Trucks at Work

Light truck reconfiguring continues

We’ve all heard the old saw “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” [And although that phrase is attributed to the great writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, in reality, that’s not quite what he said.]

In the case of light trucks – particularly pickups – engineers continue taking Emerson’s maxim (if it can be called that) to heart.

Ford Motor Co.’s decision to craft an aluminum body for its F-150 pickup (at right) is one example of the “mousetrap” rule, while the decision by General Motors to re-enter the mid-size pickup segment with two all-new iterations of its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon models is another.

Nissan and Toyota aren’t standing still either, unveiling all-new pickup models themselves this week – the 2016 Titan XD full-size and 2016 Tacoma mid-size units, respectively.

Then there’s the Ram Truck division of Fiat Chrysler Automotive, which just rolled out a new “HFE” version of its 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel pickup – with the “HFE” standing for “high fuel efficiency.”

As noted in the video above, the 2015 Ram EcoDiesel HFE gets a certified 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in city driving and 29 mpg on the highway for a combined 24 mpg rating.

“Fuel efficiency is at the top of truck buyers’ priorities,” stressed Bob Hegbloom, president and CEO of Ram Truck. “We invested in powertrain technologies and those are paying real dividends in the wallets of our customers.”

Mike Cairns, director of engineering for Ram Truck, added that the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE uses a variety of exterior aerodynamic and technological tweaks to deliver those fuel economy numbers and will get gets its own “badge” when it goes on sale late first quarter of 2015.

Yet the light truck work isn’t stopping there as Hyundai Motor America recently showed off its Santa Cruz crossover truck concept based off what the OEM called “extensive customer research,” particularly with vehicle buyers under the age of 30 – especially women.

Powered by a 2.0-liter turbo diesel engine that cranks out 190 hp and 300 lb.-ft. of torque, with highway fuel economy estimated to be in the high 30 mpg range, Hyundai explained that the Santa Cruz is designed to pack the capability of both a crossover and pickup onto a small sport utility vehicle (SUV) frame.

Designed to offer what Hyundai calls “comfortable seating” for five inside, the cargo bed features a unique tailgate extension features so it can be extended to a length nearly equal to that of a mid-size pickup.

“The Santa Cruz crossover truck concept meets the unspoken needs of a growing Millennial lifestyle we call ‘Urban Adventurers’,” noted Mark Dipko, director of corporate planning at Hyundai. “This new crossover allows them all the expandable utility they need … without the typical compromises they have come to expect.”

The Santa Cruz concept is “purposefully compact,” he added, so although it has four doors (the two rear openings rear-hinged) and seating for five, its overall footprint is similar to a small SUV so it can better navigate urban streets or fit into a tight parking spot that most pickup drivers often have to pass by.

Hyundai stressed though that the Santa Cruz, by design, isn’t an alternative to a truck, so towing, payload and ground clearance weren’t primary design goals. Rather, Santa Cruz is intended to attract small SUV and sedan buyers who are seeking greater utility, without the compromises that traditional trucks often require.

Just goes to show that light truck designs won’t be jumping off the evolutionary pathway anytime soon.

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