Almost everywhere we looked at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show last February, there were trucks and SUVs rotating on electric turntables. It occurred to us that we hadn't seen so many rigs spinning around since the last big ice storm.
Those rigs were up there for a reason. The Chicago Auto Show was a hotbed of new pickup and SUV unveilings, and many were four-wheel drives. It's very clear that these two types of vehicles are alive and well, and very much in demand. So what was the big news in Chicago? Read on.
By far, the most anticipated unveiling of the show was the all-new '07 Toyota Tundra. As you can see from this Tundra Double Cab 4x4 Limited, designers didn't go berserk redesigning the new exterior. It's obviously different than the current Tundra, but it retains the basic familiar clean styling. One thing they did do was super-size it to make it a true fullsize pickup. Compared to the current Tundra, the new Tundra has a wheelbase that is a whopping 17.4 inches longer (145.7 inches); it boasts an increase of 10 inches in overall length (228.7 inches); it gains nearly 5 inches in height (76.4 inches); and will be a full 4 inches wider (79.9 inches). Toyota wanted the new Tundra to appeal to the folks who "use every horsepower, every pound-foot of torque and every bit of payload." They call these buyers the "True Truckers." With that said, they integrated a number of work-friendly items into the design of the truck, including a lockable all-steel tailgate that can be easily opened and closed with just two fingers, and a hinge damper that cushions the tailgate when opening and reduces bouncing when it's down. The Tundra's bed is also larger, measuring 78.7 inches in length, 22.3 inches in depth, and 50 inches in width (between the wheels). As a point of reference, these bed dimensions are almost exactly the same as those found in the Ford F-150 Super Cab 4x4 with the 6 1/2-foot bed. Look for the new Tundra to arrive in dealer showrooms in early 2007.
Probably the biggest news of all is that an all-new 5.7L i-Force V-8 engine will be available in the new Tundra, and it is the largest-displacement engine of any Toyota truck in history. Horsepower and torque numbers aren't available yet, but Toyota says that it creates "monster torque." The power is routed through an all-new six-speed automatic transmission (another first in a Toyota truck). These two items contribute to a towing capacity of more than 10,000 pounds. Also available will be a 4.0L V-6 and an upgraded 4.7L i-Force V-8. Other notable improvements include a bigger, wider frame with 30 percent higher tensile strength; a new rear axle with 10 1/2-inch ring gear; heavy-duty front disc brakes with four-piston calipers, and new rotors nearly 1 1/2 inches larger, plus standard rear disc brakes that are nearly as big as the front; and extra-duty cooling and electrical systems needed to accommodate Class 4 towing capabilities.
The Tundra will be available in three cab configurations, including standard, Double Cab, and an as-yet-unnamed four-door. All Tundra models will provide front-seat passengers with 4 inches of additional shoulder and hip room as compared to the current model. Like the exterior, the interior was designed for "True Truckers." There's lots of interior storage, large door handles, extra-large outside rearview mirrors, easy-to-turn HVAC knobs, and two-row models have second-row seats that double as work surfaces. For those who like to be coddled, the Tundra will be available with a number of premium options including a JBL premium audio system with Bluetooth telephone capability, 10-way power-adjustable driver seat, and a wide-screen backup camera integrated into the tailgate handle for enhanced rearview safety.
With a little help from ex-NBA star Magic Johnson, Lincoln rolled out the new '07 Lincoln Navigator. We Four Wheeler gangstas approve of the Navigator's righteous new look that includes a "powerdome" hood, 20-inch chrome wheels, real wood interior accents, and an in-your-face grille reminiscent of the '63 Continental. We had to lift our Ray-Bans to get a better look at the way-cool Navigator L, though. This bad boy (pictured) is more than 2 feet longer than the Navigator and offers playas an additional 25 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seat. All Navigators will come standard with an all-new independent rear suspension and a 5.4L three-valve Triton V-8 engine that generates 300 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque.
The five-passenger Dodge Rampage concept made its world debut at Chicago and it was met with enthusiasm. Designed to be a "truck for the non-traditional buyer," it is packed with interesting elements designed to gauge consumer reaction. First off, it's front-wheel drive and powered by a 5.7L Hemi V-8. Now there's an interesting combination. Kind of like fish-flavored milk. Once you get by that, we thought the truck was actually pretty cool. It sports some neat ideas like a 5-foot cargo box with retractable cargo hooks, built-in formations arranged to secure 2x4 boards, a three-position tailgate, and a slide-out ramp for easy loading of wheeled cargo. It also utilizes a unique dual-bed floor, which allows for cargo-carrying capacity both above and below the floor. The lower cargo space is accessed via a drop-down rear fascia, and it offers an enclosed "clean" cargo area. Interestingly, the Rampage has darn good approach and departure angles (31.7 and 39.3 degrees, respectively). Can we please have it in four-wheel drive?
Do you need a pickup that weighs 10,000 pounds, is powered by a VT365 V-8 diesel engine that makes 300 hp and 530 lb-ft of torque, tows up to 16,000 pounds, has a payload capacity of up to 2 tons, and is over 20 feet long in length? Of course you do! International Truck and Engine trotted out its newest creation, the MXT, and they're taking orders for it right now. It comes standard with a long line of luxury options and has an MSRP between $69,900 and $85,000, depending on equipment. International says that they plan to sell around 1,500 units annually, which would seem to qualify the MXT for our 2007 Pickup Truck of the Year test. This should be interesting.
The Avalanche has been a strong seller for Chevrolet, and they're hoping that the all-new '07 Avalanche will help continue that trend. The new Avalanche is based on the new GMT 900 SUV platform (and its coilover-shock front suspension), and will be available in both two- and four-wheel drive. At the start of production, the standard mill will be a 310hp 5.3L V-8 with Active Fuel Management (AFM). Further into production, a new all-aluminum 355hp 6.0L V-8 with AFM and variable valve timing will become available. GM says that several available engines will allow Avalanche to run on E85 (ethanol) fuel. Of note to us off-highway users, a Z-71 off-road package will be available later in the model year and it will include larger recovery hook openings, larger foglamps, 18-inch wheels, and a few other odds and ends. New features previously unavailable on the Avalanche will include a central locking tailgate, remote vehicle starting, cargo cover retaining straps, and a spring-loaded tailgate.
We had the opportunity to crawl around inside of and on top of the Stryker, and it left such an impression on us, we had to include it in this story. While its street performance leaves a bit to be desired (top speed 60 mph), the Stryker is an off-highway animal. This four- or eight-wheel drive, four-wheel-steer monster can traverse a 23-inch vertical climb or a 78-inch gap. There isn't much that can stop it, including small arms fire. We can't wait for the civilian version.