How long and wide are pickups

Few all-wheel drive enthusiasts have an open cargo area in the back of their minds when they think of mud holes, impassable wilderness and pathless stretches. The pickup actually only has advantages that make it appear even better as an everyday car. A declaration of love to Step- and Fleetside.

Pickup truck - Hands up, if you do not immediately have a rural scene with an endlessly long pasture fence in front of your mind when you hear this term. Pickup truck - they are associated with macho names like Silverado, Super-Duty or RAM. Pickup truck - Perhaps the most clichéd vehicle there is. Anyone who drives something like this in Europe is in the eyes of many at least suspicious of adhering to any US southern ideals. A cockpit at the front and so much open space at the back where any cargo is exposed to the weather - that can but it doesn't make sense in this country, where statistically it rains 158 out of 365 days. But anyone who argues this way not only forgets that there are various ways and means of protecting the load from the rain with a pickup - and he also ignores the fact that, according to this logic, nobody should buy a convertible. However, the fact is that pickups are incredibly practical and also have some advantages as off-roaders that many do not even consider. The following article is therefore nothing more and nothing less than a declaration of love for small cabs and large loading areas.

fotolia.com © Jacob Lund

Development area Europe

A year ago, on the occasion of the 2015 IAA, we wrote that pickups - seen globally - are a real gold vein, a real money printing machine, to be more precise. But why is it that pickups are a rare sight not only in Switzerland but in practically all European countries, even in a world in which off-road vehicles and SUVs are becoming more and more common?

It may be because the European person is an outspoken lover of compromises, off-road mobility yes, but only with a car, please, that transports all its passengers on the motorway with the same luxury as an upper middle-class limousine.

The pickup, at least in its original form, i.e. a single cab for two or three people and a huge loading area, however, requires uncompromising. Anyone who drives something like this clearly expresses that he has decided to focus on the practical aspects of a vehicle - wood transport instead of trunk carpet, load space instead of back seat headroom. Not to mention the rather rustic driving comfort, which results from the mostly built-in rear rigid axle including leaf springs - but that too is uncompromising, because an independent wheel suspension would reduce the space on the loading area. So the classic pickup driver is de facto an evolution of the station wagon buyer, only more in the "jeans + boots" version.

And although there are practically none of the pickups offered in this country to buy with a single cabin, but always with a 1.5 or double cabin, this uncompromising attitude remains with these "domesticated" pickups.

They're getting more and more

However, one should not make the mistake of believing that pickups will continue to eke out a rather neglected existence. A glance at the past alone shows that:

  • At the end of the 1970s, VW presented the Caddy - little more than a Golf-1 with an open loading area
  • In the same year, 1979, Peugeot launched its 504 pickup - with a similar concept
  • In the course of the 80s, the first third-generation Toyota Hilux came to Europe - albeit still not looking like an off-road vehicle
  • In the late 80s and early 90s, the market slowly opened up. With the Hilux YN58 and the Nissan D / W21, the first “real” off-road pickups are finding their way onto Europe's roads
  • During the same period, VW builds one of the first European off-road pickups with the Hilux-license Taro

And today? Today the model range of pickups is gigantic compared to these few models 20 years ago:

  • Ford Ranger
  • Toyota Hilux
  • VW Amarok
  • Nissan Navara
  • Mitsubishi L200
  • Isuzu D-Max (cooperation with Mazda)
  • Fiat fullback

to name just a few. So it is not surprising that even Mercedes has now realized that money can be made with the "flatbed" and wants to get involved in the mid-size segment with the X-Class. Because the Stuttgart-based company recognized one thing very correctly, today's pickup is still uncompromising, but it can still be adapted in such a way that it also appeals to a more luxury-oriented group of buyers. And it just so happens that they are the ones who have to take the children to school in the morning, but also want to transport bulky purchases and, in case of doubt, want to go through the mud from time to time.

fotolia.com © andrey anegriev

With recent events and the general trend towards higher-lying vehicles in the form of the SUV, it is therefore possible to predict with absolute certainty that the pickup will have a larger market niche in the future than was the case in the past. And that's a good thing, because this type of vehicle has some special features that were previously only found in vehicles such as the Unimog or the flatbed versions of the Sprinter and Co. that were rarely found in private ownership.

Total freedom

And it is precisely these special features, which almost resemble a balancing act, that a normal pickup makes possible - perhaps even better than any dedicated off-road vehicle according to the classic understanding. Because whether it's a Land Cruiser, G or Patrol, compared to the size of the vehicle, the loading volumes are often not convincing. And even if the back seat is folded down, the problem remains that you should use a trailer for heavily soiling loads such as firewood and the like - because all-terrain vehicles now usually come with classic, dirt-sensitive velor carpets as standard and nobody wants to have to clean them.

fotolia.com © Jacob Lund

But a trailer is a step backwards in several respects, it requires an additional parking space, costs you additional taxes in addition to the vehicle and is not really suitable for rough terrain - and not only because such a combination is quite long.

Such a question does not even arise with a pickup. The folding box with the weekly purchases from Migros can be found on the loading area as well as a cubic meter of firewood cut ready for use - including the necessary chainsaw. And if something gets dirty, you simply direct the water hose onto the loading area and after a minute everything is fine again. In addition, this whole mess of things can be transported without any loss of comfort - the loading area is an integral part of the vehicle and, even with a classic European double-cab pickup, is still much more spacious than the trunk of any off-road vehicle or SUV.

fotolia.com © twinsterphoto

The Isuzu D-Max, for example, has a loading area volume of 779 liters - mind you only up to the upper edge of the curb border. However, where the roof of every other car is the natural limit, there is simply no such thing with a pickup - you can load things with much larger volumes than the loading area itself. This is already useful when it is only a matter of buying furniture or transporting other bulky things from A to B. With a pickup you charge it, secure it and drive off. No problems with trunk lids, which then have to remain open or any interior panels that are one centimeter too wide for the bulky cargo.

Natural disadvantages

Of course, all these advantages should not obscure the fact that the pickup is not a perfect car either, because (like every vehicle) it also has disadvantages. And that usually starts with driving comfort. Because when the loading area is empty, there are only a few kilograms of sheet metal on the rear axle and that, in conjunction with the leaf springs, which are designed for several hundred kilograms and are accordingly stiff, and the high unsprung masses of the rigid axle, of course, ensure that an empty pickup can be found at the rear bumps and rumbles. It should come as no surprise that winter traction can suffer from this lack of stress. However, despite the fact that there is no obligation in this country, off-roaders should generally be equipped with winter tires and not the all-season rubbers that are typically used, and it is not for nothing that Nissan offers its Snow Experience to learn how to drive on ice and snow with pickups. And a set of winter off-road tires gives the pickup a lot of traction back, even when it's empty. Anyone who then packs a sack of road salt, a construction tray full of sand or similarly weighty things on the loading area no longer has any problems that other vehicles would not have to contend with - apart from the fact that the development of anti-slip systems did not ignore the pickup is.

fotolia.com © Oleksii Nykonchuk

And when it comes to the often mentioned topic of fuel consumption, all you can say is: whether it's an all-terrain van with a closed passenger compartment pulled up over the rear axle or a pickup with a light rear end and a few kilos of sand on it - that hardly makes a difference. In addition, if you want to take the reduction in fuel consumption to the extreme, you could even give the pickup a so-called mesh tailgate instead of the less streamlined tailgate. This replaces the tailgate with a coarse-meshed net that offers practically no resistance to the airflow and thus also reduces fuel consumption.

Of course, every pickup skeptic will also address the issue of the open cargo space. Of course, it is a fact that the open bed in no way protects against the rigors of the weather or thieves. But here, too, the flexibility of the pickup enables the vehicle to be adapted accordingly:

  • For most common pickups there are flat cargo space covers, often even lockable and where not, a corresponding tarpaulin can also be used to make rain protection.
  • Hardtop superstructures make it possible to equip the pickup with a fixed superstructure at the same height as the passenger cell - in contrast to normal off-road vehicles, however, these can also be dismantled in a few simple steps.
  • The accessories trade offers a wide range of cargo space boxes of different sizes and materials. Most of them are firmly connected to the loading area, are lockable and thus protect the contents from both the weather and thieves.

And last but not least, 1½ and double cabs naturally also have the option that every owner of a four-door car has and is happy to use, namely to simply put things on the back seat.

Better off-road (?)

Now comes a point that not everyone in the off-roading community will agree on, but that doesn't matter, because if everyone loved the same off-road vehicle, it would have been about the diversity of our passion.

In principle, a pickup, if it is equipped with features similar to a "normal" off-road vehicle, is even better suited to fight your way over rough terrain - and there it is also much more practical. For several reasons:

  • Practically no single off-road pickup uses anything other than a ladder frame - with SUVs you have to look for it explicitly. For example, a rusty 1990s VW Taro would be superior to the Touareg SUV from the same company for that reason alone.
  • A rigid axle is physically better suited for uneven surfaces than any other type of suspension due to the constant ground clearance and better interlacing.
  • The loading area makes it possible to carry a huge range of useful off-road tools such as winches, sand boards, etc. without increasing the center of gravity of the vehicle, as is the case with a roof rack.
  • The fact that the engine compartment / passenger cell and the flatbed are separate elements and not a continuous "sheet metal package" as in a classic off-road vehicle means that the frame can twist better - which, admittedly, is also necessary given the sometimes greater length of a pickup.

In addition, the pickup has a few other practical features for a certain clientele in the field. Namely that of the hunters. What has the hunter not already seen in off-road vehicle accessories. Game tubs for the trunk, crate structures that can be fixed on the trailer coupling and even bull bars that can be tilted forward via a hinge - everything to get a piece of game out of the area. You can imagine what the common pedestrian thinks when a Land Cruiser approaches him at ten o'clock in the evening with a freshly hunted wild boar on its front protection bar.

In the case of a pickup, on the other hand, the loading area not only becomes a mobile hide, which sometimes makes high seat constructions superfluous, but there is plenty of space for any game that is hunted on the loading area - without any additional construction.

The lifestyle van

And today we are at a point where it all comes together. The fact that the markets in Europe for the pickup were getting bigger, the manufacturers also recognized that it is possible to achieve larger profit margins - the pickup of today is still uncompromising, but no longer uncomfortable. Depending on the shape of the cabin, it no longer makes any difference whether you strap the children to the back seat of an SUV, a station wagon or a pickup - the only thing is that there is still an unlimited loading area at the rear:

  • For outdoor enthusiasts, the pickup becomes a dry area in rainy weather to pitch a tent.
  • For globetrotters, there are cabin structures in which it is as comfortable to live as in a mobile home or caravan - the off-road mobility also makes it possible to set up camp in places off the beaten path.
  • For mountain bikers there is not only the possibility of getting to practically every starting point in the most impassable terrain, but also of being able to transport the soiled bikes back without soiling carpets and co. Or having to rely on roof structures.

fotolia.com © philipus

And the best thing about it is that, unlike practically any other vehicle shape, this is possible with a pickup without any major preparations. Pack onto the loading area and off you go. No installation of rear or roof racks. No trunk Tetris, so that everything fits so that the flap still closes.

This makes the pickup a real child of our time, in which many people have ever more diverse hobbies, are more and more flexible and want more and more freedom - the packhorse is now a lifestyle van, because it enables all of this without having to compromise, because the pickup (in a mud-free condition) looks just as good in front of any fine restaurant as an SUV thanks to its optics adapted to the zeitgeist.

Conclusion

The pickup is much more than a packhorse. It is literally as practical as the world-famous Swiss Army Knife. Because it combines all the advantages of an SUV with those of a station wagon, spices them up with the all-terrain mobility of a thoroughbred off-roader and also adds a load capacity that is not limited by pillars and ceilings and feels just as at home in the city as it does on a lonely alp there is no paved road. It is uncompromising - uncompromisingly versatile.