The 12 Best High-Performance Pickup Trucks

Sep 28, 2020

Category: Rides

Since the introduction of the first mass-produced model in the 1920s, the pickup truck segment has largely been built and utilized as utilitarian workhorses, with a focus on towing capacity and payload capabilities rather than raw speed, handling, or performance. But starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a new trend began to emerge in the US market with the arrival of increasingly performance-oriented models with the Dodge Dakota, the Chevy C1500 454 SS, and the first generation Ford F-150 SVT Lightning. But many agree that it wasn’t until after the turn of the millennium when Dodge dropped a Viper V-10 engine into a Ram 1500—to create the Ram SRT-10—that the “Muscle Truck Class” was truly born.

In the decade-and-a-half that’s followed, this segment has exploded in popularity, with the vast majority of foreign and domestic marques now producing highly-up-specced turnkey pickup variants with the acceleration and power to rival that of many modern-day supercars, as well as a host of highly-respected aftermarket outfits and tuning houses that offer even more potent takes on existing pickup models. And with the Muscle Truck space currently boasting more models and options than any year prior, what better time to pore through the spec-sheets to deliver this guide to the best high-performance pickup trucks.

ROUSH Ranger

This ROUSH package transforms Ford’s entry-level pickup into a bonafide off-road-ready vehicle, gaining a ROUSH-Fox 2.0 Performance Suspension System, custom 18-inch satin black ROUSH wheels wrapped in General Tire 32” all-terrain tires, a dual-tip Performance Cat-Back exhaust, ROUSH grille with dual LED light bars, custom fender flares with integrated accent lighting, and red ROUSH tow hooks. The interior of the ROUSH Ranger also receives the bespoke treatment, with premium ROUSH leather, quilted-stitched seats with custom embroidery, along with custom gauges, ROUSH floor liners (by WeatherTech), a serialized badge, and a ROUSH key fob. A $12,750 package on top of the cost of the base-model, the ROUSH Ranger offers incredibly solid performance at an exceedingly accessible price point, all while backed by a three-year (or 36,000 mile) warranty. There are also numerous optional add-ons such as additional auxiliary lighting, a retractable aluminum bed cover, multiple interior vaults, and numerous stripe and graphics packages.

Engine: Twin Turbocharged 2.3L EcoBoost Inline-Four
Horsepower: 270hp
Torque: 310ft-lbs

Purchase: $36,860

Chevy Colorado ZR2

Taking lessons from Chevy’s more performance-focused models, the Colorado ZR2 is a hardwearing mid-size pickup with a rugged exterior and a cabin that’s more in line with modern luxury cars with a touchscreen infotainment system and an available 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless chargers. Flared fenders, a redesigned front-end, and a Multimatic suspension setup—which is reportedly exclusive to the ZR2—all help the truck to lend itself to playing in the mud. Good for towing some 5,000lbs, it’s 3.6L V6 affords the ZR2 best-in-class horsepower output, though the high-spec Colorado is also sold with an optional 2.8L Duramax turbo-diesel engine upgrade with 369ft-lbs of torque. Taking the ZR2’s dirt-going capabilities even further is the Bison package, which was developed in collaboration with American Expedition Vehicles and gains more pronounced fender flares, a skid plate, and AEV Stamped Steel front and rear bumpers.

Engine: 3.6L V6
Horsepower: 308hp
Torque: 275ft-lbs

Purchase: $41,400+

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

The result of Toyota letting its in-house tuning outfit being let loose on the Japanese brand’s popular mid-sized pickup, the Tacoma TRD Pro is a wholly capable and ruggedized off-roader that you can drive straight off the lot into the dirt. Despite a sub-$45K MSRP, the Toyota Racing Development Tacoma gets a host of thoroughly impressive standard features including a revised front fascia with LED headlights and a backlit TRD badge, a 1/4” thick aluminum skid-plate, Rigid Industries LED foglights set in aluminum housings, an electronically locking rear differential, 16” TRD Pro black alloy wheels shod in Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear Wrangler tires, and TRD-tuned FOX internal bypass shocks with 2.5” aluminum housings, remote reservoirs, and oversized shock shafts. There’s also the option for a multi-terrain monitor and trailer-sway control as well as an available six-speed transmission and an upgrade to Bilstein shocks. The 3.5L V6 also benefits from hill start assist control, TRD Crawl Control, and Multi-Terrain Select with five power modes.

Engine: 3.5L V6
Horsepower: 278hp
Torque: 265ft-lbs

Purchase: $44,075

ROUSH F-150 Nightmare

While most Muscle Trucks are something of an amalgamation between off-roaders and contemporary supercars, the ROUSH Nitemare is an upgraded American pickup made for the streets, receiving numerous powertrain upgrades rather than a lift-kit and crash protection. Starting with Ford’s F-150, the American tuning shop has bestowed the 5.0L V8 engine with ROUSH’s TVS R2650 supercharger system and the brand’s more free-flowing dual-tip Cat-Back exhaust, which together allow the 5.0L mill to pump out a cool 650hp and 610ft-lbs of torque—equating to sub-four-second 0-60mph times. The roughly $20,000 price over the base model/donor also gets you a sport lowering kit, 22” seven-spoke satin black wheels, and a custom front bumper cover and grille with integrated lighting. Offered in five colors, the exterior of the F-150 Nitemare comes adorned in an involved graphics package with a ROUSH SUPERCHARGED hood graphic, a blacked-out tailgate, ROUSH windshield banner, USA flag graphics, and a Jack Roush signature.

Engine: Supercharged 5.0L V8
Horsepower: 650hp
Torque: 610ft-lbs

Purchase: $47,895

Ford F-150 Raptor

With Ford’s F-150 being America’s best-selling pickup, it’s frankly unsurprisingly that the firm’s hopped-up F-150 Raptor is also the most popular turnkey Muscle Truck. A markedly more aggressive-looking grille and front-end are capped off with an aluminum skid-plate, while harsh terrain is handled via FOX Live Valve Racing Shox and a supplementary high-tech low-speed, low-traction Trail-Control cruise control mode. Other high-tech bits include a Dynamic Hitch Assist, Curve Control, an integrated tire pressure monitoring system, and AdvanceTrac with roll stability control. Hood air extractors, LED lighting throughout, flared front fenders, and accented wheel lip moldings all help to clearly distinguish the Raptor from the $29,000 base model F-150. With 450hp and 510ft-lbs of torque on tap and a factory-tuned off-road suspension system, the Ford Raptor can legitimately go toe-to-toe with pickups that have been heavily upgraded or modified with aftermarket parts, whether in the dirt or on the drag strip, all while remaining under a factory warranty.

Engine: Twin-Turbocharged HO EcoBoost V6
Horsepower: 450hp
Torque: 510ft-lbs

Purchase: $53,455

Nikola Badger

Harnessing the power of a cutting-edge fuel cell electric vehicle (rather than traditional battery EVs), Nikola Corp’s Badger is capable of delivering mind-blowing performance feats while still affording a class-leading 600-mile range. A 4×4 independent wheel drive system and a (8kg hydrogen) 120kW fuel cell enable the Badger to clock sub-three-second 0-60mph runs and generate as much as 906 (peak) horsepower and a ludicrous 980ft-lbs of torque. The nature of the hydrogen EV powertrain also means the Badger’s staggering power output numbers are instantly accessible, making what are already wildly impressive number that much more shocking. The Badger’s otherworldly performance specs is matched by an equally noteworthy industrial design, with a sleek modern interpretation of a high-performance pickup, with an unmistakably militaristic appearance. Nikola also sells a lower-specced (battery EV) version of the Badger with a 300-mile range.

Engine: 4×4 Independent Wheel Drive Electric Motor
Horsepower: 906hp
Torque: 980ft-lbs

Purchase: $60,000+

Tesla Cybertruck (Tri-Motor)

Sporting one of, if not the most idiosyncratic—and decisive—aesthetic designs in recent automotive history, Tesla’s highly-anticipated Cybertruck is unlike anything else on the road. As if its angular, geometric design wasn’t enough, the Tri-Motor version (which is the top-shelf version of the Cybertruck) packs some truly hair-raising performance capabilities with a claimed 1,000ft-lbs of torque, some 800hp, and a 0-60mph time of fewer than three seconds. Built around a special exoskeleton comprised of 30x cold-rolled stainless steel and boasting glass and polymer-layered composite windows, Tesla’s all-electric pickup offers a more than 500-mile range and can tow a whopping 14,000lbs, thanks to the Tri-Motor setup’s ungodly amounts of instantly-accessible low-end oomph. And with 16” of ground clearance, a 35-degree approach and a 28-degree departure angle, the Cybertruck can very much hold its own when the pavement ends. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the Cybertruck falls squarely into the Muscle Truck class.

Engine: All-Whee-Drive Electric Tri-Motor
Horsepower: 800hp
Torque: 1,000ft-lbs* (claimed)

Purchase: $69,900

Ram 1500 TRX

Released in the summer of 2020, the Ram 1500 TRX is one of the most modern takes on a Muscle Truck, being bestowed with a wide array of thoroughly top-shelf features that are more typical of high-dollar supercars than American-made pickups. This means a flat-bottom steering wheel with integrate aluminum paddle shifters (and optional Alcantara and carbon fiber accents), a 12” touchscreen infotainment system supplemented via a digital cluster setup, a premium Harman Kardon sound system, a steering angle sensor, an onboard Dyno, and launch control, just to name a few. With almost a foot of ground clearance and more than 13” of suspension travel—courtesy of Bilstein Black Hawk E2 shocks, which are touted as “the most sophisticated” setup ever used on a production pickup—the Raptor-eating 1500 TRX is well equipped to take on just about any type of terrain, though this feat is helped along by the inclusion of eight different drive modes, including Rock mode, Mud/Sand mode, Sport mode, Snow mode, and a competition-derived Baja mode.

Engine: Supercharged 6.2L HEMI V8
Horsepower: 702hp
Torque: 650ft-lbs

Purchase: $70,095+

Mil-Spec Automotive Ford F-150

The F-150 is already one of the most competent turnkey Muscle Trucks currently in production, so when one of the world’s most renowned off-road tuning outfits is unleashed upon the high-performance Ford, you know you can expect something special. And sure enough, Mil-Spec Automotive doesn’t disappoint, delivering an even more rugged and powerful version of the Raptor that can legitimately be driven from the Mil-Spec lot straight to the starting line of the Baja 1000. Costing $36,000 over the regular Raptor, this Hummer-inspired F-150 gets a wide body kit, flared fenders, custom steel bumpers fore and aft, a high-performance dual-side exit Cat-Back exhaust, 20” Black Rhino Arsenal alloy wheels fitted with 37” Nitto Ridge Grappler rubber, off-road auxiliary lighting, and a ten-speed transmission that’s controlled via a set of magnesium paddle shifters. A high-flow performance throttle body setup, an oversized high-flow performance cold-air intake, and markedly improved throttle response collectively allow the 5.0L V8 to squeeze out as much as 225hp over the base Raptor’s already impressive 450hp output.

Engine: 5.0L V8
Horsepower: 500-675hp
Torque: 620ft-lbs

Purchase: $89,500

Hennessey MAXIMUS 1000 Jeep Gladiator

While the Jeep Gladiator probably isn’t the first model to come to mind when thinking about high-performance pickups, the off-road capabilities of the stock production model and the 60” bed in the back would have probably earned it a spot on this list, if it weren’t for the tremendously more competent Hennessey Performance Engineering version which bolsters just about every aspect of the Jeep. A revised ECU, new cooling and fuel system, and a custom stainless steel exhaust system enable the forced-induction 6.2L Hellcat V8 to generate an even 1,000hp and 933ft-lbs of torque, while an upgraded suspension system with a 6” lift kit, Hennessey 20” wheels wrapped BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, and MAXIMUS steel bumpers front and back allow the wildly potent V8 to take it just about anywhere. The militaristic exterior is paired with a plush custom black, red-accented interior with quilted leather Hennessey and MAXIMUS embroidered seats.

Engine: Supercharged 6.2L Hellcat V8
Horsepower: 1,000hp
Torque: 933ft-lbs

Purchase: $225,000

Hennessey VelociRaptor 6X6

A pickup costing far more than the average American home, Hennessey Performance Engineering’s mighty VelociRaptor 6X6 is something the ultimate spare-no-expensive, turnkey Muscle Truck. Limited to 50 units worldwide, the 6×6 shares the regular F-150 Raptor’s turbocharged EcoBoost engine, though HPE has tuned it to crank out 600hp and an even more staggering 602ft-lbs of torque. This is accomplished through HPE’s upgraded set of turbochargers, a custom extended stainless, and an up-specced front-mounted air to air intercooler, now regulated via a revised ECU. All six of the 20” Hennessey wheels are linked to top-shelf FOX suspension, while high-intensity LED auxiliary lighting has been nestled above the windshield and into the adventure-ready 6×6’s custom VELOCIRAPTOR front bumper. Unsurprisingly, the VelociRaptor 6X6’s add-on upgrades are just as next-level as the $350K base model, with options such as armoring systems, even bigger wheels, and Brembo brakes.

Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 3.5L EcoBoost V6
Horsepower: 600hp
Torque: 602ft-lbs

Purchase: $349,000

Hennessey GOLIATH 800 Supercharged

The Hennessey GOLIATH 800 Supercharged turns late model GMC Sierras into one of the fastest pickup trucks on earth, accelerating faster off the line than a new Ferrari 488 GTB. Previously this same engine upgraded was offered on HPE’s Cadilac Escalade model, but the Texas-based outfit has since bestowed GMC’s flagship pickup with the same race-bred treatment. The fully balanced and blueprinted 6,817cc engine–which starts with the block being precision-machined—has been gifted a 2.9L supercharger and an extensive number of ultra-top-shelf internals that collectively help the truck to achieve more than 800 horsepower and foot-pounds of torque. After the more than two-dozen engine upgrades are professionally performed and installed, each specimen undergoes an arduous 200-mile testing process to ensure everything is performing optimally. The interior of the HPE-made GMC also receives ample attention in the form of bespoke seats with quilted stitching and embroidered headrests, while the outside now sports GOLIATH 800 badging throughout.

Engine: Supercharged 6.8L V8
Horsepower: 805hp
Torque: 812ft-lbs

Purchase: POR

The 20 Best Electric Supercars

Interested in checking out another fleet of unconventional ultra-high-performance vehicles? Then be sure to dig into our guide to the best electric supercars for a look at some even more capable, unorthodox models.

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