Canadian Contractor

By Mario Cywinski   

Canadian Truck King Challenge conquers mid-size trucks

Canadian Contractor

Contest designed to root out best mid-size truck

The Jeep Gladiator Rubicon finished second in the competition. (Photo by Howard Elmer)

Mario Cywinski is the Editor of Machinery and Equipment MRO magazine, a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, and a judge for Canadian Truck King Challenge. He has over 11 years of editorial experience and over 16 years of automobile industry experience, as well as small business industry experience.

The 13th edition of the Canadian Truck King Challenge (CTKC) put 2020 mid-size pick-up trucks through their paces.

“The Canadian Truck King Challenge focused on testing the mid-size truck segment this year. As to the why? Well, we look at what’s happening in the truck world and test what Canadian truck buyers are most interested in as each model year rolls out. And, right now, the mid-size segment is exploding,” said Howard Elmer, Founder, CTKC.

Toyota entered two trucks in the Challenge, with a 2020 Tacoma TRD Sport, which is designed more for street driving, and a 2020 Tacoma TRD Pro, which is the model’s most off-road capable truck. Both trucks were equipped with a 3.5 litre DOHC V-6 w/VVT-I, with the Sport being a six-speed manual, and the Pro a six-speed automatic.


General Motors entered its Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, the most off-road capable version of the Colorado. It was equipped with a 3.6L V-6 DOHC engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Jeep entered two versions of its all-new Gladiator truck. One was the Overland version, and the other was the Rubicon off-road version. Both were equipped with a 3.6L Pentastar VVT V-6 w/Stop-Start mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

CTKC tests the trucks using real-world situations. Trucks are driven empty, with payload (500-pound barrels), and with trailers (4,000 lbs)… the way the trucks would be used in the real world. This year, the Challenge incorporated an expanded off-road course to test each truck’s off-roading capabilities.

“This ritual of back-to-back driving over the same 20-km test loop is what makes the Truck King Challenge unique,” said Elmer. “This routine gives each judge a chance to ‘feel’ the differences in each truck as they drive over the same course – again and again. Over two very long days we manage to collectively drive over 2,000 km around this course.”

After two days of testing, who was the winner?

The CTKC winner for 2020 was the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, and it wasn’t that close, as it won by six points over the runner-up Jeep Gladiator Rubicon. For comparison, the other four trucks were separated by a total of 2.5 points.


Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison: 78.5
Jeep Gladiator Rubicon: 72.5
Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro: 71.3
Jeep Gladiator Overland: 70.4
Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport: 70.0

CTKC, with the help of third-party company FleetCarma, used data loggers to get real-world fuel economy for all five trucks. A report was created, which showed each trucks’ fuel economy while empty, with payload, and with a trailer.

The Jeep Gladiator Overland had the best fuel economy for empty test loops, Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport had the best for loops with payload, and the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro won out for towing loops (one caveat is the loggers did not pick up any data for the Tacoma TRD Sport for towing). Overall the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro had the best fuel economy for the competition.

While not as popular as their full-size cousins, mid-size pick-up trucks are seeing an increase in interest and sales. As full-size trucks are becoming bigger and bigger, many are turning to mid-size trucks to get more of a right-size vehicle.


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