Americans love their trucks, and each truck buyer has a different reason for needing one. Drivers might need a truck to tow a boat, camper or snowmobile, or as an everyday workhorse on the job site, or simply for the occasional trip to the garbage dump. Traits valued in a pickup may include power, towing capacity, off-road capability or passenger space. Here we bring you the best, most capable pickups in eight categories.

See: American Pickup Trucks

Most Powerful Heavy-Duty Pickup

Ford F-Series Super Duty

Over the past few years, there has been an arms race in the heavy-duty pickup market. Power and torque numbers for diesel engines have grown significantly. Chevrolet and its GMC truck brand have reached 397 horsepower and 765 lb-ft of torque with their 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel engine. Dodge Ram's 6.7-liter Cummins V8 turbodiesel has 350 horsepower and up to 800 lb-ft of torque. But the winner is Ford. The Power Stroke 6.7-liter V8 turbodiesel in the 2012 Ford F-Series Super Duty wrings out some nice round numbers: 400 horses and 800 stump-pulling lb-ft of torque. As we'll soon see, though, more power doesn't necessarily mean more hauling capacity.

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Best Heavy-Duty Hauler

Chevrolet Silverado / GMC Sierra 3500HD

The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra heavy-duty pickups may trail their Ford counterparts by 35 lb-ft of torque, but thanks to a beefy ladder frame, they boast the highest towing and payload capacities on the market. General Motors' heavy-duty duo can each tow up to 18,000 pounds on a conventional trailer hitch or 23,000 pounds using a bed-mounted fifth wheel. Payload capacity tops out at 7,215 pounds. The closest competitor is the Ford F-Series Super Duty, which is within 500 pounds for towing and 105 pounds for payload capacity. To aid towing, the GM heavy-duty pickups also offer an integrated trailer brake, an exhaust brake, dual rear wheels and 4-wheel drive.

Watch Video:  2011 Chevrolet Silverado

Best Light Truck

Ford F-150 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6

In most barroom bull sessions, admitting that you have a V6 engine in your full-size truck is like saying you wear a skirt. But not when you're talking about Ford's EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6. It can outperform most V8s, churning out 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, while delivering 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway. That's less horsepower than the GM 6.2-liter V8, the Ram 5.7-liter Hemi V8 and Ford's own 6.2-liter V8, but the torque numbers are similar and fuel economy is roughly 3 mpg better. Better yet, the EcoBoost is more responsive on the street, delivering quicker acceleration than any other light-truck engine.

Compare: Ford F-150 vs. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 vs. Ram 1500

Best Off-Roader

Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

With the SVT Raptor, Ford has put the full extent of its off-road engineering knowledge into a single vehicle. This is more than just a standard pickup with a lift kit. It is a fully realized off-roader in the vein of the pre-runner trucks used to scout courses before off-road races. Ford engineers widened the F-150 by 7 inches, which helped them increase suspension travel. That travel, 11.2 inches up front and 13.4 inches in the rear, lets the Raptor clear extreme obstacles while maintaining traction. Fox Racing shocks handle hard off-road impacts, and the stability control system is tuned for off-road demands.

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