The Challenge: Shopping for a Full-size Truck That Can Save at the Pumps When Towing
With the current COVID-19 pandemic limiting international travel, many Canadians have had to alter their weekend, vacation and holiday plans. Some are taking staycations in their backyards. Some have hibernated to their cottages. But many other Canadians have decided to hit the road by either renting or purchasing camper trailers or boats.
If you are looking for a new vehicle that can accommodate your family comfortably and tow a trailer, we've selected a contender from each of the six truck makers that offer four-wheel-drive, crew cab, full-size pickup trucks. Also, to ensure we address a wide variety of driving styles, we've also included Natural Resources Canada's (NR Can) Annual Estimated Fuel Cost figures. These estimates are based on the vehicle's combined city/highway rating, an annual driving distance of 20,000 kilometres and forecasted prices of $1.30 CDN per litre for regular gasoline, $1.45/L for premium gasoline, $1.30/L for diesel fuel.
2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
Like its domestic rivals at Ford, Ram, and GMC, the 2020 Silverado full-size pickup truck is Chevrolet’s biggest seller in Canada. The 5th-generation Silverado 1500, all-new for 2019, utilizes technology and smart engineering to make it lighter, more fuel-efficient, and roomier than previous generations. Engine choices range from a turbocharged four-cylinder to a V6 to a pair of V8s. Of interest to truck buyers who need to tow, a new diesel engine joins the 2020 Silverado range. With an estimated annual fuel cost of $2,444 with a combined highway and city estimate of 9.4 litres per 100 kilometres, it’s the most fuel-efficient engine for a Silverado 1500 Crew Cab with four-wheel-drive.
The 2020 Chevrolet Silverado’s turbocharged 3.0-litre 6-cylinder Duramax diesel makes 277 horsepower. More importantly, the diesel’s 460-pound-feet of torque rating peaks at low revs (1,500 rpm), which is an ideal characteristic for towing. It pairs with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The tow rating for this engine and body configuration is 9,300 pounds (4,218 kilograms). With a starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price of $47,498, the Silverado 1500 4WD Crew Cab in LT trim is the least expensive version the optional $4,830 Duramax engine is available with. Adding Mandatory options (Trailering package $450; Convenience Package $2,795; Auto Locking Differential $450), our Silverado contender came to a total of $56,023.
2020 Ford F-150
The 2020 Ford F-150 full-size pickup truck continues as the most popular new car or truck in Canada. Even with an updated version arriving for the 2021 model year, the current F-150 debuted for 2015 with an aluminum body, 10-speed automatic transmission, and various high-tech driver assists to set the standard for the class. Even with fresher competition from rivals at Chevy, GMC, Nissan and Ram, the rear- or four-wheel-drive F-150 leads with continuous innovation and a wide variety of body styles and powertrain options, including a V6, V8, EcoBoost turbocharged engines and the new-for-2020 turbodiesel.
The 2020 Ford F-150's 3.0-litre 6-cylinder Power Stroke turbodiesel offers 250 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque, allowing the full-size pickup to tow up to 11,300 lbs (5,125 kgs). With a combined fuel economy estimate of 10.0 L/100 kms, NR Can estimates it will cost you $2,600 to fuel your turbodiesel F-150 SuperCrew 4X4 over a year. With a starting price of $46,703 (in the lowest XLT trim the Power Stroke is available), buyers will need to add $8,172 for the diesel, as well as a $925 Towing Package, $300 Rear Window Defroster and $350 Sideview Heated and Power Mirrors, for a final MSRP of $56,450.
2020 GMC Sierra 1500
Fresh off a complete redesign, the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 is a highly capable choice among full-size trucks. Though it has similar underpinnings and powertrain choices as its Chevrolet Silverado 1500 sibling, the Sierra 1500 distinguishes itself with a bit more premium flair and design differences. New this year is the same 3.0-litre Duramax diesel found in the mechanically similar Silverado. In both General Motors’ trucks, the Duramax is a smooth, turbocharged 6-cylinder that gives the Sierra an excellent combined fuel economy estimate of 9.9 L/100 kms and a maximum tow rating of 11,000 lbs (4,999 kgs). What’s more, this light-duty diesel, which mates to a 10-speed automatic transmission, is refined enough for everyday use when not trailering.
Similarly priced to the Chevrolet and Ford contenders, pricing for a 2020 GMC Silverado 1500 SLE (the lowest trim you can get the diesel with) with 4WD and Crew Cab configuration starts at $48,498. The Duramax adds $4,830. Add the mandatory Convenience Package ($2,865) and Auto Locking Differential ($450), and the total MSRP rings in at $56,643.
2020 Nissan Titan
The 2020 Nissan Titan benefits from what we would call a “major mid-cycle refresh.” That means it’s the same proven full-size truck beneath the skin, but with an improved powertrain. There’s also a thoroughly revised interior (with an available 9-inch touch-screen display) and more standard safety tech, including automatic emergency braking and a lane-departure warning for the first time.
Nissan did offer a diesel engine in its heavy duty Titan XD for the 2016 to 2019 model years. But for 2020, the single Titan engine is a good one: a direct-injected 5.6-litre gas 8-cylinder with 400 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque. That’s an improvement over last year when the same engine put out 390 horsepower and 394 pound-feet of torque. What gives? Simple. This year, Nissan did its dyno testing with premium-grade gasoline, not regular. The sole gearbox is a new 9-speed automatic. The V8 is quiet and refined, with enough power on tap to make freeway on-ramps a relaxed affair, even while towing up to 9,270 lbs (4,205 kgs). Fuel economy cannot match the diesel rigs, though, as the Titan is estimated to cost $3,857 to fill annually based on a 13.3 L/100 kms combined fuel estimate. Well equipped, a Titan Crew Cab 4X4 starts at $50,498.
2020 Ram 1500
All-new for 2019, the 5th-generation 2020 Ram 1500 full-size pickup truck continues for 2020 by adding more features and trim options. The newest Ram 1500 offers handsome styling, excellent towing and payload numbers and one of the most sophisticated interiors ever placed in a pickup. Like its domestic rivals, the Ram 1500 gets a new 3.0-litre turbocharged 6-cylinder diesel engine. To get the diesel, you’ll need to start with the Ram Rebel, which starts at $64,740 in Crew Cab 4X4 form.
The 2020 Ram 1500 Rebel is well-equipped and adds off-roading gear, including a one-inch factory lift, electronic transfer case, standard electronic locking rear differential, skid plates, and Bilstein shocks. The optional $3,900 EcoDiesel is our pick if you want to tow. The updated 3.0-litre engine is Ram’s third-generation half-ton truck diesel powerplant, optimized for towing up to 12,560 lbs (5,697 kgs) and produces 260 horsepower (an 8% increase over the previous generation) and 480 pound-feet of torque. With a $525 Trailer Tow group, the total MSRP for our Ram 1500 contender rings in at $69,165.
2020 Toyota Tundra
Despite a platform that dates back to 2007, the 2020 Toyota Tundra still earns a sterling reputation for quality and reliability with our Kelley Blue Book experts. To keep the Tundra competitive, Toyota equips it with several standard safety features, such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and auto high beams. Like the Nissan Titan, the Tundra comes only with one powertrain choice: a 381-horsepower and 401-pound-feet of torque gas 8-cylinder. The Tundra's V8 has no issues with pulling, hauling and accelerating. The Tundra's maximum towing ability is an acceptable 9,200 lbs (4,173 kgs). Four-wheel drive is available across the range.
With a starting MSRP of $47,420, a 2020 Toyota Tundra 4X4 CrewMax in base SR5 trim is the most fuel-efficient version. And the Tundra is relatively inexpensive compared to the Detroit diesel contenders. But if you are looking at overall, long-term operating expenses, the Toyota's estimated combined 16.3 L/100 kms fuel economy rating means you'll pay up to $4,238 in annual fuel costs.
While both the 2020 Nissan Titan and 2020 Toyota Tundra offer lower starting prices, their relatively poor fuel economy ratings from their gasoline V8 engines result in much higher annual fuel costs. Depending on how long you plan to own your truck or how many kilometres you plan on driving, these extra fuel costs could add up over time and negate the initial purchase price savings.
The 2020 Ford F-150's towing capacity and price are very competitive with the General Motors' twins and the Ram diesel trucks. The Ford is a great all-rounder but does not excel in any one category. Despite the highest tow rating in this group, the 2020 Ram 1500's higher price point (to achieve the EcoDiesel engine's economy) may hinder buyers who can't afford the Rebel trim's higher MSRP.
Which leaves us with the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 twins. If you need to haul more, the Sierra's higher towing capacity over the Silverado makes the GMC a wise pick. However, the Silverado's lower price point and annual fuel costs make it our recommendation if you're looking for a crew cab, 4X4 full-size truck that can tow and save money at the pumps all at the same time.
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