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Ram pickup goes mellow while Ford overhauls its F-150

The 2019 Ram 1500 full-size pickup truck has been redesigned to smooth out its most aggressive styling details. COURTESY PHOTOThe 2019 Ram 1500 full-size pickup truck has been redesigned to smooth out its most aggressive styling details. COURTESY PHOTO  Twenty-five years ago, Chrysler was selling the country’s stodgiest full-size pickup truck. Boxy and characterless, the 1993 Dodge Ram lacked the gently curved body of the Ford F-150 or the extra-brash angularity of the Chevrolet C/K.
The company flipped the script for the 1994 model year. A prominent crosshairs-style chrome grille stood tall and proud on the front end, with low headlights swelling into bold fenders.
Though it remained the country’s No. 3 best-seller, always behind its Ford and Chevrolet competitors, the Ram continued to be the most aggressive American truck. It solidified its image by introducing the famous “Hemi” V8 engine in 2003 with best-in-class horsepower.
But with its latest redesign, which just hit dealerships as a 2019 model, the Ram has become more mild-mannered. An all-new front end design raised the headlights and revised the grille, abandoning the signature look of the last two and a half decades. Gone are the fender bulges and the crosshairs grille. If it weren’t for the big “RAM” lettering on the new grille, the front end would be almost entirely anonymous. LED light bands ringing the headlights resemble the Dodge Charger sedan’s, but for several years Ram has been its own brand anyway, no longer a Dodge.

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Japan’s big pickups challenge the domestic brands

2017 Nissan Titan cropped for webThe redesigned 2017 Nissan Titan is spacious and relatively affordable for a full-size truck, but it's heavy and lacks some modern tech features. COURTESY PHOTO  Although Japanese vehicles are among the bestsellers in almost every market segment, there's one that the nation's automakers have utterly failed to crack: the full-size pickup truck. There, Ford's F Series, General Motors' Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, and Chrysler's Ram remain dominant on the sales charts.
Toyota, Nissan and Honda all have pickup trucks — they just haven't resonated with buyers the same way. Toyota has had the most luck, which is ironic given that its Tundra hasn't received a major redesign in more than a decade. The newly-overhauled Nissan Titan and Honda Ridgeline sell at a fraction of the Tundra's pace, and the Tundra itself significantly trails pickups from the American “Big Three” automakers.
Are the current sales figures of big pickups the result of buyers' reluctance to stray from familiar brands? Or are the Japanese trucks just not as good as their American counterparts?

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Ford gets tough while Hyundai gets electric

2017 Ford F 150 Raptor cropped for webThe 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor full-size pickup offers extreme off-road capability at a lofty base price of nearly $50,000. COURTESY PHOTO  In 2009, Ford took its best-selling F-150 pickup truck and turned it into a big brawny off-road toy. The F-150 Raptor was built for high-speed off-roading in the desert, sturdy enough to soar into the air and land safely. But its ultra-tough image and styling made it popular even in the D.C. area.
For 2017, the Raptor has entered its second generation without a radical departure from the first generation's successful theme. Rather, it merely followed the evolution of the standard F-150, which had been redesigned in 2015. Aside from additional safety, luxury and convenience features, the new Raptor's biggest change is under the hood: A turbocharged V6 engine replaces last year's V8, bringing better fuel efficiency (16 mpg instead of 13 mpg) along with more power (450 horsepower instead of 411).

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Subaru sticks with AWD while Ram stays big

2017 Subaru Impreza Limited cropped for webThe redesigned 2017 Subaru Impreza is roomy and user-friendly – but it can get expensive without really feeling fancy. COURTESY PHOTO  On most cars, buyers who want all-wheel-drive have to pay a couple thousand dollars extra for the system – if it's even offered at all.
The Subaru Impreza compact car, like most Subarus, bucks the norm by including the system standard. It's the only car in its class to even offer all-wheel-drive. If you're looking for an affordable vehicle that can easily power through mud or snow, the Impreza sedan or five-door hatchback belongs high on your shopping list.

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New pickups from Honda, Nissan chart different paths

2016 Nissan Titan XDThe 2016 Nissan Titan XD COURTESY PHOTO  

The large pickup truck market is dominated by the American “Big Three” automakers: the F-Series from Ford, the Chevrolet Silverado from General Motors and the Ram from Chrysler. 

The high profits found in this market keep attracting Japanese competitors, generally with limited success. While Toyota tries to offer the same half-ton experience as the American makes, Honda and Nissan have rolled out models that seek to carve out more specialized – though very different – niches in the market.

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Reviews of the 2016 Toyota Tacoma and Buick Cascada

Toyota Tacoma skimps on driving charms

2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited2016 Toyota Tacoma. COURTESY PHOTO 

Toyota's small pickup trucks have a long-lasting reputation for dependability, and the Tacoma model has been the best-selling vehicle in its shrinking class for several years. So it's understandable that Toyota hasn't wanted to tinker too much with success.

But there is room for some adjustments to the Tacoma formula. Even as most new pickup trucks manage to blend capability with luxury, the redesigned 2016 Tacoma sticks to the basics – despite a price tag that hits $40,020 as tested. And while some aspects of the new Tacoma's design and character are a matter of taste, others represent ways in which the vehicle is simply compromised.

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