For whatever reason, Chicago used to be the truck show on the automotive calendar. Automakers would serve their latest pickups and SUVs in the city of deep dish pizza, and Detroit, in stark contrast to its own urban decay, would debut all the flashy new cars. Now, Chicago is little more than a giant convention center of new trim levels on already-seen product, and Detroit is the epicenter of, well, everything. Why else would Ford debut both the new GT concept and the 2017 Raptor? Real question: Isn’t Chicago upset?
No matter. In case you missed it, here’s a quick recap of the four major truck debuts in Detroit last week.
2017 Ford Raptor
While the mid-90s Dodge Ram made big rig style in vogue for light-duty pickups, the Raptor is taking that message to every oversized and overengineered part on this mogul-jumping sand racer. There’s about 500 hp from a twin-turbo V6, a 10-speed transmission developed by Ford and General Motors, and oodles of suspension travel. In the Raptor, you always speed up for speed bumps. That’s how I drove the last-gen Raptor, goosing the V8 and generally trying to keep this wide-body F-150 in its lane. This new one will be lighter, quicker, and even more luxurious. But it’ll be a handful and that’s why it’ll keep selling.
2016 Toyota Tacoma
Squint, and you’ll see this is indeed the first new Tacoma in a decade. Until GM updated the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, Toyota had no need to make significant changes to its mid-size truck because for many of those years, aside from an even older Nissan, it was the only mid-size truck. The 2016 Tacoma has more high-strength steel, it’s got optional blind-spot monitoring and an interior that almost resembles a Lexus when gussied up with options. But the Tacoma’s coolest features are on the TRD Off-Road trim, where the truck can automatically crawl rocks at a preset speed and can even disable the clutch interlock so stick-shift drivers won’t worry about their vehicles rolling after stalling on hills.
2016 Nissan Titan
The only attractive part about the Nissan Titan is the Cummins diesel engine, which makes it only the second half-ton pickup aside from the Ram EcoDiesel to offer such an engine. Most pickups only come with diesels when you step up to three-quarter ton trucks (also known as heavy duty, those models start with a number “2” like F-250 or Silverado 2500). Other than that, this thing looks like the last-gen F-150 to the T. It’s so bad that it could wear a Chinese nameplate and everyone would excuse them. But Nissan? That’s just plain laziness.
2016 Ram Rebel
Well, lookie here. With the Raptor piling money for Ford, Ram needed to bring a genuine competitor. In the past, Chrysler’s Mopar division had offered Ram owners a way to piecemeal a more extreme off-road package, but it never came close to what Ford brought from the assembly line. The Ram Rebel fixes all that. There’s a Hemi V8 available and a 10.3-inch ground clearance guaranteed to make you sweat entering parking garages. But that’s not what this truck is for, despite all the Raptors I see tooling around major cities. Can’t wait to try it out.