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How to choose the pickup best suited to your needs

01 Sep 17
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When Rick Lang drives Highway 2 between Edmonton and Calgary on a frosty winter day, he has developed a habit of counting the kinds of vehicles that he finds off the street, axle-deep in snow, or even worse. By his figuring, a disproportionate number of these are pickups.

That is not just because there are so many of them nowadays. To Lang, director of operations in the Alberta Motor Association, it is because lots of those drivers do not understand that pickups with electronic stability systems are different beasts than a family sedan.

“People think it is possible to drive a hundred and ten on the QE II,” he chuckles. However, pickups, with a high centre of gravity and light back ends, react differently when you brake hard on icy streets. “You can get yourself stuck in places you have never been before.”

Everyone, it appears, needs a truck. Statistics reported by auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers reveal that 123,803 light trucks (including SUVs) were sold in July, 2017. And the lowly passenger automobile? Just 58,231 units. Fully two-thirds of the vehicles sold in Canada were some kind of truck.

More and more, they are pickups — not only in a state where they’re actually put to work on ranches and at oil rigs — but at the sleepy fishing towns of Nova Scotia, the lush back streets of Vancouver Island and the suburban sea of rooftops in the GTA.

Lang worries about drivers who get behind the wheel of a pickup for the first time, noting what’s historically been a work vehicle still exhibits a poorer safety record (according to the U.S. ) compared to the current cars and SUVs. And there are more surprises to get a first-time pickup buyer like the higher fuel consumption, vehicle density and compromised manoeuvrability.

Fear not. If you do your homework, you’ll get a pickup that fits your requirements and needs. And there are loads of choices. All three North American producers offer pickups here, as do Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Here are things to Remember:


The choice between a full- or midsize truck is dependent upon how much weight you wish to tow or carry and how much you drive in a town. If you’re an urban customer seeking to get around in traffic without difficulty, think about a midsize truck, such as GM’s Colorado, says Doug Kenzie, manufacturer for Chevrolet. Other midsize trucks comprise the Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier and Honda Ridgeline. Ford, Fiat-Chrysler and Hyundai have midsize products in the works.

The vehicle’s size is also determined by taxi- and box-size choices. Cabs come in standard (two-passenger), extended cab (cramped rear seats) or crew cab (complete rear seats). Consumers overwhelmingly prefer family-friendly crew cabs. You can also opt for brief (5.5-feet), moderate (6.5-feet) or long (8-feet) boxes. The additional space is handy for distributing, but can be a nightmare in visitors.


Ever heard of the farmer’s turn? It is a long, sweeping arc that takes into account the fact your crew-cab, long-box pickup is more than some yachts. “These things are enormous,” Lang says. For those who get a full-size crew cab, you are likely to get very knowledgeable about the three-point turn. Backup cameras, parking sensors and lane departure warnings make life a bit simpler. “Obviously, a larger vehicle takes up more space on the street,” says Mike Szymkiewicz, head of product planning for Fiat-Chrysler. “That said, size does not mean ponderous driving{}”

And consider parking. City parking spaces are generally 2.6-metres broad and 5.4-metres deep. Full-size pickups with the favorite crew cabs are greater than two-metres wide (also mirrors) and 5.8-metres long (using a midsize box). Those measurements only work if you do all of your shopping at Costco.


If you mostly use your pickup as your everyday commuter, then Lang advises you to think twice. In tight traffic, “Would you rather drive a Yaris?” he asks. On the other hand, Kenzie says, if you are hauling a fifth-wheel trailer or large ship to the wilds on the weekend, a “light-duty” so-called half-ton pickup may not be adequate. Check the specs carefully to ensure that your rig has sufficient power and weight capacity for the job. “It is all about having the ideal capability on hand if you need it,” said , who notes that strong V-8s are designed to use less fuel when not under load.


Although pickups have enhanced their fuel economy, they will never fit a sedan, Lang says. On the other hand, both Kenzie and Szymkiewicz notice that contemporary diesels, such as GM’s Duramax and Fiat-Chrysler’s Turbo Diesel (formerly EcoDiesel), get great mileage. Even strong V-8 engines now include such fuel-saving technologies as variable-valve timing and deactivation of tanks once the power is not needed. Ford provides 2.7- and 3.5-litre EcoBoost motors in the F-150, but gain little on fuel economy. Following a squabble with regulators over emissions, Fiat-Chrysler said in a statement to The Globe and Mail that its EcoDiesel has obtained emissions certificate and will soon go back to the market. It’s predicted to have best-in-class evaluations of 11.3 litres/100 km from town, 8.0 on the highway and 9.8 combined. Six, eight and nine-speed transmissions further squeeze more kilometres from every litre.

GM’s full-size Silverado delivers the eAssist hybrid option, which uses electric motors on all four wheels to supplement the significant V-8’s power, providing a fuel savings of 13 percent in the city over its gas-only kin.


Forget your initial bone-jarring excursion down a gravel road in Uncle Bill’s Dodge D-Series; today’s trucks are more car-like than ever. It may not equal the ride of a Bentley, but purchasing a truck tuned for relaxation can save your back. Many pickups (except Honda’s Ridgeline) have heavy body-on-frame structure and they have a tendency to ride more demanding than the unibody structure in automobiles and SUVs. Szymkiewicz points into Ram’s cushy four-corner air suspension.


Dressed-up pickups do not look weird in the local country club. The pricier pickups (more than $70,000) come as well-appointed as any luxury sedan, with complete leather, all of the latest electronics and custom appearances, such as GM’s all-black Midnight and Ram’s Tungsten variations. You can literally take them anywhere and not feel like the poor cousin.

With some common sense, Lang says, any driver can make the change from car to pickup. You do not have to retake drivers ed. But he’s got two pieces of advice. First, rent a truck like the one you need to purchase and drive it for a couple days — long enough to understand the differences in the driving experience. And think hard about how you’ll use your next car or truck. He calls it getting the right “fit for purpose{}”

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Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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