Opinions Solicited......Another Head Scratching Mid Size Truck Choice Thread

AbleGuy

Officious Intermeddler
Hey Guys....I’m starting to shop for a replacement of my current ride (a low mileage ‘03 Ex Cab SB K2500 hd). I need to get something smaller (mid sized) so I can park it inside my garage with a pop up shell, like a GFC, Drifter, TreeHouse, etc. Apologies in advance for the long ramble...but I’m trying to be clear enough ahead of time as to my intended use, etc, to make it easier to get focused, helpful responses.

So, to start off...I’m not considering the Gladiator. I want to get preferably an ex cab/king cab, 6 foot bed, 4wd, gasser with auto tranny. My use will be for two not huge adults (no pets, no kids, no guests in the back), using it for mild off road (dirt/mud/snow forest roads), daily driver and in a few years maybe to pull a smallish camp or gear trailer. Not interested in a diesel.

I plan to put a pop up shell on it, so no Ridgeline= no thx, carry the basic backcountry camping gear in it, and also try to squeeze in a double inflatable kayak and two mt bikes. Maybe some solar for a 12v refer and power fan vent, but otherwise very little is planned for electrical gadgets.

My comps are a new or low mileage used, newer Taco, Frontier, Ranger or ZR2.

Basically, I’ve read a ton of reviews and comparisons from the “we just had it for a day” automotive writers, and so I’ve distilled some the below pros/cons from these comments. My below is mostly done as a raw, simplistic comparisons among these rigs and doesn’t include a lot of what I’ve read...just a few things that stand out.

But what I really need from you all is input from actual owners on their real life experiences.

So, without further.....

Taco....great aftermarket for mods and good resale values (not big deals for me), uncomfortable driver seat position for a 6 footer (a big deal for me), not too great gas mileage, saggy ass rear end (would need mods), maybe a bit underpowered for driving with a load in the high Rockies, low cargo weight capacity;

Frontier....worst crash test ratings of the group, but points for being the most affordable, has primitive style design and interior, unimpressive gas mileage probably due to the old school too few speeds tranny, also has a rather low cargo weight capacity;

Ranger....generally gets some high marks overall but consistently gets dinged for having a very uncomfortable ride on/off pavement, suspension wise (rocks and rolls too much), allegedly has the best cargo weight capacity, may have the best gasser engine;

ZR2....kind of leading the pack for me at the moment basically just for its reportedly great off/on road ride, but seems to be already displaying a myriad of mechanical problems including tranny issues, but it also has good mpgs, and 2nd highest CCR numbers and a pretty nice off road package (although admittedly that’s a more of robust build than I might ever need)....and, hmmm, what else?

Sooooooo.....any and all comments are encouraged and welcomed here from you members who have actual experience owning, driving any of these rigs or have had professional experience working on these rigs.

thx mucho, in advance guys🙏🏼
 
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AbleGuy

Officious Intermeddler
It's probably cheaper to male the Ranger ride better than it is to beef up the ZR2 or make it more reliable.
That’s actually a pretty good idea, cause I do like the Ranger otherwise. Does anyone have any advice or experience as to what folks are doing, suspension wise, to create an improved ride? Anyone?
 
D

Deleted member 9101

Guest
A friend of mine has one, but he hasn't gotten in to the suspension yet. Right now he's tinkering under the hood ;-)
 

spectre6000

Observer
I don't know if I count as an owner yet, but you know my opinion to a pretty significant degree as it pertains to my own use case. I don't fit very well yet in the actual owner/professional mechanic experience paradigm, but I can offer my researched and reasoned opinion through the lens of your stated needs. We have some slightly different needs, but not really tremendously so. You've added some points that weren't on my checklist (crash test data, gasser fuel economy), and they're totally relevant.

I think the Ford wins the gas drivetrain category ignoring everything else and assuming it's reliable (big assumption in my book), but Ford... I've had too many run-ins with extremely unreliable Fords. That compliment is based solely on the spec sheet numbers and journo reports. Also, the rest of it is pretty ho-hum, but for mild off road the rear locker and their crawl control will probably get you in a decent amount of trouble. The aftermarket isn't there yet since it's so new, and it may never be since it'll be replaced almost immediately by something far more capable and appealing to the aftermarket. You kind of have to put yourself in their shoes: are you going to invest tens of thousands of dollars for a market limited by 1-2 model years AND limited by the face that it's so new (to the US) and thus only purchased by early adopters and the faithful? I haven't looked hard into the Ranger aftermarket, but I would be surprised if it's very robust and doubt it'll have much of an opportunity to get that way with the new platform widely known to be just around the corner that they're actually[\i] working on with intent rather than just trying to avoid missing out on some market share due to complete absence.

Why is the Gladiator out of the running? Just curious. Seems like it's due to an unlisted criterion.

Tacoma... Have you driven one? Gas engine to gas engine, the Taco needs to be uncomfortably high in the RPM band to be happy (*for a truck **for me). It may be different with an auto, and my sole experience in a late model Taco was with a manual (if I went the Taco route, that was the way I was going to go), but the salesman said the shift point was nearly 3K and he wasn't kidding. The aftermarket is excellent. The enthusiast scene is excellent. They look good if you like the look. I doubt anyone is really going to look down their nose at you for driving one. The vertically adjustable seats in the newest models (has that feature hit the lots yet?) may help with the poor ergonomics. That drivetrain though... Ugh. That'd be a hard one to get used to in my book, but I'm a hardcore engine guy. I get chills hearing a rotary start up, and have a mechanical sympathy and sensitivity that causes me to hear and feel every little upset or imbalance in every mechanical thing around me. You only get a rear locker from the manufacturer, but your use case doesn't sound like that's a huge limitation.

The Colorado has been in the press lately as being rated (dubiously so, but bear with me) as the least reliable vehicle on the market for 2020. The Camaro is #2, and the thing they have in common is the engine and transmission. Having spent a fair amount of time on the Colorado forums lately, I think the transmission is the culprit AND the issue has been remedied for anything produced after some date earlier this year. That's not three sigma, but I'd act on it (and have). Additionally, I think that was from Consumer Reports (and subsequently parroted elsewhere), and they're hardly scientific, rigorous, or worth paying attention to at all. It probably shouldn't be completely discounted, but I don't put a ton of faith in CR's methods. The simple fact that they don't state WHY and the informed reader is left to assume it's a resolved transmission issue in a particular spec causing it to be so "unreliable" is a flashing neon red flag bursting into magnesium fueled flames... GM's public persona isn't based on a perception of reliability, but it's not like there aren't millions of GM trucks scattered all over the place chugging along happily.

The Frontier is cheap. I think you can get it with a locker. It'll probably be pretty reliable. It's a good alternative to a used truck, but that's sorta what you get: a 15 year old truck. Not necessarily a bad thing. I'm not super excited about all the whizzbang gadgetry in the infotainment center. I read a writeup last night where some people were trying to suss out whether the low beams/DRLs were controlled via PWM, and a guy ended up breaking out an oscilloscope to solve the riddle... A 15-year old design may have some solid virtues. Is there much of an aftermarket? Much of an enthusiast scene? Do you like it? I don't know.

Life is about compromise.
 

04Ram2500Hemi

Observer
I’d have no problem suggesting the ZR2. Reason being my brother has a 2018 Z71 mated to the V-6 with close to 30,000 flawless miles, and he drives it like a ZR2.

My wife’s daily driver is a 2019 ZR2 that more than likely will be the biggest pavement princess ZR2 sold. The big selling point was how nice the truck rides, and how much room is in the front seat. At 6’8” I’m very comfortable in the front of the crew cab Colorado (I haven’t sat in the extended cab so I can’t speak to the room in that configuration). The ZR2 gets good fuel economy, and I haven’t noticed anything goofy with the 8spd. My biggest complaint is the headlights on the Colorado, they are just ok. The truck begs for updated headlights!
 

Mike W.

Well-known member
We bought a 2019 Pro 4x..I'm not a gadget guy or feel the need for heated and cooled seats..It works and it out performs my buddies Taco..We had a chance to wheel with a diesel ZR2..about 5 minutes into the dirt the turbo intake air tube came loose and it abruptly end our test run..well his test run.

My Frontier does all I need it to do..I saved $10,000 and have a nice little hay hauler..
 

billiebob

Well-known member
Many Rangers later, I still find the old ones very comfortable. Parts are everywhere.... unless you are talking the new one.... but I'd only buy an overlander used and at least 5 years old. The old ones are bulletproof reliable.

ZR2, brand new and too many owners reporting problems, but apparently the best ride ever.

Taco, I love Toyotas and their reputation but the seat is too low or the floor is too high. I can't evem be a passenger for more than a few hours.

Frontier, never even sat in one but being old school I do like the look, inside and out. And I've never read bad reviews on them. Id likely pick a Ranger but if the Frontier were thousands cheaper.... ??
 

(none)

Adventurer
Frontier owner. Yep, its an old design. Yep, the interior is plastic. Yep, it gets poor fuel econ. Yep, it's cheap to buy and cheap to own.

I like mine. I decided i had to have a manual trans, so it was between the Frontier and the Taco. I picked up a leftover 2017 Frontier in early 2018 for a bit over $10k less than the comparable taco. Crew cab, short bed, Pro4x 6-speed. Nissan has more torque and more power down low, fully boxed frame, disk brakes and all the crap i need without all the extra gadgetry. It has power windows/mirror, remote locks, heated seats, navi i never use, rear locker, etc. No blind spot, no beeping when i cross the line, no direct injection. It has been dead reliable with me thrashing it off road and towing frequently.

I've done quite a bit to mine. ARB bumpers front and rear, sliders, skid plate up front, 17" factory wheels with K02s, topper, RTT, OME HDs all around, on and on. Goes everywhere i need to it to, i think it looks fantastic, but i love the simple look of the older trucks. Rated to tow 6500 or 7k lbs? I'm usually closer to 2ish k lbs, so no problem there. They ride well stock, the stock Dynapro tires are actually really good (i did black bear, engineer pass, etc all over colorado on stock tires, never an issue). The OME suspension is great. Rides fantastic (firm, but controlled), i purchased part of the components to add rear airbags, but i haven't needed them. Even when loaded in the bed and tent, pulling my 5x8 trailer with motorcycles, the truck just levels out and still rides well.

I have a really hard time complaining about the truck. If you are looking for a hardcore offroad truck, look else where. Nope, it's not the fastest or the most modern, but it does the job well and doesn't complain while doing so.
 

billiebob

Well-known member
That’s actually a pretty good idea, cause I do like the Ranger otherwise. Does anyone have any advice or experience as to what folks are doing, suspension wise, to create an improved ride? Anyone?
Would loading it up for a trip make a difference? I read the ZR2 is kind of disappointing loaded. Maybe the Ranger is built to ride best loaded. Not sure what year you want but we load up my buddies '03 Ranger with firewood several times a year and it rides great on logging roads.
 

reaver

Active member
I can't tell you much about most of the vehicles, but given I own an 04 colorado, I frequent colorado forums, and have read a lot of complaints regarding the 8-speed in the gas colorado.

If you go with a zr2, you might be better off going with a slightly older model with the 6 speed auto. The issue seems to stem from a combination of software in the tcm, and the torque converter. The 6 speed auto in the '15-17 models doesn't seem to suffer from this issue.

That's really the only input I can offer. Hope it helps with your decision!
 

AbleGuy

Officious Intermeddler
Why is the Gladiator out of the running? Just curious. Seems like it's due to an unlisted criterion.
Thank you for your great, detailed and thoughtful comments!

Two simple reason to ignore the Jeepster.....one is mainly because I definitely want to have a 6’ truck bed (to stretch out in for camping) but also and perhaps even more importantly, parking issues. My HOA requires me to park in my garage and the Gladiator would not fit in it.
 

AbleGuy

Officious Intermeddler
Frontier owner.......
They ride well stock, the stock Dynapro tires are actually really good (i did black bear, engineer pass, etc all over colorado on stock tires, never an issue).
Wow! Thx. That’s quite an impressive off road performance endorsement. Seriously!

Initially, the tired but true Frontier was where I was headed. In fact I was trying to get a deal on a nice, lightly used king cab ProX from someone who listed it here. But it had a too heavy (FWC?) full camper on it (which I didn’t wan) and he wanted to sell it as a package only. I also felt that I did not nee all the fancy, pricey electronics of the new other makes. Give me basically power doors and windows, cruise control and a/c, and I’m good.

Anyway, then I started to read about the Frontier’s “marginal“ crash ratings. Even though those ratings certainly were better than the ones for my older 16 year old full size K2500, I decided that, heck if I was going to lay out a big hunk of cash for a newer or brand new rig, it would be pretty stupid to not try to buy the safest rated rig (damn all you distracted drivers! 💀😌).
 

AbleGuy

Officious Intermeddler
If you go with a zr2, you might be better off going with a slightly older model with the 6 speed auto. The issue seems to stem from a combination of software in the tcm, and the torque converter. The 6 speed auto in the '15-17 models doesn't seem to suffer from this issue.
thx, that’s something I didn’t know and so it’s more good, helpful advice.
 

AbleGuy

Officious Intermeddler
Would loading it up for a trip make a difference? I read the ZR2 is kind of disappointing loaded. Maybe the Ranger is built to ride best loaded. Not sure what year you want but we load up my buddies '03 Ranger with firewood several times a year and it rides great on logging roads.
Good question. If the Range’s ride is as bouncy and jouncy as the test drivers have complained it is, then someone out there should have, or be working on, the aftermarket fix. I did see a YouTube video shot from inside a Ranger to illustrate the poor tide quality and it was almost as uncomfortable to watch the driver bouncing around in it as it probably was for the guy actually suffer that overly soft springy ride.
 

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