Chevrolet, Toyota, and Nissan Show Their Raptor-Fighters
In the past quarter-century, a handful of trucks were game-changing models. The second-generation supercharged Ford F-150 SVT Lightning and the Chevrolet 454SS were among them. These two defined the performance-truck segment in the 1990s and 2000s. The Dodge Ram SRT10, while colossally powerful and undeniably cool, was priced out of the realm of many truck enthusiasts’ budgets. But the most impactful truck of the last few decades has been the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. The second truck effort of Ford’s factory hot-rod division, while not as objectively fast as its pavement-pounding predecessor, had a greater impact on the overall truck market and much broader popularity.
Naturally, success rarely goes unnoticed or unrivaled, and Chevrolet, Toyota, and Nissan are coming up with their own off-road trucks, each with a unique twist. Here’s a look at some Raptor-esque models that could be coming to a showroom near you soon.
2014 Chevrolet Silverado Reaper
When the Reaper was unveiled at the 2014 North American Dealers Association conference in New Orleans recently, it received a lot of attention from Chevrolet dealers as well as some attention from automotive enthusiast sites and blogs before the official reveal. The truck’s unveiling came at an opportune time for Chevrolet dealers, as the Ford F-150 Raptor SVT is entering its final year of officially announced production. Although many expect a Raptor or Raptor-like version of the new 2015 F-150 will eventually be offered, there’s likely to be a 1-2-year wait until we see its successor.
We wanted a more in-depth look at the origins of the Reaper project and the collaboration between renowned domestic performance tuning company Lingenfelter Performance Engineering and Southern Comfort Automotive for this melding of Yankee engineering know-how and Southern style. We talked with Mike Copeland, vice president of Operations at LPE, about how the Reaper came to be, and what’s planned.
Copeland said the idea for a performance off-road-oriented Silverado began in 2012, when the company became aware of the imminent introduction of the all-new K2XX-series GM trucks. The company initially planned to do all styling and performance upgrades in-house. The original name for the concept was T-Rex, and it was envisioned as a rival to the Roush- and Shelby-tuned versions of the Ford Raptor. Lingenfelter got its first 2014 truck in May 2013 and immediately started development on the engine performance packages. With a Magnacharger on the 5.3-liter EcoTec V-8, the truck ran an impressive 13.89-second quarter mile at over 100 mph, even with a tall 3.08 axle ratio.
While his company was moving full speed ahead on the T-Rex project, Ken Lingenfelter received a call from Michael McSweeney of Southern Comfort Automotive, based in Trussville, Alabama. Southern Comfort was working on its own customized Silverado and called on Lingenfelter for performance upgrades for the truck. After the prolonged call between Lingenfelter and McSweeney, Copeland and Lingenfelter flew down to Alabama to see what the company was working on. Impressed with the aggressive styling treatment Southern Comfort had created for the Silverado, the two companies decided to join forces on the truck that would become the Reaper.
While the Raptor is the most obvious rival to the Reaper at first glance, Copeland points out the differences in approach. “The Raptor is a factory-built truck. [OEMs] have the opportunity to apply lots of resources and spend lots of money developing something.” But Copeland doesn’t feel Lingenfelter or Southern Comfort are necessarily at a dis-advantage from a factory-built effort. “We don’t have the advantage of huge budgets, nor do we have hundreds of trucks to use for development, but we’re able to move fast and make decisions quickly.”
The package will be offered in all the Silverado’s cab configurations, and non-factory parts will be covered by a 3-year, 36,000-mile limited warranty. Prices are expected to start in the mid-$50,000s with the final price dependent on personalization options selected by the customer. Trucks are planned to be available for purchase starting in late spring/early summer 2014. You can find more information on the Reaper at reaperperformanceusa.com.
Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
If you want your off-road attitude in an SUV, Toyota will offer the TRD Pro package on the 4Runner. The functional upgrades to the 4Runner TRD Pro are similar to those of the Tacoma, with minor differences. The front springs give the SUV 1.5 inches of lift and increase wheel travel by 1 inch, and the wheels are 17-inchers. Like the Tacoma, the 4Runner gets a unique block-letter grille and front and rear black bumper accents.
2015 Toyota Tundra & Tacoma TRD Pro
There’s little doubt whom Toyota had in mind with its TRD Pro Tundra. The block-letter grille treatment, though a longtime Toyota styling trademark used in the modern era on the FJ Cruiser, was clearly inspired by the Raptor’s block-letter grille. Toyota’s transformation of the Tundra isn’t quite as extensive as the Raptor’s, but it’s significant nonetheless and includes reduced-rate springs with 2 inches of additional front lift, Bilstein remote-reservoir shocks, and a front skidplate. The interior gets unique red stitching and an instrument panel decorative insert. There are no big updates to the powertrain, but with the 381-hp, 5.7-liter i-Force V-8, there’s not a great need for more power. If you want more go, there’s always the available dealer-installed TRD supercharger that brings output up to more than 500 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque.
Is the Tundra a little bigger than you want or need? Get the TRD Pro package on the smaller Tacoma. Are the PreRunner and Baja T|X models not hard-core enough for you? The Tacoma TRD Pro stands out from its more subdued stablemates with a unique “TOYOTA” block-letter grille, black “TRD Pro” badging, and a front skidplate. Functional upgrades include Bilstein remote-reservoir shocks, TRD-tuned springs with 2 inches of front lift, and a decreased spring rate for a smoother ride over uneven terrain. The TRD Pro model also gets unique 16-inch beadlock-style wheels, BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires, and a TRD exhaust. The interior gets TRD-logo floormats and shift knob.
Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Concept
When we first saw the advanced press material on the Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner concept, we simultaneously thought “Awesome!” and “We told you so.” Awesome because it presents the strong possibility of a third midsize diesel truck in the U.S. market; and “we told you so” because reading between the lines of comments made by Nissan and Cummins officials at last summer’s Nissan 360 event, it was clear the two companies were considering collaborating on other projects beyond the officially announced Titan diesel. The Frontier Diesel Runner concept is proof that Nissan is strongly considering a Cummins diesel option for the junior member of its truck family.
Based on the current-gen Desert Runner 2WD model, the Diesel Runner employs Cummins’ 2.8-liter I-4 diesel producing close to 200 hp and more than 350 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic enabling the combination to achieve up to 35 percent better claimed fuel economy than the current V-6 Frontier, meaning highway fuel economy could be as high as 28 or 29 mpg, and payload and towing capacities would be comparable with the current Frontier V-6.
For the concept truck, the unique powertrain is designated by generous applications of red accents throughout the exterior and interior of the truck, with red being Cummins’ signature color. The Diesel Runner gets painted in a unique red and silver two-tone paint scheme with carbon-fiber film accents. To make sure observers know what’s under the hood, a transparent acrylic section shows the carbon-fiber engine cover featuring the Cummins logo and “Cummins Turbo Diesel” front fender badges. The front wheels are silver with satin black accents, while the rears are red with black accents. The brake calipers are the inverse: red in the front and silver in the back.
On the inside, the Diesel Runner gets carbon-print leather trimmed seats with red accents and gray stitching and “tracks” embroidery. There are also a diesel-specific three-gauge pod on the instrument panel, embroidered floormats, and shift knob and steering wheel accents.
Nissan says it built the Diesel Runner to gauge customer interest in a diesel engine option in a midsize truck. We have a feeling the reaction will be overwhelmingly positive.