If you use your pickup for more than transporting people and tools to and from the jobsite, it pays to carefully examine what’s available. Today’s full-size models are capable of handling multiple roles, whether that includes hauling your family and toys to a weekend vacation spot, working a part-time job plowing snow, running household errands, reaching your favorite hunting and fishing spots or exploring off road.
Options, trim levels and even specialized models can tailor the pickup to almost any customer application. Certain applications, such as snowplowing, require special packages that may include heavier front springs and high-output alternator options. The dealer is an important resource if you are trying to select a full-size pickup that will handle multiple tasks.
Full-size and heavy-duty pickups have come a long way in terms of comfort. In the past, full-size pickups compromised ride quality for payload and towing performance. The ride was often harsh. But anyone who has spent significant time in the current generation of full-size pickups knows this is no longer the case. Today’s pickups offer an "automotive-quality" ride that allows all-day comfort. To back this up, truck manufacturers now offer luxury comfort amenities as options on mid-trim levels and standard on the flagship trim levels.
The offerings often rival luxury sedans, and high-end luxury truck sales continue to climb. As a result, manufacturers are introducing new options to their upper-level trim packages at a dizzying pace.
Ford offers two premium trim models with very distinctive styling — the King Ranch and the Platinum. These trucks feature heated and cooled 10-way adjustable power driver leather seats with driver memory, which remembers your preferred seat position settings. The rear seats are also heated for passenger comfort. Dual-zone electronic climate control provides individual climate settings for the driver and passenger. To further promote operator comfort, the pedals are power adjustable with memory, and there is a heated steering wheel with power tilt and telescoping steering wheel with memory.
The infotainment package includes a Sony AM/FM stereo with single CD and HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Voice-activated Navigation with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link and SYNC with MyFord. It also includes an 8-in. productivity screen in the instrument cluster, customizable 8-in. touch screen in the center stack and Internet connectivity.
Even these fully loaded luxury models offer additional comfort and safety options for the occupants. They include the BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with cross-traffic alert, inflatable rear safety belts, power-deployable running boards and automatic high-beams with rain-sensing windshield wipers.
General Motors has a long history of targeting the premium truck market. The GMC Denali pairs high-tech luxury and capability. In 2013, 20% of GMC half-ton customers opted for the Denali. The interior features an 8-in. customizable driver display that can show relevant settings, audio and navigation information in the instrument panel. The 8-in. Color Touch navigation radio with IntelliLink, located above the center console, serves as the main hub for Bluetooth-connected phones and portable devices connected through five standard USB ports. Other standard features include a Bose audio system, heated and cooled leather front bucket seats, a heated steering wheel, front and rear park assist and a power sliding rear window with defogger.
General Motors recently expanded the Chevrolet brand into the premium truck market with the Silverado High Country and Silverado High Country HD models. They include premium features such as 12-way power adjustable perforated leather seats that are heated and cooled, Chevrolet MyLink connectivity with an 8-in. touch screen, Bose premium audio and front and rear park assist. The High Country is also available with built-in 4G LTE WiFi.
Even though these trucks are already loaded, you can still order a few options including a chrome rear bumper with corner step, integrated trailer brake controller, sunroof, navigation and a rear-seat entertainment system with BluRay/DVD player. You can also opt for a High Country Premium Package, which includes a heated steering wheel, driver alert package, adjustable pedals and integrated brake controller.
The Laramie trim level tops the Ram Truck luxury offering. It features dual-zone automatic temperature control, heated/ventilated leather-trimmed front and rear seats, full-color multi-view displays including UConnect touchscreen radio with available SiriusXM satellite radio, WiFi hotspot, hands-free calling and available navigation. A thin-film transistor (TFT), 7-in. multiview display features fully customizable function and configurability, giving the owner a variety of systems to monitor from transmission temperature to navigation.
Options include front and rear park assist. This system serves as a convenient aid, especially when parallel parking. Multiple integrated sensors use ultrasonic waves to detect objects as far as 47 in. away from the bumpers. The system determines relative distance. Readouts located in the cluster display team up with audible chimes to notify the driver of proximity to front and/or rear objects.
While the list of features on the flagship models is impressive, it's worth noting that many of the features on the top trim level models from all of the manufacturers are also available as options on lower trim levels. Be sure to explore the long list of options available in the specific trim level that best suits your needs.
The latest generation of pickups offers several options that allow you and your passengers to stay connected, whether for work or entertainment on long road trips.
The Chevrolet Silverado pickups offer built-in WiFi connectivity. OnStar with 4G LTE connection provides a mobile hub for drivers and passengers to stay connected. The hotspot is on whenever the vehicle is on. Passengers can access high-speed wireless Internet with up to seven devices, such as tablets, laptops or mobile devices.
The available MyLink responds to natural speech commands, allowing you to access its features with just a few words. Bluetooth and USB connectivity allow you to easily pair your phone with your truck. Enhanced connectivity and convenience includes a new Text Messaging Alerts feature for smartphone users with Bluetooth profile (M.A.P.), which reads incoming texts through the vehicle’s speakers, and Siri Eyes Free for iPhone iOS 6 and iOS 7 users. Enhancements also include gesture recognition and natural language voice recognition.
Ram 1500 communications, infotainment and telematics make this pickup an instantly available WiFi Hotspot and a hands-free/Voice Command center. It’s technology that can deliver NAV-ready systems and satellite radio. Register for the included trial of Uconnect Access services and you have an available on-demand WiFi Hotspot and apps via mobile, convenient RemoteCommands, Voice Texting, Yelp, emergency assistance and more.
Ford uses its SYNC technology to offer Internet access. SYNC with MyFord Touch can help turn your USB mobile broadband modem or smartphone into a wireless router. Simply plug it into one of the media hub’s two USB ports and your passengers can browse the Internet, update their social network status and stay connected to the rest of the world.
True off-road capability
Traditionally, off-road capability has to be sacrificed for maximum trailering performance. When traveling off road, ground clearance and wheel articulation are desirable traits, but not necessarily when pulling a trailer. However, there are current off-road oriented models tailored for the trail that also offer decent trailer tow ratings. There is no substitute for these models when you want maximum off-road performance.
For the true off-road enthusiast, Ford offers the F-150 SVT Raptor with 17-in. beadlock-capable wheels that help increase grip in low-traction conditions. Raptor offerings build on internal triple-bypass FOX Racing shock dampers, Torsen front differential and front-mounted camera technologies, adding even more high-performance off-road capability. The 4WD system features electronic shift-on-the-fly capability for the transfer. Skid plates and hill descent control are standard.
Ram takes aim at the off-road enthusiast with the Power Wagon, which is based on the 2500 Heavy Duty 4x4 Crew Cab, but features a number of off-road specific engineering enhancements, including a unique suspension with more than 2 in. of lift, locking differentials and a 12,000-lb.-capacity winch.
The powertrain is sure to capture the attention of the off-road crowd. The 6.4-liter HEMI engine is offered with a 66RFE six-speed automatic transmission and connects to a part-time, manual engagement Borg Warner BW 44-47 transfer case. The Power Wagon’s axles are built by American Axle Manufacturing. They measure 9.25 in. in the front and 11.5 in. in the rear, delivering power via a 4.10:1 ring and pinion ratio. Rear axle shafts are upgraded to 38mm and drive a 33-in. tire/wheel combination.
Both axles include electronic locking differentials driven by electromagnetic actuators. The pickups also feature a front axle disconnect system. When conditions warrant, front drivetrain components are disconnected to reduce parasitic loss.
A suspension system was specifically designed for the Power Wagon, including Bilstein shocks, control arms, spring rates and more than 2 in. of lift. In the front an advanced three-link front suspension ensures roll stiffness. A Ram Articulink design incorporates high-movement joints at the control-arm-to-axle mount, allowing for additional flexibility and axle articulation. Further suspension flex is achieved via an electronic disconnecting sway bar.
In the rear, a five-link coil design provides better articulation over obstacles than a leaf spring system. While there is always a trade-off between off-road capability and towing and payload capability, the Power Wagon still offers a payload up to 1,490 lbs. and towing capacity up to 10,810 lbs.
GMC recently announced the Sierra All Terrain HD, an off-road inspired 4WD model. It is available on 2500HD and 3500HD double cab and crew cab models and is offered with SLE or SLT trims. It includes an electronically controlled transfer case and the Z71 Off-Road package with Rancho twin-tube shocks, hill descent control and a skid plate.
The All Terrain HD also includes the latest connectivity technology, including IntelliLink and OnStar with 4G LTE and standard built-in WiFi hotspot. Enhanced features for IntelliLink include Text Messaging Alerts for smartphone users with Bluetooth profile (M.A.P.), which reads incoming texts through the vehicle’s speakers, and Siri Eyes Free for iPhone iOS 6 and iOS 7 users to enhance connectivity and convenience.
But you don't have to choose a specialized pickup to get enhanced off-road performance. There are many off-road packages available for various trim levels.
You can boost the off-road capability of many Ford pickups by selecting the FX4 off-road package. It can be added to most four-wheel-drive models, improving trail capability with an electronic locking rear axle, skid plates and off-road tuned shocks.
General Motors offers a Z71 Off-Road Package for many of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. This package includes a Z71 Off-Road Suspension with Rancho monotube shocks, Hill Descent Control, all-terrain tires, an underbody transfer case shield on 4WD models, a locking rear differential and recovery hooks.
The advantage of a pickup over most other forms of transportation is the bed. Whether it is used for work, play or transport, the ability to maximize the convenience and usefulness of the bed increases the pickup’s overall usefulness. To accomplish this, there are various options available from the manufacturers.
For total versatility in storage and cargo carrying, select Ram Truck pickup models with 5-ft. 7-in. and 6-ft. 4-in. beds provide the RamBox Cargo Management System. It includes a lightweight bed extender/divider (stored at the front of the bed when not in use), cargo side rails and four adjustable tie-down cleats. With the ability to be controlled by the Remote Key Fob, the two large, illuminated, drainable and lockable RamBox System bins have available accessories from Mopar that fit inside. Key fobs prove ideal when entering the pickup with your arms full — the optional AllSecure Locking System locks/unlocks all doors, the tailgate and both RamBox System bins.
Ford offers the BoxLink flexible, configurable, universal pickup box interface system that secures a wide variety of available Ford and aftermarket accessories, including ramps, storage bins, dividers and many others. As a convenience feature, you can lock or unlock the tailgate with the key fob or inside door switch. You can also release the tailgate with the key fob.
Research brand-specific features
Some unique options that are brand specific include the active-level, four-corner air suspension system on select Ram trucks, the 360° camera option on select Ford pickups and GM OnStar.
Active-Level engineering on Ram pickups automatically equalizes the pickup while under heavy payloads. You’re assured of a correct fore-and-aft vehicle balance, a constantly horizontal load plane and an even and level driving profile. Active-Level also properly maintains headlamp-to-road angle for consistent and vision-friendly forward illumination. Fingertip suspension control allows you to select from four drive modes with a push of a button, ensuring ideal ride height for your terrain and conditions.
The Ford 360° camera option with split-view display uses four cameras — one in the grille, tailgate and under each of the side view mirrors. The system allows you to see all sides of the vehicle by stitching the images together and displaying them on a center stack screen. It’s useful when maneuvering in tight spaces and on trails. Enhancing the 360° camera is the available Dynamic Hitch Assist feature, which provides a line-of-sight guide to help you direct the hitch ball to the trailer receiver.
The GM OnStar system offers many unique features. They include adviser-based safety and security features such as Automatic Crash Response and Stolen Vehicle Assistance, as well as turn-by-turn navigation.
OnStar also includes RemoteLink Key Fob Services, allowing owners to remotely start and lock/unlock a car (if properly equipped) and activate the horn and lights from anywhere with a data connection. It also includes OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics, which runs monthly checks of a vehicle’s engine, transmission, anti-lock brakes and more, and Dealer Maintenance Notification, which sends a diagnostic report directly to a preferred dealer to simplify service scheduling.
Many more unique features are available, so make sure you do your research prior to purchase.