THE 4WDS OF DETROIT

A qui­eter year for trucks at the North Amer­i­can In­ter­na­tional Auto Show

4WDrive - - Contents - WORDS BY BUDD STANLEY, PHOTOS BY FORD, HONDA AND VLF

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?

Ford F-150

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.

VLF X-Series

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.

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