We live in a region tailor-made for rugged recreational pickups. We’re hemmed in by coastline, sand dunes and mountains, making these action-focused haulers a no-brainer for anyone with outdoorsy inclinations.
There are two broad subgenres within the pickup category. The lower end is populated by bare-boned load luggers with little in terms of style or performance. They’re purely utilitarian devices for commercial use. Further up the scale are the lifestyle-oriented offerings that offer fun and functionality in equal measure.
Here are our top eight contenders for those seeking a go-anywhere chariot that can tow a boat, and haul jet-skis, mountain bikes, quad bikes, kitesurfing gear or whatever else you get your kicks from.
The hulking Silverado has been around for the past two decades, and more than 12 million examples have been sold in the US since its 1999 introduction. An all-new generation debuted in 2019, ushering in edgy styling and much improved driving dynamics, thanks to a new T1XX platform that also underpins the latest Chevy Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade. The Silverado is offered in 4x2 and 4x4 guises, and there’s a range of powertrain options, spearheaded by a thumping 420hp 6.2-litre V8, mated to a 10-speed auto.
Pricing starts at just over Dh150k
The F-Series lineage dates back to 1948, and the F-150 has been the highest-selling vehicle overall in the US since 1981. Ford recently rolled out a vastly improved 14th-gen model, which gains 92 per cent new components as part of its thorough revamp.
The big Ford can tow up to 6,350 kilograms and carry up to 1.5 tonnes, so the F-150 doesn’t shy away from hard work. There’s a choice of four engines, including a potent 3.5-litre hybrid PowerBoost V6 with 430hp and 772Nm. The cabin, too, is much more cosseting than before.
Pricing starts at Dh183,120
Ford Ranger 3.2 Wild Trak 4x4
If you’re a Blue Oval fan but don’t fancy something as gargantuan as the F-150, there’s also the South African-built Ranger Wild Trak, offering much of the same functionality as its big brother. The range-topping model is equipped with a 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel with 197hp and 470Nm, so it’s adequately sprightly.
It can’t match the payload or towing capacity of the F-150, but the Wild Trak offers 237mm of ground clearance and can wade through 800mm of water, so it’s still a genuine all-terrainer.
Pricing starts at Dh165k
The Sierra is the posh cousin of the Chevrolet Silverado, as it shares the same mechanicals. Befitting its higher price tag, the GMC has more upmarket styling and an in-your-face chrome-laden grille. The cabin is also plusher than its Chevy stablemate. It’s offered in regular, crew and double-cab formats, so you can opt for whatever best suits your need.
As with the Silverado, there’s a range of engine options, from a 2.7-litre turbo four-cylinder to a 6.2-litre V8. Driver aids such as Jack-Knife Alert and Trailer Length Indicator are also on the menu.
Pricing starts at Dh197k
Arguably the most off-road-capable contender in this list, the recently launched Gladiator is a more versatile derivative of the popular Wrangler. It is Jeep’s first offering with a cargo bed since the early 1990s and has been keenly awaited in our region.
Powered by a 284hp 3.6-litre V6, the Gladiator can tow over 3.5 tonnes (more than double the Wrangler’s capacity), so it’s a sound choice if you have a large boat to haul. More fun still is that the doors and roof panels can be removed, making it a true open-air vehicle.
Prices start at about Dh180k
Nissan Navara 2.5L 4WD
The Navara is by far the cheapest entrant in this list, so look this way if you’re on a tight budget. There’s a choice of petrol and diesel power – both are 2.5-litre units – but neither is especially potent. Acceleration isn’t a strong point, but cabin ambience is decent for a vehicle of this price. Standard features include keyless entry, power windows, fog lamps, parking sensors and LED indicators.
Reliability is a forte, and the Navara is no slouch off-road, thanks to 224mm of ground clearance and low-range gearing.
Prices range from Dh89,775 to Dh98,700
In past years, RAM’s large pickups offered ruggedness and utility, but little in terms of comfort and refinement. That changed with the 2018 launch of the vastly improved fifth-gen model, which brought supple air suspension, built-in cargo-bed bins, a split-folding tailgate and a giant 12.0-inch infotainment touchscreen. Also available are a head-up display, digital rear-view mirror and a steering-assist function when backing up with a trailer.
More exciting still is the debut of the ballistic new 1500 TRX flagship, powered by a 702hp supercharged Hellcat engine.
Pricing starts at just over Dh205k, with the TRX kicking off at Dh370k
Toyota Hilux Adventure
The Hilux is renowned for its bulletproof durability, but the range-topping Adventure adds a dash of luxury and panache to the recipe. Foregoing pedestrian four-cylinder motors in lieu of a 240hp 4.0-litre V6, it serves up lively performance and has the grunt to charge up towering dunes.
A six-speed auto is standard, as are parking sensors, a reversing camera, 18-inch alloys, wheel arch flares, side steps, climate-control AC, roll-up tonneau cover and an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Unlike utilitarian versions of the Hilux, the Adventure lives up to its name.
Prices range from Dh143k to Dh167k