If your mental image of a pickup is a rusted-out work truck with a faded Killington sticker on the rear window and a couple of dogs in the back, it’s time to bring you up to speed.
Manufacturers are in an arms race to see who can build the biggest and most audacious family-hauling, winter-hardy light-duty trucks with leathery, gentleman-rancher appeal.
Ford probably has the most experience in the deluxe truck category. You and your ski buddies will not be left wanting for much in the nearly $53,000 F-150 Limited, a massive 4x4 with Lincolnesque power running boards and buttery leather seats, plus the fuel-efficient 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine. The extended cab means a huge rear seat; the extendable bed, complete with easy-access ladder/step system, is also big enough for your Völkls.
The Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn, acclaimed as the 2013 North American truck of the year, is like a Chrysler 300 with a lift kit. Behind its incredibly imposing nose growls a 5.7-liter, 395-horsepower Hemi V-8 (still good for 22 mpg with the optional eight-speed transmission). The interior features walnut trim and sumptuous leather seats. Air suspension smooths out your ride to the lifts considerably.
We weren’t sure if Americans would go for a full-size Japanese pickup truck, but the Texas-built Toyota Tundra has become such a hit that it too enjoys the over-the-top treatment in its 2014 makeover. The ridiculously macho-looking, chrome-laden 1794 model gets every option available, from 20-inch wheels to a special wood-and-leather interior, plus the full-size comfort of the CrewMax cab. In a publicity stunt, the Tundra’s 5.7-liter V-8 and optional 4x4 system helped tow the Space Shuttle in Los Angeles; chances are it will get you and your gang up the hill.
General Motors makes its debut in the luxe market with the 2014 Chevy Silverado High Country. In addition to new, cleaned-up lines and its own variation on the 20-inch wheels/pudding-colored leather seats/seven tons of chrome routine, the High Country can also be fitted with either a 5.3-liter V-8 or a very burly 6.2-liter V-8, both with cylinder deactivation.
» Ford F-150 Ltd 4x4 SuperCrew (shown)
Base price » $52,455
Highway mpg » 21
Ski-trip nicety » Super-easy shift-on-the-go 4x4
» Toyota Tundra CrewMax 1794 edition
Base price » $44,490
Highway mpg » 18
Ski-trip nicety » Clear your own way with an aftermarket plow
» Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn 4x4 Crew Cab
Base price » $47,940
Highway mpg » 22
Ski-trip nicety » Available Ram Box in bed rails for storing gear
» Chevrolet Silverado High Country 4x4 Double Cab
Base price » TBA by GM
Highway mpg » 23
Ski-trip nicety » Toasty heated leather seats
Diesel Lives…and Beats the Hybrids
» While it’s great to get excited about hybrids, winter drivers should also give diesel a look. A new generation of ultra-low-emission diesel cars and trucks (plus newer, federally mandated low-sulfur fuel) have radically updated the old diesel engine into a much quieter, more efficient option with virtually no diesel smell. You’ll also enjoy hybridlike fuel economy (45 mpg and up) without any drafting or hypermiling. Diesel engines are nearly imperceptible—except with regard to fuel economy—in cars ranging from the Chevy Cruze and the all-wheel-drive BMW 328d to the 38-mpg Audi A6. Old standbys, including the American-assembled Volkswagen Passat, also provide outstandingly smooth diesel sailing. On the truck end, Ram’s new EcoDiesel 3.0-liter engine for light trucks will tow 8,200 pounds without the big-rig clatter and smokestack exhaust.