Ranked

Ranked: 5 best pickup truck interiors for the 2021 model year

The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX interior has an impressive interior that rivals the best of the Ram lineup.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The good ol' American pickup truck is more popular than it's ever been, and buyers are shelling out more for them than they ever have. The pickup has become an "only vehicle" for many families and busy professionals, and their feature sets have grown to accommodate the peoples' desires.

Truck MSRPs have drastically increased as they have become more of a luxury vehicle proposition for buyers who were traditionally limited to the confines of a large luxury car or SUV if they wanted to shell out around $100,000 for a new model. Their features match their price tag, with the newest models being equipped with hands-free driving tech and appointed with soft leathers and real wood.

No other group of vehicles better illustrates that point than the five we've listed here, our picks for the best truck interiors of 2021. These pickups put some premium brands to shame, and do so while retaining the high level of capability we've all come to expect.

No. 5 - 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD High Country

2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD High Country

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

The High Country is the range-topping trim in the Chevy Silverado line, so the interior finishes better be good. If there's any doubt that the statement isn't true about this year's truck, here's the proof. The 2021 Silverado 2500 HD High Country leaves the factory with standard perforated leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a memory system for seats and mirrors, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and more.

The 2021 Silverado also picks up several improvements from its predecessor, including standard Hitch Guidance and Hitch View systems for easier towing, and an HD surround-view camera with two trailering views. That's on top of the already excellent existing hardware, which includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.

Editor's Note: Photos of the 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD High Country are not yet available. The truck is mostly a carryover from the previous model year so the above image of the 2020 version is a good representation of what the 2021 looks like.

No. 4 - 2021 GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali

2021 GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali

Photo courtesy of GMC

Where the Chevrolet's work truck roots show through at times, even in the plush High Country trim, the GMC hides its underpinnings well. It's got all the goodies that the Chevy brings to the table, such as an 8.0-inch screen, and then some. The 2021 Sierra Denali trim's cabin is filled with premium materials, from Forge perforated leather upholstery to premium tufted carpeting throughout.

In addition to its lavish interior finishes, the GMC brings peace of mind with several safety and driver assistance features that include the automaker's innovative trailering functions, an off-road package, and two different driver alert packages. Between them, the two options groups bring lane departure warnings, forward collision alerts, perimeter lighting, blind spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and automatic emergency braking.

Editor's Note: Photos of the 2021 GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali are not yet available. The truck is mostly a carryover from the previous model year so the above image of the 2020 version is a good representation of what the 2021 looks like.

No. 3 - 2021 Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve

2021 Nissan Titan Platinum Reserve

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you can deal with not having the best towing capacity or the most powerful engine in your pickup truck, it's hard to get much better than the 2021 Nissan Titan's interior accommodations. Even without acknowledging anything else about the truck, the amazingly comfortable Zero Gravity seats alone would almost be enough to put the Nissan on our list.

The Titan Platinum Reserve also checks in with the second largest infotainment screen on this list, at 9.0-inches, and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, a Fender 12-speaker audio system, a subwoofer, and a top-notch voice recognition system.

No. 2 - 2021 Ford F-150 King Ranch

2021 Ford F-150 King Ranch

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The redesigned 2021 Ford F-150's interior isn't quite as upscale as Ram's, but it's got enough clever and thoughtful features to land it a number-two spot on our list. The 2021 model will still get useful gear like Ford's excellent Pro Trailer Backup Assist, but there are a few new tricks up the truck's sleeve.

Ford is offering a power-retractable gear shift lever, which can fold down into the center console. This allows the armrest to fold open, which forms a flat work surface, ideal for writing and using a laptop. Also, the front seats in some trims can be upgraded with a Max Recline feature, which lets them fold almost flat to form a cot for sleeping.

Elsewhere, the 2021 F-150 can be optioned with a horizontally oriented 12-inch screen, which rivals Ram's vertical unit. The display will run the latest version of Ford's awesome infotainment system, known as SYNC 4. In some trims, that screen will be joined by another foot-long screen to house a digital gauge cluster. It can display navigation information and can be customized to display off-road and performance data.

No. 1 - 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn Edition

2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary EditionPhoto courtesy of FCA US LLC

If you're sitting in a German luxury sedan right now, conflicted about needing a pickup truck but not sure if you can live with a utilitarian vibe, fear no more. Ram thoroughly updated its 1500 line of light-duty trucks in 2019 with interiors and tech that could almost make a Mercedes-AMG engineer quake in their boots.

Plush leather upholstery, heated and cooled seats, an optional panoramic sunroof, and what is arguably the best infotainment system on the market are just a few of the headlining features here. Oh, and let's not forget that the Ram can be equipped with a 12-inch infotainment touchscreen, a unit which is capable of running two apps in split-screen views. That's a huge plus and allows the driver to do things like change climate settings while watching navigation directions.

If you need more capability, Ram's got you covered there as well. The automaker took that award-winning premium formula and applied it to its heavy-duty trucks as well. That means that you can get all of those lust-worthy features while also towing up to 35,100 pounds with the Ram 3500 (19,780 pounds in Ram 2500 models).

Pictured above is the 2021 Ram 1500 Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary Edition, a special edition model that tops the Ram 1500 lineup.

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The ZR2 is a beefy off-road pickup.

Chevrolet

Chevrolet has added a beefed-up version of its half-ton pickup to the 2022 Silverado lineup that has more capability and comfort for towing and hauling loads, traveling to hard jobs over a variety of road surfaces and a better 4WD game for backcountry travel. I recently joined the Bow-Tie brand for a 200-mile-long evaluation of the first-ever Chevy ZR2. Our day-long test drive took us from the popular desert playground of Palm Springs, located in a verdant valley surrounded by 5,000 to 10,000-foot mountains, to swaths of nearby desert. There, we traveled along a collection of dirt trails in Joshua Tree National Forest and on a 4WD mining trail to abandoned gold mines, with rugged topography that allowed us to try out the truck’s updated hardware that has been engineered to bring an ease of operation and safety for motoring over tough and technical terrain.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2The ZR2 gets several exclusive touches that set it apart from a standard Silverado.Chevrolet

Chevy has made some significant changes to the 2022 Silverado lineup from outside to in and has added Super Cruise, a hands-free drive mode that we were able to try out on local highways in the Palm Springs environs, as we also checked out different trim levels and new technologies. Updates of note are new interior styling, freshened materials and premium trims; a new dashboard and digital displays with a 12.3-inch fully digital gauge cluster and a 13.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with Google’s Maps, Assistant and Play Store as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay); and an electronic shifter mounted to the center console. However, our primary task was to focus on the all-new ZR2 that has been set up with a 420-hp 6.2-liter V-8 engine, rides on 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires, boasts a new suspension with Multimatic spool-valve dampers, and has electronic-locking front and rear differentials. Elements of the ZR2 and this moniker have been used previously on a special edition of Chevy’s compact truck.

In addition to its functional features, the new Silverado ZR2 stands apart from its stablemates by a collection of unique design cues, including a distinctive front end with a new black hood insert; a large-sized grille with a hollowed-out ‘flow-tie’ emblem for increased air flow and integrated lighting; wheel moldings, ZR2 badges, unique 18-inch wheels and an exclusive Jet Black/Graystone leather-trimmed interior matched with an appealing dark trim. Overall, the truck looks slightly aggressive and fit. The 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2 competes with other full-sized desert-running and off-road trucks from Ford and Ram. It’s only offered with a crew-cab body style and either the short- or standard-length cargo boxes with an optional Multi-Flex Tailgate. On sale now, it starts at $67,600 (plus $1,695 destination and delivery)

Chevy’s flagship off-road pickup can tow 8,900 pounds with a conventional trailer hitch and haul up to 1,440 pounds of payload, with more comfortable ride as a result of the spool-valved dampers and specially-tuned springs that bring increased wheel travel when compared to the Trail Boss trim, for instance. This also translates to improved control and greater safety on the road, which we found impressive during our highway driving. The truck has a number of new standard safety features, as well.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2The off-road can tow up to 8,900 pounds and haul up to 1,440 pounds.Chevrolet

Added to Chevy’s in-house testing of the truck in everyday driving and extremes, we learned that the new pickup has been put to the test over the past three years by Chad Hall, who is a highly-respected off-roader and noted desert racer. The production truck and Hall’s prototype race truck share most of the major chassis and drivetrain components, including the robust ladder-type frame; the 420-horsepower V-8 and 10-speed automatic transmission; transfer case; front and rear differentials; plus the front and transfer case skid plates, says Chevy. (See below for more info on Hall’s racing success in this truck.)

We sampled a number of the truck’s technologies during our day-long drive, checking the boxes for both high-speed desert-running and slow-speed rock crawling. Overall, there was good power on tap with plenty of torque to move the half-ton’s 5,800-pound mass, smooth shifts from the 10-speed transmission, good brakes to slow our momentum when needed, and a comfortable ride- even over rugged roads and washboard.

I was excited to experience the ZR2’s talents on some isolated backcountry roads including the Old Dale and Black Eagle Mine Roads 4WD trail, where posted signage warned “Proceed at your own risk: Deep sand and rocks-- stranded drivers have died from heat exposure on park roads.” Truth is, this is just the kind of picturesque and formidable place that 4WD enthusiasts love to explore with a truck that can take you there—and bring you back safely.

2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2Chev updated the Silverado's interior with better tech and upscale luxury features.Chevrolet

What makes the ZR2 with its rear leaf-spring set-up abona-fide off-roader? In front are tow hooks and a skid plate underneath the high-mounted steel front bumper, with a 31.8-degree approach angle. Other numbers of note are the: 23.4 breakover angle; 23.3 departure angle; 11.2 inches of ground clearance; with 9.84 inches of suspension travel in front and 10.62 inches in the rear. Its width is 81.2 inches, which helps compared to some of its competitors, as it is more “parkable” in many garages and we found it maneuvered well when navigating through narrow sections of rock. Engineers have also repositioned the dual exhaust for added protection.

One of the truck’s top cool new features is the selectable Terrain Mode that allows for one-pedal driving; this cruise-control-like technology is particularly useful for motoring over rocks and up and down steep slopes. To engage, we locked the ZR2 into 4WD Low, set first gear and let the engineering do the driving, using the throttle to increase speed and the brake to decrease speed, when needed. A forward-facing camera provides visibility to the front and sides, as well as to the back which is another great feature for navigating technical terrain.

*Fuel economy estimates sit at 14 mpg in the city, 17 on the highway and 15 combined. the 24-gallon ZR2’s 360-mile range.

**FAST FACT: Chad Hall Racing also helped test the Chevy Colorado ZR2 off-road technologies in competition — and is still going strong with them. The Colorado ZR2 has been racing since 2017 in the Best in The Desert series and is the only truck in its class to have finished every race entered. It has accumulated more than 22,500 miles of racing experience.

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The Sakura is Nissan's newest EV.

Nissan

It's no secret that the Japanese get all manner of quirky, cool cars that we don't see here in the States. Sure, there's the Nissan Skyline and Mitsubishi Delica van, but tiny vehicles like kei cars and "minivehicles" are popular imports for Americans looking to diversify their drives. Pint-sized kei cars are ripe for electrification, and Nissan did just that with its new Sakura EV, which comes almost a year after the automaker announced it was working with Mitsubishi to develop tiny electric models. It's one of dozens of new EVs slated to come from the Mitsubishi-Nissan-Renaul Alliance this decade.

Though tiny, the Sakura offers a decent top speed of 80 mph, and its range of around 112 miles could make it an ideal urban runabout for many. That said, there's little chance the car will come to the United States. Japan's minivehicles and kei cars are far smaller than anything currently on sale here. For example, the Sakura's 133.6-inch length makes it almost 18 inches shorter than a Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback, a car that Americans would consider minuscule.

Nissan SakuraThe Sakura borrows features from the Nissan Leaf, including its battery.Nissan

Nissan borrowed the Sakura's 20-kWh battery from the Leaf and says it can be used to provide power for external devices or even power a home for up to a day. The car comes with three driving modes to change the behavior of things like regenerative braking and throttle response, and Nissan says it took further guidance from the Leaf to give the Sakura the quietest cabin in its class.

The Sakura's upright shape likely helps with headroom, but it certainly doesn't increase cargo space, as Nissan claims just 107 liters (4 cubic feet) of room. That said, the car features small-item storage spaces for gear like a smartphone or wallet. Buyers can opt for black, beige, or blue-grey interior colors, and an upgrade package is available that brings a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

There are a surprising number of features packed into the minute Nissan's cabin. A 7-inch digital gauge cluster comes standard, and a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard. Nissan says the car's displays are oriented to reduce distraction and keep the driver's eyes on the road, and ProPilot safety systems are standard, including a new parking assist feature. ProPilot is a stepping stone toward Nissan's goal of debuting autonomous driving tech by 2030.

Nissan SakuraThe Sakura isn't destined for the U.S. - yet, anyway. Nissan

The Sakura goes on sale in Japan this summer. It's priced at 1.78 million yen, or around $14,000. The car will be available for purchase online, and Nissan says it will offer video chats and other resources to help buyers with the process. Buyers will be able to opt for a full in-person buying experience, a completely virtual experience, or anything in between.

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