Editor's note: In the first annual CultureMap Auto Awards, automotive writers Nic Phillips and Kevin McCauley bestow honors in 10 categories for the top 2012 cars and trucks and explain why they're deserving of a good, hard look. Because Texas is the No. 1 market in the nation for trucks, it's only fitting we give our nod to:
Truck of the Year: 2013 Ford SVT F-150 Raptor
If it seems that every time there's any sort of truck ranking the Raptor comes out on top, that's because it's truly No. 1.
It is ridiculously dominant, in every sense. It takes the supremely robust Ford F-150 platform to new heights; at nearly 7 feet tall, we mean that literally. It's the most extreme expression of the pickup truck available anywhere. Having won the Dakar Rally in nearly stock form, Raptor is a proven off-road racing truck right off the dealer's lot.
Equipped with 35" off-road tires mounted to internal triple-bypass FOX Racing Shox with super long suspension travel (11.2 inches front, 12.1 rear), a 6.2L big-bore, short stroke V8 delivering 411 horsepower, a proper exhaust note to match and now a 4.10 TORSEN front differential giving even more capability, Raptor is near performance perfection.
Amazingly, it's also livable, comfortable and filled with the niceties that have become expected in multirole trucks with everything from heated and cooled seats to remote starting and built-in auxiliary switches for aftermarket lights and accessories.
For 2013 Ford has, for the first time, added Sync with MyFord Touch designed specifically for truck use with redundant knobs and buttons, glove compatibility, and a first-in-class front-view camera to see obstacles ahead when rock crawling. Bravo, Ford: The SVT Raptor is, above all, an incredible accomplishment.
Truck of the Year Runner-up: 2013 RAM 1500
Although not the most badass, we'd be remiss to not acknowledge the innovation the RAM Trucks brand has brought to the pickup segment in a money-is-no-object in development bid to take the fuel economy and luxury truck crowns. It succeeded and handedly, with both V8 and V6 engines getting best-in-class fuel economy; the V6 model rates at 17 MPG city/25 highway.
Exterior styling is little changed, and for good reason: It's completely overhauled under the skin, with first-ever in a pickup, Range Rover-like technologies such as optional four-corner air suspension and an eight-speed automatic transmission with a rotary gear selector, electronic power steering, aerodynamic improving active grille shutters and SmartBeam automatic high-beam projector headlights.
Range Rover must have been a benchmark for RAM's engineering team as the driving feel is incredibly refined compared to other pickups. We're not the only ones impressed with the 2013 RAM 1500 as Texas Auto Writers Association, Motor Trend and North American Truck of the Year honors attest.