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Evolution of Pickup Trucks
Car-Like Pickup Trucks By Jon Alain Guzik, Editor-in-Chief
2008 Toyota Tundra Double
Flush with high-end safety and entertainment features, today's pickups are much more than simple work vehicles and have changed considerably since their humble beginnings as simple, utilitarian haulers.
2008 GMC Sierra Denali
2008 Honda Ridgeline RTL
Before the much-hyped truck wars of the early 2000s, when all the major manufactures began dressing up their pickup lines with improved interiors, higher-end entertainment systems and refined handling, the segment was clearly focused on traditional and somewhat conservative truck buyer. Most pickups back then offered a fairly bare bones interior, a somewhat smallish cab and a choice of a long or a short bed, fleetside or crewside. That was about it, somewhat along the way, the product planners at the major car companies picked up on the idea that people wanted utility and luxury.
"The last six to seven years the truck market has become a lot more competitive," says Toyota's Richard Bame. "Now you see innovation and improvement in the cabs, refinement to the interior and the drive. If you look back at a truck from 1999 and today's Tundra , it is much more refined."
Today's pickup trucks feature everything from high-end leather sport bucket seats, full front and rear entertainment systems and active safety systems - like ABS, numerous airbags and stability control . These features were unheard of as recently as a decade ago in the segment.
There is also a wide variety of engine choices - from powerful diesel powerplants to over-the-top and torquey gas engines. The advantages of diesel are many (more towing capability and better fuel economy), but they can run anywhere from two to three thousand more than traditional large-block engines.
For the green set, there are even a few hybrid options. The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra can be equipped with a 5.3L V8 hybrid that boosts gas mileage to around 18 city and 21 highway, which isn't too shabby for a large truck. Like passenger cars, however, the addition of a hybrid powerplant will add a few thousand dollars to the sticker price.
Pickups also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from the compact Ford Ranger and Chevrolet Colorado to the mid-sized Mitsubishi Raider and Toyota Tacoma to the massive Nissan Titan , Toyota Tundra , Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado.
There are also more cabin options than ever before, with each manufacturer calling it something else. There are crew cabs, king cabs, extended cabs, mega cabs and so on. Essentially, buyers can now choose between a standard two-door cab, a two-door with some extra space behind the front seats or a four-door version with full-sized rear seats.
To us, a larger mid or full-size model with a four-door cab is a good replacement for an SUV, giving you added space plus the utility of a truck bed.
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