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Three High-end Pickup Trucks Bringing Speed and Practicality

Pragmatic and capable, pickup trucks remain unanimously popular in the US.

By Alexandra Cheney

Full-size pickup trucks continue to perform as the best-selling vehicles in the US. And for good reason — highly pragmatic and exceedingly capable, they pair interior comfort with exterior durability. Easily opt for the roads less traversed with this trio of trucks, each purpose-built for any kind of adventure.

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Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab

Consider it the last call for off-road high-performance trucks. Should a 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 with an eight-speed automatic transmission entice, the time is now — Ram Trucks announced that this year will be the last for TRX, limiting production to up to 4,000 models worldwide. Next year will usher in a Ram product line halved in liters and bolstered with turbochargers, undoubtedly in response to new emissions regulations, as well as an all-electric version. So if a 702 hp half-ton pickup with a top speed of 118 mph excites, TRX is the truck.

Ram is limiting TRX production to up to 4,000 models worldwide / ©Ram

Ascending into TRX is best achieved via one large step and a kind of swinging of the leg across the seat, a move gently reminiscent of mounting a horse. The stance of the truck, tall albeit firmly planted, radiates a position of power. Once inside and peering over the leather and carbon-fiber flat-bottom steering wheel, an emboldening occurs.

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Add in four-corner active-level air suspension with adaptive damping, which aids in leveling any rear loads while bolstering off-road capability. The mountains are calling, on repeat. Growling to a start, TRX is best experienced with four seats filled. Fold down the vast center console, and occupants may be jostling to enjoy the best-in-class reclining rear seats (with heating and cooling functionality). If it’s gear instead of people in the back row, the flat-load floor, with in-floor and under-seat storage, is thoughtful and convenient.

Incorporate the 8,100-lb towing capacity and this high-performance truck flexes into a respectable hauler. Should nature sounds not suffice, the 900-watt, 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system can drown out exterior interruptions, including the gurgles and belches of TRX. A gentle reminder to its owners: Despite the 12-inch touchscreen, dual-pane panoramic sunroof and digital rearview mirror, it’s still a truck.

From $96,585, ramtrucks.com

Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Toyota Tundra
The Tundra TRD Pro / ©Toyota

When the third-generation Tundra debuted two years ago it made a splash, courtesy of its twin-turbo V6 powertrains, the most powerful of which was a hybrid. Named the i-FORCE MAX, the 3.4-liter twin-turbo V6 hybrid with a 10-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission outputs 437 hp and remains a centerpoint of the Tundra TRD Pro, which received its first refresh this year.

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Whether towing (up to 11,175 lbs) or traversing, Toyota masterfully balances its half-ton pickup truck — the reliability and durability of the powertrain outweighs the constantly shifting transmission, noticeable when climbing up a hill. Standard rear coil springs give the Tundra TRD Pro a settled, grounded ride, boosted by FOX internal bypass shocks, 18-inch all-terrain tires and aluminum skid plates.

At 81.6 inches wide (mirrors notwithstanding) and 78-inches high, the footprint of the truck is more cube than rectangle, a point of exaggeration when the driver of any vehicle glances in their rearview mirror after dark; is it a big rig or a Tundra TRD Pro they see? That boldness echoes throughout the cabin with the all-new multimedia system. An available 14-inch touchscreen features a pinch-and-zoom function that parrots most phones and tablets.

A simple ‘Okay Toyota’ responds like Alexa or Siri — the AI assistant can turn down the audio volume of the JBL 12-speaker with subwoofer and amplifier, leaving the driver free for other more attention-worthy tasks, say, navigating up a frozen road or reversing down a boat ramp.

From $72,130, toyota.com

Rivian R1T Performance Dual-Motor AWD (with Max Pack)

This maxed-out Rivian R1T offers 410 miles per charge / ©Rivian

It’s a bit of a ‘choose your own adventure’ — and that’s before wheels ever hit pavement. Rivian — RJ Scaringe’s Silicon Valley startup that was founded in 2009 (with manufacturing in Normal, Illinois) and went public in November 2021 — produces an all-electric pickup truck (R1T) and SUV (R1S). Focusing on the truck, there’s no less than 17 configurations.

Avoiding the minutiae, not every drive system pairs with each type of battery. The Performance Dual-Motor all-wheel drive (with a 0-60 in 3.5 seconds and 665 hp) integrates with the Max pack, which offers 410 miles per charge. Whereas the Quad-Motor all-wheel drive (0-60 in 3 seconds flat with 835 hp) only works with the large pack. But it has four additional drive modes: conserve, rock crawl, drift and rally. Choices.

When adventure of the outdoor variety finally arrives, it’s delightful. Three feet of water feels like half that. The 14.9 inches of ground clearance makes it nearly impossible to bottom out — on anything. Towing capacity is 11,000 lbs. The company recently filed a patent for a mobile movie projector. There’s a cargo tunnel running behind the cabin the width of the truck and a useful front trunk. Plus, the touchscreen isn’t a screen; it’s a flat 15-inch monitor, akin to a medium-sized laptop. Without question, this is the intersection of technology and automobile manufacturing.

From $94,000, rivian.com

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