Different Price Points Help Define The Pickup Spectrum

By Frank Raczon, Senior Editor | May 31, 2012
Different Price Points Help Define The Pickup Spectrum

With a host of models to choose from, pickup truck buyers have more options available than ever before. Fleet managers looking for fuel savings can consider flex-fuel pickups that also accept E-85/gasoline blends, and new engine and power-train combinations have been engineered to stretch more miles out of every gallon, whether gas or diesel.

There are also cab-size options and many other variables such as two- and four-wheel drive versions. To help you get an idea of what’s available for your work, here’s an overview of manufacturers and their offerings, with special attention paid to the high and low price points from the ranges available, along with notable highlights from models in between.


The 2012 Ford Super Duty pickup is available in 12 different models, ranging from the F-250 XL up to the F-450 “King Ranch” version. Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRPs) go from $29,455 to $64,030. Ford’s first two models on the scale, the F-250 XL and F-350 XL, feature a 6.2-liter V8 flex fuel engine.

The E85-capable 6.2-liter engine has bigger pistons, bigger intake and exhaust valves, and a larger engine bore diameter than the engine it replaced. It delivers power ratings of 385 horsepower and 405 lb.-ft. of torque. Ford’s TorqShift heavy-duty 6-speed SelectShift automatic transmission employs strong gears that take on extra torque, according to Ford, meaning you use fewer rpm because the torque converter locks up at lower speeds.

This kind of transmission is normally reserved for high-performance engines because of its strength and durability characteristics, and the ability to withstand high heat. Ford says that means you can rev it harder and push it to greater extremes.

All Ford Super Duty pickups have standard trailer sway control that uses selective wheel braking and reduced engine power to help keep a trailer stable through high winds, turns and slick roads. The F-250 XLT and F-350 XLT have an available factory-installed, fully integrated Trailer Brake Controller (TBC), eliminating installation or aftermarket worries. TBC is compatible with electrically actuated drum brakes only. It is integrated with the ABS and trailer sway control, synchronizing vehicle and trailer brakes for seamless braking, even with the heavy loads.

As you progress up the Ford line, there are more bells and whistles available, such as the company’s Sync communication system first made popular in its cars, remote start, rear-view cameras, special trim packages (“Lariat” and King Ranch), and illuminated cab steps. The F-450 is available with the 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbo diesel engine.


Nissan offers four models of its Titan pickup. The S model King Cab and Crew Cab (four full-sized doors), both available in 4x2 and 4x4 versions (starting MSRP from $28,520), has a 317-horsepower, 5.6-liter V8 engine that generates 385 lb.-ft. of torque and features ABS. Moving up the line, the SV King and Crew Cab (MSRP $30,520 and $32,720, respectively) versions add remote keyless entry, chrome bumpers and grille, and audio goodies.

Designed specifically for off-road applications, the PRO-4X (MSRP from $36,070) is a 4x4-only pickup, and its King and Crew Cab feature a lower final gear ratio, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, Rancho shock absorbers, and two additional skid plates. The top-of-the-line SL Crew Cab (from $38,440) has 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a factory-applied spray-on bed liner, a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, and a rear sonar system.


Chevy’s 2012 Silverado comes in four models: the 1500, 2500HD, 3500HD, and Silverado Hybrid.

The base engine for the 1500 (starting MSRP $22,195) is a Vortec V8 capable of generating over 300 horsepower and 300 lb.-ft. of torque. There’s also a Vortec 6.2-liter V8 that generates 403 horsepower and 417 lb.-ft. of torque.

The 1500’s Crew Cab has 1,937 pounds of payload capacity, while the Extended Cab with available “Max Trailering Pack” can handle 1,908 pounds of payload.

With the Max Trailering Pack, Extended Cab models can tow 10,700 pounds and Crew Cab models can pull 10,600 pounds. The package includes a 9.5-inch rear axle with 3.73 axle ratio, disc brakes, the Vortec 6.2-liter V8, and the Z82 trailering package with heavy duty suspension. These trucks will also include an automatic locking rear differential.

The available Z71 Off-Road Package features a Z71 Off-Road suspension, 46-millimeter twin-tube high-pressure gas-charged shocks, off-road jounce bumpers, a skid plate package with a frame-mounted transfer case shield, automatic locking rear differential, bright sill plates, and Rancho shocks. Every Silverado 1500 non-hybrid V8 engine can operate on E85.

The high-end Silverado Hybrid (starting MSRP $36,640) has two modes. Mode 1, for low speeds and light loads, allows operation via electric power, engine power or any combination of the two. Mode 2, used primarily at highway speeds or when towing trailers and climbing steep grades, provides an electric assist in addtion to four-cylinder or eight-cylinder power.


GMC offers seven Sierra models, from the 1500, with an MSRP starting at $22,195, to the Sierra 3500HD Denali, at $46,360.

The base Sierra 1500 model is also available in a hybrid model. It has a two-mode hybrid propulsion system with a control module that helps determine the amount of power or torque required at a given moment and selects the appropriate operating mode. GMC says the result is a 33-percent increase in city fuel economy compared to a conventional, non-hybrid engine.

In stop-and-go traffic, the hybrid system saves fuel by shutting off the engine and operating on electric power alone. During normal stops, regenerative braking uses the motors in the hybrid transmission as generators to decelerate the vehicle by applying resistance in the motors rather than brake friction. At the same time, the motors are capturing that energy as electricity in a 300-volt battery pack. The electricity is then available for the next acceleration cycle.

The ball-hitch trailer rating of the hybrid model is 6,100 pounds in two-wheel drive, with a maximum payload rating of 1,553 pounds. At the high end of the spectrum, the 3500HD Denali (MSRP starting at $46,360) has an available Duramax diesel engine that generates 397 horsepower and 765 lb.-ft. of torque. Teamed with an Allison transmission, it’s also B5-B20 biodiesel-compatible. It has a maximum 18,000 pounds of conventional trailering capacity and a maximum payload capacity of 6,055 pounds.


The half-ton pickup entry from Toyota is the Tundra. It offers an available 5.7-liter V8 with 381 horsepower or a more fuel-efficient 4.6-liter V8 with 310 horsepower and 327 lb.-ft. of torque. It is available in a regular cab model and can seat up to six in Double Cab and CrewMax models. It can also tow up to 10,800 pounds and has a payload capacity of up to 2,090 pounds.

The regular cab model starts at $25,155 MSRP, the Double Cab starts at $27,365 MSRP, while the CrewMax is $30,335 to start. The 4x4 Tundra models are available with 5.7-liter V8 flex fuel engines that use gasoline, E85, or a combination of both. The top-of-the-line flex fuel model starts at $43,595.

Dodge Ram

Ram’s starting model, the 1500, begins at an MSRP of $22,120. It’s available with a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that generates 390 horsepower, and can achieve a towing capacity of up to 10,450 pounds. “Hill Start Assist” and Trailer Sway Control features are standard.

On the high end, Ram 2500 and 3500 are available with 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel engines with 350 horsepower and 800 lb.-ft. of torque. Buyers can choose from three cab varieties and two bed lengths with either single- or dual-wheel drive.

The 3500 Max Tow package provides a towing capacity of 22,750 pounds. A RamBox cargo management system consists of a waterproof, drainable box outside each side of the bed that comes in two sizes; one to correspond with the 5-foot 7-inch bed, and another, larger size to store a variety of items next to the 6-foot 4-inch bed. The loaded Ram 3500 has an MSRP of $56,310.