Just as the Rose Bowl is the Granddaddy of all the bowl games, the North American International Auto Show has similar prestige amongst the major automotive shows across the continent. The Detroit auto show isn’t the oldest, but its proximity to the heart of America’s automotive industry makes it the most important of all shows. For 2015, the NAIAS will feature numerous new models, including the following 10 you must see.
Updated: December 5, 2014
Before GM jumped back in to the market with its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks, Toyota controlled 68 percent of the small truck market to Nissan’s 32 percent. As the only two players left in the segment, the two Japanese manufacturers were left to duke it out. Toyota’s dominance has been without dispute these past few years, but that is beginning to change with the return of the GM trucks this fall.
Indeed, in November Chevrolet sold 2,366 Colorados and GMC added 854 Canyons for 3,220 units sold. Those numbers are ahead of what GM had expected at this point in the game. Certainly, with 13,018 Tacomas sold and 6,332 copies of the Nissan Frontier delivered in November, GM has much more room to grow.
2016 Toyota Tacoma
Toyota isn’t about to sit on its laurels although some may insist that it has been. It has been a full decade since a new Tacoma hit the market, a long interval between updates. On Thursday, Robert S. Carter, Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. senior vice president of automotive operations, said that an all-new Tacoma pickup truck will be revealed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this Jan. Carter did not offer details about the model according to the Detroit News.
The Tacoma is important to Toyota as the manufacturer claims a vast and loyal following. With the Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota no longer a factor, Toyota has an even broader customer base from which to gain new owners. Notably, Tacoma easily outsells Toyota’s own full-size pickup truck, the Tundra. Through Nov., 140,757 Tacomas have been delivered to just 107,974 for the Toyota Tundra.
What can we expect with the new Toyota Tacoma? Given that Toyota is routinely mum about most product releases anything said here is merely conjecture. Because we’re all about the latest auto trends, you expect us to at least serve up something of substance. We’ll try our best here.
1. New transmissions. Toyota used to be ahead of the engineering curve on a lot of things, but when it comes to transmissions, they’ve trailed. The Tacoma comes equipped with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission. Both will go away in favor of six-speed manual and automatic transmission, bringing Toyota into the 21st century with its transmissions.
2. Engine changes, maybe not. Toyota has had much success with its current engines: a 4.0-liter V-6 and a 2.7-liter inline four. Likely, we’ll see the same engines return, fan favorites at that. The transmissions have been the biggest drag, not on sales, rather on efficiency. If the same engines return we could see a generational update such as a new combustion system, perhaps even cylinder deactivation for the V-6 when operating on the highway. Expect improvements in torque, a reduction in emissions and a net gain in fuel economy with the new trucks.
3. Regular cab will not return. The Toyota Tacoma and its competitors have not only grown from small to midsize models, but customers are looking for larger interiors with these models too. Just as the Colorado no longer offers a regular cab, Toyota has already done likewise by dropping the regular cab. Expect the 2016 model to continue to offer extended and crew cabs only, what customers favor when shopping for a smaller pickup truck these days. Don’t expect the XRunner to return, however.
4. Sundry things. Expect that the next generation Tacoma will incorporate mostly evolutionary, rather than evolutionary changes — aside from the transmissions. Among the assorted changes we’ll likely see is greater use of high strength steels to lighten the load. As Ford moves toward aluminum, Toyota will stick with steel, but lighter variations at that. Underneath, a new exhaust system seems likely; modifications to the suspension system are also possible. Inside, expect a thoroughly modern center stack. New seats, a fresh instrument panel and better storage seem likely.
All-new GMC Canyon arrives this fall.
After a four-year absence, General Motors is back in the smaller pickup truck segment. Beginning in September, two new mid-size pickup truck lines will hit the market as the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and the 2015 GMC Canyon resume battling with the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier for customers.
2015 GMC Canyon
Last week, GM announced pricing for the two truck lines, setting the base price for the Chevrolet at $20,995 and at $21,880 for the GMC. Prices include the customary dealer freight charges.
Standard equipment for the two models include a 2.5-liter four-cylinder direct injection engine rated at 200 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 191 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. That engine is paired with a standard six-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic transmission. Available in two- and four-wheel drive, both trucks also offer an optional 3.6-liter V-6 direct injection engine making 305 horsepower at 6,950 rpm and 269 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm.
(See Also — Ram Gets a Midsize Pickup Truck)
“The all-new Canyon provides a one-two punch that customers tell us they’ve been waiting for,” said Canyon Marketing Manager Kenn Bakowski. “Now they can get a premium vehicle in terms of styling, features and technology, with all the inherent capabilities and maneuverability of a mid-size pickup.”
Market Battle Likely
At present, Toyota sells twice as many mid-size trucks as Nissan, but both will see their marketshare erode as the new trucks arrive. With the Canyon and Colorado packed with a number of big truck amenities, some poaching from the full-size GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado seems likely too.
Beyond the standard or base trim level, the 2015 GMC Canyon will offer other packages including an SLE —a two-wheel drive extended cab priced from $27,520. Upgrades with the SLE package include an eight-inch diagonal screen, 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, an easy lift and lower tail gate, aluminum interior trim and a soft touch instrument panel.
At the very top of the line is a four-wheel drive Canyon SLT crew cab with a short box. This model is powered by the larger engine, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and starts at $37,875. Standard equipment includes remote start, leather seating, automatic climate control, 18-inch polished cast-aluminum wheels and an automatic locking rear differential.
All GMC Canyons come equipped with the brand’s signature LED lighting and a rear vision camera. Available options include a Bose seven-speaker audio system, an infotainment package, and accessories for carrying bikes, kayaks and other sporting equipment. Expect a significant aftermarket industry to supply custom parts as well.
Cabs, Boxes and Wheelbases
Buyers that choose the extended cab will get a 6-foot, 2-inch box. Crew cab shoppers will have their choice of the standard box or a smaller one measuring 5 feet and 2 inches. The standard wheelbase measures 128.3 inches, extended to 140.5 inches in the crew cab with the longer bed. Thus, the overall length stretches from 212.4 inches to 224.6 inches with the larger model. The Canyon also measures 74.3 inches wide by 78.7 or 78.9 inches tall.
Weight numbers come in around two tons. Payload ranges from 1,400 to 1,450 pounds; maximum towing is 6,700 pounds when properly equipped. GM claims the best horsepower, payload and trailering in the segment.
Upcoming Turbo-diesel Engine
Fuel economy numbers will be announced closer to the Canyon’s release date. For pickup truck shoppers looking for a diesel option, a 2.8-liter turbo-diesel four cylinder engine will arrive in 2016. Already sold elsewhere, the new engine is rated at 180 horsepower and 346 foot-pounds of torque. By then, Nissan may offer a Cummins-supplied diesel in its Frontier, giving pickup truck shoppers another reason to consider the segment.
Photos courtesy of General Motors Company.
New EcoBoost engine makes the power grade.
The 2015 model year will bring yet another new engine to the Ford product line, a 2.7-liter V-6. That engine follows four-cylinder engines displacing at 1.5- and 2.3-liters, being utilized in the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKC respectively, as well as in other models.
All three engines are based on Ford’s proprietary EcoBoost technology, what marries direct injection, turbochargers and variable valve lift timing to produce more powerful engines on a smaller footprint. The 2.7-liter V-6 will be introduced in the 2015 Ford F-150 when it goes on sale this fall.
Last week, Ford shared some information about the new V-6, including horsepower, torque and towing details. What it did not offer were the truck’s fuel economy estimates, expected to come in somewhere around 27 mpg. That would make the F-150 the most efficient gas-powered, full-size pickup truck on the market, coming in just shy of the Ram 1500 equipped with a 3.0-liter turbo diesel V-6.
Optional EcoBoost Engine
The new truck engine offers twin-turbo power and makes 325 horsepower and 375 foot-pounds of torque. Because the new truck comes in as much as 732 pounds lighter than its predecessor, thanks to vehicle light-weighting, the new engine provides similar power as found in the 2014 Ford F-150 equipped with a 5.0-liter V-8 engine. Ford says that an F-150 42 will have a maximum payload rating of 2,250 pounds and a maximum tow rating of 8,500 pounds, what Ford describes as “meeting mid-range capability needs.”
Ford is not simply relying on a smaller engine and vehicle light-weighting to improve fuel mileage for 2015. It is introducing automatic start–stop technology for this pickup truck line too. Just as it is found elsewhere, the technology will shut the engine off when the vehicle comes to a stop. The moment the brake is released, the engine restarts immediately. The advantage here is in the reduction in both the amount of fuel consumed and emissions released. Ford has also designed the technology to deactivate whenever the vehicle is towing or is operating in four-wheel-drive mode.
The new EcoBoost engine is not the standard engine in the 2015 Ford F–150. A normally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 engine replaces the previous 3.7-liter V-6 used in the 2014 model. Ford says that the standard engine has a maximum payload of 1,910 pounds and a maximum tow rating of 7,600 pounds. The standard engine features twin independent variable camshaft timing along with direct acting polished mechanical buckets. Other efficiencies were realized by updating the bearing caps, the forged steel crankshaft as well as the exhaust manifolds.
“The 2015 F-150 is the most capable F-150 yet, while shedding up to 700 pounds,” said Bob Fascetti, vice president, Powertrain Engineering. “These two new V6 engines – the 2.7-liter turbocharged EcoBoost and normally aspirated 3.5-liter Ti-VCT – set a new standard for Ford for capability and efficiency.”
Taking on Tacoma
While Ford certainly has both Ram and Chevrolet in its crosshairs as it updates its most popular model, this truck manufacturer has also taken on a midsize truck from Toyota when releasing its numbers. Specifically, Ford noted that both its F-150 and the Toyota Tacoma offer engines displacing at the same size, namely at 2.7 liters.
Ford noted that its engine produces more than twice the horsepower, torque and towing capabilities of its smaller competitor. The Ford also has an 825-pound edge in the payload department. Essentially, Ford may be demonstrating that while it does not have a smaller truck to offer customers, it has a larger truck that sizes up well against both large and smaller competitors alike.
Best-Selling Pickup Truck
The Ford Motor Company is looking to retain its place as the best-selling pickup truck in America, a feat that is approaching 40 years running. It is making a big, some might say risky move, to go with an aluminum body truck for the new model year. But it may be just the effort Ford needs to maintain that position going forward.
Photo courtesy of the Ford Motor Company.
New models put the extreme in off-roading.
Sport truck and SUV enthusiasts appreciate that Toyota Racing Development (TRD) has been providing design and engineering muscle to various Toyota products for the past 35 years. TRD delivers a viable alternative to what the domestics offer by routinely putting forth a collection of special products to handle the toughest off-road tasks.
Toyota Racing Development Pro Series Models
To mark both TRDs anniversary and the opening of the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, three new TRD Pro Series models based on 44 versions of the Tundra, Tacoma, and 4Runner were introduced and are currently on display. Known as the TRD Pro Series, this trio of rugged models will roll out for the 2015 model year come this fall.
Toyota describes its collection of TRD-inspired models as terrain-conquering vehicles, based on its off-road racing heritage. That heritage includes the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 endurance races held in June and November respectively in Mexico. Toyota has had its share of victories in each race thanks to the work of TRD.
The three TRD Pro Series models come with factory-installed upgrades designed for extreme off-roading. Thats the type of punishment whereby each model tackles the most difficult terrain including rock crawling, mud and snow navigation, dune climbing, and water fording. Its the type of punishment that body-on-frame vehicles are best suited for especially when outfitted with the right upgrades.
Standard Package Offering
Those upgrades vary from product to product but include the following features across all three model lines: black wheels, unique Toyota badging on the front grille, TRD floor mats and shift knobs, and TRD Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs. All three models will also benefit from specially-tuned front springs and a front skid plate.
For the Toyota Tacoma, affectionately known as the Taco Supreme amongst enthusiasts, the smaller of the two Toyota trucks gets several important touches. These include 16-inch black headlock-style wheels set within BFGoodrich all-terrain tires. The front springs will also get a 2-inch lift and the overall spring rate will be decreased. Each Tacoma will receive black TRD Pro badges and black front and rear lower bumper accents.
Toyota Tundra Upgrades
The Toyota Tundra gets a similar 2-inch boost up front with a corresponding decrease in spring rate. The TRD Tundra is also outfitted with 18-inch alloy wheels set within Michelin off-road-package tires. The big truck receives a TRD dual exhaust system, TRD PRO quarter panel bed stamping, an exclusive instrument panel insert, and a unique seat color with red stitching.
And as most people know the Toyota 4Runner is one of the few remaining traditional SUVs left with its body-on-frame design. The Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, and Nissan Pathfinder have each made the switch to unibody contraction while the 4Runner remains true to its roots.
To that end, the 4Runner enjoys a 1.5-inch lift to the front of the SUV, an additional inch of wheel travel, and 17-inch all-black alloy wheels. This model also gets black TRD PRO badges as well as black front and rear lower bumper accents.
Special Colors and a Game
Buyers can choose from three colors when considering their TRD PRO Series models: black, super white, and the all-new inferno shown here. Pricing is expected to be announced closer to the release date for all three models.
In the meantime, Toyota invites fans to take the TRD Pro Tundra, Tacoma and 4Runner off-road and online by playing, Super Off Road™: TRD Pro Edition Presented by Toyota. This game allows players to choose their favorite model and put it through the paces to score points, challenge other participants and to compete on the leaderboard. Developed by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., the game can be played with your smartphone by visiting ToyotaSuperOffRoad.com for full details.
Toyota Racing Development photo courtesy of Toyota Motors.
At the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, GM unveiled the 2015 GMC Canyon, a midsize pickup truck. It is an all-new model that along with the Chevrolet Colorado puts GM back in the midsize truck game. The Canyon was last produced in 2012; the new model continues the traditional body-on-frame layout of the original vehicle and will be sold in 2WD and 4WD configurations.
Three-Truck Line Up
With the Canyons return, GMC will offer a three-truck line up with midsize, full size and heavy duty models for the brand. GMC claims that the new Canyon will deliver class-leading capabilities with the brand’s signature refinement.
Noted Tony DiSalle, vice president of GMC Marketing about the Canyon, “It rounds out a lineup that offers the broadest range of capabilities in the industry, giving truck customers more choices to find the vehicle that meets their professional, personal and lifestyle needs.”
Engine Choices and a Coming Diesel
The 2015 GMC Canyon will be powered by a 2.5-liter four cylinder engine making 193 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 184 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. Both six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions will be available.
Optionally, GMC Canyon shoppers can choose a 3.6-liter V-6 engine making 302 horsepower at 6,950 rpm and 270 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Come 2016, a Duramax 2.8-liter turbodiesel engine will be added to the powerplant mix.
The Canyons similarity to the larger Sierra is evident across its body lines. The trucks front-end styling brings in the lone standard projector beam headlamps in its segment along with the brands signature C-shaped LED daytime running lamps on all models. GMC will offer three body configurations: An extended cab model with a six-foot bed, a crew cab with a five-foot bed and a crew cab with a six-foot bed. With the tailgate down, six-foot long bed models make it possible to haul eight-foot-long items.
2015 GMC Canyon Trim Levels
The 2015 GMC Canyon will be sold in base, SLE and LT models in both 2WD and 4WD configurations. An all-terrain package will also be offered with the SLE line. That package includes 17-inch painted aluminum wheels clad within all-terrain tires, a body-color grille surrounded by horizontal chrome bars and specialized suspension tuning.
Other features that mark the GMC Canyon include active aero grille shutters, a CornerStep rear bumper design, and an available lift and lock rear tailgate, features that the competing Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier do not offer. Multiple rear tie-downs, standard bed rail and tailgate protectors, an available spray-in bed liner, and aluminum wheels ranging in size from 16- to 18-inches will be available.
Interior Amenities and Options
Inside, the Canyon will feature an upright instrument panel, a sculpted headliner, sculpted door panels, an upper-instrument panel storage bin, a center console large enough to hold a table and rear under-seat storage. A power-adjusted drivers seat is standard; heated leather seats are included with the SLT edition.
Available features include an eight-inch diagonal color touch screen with multiple USB ports, fourth generation OnStar with a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot, Chevrolet IntelliLink infotainment, GMC AppShop and navigation.
The GMC Canyon will sit on a 128.3-inch wheelbase and measure 212.4 inches long, 74.3 inches wide and 78.7 inches tall. The extended wheelbase crew cab gets a 140.5-inch wheelbase and measure 224.6 inches long. The Canyons weight ranges from 3,944 to 4,266 pounds. Its payload is 1,400 to 1,450 pounds. When property equipped this truck can pull up to 6,700 pounds.
The new truck will feature a coil-over-type front suspension with aluminum knuckles that are low in mass and high in strength for what GMC says contributes [sic] to a more responsive, immediate feel to driver inputs, as well as efficiency. Electric power steering, four-wheel disc brakes an available automatic locking rear differential, and available automatic four-wheel drive with an electronically controlled transfer case are other features of the GMC Canyon.
Arriving Fall 2014
Pricing, additional trim details, and other product information will be offered closer to its release date. The new truck will be built in Wentzville, Missouri, with production expect to commence by this fall.
Pickup Truck Reviews
2015 GMC Canyon photos courtesy of General Motors Company.
The Honda Ridgeline will live on.
All six of the largest car manufacturers in the US have at least one pickup truck model to offer. Pickups are profitable and if you want to maintain a strong overall presence in the market, you need to be in the game.
The Weakest Link
Arguably, Honda has the weakest pickup truck offering of the lot in its Ridgeline model, what made its debut in 2006 and has remained largely unchanged since. That “truck” is built on a car chassis and simply cannot compete seriously with offerings from GM, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, and Chrysler.
After 2014, the Ridgeline will go away temporarily, as Honda readies a replacement model that it says will come out in less than two years from this month. Yes, that means we’ll see a 2016 Honda Ridgeline, but we are not likely to see a 2015 MY edition as its Lincoln, Ala., plant will cease production in mid-2014.
And to prove that it is serious about its intentions, Honda released a sketch of the truck’s silhouette this week. For real — as shown here.
Replacing the Honda Ridgeline
That Honda has even hinted at a Ridgeline replacement shows that it is eager to keep its truck following around. Ridgeline sales are up 29 percent for the year through Nov. 2013, with 16,160 units sold. That’s far below this model’s peak sales of 50,193 units reached in 2006, but Honda apparently sees a more promising future for its crossover pickup truck.
“The next generation Ridgeline will build on Honda’s role in creating new value with a new take on advancing form and function in the truck segment,” said Michael Accavitti, senior vice president of automobile operations for American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “With a clear path forward, Ridgeline will play an even more important role in our future product portfolio and strengthen an already class-leading lineup of light trucks.”
That would be “class-leading” as in the only crossover pickup truck offered.
Research and Development
Honda is tapping its research and design facilities in California and Ohio to design and develop a new Ridgeline. Likely, they’ll find a way to keep two very popular Ridgeline features in place including its unusual in-bed storage compartment and its dual-action tailgate.
The current truck, retailing from $29,575, has a 1,546-pound payload capacity and can pull up to 5,000 pounds. It is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission, same as what is found in the Odyssey passenger van. All-wheel drive is standard; this truck has four doors and seats five.
Will Ford Reconsider?
That Honda will continue to invest in a pickup truck might cause Ford itself to reconsider the small-to-midsize truck market. That possibility makes even more sense as Chevrolet returns with the truck-based Colorado for 2015, leaving Ford exposed in this segment. But, so is Ram and we’re not likely to see a smaller pickup truck from Chrysler unless it wears a Jeep badge. Hmmm….
Ford does have a new Ranger for global markets, but like the Honda Ridgeline, the current iteration is also a crossover pickup truck. Smaller pickup truck owners, however, want the off-road utility that traditional body-on-frame trucks such as the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier deliver, and a price point that begins at least $10,000 under the Honda Ridgeline.
Honda Ridgeline sketch courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
I bet you never thought of a pickup truck in terms of flavors, am I right? Then again, with each full-size truck manufacturer offering variants on the big truck theme, it is often the sub-models or special editions that attracts customers to a particular truck. Several of these flavors were on display at a recent Toyota Tundra media event, one where various models were offered up for both off-road adventuring and on-road driving.
Toyota Tundra Overview
The 2014 Toyota Tundra marks the beginning of this models third-generation run, a full-size Texas-assembled pickup truck that is available in five trim levels. You can choose 42 and 44 versions with regular, extended and king cab options to suit your needs. Three bed options, three engines and two transmission choices are available.
The first-generation Toyota Tundra was released in 2000, replacing the widely panned Toyota T100. It was a step above the T100, but it remained a step below what its Ford, Chevrolet/GMC and Dodge Ram competitors were offering at that time. Its car-like ride was perhaps its best attribute, but the first-generation Toyota Tundra simply could not match its competitors in the payload and hauling departments, critical attributes of big pickup trucks.
For 2007, Toyota tried again and this time it succeeded in delivering a full-bodied pickup truck to take on the likes of the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra and the Dodge Ram 1500. It also responded to the Nissan Titan, launched in 2004 and clearly a better truck than the first-generation Toyota. Important improvements in cab size and bed configurations, much higher tow ratings and a more macho look underscored that Toyota was serious about the segment.
For 2014, the third-generation Toyota Tundra debuts. The changes made over the second-generation model are mostly evolutionary, not revolutionary, as the current truck offers the same dimensions and powertrain choices as the previous model. The most notable changes are seen in the new grille, the updated interior and in the suspension system.
Toyota Tundra SR
If Toyota had a plain vanilla flavored pickup truck, then the Tundra SR would be it. It is the model that closely matches what its competitors offer, but it offers as standard equipment something the others do not: a rear back up camera and Bluetooth connectivity. The base model, priced from $25,950, is sold as a Regular (two-door) cab and is outfitted with a fabric-trimmed split-bench seat. It is also available as a Double cab, one that offers a 60/40 rear seat, accessible through nonstandard sized rear doors.
The base engine for the Toyota Tundra is a 4.0-liter V-6 that makes 270 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 278 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. This engine is teamed with a five-speed automatic transmission. A 5.7-liter V-8 is also available; a 4.6-liter V-8 is available with the double cab.
Toyota Tundra SR5
From the Toyota Tundra SR5 on up, all models are equipped with a V-8 engine. A 4.6-liter V-8 is standard for this Double Cab or CrewMax model, making 310 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 327 foot-pounds of torque at 3,400 RPMs. Like the larger V-8 engine, this one is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. If plain vanilla isn’t your favorite flavor, then the SR5 is the equivalent of French Vanilla.
The Tundra SR5, priced from $29,465, brings to the model line a number of amenities not available with the base model or only available through a package upgrade. These amenities include intermittent wipers, available fabric-trimmed front bucket seats, analog instrumentation, a manual sliding rear window, and an upgraded Entune system with a SiriusXM satellite subscription. Chrome embellishments on the front and rear bumper, an available off-road wheel package and fog lights are standard.
Toyota Tundra Limited
The Toyota Tundra Limited provides a middle ground between the SR5 and the top grades, giving this edition luxury touches without the steep price to go with it. If it were ice cream, then butterscotch, peach or peppermint flavors might be its equivalent. This model is priced from $36,940.
It is at this model grade point where Toyota offers only a 5.7-liter V-8 engine to power the truck. That engine makes 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 401 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 rpm. It represents Toyotas largest V-8 engine and it is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Standard equipment with the Limited, sold only in 42 or 44 CrewMax configurations, is leather-trimmed seating with front bucket seats and a 60/40 split rear seat. Other amenities include a leather-trimmed steering wheel with a tilt and telescopic steering column, a power rear window; an Entune audio package with navigation, an anti-theft system and available sonar parking assist. Notable exterior enhancements include heated power side mirrors, 20-inch Limited Grade wheels set within Bridgestone/Dunlop tires; and a deck rail system.
Toyota Tundra Platinum
The Toyota Tundra offers two top-of-the-line models. Both the Platinum and 1794 grades are priced from $44,270. And taking this ice cream flavor themed to its final (and welcome) conclusion, you might compare the Platinum edition to velvety chocolate fudge. The 1794 might be chocolate with peanut butter, offering a decidedly Texas kick to this model line. Pour on some syrup, sprinkles and add a dash of whip cream too.
The Toyota Tundra Platinum brings in the dual zone climate control system offered in the Limited and adds perforated diamond pleated leather trim to its heated and cooled front bucket seats. The 60/40 split rear seats are also trimmed in leather. This model brings in audio, memory and Bluetooth controls to the steering wheel, remote keyless entry and its best Entune package with a JBL audio system. Exterior enhancements include LED daytime running lights, color-keyed front and rear bumpers, chrome side mirrors with turn signal indicators, a power tilt/slide moonroof, and 20-inch Platinum Grade wheels.
Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition
It is unusual for truck manufacturers to offer two top-of-the-line models. In both the Platinum and 1794 editions, Toyota has accomplished that feat. Both models take a different approach to well-heeled luxury with the Platinum aiming more toward the country club set and the 1794 Edition to the Texas rancher.
The 1794 Edition was named for the ranch that previously occupied the manufacturing plant that now sits on its property. That San Antonio ranch was demolished in 2003 to make way for the truck plant.
Like the Platinum, the 1794 is a CrewMax model, powered by its largest V-8 engine. This model offers numerous western-themed embellishments including perforated brown premium leather-trimmed seating, wood trim and special silver grille inserts along with chrome front and rear bumper end caps. Also available are 20-inch chrome-clad alloy wheels. The Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition competes directly with the Ford F-150 King Ranch, the Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn and the Chevrolet Silverado High Country.
Third=Generation Toyota Tundra Debuts
Tundra Towing Capabilities
This writer attended an east cost preview of the Toyota Tundra in Adairsville, Georgia, where participants were able to take this vehicle off-road as well as put it through its towing paces. For owners of large pickup trucks, towing is often the be all and end all of these vehicles, what defines them and demonstrates just how Ram tough or you fill in the blank each one is. That toughness is compared to what competing trucks do, a battle that Ford, Chevrolet/GMC and Dodge Ram have been waging for years.
Toyota, in distant fourth place sales-wise with its Tundra, but well ahead of the Nissan Titan, has had to battle perceptions about its large trucks. Misperceptions would be the apt word to use here, with some suggesting that the Toyota Tundra is not up to the task. Blame the first-generation Tundra and the previous T100 for that argument. Neither model had what it took to take on the Detroit 3 wheel-to-wheel, but that deficiency changed years ago.
For its part, Toyota has made huge strides in putting forth a truck that matches what its competitors offer. To prove it, Toyota brought out three trailers and attached these to its trucks. The smallest trailer had an Arctic Cat all terrain vehicle set upon it. The second trailer was outfitted with two rear axles and carried a large speed boat with its outboard motor extending out by several feet. The final test involved a trailer, with Toyota turning to Airstream, the oldest manufacturer of trailers for its heaviest test. Those aluminum-clad trailers have been around for more than 80 years; a modern and medium-sized model was used for our test.
Toyota uses SAE J2807 standards to demonstrate the Tundras towing capabilities. These standards are considered to accurately reflect what each truck can do, instead of the oft-inflated government towing standards claimed by its competitors. The Tundras towing capacity ranges from 9,000 to 10,400 pounds, with the regular cab 42 coming out on top. In all three towing tests the Toyota handled the challenge with ease although with the Airstream behind us we could feel that the truck was being pushed slightly when coming to a stop. Still, the Tundra remained in control throughout each exercise, demonstrating that when it comes to pulling large objects, this big pickup truck rises to the occasion.
Toyota Tundra Considerations
If you are seriously considering a Tundra, you will find yourself part of a small, but growing field of large Toyota truck owners. For calendar year 2013, Toyota estimates it will sell 107,000 Tundras, rising to 137,000 units the next year. The company is banking on achieving some conquest sales of current Ram, Ford, GMC, Chevrolet and Nissan truck owners. It is also expecting that some of its current customers will move up from a current Toyota product such as the Tacoma or 4Runner SUV.
Know that the two-door regular cab is only available with the Tundra SR. And only the SR5 grade offers both double and CrewMax editions. Choose the other three grades and you’re looking at CrewMax models alone. A work truck package is available with the SR, one that deletes certain amenities including the power windows and map lights, adding vinyl flooring and vinyl seating, and bringing your final price close to the Tundras base MSRP. That makes this basic truck kind of like the blandest vanilla ice cream you have ever tasted, but perhaps just the right flavor to augment your business fleet.
Photos by Ernesto Roman, courtesy of Toyota.
By Jason Lancaster
We’ve all heard that pickup trucks are some of the worst offenders when it comes to gas mileage. To hear the media tell it, pickup trucks are tremendous low-tech gas guzzlers that waste fuel in the worst possible way…but is this true? Is this another case of the media blowing a story out of proportion?
Let’s a take a look at some of the hard facts surrounding pickup truck fuel economy and see where the truth really lies:
Heavy vehicles do consume more fuel, but they do more work too
It’s true – pickups do burn more fuel than cars, but they’re also built for a different purpose. Where cars are simply commuter vehicles, trucks are all-purpose work vehicles.
Pickups are usually 20-50 percent heavier than a standard 3,000 pound automobile thanks to stronger frames, bigger engines and transmissions, and beefier components. This additional weight allows truck owners to haul or tow equipment, building and other materials for work. It also allows boat and recreational vehicle owners to go to the lake, camping and elsewhere. Trucks do burn more gas, but they can do a lot more work than a car…which means comparing them directly to a car isn’t really accurate or fair.
Many trucks are technologically advanced when it comes to efficiency
Engine technology has also come a long way over the past few years, and the 2011 Ford F-150 with EcoBoost is a perfect example of a truck with advanced fuel economy technology. The vehicle’s twin-turbo V-6 engine offers 365 horsepower and 420 foot pounds of torque, which is enough power to do some serious hauling and towing. However, despite all this power, the EcoBoost F150 is rated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway.
These full-size numbers are impressive considering that the much smaller and less capable 4 cylinder Toyota Tacoma compact pickup is rated at 21-mpg city and 25-mpg highway.
The point is, not all trucks are low-tech fuel wasters – many of them use the latest technology to try and improve efficiency as much as possible.
Trucks are singled out unfairly
Many members of the media lambast a full size truck with a big V-8 engine because it has a low fuel economy rating, but this same fact is true for a number of different vehicles. Exotic sports cars, for example, regularly have worse fuel economy ratings than pickups, as do full size luxury performance sedans. Yet how often are these vehicles singled out as gas guzzlers by the hand wringing media? The Bentley Arnage and a BMW M5 might drain its fuel tanks as fast as a quad-cab pickup, but most automotive experts are too busy blasting around the test track to stop and think about how wasteful these vehicles are.
Pickups might not get the best gas mileage, but they’re a heck of a lot more practical than an M5, aren’t they?
Sometimes, bigger trucks are more efficient
Many people assume that smaller pickups are more efficient, but this is often incorrect. If, for example, you need a truck for work, it often makes sense to buy the biggest truck you could possible need. The reason? If you buy as big as you could ever need, you’ll never be in a situation where you have to make two trips.
What’s the fuel economy benefit of driving a small truck if you have to make two or three trips to haul everything?
Pickups get a bad rap because some people use them inefficiently, but don’t throw stones
Is a big Toyota Tundra the perfect commute vehicle? No. Trucks aren’t supposed to be for commuting. If someone uses a big bad truck only as transportation – and not for any other purpose – they very well may deserve our collective ire. If these people could drive a more efficient vehicle, fuel costs might be lower, there might be less smog.
Of course, truck owners who only use their trucks to commute are no better or worse than people who waste electricity…or people who litter…or people who use energy to heat an empty home. Pickup truck owners who don’t use their vehicles for the intended purpose could definitely make a better vehicle choice, but none of us are perfect.
Pickup trucks get a lot of bad press for being inefficient, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not the pickups that are bad – it’s the people who use them wastefully. Let’s stop blaming the product and start changing the people.
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Small trucks have never really found lasting success in the American market. It certainly hasn’t been from lack of trying – major automakers as diverse as Volkswagen, Toyota and even domestic players like Ford and Chevrolet have all tried their hand at selling U.S. drivers on the idea of a true compact pickup, no bigger than the average sedan but offering a modicum of cargo hauling and towing ability. Almost without exception, each of these efforts has failed.
Certainly, small to mid-size trucks have their champions, but looking at their sales numbers as a piece of the overall pickup truck market paints a dismal picture. According to Edmunds, between 2000 and 2009 sales of the seven leading trucks in this segment fell from 763,553 to 265,513 – an almost 66 percent drop. In fact, only one small truck managed to post six-digit sales figures in 2009 (the Toyota Tacoma). The previously mighty Ford Ranger, the only “true” compact pickup still on the market and an aging design due to be retired at the end of the current model year, has seen its own sales numbers plummet from an impressive 272,460 in 2001 down to a paltry 55,600 in 2009.
Why this sudden lack of interest on the part of the truck-buying public when it comes to compact pickups? In some ways, the industry has been a victim of its own success. With the exception of the Ranger, small trucks have grown in size over the past ten years, and full-size fuel efficiency has increased to the point where the mileage differential between most mid-size pickups and full-size models is negligible. Add this to similarly thin differences in pricing and the higher towing and hauling capacities of their larger cousins, and small trucks are frequently passed over by utility-minded buyers.
This brings us to the question of what the future holds for small trucks in the United States. At first glance, things might seem fairly dark. Plunging sales have caused companies like Ford, which essentially owns the full-size market, to pull the plug on the entire Ranger concept and not bother replacing the vehicle in America when it bows out for the final time at the end of this year. On the other hand, Toyota has explored a potential return to its mini-truck roots, teasing buyers with vehicles like the A-BAT concept in 2008 and then hinting in broad strokes that the compact unibody truck could find its way to the market as either a Scion model or even under the Prius brand within the next few years.
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that American truck buyers would be interested in a small, unibody pickup truck. The reasons are several. “Tundra Headquarters” took a detailed look at why people buy pickups in the first place and found that in the overwhelming number of cases, towing and the need for rugged utility were the primary criteria for making a truck purchase. A compact pickup without a full frame would most likely see its towing capacity fall into the 1,500 lb range, a segment already occupied by crossover vehicles that offer more day-to-day practicality for the average driver. Similarly, such a small truck would also offer an equally diminutive cargo area and low hauling capacity, further knocking it down the list when pickup buyers start taking a hard look at vehicle specs.
The one area where a compact unibody pickup truck might offer an edge versus a more traditional truck is in the area of fuel mileage – in particular, if Toyota is able to shoehorn its Prius hybrid drivetrain into a platform that doesn’t sacrifice utility as a result. That being said, fuel prices have rarely caused buyers to move away from large trucks and start purchasing smaller ones – as evidenced by the gradual shrinking of the compact and mid-size pickup market over the course of the past ten years despite gasoline costs rising at a steady rate.
Ultimately, the deck appears to be stacked against unibody compact trucks making a comeback in the United States. Although Toyota may be able to create a niche for a Prius-flavored pickup, the general disinterest in the market shown by its major players, combined with the lack of true utility offered by smaller platforms and the ten-year death spiral of small truck sales would seem to indicate that like the full-size van craze of the 70s, the compact pickup ship has sailed.
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Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.