Trucks. Sure, they’re unnecessary for most of the population, borderline politically incorrect in some circles, and sort of an unnatural presence in the average, mostly-urban lifestyle. But we can’t stop loving pickups. The pickup is about as American as it gets, and until your cute little crossover can haul a boat and a couch simultaneously — in the snow — we’re quite content to keep ’em around, thanks. This year’s new models all showcase a lot of brawn, and even toss in a bit of green to go with it; and in one case a lot of both.
2014 Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra
The Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra are entirely new and much improved for 2014. New engines, new transmission, sturdier frames, revamped suspensions… few unturned stones. While their names suggest a rootin’ tootin’ high noon showdown-style approach to transportation and they’ll both be capable in the rough, they’ll probably see more duty rustlin’ groceries than cattle, to be fair (though technically cow parts are groceries). The Silverado features bowtie badges that would look too big on Bozo, and if it were hot enough the Sierra’s “GMC” could brand Babe the Big Blue Ox, but the modern tech and granite-strong hardware underneath are just as big as their aesthetics.
Ram Trucks 1500
The all-new 2013 Ram Trucks 1500 pickup — now lighter, more powerful, and more efficient — has been named the North American Truck/Utility of the Year. A new 8-speed automatic transmission, stop-start tech, upgraded aerodynamics, electronic power steering and a trick air suspension team up to increase fuel efficiency in the Ram by about 20% over older models. An impressive new V6 is available, but anyone who wouldn’t tick the HEMI option box is missing a couple cylinders himself. Depending on trim level, up to around 50 pounds have been shaved off the Ram 1500, so truck owners won’t need to feel too guilty about a couple donuts here and there.
VIA Motors VTrux
Introduced at the NAIAS by Bob Lutz himself, the VIA Motors VTrux is the first of the company’s three all-electric utility vehicles. A lithium-ion battery connected to a 400 horsepower electric motor motivates the converted Silverado. Electric range is about 40 miles, after which a small gasoline engine recharges the battery; a la Lutz’s baby, the Chevy Volt, the ICE can’t power the wheels directly. The VTrux is designed to work, giving owners the ability to plug in power tools directly to the vehicle. No word on front bumper electric chainsaw mounts for zombie slaying, but if you’ve got 79 grand for a VTrux, you can afford a little creative license.
Ford Atlas Concept
Exactly 65 years after the first F-series was unveiled, the Blue Oval introduced its Atlas Concept as a “future vision for pickup trucks”. According to Ford, the future will involve a bunch of high-tech amenities and a fuel-saving kit. For instance, “active” grill and wheel shutters and an automatic air dam make the truck slippery enough at speed to gain 2 mpg highway; a 360-degree camera and other technology will help people park this behemoth and hook it up to trailers. The Atlas is designed to be comfortable, handsome, eco-friendly and a major workhorse — which is good, since it’s got the weight of the future on its shoulders.