Yes, I want a Jeep Wrangler truck. Me and most of the rest of the Internet, it turns out, as both Jeep and truck lovers went a little bonkers when the news broke last month that a truckified Jeep would join the next-generation Wrangler. Along with a potential diesel and hybrid version, the Wrangler Truck is supposed to go into production by late 2017.
The biggest question is simply what took them so long? Because, our truck choices kind of suck.
Don't get me wrong. Modern trucks are amazing. A Silverado or Ram drive at least as well as an older Mercedes-Benz S-Class, complete with optional heated and ventilated seats and nav systems. They can seat entire work crews comfortably and can still manage to haul every other car in your garage, with the garage still attached. Put the whole house on wheels, we'll bring it along!
But in the days of yore—the last century, specifically—buyers had all kinds of trucks to choose from. Small trucks, big trucks, funky trucks with gorgeous grilles and fanciful Art Deco details. Trucks with personality. We had a Chevy car with a truck bed, a Subaru with a truck bed, and, yes, all kinds of Jeeps with truck beds, from the Gladiator to the Scrambler.
Since we're a nation of truck lovers, why can't we get a little more diversity? Why isn't there a single truck on the market that I'm really excited about?
Despite what all those truck TV ads might suggest, our truck options are actually quite limited. First you pick an allegiance with one of the major brands, and then you choose which size of the similar-looking boxes that you want: big, bigger, or ludicrously large.
Go Ford, for instance, and the base F-150 with a measly regular cab and a 6.5-foot bed nets you an overall length of 209.3 inches. Even a long-wheelbase S-Class is shorter. And that's the small truck. There are F-150s with SuperCrew cabs and eight-foot beds all the way up to the biggest box of all, the titan-esque F-450. (Don't get that confused with the actual Titan, from Nissan. Also huge.)
But you want the mid-size Ford Ranger? Nope, sorry. Uh-uh. They don't offer that.
We've got the GMC Canyon and Chevy Colorado finally, for which I'm thankful. Except that the 2.5-liter four-cylinder puts out a piddly 200 horsepower and 191 pound-feet of torque, and the 3.6-liter V-6 only 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque. Never mind that the only transmission on offer with 4WD is a six-speed automatic. Look at the tricks that the company is pulling with the Camaro's four banger, with its 295 lb-ft of torque, and it feels like GM is holding out on the good stuff.
Same goes with the Toyota Tacoma. I spent a week with a new one and came away disappointed with the lumpy transmission and general lack of highway power. It's almost like they're pulling punches, similar to the way Porsche has traditionally hampered the Cayman to protect the 911, so that you'll consider the bigger, more expensive model. I don't know, am I just being paranoid?
My hope is that the Jeep truck will be great, and that the necessary development time and dollars for R&D are being put in. My fear is that they'll simply throw something middling at us. Fiat-Chrysler isn't in the best shape, with its CEO, Sergio Marchionne, acting more like a pirate than a protector of his brands. The promise of a Jeep truck is actually the one bright spot in an otherwise moribund situation. It comes at the expense of the company's sedans, as the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 are both being killed to increase production of more profitable SUVs and crossovers. That works when gas prices are so low, but the overall company's long-term strategy is questionable at best.
I also wonder what the Wrangler truck will look like. I imagine—and would prefer—four seats and a small bed attached. This will make it longer and less off-road capable than the Unlimited model, it's true, but simply replacing the rear seats with a bed (as is the case with the current JK-8 conversion kit offered by Mopar) is a bit too limiting.
I also hope it looks tough and original and special. (Take a look at the AEV Brute Double Cab conversion, pictured above, and slaver.) I'd also like it to be fun and capable off-road and maybe even a little bit beautiful.
Here's what I don't need: A humongous truck. I'd like it to fit in my garage. I don't need a massive bed, either. I've got a country house where I need to haul wood and stones and garbage cans; the rest of the time I'm simply hauling air. And I don't care a whit for towing. I don't want a boat, thank you, and I prefer a nice hotel or a tent (or sleeping in the bed) over hauling a camper. In short, I don't need a truck that over-delivers in categories that I don't need.
In the meantime, I find myself idly scrolling the sales lists of older trucks like the stupendous Willys-Overland Jeep truck from the late 1960s. That would fit nicely into my garage and my life. I've also got a thing for old Dodge Power Wagon from the '40s. Then there are the '40s Chevys with their expressive grilles and all of the cool Fords through so many eras. I'd even be happy with an early 1970s runner with 4WD and a bit of patina.
Man, I dream of trucks. Trucks with personality. Let us hope that the Jeep is a return to a time when a truck could be more than just a big, comfortable box.
(Jason Harper, a contributing editor to Road & Track, has tested and written on cars for two decades. His scariest drive was a rally race in an original Lancia 037, his first drive of a supercar was the Porsche Carrera GT, and the only time he's gotten a speeding ticket was in a base Mini Cooper. His column, Harper's Bizarre, runs every Wednesday.)