KEEP ON TRUCKING
Motor Trend|February 2021
NOT EVEN A PANDEMIC CAN STOP AMERICA'S LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE PICKUP TRUCK

PRO Fantastic engines •phenomenal transmission • exceptional towing ability CON Pricey •disappointing interior • Tremor’s off-road experience Finalists

2020 Ford Super Duty

Going into to this year’s Truck of the Year competition, the refreshed Super Duty was the odds-on favorite. In 2017, the then-new Super Duty took home the Golden Calipers; this year’s edition just went through a particularly thorough refresh.

Even though the honey-do list was short, much has been updated. The big news is the most torque in the segment—a muscular 1,050 lb-ft from the 450-hp 6.7-liter turbodiesel V-8. Even bigger, a pushrod 7.3-liter gasoline V-8 replaces the ancient 6.8-liter Modular V-10. Then there’s the new 10-speed automatic transmission. Also cool: a new harder-core off-road package called Tremor, which is available on several trim levels. Let’s see how the new Super Duties fared against our six key criteria.

“Advancement in design is not the Super Duty’s strong suit,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. The big Fords look just like the old ones. Same goes for the interiors. Sure, a grille got tweaked here, and there’s a new color trim there, but you’d be hard-pressed to visually distinguish the 2017s from the 2021s. This is fine for the exterior, as this Super Duty generation is handsome. The interior is a problem, though; the Ram Heavy Duties (last year’s TOTY winner) have a nicer interior with a significantly larger and more functional touchscreen. The Ford remains the same.

The two Fords—we tested both an F-250 Tremor and an F-350 Limited dually—did impress us in terms of engineering excellence— especially that big-boy F-350. “The engine is smooth and refined, the transmission shifts gears at the right time, and the steering gives you a great feel of what’s happening at the wheels,” MotorTrend en Español’s Miguel Cortina said. “It’s hard to believe this truck has over 1,000 lb-ft of torque given how refined it is.”

Then there’s towing. “This truck is only vaguely aware that 5,200 pounds of trailer has been attached,” features editor Scott Evans said. “The weight is inconsequential to this engine.”

The same is true for the Tremor when saddled with a 2.5-ton trailer. “Trailer never wagged the truck in the slightest,” Evans said. “The 7.3-liter V-8 has a ton of power. I wouldn’t worry at all pulling a heavier trailer. The transmission is at the top of its game, which made towing a breeze.”

If only the Tremor were as loved off-road. “It’s like exploring the world with an anvil,” associate road test editor Erick Ayapana said. It’s crazy-capable, but its massive weight gave it a brutal ride off-pavement, even after airing down the tires. Said Cortina: “Its ride is stiff, bouncy, and jittery. Even on the parts where the trail seems smooth, there’s a lot of vibration in the cabin.” Seabaugh added that it “rebounds poorly over bumps and lacks the body control of a Power Wagon.”

Why? Because unlike the competition, the Tremor offers impressive payload capacity. However, it’s billed as an off-roader. This means the F-250 Tremor stumbles a bit against one of our key criteria, performance of intended function.

We also struggled saying the refreshed Fords are better than the Ram Heavy Duty trucks that won it all last year, save for towing, where we all agree that the F-350 Limited dually can out-tow an airport tug. It also excels as a cruiser. “This dually drives so well that you forget you’re driving a dually,” Cortina said.

Many of us felt the same way about the Ram 3500 last year. A future comparison test is going to have to settle this one. Until that time, know that Ford did a great job polishing its largest diamond.

Jonny Lieberman

PRO Improved fuel economy • better off-road capability • better steering CON Reduced payload/towing capacity • leaky soft top • scary towing

2021 Jeep Gladiator

Character and heritage are as much Jeep’s stock in trade as off-road capability. “It’s a Jeep thing” can be as much praise as it can be damnation, though, depending on who’s saying it and why. The Gladiator has improved at being a Jeep, but it’s hardly better at being a truck.

The Gladiator’s repeat invitation to Truck of the Year hinged on a pair of important new options: a 260-hp, 442-lb-ft 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 and a desert bashing suspension. Although not offered together, the EcoDiesel engine and Mojave trim level each add impressive capability. Both, however, come with compromises.

The diesel engine brings much-needed low-end torque to the Gladiator’s repertoire, making the truck not only empirically quicker but also more comfortable to drive. It gets up and moves off the line better, it gets up to freeway speeds a full second quicker than the standard gas V-6, and it passes with ease at highway speeds. It does all of this while bumping the Gladiator to best-in-class city mpg and ties it for best highway mpg. It’s just too bad Jeep charges you $6,000 for the privilege of paying more for diesel at fewer fueling locations.

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