It’s an event that every sport truck enthusiast would love to attend, but can’t — unless they are an accredited member of the TexasAuto Writer’s Association.
Every October, vehicle manufacturers bring their very best and most interesting trucks for off-road and on-road testing in the environment where they are likely to be driven most. And they are driven — more than 60 journalists made more than 1500 runs to check out the the features and performance that make you want to put a truck on your wish list.
The good news is that every vehicle brought to the Knibbe Ranch near San Antonio was top notch. No clinkers in the bunch. Forty-eight heavy-duty, full-size and mid-size pickups; full-size, mid-size and compact SUVs, all sizes of crossovers and not a single journalist had to hold their nose on any of the runs.
This year Ford’s 2012 F-150 full-sized pickup truck received top honors named it as Truck of Texas in this year’s nationally-recognized competition. Its stable partner, the F-250 heavy duty received the award for its category, and Ford was named truck line of Texas for a clean sweep.
Last year, Chrysler’s Ram brand won both of the top categories with the 1500 and 3500 trucks, both new for 2011, perhaps making it a more pitched competition this year.
Ford brought the F-150 Rapter SVTs and F-150 Platinum Edition with EcoBoost engines to capture writers’ and broadcasters’ excitement on the strenuous off-road course, which included all kinds of road surfaces, water (some of the last in the area, I suspect) and a major hill climb with a steep descent.
EcoBoost technology was given the prize for best feature. Introduced in 2010, versions of this technology are now available on many vehicles, including the F-150. EcoBoost uses gasoline turbocharged direct-injection for up to 20% better fuel economy, 15% fewer CO2 emissions and superior performance vs. larger displacement engines.
The second place feature was also a Ford Truck exclusive, available only on the 2012 Rapter SVT. This was a front view camera mounted in a safe position and capable (from 7 to 15mph) of showing where to place wheels on a hill descent. It completely delighted the writers and photographers and made the descent far easier for even novice off-roaders.
In the SUV category, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, also new for 2012, won with its 4×4 Overland and Overland Summit. The SUV boasts a V6 engine with improved fuel economy (17mpg city and 23mpg highway)as one of its offerings. Towing capacity of 7,400 lbs. for the V8f and 5,000 lbs. for the V6 also gives this Jeep exceptional versatility.
In key individual categories, where vehicles compete only within their segment, the winners — all 2012 models — are:
CUV — Buick Enclave (full-size), Ford Edge (mid-size), Toyota RAV4 (compact), GMC Acadia (luxury full-size), and Cadillac SRX (luxury mid-size)
SUV — Dodge Durango (full-size), Jeep Wrangler Rubicon (mid-size), Nissan Xterra PRO-4X (compact), Jeep Grand Cherokee (luxury full-size), Toyota 4Runner Ltd. (luxury mid-size)
Pickup Trucks — Ford-F250 King Ranch Edition (heavy duty), Ford F-150 Rapter SVT (full-size), Nissan Frontier PRO-4X (mid-size), Ford-F150 Platinum EcoBoost (luxury pickup)
If you have any questions about any of these vehicles, just let me know and we’ll answer them here with help from the manufacturers.