Responsibilities leave little time to play, but he wants to anyway.
Real trucks built for real off-roading . . . an outdated notion? Seems so. But still, a third of big pickups are used in the workplace, and there's a hard-core group of sportsmen among the 5 percent of sport-utility owners who actually take their SUVs off-road.
Real hauling takes real power, and that means fuel economy takes a hit. But help is on the way, in the form of huge gas-mileage improvements-in the neighborhood of 20 percent-within the next five years. Right now, the Big Three are in a dead heat to build hybrid SUVs-trucks that'd use electric power in short boosts to supplement smaller gas engines. Clean diesels, which would likewise improve fuel economy, are also on the drawing board.
In the meantime, General Motors is launching a series of high-tech gas engines, including an inline six-cylinder as powerful as many V8s. The engines, which will appear in the 2002 Chevy Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, and Olds Bravada, also get better fuel efficiency. In addition, next year GM will unveil an engine that closes four cylinders of a V8 under light loads to raise economy. At DaimlerChrysler, the 2002 Dodge Ram gets two new V8s that produce more power from smaller displacements.
And automakers are looking at more than just fuel economy. Ford, for example, has redone the Explorer, adding a fully independent suspension that improves ride and handling. The new Chevrolet Avalanche morphs from a pickup to an SUV (Cadillac's version is called the EXT). And towing will never be the same with GM's Quadrasteer, which turns the rear wheels of big pickups. The system debuts on the GMC Sierra this fall, allowing long-wheelbase trucks to cut turns as tightly as a small car.
Land Rover's new Freelander, meanwhile, incorporates the high ground clearance and wheel travel essential for climbing. Mountain men also are watching Nissan-which plans to introduce a rugged full-size pickup in 2003-and GM's Hummer division, which intends to launch a modest version of the famous military vehicle by 2004.
Until then, the macho truck award goes to DaimlerChrysler's hulking G-Class, a semicommercial SUV coming to the U.S. next spring. It's sure to appeal to the hard-core outdoor guy, but is also intimidating enough to ensure a front-row parking spot at the mall.