Thanks to lower gas prices, the light duty truck market has rebounded—the latest figures in the Wall Street Journal show a year-to-date increase of 9.8 percent, 4.4 percent for pickups. Last year saw many new innovations, including an all-new 5.0-liter Cummins diesel that allows the 2016 Nissan Titan XD to straddle the half-ton and heavy-duty segments in capability. Auto writers were so impressed with it that they named it the Truck of Texas for 2015.
The midsize segment also gained attention with the entry of two new models from GM and a redesigned segment leader from Toyota.
Here’s an overview of the trucks that received test drives in 2015 at Latino Traffic Report.
Toyota Tacoma TRD Offroad
Redesigned for 2016, the Tacoma holds the top-selling position in the midsize truck segment. The new version should help keep it there.
Available with two engines, a 2.7-liter four cylinder or a 3.5-liter V6, I drove the latter during the weeklong test drive. Producing 278 horsepower and 265 lbs.–ft. of torque, the V6 also uses Variable Valve Timing with Intelligent Wider Intake for better performance. It was matched to a six-speed automatic but both engines can be matched to manual transmissions.
The TRD is an off-road model but the Tacoma redesign as a whole emphasizes its improved capability. Maximum towing has increased to 6,800 lbs.
All Tacoma 4×4 models are equipped with 4WDemand part-time four-wheel drive (4WD) with an electronically controlled transfer case and Automatic Limited Slip Differential. The TRD Pro I tested included an off-road tuned suspension equipped with Bilstein shocks. For 2017, Toyota will build a TRD Pro version of the Tacoma.
On the inside, the sport grey heated cloth seats with orange accents also offered additional storage under the back bench that lifts up. The test model arrived in the exclusive Inferno exterior color.
Equipped with the Premium and Technology Package ($2,330), the test model added creature comforts like dual-zone climate control, and safety features like a blind spot monitor.
The Tacoma is built at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing in San Antonio.
Pricing for the 2016 Tacoma starts at $24,200. The as-tested pricing came to $37,610.
GMC Canyon 4WD SLE Long Box
With three new entries, 2015 could be called the year of the midsize truck. The 2015 GMC Canyon is the higher end or premium version to its sibling, the Chevy Colorado.
The two available engines, a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder and a 3.6-liter V6, also offer the segment’s best highway fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon (mpg) for the 2.5-liter two-wheel drive (2WD) and 26 mpg for 3.6-liter 2WD, when properly equipped. I averaged 20.3 mpg with the 3.6-liter 4WD.
On the inside, the Canyon has a more refined interior, distinguished by premium materials and convenience features like air conditioning, power windows and a rearview camera.
What really makes the Canyon standout, however, is OnStar with 4G LTE and the built-in Wi-Fi hotspot mobile hub, available on all but the base model.
The beauty of pickups is their configurability and the Canyon’s no exception with three body styles—an extended cab model with a six-foot two-inch bed, a crew cab with a five-foot two-inch bed, and a crew cab with a six-foot two-inch bed. Borrowing from the Sierra, its larger sibling, the Canyon includes the segment-first CornerStep rear bumper design, plus a dampened liftgate.
It adds versatility with thirteen configurable and four stationary tie-down locations throughout the bed for use with available, removable cargo tie-down rings
The maximum payload can reach 1,620 pounds plus it has the segment’s best trailering rating of 7,000 pounds when properly equipped. For 2016, the Canyon offers a segment first 2.8-liter Duramax turbo diesel for added capability—maximum towing climbs to 7,700 lbs. properly equipped.
Pricing for the 2016 Canyon starts at $21,880. The as-tested price that included the All-Terrain Package came to $38,915.
Toyota Tundra TRD Pro
Redesigned in 2014, the Tundra lineup added an off-road model for 2015, the TRD Pro.
The package includes a suspension upgrade that raises the front of the vehicle two inches for a level ride height. While that may help on an off-road course, it makes climbing into the truck tough, especially for the vertically challenged. A grab handle on the driver’s side would help.
Larger diameter TRD-tuned Bilstein High-Performance shocks further amplify the ride and handling.
Available in three colors, the test model also arrived in the TRD-Pro exclusive shade of Inferno (like the Tacoma TRD Offroad) that begged for a photo against the backdrop of The University of Texas at Austin. It’s brighter than burnt orange but it’ll do.
Sitting on 18-inch TRD black alloy wheels, the TRD’s other unique exterior features include a blacked out grille, bed panel stamping, matte satin black badges, and black headlight bezels.
The TRD Pro makes its presence known with a loud 5.7-liter V8 accentuated by a dual exhaust system and a maximum towing capacity of 10,000 pounds when properly equipped. The other available V8 on the Tundra is the 4.6-liter i-Force.
The TRD-Pro includes the on-demand, electronically controlled four-wheel drive system to provide 4×2, 4×4 Hi and 4×4 Lo ranges.
Designed in Michigan and California, the Tundra’s also built in the USA at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in San Antonio.
Pricing for the 2016 Tundra starts at $31,145. As-tested pricing for the 2015 Tundra TRD Pro, with a couple extra features like a bed mat and center console storage tray, came to $43,159.
Sierra Denali 1500 4WD
For GMC, Denali stands for luxury and the Sierra Denali 1500 has the stuff and price tag to prove it.
Technology like front and rear park assist, OnStar, and 4G LTE with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot are standard on the Sierra Denali.
Another impressive standard technology, magnetic ride control, enhances ride and handling every millisecond, triggering damping changes via electronically controlled shock absorbers.
Convenience features like heated and cooled leather front seats, a heated steering wheel, Bose stereo, an eight-inch-diagonal Customizable Driver Display, and a factory-installed spray-on bed liner add to its premium status.
Design cues on the outside also distinguish the Denali. A unique chrome grille, 20-inch wheels, a polished stainless steel exhaust outlet, projector-style headlamps with LED signature daytime running lights, and body-color front and rear bumpers accentuate the exterior.
With two available V8 engines, a 5.3- and a 6.2-liter, the test model included the latter matched to the eight-speed automatic transmission, new for 2015.
It should achieve an EPA estimated combined fuel economy of 17 mpg. I managed to get 18.5 mpg. The base model Sierra comes equipped with a 4.3-liter V6 matched to a six-speed transmission.
The Denali may be luxurious but it maintains its capability with a 12,000 maximum tow rating.
Pricing for the 2016 Sierra Denali starts at $52,285. The as-tested price came to $57,820.
Chevrolet Silverado High Country 4WD
In 2014, Chevrolet introduced a new luxury model to the Silverado lineup, the High Country.
Standard features on Chevrolet’s first premium truck include halogen projector headlamps, along with chrome body side moldings, door handles and mirrors, a chrome grille and 20-inch chrome wheels.
For premium trucks, however, the inside is where you really feel it. The High County includes plush saddle brown leather seats with beige piping and heated and cooled perforated premium leather front bucket seats with High Country logos on the headrests.
Standard technology completes the effect with Chevrolet MyLink connectivity on an eight-inch touch screen, Bose premium audio, and front and rear park assist, an essential feature on a truck.
All High Countries come in a four-door or Crew Cab configuration and 4WD or 2WD, and there is a choice between two bed sizes, five feet eight inches or six feet six inches.
Powered by a choice of two V8s, a 5.3- and 6.2-liter, its capability includes a maximum payload of 2,060 pounds and a 12,000-lb. trailering capacity. I drove the powerful 6.2-liter V8 matched to an eight-speed transmission and averaged 17.5 mpg.
Pricing for the 2016 Silverado High Country starts at $50,935. The as-tested price that included options like a rear-seat entertainment system, sunroof, and Premium package with the Safety Alert Seat came to $59.035.
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