How many times did your mom tell you not to play with your trucks in the house? Well, mom would've fainted if she saw what went on at the Chicago Auto Show. There was some serious playing with trucks in the house going on, that's for sure. Not only were there real 4x4s 'wheeling in the house, there was also a bumper crop of new truck introductions. 'Nuff said. Let's get right to the highlights.
It took DaimlerChrysler technicians seven days to build three indoor vehicle test tracks. Over 30,000 feet of support trusses and 40,000 feet of electrical cable were used during construction. One of the test tracks was a Jeep Trail Rated course. This course swallowed 115 dump-truck loads, or 1,100 cubic yards of topsoil, gravel, boulders, and timbers. The course was designed to showcase the capabilities of the Jeep family of vehicles, and it included five individual sections including traction, articulation, ground clearance, maneuverability, and water fording. One of its coolest features included this 15-foot-high hill that featured a 35-degree ascent and a 45-degree descent. The course also featured an impressive water recovery system that removed much of the water from the bottom and brakes of the vehicles after they forded the 18 inches of water. No, you couldn't drive the course yourself. Consider the liability and you'll understand why. DaimlerChrysler estimates that more than 13,000 trips were made around the course during the duration of the show. Some show-goers waited in line more than two hours for the privilege.
Toyota FJ fans can make merry, because Toyota formally announced that it would in fact build the FJ Cruiser, which appeared as a concept in 2003. 4Runner fans can throw a party too, because the FJ rides on a modified 4Runner platform that sports IFS and an optional electric differential locker in the solid rear axle. The FJ Cruiser sports legendary FJ40 styling cues, like a wide grille with Toyota logo badging, round headlights, and offset combination lamps. The FJ also has an FJ40-ish upright windshield, white-cap roof, and wrapping rear corner windows. Under the FJ's hood is a 245hp 4.0L V-6 engine with a standard five-speed automatic. If rowing through the gears is your thing, you'll be ecstatic to learn that a six-speed manual transmission will be available in 4x4 models. We're digging the good approach and departure angles, the optional locker, and the 9.6 inches of ground clearance. We have our fingers crossed that Toyota will remember to install cancel buttons for all of the traction control and stability control systems they're famous for.
International Truck and Engine had a presence at the Chicago Auto Show for the first time in over two decades. Seizing on the success of the massive CXT 4x4, International debuted this new 2006 model year 4x2 machine they've named the RXT. It's based on International's 4000 Series platform of medium-duty trucks. Under the sloping fiberglass hood is an International VT365 V-8 diesel engine that makes 230 hp and 540 lb-ft of torque and an Allison 2200 HS five-speed automatic transmission. Commercial hydraulic four-wheel disc brakes, a lower ride height, and body side skirts are some of the many major differences between the RXT and its CXT cousin. International says that they'll start taking orders for the RXT this fall. Expect its price to be in the $70,000 to $90,000 range.
Mercury went to town on the '06 Mountaineer-in more ways than one. Though the name hints at high-altitude adventure, the reality is that the Explorer-based all-wheel-drive SUV seems to be designed to be more comfortable on paved roads. For '06, the SUV gets an all-new independent rear suspension, a revised front suspension, bigger brakes, and an improved steering system. A three-valve 4.6L V-8 engine is now optional and it delivers 22 percent more horsepower than the previous V-8. AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control is standard, and 18-inch machined aluminum wheels are optional. The exterior has also been freshened with a signature waterfall grille, satin-aluminum bumper centersection and, we can't help but notice, Cadillac-esque headlamps. The Mountaineer is seen here from the driver seat of the Ford Expedition, which sports a new instrument-cluster design for '06.
Sweet! Dodge unveiled its awesome new Ram Mega Cab, which merges work truck, minivan, and limousine into one awesomely cool, do-it-all vehicle. The new Mega Cab boasts a cab that is 20 inches longer than the current Quad Cab, which translates to a total cab length of 111.1 inches. This new design offers a whopping 44.2 inches of second-row legroom and a giant flat floor load area of 24.9 square feet. The new rear seats are the first-ever reclining rear seats in a pickup truck. Dodge also addressed rear-seat ingress and egress issues by increasing the size of the rear doors to 34.5 inches in width and 35.5 inches in height and by increasing the rear door open angle to 88 degrees. Up front, the Mega Cab has a new dashboard and seats. There's a new instrument panel cluster and center stack, as well as HVAC controls and an optional navigation system. The Ram Mega Cab will be offered in 1500, 2500, and 3500 models. All feature the 6-foot, 3-inch box as well as new styling cues including new headlamps that are 22 percent brighter than the current Ram. The entire Ram Mega Cab line is based on the 160.5-inch Ram 2500 Heavy Duty longbox model. This means that the 1500 will be equipped with a solid front axle! The 1500 and the 2500 will come standard with the 5.7L Hemi engine (the 5.9L Cummins diesel is optional on the 2500), while the 5.9L Cummins diesel engine will come standard on the 3500.
No, this is not an Isuzu Axiom. This is a concept called the Dodge Nitro that's based on the Jeep Liberty. It sports a 3.7L SOHC V-6 engine that reportedly propels the all-wheel-drive Nitro to 60 mph in an unremarkable 9.6 seconds. On the upside, the Nitro has a reported top speed of 108 mph, which could come in handy to outrun the Design Police. The Nitro features a set of cast-aluminum dubs, a crosshair grille, Anodized Red paint, brushed silver vents on each front fender, and jewel-like rectangular headlamps. On the inside, the Nitro pilot sits on black leather seats with bright red inserts and monitors that vicious V-6 via a three-pod, four-gauge instrument cluster with electroluminescent lighting. Um, can we just talk about the Ram Mega Cab some more?
International Truck and Engine was testing the waters with its ProjectXT 4x2 concept truck. Like the new RXT, it is based on the 4000 Series medium-duty truck. It features integrated bumpers, side skirts, designer's interior trim, and dual skylights. It's powered by an International VT365 V-8 diesel engine that produces 300 hp and 540 lb-ft of torque. Other notable stuff includes an Allison 2200 Series five-speed automatic transmission, hydraulic four-wheel disc brakes, and an 8-foot International pickup bed with no wheelwells. Those exhaust ports in front of the rear wheels are functional.