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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Today I test drove a JL Sahara and a DT Laramie 4x4, along with a GMC Canyon SLT 4x4 diesel, a Colorado Z71, a GMC Sierra SLT 4x4, a Tacoma TRD Off-road 4x4 and a Tundra Limited TRD Off-road 4x4.

I left the house determined to test drive midsize pickups. I never considered a full-size pickup until the GMC dealer asked me to test drive a Sierra SLT, which was 27% off MSRP.

Here are my observations:

2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4

The Ram just wants to kick dirt in your face, and that HEMI sounds nice playing the part. The handling, the ride, the refinement, the acceleration, the sound, the comfort and the equipment are all there. DT comes with a 5.7 HEMI and a 8-speed Torqueflite automatic. The HEMI feels quick off-the-line and the transmission shifts smoothly. Everything about driving DT feels absolutely seamless. Ram styling is just meh IMO, and the price is lunacy —at least for now. Sticker was $54,000, with a $1,000 incentive. That price includes panoramic sunroof, power sliding rear window, blind spot monitor and cross-path detection, leather heated and ventilated seats with memory, but doesn’t include navigation. Average fuel economy is rated at 17 MPG.

2018 GMC Sierra SLT Crew Cab 4x4

The full-size GMC looks like a million bucks. The Sierra SLT Crew Cab had a MSRP of $56,000 and an advertised price of $40,750. That price included everything the Ram has but blind spot monitor, and instead of sunroof it had navigation. My local dealer has a dozen identically equipped and priced. The truck is as quiet as tomb. The ride is good, if a little bouncy on the freeway, but it just handles like a big barge. The best way I can describe Sierra’s handling is “stiff and awkward”. Average fuel economy is rated at 18 MPG; the best of all full-size trucks I test drove. This GM truck had eAssist which supposedly captures braking energy and then releases it when you accelerate. It made for a hard brake pedal, and an awkward sensation when you switch from brake to throttle quickly. I don’t care for the 1970s-style column mounted transmission shifter; Ram’s dial seems like a more modern, simple and elegant solution in look and feel.

2018 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab and GMC Canyon SLT Crew Cab 4x4 Diesel

I was also very impressed with the overall refinement, handling and ride of the Colorado Z71 and Canyon SLT. The Colorado V6 feels especially polished; the diesel transmits more NVH into the cabin. The 2.8 diesel feels sluggish; the 3.6 V6 sprightly. Both have a 6-speed automatic; both handle confidently and ride well —but like Sierra, a little bouncy on the freeway. Both had leather and navigation, but no sunroof. After you see the GMC SLT interior, the Chevy’s feels cut-rate. Colorado Z71 had a MSRP of $40,000, with an advertised price of $35,000 and a combined 19 MPG. GMC Canyon SLT 4x4 diesel had an MSRP of $45,000, an advertised price of $40,000, and a combined 22 MPG.

Then I test drove a Tacoma and a Tundra. The good news is that Toyota has finally taken some risks in the color department and now offers some stunning blues, tans, reds and oranges.

2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-road Crew Cab 4x4

The Tacoma TRD Off-road comes with a 3.5 V6 mated to a 6-speed automatic as well. The interior is surprisingly cramped. I am 6’0” and had to be careful not to hit my head getting into the truck. The rear is even worse: it feels extremely tight and I did hit my head against the roof getting into the back. GM’s midsize trucks feel much roomier both front and back. But the Tacoma has a very solid feel when you close the doors and the dashboard looks more attractive. Tacoma handles confidently and rides well, albeit on the firm side. The engine doesn’t feel particularly quick and makes a Godawful sound when you floor it. The Off-road package includes Bilstein shocks and a rear e-locker, both welcome on the trail. It is rated at a combined 19 MPG, same as the Colorado/Canyon V6. Tacoma’s MSRP was $40,000 with an advertised price in the mid-thirties. That price excludes leather and sunroof, but includes navigation and power rear slider. All Toyota trucks come standard with lane departure warning and parking assist, which is comprised on front and rear proximity sensors; I found that impressive. Blind spot monitor is optional but was included.

2018 Toyota Tundra Limited TRD Off-road Crew Cab 4x4

Tundra Limited TRD Off-road is just beautifully finished inside: it uses real wood inserts on the dash in a matte finish that gives it an upscale look and feel. The exterior was painted in a striking flat blue; very nice. I didn’t measure rear legroom, but it looked as cavernous as Ram’s. Tundra comes with a 5.7 V8 mated to a 6-speed automatic, and is rated at an atrocious 14 MPG, combined. The engine makes a nice growl under acceleration that sounds much better than Tacoma’s but not as nice as Ram’s. Like Tacoma, Tundra handles confidently and rides comfortably but on the firm side. In fact, overall I found Tundra as easy to drive as the Ram. Tundra’s MSRP was $50,000 with a $1,200 rebate. That price includes a power sunroof —non-panoramic, leather interior, heated front seats. The other unique feature I found today, next to Auto 4WD (more below), was Tundra’s unique power rear window: the entire rear window rolls down with the press of a button. If Tundra’s MPG hadn’t been so atrocious, that feature alone, along with Tundra’s superb fit-and-finish, engine performance and confident handling would have placed it on top, alongside DT. But there’s no denying that Tundra is outdated: that 14 MPG is the result of Toyota trying to extract more pulling power out of the same old engine and transmission. The fact that Toyota doesn’t discount nearly as much as domestics do their trucks makes Tundra a must-have only if you are a devout Toyota fan.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara JL

Finally, I got to test drive a JL Unlimited Sahara. After driving pickup trucks most of the day, JL felt cramped and crude by comparison. The thing that really struck me was how tight the interior feels: tighter than my 2015 JK Unlimited Sahara. Rear space actually feels smaller despite the fact that the wheelbase gained 1+ inches and the rear seat now has a properly slanted back —unlike the upright rear seat in 4-door JKs. The 8-speed shifts more smoothly than the old 5-speed on JKs. JL’s suspension feels harsh. My Wrangler has a Mopar 2” lift with Fox shocks, but JL’s suspension feels much firmer than even a stock JK. I checked the tire pressure: they were at 42 PSI. That may have contributed to the harsh ride. Stop-start startled me both times it occurred; I thought we had ran out of gas. While I find the feature useful at traffic lights, I don’t find neither the response time from the moment you lift the brake and hit the gas, nor the refinement of the entire operation, reassuring. Both times I hit the gas pedal before the engine had finished turning over, which made for an awkward 1 or 2 seconds at a time you just want to get out of the way. MSRP on that JL Sahara was $50,000, with no incentives. That price includes the 8-speed Torqueflite automatic, a black hardtop, leather seats —heated in front, non-ventilated; navigation, and power windows. All in all, I felt disappointed: JL does not offer significant improvement over JK. In fact, I find JK preferable in some areas, like use of interior space and ride quality.

Key Takeaways

One key take away from today is that full-size trucks offer an incredible value, once you account for the fact that they carry a V8 mated to an 8-speed transmission, offer greater capability and significantly more interior room and comfort creatures like memory seats —power in the front, heated AND ventilated; dual climate control, etc. The actual $6,000 price difference between the midsize and full-size GMC feels like a perceived $15,000 difference in size, equipment and comfort.

The second takeaway is how overpriced Wranglers are compared to pickup trucks. This mid-level JL was only $3,500 less than DT, all the while it felt cramped, harsh, and had significantly fewer comfort features. If you compare JL against Canyon or Tacoma, it’s not even a contest: JL is $10,000 to $15,000 more expensive than a midsize pickup, doesn't handle or ride as well, and comes with much less equipment. Of course you can take the roof off a Wrangler, but you cannot carry bicycles or tall/bulky items like you can with a truck bed.

One thing I learned about today is Auto 4WD: it essentially operates on RWD until it feels wheel slippage and automatically engages 4WD. I find it pretty neat. Both the GMC and Ram full-size pickups have it.

If I were to rank the motley crew of trucks I drove today, this is how I’d rank them:
  1. 2019 Ram Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 - MSRP $53,000
  2. 2018 Toyota Tundra Limited TRD Off-road Crew Cab 4x4 - MSRP $50,000
  3. 2018 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab - MSRP $40,000
  4. 2018 GMC Sierra SLT Crew Cab 4x4 - MSRP $56,000
  5. 2018 GMC Canyon SLT Crew Cab 4x4 Diesel - MSRP $45,000
  6. 2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-road Crew Cab 4x4 - MSRP $40,000
  7. 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara JL - MSRP $50,000
Shopping Experience

My local GM dealership carries Cadillac, Buick, GMC and Chevrolet: the sales experience was top-notch, very professional, providing lots of information and no pressure.

The Toyota sales experience can best be described as “fact-based”: helpful, accurate, but devoid of emotion; very little pressure.

The CDJR sales experience can best be described as “folksy”: I was greeted by a charming recent college grad from eastern Washington, and introduced to his seasoned partner, who provided an old school but thorough walk around DT, explaining the smallest details, constantly bashing the competition. Overall it was pleasant, though.
 

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Boy! These details are real eye-openers ...

There's a definite feeling of anti-climax where the new Jeep is concerned. You, being a long-term owner of various Wrangler models know the ins-and-outs of their regular and idiosyncratic elements, are exactly the sort we need to hear from. The end of your Wrangler test must've been an awkward moment.

I haven't kicked the Tacoma off my Utility Vehicle candidate list, but these data are important to hear.

Very nicely done :)

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Nice job Aldo!

I must say that the early reviews of JL are very disappointing. For such an important vehicle for Jeep and FCA as a whole, it would seem that they did not do their due diligence. I really hope they iron out the bugs and quirks soon. I have my own selfish reasons for wanting JL to be better...as I hope to purchase one (or JT) down the road. But more so, I want it to be better for Jeep and for improving the public perception of quality for FCA products. Sadly, it appears it is only affirming the negative perception held by the public. When the early articles appeared in C&D and MT, I had been correcting the commenters who were spewing the usual BS regarding Jeeps in general. Unfortunately, some of them ended up being correct.

Disappointing indeed. I don't want to be the negative Nancy...I really want to be positive...but come on, give me something to cheer about!
 

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I'm overwhelmed by the prices of pickups nowadays. Heck, you could buy a couple of very nice cars for the prices of most single trucks. I'd love to have a truck, but even the used ones are sky high, IMHO. Thanks for the great write up and report, Aldo. It's very eye opening.
 

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Key Takeaways

One key take away from today is that full-size trucks offer an incredible value, once you account for the fact that they carry a V8 mated to an 8-speed transmission, offer greater capability and significantly more interior room and comfort creatures like memory seats —power in the front, heated AND ventilated; dual climate control, etc. The actual $6,000 price difference between the midsize and full-size GMC feels like a perceived $15,000 difference in size, equipment and comfort.

The second takeaway is how overpriced Wranglers are compared to pickup trucks. This mid-level JL was only $3,500 less than DT, all the while it felt cramped, harsh, and had significantly fewer comfort features. If you compare JL against Canyon or Tacoma, it’s not even a contest: JL is $10,000 to $15,000 more expensive than a midsize pickup, doesn't handle or ride as well, and comes with much less equipment. Of course you can take the roof off a Wrangler, but you cannot carry bicycles or tall/bulky items like you can with a truck bed.

One thing I learned about today is Auto 4WD: it essentially operates on RWD until it feels wheel slippage and automatically engages 4WD. I find it pretty neat. Both the GMC and Ram full-size pickups have it.

If I were to rank the motley crew of trucks I drove today, this is how I’d rank them:
  1. 2019 Ram Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 - MSRP $53,000
  2. 2018 Toyota Tundra Limited TRD Off-road Crew Cab 4x4 - MSRP $50,000
  3. 2018 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab - MSRP $40,000
  4. 2018 GMC Sierra SLT Crew Cab 4x4 - MSRP $56,000
  5. 2018 GMC Canyon SLT Crew Cab 4x4 Diesel - MSRP $45,000
  6. 2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-road Crew Cab 4x4 - MSRP $40,000
  7. 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara JL - MSRP $50,000
Shopping Experience

My local GM dealership carries Cadillac, Buick, GMC and Chevrolet: the sales experience was top-notch, very professional, providing lots of information and no pressure.

The Toyota sales experience can best be described as “fact-based”: helpful, accurate, but devoid of emotion; very little pressure.

The CDJR sales experience can best be described as “folksy”: I was greeted by a charming recent college grad from eastern Washington, and introduced to his seasoned partner, who provided an old school but thorough walk around DT, explaining the smallest details, constantly bashing the competition. Overall it was pleasant, though.[/QUOTE]


I cannot express enough my gratitude for an unbiased writeup. Thanks for sharing your insight.
 

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Thx for the shot of reality. DT vs previous gen. competition, sound like you gave it a win but by what margin considering the competitions 19's. As i have stated, DT is not IMO what it should have been given the time taken. Updated Ford was not included, and CDJR experience cannot be overlooked. Had DT exterior styling been better i'd feel more optimistic when /if your 19' vs 19' review.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I'm overwhelmed by the prices of pickups nowadays. Heck, you could buy a couple of very nice cars for the prices of most single trucks. I'd love to have a truck, but even the used ones are sky high, IMHO. Thanks for the great write up and report, Aldo. It's very eye opening.
You bet.

Everything I test drove had at least leather and navigation. So they were all in the upper trim levels. The only exceptions were Tacoma, which requires a premium package to get leather, and Ram Laramie, which for some reason was the only one without navigation. If you were to shop for pickups with cloth seats, MSRPs drop significantly.

One would be foolish to pay full MSRP for a full-size pickup. Once you factor in the huge discounts, which seem to be regular in the business, they become an incredible value IMO.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
I'm just impressed you test drove that many vehicles in 1 day!
Usually you might get 2 in as the dealership will have you tied up in-between test drives.
How'd you do it???
I sold cars many moons ago, and have purchased 30 vehicles in 30 years —including a handful of non-Chrysler/ FCA products. I guess by now I know how to talk to salespeople without getting sucked into the “come on in and let’s make a deal today” situation. Once you do, you’ll be there all day.

Perhaps because this is a small town and everyone feels the need to be nice to one another, I was surprised I was able to walk out with everyone’s bottom line price from a mere test drive. Even from the Toyota dealer. In Los Angeles, I’d have had to sit down and waste everyone’s time to obtain discounted prices.
 
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Nice job Aldo!

I must say that the early reviews of JL are very disappointing. For such an important vehicle for Jeep and FCA as a whole, it would seem that they did not do their due diligence. I really hope they iron out the bugs and quirks soon. I have my own selfish reasons for wanting JL to be better...as I hope to purchase one (or JT) down the road. But more so, I want it to be better for Jeep and for improving the public perception of quality for FCA products. Sadly, it appears it is only affirming the negative perception held by the public. When the early articles appeared in C&D and MT, I had been correcting the commenters who were spewing the usual BS regarding Jeeps in general. Unfortunately, some of them ended up being correct.

Disappointing indeed. I don't want to be the negative Nancy...I really want to be positive...but come on, give me something to cheer about!
Thank you.

I have noticed the auto press is quite impressionable in off-road drives. While journalist are well-versed on 0-60 times, and familiar with slalom and skid pad tests, they seem easily wowed with angles of departure, lockers, swaybar disconnects and crawl ratios.

Every early review I have read on JL came from a carefully staged event on the trail. That’s how FCA wanted JL’s first impressions to come out, and from a marketing perspective, that’s the correct approach. That’s what Wrangler excels at, so it makes sense to do it that way.

But I already know what Wrangler can do on the trail; it has no competition there. I purposely set out to compare these trucks from a general daily use and an overall value perspective.

IMO, JL doesn’t advance things sufficiently over JK, and stacks poorly compared against pickups, where real improvement is happening in leaps and bounds. As DT shows.

Once you factor in price, JL just stands out like a sore thumb.
 

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So is a new DT worth $14-$15K over a last gen GMC? Hmmmm...or a similar Ram?
I'd pay $5K more for the newer truck..not sure I could justify $15K more.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Thx for the shot of reality. DT vs previous gen. competition, sound like you gave it a win but by what margin considering the competitions 19's. As i have stated, DT is not IMO what it should have been given the time taken. Updated Ford was not included, and CDJR experience cannot be overlooked. Had DT exterior styling been better i'd feel more optimistic when /if your 19' vs 19' review.
Indeed. I purposely avoided Ford. Besides Raptor, which is out of my price range, I don’t care for F-Series blocky styling and EcoBoost motors. Particularly when modern V8s let you have your cake and eat it, too.

You are correct: if 2019 GM trucks are only marginally better than the 2018s, that alone will give DT a run for its money. And by all early reports, that may very well be the case.

This is just my personal observation: without the benefit of telephoto closeups, in person DT’s styling seems to blend with the background. As squared as GM’s styling looks right now, GM has evolved it very quickly —and effectively— in the short period of time since the current gen came out. If the styling on the 2019s is refined further, they could very well make DT look like a generic 5-year old truck —again, seeing them in person.

Upcoming GM full-size pickups are supposed to address the current generation’s weak handling; they already come close in ride and match DT in refinemen. GM trucks are more than competitive in every other important metric in the category —e.g., towing, payload, MPG, etc.

Where DT may still hold a clear advantage is in daily off-the-line performance —including that Hemi sound; and interior design.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
So is a new DT worth $14-$15K over a last gen GMC? Hmmmm...or a similar Ram?
I'd pay $5K more for the newer truck..not sure I could justify $15K more.
Nope, it isn’t to me. No matter how nice DT is, it ain’t worth that difference in price.

But DT is still in its honeymoon period. I am counting with the realities of supply and demand to set in once dealer inventories settle down. The real test is about to start in a few months when the new GM trucks hit dealer lots.

Exciting times to be looking at trucks, for sure.
 

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BTW, the Ram 1500 Laramie I test drove had the standard center screen. There was a Limited with the new 12” screen parked right alongside. Given the nice work Ram did with the buttons below the screen, the smaller screen setup looks really good. And it may be easier to use on the fly since you don’t have to search for things to press on a screen.

The 12” screen seems like good wow factor; but the smaller screen probably works better in everyday situations.

I’d just save the money and order the smaller standard screen.
 
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Nice job Aldo!

I must say that the early reviews of JL are very disappointing. For such an important vehicle for Jeep and FCA as a whole, it would seem that they did not do their due diligence. I really hope they iron out the bugs and quirks soon. I have my own selfish reasons for wanting JL to be better...as I hope to purchase one (or JT) down the road. But more so, I want it to be better for Jeep and for improving the public perception of quality for FCA products. Sadly, it appears it is only affirming the negative perception held by the public. When the early articles appeared in C&D and MT, I had been correcting the commenters who were spewing the usual BS regarding Jeeps in general. Unfortunately, some of them ended up being correct.

Disappointing indeed. I don't want to be the negative Nancy...I really want to be positive...but come on, give me something to cheer about!
.

This has been an established norm for a sustained interval of time. It's an unfortunate example of 'Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda'.

Those who look in from the outside could very well be saying : "Rinse and Repeat".

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You bet.

Everything I test drove had at least leather and navigation. So they were all in the upper trim levels. The only exceptions were Tacoma, which requires a premium package to get leather, and Ram Laramie, which for some reason was the only one without navigation. If you were to shop for pickups with cloth seats, MSRPs drop significantly.
Great write-ups! For me, once you add apple carplay to the mix I no longer worry about the vehicle actually having Navigation built in. I wouldn't pay extra for the navigation feature if it was a stand alone option.
 

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Indeed. I purposely avoided Ford. Besides Raptor, which is out of my price range, I don’t care for F-Series blocky styling and EcoBoost motors. Particularly when modern V8s let you have your cake and eat it, too.

You are correct: if 2019 GM trucks are only marginally better than the 2018s, that alone will give DT a run for its money. And by all early reports, that may very well be the case.

This is just my personal observation: without the benefit of telephoto closeups, in person DT’s styling seems to blend with the background. As squared as GM’s styling looks right now, GM has evolved it very quickly —and effectively— in the short period of time since the current gen came out. If the styling on the 2019s is refined further, they could very well make DT look like a generic 5-year old truck —again, seeing them in person.

Upcoming GM full-size pickups are supposed to address the current generation’s weak handling; they already come close in ride and match DT in refinemen. GM trucks are more than competitive in every other important metric in the category —e.g., towing, payload, MPG, etc.

Where DT may still hold a clear advantage is in daily off-the-line performance —including that Hemi sound; and interior design.
Ford still offers the 5.0L..a good engine.
Where the DT shines IMO is the interior design. Ford comes closest IMO, but its in a another class over GM. The center console storage and its adjustability, the in-floor storage bins, reclining rear seat. For how you'd use a truck as a family vehicle, Ram has it covered best.
GM's interior looks like a time warp to me back to the 90's...including their old turn/light/cruise control stalk from the 80's included.
All reports are the interior was not a focus and it was all on lighter weight and FE.
BTW, who is going to buy a turbo 4 banger in a full size truck?..a one off engine not used anywhere else in GM's lineup over a time proven, bulletproof V8? Talk about no resale in a few years!!!
 

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Great write-ups! For me, once you add apple carplay to the mix I no longer worry about the vehicle actually having Navigation built in. I wouldn't pay extra for the navigation feature if it was a stand alone option.
That’s a good point.

I used to prefer the factory satellite-based navigation over cellular-based phone apps for venturing into the wilderness with a Wrangler. But that scenario is further removed with full-size trucks. Chances are, wherever you take one of these trucks, you will be within cellular range —and within reach of Google Maps.
 
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