Truck Paradise

May 1st, 2019

By Don Armstrong

The midsize truck market is on fire and with two more manufacturers joining the segment, there’s going to be an all-out war. Bay Area Houston Magazine had the chance to drive a couple of contenders and it appears the gloves are coming off.

Toyota Tacoma
Dominating the midsize segment for more than a decade, the Toyota Tacoma is finally feeling the heat from competitors.

The 2020 Tacoma made its appearance at the recent Chicago Auto Show and at first glance, not many changes. But digging a little deeper, Toyota heard owner grumblings and is now offering a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat along with tech goodies that include Apple Car Play, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa voice.

There are no changes in the powertrain, you choose from a 4-cylinder – for the not too serious tucker – or the V-6, which we recommend. A 6-speed transmission, manual or automatic, is available, depending on the trim level you select, of which there are no fewer than 6.

The Toyota Tacoma has earned a great reputation so to pick the nits would be silly, and with a “Built in Texas” sticker on the window, what Bay Area Texan wouldn’t be proud to own one.

2019 pricing starts at $25,550. The 2020 won’t be available until the last quarter of this year.

Ford Ranger
It’s back and looking better than ever, albeit much larger than the old one, last built in 2011.

The 2019 Ford Ranger is all-new, kind of. Think of it as the Americanized version of the Australian Ranger, a very capable midsize built since 2015.

If you’re a Ford fanatic, the new Ranger might check all the boxes on your wish list including the ability to fit in the garage.

The Ranger’s shape is modern and attractive including its hexagonal grille. And, depending on the trim level you choose, a nice set of factory wheels that strike a chord with your design tastes are readily available.

There is only one engine assigned to it, the 2.3-liter turbocharged, inline 4-cylinder that delivers 270-horsepower. It’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. We averaged almost 23-MPG during our 400-mile test week.

Who would have ever thought a little 4-banger would be up to towing 7,500-lbs and hauling 1,860-lbs.? That’s impressive.

Pricing starts at $24,300, add a few extras and it will run you closer to $40,000.

2019 Ram 1500 Awarded Truck of Texas Title

December 1st, 2018

By Don Armstrong

Each October, dozens of automotive journalists from across the U.S. gather in the hills of central Texas to determine the best trucks and SUVs the industry has to offer. After two soggy days of evaluation, the prestigious 2019 Truck of Texas award was presented to FCA, builder of the all-new Ram 1500.

It is a sexy new grille that separates the Ram from all the rest, and this “new look” really sets the bar to an all new height. New badging ads to the hood décor just above the front wheel openings, while just the right amount of chrome lends to the overall appeal.

The trim level you choose will help determine the amount of bling that adorns your big rig, but we’ll use the highly popular Longhorn trim for this review.

Open the door and you’ll see one of the best interiors in the world. Ram’s dash design is modern and well thought-out with functionality you’d expect. An optional 12-inch infotainment display is breath-taking. The updated, fourth generation Uconnect system now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Coupled with the rotary transmission control, and various other options, including 4-wheel drive, it won’t take long to learn where the controls are located. Did we mention dual glove boxes?

Our tester had cloth seat inserts. Now before you turn your nose up at the thought, think about the Bay Area’s extended summer season with blistering hot leather. The Ram interior design team selected fabric material that crosses the boundary between a night at the concert and weekday work duties.

The half-ton Ram can be equipped with the new eTorque system, a mild hybrid option that helps performance and fuel mileage. We got almost 20-MPG from the V-8 Hemi.
Ride quality is also a best in this half-ton category because of its coil suspension. If you want an even more car-like experience, air-ride is another option.

Towing and hauling capabilities have been increased on this new design too, utilizing lighter weight, higher strength steel and composites, reducing weight.

In a market where more trucks and SUVs are being sold than ever before, December is the perfect time to add one more item to your shopping list. Imagine a Christmas gift like this.

MSRP on our 2019 Ram Lone Star Crew Cab 4X4, with a few options, is $53,835.

Where do we sign?

Truck Scene 2017

March 1st, 2017

By Don Armstrong

Trucks and SUV’s are now outselling cars and manufacturers are doubling down variety. This month we focus on a car-based, light duty hauler and a gutsy bruiser that could be your new catamaran tug.

The 2017 Nissan TITAN XD and TITAN Single Cab models are the first-ever single cab offering in TITAN history. The trucks are designed to provide an affordable and rugged entry-point in the commercial fleet/work truck market.

Nissan Titan XD single cab diesel
The Titan XD could be classified as a “tweener,” with price and capability that fits between a standard ½ ton and a heavy duty ¾ ton pickup. The base version XD gets a 5.6-liter V-8 but the optional, purpose-built 5.0-liter Cummins V-8 diesel delivers 555 lb-ft of torque to pull up to 12,300 pounds. The engine’s grunt is delivered to all-four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Two-wheel drive is standard.

The 2017 Nissan TITAN King Cab is marked by its available 6-person seating, wide-opening rear doors and available “rear seat delete” option that is ideal for commercial use with its flat floor and secure in-cab storage space.

The XD offers similar interior option packages as the regular Titan. A crew cab edition arrives at dealers later this year. So, for now anyway, only a single cab model is available. I don’t know about you, but what was once the only cab size available, today looks out of place among the popular 4-door versions.

Our Titan XD single cab came with the long bed that was equipped with Nissan’s Utili-track system that offers a variety of cleats and tie-downs. Handy, under-bed rail and tailgate lighting is a terrific option and one that every trucker will appreciate.

Nissan Titan XD pricing starts at $34,780

2017 Honda Ridgeline

Honda Ridgeline
Car-based, truck-like utility vehicles have been around since the 1930s. You may be familiar with the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino. Chevy ended its foray into this design in the late 80s, Ford in the 70s. Fast forward to this century when Honda decided it was time to pick up the baton and build the Ridgeline.

The second generation, 2017 Honda Ridgeline continues the tradition of the first but with more truck swagger and all the sought-after features that make this crossover so appealing. Crossover? Yes. It’s built on the same platform as the Honda Pilot CUV.

2017 Honda Ridgeline

With a sealed and lockable in-bed trunk, a dual-function tailgate, rear seat and 4-doors, this Ridgeline is like the Swiss Army knife of pick-ups. However, hauling and towing capacity is limited to about 1,500 lbs.

The ride quality and interior is that of the Pilot, nice, but depending on option choices, you could be pushing the price into the full-size truck category.

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline starts at $29,475. A Chevy Silverado 1500 Crew cab starts at $31,610.