Off-road fo­cused 4WD’s stand out at Chicago In­ter­na­tional Auto Show

4WDrive - - Fea­ture - Words by Budd Stan­ley, photos cour­tesy of Toy­ota, Ram, Nis­san and Mercedes

While the Detroit Auto Show has had some of the big­gest show­stop­pers over the last cou­ple years, the Chicago Auto Show is tra­di­tion­ally the ex­po­si­tion that fo­cuses more on trucks and the 4WD mar­ket. This year would be an­other hard act to fol­low for Chicago, how­ever a cou­ple man­u­fac­tur­ers showed up with some pretty se­ri­ous off-road in­spired ma­chin­ery, and all but one will be reach­ing show­rooms by the end of the year. Let’s not waste any time, we give you Chicago’s top of­froad fo­cused ma­chines...

TOY­OTA TA­COMA TRD PRO-SE­RIES Last is­sue we brought word that Toy­ota was bring­ing the TRD Pro-Se­ries Tun­dra north of the bor­der. In that piece, we pleaded, threat­ened and begged Toy­ota to do the same when they fi­nally launch the TRD Pro-Se­ries ver­sion of the Ta­coma. Well, it seems that our prayers have been an­swered.

Toy­ota used the Chicago Auto Show to launch the new­est of the TRD ProSeries model and Toy­ota Canada have fol­lowed up with con­fir­ma­tion that the su­per Taco will in­deed be sold in Canada as well – by the end of the year.

Much like the Pro-Se­ries Tun­dra, the Ta­coma will be based off the TRD Of­fRoad trim pack­age, putting even greater fo­cus on proper off-road per­for­mance. And let’s get one thing straight, this ain’t no “badge and floor mat” spe­cial edi­tion, Toy­ota did their home­work and is putting the good bits on the Pro-Se­ries.

That means the Pro-Se­ries will re­ceive a set of 16-in TRD black al­loy wheels with Goodyear Wran­gler Al­lTer­rain Kevlar-re­in­forced tires, an alu­minum front skid plate, FOX 2.5 In­ter­nal By­pass shocks tuned by TRD, TRD-tuned front springs with a 1-in lift and TRD-tuned rear sus­pen­sion with pro­gres­sive-rate off-road leaf springs. No lock­ing diff in the front, but there will be an elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled lock­ing rear dif­fer­en­tial.

Spic­ing up the ac­ces­sories side, the Pro-Se­ries will be equipped with Rigid In­dus­tries LED fog lights, pro­jec­tor­beam head­lights with black bezels, LED Day­time Run­ning Lights (DRL), tail­lights with black bezels and black “TRD Pro” and “4x4” rear tail­gate badg­ing.

Toy­ota is quickly be­com­ing one of the most off-road fo­cused brands sold in Canada, and we’ll be sure to re­turn with a full re­port once we get our hands on the Pro-Se­ries. NIS­SAN TI­TAN Quite likely the big­gest show­stop­per in Detroit was Nis­san’s un­veil­ing of the Ti­tan War­rior, a hard­core off-road con­cept based off the Ti­tan XD that had all the right bits to take a Ford Rap­tor to task. In Chicago, Nis­san’s big re­veal was a lit­tle more dis­creet, but just as im­por­tant. While the Ti­tan XD is es­sen­tially a three-quar­ter ton, we still haven’t seen the half-ton Ti­tan. That changed in Chicago.

When we drove the Ti­tan XD last is­sue, Nis­san told us that the Ti­tan and Ti­tan XD would not share one part. So, we were a lit­tle sur­prised to see that the reg­u­lar Ti­tan looks ex­actly like the XD –

only a lit­tle shorter. While the two don’t share chas­sis’, they will share the same cab di­men­sions and be equally as wide.

The new Ti­tan will be avail­able in 4x2 or 4x4 drive con­fig­u­ra­tions with three cabin con­fig­u­ra­tions – Crew Cab, King Cab and Sin­gle cab – and three bed lengths – 5.5, 6.5 and 8 feet. Sim­i­lar to Ti­tan XD, Ti­tan will be avail­able in five trim lev­els – S, SV, PRO-4X, SL and Plat­inum Re­serve.

Pow­er­ing the Ti­tan will be Nis­san’s 5.6L En­durance V-8 gaso­line en­gine that will pump out 390 hp and 401 lb.-ft. be­fore di­rect­ing power to a new 7-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. There is a V-6 gaso­line en­gine in the works, al­though we have no in­for­ma­tion on this cur­rently.


Along with the launch of a new 4x4 Off-road Pack­age for the Ram 2500 that in­cludes a list of must-have up­grades for the oc­ca­sional off-roader, Ram pro­vided a sneak peek at one of our favourites, a Power Wagon.

For the most part, this is just a re­fresh­ing of the iconic heavy duty. The 2017 Power Wagon will still have its pop­u­lar 410 hp, 429 lb-ft 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 en­gine, a trans­fer case of­fer­ing a 2.64 low range ra­tio, matched to a 4.10 axle ra­tio giv­ing a crawl ra­tio of 35:1. Back­ing this up is a set of stan­dard front and rear elec­tronic-lock­ing dif­fer­en­tials, Ram’s unique “Ar­ti­c­ulink” front sus­pen­sion sys­tem that in­cor­po­rates high move­ment joints and a dis­con­nect­ing sway-bar sys­tem, al­low­ing for ad­di­tional flex­i­bil­ity and axle ar­tic­u­la­tion and a stan­dard Warn 12,000-lb elec­tric winch mounted be­hind the front bumper.

So, what’s new on 2017 Ram Power Wagon? Well, the changes are mostly cosmetic, but you will no doubt no­tice the new 1500 Rebel-in­spired grille that fea­tures a prom­i­nent Bil­let Sil­ver “RAM” let­ter badge. The larger blacked-out grille is book­ended by bi-func­tional black bezel pro­jec­tor head­lamps with LED marker lights. You will also find new 17-in wheels and 33-in Goodyear Wran­gler Du­raTrac tires.

The Power Wagon’s in­te­rior has been up­graded with unique tech­ni­cal grain seats fin­ished in Diesel Gray and Black with Se­doso fab­ric in­serts em­bossed with the Goodyear Wran­gler Du­raTrac tire tread pat­tern, match­ing the Power Wagon’s ac­tual foot­print. A thick ver­ti­cal stripe de­cal aft of the cab, with “Power Wagon” in a large ro­tated font, will help dis­tin­guish the Power Wagon model. The de­cal pays trib­ute to a 36 year old ad­mired de­sign.


On the fic­tional side of the Chicago Auto Show, we found this Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Ex­treme Con­cept, which was a good thing as the show was lack­ing some real con­cepts. From afar, the Sprinter Ex­treme Con­cept looks awe­some, how­ever once you get a lit­tle closer; you start to lose in­ter­est.

Let’s start with, what is it? What you see here is Mercedes 3500 Chas­sis Cab that has been sent to Mercedes tun­ing house, RENNtech, to be out­fit­ted as an ex­treme dump truck.

The good part, RENNtech made a dump truck look cool, and that’s not an easy thing to do. They fit­ted a Scat­tolini Scat­toMaax “Tipper Bed” that ar­tic­u­lates in three dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions (ei­ther side or to the rear). They re­designed the bed walls out of alu­minum, raised the sus­pen­sion by six inches, mounted 18-in bead­lock wheels with a meaty set of Nitto Trail Grap­plers and then wrapped the ve­hi­cle in all sorts of lights, racks, cargo boxes and winches… you know, the type of stuff we all get ex­cited about.

The bad part, well let’s just say it looks as though RENNtech are new to the whole off-road life­style thing. Now we’re not go­ing to throw them un­der the bus, which is a class­less way of shun­ning new­bies from our sport. How­ever, per­haps some con­struc­tive crit­i­cism. When trav­el­ing off-road, the bot­tom of the front bumper is usu­ally the first thing that gets driven into the ground, so it’s not the best place to mount ex­tremely ex­pen­sive LED lamps. Like­wise, for the in­te­grated crash bar mounted to rather weak look­ing pro­tec­tive caging for the winch. We love that you have a winch on a Sprinter, how­ever the whole pack­age will likely be lay­ing on the trail just be­yond the LED lights.

We know, we know, it’s a con­cept car. Top marks have to go to Mercedes and RENNtech for mak­ing us want to own a dump truck.


While the snort­ing and grunt­ing of all the high testos­terone off-road­ers usu­ally grab our at­ten­tion, Nis­san qui­etly pulled the cov­ers off the next gen­er­a­tion Ar­mada. We weren’t even quite sure if the Ar­mada was go­ing to con­tinue pro­duc­tion, but now we have the an­swer.

Yes, the 2017 Ar­mada will con­tinue to use a new higher out­put ver­sion of Nis­san’s 5.6L V-8, now 390 hp, and a new 7-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. It has an all-new aero­dy­namic de­sign and is over-flow­ing with new tech­nol­ogy, how­ever we no­ticed some­thing else in­trigu­ing about the new Ar­mada. It will not be built off the Ti­tan plat­form any­more; in­stead, it will be based off Nis­san’s Y62 plat­form and will be built in Ja­pan.

To most, this is a non-story, how­ever for those who know their leg­endary 4WDs, they will rec­og­nize this as the Nis­san Pa­trol plat­form. Granted, the Pa­trol’s glory years as one of the world’s best off-road­ers is past, but we hope the new Ar­mada will live up to its cel­e­brated lin­eage.

The 2017 Nis­san Ar­mada will be of­fered in a range of three high-con­tent grade lev­els – SV, SL and Plat­inum, will have a tow­ing ca­pac­ity of 3,855 kg (8,500 lb) and will go on sale later this sum­mer.

The Ti­tan XD fi­nally gets a younger brother. Toy­ota pulls the cov­ers off the highly an­tic­i­pated Ta­coma Pro-Se­ries.

Mercedes… show­ing a dump truck con­cept… didn’t see that one com­ing.

The Ar­mada lives, and its got a se­cret it’s keep­ing from you.

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