INCREMENTAL IMPORT CHANGES

Toyota has made one change to its engine lineup in 2010, adding a new 4.6-liter V8 with 6-speed automatic transmission to replace the 4.7-liter V8. The new mill now offers 310 hp and 313 pound-feet of torque along with improved fuel efficiency. Other engine options include a base 4.0-liter, 24-valve aluminum V6 (236 hp, 266 pound-feet of torque), and a 5.7-liter 32-valve aluminum V8 (381 hp, 401 pound-feet of torque). A new Work Truck Package includes tough vinyl seats; rubber floor mats; black bumpers, grille, and instrument panel trim; manual side mirrors; and other back-to-basics features. Max tow rating for the big Tundra is 10,800 pounds and max payload is 1,080 pounds. No changes of note are included on the midsize Tacoma. A Sport package includes a worksite-handy in-dash inverter with a bed-mounted 115-volt, 400-watt electrical outlet.

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Toyota's full-size Tundra cabs provide file-storage space and recharging ports for tools and electronic devices.

The 2010 Nissan Titan full-size pickup hasn't changed a lot either. Only one engine is available on the Titan, an E85-capable 5.6-liter V8 rated at 317 hp and 385 pound-feet of torque.

A 5-speed automatic transmission is standard. Titans have a maximum towing capacity of 9,500 pounds. A factory-applied, spray-on bed liner, a bed tie-down system, and lockable bed-side wall storage compartment are options.

The midsize Nissan Frontier, updated last year, offers a 4.0-liter V6 that puts out 261 hp and 281 pound-feet of torque, and a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder rated at 152 hp and 171 pound-feet of torque. Fuel-efficient 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual transmissions are available on specific models. The Frontier has a 6,500-pound max towing capacity. Side and head curtain airbags are now standard on all models, along with a stability control system on all V6 models.

The Honda Ridgeline, a "crossover" pickup that melds an SUV body with a capable pickup bed, last year saw a major change in a new, more powerful 3.5-liter all-aluminum V6 engine (the only option) with 250 hp and 247 pound-feet of torque. Beyond that, the Ridgeline stays pat for this model year.

Mitsubishi's Raider, a reskinned Dodge Dakota clone, has not changed for 2010. Its only engine option is the Dodge base 3.7-liter V6, and it has a maximum towing capacity of 4,203 pounds (no payload specs provided).

So, coming off one of the all-time leanest years in automotive history, it's no surprise that there have been casualties – but there are also glimmers of hope ahead. New vehicles are still rolling out, and capabilities are improving with each new iteration. Which is good news, because one thing remains certain: As long as there is work, there will be pickups.

Mike Morris is a Tools of the Trade contributing editor.