2005 Pickup Truck Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes
The wail of a harmonica cutting through the still night air. A tiny lizard skittering to safety across the brutally sun-scorched ground. If you listen, you can hear the thunder of ancient hoof beats echoing from rose-colored canyon walls. Sagebrush and cactus. Outcroppings and arroyos. This, America's storied Southwest, was made for pickup trucks. Or maybe it's the other way around.
Visions of conquering untamed land now ride with horsepower no longer powered by hoof power, although cowboy boots still prevail. Rodeos feature 4X4s with dirt-taming tires hustled through dusty challenge courses by contemporary dudes and babes. And names that recall cowboy country are branded across the panels and tailgates of the pickup trucks they drive: Canyon, Dakota, Sierra, Ram, Ranger, Frontier and Silverado.
While the basics of pickup trucks instinctively relate to a retro Southwest image, the breed has broadened far beyond the limits of such a scenario. Pick-ups now carry music lovers to the opera. They tote 20-foot sailboats to the local boat launch ramp. They serve as amenity-laden family transport on lengthy trips when fitted out as four- or five-seater King or Crew Cab models. And they're as much at home in the country club parking lot as at the local construction site coated in a layer of mud.
And as pickup fans grow in number, so do the choices they have. A handful of steady, sturdy reliables has given way to dozens of versions, from small, sporty car-like entries with a truck bed big enough for a mountain bike to the dominators that demand -- and get -- double parking spots. Their variety is constantly changing, and they spill far beyond limited purpose to expand the borders of fun. For RTM's perspective on 10 pickups that stand out in a crowd, read on.