2004 Full-Size Truck Comparison Test

2004 Dodge Ram Pickup 1500 Pickup

(3.7L V6 5-speed Manual 6.3 ft. Bed)

  • Comparison Test
  • Stereo Evaluation: 2004 Chevrolet Silverado
  • Editors' Evaluation
  • Data and Charts
  • Top 10 Features
  • Consumer Commentary
  • Final Rankings and Scoring Explanation
  • Stereo Evaluation

We've all seen the commercials. Big burly pickups dragging tree stumps out of the ground or barreling through thick patches of mud in a downpour. They're flag-waving tributes to the vehicles Americans have grown to love, but somewhere in the back of our minds, we know the reality is much different.

Not only are most full-size trucks not dragged through the muck on a regular basis, they're not even all American. They haul kids to school as often as they carry loads of sheetrock and we expect them to be as comfortable as Camrys in the process. This idea of the full-size pickup as part work truck, part family vehicle has led to the proliferation of the four-door crew cab as the body style of choice. You get room for as many as six people, a cargo bed out back and a V8 under the hood — now all you have to do is choose one.

The current field of competitors has undergone a recent transformation that has made it more competitive than ever before. Not only did Ford unleash an all-new version of its top-selling truck, the 2004 Ford F-150, but newcomer Nissan introduced its first-ever full-size in the 2004 Nissan Titan. The 2004 Dodge Ram was fully redesigned just two years ago and the 2004 Chevrolet Silverado received significant upgrades last year as well. Even Toyota came through with a crew cab version of its 2004 Toyota Tundra full-size for the first time this year.

While every manufacturer thinks its particular truck is the perfect jack-of-all-trades workhorse, we set out to determine which one of these overachievers puts it all together into the most complete package. Our comparison involved hundreds of miles of combined freeway, city and off-road terrain, as well as our usual battery of instrumented tests. And since these were trucks, we also hitched up an approximately 6,000-pound trailer and piled three adult passengers inside the cab to see how each vehicle would fare under load. We performed both timed acceleration runs and a climb up a 7 percent grade with the added weight aboard, and the results were revealing to say the least.

Picking an outright winner is always a tenuous decision given the peculiarities of today's truck buyers, but after two weeks of head-to-head test-drives, the winner was obvious. We didn't pull out any tree stumps with it or plow it through the mud, but we did just about everything else with it and it came out in one piece asking for more. Think you know which truck came out ahead? Read on to see if your guess matches our results.

Fifth Place: 2004 Chevrolet Silverado

It may have finished at the bottom of the pack, but the 2004 Chevrolet Silverado wasn't so much a bad truck as it was a victim of old age. Now into its sixth year on the market, the Chevrolet Silverado is still a solid performer, but the competition has clearly passed it by in several key areas. There are still some elements of Chevrolet's popular pickup that make it worth considering, but if you're looking for best-in-class attributes, the Silverado forces you to look harder than ever before to find them.

Given our test truck's lofty sticker price, we weren't expecting such a treasure hunt. At well over $41,000, our Chevy Silverado Z71 crew cab was the most expensive truck in the test. The inflated entry fee guaranteed just about every option and feature in the GM arsenal, but even that wasn't enough to dig the truck out of fifth place.

So what was it that sunk the Chevy Silverado to the bottom of the order? For one, its marginal interior design looks and feels older than ever. For 41 big ones, you would expect an upscale cabin, but the Silverado still wears layer upon layer of mediocre plastic trim. "Functional, familiar — and ugly," was the not-so-complimentary summation of one editor. "You might not think that the Chevy Silverado is the oldest truck on the outside, but sit in the driver seat and there's no doubt about it," wrote another.

It's not the prettiest pickup on the inside, but given that most buyers are looking for function over form, the Silverado isn't a total loss. The front seats were judged the best of the five trucks and extensive steering wheel satellite controls allow you to control everything from the radio to the trip computer without taking your hands off the wheel. The center console has large cupholders, plenty of storage room and a flat top that's useful for keeping a cell phone or notebook handy. The dual-zone automatic climate control works well and even the well-spaced buttons for the XM-equipped radio are a snap to use.

Rear-seat room in the truck is generous and the well-formed seats provide solid comfort for adult-sized passengers. It's not the biggest rear cabin in this segment, but most editors found the Silverado plenty comfortable in back. Additional radio controls and a flip-down DVD player made it all the more passenger-friendly.

The lack of competitiveness in the interior design category was hardly a surprise, but where it really fell behind was in the performance category — an area it dominated in years past. With its standard 5.3-liter V8 rated at 285 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, the Chevy Silverado is now outgunned by the Dodge, Ford and Nissan entries, all of which post horsepower figures above 300 and maximum torque levels well above 360 lb-ft.

At the track, the Chevrolet Silverado posted competitive 0-to-60-mph and quarter-mile times of 8.6 and 17.1 seconds, respectively, but when loaded with a 6,000-pound trailer and three passengers, it quickly fell behind the front-runners. Its 22.6-second 0-to-60 time put it two seconds behind the Ford and a full second behind the Toyota. Out on the highway, the Chevrolet struggled to maintain its acceleration up a steep grade and made a considerable racket while doing so. A big factor in its disappointing perfomance was its four-speed automatic transmission, as it had problems trying to find a gear that could keep the engine in its optimum power band. Like the Ford, a five-speed gearbox would do wonders to help close the performance gap.

In addition to falling behind when it came to overall speed, the Chevy has also lost much of its edge in the ride comfort and handling category that it used to dominate. It still feels nimble in day-to-day driving, but the steering that was acceptably numb in previous years now feels hopelessly vague compared to the sharper setups in the Dodge and Ford trucks. The ride quality isn't rough by any means, but more than one editor noted that it seemed to bounce and hop over bumps more so than the other trucks. Braking was also a sore point, as the pickup turned in some of the longest stops of the group at the track.

During our off-road excursion, the Chevrolet Silverado sucked up the rough terrain better than we expected. The optional Z71 package adds heavy-duty shocks and sturdier bump stops, but there were still times when it bounced uncontrollably over washboard ruts. We liked the fact that it offered an "Auto" mode for the transfer case for varying terrain, but we would have liked to have better compression braking on downhill sections when in low range. Ground clearance was never an issue as it tackled our rock-strewn hill-climb course without scraping its skid plates.

It might seem hard to believe that the Silverado's fortunes could fall so fast, but consider it a testament to the improved competition more than a combination of glaring deficiencies. The 2004 Chevrolet Silverado isn't seriously lacking in any one area, but it doesn't excel in any, either. If you drove this truck and nothing else, you probably wouldn't have much of a problem with it, but our reality was much different. Drive it back-to-back with its peers and this Chevy's age becomes all too obvious. A redesign is on the way for 2007 and there's no doubt that the Chevy Silverado will come back bigger and better in every way, but until then, it will have to suffer in the face of more modern and powerful rivals that make it feel like the 20th-century pickup that it is.

Second Opinions:

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
This truck came in a strong second during our 2000 Full-Size Truck Comparison Test, but like most automotive segments these days, four years might as well be 40 years. Since that test, the Ford and Dodge entries have been redesigned, Toyota has introduced a Tundra crew cab and Nissan has flashed onto the scene with the Titan. The Silverado has seen only modest upgrades in those four years.

Not surprisingly, of all the trucks in the test, the Chevy felt the oldest and least refined. The steering is too slow and too light for my taste. The brakes feel like something from the last millennia (which technically they are), and even its drivetrain — usually a GM strongpoint — couldn't compete with the Titan or Ram. When loaded with our 6,000-pound trailer, the Chevy pulled the slowest quarter-mile times, even slower than the Tundra's.

Other items, like the interior materials and exterior styling, didn't add to the Chevy's desirability, though it does have a better rear seat than the Dodge and it performed relatively well off-road. Bottom line, the segment has gotten more competitive while the Silverado has simply gotten older. Time for a redesign.

Road Test Editor Brian Moody says:
This truck has long been my favorite. The Silverado has always been my "go to" truck when it comes to comfort, power, styling and value. It's hard for me to admit it, but I think the Silverado has slipped. I firmly believe that trucks like the Titan and F-150 are now better in many ways.

I still like the Chevy's engine for its powerful refinement, but the Titan's feels stronger. In everyday driving conditions, the Silverado feels stronger and faster than the F-150, but under a heavy load or more demanding circumstances, it's the Ford that comes out on top. The F-150 also offers a more carlike ride and is better-looking. One thing the Silverado does well is offer ample rear-seat room. Although the overall length of the Silverado makes it cumbersome in some driving situations, as well as off-road, the extra room in back is appreciated.

Ford's recent redesign of the F-150 improved that truck by leaps and bounds. Let's hope Chevy can do the same. The current Silverado is still a fine truck but newer versions of the Ram and F-150, plus the addition of the Titan, make the Silverado seem a bit behind.

Fourth Place: 2004 Toyota Tundra

Unlike the Nissan Titan that was built to go head-to-head with the full-size domestics, the Toyota Tundra has always appealed to buyers who didn't need the biggest and baddest truck on the block. In return for its slightly smaller size, the Tundra offered carlike handling and a level of refinement rarely found in a truck. The introduction of the 2004 Toyota Tundra Double Cab tweaked that formula slightly by giving the truck a bigger cab in nearly every dimension and a longer bed than typical crew cabs. It was an attempt to close the gap between the Toyota Tundra and its full-size competitors, but as we found out during our rigorous testing, it's still a lightweight in the world of good ol' "American" pickups.

With an MSRP of $35,047, our Toyota Tundra test truck barely edged out the Nissan for the lowest window sticker of the group. Its "bargain" price didn't keep it from showing up with a cab full of options, however, as the truck was loaded with everything from the TRD off-road package to a rear-seat DVD player. It had the feel of the more expensive trucks like the Dodge and the Chevrolet, but it suffered much less when it came to tallying up the final scores.

The pickup ultimately lost most of its points in the performance and personal picks categories. While the latter is a highly subjective category based purely on our editors' individual tastes or lack thereof, the former is the ultimate in objective results gained from precise instrumented testing. After all the numbers were crunched, one thing was obvious — if you want big truck power, the Toyota Tundra doesn't have it.

What it does have is a big weight advantage over the other trucks, thus allowing it to beat out the aging Chevy Silverado in nearly every category and keep pace with the Ford F-150 up to 60 mph. Its standard 4.7-liter V8 is only rated to produce 240 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque, but a shorter rear end gear than the standard model and a quick-shifting transmission gave it a more athletic feel than we expected. That quickness faded, however, when we hitched up our trailer and piled three passengers into the cab. It still turned in competitive numbers at the track, but during our hill-climb test, the Tundra was the only truck that failed to maintain steady acceleration all the way up the grade.

A track category that it did manage to dominate was speed through the slalom, a test that rewards smaller, nimbler vehicles with precise steering. It's unlikely that you'll ever push any truck as hard as we did through the cones, but there's something to be said for a truck that can handle itself so well during such evasive handling maneuvers. The Tundra also turned in the shortest stopping distance from 60 mph, but we were less impressed by that feat after it revealed massive fade during repeated hard stops.

The Tundra's predictable manners at the track translated into an extremely likable truck on the street. For better or worse, the Tundra has plenty of Camry in it when you're just puttering around town. "This is the truck I would want to drive if I had to use one of these monsters everyday," one editor wrote, while another lamented that although he loved the power of the Dodge, "the Tundra delivers the kind of refined driving experience that makes me think I would prefer it in the long run." With the help of its optional off-road package, the Tundra battled the Titan for top honors in the dirt as well. Its tight, well-controlled suspension and smaller size translated into a feeling of confidence in the rough stuff that most editors found reassuring.

While the Tundra's ride and handling earned it high marks all around, its aging interior design was met with a less enthusiastic reaction that landed it at the bottom of the pack. "This is the part that I wish didn't feel so much like a Camry," was the comment from one editor. Most agreed that it was functional in nature but bland in appearance and feel. The front seats were considered the least comfortable in the test while the rear bench offered ample space but poor seat comfort. Although the Toyota Tundra is as wide on the outside as the other four trucks, its lack of shoulder space on the inside gives it a more restrictive feel than any of the other competitors.

When it came to features and overall utility, the Toyota Tundra fared a little better. Other than the Titan, the Tundra was the only other truck to offer stability control as an option, although that feature can't be coupled with its off-road package. A trick roll-down rear window was one feature that most editors found useful mainly due to its ability to draw fresh air into the cabin better than the smaller rear window openings on the other trucks. The pickup also scored points for its larger cargo bed that comes in over half-a-foot longer than those of most full-size crew cabs. As one editor observed, "If you're going to get a full-size truck, you might as well have a bed that's big enough to haul stuff in."

Clearly, the 2004 Toyota Tundra still doesn't have the big-truck credentials needed to displace the biggest and brawniest pickups in the segment, but as always it does offer a compelling combination of capability and refinement that will entice non-traditional truck buyers. It didn't leave quite the same impression as the all-conquering Titan, but neither did most of its competitors. With Toyota gearing up to build an even bigger and better full-size truck within the next couple of years, the Tundra's days of playing the undersize import are numbered. Until then, it will have to concede to the big boys and play to those who want full-size dimensions without full-size attitude.

Second Opinions:

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
Toyota gets credit for doing what only Toyota can do. The company has managed to put four-wheel drive, a crew cab, an open bed and a V8 engine into a vehicle without actually creating a truck. Oh sure, the company calls it a truck, and it certainly looks like a truck. In some ways, it even performs like a truck. But hopping from the F-150, Ram, Silverado or Titan into the Tundra is like hopping from a horse and buggy into a luxury sedan. The Tundra is easily the most carlike truck in this segment.

That's great if you're a truck buyer who doesn't really need a truck, and if I was in that position, this vehicle would be my first choice. The problem is that if I'm buying a full-size truck, I sure as hell better need a full-size truck. If I don't, then I'm shopping the Dodge Dakota or, if my tow/haul needs are really low, a Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot. With a 6,500-pound max towing capacity and a V8 engine that tops out — as well as starts — at 4.7 liters, the Tundra doesn't have the muscle to compete with the other players here. This was apparent when we hooked up 6,000 pounds' worth of car and trailer to it and wondered if the Toyota was going to actually move when we prodded the gas (it did…sort of).

The big "T" started by dipping its toenail into the full-size truck category with the T100 in 1993. With the Tundra, I'd say the company is up to its kneecaps. But this is a category that demands a full-body dunk (à la Nissan) if you want to be taken seriously. Until Toyota gets serious, the Tundra will remain a very pleasant (and very second-tier) player.

Road Test Editor Brian Moody says:
The Tundra is such a mixed bag that I almost don't believe it belongs in the same class as trucks like the Dodge Ram or Chevrolet Silverado. And at the same time, its good points are so good it comes out as better than most on paper.

The truck is too small. Inside, the driving position was uncomfortable and I felt as if I could never get the driver seat back far enough. On the other hand, its small size makes it a hero off-road. The Tundra is so smooth and calm both on- and off-road that I believe comfort and all-around usability are why full-size truck customers choose the Tundra. I also found it odd that some of the interior materials were of lower quality than other Toyota products. The ergonomics are also lacking — Ford and Chevy have a better dash design. I don't like the Tundra's exterior design, either; it looks too generic.

The Tundra's V8 is a huge bright spot. The motor is smooth and peppy with just enough of an exhaust note to let you know it's there. While the Tundra is probably the best truck of the bunch for everyday use, it falls short when more serious towing or hauling duties are required. For me, the Tundra would be perfect as a family car that can also do double duty when it comes time to make a run to Lowe's for home improvement supplies.

Third Place: Ford F-150 SuperCrew XLT

Third place might seem like a disappointing finish for a truck that won our last comparison, but a quick look at the numbers reveals that the Ford F-150 came in a close third to the second-place Dodge. As close as they finished, however, the F-150 and the Ram displayed very different personalities. Both had their strong points but neither managed to outgun the mighty Titan.

Fully redesigned, the 2004 Ford F-150 came into this test sporting an all-new engine, heavily revised suspension and a completely revamped interior. Our particular test truck was a midgrade Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew with a standard array of options — in other words, it wasn't some big-dollar press fleet truck, it was your typical high-volume model. Unlike the Silverado and the Ram, the F-150 came in at a more reasonable $35,295, just slightly more than the Nissan and Toyota. With so much going for it, the Ford F-150 seemed like the truck to beat at first, but subsequent miles behind the wheel revealed that although the Ford F-150 excelled in several areas, it fell a little flat in others.

The Ford puts its best foot forward out on the highway, as almost every editor remarked on how quiet and composed it was at speed. "This thing is a cruise missile on wide-open roads. You have to watch your speed closely, as this truck will do 85 with barely a trace of wind or road noise," one driver wrote. The Ford's ride quality earned similar praise for its ability to isolate bumps without feeling overly soft. "The Ford's setup makes for an easy commute; stiff enough to keep you in control but not so firm that it's ever uncomfortable." During our backcountry trip, the Ford F-150 kept its composure over most terrain but washboard trails tended to overwhelm the shocks quickly. Its low-range gearing did an excellent job of maintaining low speeds on steep descents and the precise steering made for easy maneuvering in tight spots.

Not so impressive was the performance of the truck's powertrain. Its new 5.4-liter Triton V8 is rated at a solid 300 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque, but its track numbers were well behind that of the front-runners. With an unloaded 0-to-60-mph time of 9.5 seconds, the Ford F-150 was tied with the Toyota Tundra and almost two full seconds slower than the Nissan Titan. Disappointed Ford fans might point out that these are trucks, not sports cars, but we're guessing that Ford F-150 drivers face the prospect of accelerating to highway speeds from a stop more often than they go around pulling 9,500-pound (the Ford's best-in-class maximum) trailers. When the truck was saddled with a trailer and three passengers, it took 20.2 seconds to hit 60, nearly 3.5 seconds slower than the Titan (16.8). It also turned in the longest stopping distance from 60 mph at 145 feet, roughly 10 feet farther than either the Dodge or Nissan.

Why the mediocre numbers from what looks to be a competitive engine? Weight is one issue, as the Ford F-150 tipped the scales 161 pounds heavier than the next weightiest truck (the Titan) and over 500 pounds heavier than the Tundra. Another issue is the use of a four-speed transmission instead of a more flexible five-speed. Both the Dodge and the Nissan use five-speeds to keep their engines in the heart of their power curves, while the Ford's V8 is often left dragging at engine speeds that are too low to make adequate power. When climbing a 7 percent grade on our test loop, the Ford F-150 pulled strongly in second gear, but when it dropped into third its momentum vanished and it struggled to build speed the rest of the way up the hill.

The Ford was also hit-or-miss when it came to its interior. Most praised the pickup for its modern design and spacious layout, but a few found its new look just adequate. "Considering all of the hoopla made about the F-150's new interior design, the XLT version isn't exactly awe-inspiring," one editor wrote. Overall interior space is excellent both up front and in back, but the Ford received only average scores when it came to seat comfort.

Storage space and feature content were two more areas where the Ford F-150 earned only average scores. The fold-down center console is only about half the size of the ones found in the Dodge and Nissan trucks, and although the Ford's innovative overhead track system allows you to add more compartments as needed, our particular truck only had one. Folding up the rear seats takes little effort, but you're greeted with a load floor obstructed by the tire jack — even the six-year-old Chevy Silverado had that one figured out. On the features side, the Ford F-150 lost points for not even offering side airbags, stability control, rear A/C vents or any of the Nissan's utilitarian enhancements. The F-150's assisted tailgate feature was appreciated by most, but not to the point where it was considered a must-have.

Though it might seem as if the Ford went underappreciated in this test, the exact opposite was true. Several editors agreed that they liked the Ford F-150 more after driving it back-to-back with the competition. Between its easy-to-drive character, quiet cabin and clean design, the pickup earned considerable praise. "I think this truck would appeal to the average buyer as much, if not more so, than it does to the hard-core 'truck guy' buyer," one editor noted. We're not sure if that's what Ford was hoping for, but if the more aggressive personalities of the Dodge and Nissan aren't what you're after, the 2004 Ford F-150 could very well be the truck for you.

Second Opinions:

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
The best-selling vehicle on the planet got a redesign this year, and with the amount of pressure riding on this F-150 to lead the Blue Oval boys' revival, it had better deliver. My initial impressions of the F-150 were lukewarm at best. I liked the ride quality, the steering felt pretty good and the exterior styling was a vast improvement. But for a vehicle this vital to the company's future, well frankly, I was expecting more. Or maybe less, because my biggest issue with the F-150 was the fact that it gained between 500 and 800 pounds this year (depending on body style and trim). I don't care how creative your engineering team is, that kind of weight hurts performance and fuel mileage (not to mention anything unlucky enough to get in this truck's path). I was also surprised by Ford's lack of vision in offering no side airbags or truly innovative features (the tailgate leverage bar doesn't really count in my book).

However, while I'm not ready to reverse my opinion on the all-new F-150, driving it back-to-back against the competition highlighted a few facts that I was only vaguely aware of before the test. The ride and steering that seemed pretty good to me? It's probably the best in the segment. The steering is particularly impressive with both its tight feel and "just right" weighting. I was also happy to see that, in spite of its massive weight gain this year, the F-150 was not the slowest truck in the field (either with or without a 6,000-pound trailer being pulled). It also performed well when off-roading (once again, despite its large size and weight).

Does this mean I'm ready to rename the F-150 as my personal "Most Wanted" truck? Nope. It's still too slow, even with the 5.4-liter engine (and I personally can't imagine what it would be like with the standard 4.6-liter V8, but I'm sure I wouldn't like it). I also want side airbags and maybe even four-wheel steering and rear doors on the extended cab that open nearly 180 degrees. It may seem like I'm stealing cool feature ideas from other trucks. I am, just like Ford should have during the F-150's redesign. Isn't that the whole point of a redesign? Take the cool ideas from all of your competitors and put them together in one vehicle? I guess that's what I was expecting from the new F-150.

Photography Editor Scott Jacobs says:
Ford's styling guru J Mays works his magic with another classically great-looking design. The F-150's symmetrical lines and athletic proportions give this truck a touch of panache that its competition doesn't have. It unfortunately has bulked up for the new season, as it gains 800 pounds over its predecessor. Those pounds hurt the throaty V8 churning under its massive hood, as it feels sluggish and unresponsive in comparison to the Titan or Ram. The weight gain hasn't hurt its capability, however, as it has a class-leading 9,500-pound towing capacity. Performance aside, the beautiful interior and comfortable ride will surely soothe tired workers at the end of the day, or help make those long trips to the lake on the weekends enjoyable.

Though the F-150 is an all-around solid choice, as a completely redesigned entrant to the segment, it does not stand out as a clear-cut winner. Most of its attributes are matched by older designs that will soon be replaced by even more capable trucks. Keeping par doesn't win championships.

Second Place: 2004 Dodge Ram

Who would have imagined that a long-gone muscle car engine would reemerge in the 21st century as a punch line to sell pickups? The clever Dodge marketing campaign built around the Hemi V8 engine did just that and made the 2004 Dodge Ram the most famous half-ton truck on the market. But what happens when the Dodge Ram goes up against some real competition instead of two local yokels in a clapped-out Buick?

More often than not, the Dodge made good on its promise of serious performance. It may have been beat out on paper by the Nissan Titan, but when it came to seat-of-the-pants observations, the performance of the Dodge Ram impressed every driver who got behind the wheel. More than just raw power, the truck also delivered precise road feel, tight handling and a sharp interior. In the end, a cramped backseat, steep price tag and lack of innovative features dropped the Ram to second place, but it was a truck that left more than one editor wondering if he really needed that extra room in back.

Our test truck was a loaded Dodge Ram SLT Quad Cab that included just about every option and feature on the checklist. Not only did this make for an expensive truck, it also added a few options we might have left off had it been our choice. Most notable among these were the 20-inch wheels and tires. They may have made the truck look good on the street, but they put it at a disadvantage at the track, allowing the Nissan to run away with virtually every acceleration category. The Dodge Ram turned in solid braking and slalom numbers, however, so its track performance wasn't completely offset by the more cumbersome rolling stock.

During less structured driving conditions, the Ram proved to be every bit as entertaining as the Titan. Plant the pedal in this truck and you get instant gratification, thanks to the ample power of the Hemi V8 and quick reactions from the five-speed automatic transmission. Passing on the highway is effortless and the steering feel of the Ram rivals that of some sport sedans. When loaded down with our 6,000-pound trailer, the Ram powered up the grade with a faster top speed than even the mighty Titan could manage.

A few editors panned the truck for its stiff ride in day-to-day commuting, but here again the low-profile street tires were the likeliest culprit. During our off-road excursion, the Ram's taut ride made for plenty of teeth-grinding jolts over rough terrain, but the tires did manage to maintain good grip even in the soft, sandy washes. While negotiating more difficult terrain, we were a little disappointed that the Ram's low-range gears did little to help slow the big truck down while descending steep slopes, and the lack of a two-wheel-drive setting for the transfer case bars any tail-swinging, rally-style fun.

Given that the Dodge Ram was going head-to-head against three all-new trucks (Ford, Nissan and Toyota), the fact that its interior design and materials scored so well was surprising. "I never remember thinking of the Ram's interior as its strong point before, but after driving all five trucks I think it might be the best-looking interior here," one editor wrote. Build quality was excellent as another editor noted, and "the overall look of the cabin reflects its elevated price point."

Like the Nissan, the Dodge Ram feels huge up front with more than enough leg-, head- and shoulder room for even the biggest drivers. Its upgraded multiadjustable leather seats weren't rated as highly as the Silverado's, but most editors felt that the driving position was more natural than the Titan's. The interior layout is the most traditional of all the trucks with a straightforward gauge cluster, dual-zone manual climate control and Chrysler's standard stereo head unit. As in the Nissan, the Ram's center console is big enough for just about all of your loose belongings, which is good since there's not an abundance of available storage space otherwise. Side curtain airbags are a stand-alone option for enhanced safety, but stability control is not offered.

If there was one thing that held the Dodge Ram back from challenging the Nissan Titan more effectively, it was the lack of room in the rear seat. Contrary to what you might think from its exterior design, the Dodge Ram is more of a four-door extended cab than a true full-size crew cab. Put two adults in back and their knees are sure to be brushing the backs of the front seats regardless of their size. The seats themselves aren't bad and they fold up to reveal a trick fold-out storage tray, but if you're going to buy a crew cab, you might as well get one with seats that are big enough to be useful.

The Dodge Ram presented an interesting situation in that several editors noted that although they personally liked the pickup the best, they couldn't overlook some of its shortcomings when it came to handing out their recommendations. A few cited its good looks as part of their attraction, while most said that the power of the Hemi engine and the sleek style of the interior were its most compelling features. Needless to say, with a slightly more accommodating cab, smaller wheels and a more attainable price tag, the 2004 Dodge Ram might have given the Titan a more legitimate run for its money.

Second Opinions:

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
Going into this test I wasn't sure which truck I would like the best, but the Dodge seemed to have all the right ingredients. I already knew I liked its styling and drivetrain better than the other competitors', and I was pretty sure it had the best ride and handling characteristics. I also knew it had available side curtain airbags, the segment's best warranty and one of the largest interiors. It seemed to me (at least going in) that the Ram would be tough to beat.

What I learned during the test was that while the Ram has the most responsive steering, it doesn't have the best overall steering or ride qualities (Ford gets that). And while it has a large interior, it actually has the weakest second-row seat in terms of space and ease of entry, because the rear door is so thin (though Dodge does get points for making these rear doors open to 90 degrees). In terms of rear seating, both the Ford and Nissan are far better. Also, seat comfort in the Dodge was nothing to write home about — once again the Ford and Nissan are superior in this area.

When all was said and done, the Ram remained my second favorite truck because of its excellent drivetrain, available side curtain airbags and segment-leading style (plus, the overall ride and handling qualities are still superb, even if they aren't quite industry benchmarks anymore). If Dodge could address the lackluster rear seat on the crew cab models, and maybe throw in some innovative features (like a factory spray-in bedliner or exterior cargo compartments in the bed), I'd move it back into my number-one spot. For now it's a strong runner-up that, depending on the incentives in any given week, might still earn my hard-earned dollars.

Photo Editor Scott Jacobs says:
If I were to buy a truck purely on looks alone, the Dodge Ram would be my choice without hesitation. It exudes moxie with its 16-wheeler-styled hood and grille, chunky proportions and a mean-sounding engine. Add on the chrome wheels wrapped with massive tires and this thing's dominating presence is hard to ignore. The love that swept me off my feet wasn't meant to last long, however. I fell back to earth with its disappointingly basic interior. I'm a stickler for nice interiors and I've liked what's happened to the redesigned Dodge/Chrysler vehicles debuting this year. I just wish those tastefully styled and sumptuously appointed interiors would make their way into the Ram lineup.

Looks aside, this is a powerful, capable and fun-to-drive truck. I don't know if I'd say that it's the ideal work truck, but it'll easily tow your boat, haul your latest purchases at Home Depot and thrill you with its stoplight tire-smoking.

First Place: 2004 Nissan Titan

The 2004 Nissan Titan didn't just win this test, it ran away with it. Such a result might seem like an improbable upset, but the numbers speak for themselves. It cleaned up at the test track, had the second lowest sticker price, offered the most desirable features and was every editor's number-one recommended pick. This wasn't the case of an upstart contender putting together a few key assets to slip into first place. No, this was the story of a truck that was built to beat the domestics at their own game and succeeded.

To see how the Nissan Titan pulled off the win, look no further than its performance at the test track. Truck owners love to talk numbers and the truck turned in top results in nearly every category. Its 0-to-60-mph time of 7.7 seconds was a full half second ahead of the second-place Dodge Ram, and when it was loaded down with a 6,000-pound trailer and three passengers, it extended its lead over the Ram to nearly three seconds (16.8 vs. 19.5). Test notes revealed that the Nissan Titan got off the line faster than every other truck in the test, unloaded or not, and maintained a strong, virtually uninterrupted pull thanks to seamless shifts from its five-speed gearbox.

Speed against the clock is one thing, but real-world performance is another, and the Nissan didn't disappoint there, either. With the trailer hooked up and the same full load of passengers on board, it powered its way up a 7 percent grade faster than every other truck except the Dodge (the Ram managed a slightly higher top speed up the same pass). When there isn't three tons of trailer slowing it down, the Nissan Titan literally tears around city streets with a level of speed and sound matched only by the Ram's equally powerful Hemi engine. One editor summed up the Titan's burly character with this simple observation: "After years of driving trucks designed to feel like cars, the Titan reminds you of what a real truck is supposed to feel like."

The Titan proved to be equally adept where there were no streets, as it was generally regarded as the most capable truck in the dirt as well. Not only did its heavy-duty shocks and oversized tires do a great job of keeping the big truck on track, but it also showed more subtle capabilities like manual gear selection for the automatic transmission and ultralow transfer case gears that slowed it to a crawl even on the steepest descents. Our early-production truck didn't have it, but the Titan will also add a push-button rear differential locker to its off-road repertoire later in the model year. Four-wheel enthusiasts should also note that while Nissan offers its off-road package on all trim levels of the Titan, both Dodge and Ford force you into the higher-line crew cab models before it's even an option.

As rough and tough as the Nissan Titan may be on the outside, it has all the comfort and convenience features you would expect on the inside along with enough space to fit up to six adults with ease. The bench seat up front is wide and flat but still comfortable, while the rear seats won top honors by offering outstanding leg- and headroom along with a relaxed seat back angle and a fold-down armrest with cupholders. Interior storage is another strongpoint as it features a massive center console with adjustable compartments and a 12-volt power point, five overhead storage bins and sizable door pockets. Should you need to carry bulkier cargo inside, the Titan's rear seats flip up to reveal a flat, unobstructed load floor that swallows bigger items without a hitch.

The pickup also scored big when it came to feature content, as it offers several unique options that we considered more than just gimmicks. On the safety side, the Nissan Titan was the only truck in the test with electronic stability control and, although our truck wasn't equipped with them, side and head curtain airbags are also an option. We also liked the fact that the Nissan had standard one-touch up and down front windows for both the driver and front passenger, as well as power-adjustable pedals that help shorter drivers find a comfortable seating position.

On the practical side, the Titan's optional utility package puts together a spray-in bedliner, adjustable tie-down points and a lighted tailgate area, among other things, to give it a level of functionality you can't get on the competition. The spray-in bedliner not only looks better than your typical plastic drop-in job, it also has a non-slip surface and will never trap water underneath the surface that might lead to rust. Why it has taken so long for adjustable tie-down points to make their way into trucks is beyond us, but Nissan did it right with heavy-duty anchors that are easy to adjust without tools. Tailgate lighting is another useful feature we thought we would see sooner. Traditional cargo lights at the top of the cab are nice, but ask anyone who has fumbled with cargo on the tailgate at night and they'll tell you that a dinky light six feet away doesn't help much. The small lights integrated into the bed where the tailgate latches puts light right where you really need it. As if all that wasn't enough, there's also a 12-volt power point on the inside of the bed and a lockable exterior storage box, too.

Such overachievement pretty much sums up the Nissan Titan. The company knew that in order to get traditional domestic buyers to even consider its truck it had to be more than just competitive, it had to be better. After back-to-back testing, there's no doubt that the 2004 Nissan Titan often exceeds its peers when it comes to delivering big truck power, real-world capability and everyday comfort. It may not have traditional looks, 17 different trim levels or a long-standing heritage as an American icon, but if you're looking for the most capable half-ton pickup on the market, the Nissan Titan is your truck.

Second Opinions:

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:

If someone had told me five years ago that Nissan would be offering a fully competitive full-size truck in 2004, I wouldn't have believed them. If they had also said I'd like the truck more than the contemporary Ford, Chevy or Dodge offerings, I would have called the men with ink blots and straight jackets. But here it is 2004, and Nissan's Titan is the Edmunds.com Most Wanted Full-Size Truck, and the truck I would spend my own money on.

How has the company that many experts were writing off five years ago managed to beat the domestics at "their" own game? Simple. It created a full-size truck with class-leading power, features, comfort and ride quality. The Titan was the quickest truck in our test, even when towing a trailer. The true truck guys out there may wonder how this import upstart can beat the Ford when the F-150 has a higher tow rating. But as we all know, tow ratings are like horsepower figures — they make for great bragging rights but what really matters is how well the vehicle performs in real-world testing. The F-150's higher tow rating didn't stop the Titan from cleaning the Ford's clock when it was time to pull 6,000 pounds through the quarter-mile and up a steep highway pass.

Ride quality and interior design are also a strong point in the Ford (and Dodge), but the Nissan is right there in both areas while trumping the Ram and F-150 with cool features like a spray-in bedliner, doors that open 180 degrees (on the extended cab), available side airbags and excellent interior (and exterior) storage compartments. If the Ford were lighter and/or more powerful, or if the Dodge had a better rear seat and some of the Nissan's cool features, it would be a much tighter race; but the Ford isn't light or fast, and the Dodge has a weak rear seat and too few innovations.

Watch out, Big Three, the imports are turning their sights on the truck market….

Road Test Editor Brian Moody says:
This is a really great truck. The Titan is not only great for a first effort, but it is just plain terrific overall. I'm starting to warm up to the style, but it's still not my favorite-looking truck. The interior is nice and well laid-out. There are quality materials throughout and seats are super comfy, but there's still too much hard plastic for me.

As far as power is concerned, the Dodge and Nissan feel really great off the line. Nissan has done its homework with this truck and the result is a really great truck that can easily run with the big names like Ford and Chevy. I love the exhaust note — it could get tiring on a long trip, but the engine sounds so good.

The interior is remarkably quiet, and the ride quality is just between the stiff Dodge and the more refined Ford. I like this truck and the F-150 about the same, but I would probably go with the Nissan thanks to the engine and huge backseat.

We've all seen the commercials. Big burly pickups dragging tree stumps out of the ground or barreling through thick patches of mud in a downpour. They're flag-waving tributes to the vehicles Americans have grown to love, but somewhere in the back of our minds, we know the reality is much different.

Not only are most full-size trucks not dragged through the muck on a regular basis, they're not even all American. They haul kids to school as often as they carry loads of sheetrock and we expect them to be as comfortable as Camrys in the process. This idea of the full-size pickup as part work truck, part family vehicle has led to the proliferation of the four-door crew cab as the body style of choice. You get room for as many as six people, a cargo bed out back and a V8 under the hood — now all you have to do is choose one.

The current field of competitors has undergone a recent transformation that has made it more competitive than ever before. Not only did Ford unleash an all-new version of its top-selling truck, the 2004 Ford F-150, but newcomer Nissan introduced its first-ever full-size in the 2004 Nissan Titan. The 2004 Dodge Ram was fully redesigned just two years ago and the 2004 Chevrolet Silverado received significant upgrades last year as well. Even Toyota came through with a crew cab version of its 2004 Toyota Tundra full-size for the first time this year.

While every manufacturer thinks its particular truck is the perfect jack-of-all-trades workhorse, we set out to determine which one of these overachievers puts it all together into the most complete package. Our comparison involved hundreds of miles of combined freeway, city and off-road terrain, as well as our usual battery of instrumented tests. And since these were trucks, we also hitched up an approximately 6,000-pound trailer and piled three adult passengers inside the cab to see how each vehicle would fare under load. We performed both timed acceleration runs and a climb up a 7 percent grade with the added weight aboard, and the results were revealing to say the least.

Picking an outright winner is always a tenuous decision given the peculiarities of today's truck buyers, but after two weeks of head-to-head test-drives, the winner was obvious. We didn't pull out any tree stumps with it or plow it through the mud, but we did just about everything else with it and it came out in one piece asking for more. Think you know which truck came out ahead? Read on to see if your guess matches our results.

Fifth Place: 2004 Chevrolet Silverado

It may have finished at the bottom of the pack, but the 2004 Chevrolet Silverado wasn't so much a bad truck as it was a victim of old age. Now into its sixth year on the market, the Chevrolet Silverado is still a solid performer, but the competition has clearly passed it by in several key areas. There are still some elements of Chevrolet's popular pickup that make it worth considering, but if you're looking for best-in-class attributes, the Silverado forces you to look harder than ever before to find them.

Given our test truck's lofty sticker price, we weren't expecting such a treasure hunt. At well over $41,000, our Chevy Silverado Z71 crew cab was the most expensive truck in the test. The inflated entry fee guaranteed just about every option and feature in the GM arsenal, but even that wasn't enough to dig the truck out of fifth place.

So what was it that sunk the Chevy Silverado to the bottom of the order? For one, its marginal interior design looks and feels older than ever. For 41 big ones, you would expect an upscale cabin, but the Silverado still wears layer upon layer of mediocre plastic trim. "Functional, familiar — and ugly," was the not-so-complimentary summation of one editor. "You might not think that the Chevy Silverado is the oldest truck on the outside, but sit in the driver seat and there's no doubt about it," wrote another.

It's not the prettiest pickup on the inside, but given that most buyers are looking for function over form, the Silverado isn't a total loss. The front seats were judged the best of the five trucks and extensive steering wheel satellite controls allow you to control everything from the radio to the trip computer without taking your hands off the wheel. The center console has large cupholders, plenty of storage room and a flat top that's useful for keeping a cell phone or notebook handy. The dual-zone automatic climate control works well and even the well-spaced buttons for the XM-equipped radio are a snap to use.

Rear-seat room in the truck is generous and the well-formed seats provide solid comfort for adult-sized passengers. It's not the biggest rear cabin in this segment, but most editors found the Silverado plenty comfortable in back. Additional radio controls and a flip-down DVD player made it all the more passenger-friendly.

The lack of competitiveness in the interior design category was hardly a surprise, but where it really fell behind was in the performance category — an area it dominated in years past. With its standard 5.3-liter V8 rated at 285 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, the Chevy Silverado is now outgunned by the Dodge, Ford and Nissan entries, all of which post horsepower figures above 300 and maximum torque levels well above 360 lb-ft.

At the track, the Chevrolet Silverado posted competitive 0-to-60-mph and quarter-mile times of 8.6 and 17.1 seconds, respectively, but when loaded with a 6,000-pound trailer and three passengers, it quickly fell behind the front-runners. Its 22.6-second 0-to-60 time put it two seconds behind the Ford and a full second behind the Toyota. Out on the highway, the Chevrolet struggled to maintain its acceleration up a steep grade and made a considerable racket while doing so. A big factor in its disappointing perfomance was its four-speed automatic transmission, as it had problems trying to find a gear that could keep the engine in its optimum power band. Like the Ford, a five-speed gearbox would do wonders to help close the performance gap.

In addition to falling behind when it came to overall speed, the Chevy has also lost much of its edge in the ride comfort and handling category that it used to dominate. It still feels nimble in day-to-day driving, but the steering that was acceptably numb in previous years now feels hopelessly vague compared to the sharper setups in the Dodge and Ford trucks. The ride quality isn't rough by any means, but more than one editor noted that it seemed to bounce and hop over bumps more so than the other trucks. Braking was also a sore point, as the pickup turned in some of the longest stops of the group at the track.

During our off-road excursion, the Chevrolet Silverado sucked up the rough terrain better than we expected. The optional Z71 package adds heavy-duty shocks and sturdier bump stops, but there were still times when it bounced uncontrollably over washboard ruts. We liked the fact that it offered an "Auto" mode for the transfer case for varying terrain, but we would have liked to have better compression braking on downhill sections when in low range. Ground clearance was never an issue as it tackled our rock-strewn hill-climb course without scraping its skid plates.

It might seem hard to believe that the Silverado's fortunes could fall so fast, but consider it a testament to the improved competition more than a combination of glaring deficiencies. The 2004 Chevrolet Silverado isn't seriously lacking in any one area, but it doesn't excel in any, either. If you drove this truck and nothing else, you probably wouldn't have much of a problem with it, but our reality was much different. Drive it back-to-back with its peers and this Chevy's age becomes all too obvious. A redesign is on the way for 2007 and there's no doubt that the Chevy Silverado will come back bigger and better in every way, but until then, it will have to suffer in the face of more modern and powerful rivals that make it feel like the 20th-century pickup that it is.

Second Opinions:

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
This truck came in a strong second during our 2000 Full-Size Truck Comparison Test, but like most automotive segments these days, four years might as well be 40 years. Since that test, the Ford and Dodge entries have been redesigned, Toyota has introduced a Tundra crew cab and Nissan has flashed onto the scene with the Titan. The Silverado has seen only modest upgrades in those four years.

Not surprisingly, of all the trucks in the test, the Chevy felt the oldest and least refined. The steering is too slow and too light for my taste. The brakes feel like something from the last millennia (which technically they are), and even its drivetrain — usually a GM strongpoint — couldn't compete with the Titan or Ram. When loaded with our 6,000-pound trailer, the Chevy pulled the slowest quarter-mile times, even slower than the Tundra's.

Other items, like the interior materials and exterior styling, didn't add to the Chevy's desirability, though it does have a better rear seat than the Dodge and it performed relatively well off-road. Bottom line, the segment has gotten more competitive while the Silverado has simply gotten older. Time for a redesign.

Road Test Editor Brian Moody says:
This truck has long been my favorite. The Silverado has always been my "go to" truck when it comes to comfort, power, styling and value. It's hard for me to admit it, but I think the Silverado has slipped. I firmly believe that trucks like the Titan and F-150 are now better in many ways.

I still like the Chevy's engine for its powerful refinement, but the Titan's feels stronger. In everyday driving conditions, the Silverado feels stronger and faster than the F-150, but under a heavy load or more demanding circumstances, it's the Ford that comes out on top. The F-150 also offers a more carlike ride and is better-looking. One thing the Silverado does well is offer ample rear-seat room. Although the overall length of the Silverado makes it cumbersome in some driving situations, as well as off-road, the extra room in back is appreciated.

Ford's recent redesign of the F-150 improved that truck by leaps and bounds. Let's hope Chevy can do the same. The current Silverado is still a fine truck but newer versions of the Ram and F-150, plus the addition of the Titan, make the Silverado seem a bit behind.

Fourth Place: 2004 Toyota Tundra

Unlike the Nissan Titan that was built to go head-to-head with the full-size domestics, the Toyota Tundra has always appealed to buyers who didn't need the biggest and baddest truck on the block. In return for its slightly smaller size, the Tundra offered carlike handling and a level of refinement rarely found in a truck. The introduction of the 2004 Toyota Tundra Double Cab tweaked that formula slightly by giving the truck a bigger cab in nearly every dimension and a longer bed than typical crew cabs. It was an attempt to close the gap between the Toyota Tundra and its full-size competitors, but as we found out during our rigorous testing, it's still a lightweight in the world of good ol' "American" pickups.

With an MSRP of $35,047, our Toyota Tundra test truck barely edged out the Nissan for the lowest window sticker of the group. Its "bargain" price didn't keep it from showing up with a cab full of options, however, as the truck was loaded with everything from the TRD off-road package to a rear-seat DVD player. It had the feel of the more expensive trucks like the Dodge and the Chevrolet, but it suffered much less when it came to tallying up the final scores.

The pickup ultimately lost most of its points in the performance and personal picks categories. While the latter is a highly subjective category based purely on our editors' individual tastes or lack thereof, the former is the ultimate in objective results gained from precise instrumented testing. After all the numbers were crunched, one thing was obvious — if you want big truck power, the Toyota Tundra doesn't have it.

What it does have is a big weight advantage over the other trucks, thus allowing it to beat out the aging Chevy Silverado in nearly every category and keep pace with the Ford F-150 up to 60 mph. Its standard 4.7-liter V8 is only rated to produce 240 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque, but a shorter rear end gear than the standard model and a quick-shifting transmission gave it a more athletic feel than we expected. That quickness faded, however, when we hitched up our trailer and piled three passengers into the cab. It still turned in competitive numbers at the track, but during our hill-climb test, the Tundra was the only truck that failed to maintain steady acceleration all the way up the grade.

A track category that it did manage to dominate was speed through the slalom, a test that rewards smaller, nimbler vehicles with precise steering. It's unlikely that you'll ever push any truck as hard as we did through the cones, but there's something to be said for a truck that can handle itself so well during such evasive handling maneuvers. The Tundra also turned in the shortest stopping distance from 60 mph, but we were less impressed by that feat after it revealed massive fade during repeated hard stops.

The Tundra's predictable manners at the track translated into an extremely likable truck on the street. For better or worse, the Tundra has plenty of Camry in it when you're just puttering around town. "This is the truck I would want to drive if I had to use one of these monsters everyday," one editor wrote, while another lamented that although he loved the power of the Dodge, "the Tundra delivers the kind of refined driving experience that makes me think I would prefer it in the long run." With the help of its optional off-road package, the Tundra battled the Titan for top honors in the dirt as well. Its tight, well-controlled suspension and smaller size translated into a feeling of confidence in the rough stuff that most editors found reassuring.

While the Tundra's ride and handling earned it high marks all around, its aging interior design was met with a less enthusiastic reaction that landed it at the bottom of the pack. "This is the part that I wish didn't feel so much like a Camry," was the comment from one editor. Most agreed that it was functional in nature but bland in appearance and feel. The front seats were considered the least comfortable in the test while the rear bench offered ample space but poor seat comfort. Although the Toyota Tundra is as wide on the outside as the other four trucks, its lack of shoulder space on the inside gives it a more restrictive feel than any of the other competitors.

When it came to features and overall utility, the Toyota Tundra fared a little better. Other than the Titan, the Tundra was the only other truck to offer stability control as an option, although that feature can't be coupled with its off-road package. A trick roll-down rear window was one feature that most editors found useful mainly due to its ability to draw fresh air into the cabin better than the smaller rear window openings on the other trucks. The pickup also scored points for its larger cargo bed that comes in over half-a-foot longer than those of most full-size crew cabs. As one editor observed, "If you're going to get a full-size truck, you might as well have a bed that's big enough to haul stuff in."

Clearly, the 2004 Toyota Tundra still doesn't have the big-truck credentials needed to displace the biggest and brawniest pickups in the segment, but as always it does offer a compelling combination of capability and refinement that will entice non-traditional truck buyers. It didn't leave quite the same impression as the all-conquering Titan, but neither did most of its competitors. With Toyota gearing up to build an even bigger and better full-size truck within the next couple of years, the Tundra's days of playing the undersize import are numbered. Until then, it will have to concede to the big boys and play to those who want full-size dimensions without full-size attitude.

Second Opinions:

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
Toyota gets credit for doing what only Toyota can do. The company has managed to put four-wheel drive, a crew cab, an open bed and a V8 engine into a vehicle without actually creating a truck. Oh sure, the company calls it a truck, and it certainly looks like a truck. In some ways, it even performs like a truck. But hopping from the F-150, Ram, Silverado or Titan into the Tundra is like hopping from a horse and buggy into a luxury sedan. The Tundra is easily the most carlike truck in this segment.

That's great if you're a truck buyer who doesn't really need a truck, and if I was in that position, this vehicle would be my first choice. The problem is that if I'm buying a full-size truck, I sure as hell better need a full-size truck. If I don't, then I'm shopping the Dodge Dakota or, if my tow/haul needs are really low, a Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot. With a 6,500-pound max towing capacity and a V8 engine that tops out — as well as starts — at 4.7 liters, the Tundra doesn't have the muscle to compete with the other players here. This was apparent when we hooked up 6,000 pounds' worth of car and trailer to it and wondered if the Toyota was going to actually move when we prodded the gas (it did…sort of).

The big "T" started by dipping its toenail into the full-size truck category with the T100 in 1993. With the Tundra, I'd say the company is up to its kneecaps. But this is a category that demands a full-body dunk (à la Nissan) if you want to be taken seriously. Until Toyota gets serious, the Tundra will remain a very pleasant (and very second-tier) player.

Road Test Editor Brian Moody says:
The Tundra is such a mixed bag that I almost don't believe it belongs in the same class as trucks like the Dodge Ram or Chevrolet Silverado. And at the same time, its good points are so good it comes out as better than most on paper.

The truck is too small. Inside, the driving position was uncomfortable and I felt as if I could never get the driver seat back far enough. On the other hand, its small size makes it a hero off-road. The Tundra is so smooth and calm both on- and off-road that I believe comfort and all-around usability are why full-size truck customers choose the Tundra. I also found it odd that some of the interior materials were of lower quality than other Toyota products. The ergonomics are also lacking — Ford and Chevy have a better dash design. I don't like the Tundra's exterior design, either; it looks too generic.

The Tundra's V8 is a huge bright spot. The motor is smooth and peppy with just enough of an exhaust note to let you know it's there. While the Tundra is probably the best truck of the bunch for everyday use, it falls short when more serious towing or hauling duties are required. For me, the Tundra would be perfect as a family car that can also do double duty when it comes time to make a run to Lowe's for home improvement supplies.

Third Place: Ford F-150 SuperCrew XLT

Third place might seem like a disappointing finish for a truck that won our last comparison, but a quick look at the numbers reveals that the Ford F-150 came in a close third to the second-place Dodge. As close as they finished, however, the F-150 and the Ram displayed very different personalities. Both had their strong points but neither managed to outgun the mighty Titan.

Fully redesigned, the 2004 Ford F-150 came into this test sporting an all-new engine, heavily revised suspension and a completely revamped interior. Our particular test truck was a midgrade Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew with a standard array of options — in other words, it wasn't some big-dollar press fleet truck, it was your typical high-volume model. Unlike the Silverado and the Ram, the F-150 came in at a more reasonable $35,295, just slightly more than the Nissan and Toyota. With so much going for it, the Ford F-150 seemed like the truck to beat at first, but subsequent miles behind the wheel revealed that although the Ford F-150 excelled in several areas, it fell a little flat in others.

The Ford puts its best foot forward out on the highway, as almost every editor remarked on how quiet and composed it was at speed. "This thing is a cruise missile on wide-open roads. You have to watch your speed closely, as this truck will do 85 with barely a trace of wind or road noise," one driver wrote. The Ford's ride quality earned similar praise for its ability to isolate bumps without feeling overly soft. "The Ford's setup makes for an easy commute; stiff enough to keep you in control but not so firm that it's ever uncomfortable." During our backcountry trip, the Ford F-150 kept its composure over most terrain but washboard trails tended to overwhelm the shocks quickly. Its low-range gearing did an excellent job of maintaining low speeds on steep descents and the precise steering made for easy maneuvering in tight spots.

Not so impressive was the performance of the truck's powertrain. Its new 5.4-liter Triton V8 is rated at a solid 300 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque, but its track numbers were well behind that of the front-runners. With an unloaded 0-to-60-mph time of 9.5 seconds, the Ford F-150 was tied with the Toyota Tundra and almost two full seconds slower than the Nissan Titan. Disappointed Ford fans might point out that these are trucks, not sports cars, but we're guessing that Ford F-150 drivers face the prospect of accelerating to highway speeds from a stop more often than they go around pulling 9,500-pound (the Ford's best-in-class maximum) trailers. When the truck was saddled with a trailer and three passengers, it took 20.2 seconds to hit 60, nearly 3.5 seconds slower than the Titan (16.8). It also turned in the longest stopping distance from 60 mph at 145 feet, roughly 10 feet farther than either the Dodge or Nissan.

Why the mediocre numbers from what looks to be a competitive engine? Weight is one issue, as the Ford F-150 tipped the scales 161 pounds heavier than the next weightiest truck (the Titan) and over 500 pounds heavier than the Tundra. Another issue is the use of a four-speed transmission instead of a more flexible five-speed. Both the Dodge and the Nissan use five-speeds to keep their engines in the heart of their power curves, while the Ford's V8 is often left dragging at engine speeds that are too low to make adequate power. When climbing a 7 percent grade on our test loop, the Ford F-150 pulled strongly in second gear, but when it dropped into third its momentum vanished and it struggled to build speed the rest of the way up the hill.

The Ford was also hit-or-miss when it came to its interior. Most praised the pickup for its modern design and spacious layout, but a few found its new look just adequate. "Considering all of the hoopla made about the F-150's new interior design, the XLT version isn't exactly awe-inspiring," one editor wrote. Overall interior space is excellent both up front and in back, but the Ford received only average scores when it came to seat comfort.

Storage space and feature content were two more areas where the Ford F-150 earned only average scores. The fold-down center console is only about half the size of the ones found in the Dodge and Nissan trucks, and although the Ford's innovative overhead track system allows you to add more compartments as needed, our particular truck only had one. Folding up the rear seats takes little effort, but you're greeted with a load floor obstructed by the tire jack — even the six-year-old Chevy Silverado had that one figured out. On the features side, the Ford F-150 lost points for not even offering side airbags, stability control, rear A/C vents or any of the Nissan's utilitarian enhancements. The F-150's assisted tailgate feature was appreciated by most, but not to the point where it was considered a must-have.

Though it might seem as if the Ford went underappreciated in this test, the exact opposite was true. Several editors agreed that they liked the Ford F-150 more after driving it back-to-back with the competition. Between its easy-to-drive character, quiet cabin and clean design, the pickup earned considerable praise. "I think this truck would appeal to the average buyer as much, if not more so, than it does to the hard-core 'truck guy' buyer," one editor noted. We're not sure if that's what Ford was hoping for, but if the more aggressive personalities of the Dodge and Nissan aren't what you're after, the 2004 Ford F-150 could very well be the truck for you.

Second Opinions:

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
The best-selling vehicle on the planet got a redesign this year, and with the amount of pressure riding on this F-150 to lead the Blue Oval boys' revival, it had better deliver. My initial impressions of the F-150 were lukewarm at best. I liked the ride quality, the steering felt pretty good and the exterior styling was a vast improvement. But for a vehicle this vital to the company's future, well frankly, I was expecting more. Or maybe less, because my biggest issue with the F-150 was the fact that it gained between 500 and 800 pounds this year (depending on body style and trim). I don't care how creative your engineering team is, that kind of weight hurts performance and fuel mileage (not to mention anything unlucky enough to get in this truck's path). I was also surprised by Ford's lack of vision in offering no side airbags or truly innovative features (the tailgate leverage bar doesn't really count in my book).

However, while I'm not ready to reverse my opinion on the all-new F-150, driving it back-to-back against the competition highlighted a few facts that I was only vaguely aware of before the test. The ride and steering that seemed pretty good to me? It's probably the best in the segment. The steering is particularly impressive with both its tight feel and "just right" weighting. I was also happy to see that, in spite of its massive weight gain this year, the F-150 was not the slowest truck in the field (either with or without a 6,000-pound trailer being pulled). It also performed well when off-roading (once again, despite its large size and weight).

Does this mean I'm ready to rename the F-150 as my personal "Most Wanted" truck? Nope. It's still too slow, even with the 5.4-liter engine (and I personally can't imagine what it would be like with the standard 4.6-liter V8, but I'm sure I wouldn't like it). I also want side airbags and maybe even four-wheel steering and rear doors on the extended cab that open nearly 180 degrees. It may seem like I'm stealing cool feature ideas from other trucks. I am, just like Ford should have during the F-150's redesign. Isn't that the whole point of a redesign? Take the cool ideas from all of your competitors and put them together in one vehicle? I guess that's what I was expecting from the new F-150.

Photography Editor Scott Jacobs says:
Ford's styling guru J Mays works his magic with another classically great-looking design. The F-150's symmetrical lines and athletic proportions give this truck a touch of panache that its competition doesn't have. It unfortunately has bulked up for the new season, as it gains 800 pounds over its predecessor. Those pounds hurt the throaty V8 churning under its massive hood, as it feels sluggish and unresponsive in comparison to the Titan or Ram. The weight gain hasn't hurt its capability, however, as it has a class-leading 9,500-pound towing capacity. Performance aside, the beautiful interior and comfortable ride will surely soothe tired workers at the end of the day, or help make those long trips to the lake on the weekends enjoyable.

Though the F-150 is an all-around solid choice, as a completely redesigned entrant to the segment, it does not stand out as a clear-cut winner. Most of its attributes are matched by older designs that will soon be replaced by even more capable trucks. Keeping par doesn't win championships.

Second Place: 2004 Dodge Ram

Who would have imagined that a long-gone muscle car engine would reemerge in the 21st century as a punch line to sell pickups? The clever Dodge marketing campaign built around the Hemi V8 engine did just that and made the 2004 Dodge Ram the most famous half-ton truck on the market. But what happens when the Dodge Ram goes up against some real competition instead of two local yokels in a clapped-out Buick?

More often than not, the Dodge made good on its promise of serious performance. It may have been beat out on paper by the Nissan Titan, but when it came to seat-of-the-pants observations, the performance of the Dodge Ram impressed every driver who got behind the wheel. More than just raw power, the truck also delivered precise road feel, tight handling and a sharp interior. In the end, a cramped backseat, steep price tag and lack of innovative features dropped the Ram to second place, but it was a truck that left more than one editor wondering if he really needed that extra room in back.

Our test truck was a loaded Dodge Ram SLT Quad Cab that included just about every option and feature on the checklist. Not only did this make for an expensive truck, it also added a few options we might have left off had it been our choice. Most notable among these were the 20-inch wheels and tires. They may have made the truck look good on the street, but they put it at a disadvantage at the track, allowing the Nissan to run away with virtually every acceleration category. The Dodge Ram turned in solid braking and slalom numbers, however, so its track performance wasn't completely offset by the more cumbersome rolling stock.

During less structured driving conditions, the Ram proved to be every bit as entertaining as the Titan. Plant the pedal in this truck and you get instant gratification, thanks to the ample power of the Hemi V8 and quick reactions from the five-speed automatic transmission. Passing on the highway is effortless and the steering feel of the Ram rivals that of some sport sedans. When loaded down with our 6,000-pound trailer, the Ram powered up the grade with a faster top speed than even the mighty Titan could manage.

A few editors panned the truck for its stiff ride in day-to-day commuting, but here again the low-profile street tires were the likeliest culprit. During our off-road excursion, the Ram's taut ride made for plenty of teeth-grinding jolts over rough terrain, but the tires did manage to maintain good grip even in the soft, sandy washes. While negotiating more difficult terrain, we were a little disappointed that the Ram's low-range gears did little to help slow the big truck down while descending steep slopes, and the lack of a two-wheel-drive setting for the transfer case bars any tail-swinging, rally-style fun.

Given that the Dodge Ram was going head-to-head against three all-new trucks (Ford, Nissan and Toyota), the fact that its interior design and materials scored so well was surprising. "I never remember thinking of the Ram's interior as its strong point before, but after driving all five trucks I think it might be the best-looking interior here," one editor wrote. Build quality was excellent as another editor noted, and "the overall look of the cabin reflects its elevated price point."

Like the Nissan, the Dodge Ram feels huge up front with more than enough leg-, head- and shoulder room for even the biggest drivers. Its upgraded multiadjustable leather seats weren't rated as highly as the Silverado's, but most editors felt that the driving position was more natural than the Titan's. The interior layout is the most traditional of all the trucks with a straightforward gauge cluster, dual-zone manual climate control and Chrysler's standard stereo head unit. As in the Nissan, the Ram's center console is big enough for just about all of your loose belongings, which is good since there's not an abundance of available storage space otherwise. Side curtain airbags are a stand-alone option for enhanced safety, but stability control is not offered.

If there was one thing that held the Dodge Ram back from challenging the Nissan Titan more effectively, it was the lack of room in the rear seat. Contrary to what you might think from its exterior design, the Dodge Ram is more of a four-door extended cab than a true full-size crew cab. Put two adults in back and their knees are sure to be brushing the backs of the front seats regardless of their size. The seats themselves aren't bad and they fold up to reveal a trick fold-out storage tray, but if you're going to buy a crew cab, you might as well get one with seats that are big enough to be useful.

The Dodge Ram presented an interesting situation in that several editors noted that although they personally liked the pickup the best, they couldn't overlook some of its shortcomings when it came to handing out their recommendations. A few cited its good looks as part of their attraction, while most said that the power of the Hemi engine and the sleek style of the interior were its most compelling features. Needless to say, with a slightly more accommodating cab, smaller wheels and a more attainable price tag, the 2004 Dodge Ram might have given the Titan a more legitimate run for its money.

Second Opinions:

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:
Going into this test I wasn't sure which truck I would like the best, but the Dodge seemed to have all the right ingredients. I already knew I liked its styling and drivetrain better than the other competitors', and I was pretty sure it had the best ride and handling characteristics. I also knew it had available side curtain airbags, the segment's best warranty and one of the largest interiors. It seemed to me (at least going in) that the Ram would be tough to beat.

What I learned during the test was that while the Ram has the most responsive steering, it doesn't have the best overall steering or ride qualities (Ford gets that). And while it has a large interior, it actually has the weakest second-row seat in terms of space and ease of entry, because the rear door is so thin (though Dodge does get points for making these rear doors open to 90 degrees). In terms of rear seating, both the Ford and Nissan are far better. Also, seat comfort in the Dodge was nothing to write home about — once again the Ford and Nissan are superior in this area.

When all was said and done, the Ram remained my second favorite truck because of its excellent drivetrain, available side curtain airbags and segment-leading style (plus, the overall ride and handling qualities are still superb, even if they aren't quite industry benchmarks anymore). If Dodge could address the lackluster rear seat on the crew cab models, and maybe throw in some innovative features (like a factory spray-in bedliner or exterior cargo compartments in the bed), I'd move it back into my number-one spot. For now it's a strong runner-up that, depending on the incentives in any given week, might still earn my hard-earned dollars.

Photo Editor Scott Jacobs says:
If I were to buy a truck purely on looks alone, the Dodge Ram would be my choice without hesitation. It exudes moxie with its 16-wheeler-styled hood and grille, chunky proportions and a mean-sounding engine. Add on the chrome wheels wrapped with massive tires and this thing's dominating presence is hard to ignore. The love that swept me off my feet wasn't meant to last long, however. I fell back to earth with its disappointingly basic interior. I'm a stickler for nice interiors and I've liked what's happened to the redesigned Dodge/Chrysler vehicles debuting this year. I just wish those tastefully styled and sumptuously appointed interiors would make their way into the Ram lineup.

Looks aside, this is a powerful, capable and fun-to-drive truck. I don't know if I'd say that it's the ideal work truck, but it'll easily tow your boat, haul your latest purchases at Home Depot and thrill you with its stoplight tire-smoking.

First Place: 2004 Nissan Titan

The 2004 Nissan Titan didn't just win this test, it ran away with it. Such a result might seem like an improbable upset, but the numbers speak for themselves. It cleaned up at the test track, had the second lowest sticker price, offered the most desirable features and was every editor's number-one recommended pick. This wasn't the case of an upstart contender putting together a few key assets to slip into first place. No, this was the story of a truck that was built to beat the domestics at their own game and succeeded.

To see how the Nissan Titan pulled off the win, look no further than its performance at the test track. Truck owners love to talk numbers and the truck turned in top results in nearly every category. Its 0-to-60-mph time of 7.7 seconds was a full half second ahead of the second-place Dodge Ram, and when it was loaded down with a 6,000-pound trailer and three passengers, it extended its lead over the Ram to nearly three seconds (16.8 vs. 19.5). Test notes revealed that the Nissan Titan got off the line faster than every other truck in the test, unloaded or not, and maintained a strong, virtually uninterrupted pull thanks to seamless shifts from its five-speed gearbox.

Speed against the clock is one thing, but real-world performance is another, and the Nissan didn't disappoint there, either. With the trailer hooked up and the same full load of passengers on board, it powered its way up a 7 percent grade faster than every other truck except the Dodge (the Ram managed a slightly higher top speed up the same pass). When there isn't three tons of trailer slowing it down, the Nissan Titan literally tears around city streets with a level of speed and sound matched only by the Ram's equally powerful Hemi engine. One editor summed up the Titan's burly character with this simple observation: "After years of driving trucks designed to feel like cars, the Titan reminds you of what a real truck is supposed to feel like."

The Titan proved to be equally adept where there were no streets, as it was generally regarded as the most capable truck in the dirt as well. Not only did its heavy-duty shocks and oversized tires do a great job of keeping the big truck on track, but it also showed more subtle capabilities like manual gear selection for the automatic transmission and ultralow transfer case gears that slowed it to a crawl even on the steepest descents. Our early-production truck didn't have it, but the Titan will also add a push-button rear differential locker to its off-road repertoire later in the model year. Four-wheel enthusiasts should also note that while Nissan offers its off-road package on all trim levels of the Titan, both Dodge and Ford force you into the higher-line crew cab models before it's even an option.

As rough and tough as the Nissan Titan may be on the outside, it has all the comfort and convenience features you would expect on the inside along with enough space to fit up to six adults with ease. The bench seat up front is wide and flat but still comfortable, while the rear seats won top honors by offering outstanding leg- and headroom along with a relaxed seat back angle and a fold-down armrest with cupholders. Interior storage is another strongpoint as it features a massive center console with adjustable compartments and a 12-volt power point, five overhead storage bins and sizable door pockets. Should you need to carry bulkier cargo inside, the Titan's rear seats flip up to reveal a flat, unobstructed load floor that swallows bigger items without a hitch.

The pickup also scored big when it came to feature content, as it offers several unique options that we considered more than just gimmicks. On the safety side, the Nissan Titan was the only truck in the test with electronic stability control and, although our truck wasn't equipped with them, side and head curtain airbags are also an option. We also liked the fact that the Nissan had standard one-touch up and down front windows for both the driver and front passenger, as well as power-adjustable pedals that help shorter drivers find a comfortable seating position.

On the practical side, the Titan's optional utility package puts together a spray-in bedliner, adjustable tie-down points and a lighted tailgate area, among other things, to give it a level of functionality you can't get on the competition. The spray-in bedliner not only looks better than your typical plastic drop-in job, it also has a non-slip surface and will never trap water underneath the surface that might lead to rust. Why it has taken so long for adjustable tie-down points to make their way into trucks is beyond us, but Nissan did it right with heavy-duty anchors that are easy to adjust without tools. Tailgate lighting is another useful feature we thought we would see sooner. Traditional cargo lights at the top of the cab are nice, but ask anyone who has fumbled with cargo on the tailgate at night and they'll tell you that a dinky light six feet away doesn't help much. The small lights integrated into the bed where the tailgate latches puts light right where you really need it. As if all that wasn't enough, there's also a 12-volt power point on the inside of the bed and a lockable exterior storage box, too.

Such overachievement pretty much sums up the Nissan Titan. The company knew that in order to get traditional domestic buyers to even consider its truck it had to be more than just competitive, it had to be better. After back-to-back testing, there's no doubt that the 2004 Nissan Titan often exceeds its peers when it comes to delivering big truck power, real-world capability and everyday comfort. It may not have traditional looks, 17 different trim levels or a long-standing heritage as an American icon, but if you're looking for the most capable half-ton pickup on the market, the Nissan Titan is your truck.

Second Opinions:

Editor in Chief Karl Brauer says:

If someone had told me five years ago that Nissan would be offering a fully competitive full-size truck in 2004, I wouldn't have believed them. If they had also said I'd like the truck more than the contemporary Ford, Chevy or Dodge offerings, I would have called the men with ink blots and straight jackets. But here it is 2004, and Nissan's Titan is the Edmunds.com Most Wanted Full-Size Truck, and the truck I would spend my own money on.

How has the company that many experts were writing off five years ago managed to beat the domestics at "their" own game? Simple. It created a full-size truck with class-leading power, features, comfort and ride quality. The Titan was the quickest truck in our test, even when towing a trailer. The true truck guys out there may wonder how this import upstart can beat the Ford when the F-150 has a higher tow rating. But as we all know, tow ratings are like horsepower figures — they make for great bragging rights but what really matters is how well the vehicle performs in real-world testing. The F-150's higher tow rating didn't stop the Titan from cleaning the Ford's clock when it was time to pull 6,000 pounds through the quarter-mile and up a steep highway pass.

Ride quality and interior design are also a strong point in the Ford (and Dodge), but the Nissan is right there in both areas while trumping the Ram and F-150 with cool features like a spray-in bedliner, doors that open 180 degrees (on the extended cab), available side airbags and excellent interior (and exterior) storage compartments. If the Ford were lighter and/or more powerful, or if the Dodge had a better rear seat and some of the Nissan's cool features, it would be a much tighter race; but the Ford isn't light or fast, and the Dodge has a weak rear seat and too few innovations.

Watch out, Big Three, the imports are turning their sights on the truck market….

Road Test Editor Brian Moody says:
This is a really great truck. The Titan is not only great for a first effort, but it is just plain terrific overall. I'm starting to warm up to the style, but it's still not my favorite-looking truck. The interior is nice and well laid-out. There are quality materials throughout and seats are super comfy, but there's still too much hard plastic for me.

As far as power is concerned, the Dodge and Nissan feel really great off the line. Nissan has done its homework with this truck and the result is a really great truck that can easily run with the big names like Ford and Chevy. I love the exhaust note — it could get tiring on a long trip, but the engine sounds so good.

The interior is remarkably quiet, and the ride quality is just between the stiff Dodge and the more refined Ford. I like this truck and the F-150 about the same, but I would probably go with the Nissan thanks to the engine and huge backseat.

Stereo Evaluation: 2004 Toyota Tundra

System Score: 9.0

Components: The optional JBL premium audio system consists of eight speakers, a 3-in-1 (AM/FM, CD player and cassette) head unit and an auxiliary power amp. It's one of the few systems that still offers a cassette player, so if you still have a few of those Men At Work tapes laying around this setup will do the trick. The head unit is the standard Toyota corporate face with a relatively well-spaced layout and straightforward controls. Satellite steering wheel controls complete the setup, although their positioning keeps them from being all that useful.

Performance: Like the Infinity system in the Dodge, the Tundra's JBL setup excels when it comes to delivering clean, undistorted sound at just about any volume level. The A-pillar-mounted tweeters deliver the highs without interference while the bass from the full-range door speakers is tight and clean. Neither the Tundra nor the Dodge can out-thump the big sub in the Titan, but as we listened to the full range of sound reproduced by this fine JBL system, we rarely missed the hard-hitting Rockford thunder.

Best Feature: Clean sound from A-pillar tweeters.

Worst Feature: Satellite controls could be easier to reach.

Conclusion: Not the most powerful system you can get in a truck, but its clean sound will rarely disappoint. — Ed Hellwig

Stereo Evaluation: 2004 Ford F-150 SuperCrew XLT

System Score: 7.0

Components: Our test truck had the standard audio system upgraded with the in-dash six-disc CD changer. The system consists of four full-range speakers and Ford's new corporate head unit.

Performance: Given the fact that this system is essentially a completely stock unit, save the CD changer, we considered its performance above average. You don't get the crisp, clear highs that separate tweeters in the dash deliver and the woofers fail to keep up much past two-thirds volume, but keep it to moderate volume levels and the door-mounted speakers manage to produce a solid dynamic range that most buyers will find satisfying. The head unit is nicely spaced, but could use a little improvement in the labeling department. We also missed having a tuning knob and could do without the retro green LED readout.

Best Feature: Solid sound for a stock system.

Worst Feature: Head unit lacks labels and a proper tuning knob.

Conclusion: Not a bad setup for a stocker, but anybody who likes their music loud will want to upgrade to the optional Audiophile system. — Ed Hellwig

Stereo Evaluation: 2004 Dodge Ram

System Score: 9.0

Components: The upgraded Infinity audio system in our test truck consisted of upward-firing dash tweeters, two 6.5-inch midrange speakers in the front doors, two 5.25-inch midrange drivers in the rear doors and Chrysler's usual almost DIN-sized head unit. Steering wheel satellite controls on the front and back of the wheel make for easy hands-on adjustments.

Performance: This was the cleanest-sounding system of all the trucks in the test. Crank it into high gear and you can enjoy distortion-free music regardless of how deep the bass goes or how high the cymbals crash. We found the sound stage up front to be more clearly defined than in the Nissan, allowing crisp vocals to come through with more depth. We've never been fans of Chrysler's standard head unit as it crowds too many buttons together and doesn't provide a tuning knob, but the satellite controls are still the best around.

Best Feature: Perfectly placed satellite controls.

Worst Feature: Clumsy head unit controls.

Conclusion: This system might surprise truck owners with its clarity and all-around performance. — Ed Hellwig

Stereo Evaluation: 2004 Nissan Titan

System Score: 9.0

Components: The optional Rockford Fosgate sound system consists of an in-dash six-disc CD changer, 350-watt amplifier and 10 speakers sprinkled throughout the massive cabin. The dash-mounted tweeters fire straight up and off the windshield, while the subwoofer resides under the driver seat for maximum effect. The head unit features a well-spaced layout, good-sized controls and useful steering wheel satellite controls that make quick changes easy. This is a straightforward system that requires little or no familiarization in order to find what you're looking for.

Performance: This system attacks you with a wall of sound that will satisfy even the most power-hungry customers. With plenty of juice to spare, the Rockford system can be cranked up to headache-inducing levels without ever clipping stuff off the top. The subwoofer thumps out only the lowest of the low frequencies, so those not used to "real" bass might find it a bit disconcerting at first. The three dash-mounted tweeters don't produce as accurate a sound stage as their A-pillar-mounted counterparts, but the overall sound is still well above average for a full-size truck.

Best Feature: More power than your ears can handle.

Worst Feature: Rockford Fosgate system only available as part of a $1,700 option package.

Conclusion: A powerful, well-rounded system that will only lose points with the most discerning audiophiles. — Ed Hellwig

Conclusion

Going into this test, there was no clear favorite. Given the fact that all five trucks were either all new or recently refreshed, every truck had a legitimate shot at the top spot. As the test progressed, the top three finishers showed signs of dominance in several areas, but the final standings were still very much up in the air until the final scoring was calculated.

As close as the trucks may have seemed on the road, the numbers revealed a runaway victory for the Nissan Titan. This wasn't much of a surprise given its impressive track times and reasonable price, but the Titan came through with more than just raw power. It also delivered the most comfortable rear seats, massive interior storage and a comprehensive array of optional safety equipment. Add in its impressive ability in the dirt and a bed system that's not only innovative but truly useful, and the Titan scored a well-deserved first-place finish.

Second and third places weren't so cut and dry. With the Dodge and Ford finishing so close together, choosing between one or the other depends on what you're looking for in a full-size truck. The Dodge gives you lots of attitude, a neck-snapping Hemi power plant and an expansive interior that's solidly built. The Ford serves up a refined ride, silent cabin and a clean design with broad appeal. You're not likely to be disappointed with either truck, but their divergent personalities make test-driving them a necessity.

As it has so many times before, the Toyota Tundra proved to be a likable truck that will do the trick for those who don't need ultimate capability. It's refined on the street, nimble off-road and big enough in back to handle most daily chores.

The Silverado showed some signs of aging in this test. Its once-dominant V8 is now a midpack engine and the interior is still as dated as ever. However, loyal GM fans will find that it still satisfies for just about everything except the most rigorous chores.

With all that said, we had to choose a winner and the Titan was the hands-down favorite. The idea that a Japanese truck could beat the domestics at their own game might have seemed far-fetched just a few years ago, but the Nissan laid that notion to rest with a truck that competes on every level with the best from Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford. It's not perfect by any means, but after this test, we can say with confidence that the Nissan Titan is the best half-ton crew cab truck you can buy.

Evaluation - Drive
Evaluation - Ride
Evaluation - Design
Evaluation - Cargo/Passenger Space

Evaluation - Drive

Engine Performance
Vehicle Score Rank
Dodge Ram 9.8 1
Nissan Titan 9.3 2
Ford F-150 7.8 3
Chevrolet Silverado 7.3 4
Toyota Tundra 6.5 5
Transmission
Vehicle Score Rank
Nissan Titan 8.3 1
Toyota Tundra 8.0 2
Chevrolet Silverado 7.8 3(t)
Dodge Ram 7.8 3(t)
Ford F-150 7.3 5
Braking
Vehicle Score Rank
Dodge Ram 8.3 1(t)
Nissan Titan 8.3 1(t)
Toyota Tundra 8.0 3
Ford F-150 7.8 4
Chevrolet Silverado 6.5 5
Suspension
Vehicle Score Rank
Nissan Titan 9.0 1
Toyota Tundra 8.5 2
Ford F-150 8.3 3
Dodge Ram 8.0 4
Chevrolet Silverado 6.5 5
Tires
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 7.8 1(t)
Dodge Ram 7.8 1(t)
Ford F-150 7.8 1(t)
Nissan Titan 7.8 1(t)
Toyota Tundra 7.8 1(t)
Steering
Vehicle Score Rank
Dodge Ram 9.5 1
Ford F-150 8.5 2(t)
Nissan Titan 8.5 2(t)
Toyota Tundra 8.3 4
Chevrolet Silverado 7.8 5
Visibility
Vehicle Score Rank
Ford F-150 9.0 1
Chevrolet Silverado 8.8 2
Toyota Tundra 8.3 3
Dodge Ram 8.0 4
Nissan Titan 6.8 5
Fun to Drive
Vehicle Score Rank
Dodge Ram 9.0 1
Nissan Titan 9.0 1
Ford F-150 7.8 3
Chevrolet Silverado 6.8 4(t)
Toyota Tundra 6.8 4(t)

Evaluation - Ride

Seat Comfort Front
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 8.5 1
Nissan Titan 8.3 2
Dodge Ram 7.8 3
Ford F-150 7.5 4
Toyota Tundra 6.3 5
Seat Comfort Rear
Vehicle Score Rank
Nissan Titan 9.3 1
Chevrolet Silverado 8.0 2
Ford F-150 7.8 3
Toyota Tundra 7.0 4
Dodge Ram 6.0 5
Wind & Road Noise
Vehicle Score Rank
Ford F-150 9.3 1
Toyota Tundra 8.5 2
Chevrolet Silverado 8.3 3
Dodge Ram 8.0 4
Nissan Titan 7.3 5
Rattles & Squeaks
Vehicle Score Rank
Dodge Ram 9.3 1
Toyota Tundra 8.5 2
Chevrolet Silverado 7.5 3
Ford F-150 7.5 4
Nissan Titan 7.0 5

Evaluation - Design

Interior Design
Vehicle Score Rank
Ford F-150 8.8 1
Dodge Ram 8.5 2
Nissan Titan 8.0 3
Chevrolet Silverado 6.8 4
Toyota Tundra 6.5 5
Interior Material
Vehicle Score Rank
Dodge Ram 8.0 1(t)
Ford F-150 8.0 1(t)
Nissan Titan 7.5 3
Toyota Tundra 7.0 4
Chevrolet Silverado 6.3 5
Climate Control Design/Operation
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 9.0 1
Dodge Ram 8.8 2
Toyota Tundra 8.5 3
Nissan Titan 8.0 4
Ford F-150 7.8 5
Audio System Design/Operation
Vehicle Score Rank
Dodge Ram 9.0 1(t)
Nissan Titan 9.0 1(t)
Toyota Tundra 9.0 1(t)
Chevrolet Silverado 8.0 4
Ford F-150 7.0 5
Secondary Control Design/Operation
Vehicle Score Rank
Nissan Titan 9.0 1
Dodge Ram 8.3 2
Chevrolet Silverado 7.8 3(t)
Toyota Tundra 7.8 3(t)
Ford F-150 7.5 5
Exterior Design
Vehicle Score Rank
Dodge Ram 9.8 1
Ford F-150 9.0 2
Nissan Titan 8.0 3
Chevrolet Silverado 7.3 4
Toyota Tundra 6.8 5
Headlight Illumination
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 8.3 1
Nissan Titan 7.8 2(t)
Toyota Tundra 7.8 2(t)
Dodge Ram 7.5 4(t)
Ford F-150 7.5 4(t)
Overall Build Quality
Vehicle Score Rank
Toyota Tundra 8.8 1
Dodge Ram 8.3 2
Ford F-150 8.0 3(t)
Nissan Titan 8.0 3(t)
Chevrolet Silverado 7.8 5

Evaluation - Cargo/Passenger Space

Entry/Exit
Vehicle Score Rank
Ford F-150 8.8 1(t)
Toyota Tundra 8.8 1(t)
Nissan Titan 8.5 3
Dodge Ram 8.0 4
Chevrolet Silverado 7.8 5
Expanding/Loading Cargo
Vehicle Score Rank
Nissan Titan 9.8 1
Chevrolet Silverado 8.3 2(t)
Toyota Tundra 8.3 2(t)
Ford F-150 8.0 4
Dodge Ram 7.8 5
Storage Space
Vehicle Score Rank
Nissan Titan 9.0 1
Chevrolet Silverado 8.3 2
Dodge Ram 7.8 3
Ford F-150 7.0 4
Toyota Tundra 6.8 5
Cupholders
Vehicle Score Rank
Chevrolet Silverado 8.3 1(t)
Nissan Titan 8.3 1(t)
Dodge Ram 7.8 3(t)
Toyota Tundra 7.8 3(t)
Ford F-150 7.5 5
Dimensions
Engine & Transmission Specifications
Performance
Warranty Information

Dimensions

Exterior Dimensions & Capacities
  Chevrolet Silverado Dodge Ram Ford F-150 Nissan Titan Toyota Tundra
Length, in. 230.2 227.7 224 224.2 230.1
Width, in. 78.5 79.9 78.9 78.8 79.3
Height, in. 75 76.6 75.3 76.7 74.4
Wheelbase, in. 143.5 140.5 138.5 139.8 140.5
Curb Weight, lbs. 5244 5144 5502 5341 4965
Turning Circle, ft. 47.3 46 45.1 45.3 47
Interior Dimensions
  Chevrolet Silverado Dodge Ram Ford F-150 Nissan Titan Toyota Tundra
Front headroom, in. 40.7 40.8 40.1 41 41.2
Front legroom, in. 41.3 41 41.3 41.8 41.6
Front shoulder room, in. 65.2 67 65.8 65.1 62.1
Rear headroom, in. 40.2 40 39.6 40.4 40.2
Rear legroom, in. 39.1 36.4 39 40.4 37.5
Rear shoulder room, in. 65.1 66.7 66 64.6 62.2

Engine & Transmission Specifications

Engine & Transmission
  Chevrolet Silverado Dodge Ram Ford F-150 Nissan Titan Toyota Tundra
Engine Type V8 V8 V8 V8 V8
Displacement, liters 5.3 5.7 5.4 5.6 4.7
Horsepower (SAE) @ rpm 285 345 300 305 240
Max. Torque, lb-ft @ rpm 330 375 365 379 315
Transmission 4-speed automatic 5-speed automatic 4-speed automatic 5-speed automatic 4-speed automatic
EPA Fuel Economy City/Hwy, mpg 15/18 13/17 14/18 14/18 14/18

Performance

Performance
  Chevrolet Silverado Dodge Ram Ford F-150 Nissan Titan Toyota Tundra
Zero-to-60-mph acceleration, sec. 9.6 8.3 9.5 7.7 9.5
Zero-to-60-mph acceleration w/ trailer, sec. 22.6 19.5 20.2 16.8 21.2
Quarter-mile acceleration, sec. 17.1 16.3 16.9 16.1 17.2
Quarter-mile acceleration w/ trailer, sec. 23.6 22.2 22.3 21.3 22.9
Quarter-mile speed, mph. 80.9 83.6 80.9 86.8 81.7
Quarter-mile speed w/ trailer, mph 61.2 63.9 62.9 66.6 61.8
60-to-0-mph braking, feet 139.9 135.6 145.7 135.0 128.3
600-ft slalom, mph 57.6 58.4 56.0 56.0 59.3

Warranty

Warranty Information
  Chevrolet Silverado Dodge Ram Ford F-150 Nissan Titan Toyota Tundra
Basic Warranty 3 years/ 36,000 miles 3 years/ 36,000 miles 3 years/ 36,000 miles 3 years/ 36,000 miles 3 years/ 36,000 miles
Powertrain 3 years/ 36,000 miles 7 years/ 70,000 miles 3 years/ 36,000 miles 5 years/ 60,000 miles 5 years/ 60,000 miles
Roadside Assistance 3 years/ 36,000 miles 3 years/ 36,000 miles 3 years/ 36,000 miles 3 years/ 36,000 miles Not Available
Corrosion Protection 6 years/ 100,000 miles 5 years/ 100,000 miles 5 years/ unlimited miles 5 years/ unlimited miles 5 years/ unlimited miles

When you're buying a vehicle that you expect to do a little bit of everything, having the right features can be the difference between a truck that exceeds your expectations and one that leaves you wishing for more. After driving our test trucks for the better part of two weeks, we asked each editor to pick the top features that he or she thought would be the most useful to the average buyer in this segment. Any feature that was standard on all five trucks was thrown out and points were awarded based on whether each feature was standard, optional or not available.

Features

Features
Chevrolet Silverado Dodge Ram Ford F-150 Nissan Titan Toyota Tundra
Adjustable Pedals N/A O O O N/A
Adjustable Bed Tie-Downs N/A N/A N/A O N/A
Compass/Temp Gauge O O S O O
Lighted Tailgate Area N/A N/A N/A O N/A
Off-Road Package O O O O O
Power Rear Window N/A N/A N/A N/A S
Rear A/C Vents S N/A N/A O S
Side Airbags N/A O N/A O N/A
Spray-In Bedliner N/A N/A N/A O N/A
Stability Control N/A N/A N/A O O


Key:
S: Standard
O: Optional
N/A: Not Available

Adjustable Pedals: This handy feature allows you to move the pedals in relation to the seat in order to find a more comfortable driving position. The Dodge, Ford and Nissan trucks all offer this feature as an option, while it is unavailable in the Chevrolet or Toyota.

Adjustable Bed Tie-Downs: While just about every pickup truck offers places to tie up loose cargo, the Titan took this idea one very useful step further with heavy-duty cleats that can be repositioned just about anywhere along the sides of the bed. Utility rails along the sides and floor of the bed provide the anchoring points and no tools are needed for adjustment.

Compass/Temperature Gauge: Knowing which way you're going and how hot or cold it is outside might not seem like crucial information, but once you have it, it's hard to do without either of these convenience features.

Lighted Tailgate Area: Most trucks offer a cargo lamp for the bed that provides some measure of light when you're loading things up at night. The problem is most of these lamps are too far away from the actual cargo to be of much use. In addition to its standard reverse-facing cab lamp, the Titan also provides lights built into the side of the bed where the tailgate latches. It might not seem like much, but when you're trying to load something off the end of the tailgate at night, you'll appreciate these well-placed lights more so than the one way up at the top of the cab.

Off-Road Package: Whether you just want the look of an off-road-ready vehicle or you actually plan to do a little backroads exploring, an optional off-road package will set your truck up for either scenario right from the factory. Most of these setups combine all-terrain tires, heavy-duty shocks, retuned springs and various underbody skid plates. The Nissan and Toyota trucks offer an off-road package on all trim levels while the Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge models offer such a package only on the higher trim levels.

Power Rear Window: Toyota pulled this one out of its hat when it introduced the Double Cab this year. Instead of the typical sliding rear window, the Tundra rear window can be rolled down completely to provide additional air flow throughout the cabin.

Rear A/C Vents: When you're sitting in the back of some these big trucks, the dashboard vents can seem pretty far away. Having auxiliary vents that route air directly to the rear seats can be a lifesaver on long summer trips. Both the Chevrolet Silverado crew cab and Toyota Tundra Double Cab offer this feature as standard, while the Titan offers it as standard on the top-level LE model only.

Side Airbags: Side airbags have proven to be very effective in reducing injuries caused in side-impact accidents. The Nissan Titan offers optional seat-mounted side airbags that protect your torso as well as side curtain airbags that protect your head. The Dodge Ram offers side curtain airbags only. The F-150, Tundra and Silverado do not offer any type of side airbag protection.

Spray-in Bedliner: While most bedliners are simply plastic covers that are dropped into the bed, the Nissan Titan offers a spray-in liner that not only looks better, but features a non-slip surface that won't trap water underneath (trapped water can, of course, lead to rust).

Stability Control: This electronic safety system can sense when the vehicle is deviating from the driver's intended path and uses a combination of individual brakes and reduced throttle to restore control. Only the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra offer this option although the Toyota doesn't allow it to be combined with an off-road package.

2004 Chevrolet Silverado

"After owning 4 Ford F-150s and a Dodge, I opted to check the competition, it took a little arm twisting to break my Ford tradition, however, it was the smartest move I've made, this truck has relatively no rear bounce yet is tight with its towing package, extremely smooth ride and ample interior room, I am very surprised as to the great mileage on this big V8, lots of legroom and plenty in the extended cab also, Ford still has a cramped cab even in the '04 models, have no problems as to date and all is what was advertised." — Ghostrider, April 8, 2004

"Having spent several weeks renting a 2004 F-150, and then buying the Silverado, I was more than impressed. Its mileage for a large truck is really better than one could expect. Its ride is closer to large car quality than most, where the Ford bucked and jumped on uneven freeways in Texas. The bucket seat option is a must, and the XM Satellite Radio is a lot of fun that came with the package." — KenLee, March 22, 2004

"Have had the truck for one week. Have had older Chevys, Fords and, most recently, a 2001 Tundra. This is the first 4x4 that I have owned. So far I've really enjoyed this truck. Ride comfort is surprising. Noise level is also surprising. Really have enjoyed the XM radio and the heated seats. Being just a little larger than the Tundra makes a big difference." — Kutauto, March 15, 2004

"I actually bought the 2004 Silverado Z71 short bed with a 5.3-liter, 8-cylinder engine. This is my first 4x4 I've owned but driven and ridden in many others. The Silverado Z71 is by far the best handling truck I've been in. It might not have the best interior features, but who buys a TRUCK for luxury? This truck serves its purpose and is probably the most dependable in its class. I've driven the truck through some stuff that I've seen other new trucks get stuck in; but of course, that was a combination of good driving with the aid of a fine machine, the Silverado Z71." — Marine Infantryman, Feb. 21, 2004

2004 Toyota Tundra

"The engine produces solid performance. The towing ability is adequate. The bigger V8s offered by other trucks boast better towing, but most guys like me won't ever come close. I'm sure my Tundra will pull a camper with much more ease than any V6, and that's good enough. The many cool features impress me. I do have to say though that thus far the mileage has been very poor. All in all, my decision was based on getting the most reliable 4-door full-size pickup out there that could fit in a normal garage, and having good toys and performance. Acceleration is solid, but it would be fun to have a little more power. To conclude, I'm glad I waited." — hulksmashtree, Feb. 23, 2004

"I bought this truck because I always wanted a Toyota, but was just waiting for the full-size version to come along. The wait was well worth it. It rides like a car, and inside is so quiet. The stereo system is the stock 6-speaker, but puts out very well. Engine performance is awesome, although there seems to be a little lag when you first step on the gas. Maybe it's just my driving style. It does need better gripping tires to perform in a 4WD situation, because I have experienced a little slippage due to the slick road tires that come standard." — johanna, Jan. 9, 2004

"I purchased my '04 DC in Dec '03 after driving my last Toyota pickup for 10 yrs & 170K. The Tundra fits my needs perfectly. Its V8 is smooth, plenty of room for gear & friends, and tows like a champ. Not as flashy as some of the competitors, but I like the simplicity of its design and its features are functional, not so gee-whiz." — xedge, Feb. 20, 2004

2004 Ford F-150 SuperCrew XLT

"I just bought a new F-150 SuperCrew XLT after driving all of the competitors' vehicles. What an improvement from the old style! Not that there was much I didn't like about the old F-150, but the new body and interior are what really sold me. I have to agree with most people and say the engine, while an improvement, still seems to need a little more power. Having owned both FMC and GM trucks in the past (my last truck was a Chevy 3/4 ton) I would like to say it is the nicest truck I have owned yet." — nhmaddog2002, March 23, 2004

"I'm driving a 5.4-liter on an extended trip. This is a very refined pickup truck. I was surprised at the initial assembly quality and materials used for the interior. The sound system is very good and the powertrain is very smooth and quiet. Very good ride. Good power, but weight uses up the ponies. No wind noise. Handles well on the turns. Flawless paint and trim. Gas consumption is 15-17 mph on the freeways." — Dbruneau, Oct. 12, 2003

"First time Ford truck buyer. The quality of the interior is very nice (but cramped) along with a nice ride. However, to get a good truck with decent power, you have to get all of the upgrades. Also get the two-tone paint, otherwise the truck just has a cheap look to it. Two weeks after buying this truck, my neighbor pulls up in a full-size Nissan! It had the room and the power that I was missing for much less. Please research what you are getting for your money. This is a good truck with a nice interior, but power and comfort are lacking."1st F 150, March 8, 2004

2004 Dodge Ram

"I've driven Ford & Chevys for years, but this new Dodge Laramie beats them at every angle. Interior space utilization outstanding, fit and finish, looks, 20-inch wheels…but the Hemi engine and the 5-speed auto transmission are what make this package talk…once you hammer the right pedal…'Oh yeah, it's got a Hemi!' I love this truck." — Dbrown, March 13, 2004

"I just picked up my 2004 Quad cab Hemi Ram and I'm totally impressed. The styling, 20-inch wheels, Hemi power (opt 3:92 gear) this truck really HAULS THE MAIL! Too new to comment about gas mileage, but after trading in my '99 GMC Suburban w/ 454 motor (9 mpg) anything will be a pleasant change. It handles like a sports car and rides like a dream." — Richie Rocket, Feb. 22, 2004

"Great vehicle — nicest I've ever owned. Only downside is cargo light switch — be careful how it is adjusted or it will drain battery. Hemi engine? When you punch it to pass it's like you have a rocket up your behind. Truck handles well, great performance — brakes excellent. Have driven it in snow — handles well. I love the shift on the go to 4wd. Goes in and out of 4wd easily — no more hubs to get out and spin. I recommended the vehicle to a friend and he bought one also. I checked out Ford F-150 also, as I've driven Ford trucks for years. No comparison. Ram, hands down." — Large Mikey, Jan. 24, 2004

2004 Nissan Titan

"I've had my Titan CC SE 4WD for 2 weeks now and haven't stopped smiling since. It's big, but drives small. So much power under foot and a smoother ride than my Pathfinder LE. The Crew Cab is huge! With the captain's chairs there's still enough room for five, plus all your gear. Much better interior and exterior than the domestic competition." — Sabre66, Feb. 11, 2004

"I have only had my Crew Cab 4x4 Titan for a few days and love it. Have been a Ford guy my whole life. This changes everything. Very powerful. Sharp style. Fit and finish is above all others. An interior that looks like someone was actually thinking when they designed it. Thus far I am overjoyed. And I payed $2,500 under list. That seems to be the best deal I've seen yet on one of them. I also have the DVD and Rockford Fosgate package. I enjoy them but find them to be quite overpriced. Other than that, great truck." — OldFordGuy, Jan. 7, 2004

"WOW! Awesome truck. Constantly getting the looks from other drivers. Couldn't be more satisfied! Got a good deal for under $28K w/a few options (K03, W01, T01, X94, L92, B10), before tax and license. Highly recommend anyone in the market for a full-size truck to test-drive the Titan. I sat in and test-drove F-150 5.4L, Ram QuadCab and Tundra D-cab w/ wife and 2 kids w/ car seats. Titan won all our hearts."Vincent N., March 1, 2004

Final Rankings

Final Rankings
Nissan Titan Dodge Ram Ford F-150 Toyota Tundra Chevrolet Silverado
Personal Rating (10% of score) 90 75 70 25 40
Recommended Rating (10% of score) 100 75 65 30 30
Evaluation Score (20% of score) 82.5 82.1 80.9 76.6 77.1
Feature Content (20% of score) 53.3 23.3 20 36.7 23.3
Performance (20% of score) 91 73 57 68 58
Price (20% of score) 99.9 80.8 96 100 79.6
Total Score 84.3 66.8 64.3 61.8 54.6
Final Ranking 1 2 3 4 5

Scoring Explanation

Personal Rating: Purely subjective. After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the trucks in order of preference based on which he or she would buy if money were no object.

Recommended Rating: After the test, each participating editor was asked to rank the trucks in order of preference based on which he or she thought would be best for the average consumer shopping in this segment.

24-Point Evaluation: Each participating editor ranked every vehicle based on a comprehensive 24-point evaluation. The evaluation covered everything from exterior design to cupholders. Scoring was calculated on a point system, and the scores listed are averages based on all test participants' evaluations.

Performance Testing: All five trucks were put through a comprehensive battery of instrumented tests including 0-60 acceleration, quarter-mile runs and panic stops from 60 mph. They were also dragged through a 600-foot slalom course to test maneuverability and emergency handling. In addition, each truck was hitched to an approximately 6,000-pound trailer for additional acceleration tests. Scores were calculated by giving the best vehicle in each category 100 percent. Subsequent vehicles were awarded points based on how close they came to the best performing vehicle's score.

Feature Content: For this category, the editors picked the top 10 features they thought would be most beneficial to the consumer shopping in this segment. For each vehicle, the score was based on the amount of actual features it had versus the total possible (10). Standard and optional equipment were taken into consideration.

Price: The numbers listed were the result of a simple percentage calculation based on the least expensive vehicle in the comparison test. Using the "as tested" prices of the actual evaluation vehicles, the least expensive vehicle received a score of 100, with the remaining vehicles receiving lesser scores based on how much each one costs.

2004 Chevrolet Silverado

"After owning 4 Ford F-150s and a Dodge, I opted to check the competition, it took a little arm twisting to break my Ford tradition, however, it was the smartest move I've made, this truck has relatively no rear bounce yet is tight with its towing package, extremely smooth ride and ample interior room, I am very surprised as to the great mileage on this big V8, lots of legroom and plenty in the extended cab also, Ford still has a cramped cab even in the '04 models, have no problems as to date and all is what was advertised." — Ghostrider, April 8, 2004

"Having spent several weeks renting a 2004 F-150, and then buying the Silverado, I was more than impressed. Its mileage for a large truck is really better than one could expect. Its ride is closer to large car quality than most, where the Ford bucked and jumped on uneven freeways in Texas. The bucket seat option is a must, and the XM Satellite Radio is a lot of fun that came with the package." — KenLee, March 22, 2004

"Have had the truck for one week. Have had older Chevys, Fords and, most recently, a 2001 Tundra. This is the first 4x4 that I have owned. So far I've really enjoyed this truck. Ride comfort is surprising. Noise level is also surprising. Really have enjoyed the XM radio and the heated seats. Being just a little larger than the Tundra makes a big difference." — Kutauto, March 15, 2004

"I actually bought the 2004 Silverado Z71 short bed with a 5.3-liter, 8-cylinder engine. This is my first 4x4 I've owned but driven and ridden in many others. The Silverado Z71 is by far the best handling truck I've been in. It might not have the best interior features, but who buys a TRUCK for luxury? This truck serves its purpose and is probably the most dependable in its class. I've driven the truck through some stuff that I've seen other new trucks get stuck in; but of course, that was a combination of good driving with the aid of a fine machine, the Silverado Z71." — Marine Infantryman, Feb. 21, 2004

2004 Toyota Tundra

"The engine produces solid performance. The towing ability is adequate. The bigger V8s offered by other trucks boast better towing, but most guys like me won't ever come close. I'm sure my Tundra will pull a camper with much more ease than any V6, and that's good enough. The many cool features impress me. I do have to say though that thus far the mileage has been very poor. All in all, my decision was based on getting the most reliable 4-door full-size pickup out there that could fit in a normal garage, and having good toys and performance. Acceleration is solid, but it would be fun to have a little more power. To conclude, I'm glad I waited." — hulksmashtree, Feb. 23, 2004

"I bought this truck because I always wanted a Toyota, but was just waiting for the full-size version to come along. The wait was well worth it. It rides like a car, and inside is so quiet. The stereo system is the stock 6-speaker, but puts out very well. Engine performance is awesome, although there seems to be a little lag when you first step on the gas. Maybe it's just my driving style. It does need better gripping tires to perform in a 4WD situation, because I have experienced a little slippage due to the slick road tires that come standard." — johanna, Jan. 9, 2004

"I purchased my '04 DC in Dec '03 after driving my last Toyota pickup for 10 yrs & 170K. The Tundra fits my needs perfectly. Its V8 is smooth, plenty of room for gear & friends, and tows like a champ. Not as flashy as some of the competitors, but I like the simplicity of its design and its features are functional, not so gee-whiz." — xedge, Feb. 20, 2004

2004 Ford F-150 SuperCrew XLT

"I just bought a new F-150 SuperCrew XLT after driving all of the competitors' vehicles. What an improvement from the old style! Not that there was much I didn't like about the old F-150, but the new body and interior are what really sold me. I have to agree with most people and say the engine, while an improvement, still seems to need a little more power. Having owned both FMC and GM trucks in the past (my last truck was a Chevy 3/4 ton) I would like to say it is the nicest truck I have owned yet." — nhmaddog2002, March 23, 2004

"I'm driving a 5.4-liter on an extended trip. This is a very refined pickup truck. I was surprised at the initial assembly quality and materials used for the interior. The sound system is very good and the powertrain is very smooth and quiet. Very good ride. Good power, but weight uses up the ponies. No wind noise. Handles well on the turns. Flawless paint and trim. Gas consumption is 15-17 mph on the freeways." — Dbruneau, Oct. 12, 2003

"First time Ford truck buyer. The quality of the interior is very nice (but cramped) along with a nice ride. However, to get a good truck with decent power, you have to get all of the upgrades. Also get the two-tone paint, otherwise the truck just has a cheap look to it. Two weeks after buying this truck, my neighbor pulls up in a full-size Nissan! It had the room and the power that I was missing for much less. Please research what you are getting for your money. This is a good truck with a nice interior, but power and comfort are lacking."1st F 150, March 8, 2004

2004 Dodge Ram

"I've driven Ford & Chevys for years, but this new Dodge Laramie beats them at every angle. Interior space utilization outstanding, fit and finish, looks, 20-inch wheels…but the Hemi engine and the 5-speed auto transmission are what make this package talk…once you hammer the right pedal…'Oh yeah, it's got a Hemi!' I love this truck." — Dbrown, March 13, 2004

"I just picked up my 2004 Quad cab Hemi Ram and I'm totally impressed. The styling, 20-inch wheels, Hemi power (opt 3:92 gear) this truck really HAULS THE MAIL! Too new to comment about gas mileage, but after trading in my '99 GMC Suburban w/ 454 motor (9 mpg) anything will be a pleasant change. It handles like a sports car and rides like a dream." — Richie Rocket, Feb. 22, 2004

"Great vehicle — nicest I've ever owned. Only downside is cargo light switch — be careful how it is adjusted or it will drain battery. Hemi engine? When you punch it to pass it's like you have a rocket up your behind. Truck handles well, great performance — brakes excellent. Have driven it in snow — handles well. I love the shift on the go to 4wd. Goes in and out of 4wd easily — no more hubs to get out and spin. I recommended the vehicle to a friend and he bought one also. I checked out Ford F-150 also, as I've driven Ford trucks for years. No comparison. Ram, hands down." — Large Mikey, Jan. 24, 2004

2004 Nissan Titan

"I've had my Titan CC SE 4WD for 2 weeks now and haven't stopped smiling since. It's big, but drives small. So much power under foot and a smoother ride than my Pathfinder LE. The Crew Cab is huge! With the captain's chairs there's still enough room for five, plus all your gear. Much better interior and exterior than the domestic competition." — Sabre66, Feb. 11, 2004

"I have only had my Crew Cab 4x4 Titan for a few days and love it. Have been a Ford guy my whole life. This changes everything. Very powerful. Sharp style. Fit and finish is above all others. An interior that looks like someone was actually thinking when they designed it. Thus far I am overjoyed. And I payed $2,500 under list. That seems to be the best deal I've seen yet on one of them. I also have the DVD and Rockford Fosgate package. I enjoy them but find them to be quite overpriced. Other than that, great truck." — OldFordGuy, Jan. 7, 2004

"WOW! Awesome truck. Constantly getting the looks from other drivers. Couldn't be more satisfied! Got a good deal for under $28K w/a few options (K03, W01, T01, X94, L92, B10), before tax and license. Highly recommend anyone in the market for a full-size truck to test-drive the Titan. I sat in and test-drove F-150 5.4L, Ram QuadCab and Tundra D-cab w/ wife and 2 kids w/ car seats. Titan won all our hearts."Vincent N., March 1, 2004

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