Future: The rules of building a truck have been thrown out the window
The traditional pickup is moving rapidly beyond its leaf-sprung, boxy boundaries, and what were once SUVs have been replaced with car-based, street-minded crossovers. The rules of building a truck, sport/utility, or crossover have been thrown out the window, and the future of this category is decidedly unclear. Will hybrid systems save full-size SUVs? Will diesel power trickle down the line from the heavy-duty truck set? Is everything going to be a crossover?
Fuel-economy regulations are shaping many future trucks, and it's no surprise that a high priority has been set on fuel efficiency and low weight. In fact, many of the upcoming models are based on the smallest truck(like) platforms these particular companies have to offer. Even the Explorer, the vehicle for which the term "sport/utility vehicle" was coined, may be a crossover in the not-so-distant future.
The following section shows the face of trucks, SUVs, and crossovers in the near future. While most are moving toward car-based platforms, some stalwarts will continue to provide the power and towing capacity truck guys crave.
The Dodge truck team didn't stay conservative when designing the 2009 half-ton. The grille and hood are now even more aggressive-designer Ralph Gilles says he wanted to create a front end that acts like a finger poking the other guys right in the chest. Expect a full V-6/V-8 engine range with the possibility of a 6.1-liter Hemi making its debut in a new SRT version. To improve ride and handling, the rear axle is now coil-sprung, rendering this the first full-size half-ton truck to make the switch from leaf springs. Additionally, Dodge will offer in-cab lockable floor storage cubbies for gear or drinks in all four-door models and storage bins, accessed from the top of the bedrails, integrated into the bed.
SUM UP: The F-150 may have some real competition here.
FORD EXPLORER AMERICA
In the face of overwhelming crossover competition and rising gas prices, it's time for the Explorer to reinvent itself. The car-based unibody Explorer America may be a thinly veiled look at the next-gen Explorer. Designed by Freeman Thomas, the America is slightly smaller than the current Explorer and has a passenger-side sliding rear door that isn't likely to make it to production. The next-gen Explorer should be about 500 pounds lighter, powered by fuel-efficient, CO2-friendly direct-injection gasoline turbocharged I-4 and V-6 engines mated to six-speed transmissions. The V-8 option may disappear, to be replaced by a higher-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6.
SUM UP: Is the original SUV ready to truly evolve?
This short-wheelbase dune-runner concept is part Trophy Truck Baja racer, part trail buggy, with an independent suspension, high-output E-85-capable V-6, and seating for four. The doors and roof reconfigure easily, while many of the interior controls can tuck into the console and dash to create an open cabin layout. Wide openings allow for huge wheel travel numbers and big, aggressive tires are designed for any trail challenge. Hummer is hoping response will make this short-wheelbase model the new entry-level Hummer, helping expand the line.
SUM UP: Dream machine for Baja runs.
LAND ROVER LRX
The LRX concept is a smaller, sportier alternative to the Range Rover Sport. It blends traditional Land Rover exterior design elements with a sports-car-fast windshield and a low, sloping roofline. The 2+2, built on the LR2 platform, has full-time AWD with HDC, uncovered aluminum (no wood), and an easy-to-configure cabin. The LRX is green-friendly-the leather seats are vegetable-tanned (chromium-free) and headliner and door inserts are made from recycled glass bottles. Seen as Land Rover's Mini Cooper or Audi TT, this concept could go on sale in about three years.
SUM UP: Off-roadable style and elegance in an ultracool wrapper.
At a time when the compact-truck market is flat, Toyota may be giving it a boost. The subcompact A-BAT looks to lure urban youth drivers who need versatile transportation for their diverse lifestyles. The AWD unibody crossover pickup's four-foot bed has a dropdown Midgate, removable storage boxes, and a cabin with dash-mounted solar panels and Wi-Fi for passengers. This concept uses Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, with a wheelbase two inches longer than a Highlander's and an overall length near the RAV4's.
SUM UP: Could be the Scion of pickups.
Based on a 24-inch-longer version of the H3's wheelbase, Hummer's new pickup has four full doors and, unlike the H2 SUT, a full-length bed. The crew-cab-only H3T will be powered by a 3.7-liter inline-five and an E85-capable 5.3-liter V-8. It has a 6000-pound towing capacity, rides on 33-inch tires, and promises excellent off-road capability. The H3T will come with a standard integrated bedliner with four built-in bed compartments and a bed-rail system. The 2009 should hit dealer showrooms in late 2008.
SUM UP: Finally, a genuine, useable pickup bed in a Hummer.
Suzuki is getting a midsize truck, likely named Equator. It's based on the Frontier and will be built by Nissan in Smyrna, Tennessee, starting later this year -- you can probably guess what it'll look like. Nissan and Suzuki already have a worldwide partnership -- Nissan supplies Suzuki with the Serena minivan in Japan.
SUM UP: A Nissan-based pickup to balance out Suzuki's GM-based vehicles.