Crowning the Winner: The 2015 Truck of Texas
I’ve already given the introduction to how much Texans love their trucks and how every year the Texas Auto Writers Association gathers to crown the winner; the coveted “Truck of Texas” award. Now let’s get down to some results.
Besides the main award, there were 17 other categories that each of the 75 vehicles fell into. These consisted of titles like “Midsized Crossover Utility Vehicles” and “Luxury Pickup Trucks.” Awards were also given for best connectivity, best powertrain, and best technology.
Each vehicle was subjected to a battery of tests that measured its ability to perform its intended function, whether that be towing, going off road, surrounding its occupants in luxury, or proving a great all-round family hauler. The vehicles were all competing within their respective category for the win.
The 2015 Truck of Texas Winner
The dip in the side window line for the mirror and the overall shape of the cab still hark back to the 2004 redesign.
It doesn’t come as a big surprise that Ford took home the prize with its all-new 2015 F-150. It’s redesigned from the lug nuts up with all-new steel and aluminum parts, a spread of naturally aspirated and boosted engines, and enough interior amenities to rival Germany’s best.
The F-150’s new aluminum body not only looks good, but is pound-for-pound stronger than steel and therefore more dent resistant, not to mention it’s nearly impervious to rust. The F-150 still has its fair share of steel parts, as its revised frame is comprised of high-strength steel with a total of eight cross members, fully boxed side rails, and reworked crumple zones.
The structure built atop the frame is what gets all the attention. An all-new visual appearance separates the truck from its predecessors while still holding true to a few key design elements. The dip in the side-window line for the mirror and the overall shape of the cab still hark back to the 2004 redesign.
Ford also added an additional engine to the F-150 powertrain roster: the 2.7-liter EcoBoost. This 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 is available with nearly all trim levels and provides customers with up to 8,500 pounds of towing capacity. Rated at 325 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque, the little V-6 moves the F-150 with purpose while still providing fuel economy that’s expected to be very class-competitive.
Turns happen quickly and on-center feel is set perfectly between twitchy and numb.
The Texas Truck Rodeo provided my second driving experience of the all-new F-150, with the first being a mere week before. I had ample time to drive the truck on open highways, tight country roads with plenty of curves, and off-road situations with tons of mud, rocks, water, and loose surfaces.
On road, the F-150 held its own as a decent highway cruiser. Its low NVH levels meant wind noise, road vibrations, and other extraneous harshness was kept at bay. Conversations inside can be had at whisper level. The truck’s electronic steering rack kept the front end pointed in the right direction with a good amount of communication to the driver. Turns happen quickly and on-center feel is set perfectly between twitchy and numb.
Blasting down twisty roads is surprisingly fun. Body roll is kept to a minimum and turn-in is very un-truck-like. The optional 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 is the performer of the bunch, making 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. Of course, those still wanting that V-8 rumble can opt for the 5.0-liter V-8 that carries over from last year.
Turning the four-wheel-drive knob in to four-high mode doesn’t change the truck’s driving dynamics, only its ability to traverse terrain unsuitable for the majority of crossovers. Engaging the electronic locking rear differential ups the ante even more. At no point in the off-road sections I threw the F-150 down did I feel nervous of getting stuck. Even those test trucks with more street-biased tires handled the course with ease. FX4-equipped trucks use Rancho shocks to dampen the bumps. In my book, the F-150 was one of the smoothest on the off-road course, second only to the purpose-built Ram Power Wagon.
New LED lighting illuminates the bed at night when a tonneau cover is in place.
Of course, driving isn’t everything; sometimes work needs to be done. The F-150 now comes with a revised tailgate step that moves the assist handle to inside the tailgate verses along the load surface. A new cargo management system called Boxlink uses universally accepted connections so customers can tap into the aftermarket for additional bed accessories. New LED lighting illuminates the bed at night when a tonneau cover is in place. SuperCrew and CrewCab models have a flat-floor design that allows for extra storage behind the front row seats. Folding rear seats increase the space even more.
Overall, the F-150 proved to be an exceptional truck in a field of outstanding models. Considering the Ram 1500 had won the Truck of Texas award two years running, the Chevrolet and GMC twins are still fairly new, and Toyota brought its TRD Pro edition of the Tundra, the F-150 had a lot to prove.
Categories, Competitors, & Winners
Besides the overarching Truck of Texas award, each vehicle belonged inside its own category. All 60 Texas Auto Writers Association members, including myself, voted for their choice of winner in each of the 18 categories. Here are the results below with the winner listed in the bold at the top spot. Beyond that, vehicles are in no particular order. My thoughts on each winner are then scripted in italics at the end of the list.
Compact Crossover Utility Vehicle
2015 Honda CR-V Touring
2015 Toyota Rav4 Limited
2014 Nissan Juke NISMO RS
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T
2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE
The new CR-V makes a great all-rounder with plenty of style and amenities. It drives really well and has more soul than expected.
Midsize Crossover Utility Vehicle
2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium
2015 Toyota Highlander Limited
2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad AWD
My jaw dropped to see how well the Outback performed off road. Loads of ground clearance and Subaru’s AWD system really pays off.
Full-size Crossover Utility Vehicle
2015 Kia Sedona SX
2015 Chevrolet Traverse LTX
Kia lists the Sedona as a crossover, or MPV-style vehicle rather than a minivan. What’s more, it was the only vehicle of its kind in the competition. Innovative movable and reclining second row seats are fantastic.
Luxury Crossover Utility Vehicle
2015 Lincoln MKC
2015 GMC Acadia Denali
2015 Lexus NX200t F Sport AWD
The Lincoln looks the part, but I was underwhelmed by its interior quality. My vote landed elsewhere.
Compact Sport Utility Vehicle
2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk-Active Drive Lock & Cherokee Limited 4x4-Active Drive Lock
2014 Nissan Rogue SL FWD
The Trailhawk lives up to its Jeep heritage off road. On-road refinement is surprising, but it has noticeable NVH issues on anything but new pavement.
Midsize Sport Utility Vehicle
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4x4
2015 GMC Terrain Denali AWD
The Grand Cherokee’s air suspension did a great job off road, though it was somewhat clunky being at the top of its suspension travel. Refinement otherwise was class-leading.
Full-size Sport Utility Vehicle
2015 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Z71
2015 Ford Expedition EL 4x4 Platinum & Expedition Platinum
2014 Dodge Durango R/T AWD & Durango Citadel AWD
The Z71 package adds beefier tires and suspension bits for a better off-road experience.
Compact Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle
2015 Range Rover Evoque 5-Door
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250
The Evoque looks road-biased, but held its own off road. Completed the rocky hill climb with less fuss than any other competitor. Period.
Midsize Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit EcoDiesel 4x4
2014 Range Rover Sport V6 SC HSE
2014 Lexus GX460
The Grand Cherokee is made complete with the EcoDiesel’s tremendous torque. Perfect for off-roading, towing, or long highway jaunts.
Full-size Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle
2015 GMC Yukon Denali
2015 Infiniti QX80
2015 Lincoln Navigator & Navigator L
A badge and nameplate away from being a Cadillac Escalade. Refinement throughout and a massive V-8 powerplant.
Off-Road Utility Vehicle
2015 Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler & Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock Edition
2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
While the 4Runner TRD Pro felt more relaxed while pounding the pavement and rock climb, the Wrangler still outshines it. The Wrangler’s two wheel bases really change its characteristics.
Midsize Pickup Truck
2015 Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab 4WD Z71
2015 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab TRD Pro
2014 Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
The Colorado is an impressive truck and will surely do well in sales. Its abilities match that of a full-size truck but its smaller size makes driving easier. Its V-6 feels plenty peppy.
Full-size Pickup Truck
2015 Ford F-150 King Ranch 4x4 SuperCrew
2015 Toyota Tundra CrewMax TRD Pro
2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn & Ram 1500 Limited
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab 4WD LTZ
The King Ranch is loaded with Texas-style adornments that make cowboys go crazy.
Luxury Pickup Truck
2015 Ford F-150 Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew
2015 Toyota Tundra CrewMax 1794 4x4
2015 GMC Sierra Denali
The Platinum edition F-150 is for those urban cowboys who spend more time hauling golf bags than hay bales.
Heavy Duty Pickup Truck
2015 Ram 2500 Longhorn
2015 Ford-F250 Super Duty Platinum
2015 GMC Sierra Denali 2500 Crew Cab HD 4WD
An air horn and CB Radio short of being a big rig. The Snow Man and Rubber Duck would be proud. Cummins power and its exhaust brake make all the right noises. Its coil-link rear suspension smooths out the ride.
Off-Road Pickup Truck
2015 Ram Power Wagon Laramie & Power Wagon SLT
2015 Ford F-150 XLT 4x4 SuperCrew
2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab Z71 LTX
Perhaps my favorite truck of the bunch. Its meaty tires, locking differentials, electronically disconnected front sway bar, and manual transfer case make the Power Wagon a serious off-roader. Smooth ride on the roughest of roads and a 12,000-pound winch compete the package.
2015 Ford Transit 250 MR & Transit MR Van
2015 Ram ProMaster EcoDiesel Tradesman & ProMaster Tradesman
Holy smokes, that EcoBoost is a beast in this van. Loads of cargo room and good driver ergonomics makes for a compelling alternative to the diesel-powered Ram ProMaster.
Chrysler’s Uconnect system
2015 Kia Sedona SX
2015 Ford F-150 Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew
2015 GMC Terrain Denali AWD
2015 Ram 1500 – 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6
2015 Lexus NX200t F Sport AWD – 2.0-liter turbo I-4
2015 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCab – 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6
2015 Ram 2500 – 6.4-liter HEMI V-8
2015 Ford F-150 – High-strength, Military-grade Aluminum body
2015 Ram 1500 Limited – Four-corner Air Suspension
2015 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty – Truck Link-coil suspension
2015 Ram Power Wagon – Smart Sway bar Disconnect