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2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD 4X4 Off Road: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Toyota has not been able to scale the wall of buyer loyalty to full-size U.S. pickup trucks. But it perches at the pinnacle of the midsize class, of which its 2019 Tacoma is the latest example.

Among the big guys, the Toyota Tundra is an also-ran in sales behind the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram and GMC Sierra, besting only the last-place Nissan Titan.

2019_toyota_tacoma_off_road_001_46e6b73e2c3bfc00e65384bbb61115fcebe259ffBut against the slowly-increasing midsize nameplates, it is the unchallenged champion. In 2018, it was expected to sell more Tacoma pickups than nearly all of its competitors combined, including the Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier, GMC Canyon and Honda Ridgeline, although the Ridgeline is in a class by itself as a more car-like amalgam.

The curious trend in all of this is that the new crop of midsize pickups are nearly as big — or even bigger — than some earlier full-size pickups.

Bumper to bumper, the Tacoma 4X4 Double Cab Long Bed is nearly 19 feet long and it is six feet tall with a 6 feet 2 inch cargo bed. It weighs 4,840 lbs, can tow a trailer weighing up to 6,400 lbs and carry a payload of 1,120 lbs. A decade ago, the full-size 2008 Ford F-150 was 18 feet 1 inch long, 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighed 5,360 lbs, with a payload of 1,480 lbs and a towing capability of 6,200 lbs.

2019_toyota_tacoma_off_road_003_ef9b7576d7ba7efd9f2e7049634af8ee0bb87a2fMost big trucks back then got their grunt from large and thirsty V8 engines. Engineering advances over the years have squeezed ever more horsepower and torque from smaller-displacement power plants. The tested Tacoma gets its power from a 278-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine with 265 lb-ft of torque. On the TRD Off Road 4X4, the power routes to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.

The tested Tacoma, with a base price of $38,120, came equipped for pasture and logging-road duty. It had a part-time four-wheel drive system with a two-speed electronically-controlled transfer case and an off-road tuned suspension system with special shock absorbers, a locking rear differential, hill-start assist and multi-terrain crawl control.

But because of its length and wheelbase — the distance between the front and rear axles — of 11 feet 5 inches, the Tacoma Off Road could not be expected to handle seriously pockmarked terrain as well as a smaller machine. However, the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator midsize pickup truck will have nearly the same shortcoming with a wheelbase of 10 feet 7 inches and an overall length of 18 feet 2 inches.

2019_toyota_tacoma_off_road_004_3a8248857bb7d0324f488932f4ab596d5d58f2afFull safety equipment, including pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning are part of the standard equipment. The tested TRD Off Road also had options that included blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, sonar rear parking assist, leather-trimmed upholstery with heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, motorized glass sunroof, JBL premium audio system with integrated navigation, and a cover for the cargo bed.

All of that brought the bottom-line price to $42,430, which is not inexpensive but looks reasonable compared to the $60,000 and up sticker prices on many full-size pickups. Price is one reason manufacturers are closely monitoring the midsize pickup market. Ford recently reintroduced its midsize Ranger pickup.

2019_toyota_tacoma_off_road_007_331b22b457d747c6db5b552ac7cca61ecb8d9327On paved roads, the tested Tacoma mainly displayed its off-road characteristics. The ride was bouncy and stiff with seemingly direct connections between road irregularities and the driver’s lower back and bottom. It tracked decently in a straight line, but the beefy suspension system makes for problematical comfort on a long trip.

Mitigating that somewhat are front seats that are supportive and middling comfortable. Though they have only manual adjustments, there are enough to accommodate most body sizes. There’s space in back for three, though seating is upright and knee room is tight. The center-rear position is compromised by a floor hump, hard cushion and intrusion of the center console. Rear vision is limited by back seat headrests so it’s important to get those big outside mirrors properly adjusted.

2019_toyota_tacoma_off_road_006_ed9ebf5e42a922ed31dba8561df5a18e2f1414efThe V6 engine makes plenty of power but you have to slam the pedal to engage it. In ordinary driving, the throttle is stiff, making the engine/transmission combination feel sluggish. Engine drone is loud under hard acceleration.

Overall, don’t expect the Tacoma — especially in the tested trim — to be anything other than what it is: a rugged, solid truck with an enviable reputation for durability and reliability.

2016_toyota_tacoma_trdor_28_170ad64be7d4e750a886f7dc942f15fd173fb26bSpecifications

  • Model: 2019 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road 4X4 Double Cab Long Bed midsize pickup truck.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6; 278 hp, 265 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with part-time four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 18 feet 10 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet.
  • EPA passenger volume: 100 cubic feet.
  • Cargo bed length: 6 feet 2 inches.
  • Weight: 4,840 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,120 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,400 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 18/22/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $38,120.
  • Price as tested: $42,430.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2016_toyota_tacoma_trdor_31_07d7a0e69594c5d39805f91df23a6d5373bf81dePhotos (c) Toyota

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2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT TB Crew Cab: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

With big pickup trucks like the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, it’s  about little things and loyalty.

Full-size pickups, of which there are six currently marketed in the U.S., do essentially the same things. They carry big loads, tow heavy trailers and serve as family conveyances. When you check the price tags of some models, you also realize they can substitute for luxury cars.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

In addition to the Silverado, they are the GMC Sierra, Ford F-Series, Ram, Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan. Each has its cadre of loyal followers. Many Ford owners would summarily reject a Chevy or a Titan, Ram devotees might sniff at a Silverado, and a Tundra guy would possibly ignore a GMC.

With brand loyalty and muscular hauling as givens, full-size pickup manufacturers seek to win new and conquest sales by concentrating on smaller things like tailgate design, interior luxury appointments and styling, built-in storage boxes, or even marginal increases in fuel economy.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

In addition, the all-new Silverado seeks to impress potential buyers with its off-road capabilities, which is the sort of activity usually associated with smaller vehicles like Jeeps, sport utility vehicles and even some crossover SUVs.

That was the point of an introductory exercise that Chevrolet organized to advance the notion that the Silverado, despite its humongous size — more than 19 feet long and weighing over 5,000 lbs — could conquer a dedicated off-road course.

It was located at the Monticello Motor Club in New York state, a vehicle-oriented country club for wealthy members who enjoy wringing out their exotic rides on a 4.1-mile road racing course. The complex also includes a moderately challenging off-road course where the racing is mostly limited to single-digit speeds as vehicles churn their way over ditches, berms, steep hills, creeks and frame-twisting mounds.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Tested on that course for this review was the 2019 Silverado LT Trail Boss Crew Cab, powered by a 355-hp, 5.3-liter V8 engine that makes 383 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, transferred to the dirt through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

It came with the Z71 off-road equipment package that included a driver-selectable four-wheel drive system with a low range for tough terrain, along with a two-inch suspension lift, brawny shock absorbers, skid plates, automatic locking rear differential, hill start assist and hill descent control, and off-road tires on 18-inch wheels.

With all that and practiced drivers, the Silverado made short work of the off-road course. But it also is an accomplished pickup on the public roads with what Chevrolet claims is best-in-class cargo volume of 63 cubic feet in the short box on the four-door crew cab model, enough to carry 2,190 lbs of cargo. Properly equipped it can also tow up to 11,600 lbs.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Chevrolet, in its running battle with the all-aluminum Ford F-150, also emphasizes that the 2019 Silverado’s cargo bed uses a higher-strength steel floor than the previous model, along with a dozen tie-down points and a choice of four tailgate variants: standard manual lockable with key; lockable with lift assist; power lockable with automatic release, and an exclusive power up and down version.

Most big pickup trucks, and the Silverado is no exception, offer dizzying numbers of choices in how they are equipped. Besides the 63 cubic feet for cargo, the tested LT Trail Boss had a whopping 139 cubic feet of space for the driver, four passengers and indoor lockable storage cubbies.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado High Country

Of course, many Silverado buyers with no need to venture off the pavement likely will forego the Z71 off-road package, which is available as an option on any of the eight models. They range from a basic two-door work truck to the High Country version, which is equipped as well or better than some ultra-luxury cars, making for serene long-distance highway jaunts.

The GMC Sierra, essentially a fraternal twin of the Silverado in the General Motors family, also lards on the luxury touches in its full-size pickup line, especially in its Denali versions. Not to be undone by the Silverado’s four tailgate choices, it offers a six way tailgate that can double as a small table or chair for outdoor events.

There’s solid imperative for the Silverado and other full-size pickup trucks to pay attention to all the details. In 2017, highly profitable big pickups, including heavy-duty models, accounted for more than 2.4 million sales in the United States — or 14% of the entire car and light truck market.

 

The Durabed truck bed, standard on all 2019 Silverado 1500 models, includes larger cutouts in the GM-exclusive CornerStep bumpers to better accommodate steel-toed boots.

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss Crew Cab pickup truck.
  • Engine: 5.3-liter V8; 355 hp, 383 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 19 feet 4 inches.
  • Height: 6 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 139/63 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,008 pounds.
  • Payload: 2,190 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 11,600 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 16/22/18 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $49,795.
  • Price as tested: $57,285.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado LT Trail Boss

Photos (c) Chevrolet

2019 Ram Big Horn Sport Quad Cab 4X2: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Because full-size pickup trucks all do essentially the same chores for their owners, marketing them entails offering new and desirable features, as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has done with the 2019 Ram 1500.

It’s not entirely that, of course, because pickup customers are notoriously loyal to their chosen brands. Still, something on the order of the Ram’s brand-new eTorque mild hybrid system has the potential to prompt alienation of affection.

ETorque combines a belt-drive electric motor-generator with a 48-volt battery, which provides short boosts of extra power for the gasoline engine. It also enables a sophisticated idle stop-start function that, for the time being, is the smoothest and least intrusive system experienced by this reviewer.

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn

Stop-start, which enhances fuel economy, is popular in Europe, where fuel prices are way higher than in the United States. But the systems are becoming more common on vehicles sold here. In many cases, however, the stop-starts are so annoying that owners switch them off — unless they happen to be on Chevrolets and other General Motors vehicles, which do not have off switches.

In a typical stop-start function, the engine shuts down at stoplights or in other situations when the vehicle is motionless. Lift your foot off the brake or tap the accelerator pedal and the engine automatically starts, often with a noticeable shudder and hesitation before getting underway.

The Ram eTorque is a notable exception. Unless you pay close attention, you are unaware that the engine has cranked up. Ram engineers say the engine re-starts in 400 milliseconds.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

Vibration and noise are nearly nonexistent, unlike with some systems — especially in vehicles with powerful engines — that cause violent shaking. Stop-starts comparable in smoothness to the eTorque are in low-powered hybrid cars.

For 2019, eTorque is standard equipment on all Ram 1500 pickups with the 305-hp V6 engine, which delivers 269 lb-ft of torque. For truckers who need or want more power, a step up to the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine costs $1,195. For an additional $1,450, the Hemi eTorque is available with 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque.

All Ram 1500 trucks use eight-speed automatic transmissions, which like the eTorque go about their business quietly and without drama. Add to that the Ram 1500’s independent suspension system, with air suspension on the rear wheels and vibration damping on the steel frame, and the Ram rolls like a luxury car, even when empty. Most pickups bounce around unless they are loaded.

Many modern full-size pickup trucks, however, also are priced like luxury cars. Some Ram models — the Limited Crew Cab with all-wheel drive, for example — have prices that nudge $70,000 or more, depending on equipment.

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn

Driven for this review was a more modest Ram1500 Big Horn Sport Quad Cab 4X2 model, which had a base price of $37,340 and, with options, a bottom-line sticker of $43,960. The base price for the entry-level Tradesman Quad Cab with rear-wheel drive is $33,340, including the destination charge.

Ram 1500 pickups come with four doors. Crew Cab models are the roomiest. Quad Cab models have shorter rear doors and tighter accommodations in the back seat. Head room there is generous, but knee room is in short supply. Still, the tested Big Horn Sport had 117 cubic feet of passenger space, which is nearly that of a full-size car.

Out back, the pickup bed measures 6 feet 4 inches and accommodates 62 cubic feet of cargo up to the gunwales. Total payload is 1,910 lbs and the tester had a towing capability of 6,640 lbs.

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn – Black Diesel Interior

Though it was among the lower priced Ram models, the tested Big Horn Sport was a comfortable road companion that could easily be used as a daily driver.

Mechanical, road and wind noises were minimal, there was plenty of power on tap for passing on two-lane roads and the handling and ride were exceptional given the truck’s bulk and 19-foot length. Comfort was enhanced by supportive seats upholstered in cozy cloth.

The test truck came with full safety equipment, including electronic stability control, roll mitigation, trailer sway damping, back-up camera, hill start assist, trailer brake control and antilock brakes with rain-braking support.

Options included FCA’s UConnect infotainment system with navigation, power-adjustable pedals, powered rear sliding window, audio system with HD and SXM satellite radio, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED bed lighting and 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels.

2019 Ram 1500 – 5.7-liter HEMI® eTorque

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn Sport Quad Cab 4X2 four-door full-size pickup truck.
  • Engine: 3.6-liter V6 with eTorque; 305 hp, 269 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and rear-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 19 feet 1 inch.
  • Height: 6 feet 6 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 117/62 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,891 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,910 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 6,640 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 20/25/22 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $37,340.
  • Price as tested: $43,960.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn Sport

Photos (c) FCA

2019 Ram 1500 Crew Cab Limited: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

With a brand-new full-size pickup truck loaded with desirable features as the newly designed 2019 Ram 1500, the standout differences are distilled from increments and embellishments.

Big pickups have been getting better — and more popular — for at least a decade. For the Ram, the climb started in 2009 when it became a stand-alone brand after many years as the Dodge Ram.

In 2009, sales totaled 177,268. By 2017, sales had nearly tripled to 500,723, lifting it into the top triumvirate of full-size pickups—third in sales behind the Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

One big factor in the Ram brand’s success was an embellishment — its adoption of styling that mimicked that of the tractors of the 18-wheelers that ply the nation’s highways.

Now, it could be argued that the 2019 Ram has fully matured, oozing with safety, convenience, comfort and entertainment embellishments that should make it shine during what promises to be a year of cutthroat competition, especially against perennial sales leader Ford, and Chevrolet, which has a new Silverado coming.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

Pickup truck buyers are notoriously brand loyal. It’s rare for a Ford guy or gal to switch to a Chevrolet or GMC, or a Chevy customer to bail in favor of a Toyota Tundra or Nissan Titan. This new Ram, however, has the stuff to turn customers’ heads.

Though there will be many versions of the Ram 1500 from six models with a starting price of $33,340 for the base Tradesman, the version tested for this review at the national introduction in Scottsdale, Arizona, was the top-of-the-line Limited Crew Cab four-door with optional four-wheel drive.

It was powered by Fiat Chrysler’s venerable 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine with 395 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. Power gets to the four corners through a new eight-speed automatic transmission. A dial on the dash enables the driver to choose rear-wheel drive or automatic all-wheel drive for highway duty, or locked four-wheel drive in high and low ranges for off-road adventures.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

Other versions are in the works for later introduction, including V6 and V8 engines with a mild hybrid eTorque <sic> system that combines a motor generator with a 48-volt battery to enable stop-start for fuel economy. With rear-drive, the Ram has a city/highway/combined rating of 15/22/17 mpg.

Equipped as well as some luxury cars, the Limited had a base price of $60,630. With other options, including air suspension, panoramic sunroof and 22-inch aluminum alloy wheels, the sticker price came to $63,520 — also in luxury-car territory.

Except for its sheer size and weight — common now with full-size pickups — the new Ram can easily please anyone accustomed to luxury transportation. It is uncommonly quiet on the highway, with little intrusion of road, mechanical or wind noise.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

Contributing to the hushed ambiance are clever engineering devices called active tuned mass modules (ATMM). Mounted on the side frame rails — which by the way are now 98% made of high-strength steel for rigidity and durability — the modules cancel out even miniscule vibrations when the Hemi engine switches automatically on the highway from eight- to four-cylinder operation for fuel economy.

Though you can’t toss it around like a sedan, the Ram drives smaller than its near 20-feet length and 2.5-ton weight would indicate. The steering is responsive and accurate, and the empty ride, abetted by the optional air suspension, frequency response shock absorbers and supportive seats, was comfortable for a big pickup.

2019 Ram 1500 – Rear Flat-load Floor

The Ram’s designers stretched the cab by four inches, most of which went into the back-seat area, where three people can sit with plenty of head and knee room thanks to a flat floor. An enjoyable bonus: the Ram now has a rear seatback, split two-thirds and one-third, that reclines for long-distance comfort. There’s also 5.3 cubic feet of storage space in the cabin.

Passenger volume totals 134 cubic feet and the 5-feet, 7-inch cargo box has 54 cubic feet of space. The tested Limited has a payload of 1,980 lbs and it is capable of towing up to 8,190 lbs.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

The tester came with FCA’s UConnect infotainment system with a 12-inch vertical screen that displays navigation and other functions, including an overhead surround-view camera that facilitates hooking up a trailer. Android Auto and Apple Car Play also are included, along with upgraded SXM satellite radio, 4G WiFi hotspot and what Ram claims is the most powerful Harman-Kardon audio system ever available in a pickup.

2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Ram 1500 Crew Cab Limited 4×4 pickup truck.
  • Engine: 7-liter V8; 395 hp, 410 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with selectable four-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 19 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 132/54 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,925 pounds.
  • Payload: 1,980 pounds.
  • Towing capability: 8,190 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 15/22/17 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $60,630.
  • Price as tested: $63,520.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019 Ram 1500 Limited

Photos (c) Ram.

Chevrolet Truck 100th Anniversary: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Fort Worth, Tex. — Chevrolet celebrated 100 years of truck manufacturing here with snorting hot-rod pickup trucks screeching around an autocross course, high-speed cops and robbers chases, and a spectacular helicopter drop of the company’s 2019 Silverado onto the infield of the Texas Motor Speedway.

The event featured a folksy interview with retired champion stock car race driver Dale Earnhart Jr., who now is a NASCAR analyst with NBC Sports. As might be expected, he emphasized his preference for, and his family’s long relationship with, Chevrolet. He drove onto the stage in his personal 1988 Chevy S10, a replica of his first pickup truck.

Chevy100_(8_of_10)Hundreds of Chevrolet truck owners from the surrounding area attended the celebration Saturday (Dec.16) along with a gaggle of automotive journalists, who in addition to getting rides in antique Chevy pickups and the hot rod trucks with professional drivers, rode shotgun with police officers in simulations of high-speed chases.

The police chases took place at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Training Center, named for a former Fort Worth mayor. The sprawling facility, with several buildings each the length of six football fields, provides training for Fort Worth officers in tactics, high-speed driving, computers and firearms skills, among others.

Chevy100_(7_of_10)Journalists, equipped with helmets and anti-whiplash restraints, rode with officers in Chevrolet Tahoe Police Pursuit SUVs. In a bit of subliminal symbolism, two of the Chevys chased a fleeing “suspect” driving an old Ford Crown Victoria.

Officers explained that in a high-speed chase the object is not to catch the car but to keep it in sight and the pressure on until the suspect, preoccupied with his pursuers, inevitably makes a mistake that leads to a stop and an arrest.

Chevrolet also used the occasion to introduce the new Tahoe RST Edition with a performance package that included a 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission, Brembo racing-type front brakes and Chevy’s Magnetic ride control.

Chevy100_(1_of_10)Later the journalists were given rides in a variety of older Chevrolet pickups, some modified. The trucks included a 1926 Chevy pickup, meticulously restored to better than its original condition. It had a top speed of about 35 miles an hour.

Again wearing helmets and anti-whiplash restraints, they also careened around the autocross course, tires lighting up and smoking, with the professional drivers at the wheels of the low-slung, modified pickups with powerful V8 engines.

Chevy100_(9_of_10)The event’s climax, following the Earnhart interview, came when a cargo helicopter bearing the Chevrolet “bow tie” emblem arrived overhead with a bright red 2019 Silverado LT Trailboss four-door pickup hanging from cables. It hovered and deposited the truck in the Texas Motor Speedway’s infield, where a driver jumped in and drove it onto the stage.

Alan Batey, president of General Motors North America, introduced the truck, saying it was being seen publicly for the first time. It will be formally introduced in January at the North American International Automobile Show in Detroit, Mich.
Speaking to the assembled Chevrolet truck loyalists, Batey said,

“We wanted to recognize the customers who have made Chevrolet part of their lives, and have them help kick off the next 100 years of Chevy trucks.”Chevy100_(2_of_10)

Photos (c) Jason Fogelson.

2017 Nissan Titan XD Cummins V8 Turbo Diesel PRO-4X 4WD

by Tod Mesirow

The word “truck” has entered the pantheon of iconic words, supercharged and turbocharged, it calls to mind instant images of Americana – cowboys, country songs, family farms, a dog next to the driver on the bench seat. Elevated to their well-earned status both by the actual utility of such a vehicle, along with untold billions of impressions from the multitude of commercials as well as their presence as characters in films ranging from “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray driving a 1972 Chevy C10 – “don’t drive angry” he says to Phil the gopher – to Patrick Swayze’s 1978 Chevrolet K10 Cheyenne in “Red Dawn”- and the 1985 Toyota SR5 from “Back to the Future.”

I’ve never owned a truck.  Driven one from time to time, but just for the special circumstances. Which made having a 2017 Nissan Titan XD Cummins V8 Turbo Diesel PRO-4x 4WD four door beast of a full-sized truck for a few days sound like a great idea. Base price for this model is $52,230.00. Several PRO-4X packages brings the ass-tested price to $60,250.00. EPA fuel economy ratings are not required for this vehicle; I hovered around an average 12 MPG combining city and highway driving over a three-day period.

The first thing I noticed about the Titan was that it was yellow. Or more accurately YELLOW. Which is a good thing, because it makes it easy for people to see it coming.  And the Premium Paint additional fee is only $395. The second thing that’s clear is that it’s BIG. The bottom of the door windows is as high as the top of a regular passenger car. It’s taller than I am. A full 6’6” tall. Taller than a Ford F150, by more than an inch. But big is part of the appeal. Not unlike a horse – remember we’re channeling cowboys when we step UP in to our trucks, like cowboys climb up on to their horses — or cowgirls of course. Meanin’ no disrespect, ma’am. And it’s long – 243 inches long, 12+ inches longer than the one Ford model, seven inches shorter than the longest Ford truck. What this says to me is that Nissan thinks size matters. Which when it comes to trucks, especially if they’re to be used for their original purpose, hauling stuff around, it actually does matter.

There is a swing-out step at the rear of the truck on the driver’s side that makes climbing up in to the truck bed easier. Along each side of the bed are locking compartments for storage. A sliding window allows access to the cab from the bed, or the other way around.

Climbing up and in, the first thing that happens is that you forget you’re in a truck. It has the look and feel of a nice SUV. Touch screen, full instrumentation on the panel with switchable data available to the driver, cup holders everywhere, and a really nice sound system – one of the extra packages. Turning on the truck, the engine roars to life, and like modern diesels, there’s no apparent rattle. Instead, the powerful turbo V8 sounds like a truck owner would want it to sound – powerful.  But the noise level was also reminiscent of an SUV, and not a truck. My wife’s Prius is noisier inside, actually.

Pulling away from the parking spot, the camera is available, with the simulated overhead view, which for once seemed really handy – figuring out where the front of the truck is, and the back of the truck is, helps immensely, even with all the beeps and boops of automatic systems warning about proximity. Actually seeing where one is provides for a bit of relieved stress about dinging the truck – or any other nearby smaller vehicle – which means almost everything else out there.

On the road, the ride is assured and smooth. No crazy zero to 60 speeds, but plenty of get-up-and-go. The Titan is set up for towing things, of course, and I can’t imagine anything short of Paul Allen’s 600’ plus ship being much of an issue. Visibility is great – especially sitting up so high. There’s a super steep street in Los Angeles, Baxter St., with a 32% grade, that makes top ten lists of steepest streets in America.  It’s the perfect test bed for the Titan, this model weighing in at 6,526 pounds. I turn the knob to low 4×4 and immediately I have power to all four wheels. Steep? We don’t need to worry about steep anymore. And heading down the other side of Baxter – which is just as steep – provides an opportunity to test the Hill Descent Control, designed to keep the beast from getting away from the driver. Though I know it’s engineering and science, these systems still feel a bit like magic.

It’s suggested that I use the truck as a truck and fill the bed with something like 2x4s or other building material, but instead I take a bunch of people for ice cream. The back seats are spacious, and include SUV comfort touches like individual temperature controls and cup holders of course. Three full grown adults fit easily in back.

When it’s time to return the truck to Nissan I am sorry to see it go. Riding high in a massively powerful and substantive vehicle – an icon – it’s easy to Walter Mitty my way through all sorts of scenarios that I didn’t come close to realizing. Some vehicles are pure utilitarian in nature – which is how the truck was and remained for many decades. Now however, in the modern age, the truck has entered the realm of emotional items, with its iconic status. These days a truck is almost always never just a truck. The 2017 Nissan Titan XD is certainly much more than just a truck.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Photos (c) Tod Mesirow.

2017 Ford Super Duty Pickups

by Jason Fogelson

There are a few vehicles that dominate their class. The Ford Super Duty Pickup Trucks crush the competition, and the 2017 Ford Super Duty will maintain that dominance.

One of the most interesting statistics that I heard from Ford during a recent launch event in Denver, Colorado was that 90 percent of Super Duty owners use their trucks for towing. At first, I balked at this figure. How could that be true? But then I considered the truck’s capability, and realized that it made sense. If you’re not going to be towing, or if you only tow a light load, an F-150 or competitive light duty truck is robust enough, and you’ll get a better ride on a day-to-day basis when you’re not towing.

The gap has narrowed between F-150 and Super Duty (F-250, F-350 and F-450), however. The new Super Duty now has the same cab as the F-150, and a much better suspension system than before. The ride is better, and the available creature comforts are very similar.  Super Duty doesn’t punish you with a pogo stick ride when unladen, and new steering enhancements have improved low-speed handling significantly.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see more Super Duty trucks on the road as daily drivers and lifestyle vehicles in the future.

Read Jason’s 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×4 Crew Cab King Ranch Test Drive and Review at Autobytel.com.

Read Jason’s 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty: First Drive Review at Autotrader.com.

Photos (c) Jason Fogelson

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