You never know, some of these might just be on their way over.
America is pick-up truck country – just take a look at our top selling vehicles and you’ll see for yourself. But despite the affiliation with the USA and the pick-up, some manufacturers still refuse to bring their trucks into the country. Within the last few years the mid-size pickup segment has started blossoming, and with the new USDM Ford Ranger being unveiled in Detroit this year, it got us thinking what mid-size pickups we’re missing out on in the US. As it turns out, we’re missing out on some pretty damn good pickups from around the world.
Nissan has coyly been selling a Frontier that globally is a generation old already. It’s a crying shame, as the new Frontier – badged as a Nissan Navara overseas – would quite likely be near the top of its class. The 3rd generation Navara / Frontier has been in existence for nearly four years now, and has been racking up the accolades in that time. Powered by a 2.3-liter twin-turbo diesel engine, the Navara packs 188 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, giving it a towing capacity of more than 7000 pounds. Additionally, it’s got the torque low down, and the benefit of diesel fuel consumption being rather minimal.
But the big deal for the Navara is the new multi-link coil spring rear suspension, which ought to make the Nissan Navara/Frontier supremely comfortable, whilst retaining immense capability. The Navara even won the coveted International Pickup of the Year award in 2016, with comfort and technology being key reasons for the victory. With a host of advanced technologies, and the brand already having the support in the country, the new Frontier deserves to be brought to US soil.
Along with the Renault Alaskan, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class shares underpinnings with the Nissan Navara/Frontier. But Mercedes-Benz has globally targeted the X-Class as a luxury alternative to the mid-size workhorse. While others may attempt to make a pick-up tolerable, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class is outright luxury orientated, though it would also have a price tag to match its premium nature. Running on the same chassis as the Nissan, it should get all the same benefits as its Japanese cousin – including advanced driver aids, reduced weight, improved comfort levels, and a handy ability to haul and tow.
But here’s the kicker – where the Nissan only has 188hp, the range topping Mercedes-Benz X350d generates 255hp and 406 lb-ft from its 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel motor. There are other smaller motors available though, including a gasoline variant, which would make the X-Class range extensive enough to cater for a wide audience. Unfortunately, Mercedes-Benz has categorically stated that at this stage, it has no intention to bring the X-Class to the USA.
Designed by the same man who penned the 2006 Lamborghini Miura Concept, the Volkswagen Amarok was the world’s first taste of a premium mid-size pick-up. Not only is it handsomely styled, but it boasts a car-like interior with materials familiar to anyone who’s driven a high end VW product. But the premium nature goes further than just the materials used. The Amarok has drawn global praise for being incredibly car-like to drive, despite the fact that it’s still a traditional body-on-frame truck. Though it competes in the mid-size segment, the Amarok is slightly larger than most competitors, lending it the air of spaciousness too.
Available with either rear- or all-wheel drive, the VW Amarok can be had globally with one of 4 engines in 5 states of tune. Only one gasoline variant exists featuring the familiar 2.0-liter TSI motor producing 158 hp and 220 lb-ft, while mid-range 2.0-liter single- and bi-turbo diesel motors offer up between 138- and 177 hp. However, with 221 hp and 410 lb-ft, the range-topping 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V6 offers more punch than even a Ford Ranger Raptor – and would be an absolute hit with US buyers… if it weren’t for the fact that Volkswagen lied about diesel emissions and ruined the diesel market for themselves.
Back when Mazda was under the heel of Ford, the BT-50 mid-size pickup was an absolute bargain – identical to the Ford Ranger in every way, but in general, cheaper in most markets. The current BT-50 is still based on the aged Ranger architecture, even featuring Ford’s 3.2-liter Duratorq diesel 5 cylinder with 185 hp and 350 lb-ft. While we wait for the new Ranger, revealed at the Detroit Motor Show, to arrive in the US, the BT-50 isn’t likely to be brought here. However, after separating from Ford, Mazda has jumped into bed with Japanese pickup manufacturer, Isuzu.
The brand may be unfamiliar to US buyers, but Isuzu has worked with GM for quite some time, and the underpinnings of the current Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon are actually based on those of the Isuzu. Mazda’s next BT-50 will be based on the latest Isuzu architecture, meaning it would be a viable alternative to the more mainstream throng of pickups, whilst being just as capable and refined as the General Motors pickup-pairing. Mazda has no plans to bring the BT-50 stateside, but that doesn’t stop us from wishing that it would.
Those who remember the Dodge Ram 50 and Plymouth Arrow Truck of the early 1980s will already know of the Mitsubishi Triton. The brand even imported the pickup themselves as the Mighty Max from 1982-1996, eventually being replaced by the Raider – which shared a platform with the Dodge Dakota. Now in its 5th generation the Mitsubishi Triton – or L200 depending on where in the world you are – has grown into a competitive mid-sized pickup truck with several endearing traits. Best of which is the suspension setup.
While not as comfortable as perhaps the Nissan Frontier/Navara’s coil spring setup, it provides vastly superior ride comfort to most modern pickups of this size. Three engines are available on the L200, including one 2.4-liter gasoline motor, and two diesels; 2.4- and 2.5-liters in capacity; the latter of which produces 175 hp and 295 lb-ft. Rear- and all-wheel drive are available, with manual and automatic gearboxes. Elsewhere in the world, the Triton is rebadged as a Ram 1200 and Fiat Fullback. One would think that with all three brand names available, it would only be a matter of time before it arrives, but sadly there are no plans to introduce the Triton/Fullback/Ram 1200, largely due to the Chicken Tax laws of 1963.