THE 4WDS OF DETROIT
A quieter year for trucks at the North American International Auto Show
If there are two shows on the International Auto Show circuit that we look forward to most, it is the Chicago and North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Why? Because these are the big North American shows where all the 4WD makers are most likely to flaunt their latest off-road goods.
While Detroit’s NAIAS has been incredibly good to us in the past, the 2017 edition was a bit of a yawner. That’s not to say there wasn’t any 4WD news coming out of Detroit, but let's just say we’re not going to take up too much of your time reporting on this one.
North American Truck of the Year
As is tradition, the NAIAS starts with the North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year Awards. The 2017 awards went to an electric compact, a minivan and a unibodied truck. While we applaud the Honda Ridgeline for winning the Truck of the Year Award, our biases were hoping for something a little more interesting to grab such a prestigious honour, say the Ford F-150 Raptor or Nissan’s new Titan half-ton, which we liked during testing in the last issue. However, it was Honda’s Ridgeline that came through, beating out the two other finalists, the Nissan Titan and the Ford Super Duty.
Ford Ranger and Bronco Officially Confirmed
While there were a couple new vehicle releases at the show, in all reality the biggest news for us was over at the Joe Louis arena where Ford officially went on the record for the highly anticipated return of two famous nameplates, the Ford Ranger and Bronco.
Ford insiders had already let us in on the news and Ford had left a very noticeable trail of bread crumbs insinuating that the two vehicles would find their way back into the line-up, but now we have it from the horse's mouth, so to speak. As we suspected, both vehicles will be built in Wayne, Michigan. The Ranger will be based on the global platform they use for the overseas Ranger,
which we will get when it receives its next generation change in 2019. Expect the front fascia to receive some North American-friendly styling. There is no word what will end up in the engine bays, but the current Ranger touts the very capable 3.2L inline diesel 5-cylinder.
There wasn’t a whole lot of info on the Bronco, unfortunately. All we know is that it will be released in 2020 and based on the Ranger's frame, making it a midsized SUV. Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, peaked our interest when he said, “Bronco will be a no-compromise midsize 4x4 utility for thrill seekers who want to venture way beyond the city.” So, we’re excited to say that the upcoming Bronco will likely be willing to get dirty and could be targeting the Wrangler faithful. What we don’t know is whether it will have retro or modern styling?
Sticking with the Blue Oval, it seems like we just drove the last F-150 redesign and already we’re getting another refresh. Ford is turning the F-150 around faster than expected, and the new styling is quite fetching.
The obvious changes include an allnew front fascia with bumpers, headlights and grille all getting reconstructive surgery. Ford is calling the new grille the “twin I-beam” and it does give the design a more modern and industrial feel. Out back, the tailgate gets a new stamping as the “F-150” logo gets embossed into the aluminum.
The interior stays pretty much the same as last year's, however Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces have found their way into the multimedia system.
Under the hood, Ford have announced that the 5.0L V-8, 3.5L and 2.7L EcoBoost V-6’s will get some company in the form of an all new 3.3 V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic as well as a 3.0L turbo diesel V-6 that will get bolted to the new 10-speed automatic.
The Aston Martin Vantage, BMW Z8 and Fisker Karma are truly beautifully styled cars. Dare I utter the word “elegance” in a magazine for those who wish to soil and wrinkle their chosen form of motoring vehicle, but this is what these vehicles were, and still are. So, it comes as a shock that the man who designed those vehicles is the man behind this wonderfully comic orange beast. It is dubbed the VLF X-Series, and it is a bespoke coach SUV built from the Chevrolet Colorado.
VLF is a partnership of Gilbert Villarreal, Bob Lutz and Henrik Fisker (the designer of these beautiful sports cars), so we can only surmise the Mr. Lutz and Villarreal have some kind of design veto power as the X-Series has looks only a mother could love. What with the horrific colour choice, rear wing, and mass of embossments for the sake of having embossments; the biggest headshaker is the fact the X-series looks like the love child of a one night stand between a Hummer H2 and Lamborghini LM002.
As the majority of the X-Series is just bodywork, you’re still left with a 306 hp, 275 lb-ft 3.6L V-6 that has been left untouched. Not sure why since this vehicle now weighs in at 2,375 kg (5,236 lb). However, the good news is that the X-Series enjoys much greater ground clearances than the Colorado, with 292 mm (11.5-in) of ground clearance with an approach angle of 44.7° and a departure angle of 48°. If you’re not a fan, don’t worry. Despite being launched in Detroit, VLF say the X-Series isn’t even for North Americans, planning to build 250 for Middle Eastern and Asian markets.
The Honda Ridgeline wins the North American Truck of the Year Award.
Ford now confirms both the Ranger and Bronco are coming back.
VLF is not a brand you’re likely aware of, and that’s likely not to change as these coach built 4WD’s are all slated for Asia and the Middle East – no regrets here.
The F-150 was brand new only a few short years ago, but a face-lift and a couple new engines are slated for the 2018 model year.