The pickup market just keeps on truckin’ with Nissan joining the Big Three titans: F-series, Silverado/Sierra, and Ram, with its own Titan. Meanwhile, the midsize segment is exploding with Chevy, GMC, Toyota, Honda and even (aged) Nissan gaining sales. Ford was a one-company news storm during the auto show as it unveiled a refreshed F-150 and announced that two icons — the Ranger and Bronco — would be returning to the small pickup fray in short order.
What it is: Ford’s landmark, all-aluminum pickup gets a mid-cycle refresh with a new fascia and even more engine options. The three-bar grille goes away, replaced by the “double I-beam” found on big brother F-250 Super Duty. Around back, the big pickup gets “F-150” tattooed on its arse. A diesel engine is available for the first time — as well as a new 3.3-liter base engine. Rounding out the lineup is a 2.7-liter turbo, 3.5-liter turbo, and honkin’ 5.0-liter V-8. All but the 3.3-liter are powered by Ford’s new 10-speed tranny.
Payne’s take: After selling more pickups than any other automaker for the 40th straight year in 2016, Ford rubs it in with a refreshed F-truck. The wider, two-bar grille spells the end of Ford’s 10-year, three-bar signature grille that started with the 2006 Ford Fusion. Tough outside, the F-150 is a rolling living room inside (in fact, I think it’s bigger than most living rooms).
What it is: Following in the footsteps of its bigger sibling, the GMC Acadia, the Terrain gets an extreme makeover for 2018. Ditching its chunky pickup looks for sleeker styling (check out that floating roof and C-clamp headlight signature), the Terrain sheds almost 500 pounds. With available diesel, 1-5-liter turbo and 2.0-liter turbo engines, the Terrain aims to translate its diet into increased fuel efficiency and driveability.
Payne’s take: Previously big for a compact ute, the Terrain right-sizes to go after the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape in the industry’s best-selling segment. With its good looks and nine-speed transmission, the GMC will be the more premium GM choice compared to its Chevy Equinox sibling.
What it is: Chevy’s big midsize Traverse goes on a 350-pound diet without compromising its dimensions. Indeed, Chevy claims the three-row SUV gets more rear headroom and legroom. The Traverse gets a new fascia and new boxier sheet metal to match is sizable ambitions. A 3.6-liter V-6 is the volume engine and a 2.0-liter four-banger motivates the Traverse’s sportier, front-wheel drive RS trim. A premium High Country will also be offered for the first time to compete with the Ford Explorer Platinum.
Payne’s take: Size matters. While sister GMC Acadia downsized in this segment last year, the Chevy boasts more room than its Honda Pilot and Explorer competitors. The Traverse, which shares its AWD skeleton with the Cadillac XT5 and Acadia, promises surprisingly nimble handling for something so big.
What it is: VW’s compact ute gets a major redo, gaining over 10 inches in length and adding a third-row seat, rare in this class. Powered by a peppy 184-horse turbo-4, the Tiggy offers AWD and a suite of tech toys, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity (U.S. market must-haves that many European manufacturers have been slow to adopt).
Payne’s take: The Tiguan is key to VW’s reboot in the U.S. market, where it has missed the SUV mark. If priced competitively, the Tiguan’s size, solid chassis and third-row seat option should get it noticed.
Other sections of the consumer guide:
- Auto show consumer guide: A feast for all auto appetites
- Auto show compact, midsize sedans: Cars grab spotlight
- Auto show minivans, SUVs: Form beyond function
- Auto show sports cars: Market diversity rules stage
- Auto show concept cars: Geekmobiles generate buzz
- Auto show luxury cars: Eye candy sweet, less plentiful