You don’t need an aircraft-carrier sized cargo bed to enjoy a roomy, versatile and eye-catching pickup truck
CASEY WILLIAMS | Auto Reviewer
It’s hard getting up in the morning, and it is even harder to find an accepting friend to loan you their precious pickup to haul home that fabulous credenza for your home theatre. This being Texas, big hulking full-size trucks are standard fare. But, what if you want to carry your stuff and park it too? That downtown garage too tight for Behemoth The Truck? Maybe one of these everyday pick-me-ups will satisfy your toolbox.
Toyota Tacoma. Since Marty McFly almost hit a Rolls-Royce in his, Toyota has offered one of the best-selling compact pickups in the U.S. Eco weenies will choose the 159hp 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that achieves 21/25-MPG city/hwy., but manly men should opt for the 236hp 4.0-liter V6 that can tow up to 6,500 lbs.
To really get your juices pumping, drive the X-Runner sport truck that comes standard with the V6 engine and six-speed manual transmission to get it from 0-60mph in under 7s and pull 9g’s during cornering like serious performance cars. A full body kit, hood scoop, and supercharger churning 304hp tell stoplight pretenders to f-off.
Go full urban with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system that puts hands-free calling, streaming music, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, Pandora, real-time traffic updates, and fuel prices at your fingertips. Tacoma starts at $17,525, but can cross $30k with all the tuna.
Nissan Frontier. Like you’re favorite mate, this pickup is all about flexibility. You can get it in extended or four-door cab configurations, long or short beds, and 4×4 or 4×2. To move luggage or an occasional sofa, the standard 152hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder plugs the hole. However, if you need more muscle, expand your horizons to the 261hp V6. The best combination may be the 2WD King Cab that achieves 17/21-MPG city/hwy.
Nissan takes trucking seriously. Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, and 4LO gearing take the rugged to purgatory while the PRO-4X edition with Bilstein off-road shocks, skid plates, 16-in. alloys with off-road tires treats passengers to a luxury loft of heated leather seats and red-stitched steering wheel. City dwellers may prefer the Sport package’s 18-in. alloys, dark grille, moonroof and Bluetooth.
Since before Datsun became Nissan, the Japanese automaker has captured the small pickup shelf. When I was a kid, almost everybody owned one, and they probably still do. A base price of $19,010 makes it a pretty affordable way to move about.
Honda Ridgeline. Ridgeline is an urban-ready pickup cocktail. Unlike other mid-size trucks, the big Honda does not have an independent frame like other trucks and has the bed smoothly integrated with the four-door, five-passenger cabin like a crossover. An independent rear suspension tames potholes and construction sites while the 250hp 3.5-liter V6, connected to fully-automatic all-wheel-drive, chugs down 15/21-MPG city/hwy.
Look inside the bed to find tricks like the In-Bed Trunk that can hold drinks and play clothes, eight tie-downs for whatever you wish to tie down, and four cargo area lights to illuminate the whole affair. Up front, there’s a 100-watt audio system with input jack, Bluetooth, automatic climate control, available heated leather seats, and 60/40 split rear bench with under-seat storage. There’s even a heated wiper park!
Whether you need a garage-friendly handyman, or wish to pull 5,000lbs. of Honda’s renowned recreational toys, the Ridgeline could be your best partner. With a base price of $29,350, and prices that cross $40k, you may need reviving salts before signing the line.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 9, 2012.