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2006 Toyota Tundra pickup truck
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2006 Pickup Truck Report
What's new in full-size pickups:
Chevrolet Avalanche
Chevrolet Silverado
GMC Sierra
Dodge Ram
Ford F150
Honda Ridgeline
Nissan Titan
Toyota Tundra

By Bill Roebuck

Continual improvements are made each year to pickup trucks for those who drive these vehicles for work -- their original purpose. These drivers want taxicab-like reliability combined with ruggedness and strength to carry around hundreds of kilos of heavy tools, equipment, supplies and components. But pickups today must satisfy another market -- everyday drivers who never use their vehicles to do heavy work.

All of today's models are just fine for the new uses of pickups: as tough-guy image builders for dads who take on the odd weekend DIY project around the house; for drivers who like the look and high driving stance of a pickup; for sporting and outdoors enthusiasts who need space for all their gear; and for those who are just 'truck' people, even though they may never need its true capabilities.

If you're in the truck market, here's a review of current heavy-duty pickups available in Canada: Chevrolet Avalanche, Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra, Dodge Ram, Ford F150, Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra. In addition, we've included the Honda Ridgeline, even though it's not in the heavy-duty category, because it's AJAC's Canadian Truck of the Year for 2006. The vehicles are listed in alphabetical order by manufacturer.

Chevrolet Avalanche
If you need a full-size pickup with a six-passenger crew cab and can deal with a short pickup bed (it's just 5 ft 3 in. long), Chevrolet's Avalanche might fit the bill. It offers cargo-carrying flexibility, though. For those times you need to haul longer items, this model has a fold-down mid-gate and fold-flat rear seatbacks to let you extend the cargo bed into the rear of the cabin, raising the length to almost 8 ft. A bonus is a standard, three-piece, removable, hard cargo bed cover and a pair of lockable storage containers in the rear quarter panels.

2007 Chevy Avalanche LTZ pickup truck.Rear drive and four-wheel drive versions are available, powered by a 5.3-litre V8 engine producing 295 hp and 345 lb-ft of torque using a four-speed automatic transmission. For more power, an optional 8.1-litre V8 produces 325 hp and 447 lb-ft of torque.
Maximum load is 1,190 lb, while towing capacity is 8,100 lb. The sturdy composite cargo bed resists scratches and scrapes. It ranges from 63-in. to 90-in. long and is 50-in. wide.

For 2006, Chevy redesigned the extendable side mirrors and added a tire-pressure monitoring system. A major redesign is set for the 2007 model year and will be launched mid-2006.

Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra
2006 Chevy Silverado Z71 Extended Cab pickup truck.These models from General Motors are basically twins so all the technical characteristics are the same. A variety of configurations are available, with seating from two to six and various two- and four-wheel drive options. Maximum load is 1,655 lb and towing capacity is 7,500 lb.

There are three cargo bed sizes (short, standard and long) that range from 68.5 in. to 97.6 in. in length and 49.1 in. to 64.8 in. in width.

Silverado and Sierra come in 1500, 2500 and 3500 series. The base engine is a 4.3-litre V6 generating 195 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Larger engines offered include a 285-hp 4.8-litre V8, a 310-hp 5.3-litre V8 and a 345-hp 6.0-litre V8. Both five-speed manual and four-speed automatics are available.

Powertrain combinations include diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) models, as well as a gas-electric hybrid version of the 1500 Series Extended Cab. The hybrid claims up to 12% improved fuel economy over regular GM half-ton pickups, as well as reduced exhaust emissions. It also features four auxiliary 120-volt power outlets for hooking up tools and other electrical equipment on the job.

The Quadrasteer four-wheel steering system -- which proved unpopular, probably because of its high cost --  was dropped from the option list for 2006. Another change for 2006 is a disc/drum braking system (it was discs all around last year).

Despite a tweaking of the skin of the 2006 series 1500 model to make it look more alike its heavy-duty brothers, a major redesign of the whole line is coming for the 2007 model year.

Dodge Ram 1500/2500/2500
2006 Dodge Ram Mega Cab pickup truck.If you want a Hemi, these are the pickups that have it. To aid fuel economy, the 5.7-litre Hemi V8 has a multi-displacement system that shuts off four of the cylinders under light-load conditions like highway cruising.

New for 2006 is the Ram 1500 Mega Cab, which Dodge boasts is the largest cab in the full-size segment. Also changed this year is the suspension, aimed to provide a smoother ride.

The Mega Cab is one of seven available trim lines. Other options, which make selection complex (as is the case with most pickups) are rear wheel drive or either full-time or part-time four-wheel drive configurations, and four engine choices. The big one isn't the Hemi but an 8.3-litre V10 that pumps out 500 hp. Yes, just like a Dodge Viper!

Adding to the powertrain choices are a six-speed manual and four- or five-speed automatics.

You can also step up to the Ram 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty models. Here you can order a 5.7-litre turbodiesel V6 or a 5.7-litre V8 gasoline engine.

Towing capacity for the 1500 is as much as 8,600 lb, while the heavy-duty line gives an extra 200 lb. Maximum load capacity on the 1500 is 1,270 lb.

Ford F-150/250/350
Ford's venerable F-150 received a few new options and features for 2006, including available traction control. With a payload rating of 1,889 lb in the Regular Cab model, the cargo bed can be loaded with up to 17.2 cu ft of supplies. Towing capacity is as much as 9,900 lb.

2006 Ford F150 pickup truckSuperCab and SuperCrew models give you more interior space at the expense of cargo capacity and payload. Even the Standard Cab model has four passenger doors, offering ease of entry for as many as six passengers.

Cargo bed length options range from 82.4 in. to 98.6 in., with a width of 64.6 in.

Various engine and transmission configurations are offered, starting with a 4.2-litre V6 producing 202 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Also available is a 5.4-litre V8 with 231 hp and 292 lb-ft of torque. Transmissions include a five-speed manual available with the V6 and a four-speed automatic, set up as either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.

Want more grunt? Look to the heavy-duty F-250, a three-quarter-ton pickup that offers an optional 6.0-litre turbodiesel V8 with a whopping 570 lb-ft of torque and 325 hp, or a 362-hp, 6.8-litre V10. These heavy-duty models can tow as much as 12,500 lb.

Want more fun? Check out the 2006 Limited-edition Harley-Davidson Package on the F-150 line. The special model is based on a SuperCab configuration with a 6.5 ft Styleside box. Its hot-rod look will send a distinctive message to all who see it, with its monotone black exterior, 22 in. polished forged aluminum wheels (the largest offered on any full-sized pickup), high-gloss piano black interior detailing, black leather seating and chrome details. This is one work truck you probably won't want to get dirty.

Honda Ridgeline
2006 Honda Ridgeline pickup truck.The 2006 Honda Ridgeline mid-size half-ton pickup is included among this full-size grouping because it was named the Canadian Truck of the Year by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, the North American Truck of the Year by a group of automotive journalists from the United States and Canada, as well as Motor Trend Truck of the Year.

The Ridgeline is designed to meet the needs of a growing population of consumers purchasing trucks to support their active, outdoor-oriented lifestyles. It offers a mix of truck capability, towing performance and ruggedness, yet has car-like handling.

Standard features include a 255-hp, 3.5-litre V6 engine with 252 lb-ft of torque; five-speed automatic transmission; four-wheel drive system; and various amenities, including a power sliding rear window, 60/40 split lift-up rear seat with under-seat storage; anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Assist; Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control; front and side airbags; and a tire pressure monitoring system.

For work applications, the Ridgeline has a 5-ft-long cargo bed that's 49.5-in. wide, with heavy-duty tie-down cleats, an 8.5 cu ft lockable In-Bed Trunk and a dual-action tailgate. Payload capacity is 1,549 lb and it will tow up to 5,000 lb.

All models also come equipped with transmission and oil coolers, heavy-duty brakes, dual radiator fans, a fresh air intake system for improved towing performance in hot weather conditions, and pre-wiring trailer hookups.

Nissan Titan
The 2006 Titan looks big and tough and it is just that. Towing capacity reaches 9,500 lb -- and it's fairly quick as well, going from zero to 100 km/h in under eight seconds.

2006 Nissan Titan Crew Cab pickup truck.Cargo bed lengths range from 67.1 in. to 78.9 in. at 63.8 in. wide. The optional Utility Bed package features a spray-on bed liner, various tie-down hooks and a lockable storage compartment in the side of the bed.

Two body configurations are offered -- Crew Cab and King Cab -- in three trim levels. Doors on the King Cab open 168 degrees for easy interior access.

Power comes from a 5.6-litre V8 generating 379 lb-ft of torque and 305 hp. A five-speed automatic is the only transmission offered. Payload capacity is up to 1,596 lb. An off-road package adds four-wheel drive capability.

2006 model changes include power-folding mirrors on LE models, upgraded audio systems and a stability control system. Adjustable pedals and a rear sonar system are novel options in this market.

Toyota Tundra
2007 Toyota Tundra pickup truck.The Toyota Tundra gives drivers the option of having a quiet Lexus V8 under the hood. The standard 4.0-litre V6 produces 236 hp, while the 4.7-litre V8 ups that to 271 hp. Transmissions include a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic, either as 4x2 or 4x4 setups. Electronic stability control is an option, while ABS brakes are standard on all models.

Payload capacity ranges up to 1,860 lb and towing capacity is 6,700 lb. Bed lengths range from 73.3 in. to 98.2 in., and widths are available from 53.8 in. to 63.3 in.

Cab configurations are Regular, Access Cab (extended cab) and Double Cab (crew cab), available in five trim lines from Base to Limited. All can fit six passengers.

There were no changes to the Tundra for 2006, as a new, larger Tundra is in the works for the 2007 model year.

Bill Roebuck is Editor of

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