Consumer Reports tested 17 pickup trucks and only liked two, demonstrating that it believes there’s plenty of room for improvement in the segment, which accounts for one out every five new vehicles sold.
The Honda Ridgeline fared the best in the organization’s testing, achieving an overall score of 80. The Jeep Gladiator is the only other pickup recommended by Consumer Reports, notching a 65 score. Both are midsize trucks.
Consumer Reports conducts about 50 different tests on the vehicles it evaluates, looking at factors such as braking, handling, comfort, safety and fuel economy. It also factors in predicted reliability and owner satisfaction. Finally, it looks at other features such as safety technology and crash test results.
Although automakers advertise trucks as tough, rugged vehicles, reliability is the big problem with the segment, Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports’ senior director of automotive testing, told Trucks.com.
“You see more drivetrain problems with pickup trucks. There are transmission problems, and like other vehicles, problems with the in-car electronics,” Fisher said.
After crunching the numbers, the organization didn’t recommend any full-size truck. The Toyota Tundra came closest, helped by better than average reliability and owner satisfaction. But its fuel economy was the worst in the segment. And its ride was poor compared to most of the other choices.
“The driving experience with the domestic trucks is so superior,” Fisher said.
The Tundra proves that automakers can build a reliable truck, Fisher said. But the truck has an older design and doesn’t perform as well as its rivals in most other areas, he said.
Consumer Reports did not report results for the Ford F-150, the best-selling truck in the U.S. Ford launched a complete redesign of the truck for this model year, and Consumer Reports is evaluating the vehicle now.
Based on the previous F-150s, the new truck will likely get dinged for reliability, at least in the initial review, Fisher said.
Here’s what the organization said about the other full-size trucks
It tested two Ram 1500s, one with a 5.7-liter V8 engine and the other, a smaller 3-liter six-cylinder. Both got good marks for owner satisfaction and performed the best in the class in road tests. They also are comfortable rides. The problem, according to Consumer Reports, is reliability. They are worse than average.
The organization tested four different versions of General Motors trucks from Chevrolet and GMC. They are all siblings. Two had six-cylinder engines, and the others had eights. Lousy reliability hurt the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra rankings. They had the worst predicted reliability in the group. All four did well in road tests and seat comfort.
Although the Nissan Titan scored better than the GM trucks, below-average reliability and owner satisfaction hurt its rating.
Consumer Reports test one heavier truck, the F-250 with a 6.7-liter engine. It had average reliability and scored well in owner satisfaction and seat comfort. But it fell down in routine handling.
In the midsize segment, the Ridgeline score average or better in every category. The Gladiator nearly mirrored it but got dinged for cabin noise. Its reliability was at the top for any pickup truck.
The Toyota Tacoma, the best-selling midsize truck, scored average or better in just half of the categories. Its road test score was 42, barely half the performance of the Ridgeline. The Ford Ranger was average almost across the board but fell below in reliability and ride.
All four of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon offerings scored the worst among the group. They were hurt by ride quality, reliability and seat comfort.
Americans buy about 3 million pickup trucks annually. The vehicles account for about 20 percent of U.S. new auto sales. Millions more are sold in the used market.