Trucks with Great Performance

As you shop for a truck, the type of performance you need will dictate whether you buy a compact, full-size, heavy-duty or off-road pickup truck. Here are the trucks that excel when it comes to towing and hauling, off-roading and on-road driving.

Towing and Hauling

Full-size and heavy-duty trucks tend to be hard to maneuver around town or in parking lots because of their large size, but they are great for towing and hauling. If you’re looking for the truck that can tow the most weight of any pickup available to non-commercial buyers, check out the Ram 3500. The Ram 3500 out-tows other heavy-duty trucks with its standard diesel engine that has the capacity to tow up to 30,000 pounds. That’s like being able to tow nine Dodge Darts with plenty of capacity to spare. All other heavy-duty trucks come standard with gasoline engines. But if you need the most towing power, you’ll want to opt for the diesel engine option, which is available on all heavy-duty pickups. Just know that doing so will typically add between $7,000 and $8,000 to the truck’s price.

However, not every truck buyer needs to be able to tow 15 tons of machinery around. If you’re in the market for a full-size pickup, check out the Ford F-150. The Ford F-150 is the most capable full-size truck on the market in terms of towing capacity. The F-150 can tow up to 11,300 pounds, even when equipped with its most fuel-efficient V6 engine. Plus, with a payload capacity of up to 3,120 pounds, it can also haul more than its competitors. Just know that in most cases, the F-150 included, the model that can tow the most is different from the model that can haul the most.

If you’re looking for something smaller, your choices are becoming far and few between. The only legitimate new compact pickups currently available are the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma, although a redesigned Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are in the works. The Frontier and Tacoma have the same towing capacity of 6,500 pounds. The Tacoma can haul 1,535 pounds in its bed, which is slightly more than the Nissan Frontier’s 1,524-pound payload.

Off-Road Performance

Ford and Ram both offer trucks honed for off-road performance. The Ford F-150 SVT Raptor and the Ram 2500 Power Wagon both come standard with features like a V8 engine, four-wheel drive and skid plates, which equip them for journeys off the beaten path. The auto press tends to agree that they would choose the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor for off-roading in the desert or for racing, while the Ram Power Wagon is better for low-gear work like rock crawling or driving around a ranch or farm. They say that the SVT Raptor is lighter and more nimble, but the Power Wagon has the heft to dominate in situations like steep, muddy trails in the woods. Overall, the consensus is that both are great trucks, but the best off-roading vehicle for you depends on where you live and what you plan to do with it.

On-Road Performance

When it comes to acceleration, no truck can top a sports car. Still, most people want their truck to be fast and powerful enough to get up to highway speed easily and be able to pass other vehicles. The Ford F-150’s optional 6.2-liter V8 engine makes 411 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque, which is the most in the full-size pickup class. The Ram 3500’s diesel engine makes the most torque of all diesel pickup trucks at 850 pound-feet, and it produces 385 horsepower.

After all is said and done about horsepower, torque, towing capacity and four-wheel drive, it is still important for your truck to be comfortable to drive. Critics agree that the Ram 1500 has one of the smoothest rides in its class. However, this doesn’t mean the Ram 1500 sacrifices a comfortable ride for a fun driving experience. It still performs well in turns and provides quick acceleration for its class. And while it can’t tow as much as the F-150, it certainly is no slouch, with up to 10,450 pounds of towing capacity. Another truck that performs well on commutes and around town is the Cadillac Escalade EXT, Cadillac’s sport utility truck. Reviewers say that its handling is surprisingly good for such a big vehicle, with a car-like ride and strong brakes.

Trucks with Good Performance


Base Engine



Max. Towing Capacity

Ford Super Duty F-350


6.2L V8

385 hp/405 lb-ft

16,000 lbs. (with gas engine)

Ram 2500 Power Wagon


5.7L V8

383 hp/400 lb-ft

10,200 lbs.

Ford F-150 SVT Raptor


6.2L V8

411 hp/434 lb-ft

8,000 lbs.

Cadillac Escalade EXT


6.2L V8

403 hp/417 lb-ft

7,600 lbs.