The 2005 GMC Sierra 2500 HD pickup received's top ratings for most torque and biggest towing capacity.
updated 6/30/2005 6:31:02 PM ET 2005-06-30T22:31:02

For now, at least, Americans' love affair with the pickup truck continues. Despite rising gas prices and news of falling sales from Detroit, pickups occupy a special place in our collective heart because of their utility and their iconic status as symbols of rugged individualism.

We say this because the best-selling vehicles in America are pickups. The No. 1-selling vehicle for the past 23 years has been the Ford F-Series, and both General Motors' and DaimlerChrysler's top sellers — the Chevrolet Silverado and Dodge Ram, respectively — are pickups as well.

And big money is still being spent to ensure that these trucks are constantly being retooled and upgraded. The F-150 went through a $1.8 billion makeover for the 2004 model year, and the Silverado is headed for an overhaul soon. Expect to see a new Silverado go into production in the fourth quarter of next year — and expect GM to spend a ton of money sharpening the vehicle's styling and making its interior more luxurious.

Americans love pickups because the vehicles are so versatile. You can get them with two doors, four doors, a long bed, a short bed, all-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, a luxury interior or a bare-bones interior. They can be sporty toys, such as the Viper-powered Dodge Ram SRT-10, or they can be the hardiest kind of work vehicles, such as the Silverado Heavy Duty, the most extreme configuration of which can tow 16,700 pounds.

Americans not only love pickups; they are loyal to them. Statistics from Kelley Blue Book indicate a pickup owner is most likely to trade in his or her vehicle for another pickup — and an SUV owner is most likely going to get another SUV. However, a buyer is more likely to trade in his or her SUV for a pickup than vice versa.

SUV buying patterns are changing, and SUVs are starting to look different. People like big SUVs, but they don't like that they're hard to park and have bad gas mileage and unrefined chassis dynamics. Many buyers want to move down in size from large SUVs, and sales of SUVs are suffering while sales of crossover-utility vehicles, such as the Nissan Murano and the Chrysler Pacifica — which look and feel more like cars — are booming.

While SUVs are starting to look less like cars and more like trucks, pickups look more or less the same as they ever did. For both SUVs and pickups, however, many manufacturers have struggled this year as the truck market has sagged a bit.

SUVs have been harder hit than pickups, but some trucks are struggling too. Sales of the F-Series are down 6.4 percent this year, and sales of the Dodge Ram are down 8.8 percent. GM has not been happy with its sales mix this year, as it sells more lower-profit passenger cars and fewer higher-profit trucks.

But we don't expect the American love affair with trucks to end. The infatuation with SUVs is another matter — and a Wall Street firm such as Merrill Lynch will tell you the SUV boom peaked five years ago.

Pickups are here to stay, and the above slide show will show you ten of the best you can buy. The trucks on our list represent a variety of superlatives, such as "most horsepower" and "best residual value." Each selection was based on objective data (for example, Consumer Reports' reliability ratings and Kelley Blue Book's projected residual values guide), and each truck on the list is there because it tops all the others in one category or multiple categories.

One technical note: Not all versions of the trucks in the slide show can achieve the numbers you will see. For example, the Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD win the award for biggest towing capacity with 16,700 pounds — but only the maximally equipped Silverado HD and Sierra HD models can tow that much.

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