Sway Control – Raging Against the Machine
Technology is one of those things that is pervasive, promising, terrifying, disruptive, and beloved, all at the same time. Depending on your vocation and life stage, it is either your best friend or worst enemy. But one thing’s for certain: it can’t be stopped. It can be directed, accelerated, and focused but can’t be halted altogether.
And I’m not just talking about semiconductors, microchips, lasers, cameras, and robots. Technology in its most rudimentary forms dates back to the beginning of human civilization. The invention of the wheel thousands of years ago put history on fast-forward, and it’s been accelerating ever since. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the automotive industry and, perhaps paradoxically to some, in the truck segment.
Sure, the basic packaging of fullsize trucks hasn’t radically changed in the 60 or so years the modern pickup has been in existence—body on frame, solid rear axle, and generally leaf-sprung rear suspension. However, even within this well-established convention, we’ve seen a lot of innovation, especially over the last decade. In the area of powertrains, we saw the step up from four-speed automatics to six-speeds, eight-speeds, and starting with ’17 models, 10-speed automatics. In engines, the convention of six-cylinders being the bargain-basement choice and the V-8s being the engine of choice has been completely flipped on its head. And as far as people passing on trucks because of fuel economy, there are now options that rival midsize sedans in thriftiness, while offering exponentially more utility.
We’re now within a few years of seeing fully autonomous vehicles on the roads, from passenger cars all the way to Class-8 trucks. Electrified drivetrains, once considered curious, but irrelevant, niche technologies, are now spreading throughout automakers’ lineups, from auto stop-start in its most basic form to full electrification.
A lot of us, including the editors of Truck Trend, and occasionally yours truly as well, have waxed nostalgic about the “good ol’ days” of low-back vinyl bench seats, crank windows, manual transmissions, and engines that could be fixed with a crescent wrench, Phillips head screwdriver, and occasionally, a hammer. Certainly, there’s something therapeutic and immensely satisfying about the simplicity of vintage cars and trucks, about being able to keep them running with basic hand tools. But those days essentially ended in the early ’90s, if not before. Today, you need at least a full ratchet set (U.S. and metric), a full set of Torx or star bits, a diagnostic scanner, and a smartphone to look up DIY solutions on owners’ forums. The basic maintenance routine of oil changes, spark plugs, and air filters hasn’t fundamentally changed that much, but if you get much more advanced than that, plan on visiting a dealer or independent professional or investing in hundreds or thousands of dollars in specialized tools.
A lot of us may grumble about the $50,000-plus price point of most well-equipped fullsize trucks, computerized crutches for towing rookies, and the almost complete extinction of manual transmissions. But let’s be honest: if we wanted to take a cross-country or even interstate road trip, wouldn’t you rather do it with SiriusXM satellite radio, ventilated seats, ice-cold air conditioning, J2807-tested towing capacity, and ample engine cooling capacity even on the steepest, hottest grades, rather than being passed by 18-wheelers, steam puffing out the sides of the hood, sweating on the vinyl seats, and with all sorts of strange smells and noises emanating from every corner of the truck?
If you want to call me a lightweight or a city-slicker, go ahead. Don’t get me wrong: nostalgia has its place and enjoying a weekend drive to the local diner or cruise night reminds us why it’s great to be an auto enthusiast living in America. But for the daily grind and the long haul, I’ll gladly take the comforts and conveniences of the 21st century over the Spartan, agricultural trappings of decades past.