Chicago Motor Show - Truckin' Mad

2017 RAM Power Wagon

The Ram Power Wagon is pretty plush on the inside, but exterior looks? That’s a different story...

Did you know that it’s actually the Chicago motor show that’s the largest of its kind in North America, and not Detroit? That’s because Chicago counts floor space as an only indication of size, even if most manufacturers focus on Detroit for revealing gleaming new metal in America.

Regardless, there was still plenty of action on the shores of icy Lake Michigan, particularly as six carmakers went at each other’s throats with a spade of new pick-up launches.

It seems Toyota kicked up more sand, or snow, than anyone else with the unveiling of the new Tacoma TRD Pro — call it a Ford Raptor in three-quarter scale. Banking on Toyota’s Baja desert off-road endurance racing heritage, the company’s 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro gets factory-installed off-road bits such as six-speed manual transmission (although you can wuss out and ask for the automatic), 16in wheels with Kevlar reinforced all-terrain tyres, an aluminium… sorry, aluminum skid plate, LEDs everywhere and diamond-pattern knurled finish trim.

If that was merely it we’d point and laugh, but the Tacoma TRD Pro is just getting started. The real pieces include Fox suspension tuned by TRD, new front springs with a 1.0in lift, progressive-rate off-roading leaf springs at the back, limited-slip diff, crawl control, and active traction control.

Stepping up a size or two, Ram wants you to pay attention to its new 2017 Power Wagon instead of only gushing over F-150s and Silverados — to remind you of its existence the newbie is dressed up in menacing red and black with graphics (remember when anything Mopar had cool graphics?), mean grille inserts, aggressive wheels and tyres, and roof-mounted lights. Taking clear cues from the 1979 Macho Power Wagon, the 2017 model also adds 33in Goodyears, a 6.4-litre Hemi V8 with 410bhp, a front suspension with something called Articulink, which incorporates high-movement joints and a sway-bar disconnecting system to let you flex over any obstacle, a standard electric winch rated to 5.4-tonnes, and a face only a mother could love.

In retaliation to its eternal crosstown rival, Chevrolet revealed the Midnight special edition Silverado 1500 with the Z71 off-road package, which adds a bunch of black details, such as an all-black front end, body-coloured grille, headlamp bezels, tow hooks, black side moulding, black wheels, black bedliner, black tyres, black everything… The Midnight edition is the latest in Chevy’s line of special trucks, such as the Silverado Realtree (the latter is a camouflage maker), Silverado Special Ops, and Colorado Trail Boss.

Nissan then took it back down another notch with its mid-size Titan pick-up truck, which has been revealed as a 2017 model for the first time. It will go on sale later this year but it’s unconfirmed for the Middle East.

The smaller Titan doesn’t actually share the same chassis as the full-size Titan XD (never mind the nearly identical names), but does very much share the styling, or maybe the designers just got bored — we can’t tell the two apart. Anyway, the smaller one, the half-tonne pick-up, will be available with 4x2 or 4x4 drivetrains and three cabin configurations as per the segment norm. Customers will be able to choose from a 5.6-litre petrol V8 engine worth 390bhp mated to a seven-speed auto, with a more efficient V6 arriving at a later stage.

Meanwhile, despite low sales numbers of the original US-designed 2005-2014 Ridgeline, Honda is still bringing back the nameplate for 2017 and banking on truck buyers who shop with brains instead of brawn. The 2017 Ridgeline introduces innovative and clever details to the segment, such as an in-bed audio system, two-way opening tailgate, plus a bed area that neatly swallows universal construction dimension materials, and the most minimal of wheelhouse intrusions into the bed space, too. If you need your pick-up truck to do only pick-up truck things, this is the pick-up truck for you.

Unless of course you happen to be the Incredible Hulk, in which case your pick-up truck requirements might point you in the direction of the Mercedes Sprinter Extreme, tuned outrageously by Renntech and sitting on a hardcore Sprinter 3500 cab chassis. You can chuck three tonnes into the back, and take three passengers on board, and with six G-Class-inspired beadlock wheels wrapped in off-road tyres there will be little to stop you from decimating everything in your path.

Words: Dejan Jovanovic,