'05 Dakota: New Look, More Performance, Better Handling
The new engine is way more refined than the previous offering, and the interior is noticeably quieter. Steering is lighter but more sensitive and responsive; overall handling balance is light years better than the old Dakota. Seating is also much improved in the new Dakota. Forward visibility (A-pillar width and placement) is about the same, though the peripheral and rear-quarter visibility is better with the new model. The new Dakota's towing manners are at the top of its class. We'll give you the full report in our Sport Truck of the Year Competition in the Feb. '05 issue.

'04 Ford F-250 Harley-Davidson
The 6.0L Ford Power Stroke diesel in the nose of the F-250 makes it one heck of a formidable sport truck. It's a torque monster, with 570 lb-ft of torque running through a five-speed automatic that flat moves this 5,000-pound beast musclecar-quick. And we have to admit, the Ford's custom version of a commercial vehicle delivers good handing for an office building on wheels, with a ride that, while not luxury by any means, is very comfortable. It's also a great-looking truck that's further enhanced by subtle custom Harley-Davidson touches such as signature badges, pedal treatments, and HD-colors paint scheme with Harley-Davidson script. If you're in the market for a truck that'll pull a house off its foundation, accelerate like a musclecar, and handle better than you think a truck of this stature should, now is a good time to check with your local Ford dealer to see if it has any left on the lot. Maybe you can negotiate a good deal.

All-New '05 Frontier: It's A 265hp, 284-Lb-Ft Road Rocket
Nissan North America Inc. says its all-new Nissan Frontier pickup will go on sale at Nissan dealerships nationwide in December 2004. The '05 Frontier is completely redesigned and is available with a 4.0L DOHC 24-valve V-6 engine that is rated at 265 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque. Nissan is claiming that the above specs make the new midsize hauler the power-master of V-6-equipped pickups, midsize or fullsize. We'll have to fact-check that assertion thoroughly later in the year when we'll put the new sport truck in a head-to-head competition.

What we can say now is the new piece is as impressive as the Titan. The truck has the Titan styling cues and backs it up with a strong performance. Our annual Sport Truck of the Year Competition is going to be a tough battle between some powerful midsize performers.

The New '05 Hummer SUT
First Drive:

You can't mistake the H2's extremely boxy body and rectangular windshield and windows for any other vehicle, save an H1. The squared box of a body offers a significant amount of interior room given the size of the rig, and we can always use more room in our trucks. But equally important is the hard-edged industrial, almost handtool, design of the H2 SUT, which gives it a unique, masculine street presence. We're big fans of using the functional aspects of the design, such as the exposed components (hood lift handles, hood latches, and fasteners) to enhance the visual impact of the machine.

Obviously, the newness of the H2 SUT is the cargo bed. It's a 4x6-foot pickup bed that you can create after you drop the rear window into the midgate, which then folds easily forward, displacing the rear seat area Avalanche-style, only much easier.

In addition to the great styling and much smoother midgate design, we found the SUT to be full of the coolest conveniences and gadgets. One of the coolest was being able to, with the push of a single button, lower all four side windows and the rear window. The standard sunroof opens with a separate switch when you want a truly open-air feeling. We also like the OE application of a front receiver hitch in addition to a rear hitch. Both receivers accommodate a regular Class 3 trailer hitch, so you can hook up on either and yank your boat out of the water or put a trailer into a tight spot.

GM says the H2 SUT is powered by a standard Vortec 6000 6.0L V-8 with 325 hp at 5,200 rpm and 365 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm that is backed up with a heavy-duty Hydra-Matic 4L65-E four-speed automatic overdrive transmission. It also comes standard with a "powertrain-integrated" Borg-Warner two-speed electrically controlled full-time 4WD system that is capable of reducing H2's gear ratios by 2.64:1.