- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2005

I suppose it is human nature to want the biggest, baddest and best of practically everything. And so it goes in the truck world. A lot of truck buyers want to be the first on their block to have the newest toy and, if they are truly a trucker, General Motors has the pickup of pickups ready to go.

With the cooperative effort between General Motors’ fleet and commercial arm and Monroe Truck Equipment, what could be considered the ultimate pickup truck hits the streets. Starting with GM’s new GMC Topkick or Chevrolet Kodiak class IV crew cab truck, Monroe and GM have assembled a vehicle that is sure to be the envy of every trucker on the interstate.

The quickest way to explain these trucks is to visualize a normal pickup truck on high doses of steroids. The Kodiak/Topkick is the heart and soul of General Motors’ medium-duty market, which might be more familiar to you outfitted as dump trucks and tow trucks. And though you may not have noticed, with the proliferation of recreational vehicles as campers, these trucks are seeing more varied uses.

In this latest configuration these trucks prove they can be even more.

With the huge growth in towing fifth-wheel recreation vehicles and gooseneck trailers, these trucks no doubt will find their way into the upper crust of the group. And outfitted by Monroe, this is also one big, hot pickup.

Don’t be intimidated by its stature on the road because this truck is just as easy, if not more so, to drive than your everyday vehicle. In fact, one of the media wags attending our testing event was heard to say, “This is just like driving my wife’s minivan.” Normally, this statement would be the kiss of death to a new vehicle. As practical and useful as they are, minivans are not the most prestigious vehicles on the road. But the important aspect of that statement is that this truck is extremely easy to drive.

Now, I am not going to go so far as to say that you must not stay aware of the extralarge size of these trucks. It does take a bit of behind-the-wheel time to find the corners of your truck. But, it isn’t long before even the least skilled among us was able to relax and just enjoy the drive.

Climbing up into the passenger compartment takes a little more effort, but no more than climbing the two steps up onto your front porch. Once behind the steering wheel, you feel right at home. The dash design and switch and gauge placement is as familiar as your family car. This was a well-laid-out plan on the designers’ part. They wanted to make everyone who climbed into their truck feel at ease.

Comfortable it is. This is as far away from a big, uncomfortable delivery truck as you could get. The four-door models are equipped with four full-sized doors and offer plenty of room for five adults. This very fact is the reason I would recommend this truck to the traveling family who pull a trailer or fifth-wheel and have a number of children, too.

There are two power sources available in these medium-duty trucks, either the standard Vortec 8100MD V-8 gasoline engine or the available Duramax 6600 V-8 Turbo Diesel. Both powertrains are mated to the proven Allison 1000 Series five-speed automatic transmission.

The combination not only makes these trucks powerful, they are smooth and able to handle just about any task thrown their way. I prefer the Duramax 6600 diesel because of its incredibly forceful torque and the idea of diesel being the ultimate power for a trucker’s truck.

I did a great deal of my testing at the GM proving ground with a four-wheel-drive version and came away from the day astonished by the abilities these trucks exhibited. The 4X4 models certainly give the peace of mind that they can get you out of those sticky situations that arise while out on an adventure.

Whether it is hauling a load of lumber, a dump truck full of sand or the horses and the kids, the medium-duty trucks from General Motors are able to fit the bill. I obviously liked the full crew cab setup with the oversized pickup bed because this is like having the biggest, baddest pickup on the block. And who wouldn’t like to have that sitting in front of the house so all the neighbors can feel envious.

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