favorable approach and departure angles that make traversing rocks, sand and mud a worry-free experience. The small proportions of the Tacoma also lend to its off-road maneuverability.
A new 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle V6 provides plenty of grunt, while a fresh six-speed automatic transmission is eager to downshift and offer maximum power. A thoroughly revised cabin feels premium and well built and bears little resemblance to the interior that came before it.
Where the Tacoma falls flat is in towing trailers and hauling passengers. The driver’s seat is uncomfortable and doesn’t offer enough adjustability, the rear seat is cramped even in the roomiest model and the lack of confidence while towing a trailer at 70 percent of the truck’s maximum capacity is unsettling. Plus, rear drum brakes and an incredibly heavy steel hood show that Toyota didn’t want to really push ahead and try and stand out in the segment.
2016 Nissan Titan XD
The Titan XD is a solid re-entry back into the pickup truck world for Nissan. We found the truck to be smooth, comfortable, capable and best of all, smartly designed. The new 5.0-liter Cummins V8 diesel is well sorted, offering boat-loads of low-end torque to get this rig up and moving.
Ride comfort is up to par with the best half-tons on the market today, while confidence is what the Titan is really selling. Nissan’s strategy of adding heavy duty axles, brakes and frame added weight to the truck, taking away from its published ratings, but these components add a level of confidence that is unparalleled in the half-ton segment. At its limits, towing around 12,000 pounds is where this truck will really shine, as today’s half-tons are still a little small for that kind of weight, despite what the ratings say.
Not having to sacrifice ride comfort for that extra peace of mind is where the Titan is strong, despite its poor showing on paper, where it is only rated to pull about 100 pounds more than a properly equipped Ford F-150.
But you can tell Nissan knows its customers when it built this truck. The lockable, removable Titan boxes are an excellent feature, along with the bright LEDs in the bed and the tie-down rails located in the bed floor and walls. A power outlet is also found in the bed to help you run tools or a slow cooker for tailgate parties. Finally, the new trailer light check system is a great idea for the person working alone with their truck.
2016 GMC Canyon Diesel
GM took what were already two good trucks and made them great with diesel power. The small Duramax engine fitted to our GMC Canyon tester pulls with authority, offering tons of torque low in its rev-range. A standard integrated trailer brake controller and a diesel exhaust brake reveal the Canyon Diesel’s intent as a towing truck, and it fully delivers.
A refined and smooth ride, almost more reminiscent of a large crossover is offered here, with a well thought out cabin and top notch infotainment. Best of all, the passengers can sit in total comfort whether they are driving or sitting in the back.
The GM twins show some cracks when you take them off-road, offering low ground clearance and poor approach and departure angles. Worst of all is that big plastic air dam on the front, begging to be torn off in a mud pile.
But what it loses in off-road credibility it earns back when trailering. This is a hard working little truck with some big credentials.
2016 AutoGuide.com Truck of the Year Winner
Without further ado, we are happy to announce that the AutoGuide.com Truck of the Year for 2016 is the Nissan Titan XD.
This truck’s combination of half-ton like comfort with the confidence of those larger three-quarter ton trucks really resonated with us. In a segment that is continually moving towards making its vehicle lighter to boost tow ratings, Nissan moved against the grain, making its truck heavier to offer something even more valuable than inflated numbers on a piece of paper: real-world confidence.
That, combined with the Titan’s list of convenient features for the everyday worker, including the LED bed lights, bed plug, clever tie down solutions and trailer light check system show that Nissan is actually listening to its customers and delivering smart, well-planned pickups.
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