The 2000s Are Here!The flurry of 2000-model vehicles at your local car dealers may have you pondering what's new, if you need one, and which is best. Those questions are always on our minds, and the early fall months (which is when this is being written) bring these thoughts to the forefront as we learn more about and drive the new-for-next-year models.
It shouldn't be any surprise that there are more all-new 4x4s for 2000 than there have ever been before. There are so many that manufacturers are staggering the introduction of the models to accommodate production schedules and to keep a steady stream of hot new vehicles trickling into the showrooms. In fact, the 2000 Ford F-150 Super Crew and the Explorer Sport Trac won't be offered for sale until January 2000 (a novel concept, sort of like offering the January issue of 4-Wheel & Off-Road for sale in November).
How do you sort through the pile of new 4x4s to figure out what is really cool and what's new, but not improved? It helps to back away from the car lot, preferably out of sight of the car salesmen, and ask just what it is you need. Every manufacturer is claiming that its truck or SUV is the tool you need to better enjoy the outdoors and your life in general. But isn't the point of a 4x4 to help you get further down the less-beaten path? If that's the case, isn't the 4x4 you need the one that will perform better off-road?
The real beauty of today's market is that there are so many offerings. Want a huge truck with a straight-axle frontend and a multitude of powertrain choices? Got it. Want the super cushy, 4x4 that's easy to get in and out of? Got it too. There are so many that we put together a massive listing of all the 2000-model 4x4 trucks and SUVs in this issue. We crammed in as much info on each vehicle as we could fit.
We'll also bring you our 4x4 of the Year competition next month, where we test the new models that have significant changes from the previous year. Our test covers all the four-wheel-drive bases with vehicles ranging from a 11/42-ton truck to a $45,000-plus SUV. The testing covers highway, twisty pavement, dragstrip, sand, rocks, and lots of dirt.
The full lineup for the test is Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, Dodge Dakota Quad Cab, Dodge Ram 1500 Off-Road package, Ford Excursion, Isuzu VehiCross, Mitsubishi Montero Sport, Nissan four-door Frontier, Nissan Xterra, and Toyota Tundra.
But what's in the new-truck market for the true off-road enthusiast? What if you liked SUVs before the term was coined? We'll be the first to admit that a non-bone-jarring ride, an awesome stereo, climate control, and so on are great qualities that spoil a new-truck owner (even us on occasion), but what good are they if the basic chassis, drivetrain, and suspension aren't solid and dependable for off-road use?
Before I go too far on this tangent, let me say that most of the new vehicles we test are built on the right platform. There's only a few vehicles based on a car chassis and outfitted with four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive systems. And those are there to satisfy the new-car buyers that want that added margin for the one day a year that they're on slippery roads.
If you're reading this magazine, though, I'm betting you'll be using that front axle more often than the Starbucks crowd. Even for the hard-core, there are more choices than ever before.-Cole Quinnell
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