Top 10 Hardest Working Autos In Honor of Labor Day 2012 Selected By AutoBuying101.com
Labor Day has arrived, and while most everybody regards it as the last blast of summer and a good reason to have a big BBQ, let us recall its true roots. To quote the United States Department of Labor, “It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
Labor Day is a day to honor the hard working people that make America great, and we want to celebrate the hard working vehicles that help them get the job done. Whether you need a rolling workshop or miniature moving van, whether you’re hauling plywood or people, our Top 10 picks work hard to suit your individual needs.
AutoBuying101.com has perched atop purple mountain majesties to scan the American landscape across amber waves of grain, from sea to shining sea, to find the vehicles that get the job done, no matter what the job is.
Hardest Working Pickup: Ram 1500
We’ve got to start with the pickup truck first, right? After all, there is nothing more uniquely American than the fullsize pickup truck. It’s the backbone of the American labor force, and month-after-month there’s a pickup on top of the sales charts.
The Ram 1500 may not be the top-selling pickup truck in the land, but it’s got the features that make it stand out from the pack.
The number one job of a pick up is hauling, and the Ram designers have thought, literally, outside the box. Their clever Ram Box storage system makes use of the normally wasted space between the pickup bed and the rear fenders. Perfect for keeping tools separate from building materials, locking up valuable gear, or if you’re heading to that Labor Day BBQ, it can serve as a cooler for well over 200 cans of your favorite beverage.
As is standard practice in the fullsize pickup arena, you can get your Ram 1500 in vast array of flavors. From the straightforward and affordable Tradesman, to the loaded and luxurious Laramie Limited, and countless iterations in-between, there’s a Ram ready to work for you.
Stats: MSRP $22,570, MPG 20 hwy/14 city
Hardest Working Crew Truck: Toyota Tundra Crew Max
With the importance of the pickup truck to American workers, we can’t just stop at one for our list. We need to dig deeper and explore an important niche within the pickup segment. Since we’re celebrating workers, we’ll pick the one that holds the most workers, the crew truck.
And the crew truck that checks all the right boxes is the Toyota Tundra CrewMax. Heresy, you say? A Japanese brand pickup on this list? Well, it’s built in San Antonio, and has one of the highest percentages of domestic parts of any vehicle sold in the U.S. [But let’s not belabor the point; we’ve talked about this before.]
What’s important here is how well the Tundra CrewMax takes care of it’s hard-working occupants. With more legroom front and rear, 6 burly workers can stretch out after a hard day on the job. And with the most cupholders by far, your crew can hydrate and caffeinate to their heart’s delight on the way to the job.
In addition to the spacious accommodations, The Tundra offers safety features not available in the competition, such as Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist System, so you can keep your crew safe.
Stats: MSRP $30,335.00, MPG 20 hwy/15 city
Hardest Working Cargo Van: Nissan NV High Roof
Pickup trucks get all the glory in the work truck world, with countless television commercial images of concrete blocks plummeting into their beds while they trudge unphased through rutted muddy job sites. Sure, they’re great for mindless lugging of messy materials and pungent manure, but that’s just one part of the working truck story. For tradespeople that need a rolling workshop, the fullsize van is the way to go.
No plumber worth his pipe wrench is going to work out of a pickup. They need storage, organization, and a place to work out of the elements. Same for electricians and carpenters. A dry, safe haven for expensive power tools and materials. And the place for them is inside the Nissan NV High Roof van.
The NV is a relative newcomer to this market, but it wins by virtue of its spacious and usable cargo area. It has the most cargo volume in its class, the lowest load floor height for easy step-in, and once inside, the tallest interior standing height by far; nearly a foot more than the nearest competitor at 76.9 inches (6 feet, 4.9 inches). That’s one tall plumber.
Stats: MSRP $28,600, MPG 16 hwy/12 city
Hardest Working Compact Van: Ford Transit Connect
While the cargo van has been a staple of the trades since they first enclosed the back of a Model T, their size (and corresponding gas usage) has grown beyond what many small businesses need or can afford. If you’re delivering flowers or repairing copiers you simply don’t need a cavernous gas hog. Luckily, a new breed of van has appeared that shrinks the van formula down to a manageable size.
This concept has been popular for decades overseas, where cramped roads and expensive fuel necessitated compact efficiency. It has made its way stateside in the form of the Ford Transit Connect. Sharing a platform with the previous Euro-spec Focus, the Transit Connect brings 4-cylinder efficiency to van fleet. It’s compact footprint makes it easy to maneuver and park, but it still offers nearly 130 cubic feet of cargo space. Wide opening rear doors, flat load floor and low load height, along with a wide variety of interior customization possibilities make the Transit Connect a versatile worker at a bargain price.
If you cargo includes passengers, you can also configure the Transit Connect as a wagon with rear seats and windows, making it great as a family runabout or taxi.
Stats: MSRP $22,265, MPG 27 hwy/21 city
Hardest Working Off Road Auto: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Not everything on our list is strictly about the work day. You may need your vehicle to work hard at work, but you may also need it to work hard at play. And isn’t that the spirit of Labor Day? A well-earned respite from the rigors of the job. If rugged terrain is part of your work/play equation, there’s no better solution than the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited.
Do we even need to go over the Wrangler’s legendary off-road reputation? They don’t use the moniker Rubicon for nothing. It’s not just about 4-wheel-drive for traction. There’s suspension articulation, approach and departure angles for ground clearance, even water fording capability. Going up to the Unlimited gives you four doors and more space for people and cargo.
What if you need your Jeep to actually work for a living, and haul stuff around? That’s where Mopar comes in. Chrysler’s parts and performance division has created a conversion kit for the Wrangler Unlimited that lets you transform it into a rugged pickup. There’s nothing else quite like it on the road today, for work or for play.
Stats: MSRP $25,695, MPG 21 hwy/16 city
Hardest Working Family Auto: Chrysler Town & Country
You want to talk work? Let’s talk about the stay-at-home mom or dad. It may not require a hard hat and Carhartts, but it’s a job alright. Big-time. And it requires a versatile vehicle that can load maximum passengers and/or maximum cargo. No vehicle does that better than a minivan, and no minivan offers more flexibility and comfort than the Chrysler Town & Country.
Commodious cargo space is easily acquired with Chrysler’s nifty Stow N’ Go seating. Both second row captains chairs and both sections of the split third row each disappear into the floor individually to give you multiple configurations to balance people and stuff. When the seats aren’t stowed, use their compartments for extra hidden storage. That third row will also flip backwards to give you clever tailgate seating for impromptu picnics.
The multi-tasking parent knows that silence is golden, so the separate video screens for the second and third rows, complete with their own individual DVD player and A/V inputs for gaming systems, will be much appreciated for keeping the peace.
Whether you’re packing plywood or princesses, the Chrysler Town & Country may be the most versatile workhorse of all.
Stats: MSRP $29,995, MPG 25 hwy/17 city
Hardest Working Wagon: Subaru Outback
The traditional station wagon is the original hardest working auto and our list simply would not be complete without one. From the original woodies, through the Nomads and Vista Cruisers, to the thinly-disguised crossovers of today, melding a sedan body with a wagon backside has been the most direct way to put an auto to work. And while the word “wagon” has nearly vanished from the automotive landscape, we celebrate here as the fundamental hard working vehicle.
The Subaru Outback takes the wagon format and elevates it (literally, with its increased ride height) to an all-weather art form. One trip to Vermont and you’d swear it was the official state car. Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system famously provides excellent traction, and their low-profile boxer engines help lower the center of gravity for improved handling. While we often consider AWD to be less fuel-frugal, its CVT transmission helps the Outback achieve excellent economy.
For 2013, Subaru has added EyeSight, a camera-based system that offers a variety of safety and convenience features, such as pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. So the Outback works hard at keeping you safe as well.
Stats: MSRP $24,495, MPG 30 hwy/24 city.
Hardest Working City Auto: Honda Fit
For the urban driver that needs to dodge tight traffic, or for someone that just wants maximum efficiency at a minimum cost, there’s nothing that fits the bill quite like a 5-door hatchback. Small footprint outside, user-friendly space inside, and great gas mileage. Luckily, as fuel economy has become an important issue with automakers, our choices, and the quality, of 5-door hatches have grown tremendously.
And the one that best meets our workhorse criteria is the Honda Fit. Many of its competitors have done a fine job catching up to the Fit in areas such as gas mileage, fun-to-drive, interior quality, etc. But none of them have achieved the nearly miraculous space efficiency and flexibility that this little Honda offers.
The key reason is the feature that Honda calls the Magic Seat. This rear bench can do more contortions than an Olympic gymnast. When it’s not holding people, fold it flat for cargo (you won’t even need to remove the headrests), fold the front passenger seat perfectly flat as well for long cargo like lumber or ladders, and the coolest trick: fold the rear seat cushion upwards for a tall storage configuration behind the front seats. Tiny can work hard, too.
Stats: MSRP $15,325, MPG 33 hwy/27 city
Hardest Working Luxury Auto: Range Rover
Luxury SUVs have become as common as the dirt they never tread upon. Most premium brands have not just one, but multiple vehicles of that ilk. Even Porsche has one, with a second on the way. Alas, these AWD tenderfoots spend more time in mall parking lots than they do on the trails. Which is probably for the best, since they lack the credentials for actual off-road adventure and would probably wind up out of service upon the first boulder they crossed.
But there is at least one luxury high-rider that has the bona fides to tromp through the muck.
The Range Rover has the bloodlines for true trail-busting; descending from the legendary Land Rover, itself inspired by the WWII Willys Jeep. The British Trans-Americas Expedition, and multiple Paris-Dakar Rally victories are all the Range Rover’s curriculum vitae. So this is a vehicle that will eagerly hustle you through the back woods while swaddling you in luxury.
And swaddle it will, with lush Blenheim leather covering seats that are heated both front and rear, heated steering wheel, real wood trim, and harman/kardon stereo. Their Terrain Response system offers multiple settings for whatever your path may be, and electronic suspension rises and lowers to accommodate any situation.
Stats: MSRP $72,277, MPG 18 hwy/12 city
Hardest Working Exotic Auto: Ferrari FF
Perhaps we’re stretching the definition of hard working here, but then again, perhaps not. If we only told you we had picked a hatchback with All-Wheel-Drive and comfortable seating for four, you’d probably say that was a sensible choice, right? Convenient loading with the hatchback, versatile drivetrain for any type of weather conditions, it could be a modest Subaru Impreza.
Except it’s not. It’s a rip-snorting, V-12 powered Italian genre-bender of epic proportions. 651 horsepower and 504 pound-feet of torque will press those four comfortably-seated occupants deeply into their luxurious aniline leather seats as you race to the 208 mph top speed. Ferrari’s own custom AWD system gives the rear wheel power you’d expect from an exotic grand tourer, and all wheel traction when you need it. Feel free to load up your ski gear for the trip to Aspen.
While you probably wouldn’t want to take four people for a two-week vacation, you certainly have enough cargo room to take them on a long weekend. If there’s only two of you, no need to pack light, the rear seats fold down for extra space. Heck, throw the golf bags in, too. They’ll fit easily.
Stats: MSRP $295,000, MPG 17 hwy/11 city