If my neighborhood is any indication, one industry that hasn’t been impacted by this year’s health crisis is home construction and repair. As I greet the morning, poking my head out the sliding-glass door with coffee in hand, I hear the dulcet resonances of circular saws, nail guns, and air compressors filling the otherwise still air.
Homebuilding and construction is powered by pickup trucks, including those vying for this year’s MotorTrend Truck of the Year award. Whether it’s hauling cement, towing a hot-mop kettle, or bringing along the entire crew of (masked) housepainters, the truck is the tool for the job. Trucks see a hard life, with gear and supplies rattling around the bed, the interiors repeatedly dirtied by sweat-soaked gardeners after a day of pruning ficus trees or befouled plumbers after a downpipe break that requires belly work.
A good truck pays tribute to their efforts with a work ethic to match. A good truck doesn’t get weekends off, either, as it serves double duty with dirt bikes in the bed and JetSkis off the trailer hitch.
It was a light year at the 2021 MotorTrend Truck of the Year testing; we evaluated five truck nameplates and eight total vehicles, including variants. But that paucity of new or significantly improved trucks didn’t make the contest any less competitive, with updates of two previous TOTY winners going up against past strong performers. So read on to see who brings it and who leaves it, and check back Wednesday, December 2, to find out which truck takes home the Golden Calipers!
2021 MotorTrend Truck of the Year Contenders
Truck of the Year: Our Criteria
To judge our winner, MotorTrend‘s testing team and editors put each SUV in the field through a rigorous 10-day evaluation process of both instrumented and subjective testing. This is not a comparison test; each vehicle is judged on its own merits against our six key criteria:
Advancement In Design: We dissect the quality execution of exterior and interior styling, as well as the clever selection and use of materials. We have the guts to tell someone their baby is ugly.
Engineering Excellence: We examine the vehicle concept and execution in its totality, and the use of technologies that benefit the consumer. This can range from new-tech powertrains, to new suspension and transmission tech. Inside, we judge the vehicle’s ability to fit people and cargo, and the success or failure of infotainment systems.
Efficiency: Fuel economy relative to the competitive set, plus overall operating costs, weight, and recyclability. And yes, we consider MPGe and well-to-wheel equations for electric vehicles.
Safety: We examine the safety measures that protect occupants from harm in a crash, and test a vehicle’s ability to help a driver avoid a crash in the first place.
Value: How well does each vehicle deliver excellence relevant to its price tag? When applicable, our IntelliChoice subsidiary weighs in with predicted retained value of the vehicle after five years of ownership.
Performance of Intended Function: Essentially, it’s how well the vehicle does the job its designers, engineers, and product planners intended. If you build a luxury car, it damn well better ride like one. An off-roading SUV must surmount every obstacle. And a tire-scorching sports car can’t be sloppy around corners. If there’s ever a tie-breaking situation, it all comes back to this.
And unlike other automotive publications which have lengthy “best” lists, only MotorTrend has the testing discipline—and let’s face it, the guts—to award one vehicle we deem the finest of its class.