Editor's Note

The Best Pickup

Every December for the past couple decades my wife and I have spent the last holiday of the year with our families. One year it’s with hers in New Jersey, the next year mine in Oregon.

Bruce W. Smith, [email protected]

Whether we are visiting the East Coast or the Left, the trips are always enjoyable with plenty of conversations about a wide array of topics, as is typical, I expect, of most family gatherings.

Being an automotive magazine editor, it’s no surprise one of the topics that always arises between family, sports, religious and political discussions is vehicle related.

More specifically, my brother-in-law or nephews always want to know my opinion on the “best” pickup to buy for the money.

The Oregon side of the clan is decidedly Ford biased when it comes to pickups. Those in Jersey lean more toward GM and Dodge. (I do remind them it’s more politically correct to say the Ram Brand, instead of Dodge.)

Me? I’m not brand loyal. Dad was a Chevy man, so I cut my driving teeth behind the wheel of a 1-ton Chevy pickup. Since that time I’ve owned two Toyota 4×4 pickups; two full-size four-wheel-drive Ford Broncos; a two-wheel-drive Dodge Ram 1500; a Chevy Trail Blazer; and now a GMC Sierra 1500 4×4.

All of my previous trucks were very good vehicles, with no mechanical issues. I drove most of them between 4 and 6 years and put on more than 70,000 miles before moving to the next one.

What I learned from those experiences is a full-size pickup has always fit my lifestyle better than an SUV or compact pickup, and, as an outdoorsman, 4x4s are much preferred over 2WD even if it means sacrificing a little fuel economy.

With that varied vehicle ownership and nearly 30 years working as an automotive journalist driving every new truck that comes out, my relatives respect my opinions when it comes to new vehicles and old.

So, here’s what I tell them when asked about the best new pickup for the money: The one that gets you where you want to go without breaking down. It’s not a cop-out reply.

If the looks and the functionality of a certain brand/model pickup makes you feel good behind the wheel, if it fits nicely with your work and personal needs, and over the time you own it there’re no mechanical problems, rest assured you bought the best pickup you could for that year.

With today’s pickup technology and designs so well executed, so competitive, it’s hard to say one brand’s model is better than another because it still boils down to personal tastes and needs.

As I raised a glass of 20-year-old scotch to toast the coming of the New Year this past December in Jersey, I left my brother-in-law with this thought:

“Grasshopper. Shop like you do for your work and hunting boots; let function and form dictate what you buy, not price.”

Cheers, and may 2012 be an outstanding year!