Wish Granted. The Best Concept Trucks Coming to Dealerships Soon!

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Concepts Coming to Reality

Nissan's Titan XD Warrior is a definite sign that the manufacturer has serious off-road intentions. © Nissan Media

Concept vehicles are built to be the stuff of dreams. Squeezed into their exotic, liquid shapes are powertrains, creature comforts and gadgetry that make our everyday lives seem downright primitive. Sadly, most concepts never make the jump from corporate daydream to the production lines. Thanks to America’s currently insatiable demand for light trucks, however, these concepts have a very strong chance of becoming real…soon.

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Nissan Titan Warrior Concept

At the least, the Titan Warrior means a strong set of dealer accessories for Titan customers. We think, however, it means a Raptor-fighting Titan. © Nissan Media

Just as the brand new Titan XD begins to pop up in dealerships, Nissan drops a not-too-subtle hint in the Titan Warrior at the Detroit Auto Show. The message: they’re serious about a full-size pickup that’s geared for high-performance off-road. What’s currently the territory of the Ram Power Wagon, Toyota Tundra TRD Pro and Ford F-150 Raptor could see a new competitor in Nissan’s latest. Why not? Although niche products like off-road pickups don’t sell huge numbers yearly, they build a loyal audience and provide a profitable set of manufacturer made-aftermarket parts for new owners to upgrade with. Boasting a Titan XD chassis that’s been made 6-inches wider for greater offroad stability, massive 37-inch wheels, a raised suspension and carbon-fiber body accents, a Titan Warrior’s parts bin would bring a lot of excitement to Nissan’s aftermarket options. As a package, Nissan is reported to be mulling modifications to its available engines for a Warrior that delivers performance that matches its aggressive look. Closer attention to horsepower and torque figures is a signal that the F-150 Raptor might be Nissan’s designated target to beat. Inside, the Warrior already has special engine gauges, along with a raised instrument panel, unique steering wheel and a heated/cooled console tray. Though not a definite, the Titan Warrior is a concept that backs up its outlandish looks with a lot of common sense.

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Volkswagen Tiguan GTE Active Concept

The Volkswagen Tiguan GTE Active's powertrain outshines the sum of its parts. © Volkswagen Media

No, we don’t have any word yet on the manufacturer’s polished midsize pickup coming to the States. Instead, Volkswagen just introduced its updated fullsize SUV, the Tiguan. The Tiguan was well-reviewed at its Detroit Auto Show introduction, but its experimental powertrain outshined the sum of its parts.

Just like Honda and Hyundai are aiming to introduce very unconventional pickups that are bred for more daily-driver utility, Volkswagen’s concept hybrid gas-electric powertrain is designed to merge the worlds of off-roading and plug-in hybrids. The system employs two electric motors and a turbocharged, direct-injected gasoline engine. The gasoline engine lives under the hood, while one electric motor is on the rear axle driving the back wheels and the other delivers power to the front wheels from the front axle. The Tiguan starts in all-electric mode, using only the rear electric motor to drive the vehicle. The SUV can travel up to 20 miles on electricity alone. If the traction control system detects slippage or if the driver selects the 4Motion Active Control mode, the smaller front electric engine comes to life and gets the grip back with the front wheels. Speaking of the Active Control Mode, the driver can dial in what traction control characteristics they want from the system at the moment with options including Sand, Gravel, Sport, Sludge, Rocks and Snow. A Battery Hold mode is also an option on the system, forcing the powertrain to maintain a constant battery charge for electric driving.

All three motors work together to deliver a total of 221 hp for more challenging conditions, with the rear electric motor packing 114 hp, the front electric serving up 54 hp and the gasoline engine dishing out 148 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. With all 221 ponies in play, the powertrain propels the concept Tiguan from 0 to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds and to a top speed of 120 mph. The redesigned SUV will be coming to the States sometime in 2017 in 3-row, 7-passenger form. The Tiguan’s hybrid powertrain, however, will not. If the new batch of more urban-focused pickups and worktrucks prove popular (and fuel prices rise), there’s a good chance that you’re looking at the future right now.

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Jeep Gladiator Pickup

The 2005 Jeep Gladiator Concept comes to life before 2019 with dramatically improved componentry. © Jeep Media

The Jeep Gladiator concept pickup first turned heads as a concept vehicle in 2005. Far from the first, the Gladiator was part of a long string of Jeep-based pickup truck concepts that have been perpetually throwing enthusiasts into a frenzy. Those looking for overland-style ruggedness and capability in a pickup truck have resorted to shopping specialty manufacturers like AEV Conversions’ Brute Double Cab since the demise of Jeep’s last pickup, the Comanche, in 1992. Thanks, in part, to the success of specialty manufacturers like AEV Conversions, low fuel prices and America’s surging love affair with light trucks, Ma Mopar has finally returned to the roulette table with the guts to make a bet. A Wrangler-based pickup truck is not only going to be a reality, it’s going to be here before 2019….a fact unearthed by an impromptu interview conducted by the folks at Truck Trend.

Times have changed since the original Gladiator walked the stage of the autoshows, and the expected parts list of the new Jeep pickup has been updated to reflect the latest powertrains in the Jeep family. The original Gladiator packed a 163hp 2.8-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine that delivered 295 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a 6-speed manual transmission and a part-time transfer case. The coming Wrangler pickup should boast a variant of the current 3.6-liter V6, good for 285 hp and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. Versions of the current 6-speed manual and 5-speed automatic transmissions will probably surface, and we’re betting an 8-speed automatic will be an available option, as well. What about that sweet little diesel engine the original Gladiator packed? Not to worry. Not only is a diesel option planned to be available at launch, a hybrid powerplant should pop up for the Wrangler lineup around the same time. Conjecture points to the coming diesel engine coming from Europe in the form of a 2.2-liter diesel made by Alfa Romeo or a 2.4-liter diesel made by VM Motori that produces 197hp and 368 lb.-ft. of torque. An excellent analysis of rumored powerplants for both the coming Jeep Pickup and the next-generation Wrangler can be found here on Allpar.com.

An even more radical change will come to the original Gladiator’s body. Fuel efficiency has become increasingly important, even though gas prices are continuing their affordable streak. Why? CAFÉ regulations, federally-mandated fuel efficiency requirements, are particularly tough to meet when your brand is focused on delivering a dose of off-road brawn. A hybrid Wrangler won’t raise the lineup’s average fuel economy enough. FCA’s got a much more radical solution in the works. The Wrangler Pickup, along with its redesigned brethren, will sport body panels with more aluminum in them. Balancing the weight savings that Ford’s new F-150 saw with the strength needed in a market that’s prone to scrapes, scuffs and dings should be very interesting.

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Hyundai Santa Cruz

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Hyundai's Santa Cruz concept pickup squeezes 5 pasengers and midsize-class storage into a compact-sized package. © Hyundai Media

First introduced at the 2015 North American International Auto Show, Hyundai’s first pickup truck is both long-expected and a total shock at the same time. The lucrative North American pickup truck market is a place that many manufacturers want to compete in, but many truck buyers are loyal to their particular brand and are wary of new entrants. After 3 decades of slugging it out in the North American market, becoming a household name, offering one of the best warranties in the business and founding manufacturing plants across the United States, Hyundai is no less than Rocky Balboa finally getting his shot at a title fight.

The moment the sheet lifts off the Santa Cruz’s compact-SUV-sized frame, however, is nothing but stunning. Hyundai isn’t going to push their way into the big-money fullsized pickup truck fight. They’re not going for a piece of the resurging midsized pickup market, either. Hyundai’s believes that millenials (a.k.a. people born generally in the early 80’s to early 2000’s) want truck utility in a stylish, economical and easy-to-park package. They’re going to make a compact truck.

Why? According to Hyundai, millenials are the second-largest group of automotive shoppers out there, yet only 7 percent of pickup buyers are under 30. Remember the craze that started with the Suzuki Samurai and the Geo Tracker? Channeling the public’s desire for stylish new automotive creature that touts utility, practicality and reliability is the stuff of marketing dreams. If done right, it will revive the long-gone era of compact pickups in the US. If it doesn’t succeed, it will join the ranks of the Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Subaru Brat and even the Subaru Baja as fan favorites that couldn’t survive in the long term.

Boosting the Santa Cruz’s chances of survival is a unique set of features that cater to those looking to do more with less. The pickup’s small cabin seats 5, and small rear-hinged doors allow back-row passengers to get in and out of the cab. Need more storage space than what the tiny bed delivers? The rear of the Santa Cruz’s bed pulls out like a drawer, stretching the bed’s size to be comparable to that of a midsize pickup. A locking, retractable tonneau cover protects your stored gear when you need it.

Like the all-wheel drive Ridgeline, Hyundai also ditches a conventional rear-wheel drive/4-wheel drive setup for its SUV-based HTRAC AWD system. Under the hood, a 2.0-liter turbo diesel engine serves up 190 horsepower and 300 lb.-ft. of torque. Hyundai anticipates the powertrain combination would see fuel economy in the high 30mpg range, and the unconventional AWD system should deliver a more car-like driving experience.

Unlike the Ridgeline, Hyundai hasn’t announced production of the Santa Cruz yet…but we strongly believe an announcement will come sooner than later. With Honda doubling down on their unconventional bet in the Ridgeline and the Santa Cruz’s chances unaffected by the potential for fluctuating fuel prices, we believe Hyundai will want to cash in on the lucrative, wildly popular pickup market. They’ve earned their chance.