The Mighty Pickup Slim Down

Country music staple. V-8 power. Hulking can-do attitude. Apple Pie may be the only piece of America that the pickup truck doesn’t check. The three most popular vehicles sold at Home of the Brave have historically been the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500, in that order. Need to remove a house from its foundation? Hand me that recovery strap and turn on Blake Shelton.

Over the past 40 years, as that trio tightened their grip on the market, the number of trucks grew. Today’s mid-size models, such as the Colorado, Tacoma and Ranger, are similar in size to the F-series of the 1970s. The days of single cabs are largely over, as buyers have made huge demand for crew cabs to carry the clan.

But something interesting is happening in a category where brute strength is the main selling point. To increase sales, manufacturers are offering smaller trucks, adding special features and electrifying new models. Your dog may like the result.

It may be smarter to reduce the mass than to hide the truck from a vengeful ex. The latest census shows that Americans continue to migrate to cities, where drivers of large pickups are faced with dense city streets and claustrophobic parking structures (hmm, is my truck under 6’7″? Am I feeling lucky?) am I?).

Big news in small is Ford’s 2022 Maverick. Built on the same crossover architecture as the Bronco Sport and Escape, the Maverick slots under the Ranger in shape. Long before Ford acknowledged the existence of the Maverick, spy photos made it clear that the company had a new compact truck in development. But the official unveiling made jaws drop like the unadorned tailgates — base models, when they arrive this fall, start at around $21,450, which go with a four-cylinder hybrid powertrain. Let’s see how Brad Paisley works out the permanent-magnet electric traction motor and lithium-ion battery pack in his songs.

The front-drive Maverick Hybrid (all-wheel-drive requires an optional 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine powertrain) is expected to deliver 40 miles per gallon in city driving, 33 highways. Perfect for those who buy on functionality, not testosterone. According to Ford spokesman Mike Levine, the company already has “100,000 reservations in large costal cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Orlando.”

Let’s redefine the definition of small — the Maverick may be Ford’s most compact truck, but at 200 inches tall, it’s still an inch ahead of the three-row Explorer SUV, but at seven inches narrower, Macy’s in the garage Parking should be a cinch. .

When Ford famously announced that it was removing sedans from its lineup, it was playing to its strengths. “We know the trucks,” said Jim Bombick, Ford’s vice president for product planning. “We saw consumers try to hack their sedans to carry bark and construction materials and it is not pretty. Maverick will have commercial appeal but we targeted individuals. With a four-and-a-half-foot bed, it easily hauls bikes and gear, but has the interior room of a Fusion sedan. “

Hyundai’s 2022 Santa Cruz gets a four-foot open bed, but Trevor Lai, the company’s senior product planning manager, says it doesn’t compete in the pickup segment. “We focused extensively on Santa Cruz and these guys came up with the name ‘Sports Adventure Vehicle.’ It is for urban people who have limited parking options but want to haul big things, bikes and surfboards.” Focus groups aside, people on the street call it a pickup.

The Santa Cruz is compared to Honda’s unibody Ridgeline and Subaru Baja trucklet. Based on the tall Tucson SUV architecture, the Santa Cruz’s design is swept and sleek compared to the odd Baja and traditionally styled Maverick. The Hyundai has an in-bed trunk compartment that doubles as a Ridgeline-like tailgate party cooler, but the Santa Cruz is 14 inches shorter (and four inches below the Maverick). With planks and a few six-inch boards, owners can haul 4×8 sheets of plywood and drywall. 2.5-liter turbocharged all-wheel-drive models hold up to 5,000 pounds (all other powertrains stop at 3,500 pounds).

Pro tip: The Santa Cruz is most useful equipped with a lockable self-retracting hard tono cover that’s factory but installed on all but the base models. The EPA classifies it as an SUV, but owners with the cover will quickly find that the working dynamic is like a sedan with the trunk lid that slides out of the way to haul Ikea furniture that the Elantra (or SUV) for that matter). The sky is the limit here.

Automakers are increasingly focusing on traditional pickups. Abandoned by many manufacturers after the turn of the century, the midsize segment is a brand new rodeo, with Ford and General Motors bringing back models.

Trucks like the Ranger Tremor and Colorado ZR-2 attract the Jeep Wrangler crowd, with a focus on off-road capabilities. Or like-minded buyers can turn to the Jeep Gladiator, the brand’s first pickup since 1986. Nissan finally has a new and more refined Frontier, 16 years after pushing the fossil version. Honda has changed the design direction of the Ridgeline from the suburban hauler to square-jawed masculine (in a way it doesn’t quite deserve) in order to undermine its “soft-roader” reputation.

Even the full-size market is poised for a change. Switching the F-150’s steel body panels to aluminum in 2015 seemed like a daring move for Ford. Now, the most popular vehicle in the country since starring in Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” is getting a full electric powertrain. The F-150 Lightning is expected to crank out about 300 miles of range with up to 563 horsepower and up to 10,000 pounds of towing capacity.

“Electrification is not just about the environment, it can make trucks better, more useful and practical,” said Mr Bombick. To their point, the location of the emissions-spewing gas engine is a yawning space bigger than some SUV cargo hold.

For its part, GMC is reviving the Hummer in a fully electric version. The pickup, expected to ship in late 2021 (if you’ve reserved one) should comfortably bolt to 60 mph in three seconds, a pretty cool “hold-my-beer” moment. It can also “crabwalk” sideways in awkward parking situations. The Hummer’s architecture will underpin the fully electric pickup from General Motors sister brands with an estimated range of 400 miles.

Newcomers are also running in to America’s pickup obsession.

Rivian, a start-up, intends to begin deliveries of its innovative RT1 pickup this fall. A high-end option is a slide-out camp kitchen, complete with stove and custom cooking set. Can it do a stovetop apple pie?

There will be serious drag race competition for Rivian’s quad-motor RT1 Hummer EV and is expected to travel more than 300 miles on a charge, 400 with a $10,000 Max Pack. Prices start at an estimated $67,500. Add five grand for a trick kitchen.

Need something bullet resistant? Tesla insists that the trapezoidal Cybertruck is coming, but it has been pushed to the next year. Bollinger’s tough looking B2 sheet metal with an electric range of 200 miles looks like the best project to emerge from a fabrication shop. With its sci-fi form factor, Canoo’s EV features an origami bed with folded sides to become a workbench and an expandable back end that holds a full load of drywall.

And country songwriters may reconsider lines about V-8s, because they’re no longer a sure bet to move on. GM offers a turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder in its Silverado. Ford is pushing turbocharged V-6s to tough and, most recently, hybrid powertrains. Electrification can be a huge benefit for owners. Ford made headlines last winter when its Texas dealers gave hybrid F-150s with integrated PowerBoost generators to people who had lost power in their homes. The most capable units can provide 7.2 kWh of juice. That’s enough to supply a house with the necessary current, keep wife from leaving, dog from dying and Carrie Underwood playing on the sound system.

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