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Honda, Nissan, Jeep all support pickup market

New Ridgeline, Titan concept and promised Wrangler maintain market hopes

Nissan Titan Warrior Concept

Pickups are still a hot ticket item around the world and none is there better evidenced than with the recent introductions of the new Honda Ridgeline, a tougher Nissan Titan notion, and the announcement from the top that Jeep is returning to market, all at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Honda Ridgeline

It’s been announced for some time, and the new Honda Ridgeline is finally ready for market. Due in the first half of 2016, the new Ridgeline features class-leading space – with reportedly the largest cabin in the midsized pickup segment, as well as the only one capable of housing a 4-foot wide sheet flat in the bed.

Innovative features that carry over from the previous Ridgeline are the trunk in the bed (a covered and locked cargo space in the floor of the bed, to hide away valuables as needed), and the dual action tailgate that can flip down as with conventional pickups, or swing away in a manner similar to that of utility vehicles.

Ridgeline gets power from a 3.5-litre, direct-injected i-VTEC V-6 engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission to distribute power to all four wheels as required by driving and hauling conditions. The new Ridgeline will be available in front wheel drive for the first time, while the all-wheel drive model will get torque vectoring and driver selectable driving modes.

Inside, buyers will find high-grade materials and finishes, and the latest technology. Among the features are tri-zone climate control, push button start, and available 8-inch Display Audio touchscreen ready to link up to Apple Car Play and Android Auto. In the rear, the 60/40-split bench will carry up to five people while still accommodating long items, like a set of golf clubs, under the cushion. Similar to the much smaller Fit, the Ridgeline’s cushions can be folded up to accommodate tall and/or bulky items.

Nissan Titan Warrior

A little farther away, the Titan Warrior is a concept of how Nissan can craft a considerably more rugged full-sized Titan.

The desert-racing inspired Warrior features a commercial duty chassis and a highly modified off-road suspension. Nissan claims the concept puts an exclamation point on the start of sales of the new 2016 Tian XD but one of the most prominent features is the question mark in the rear right taillight assembly.

“Truck buyers have a seemingly insatiable appetite for more content and more unique offerings,” said José Muñoz, Nissan Motor’s executive vice president and chairman of Nissan North America. “Even though our all-new 2016 TITAN XD just started arriving at Nissan dealers nationwide last month, we are already exploring new territory where TITAN might go in the future.”

The Warrior Concept stands 71 mm (just under 3 in.) higher than the production Titan XD, primarily to allow the truck to accommodate a 37-inch wheel/off-road tire set (on 18-inch alloy wheels). The overall width was increased by double that amount (152 mm or 6 in.) in order to contain the bulky tires within the bodywork.

Power continues to be supplied by the production truck’s Cummins 5.0-litre turbodiesel V-8 and distributed by a heavy-duty 6-speed Aisin automatic transmission. The biggest difference between concept and production, though, is the custom suspension front and rear to handle more than just off-roading, but off-road racing.

Jeep Wrangler pickup

Probably at least two years away, a new pickup for the Jeep showroom seems inevitable with the announcement from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne at a press conference during the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“I’ll confirm it for you. We will build a Wrangler pickup,” Marchionne told the assembled press corps. “Shortly after the launch of the … new Wrangler, which should be operational sometime by the end of next year.”

In case you were wondering what a Jeep Wrangler pickup might look like, Chrysler’s parts division Mopar created a pickup conversion kit for the Wrangler Unlimited a couple years back. The $5,500 (U.S.) JK-8 conversion basically consisted of a steel bed and associated body panels and structural members to replace everything from the front doors back, as well as a fiberglass hardtop with fixed side windows and a sliding rear window for those times when owners want their pickup to shelter things more like a … well, more like an SUV.

The kit was an homage to the Jeep Scrambler CJ-8 of the 1980s, which was an extended CJ-7 with a removable fiberglass cap over the extended cargo area behind the seats. The last production Jeep pickup was the Cherokee-based Comanche that went away in 1992.

Because the market for compact pickups has changed so much in the past 20 years, chances are the new pickup will likely be an extended or crew cab bodystyle, which would mean a relatively small pickup bed, unless the Unlimited platform is extended.

As it stands today, the Wrangler Unlimited length is perhaps too short on which to make anything but a pickup in name only, seeing as it’s 436 mm (about 17 inches) shorter overall than the smallest pickup on today’s Canadian market, though its wheelbase is 256 (10 inches) longer. But, it is considerably smaller than the smallest compact extended-cabin pickup on the market — 820 mm (32 in.) shorter in overall length and 296 mm (11.6 in.) shorter in wheelbase.

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