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Coolest College Trucks & SUVs

Jason Udy
Sep 27, 2011
We did a similar list on Motor Trend's site, but some (nazdrowie) called us out for not having a truck on the list. We understand not every college student wants a car- many of us want a truck or SUV. Scratch that -- some of us need a truck or SUV in college. Some need the security of four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive simply because snow falls on campus. Others need to carry people or supplies to the mountains or the lake for a weekend of fun and relaxation. We have compiled a list of one new and one used vehicle in the popular truck and SUV categories that should be able to handle any test you put them through. Don't worry, we didn't forget about the street truck guys either.
Coolest Compact Truck
Used: Chevrolet S-10/GMC Sonoma
The second generation S-10 and Somoma are generally in better condition than the early years and were offered in either an off-road ready, four-wheel drive ZR-2 or a lowered, two-wheel drive SS/Xtreme version.
Photo 2/26   |   Chevy S10 Xtreme Front View
The ZR-2 featured two inches of additional ground clearance and a four-inch wider track than the standard four-wheel drive model. It sported fender flares to cover the 31-inch tires. Power from the 4.3-liter V-6 was transmitted through the four speed automatic to the Chevy 8.5-inch, 10-bolt rear-end with 3.73:1 differential gears.
Photo 3/26   |   2001 GMC Sonoma And Chevy S10 Front And Rear
The SS/Xtreme is the street-fighter version of the S-10. It features a lowered suspension, cosmetic upgrades, and 16-inch wheels. The bumpers and grill are body-colored and a step-side version was available from 1996-1998. All SS versions were regular cabs powered by the 4.3-liter V-6 mated to the four-speed automatic transmission connected to a posi-traction equipped rear-end with 3.42:1 gears. The two-wheel drives S-10/Sonoma are always ripe for small-block Chevy V-8 swaps (including the LS family of engines).
Photo 4/26   |   2001 GMC Sonoma And Chevy S10
Either version is capable of carrying your party needs -- and school supplies.
New: Toyota Tacoma
The Toyota Tacoma -- whether new or used -- is the top pick for many consumers in the compact market. There isn't much competition in the compact segment, (both the Ford Ranger and the Dodge Dakota are slated to be discontinued), but that doesn't mean the Tacoma isn't a good buy. With Toyota reliability and the most bed, engine, transmission, and cab choices combined with the best-in-class V-6 towing capacity, one can't go wrong with the Tacoma. An added bonus is the optional AC outlet in the bed offered starting with 2005 models. Based on some posts on Tacoma enthusiast forums, this versatile feature is capable of powering everything from cell phones, saws, Christmas trees, big-screen TVs and blenders. Can you say "tailgate party?"
Photo 5/26   |   2012 Toyota Tacoma Front Passengers Front Three Quarters

Coolest Midsize Truck
Used: Ford Explorer Sport Trac
The Ford Explorer Sport Trac first arrived on the scene in 2000 as a 2001 model and was based on the Explorer. Ford's venerable 210-hp 4.0-liter Cologne V-6 was the sole engine for the first generation, and had five forward gears, whether mated to a manual transmission or a slushbox. Ford skipped 2006 with the Sport Trac, but the all-new second generation model debuted that year as a 2007 model.
Photo 6/26   |   2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac Front And Rear
The new Sport Trac was based on the fourth-generation Explorer and added the 292-hp 4.6-liter three-valve Modular V-8 as an option, which was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. It also gained the SUV's stronger frame and independent rear end. The Explorer Sport Trac offered room for five and a small bed for those ever important hauling duties to the party.
New: Honda Ridgeline
The Honda Ridgeline earned Truck Trend's Truck of the Year award when it debuted as a 2006 model. Its independent rear suspension allows a lockable "trunk" in the bottom of the bed to secure items one may not want to or be able to fit in the cab. The bed features a dual-action tailgate that either drops like a conventional tailgate or swings out from one side to make loading/unloading kegs easier. The Ridgeline can handle 1546-pound payload- enough to haul your Honda quad or pair of Honda motorcycles -- and tow 5000 pounds -- enough to tow a small boat or a pair of Honda four-wheelers.
Photo 7/26   |   2012 Honda Ridgeline Sport Front Three Quarter

Coolest Full-size Truck
Used: Ford F-150 Lightning SVT
Ford's second-generation Lightning hit the streets in 1999 packing an Eaton supercharged 5.4-liter SOHC V-8 with 360-hp and 440 lb-ft of pavement-pounding torque. (Power was bumped 20 horsepower and 10 pound feet in 2001.) The Lightning put its power to the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic and featured a 3.55:1 gear ratio. The half-ton truck has been lowered one inch up front and two inches in the rear and sits on 18-inch wheels. In the June 2003 issue of Truck Trend, Justin Bell achieved a 0-60 mph run in a mere 5.2 seconds and eclipsed the quarter mile in 13.7 seconds before going on to hit a top speed of 146 mph. Driven to its full potential, your roommate's Ikea furniture in the bed may not last long, but you sure won't be late to class.
Photo 8/26   |   Ford F 150 SVT Lightning Front Drivers Side
New -- Tie: Ford F-150 EcoBoost and Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Duramax
Ford F-150 EcoBoost
Ford replaced its aging engine lineup with four new powertrains for the 2011 F-150.The new EcoBoost V-6 trumps the old F-150's most powerful engine: the 5.4-liter V-8. The outgoing V-8 produced 320 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, but the twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 that churns out 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque mated to a new six-speed automatic. The EcoBoost engine provides plenty of power for whatever your needs may be while also achieving class-leading fuel economy.
Photo 9/26   |   2011 Ford F 150 EcoBoost Lariat SuperCrew Front Three Quarters View
Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Duramax
Have no fear bow-tie fans, the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Duramax ties the blue-oval boys for "coolest new college truck." The Duramax diesel packs a monstruous 765 pound-feet of torque which makes the towing the heaviest loads a breeze. So, for those weekend parties on the lake or up the canyon, the Silverado HD has room for four of your closest frat brothers (or sorority sisters) and can haul all your toys, no matter what the size, at the same time.
Photo 10/26   |   2011 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD Front View In Motion

Coolest Compact SUV
Used: 1966-1977 Ford Bronco
The original Ford Bronco is for the ORV (Off-Road Vehicle) connoisseur. It competed against the Jeep CJ and International Harvester Scout. The capable off-roader was a simple design with its axles cribbed from the F-100 pickup. The front suspension was a unique design, but the back used conventional leaf springs. It debuted with inline six-cylinder engines but small-block V-8s made their way under the hood. After 1978 the Bronco grew in size and lavishness to compete with Chevrolet's Blazer, but the original Bronco is held in high-regard by off-road enthusiasts for its purity.
Photo 11/26   |   1966 Ford Bronco
New: Nissan Juke
Nissan's Juke compact SUV offers a 188 horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine mated to either a six-speed manual in the front-wheel drive version, or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) when fitted with all-wheel drive. The Juke provides an entertaining drive and enough room for your school books, if not a whole lot else. Its small size also helps with Monday morning parking after a weekend of fun.
Photo 12/26   |   2011 Nissan Juke Front Passengers Side View

Coolest Midsize SUV
Used: Toyota 4Runner
The third generation 4Runner was built from 1995-2002 and offered a choice of either a 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine or a 3.4-liter V-6. Although the power ratings (150 horsepower and 17 pound-feet for the 2.7 and 183 horsepower and 217 pound-feet for the 3.4-liter) are low by today's standards, the engines are nearly bullet-proof. Good thing to have when you and a few friends spend the weekend off roading -err we mean studying.
Photo 13/26   |   1999 Toyota 4Runner Limited
New: Jeep Grand Cheerokee
The new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine offers plenty of grunt for those who don't need to tow more than 5000 pounds (but less than 7400 pounds) while at school. Of course for those with enough grant money (or parents with deep pockets) the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 provides plenty of power to haul four close friends and a boat to the lake for some fun and sun.
Photo 14/26   |   2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Promo
Coolest Full-size SUV
Used: Ford Excursion
The Excursion was Ford's first attempt to beat Chevy's Suburban at its own game. Unlike the Suburban that was offered in half-ton and three-quarter-ton versions the Excursion was exclusively built on Ford's Super Duty chassis. The Excursion also offered something the Suburban didn't: a diesel engine. The Excursion guzzles fuel and costs more than $170 dollars to fill in today's world of $4 per gallon fuel, but who else wouldn't want to legally bring along their eight closest friends and all their gear?
Photo 15/26   |   2000 Ford Excursion
New: Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon
The current Tahoe/Yukon twins run circles around Ford's Expedition as far as power and fuel economy go. Like all three row full-size SUVs (short of the discontinued Excursion or the extended-length Suburban) cargo room behind the back seats is at a premium. The twins however are capable of carrying all your college buddies in comfort or your four closest friends and all your gear.
Photo 16/26   |   2011 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid Front Three Quarters

Coolest Crossover
Used: The Honda Element
The Honda Element was one of the first soft-roaders. Its 2.4-liter inline-four engine's 166 horsepower engine combined with an optional all-wheel-drive system offered adequate capability to make it to the trail head. The Element came with only four seats, which could be converted to two single person beds. A lift-out moonroof in the rear of the ceiling was at a perfect angle to fall asleep gazing at the stars. It also offered a rubber floor, which made spraying the interior out with a hose possible. Alas, the misunderstood Element will be discontinued after 2011.
Photo 17/26   |   2004 Honda Element EX
New: Mini Countryman S All4
The new for 2012 Countryman S All4 offers the confidence of all-wheel drive for those who attend school in snow regions. The Mini SUV offers benefits from a punchy turbocharged 1.6-liter engine which helps it dart around campus looking for a spot when you are running a bit late. It seats four adults comfortably and offers a surprising amount of cargo space with the rear seats up.
Photo 18/26   |   2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 Front View

Coolest Van
Used: Volkswagen Bus
The V-Dub Bus has been a campus stable since the 1960s -- and there is no reason for it to stop now. The Type 1 is the most popular bus and can be carry all your friends or be set up as a nice alternative to your dorm room -- perfect for those who are hippie-at-heart. As long as you're not in a big hurry. Even in the modern-day Vanagon iteration, at it's most powerful, VW's counter-cultural icon only offered 90 horsepower, and most of the classic versions puttered along with about 60. But as the deadheads or surfers that probably sold it to you might say, "Chill out, man!"
Photo 19/26   |   Volkswagen Bus
New: Ford Transit Connect
The Volkswagen Bus is easily accepted on campus for the hippies among us. But in these days the van owners' can be labeled as creepers and minivans remind us the vehicle many of our parents toted us around in. So, how did the Transit Connect make the list? Two words: band members. It's the best way to haul your band members and music gear without being exposed to the elements. Its funky looks and high roof should garner plenty of attention with your band's logo on the side.
Photo 20/26   |   2012 Ford Transit Connect Front

Coolest 4x4
Used SUV: Jeep Wrangler
The Jeep Wrangler has been an American icon since birth. It has the go anywhere -- do anything attitude many off-road enthusiasts love. And that spirit applies to campus life; whether you live in a wet climate or have nearby mountains or trails to explore the Wrangler can take you where your mind can focus on things besides school after studying, of course. And it also becomes a topless-getaway vehicle for a romantic weekend for two -- even if it came with the hard-top.
Photo 21/26   |   2004 Jeep Wrangler
Used Truck: Toyota Tacoma
The Tacoma is the perfect tailgate vehicle: later models offer the aforementioned 110 volt outlet in the bed, which is perfect for pre-game margaritas, and George Foreman hamburgers! And during the off season it can traverse rough terrain on the way to the perfect make-out -err study location.
Photo 22/26   |   2003 Tacoma Xtracab 4x2
New SUV: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
The Wrangler Unlimited allows you to take four friends in comfort (as opposed to one in comfort and two with minimal leg room) when you want need to get away from campus and want to head off road for some weekend fun.
Photo 23/26   |   2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Three Quarters Front View
New Truck: Ford F-150 Raptor SVT
Ford's desert racer is the factory king of all four-wheel-drive vehicles with a bed. It can haul both figuratively and literally. What better way to impress the opposite sex than in a vehicle that is more go than it is show?
Photo 24/26   |   2011 Best In Class Hardcore 4x4 Ford Svt Raptor

Coolest University Vehicle: Land Rover LR4
The Land Rover LR4 is all about prestige -- and capability, but mostly prestige. Its old-world roots give it an air of security and its off-road capabilities are second to none. It's sure to impress the frat boys and the sorority girls equally.
Photo 25/26   |   2011 Land Rover LR4 Passengers Front Three Quarters View
Coolest Community College Vehicle: Subaru Brat
The Subaru Brat doesn't quit. They're old -- and they look it -- but they may possibly survive a nuclear blast; which is plenty of time for you to finish your two-year degree before moving on to the University. The questionably-safe rear bed seats are also an undeniably cool vestige of a more carefree era, which we'll probably never see again.
Photo 26/26   |   1978 Subaru BRAT



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