The 'Black Package' Phenomenon...
In an extreme effort to seduce would be buyers into showrooms, dealerships, even accessory shops of all types and venues [again]. All have seemingly found themselves to be on the same page of being all things typical: Make it black.
Nissan, Toyota, Ford, Ram [Dodge], Chevy/GMC among other name plates and makes are all looking to score your interests and points with the all too popular and what is in my opinion, played out theme, as an aesthetic update. Although the black on black on black theme isn't exactly a new one it was popularized back in the early 90's. Like all trends it got old and fizzled out too but just like bell bottom jeans - it came back. And yes, we get it, those new individuals looking to remain in town dropping kids off at schools, visit the malls, and the grocery stores will love it all over again.
But those of us in the real 4WD communities, people who buy off road capable vehicles for the use of camping, hunting or fishing, or more in general for use off-road. We want performance options present. And we're not talking about standing on the vertical pedal from stop light to stop light or stretching the legs out on I-40 in three digit speed efforts -- we're talking off-road performance: Better and real off-road tires, traction or articulation benefits, an increase in wading water depths, or even built in readiness to additional lighting or recovery gear. We're not even talking heavy duty bumpers here, much simpler by far.
The biggest area of performance related needs that could or should be improved upon is measures in real ground clearance. Doesn't mean you have to take a risk at raising the center of gravity. Design the vehicles center of gravity to be low in itself, maybe a couple inches wider, better front and rear end designs, make best use and practice of reducing wasted space under the vehicle to tuck things better, if not for outright under body protection concerns; but for that improved ground clearance. An inch or three is fine, we're not asking for ten inches or more here.
Almost everyone I've met with a truck whether in person, on a forum based, or club run basis, has removed the extra and often four inch chin spoiler under their front bumpers to improve approach and departure aspects of their off-road vehicle. Makes me personally wonder if the engineers are even concerned that people will actually use these vehicles off road in concerns to manufacturing not only useless dress up parts but the R&D that likely goes into production costs.
They're 4WD vehicles, meaning extra off-road capability should be making them better vehicles not meant to be exclusive partially convertible Dad-wagons. Even the factory installed options of traction control isn't enough. How about access to factory options in gearing, a locking differential [or two], to make these vehicles more responsive and all out better off-road performers? Few care how many cup holders or chrome parts can be installed.
How about power options? Can anyone here agree that a 4cylinder 4WD is remotely unnecessary? If you're going to give us a 4 cylinder Off-road vehicle because of emission concerns, give us a clean(er) but respectable turbo diesel. We understand emissions laws and statutes but that doesn't mean its an impossible task to offer. A 4 cylinder gasoline base model truck for entry level needs, fleet use, seems more than financially sound for the pocket bottom lines; NOT the general off-road 4WD enthusiasts. Look at the numbers of even mid sized 4x4 trucks sold and multiply that times $32,000 for an average spent or sold. Wheres the innovation? Wheres the power? Diesel in America?
Now this is where I tend to get engrossed into details. How about we see some progress in making mods easier to be performed or if nothing else, considered in design efforts. Forget about the flashy wheels and chrome accents. How about the possibilities in dual battery tray options? extended range fuel tanks or at least a dual tank like back in the day the Ford Ranger offered from the factory? Better lighting options or if you want to give us storage - How about storage trays or drawers and less car seats for Starbucks cups.
Suspension - Perhaps one of the biggest costs but that coupled with better tire options and gearing/lockers straight off the showroom floor would surely drive traffic to showrooms and would again entice not only automotive makers to be more competitive but differentiate themselves even more so among buyers. Anything but matte black or chrome accents, specialty colors, and sticker packages and falsely advertising an off road vehicle as "performance enhanced" in comparison to its base or intermediate models.
Show me a significant difference between a TRD Sport and an SR5.. You should feel insulted paying near $40k for a set of wheels, 4x4 TRD Sport stickers, and red powder coated accents from the Race/Performance arm of the manufacture itself.
Ford Ranger owners albeit feel a bit frustrated and cheated when they find out even the FX4 suspension can be upgraded far beyond factory options and the cost paid was nothing but short of over promised and under delivered.
Nissan, sorry we love you sticking in the game but again sticker and Special Edition packages do not constitute "performance" packages, they just add to your cost factors and fulfill very little in ROI to the owners outside of bragging rights that they spent more for the same.
I guess it's a blessing in disguise for if all the manufactures did what a smaller demographic of enthusiasts really wanted in a truck, not only would we see it trickling down because they're listening but we would be out of work and business. So I guess a thank you is more in order.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the current marketing trends or do you have a better opinion on what should be offered in a 4WD or as options? Let us know below.