Pickup.com shootout is a salvo in ongoing pickup battle

If you'll forgive the metaphor, the shootout described this week by the editors at pickuptrucks.com may say more about the automaker/gunslingers themselves than the effectiveness of their chosen hardware.

The semiregular shootout is a competition between the latest half-ton pickups from Ford, General Motors, Chrysler Group, Toyota and Nissan.

The Web site's editors designed the challenges with which they would task the pickups and then wrote in detail about the results. Some of the results were purely objective -- such as a timed race up a steep incline -- while others required subjective opinions from the judges on items such as interior refinement.

When the smoke had cleared, the top-line results were thus: the Ford F-150 XLT, followed by the Ram 1500 SLT Big Horn, then the GMC Sierra 1500 SLE Z71, all separated by less than one percent of the total points available.

The Chevy Silverado 1500 LT Z71 finished in fourth place but was still well ahead of the Toyota Tundra SR5 and the last-place Nissan Titan Pro-4X. All the pickups tested were from the 2013 model year except the GM entrants, which were 2014s.

By nature, not all the pickups tested were equal. The Web site asked each automaker to provide a four-door 4x4 pickup for the shootout that cost less than $45,000 with shipping, and they complied.

What trim-level pickup to send was up to each automaker -- but because they came with different gear ratios and tires, some were better equipped to handle some tests than others. See, for example, how differently the GMC fared from the nearly identical Chevy Silverado.

One thing that caught my eye was a discrepancy between the "Payload and Towing" challenge -- a math exercise that relies on numbers supplied by the manufacturers -- and the hill climb test.

The F-150 won the math portion of the test, with the Ram in a distant last place. But when it came time to climb the 7.2-degree hill, both loaded and unloaded, the Ram 1500 beat the Ford and other entrants by a considerable margin.

Pickuptrucks.com editor Mark Williams provided a suitable explanation: Wild cards such as traction control sensitivity and sophistication enter into the equation, as does the fact that Ford's F-150 came equipped with its max tow package, which helped on the math.

I won't pretend to be an expert in pickups as is Mark Williams, but I do know that pickups represent an outsized share of the Detroit automakers' quarterly profits.

This six-way shootout shows just how tight the ongoing battle for pickup supremacy already is and how furiously each automaker will endeavor to stay in this fight.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett

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