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  • Midsize Fantasy Build: V-8 Colorado, EcoBoost Ranger, 5.7L Tacoma, Cummins Frontier

Midsize Fantasy Build: V-8 Colorado, EcoBoost Ranger, 5.7L Tacoma, Cummins Frontier

We Daydream About the Midsizers We’d Like to See Built

Oct 7, 2015
There’s been something of a renaissance in the midsize pickup market. We finally have a new Tacoma after more than a decade, brand-new midsizers from GM, and the prospect of the Ford Ranger making a comeback stateside. This once-neglected backwater of the light-truck market is finally showing some signs of life. But we’d like to see it kicked up a notch, so we built some midsizers of our dreams. Let us know what you think!
Chevrolet Colorado V-8
For those of you that remember, a 5.3L V-8 was briefly offered in the last-generation Colorado. The truck was otherwise unremarkable in almost every respect, but shoehorning a thumping small-block V-8 under the hood transformed it into a fun little truck rod. The new Colorado has launched with a 2.5L I-4, a 3.6L V-6, and now a 2.8L I-4 turbodiesel. Our current favorite of the bunch is the diesel. It makes a bunch o’ torque and promises to return class-leading fuel economy. The 3.6L DOHC V-6 looks promising on paper with 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque, but in reality, the high-revving engine is poorly matched with the transmission calibration and the truck’s heavier weight. What we’d like to see is the return of the 5.3L small-block to the Colorado. The current iteration, the EcoTec3, is a smooth, powerful, efficient jewel, with 353 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque. It would probably come within 1 mpg of the 3.6L, with even more torque than the diesel (though not by much) and about double the horsepower.
There’s two ways of going with this. A low-slung Colorado SS street truck would be one way to go, or a Baja-inspired off-road package with 33-plus-inch tires, a lightbar, dark wheels, remote reservoir shocks, and for those that want “the look,” an accessory spare tire rack in the bed. And for heaven’s sake, let’s get rid of that snowplow front air dam! We’d love to see either of them built.
Photo 2/6   |   2016 Chevrolet Colorado Midnight Edition And Trail Boss
Probability: Slim
The biggest impediment to a V-8 Colorado is ironically enough the diesel. The diesel carries a hefty $3,700 option price. The option price on the V-8 would probably be from $1,500-2,000, as the Tonawanda plant cranks them out by the hundreds of thousands, and siphoning off a handful of those would be no big deal. Logistically, it’s eminently doable. However, other than those looking for super-stingy fuel economy, we’d bet a lot more people would go for the V-8 over the diesel. Offering a V-8 alongside the diesel is more of an internal marketing conundrum for GM than a logistical or engineering impossibility. Perhaps the mid-cycle refresh coming in 2018 or the next-generation model coming in 2021 might have the new “Dynamic Skip Fire” V-8 that can run on as few as two cylinders for even better economy.
Ford Ranger EcoBoost
Once dismissing the midsize market as dead and gone, Ford is reportedly reconsidering its F-Series–only truck strategy after seeing the success of the GM twins. It also needs a product to go into its Wayne assembly plant once the Focus goes south of the border. The U.S. getting a new Ranger is far from a foregone conclusion at this point, but the chances are looking better. Looking over Ford’s current powertrain lineup, we think the 2.7L EcoBoost would be the perfect fit for the Ranger. The compact powerhouse cranks out a formidable 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. In the Lincoln MKX, it’s tuned to 335 hp and 380 lb-ft. With a little aftermarket massaging, 350 hp and 400-plus lb-ft don’t seem improbable. The top engine in the current overseas Ranger is the 3.2L I-5 diesel. As offered in the Transit van, it produces a respectable 185 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. However, like GM’s I-4 Duramax, it’s a typical diesel: torquey and low revving but not particularly exciting for high-speed romps through the dunes or trails. Personality-wise, the 2.7L EcoBoost would be a lot better fit for a sporty midsize. We’d love to see a mini-Raptor package on the Ranger.
Photo 3/6   |   2015 Ford Ranger Wildtrak Beach
Probability: Feasible
Assuming Ford commits to bringing the Ranger back to the U.S. market, the 2.7L EcoBoost is as good a bet as any to be an engine option. We’re expecting a naturally aspirated I-4 as the base engine, a naturally aspirated V-6 or EcoBoost I-4 as the step-up, and the 2.7L as the top gas engine option. Depending on how well GM does with the diesel option in the Colorado/Canyon, an oil-burner of some sort is a possibility too.
Toyota Tacoma 5.7L
The prospect of V-8 Tacoma may seem far-fetched and outrageous, especially coming from the same company the cranks out beige-mobile Camrys, Priuses, and Corollas by the boatload. However, the idea is not totally unprecedented. Some of you may remember this video we brought you a while back showing a custom-built Hilux in South Africa fortified with the screaming 5.0L V-8 out of the Lexus ISF. The sound alone made us want it immediately.
One staffer opined the 4.6L V-8 would probably fit under the hood. Taking a closer look at the specs between the 4.6L and the new 3.5L V-6 doesn’t make a great case for the small V-8. The horsepower difference is only around 30, and the torque difference is a little over 50 lb-ft. Throw the 5.7L into the equation, however, and we’re talking a 103 hp and 136 lb-ft difference. Talk about “Oh, what a feeling!” Granted, the 5.7L is not exactly known for its fuel economy, and in this hyper-litigious day and age, the prospect of a 20-something hitting the “Trac Off” button on the dash and doing his best Vaughn Gittin Jr. impression on public roads likely gives the Toyota legal team nightmares.
Photo 4/6   |   2016 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road Front View
Probability: Don’t Count on It
This one is in the realm of pure fantasy, at least from the factory. We’re sure some enterprising and handy aftermarket shop will shoehorn a 5.7L V-8 into the new Tacoma. So if you’re willing to shell out five figures and completely void your warranty, you could build one of these beasts on your own.
Nissan Frontier Cummins
Of all the trucks on this list, this one is probably the most likely to see the light of day. In addition to the collaboration with Nissan on the Titan XD with the 5.0L V-8, Nissan and Cummins have also played around with the 2.8L I-4 diesel. We’ve actually driven the prototype, and it’s as much of a hoot to drive as you’d think. Nissan already has some decent turbodiesel engines in the global Navara pickup. However, the marketing appeal of the Cummins brand is undeniable in the U.S. Offering a torquey, fuel-efficient option in the Frontier seems like it would be a no-brainer.
Photo 5/6   |   2010 Nissan Frontier
Probability: Highly Feasible
The pieces are all in place and the handshakes and after-work beers have been had on the Titan, so we feel there’s an excellent chance the next-gen Frontier will have a Cummins under the hood as an option.
Photo 6/6   |   Cummins Powered Nissan Frontier Engine

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