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New in 2018: Utes pick up the pace

First Class: The X-Class will look to flip the utility segment on its head in April, with the Mercedes-Benz badge set to appeal to many well-to-do tradies.

Next wave of mid-size pick-ups to keep LCV sales booming this year

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Outlook logo29 Jan 2018

By JUSTIN HILLIARD

ANYONE questioning whether one-tonne pick-ups can maintain their popularity in the face of tightening emissions regulations should have a look at the sales charts.

Last year, the pick-up segment surged by 8.6 per cent compared with 2016, and 4x4 pick-ups were the third top selling body style in Australia in 2017 behind small passenger cars and medium SUVs.

Some of the biggest players in the market are planning to capitalise on the popularity of workhorses as family cars by offering sporty versions, and buyer choice will continue to expand as several new models lob Down Under in the next 12 months.

Light-commercial vehicles

A BRACE of new one-tonne utilities will boost the booming segment in 2018.

Performance-focused offerings will likely steal the headlines, especially if teasers for the Ford Ranger Raptor are anything to go by. Pencilled in for a second-half launch, the Raptor will inevitably disrupt the status quo, thanks to its tougher looks and improved off-road chops that were honed following testing in the Australian Outback.

Earlier this month, Toyota confirmed plans for new higher-end HiLux variants – dubbed Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X – which are slated to arrive in the second quarter. As previously reported, the Tonka concept from March 2017 served as inspiration for these pumped-up, luxury-focused pick-ups. Chassis upgrades are set to be prioritised over powertrain tweaks.

Similarly, Holden Special Vehicles will quickly move away from modifying Commodores and turn its attention to spicing up the Colorado. Dubbed the SportsCat and now making its way into Holden showrooms, the dual-cab pick-up will feature no changes to its diesel powertrain, instead focusing on visual, braking, suspension and interior upgrades.

HSV will also be tasked with converting the Chevrolet Silverado to right-hand drive as part of its expanded business model. Launching in April, the American full-size utility will be available in five crew-cab variants. A 6.6-litre Duramax turbo-diesel engine with 332kW of power and 1234Nm of torque will likely appeal to the horse float set.

The Clayton-based operation will also continue to convert the Ram 2500 and 3500 under the American Special Vehicles (ASV) partnership with Ateco Automotive.

Significantly, the 2018 model year versions of both models will go on sale in the first quarter. However, their planned changes are under wraps – for now.

GoAuto understands that the smaller 1500 will finally makes its way Down Under during the second half, with its release to be confirmed soon.

Perhaps the most highly anticipated LCV release for 2018 will be the Mercedes-Benz X-Class that lobs in April. Launching in four-cylinder form before the meaty V6 arrives in the middle of the year, the Nissan Navara-based pick-up will be pitched as a more luxurious offering in the workhorse class.

Pricing for the four-pot variants indicates the V6 will come at a premium.

Speaking of the Navara, GoAuto understands the Thai-built model will receive an update next month. Likely to be called Series III, the refresh should, at the very least, see adjustments to equipment lists. It was only one year ago that the Series II Navara was released.

Having been previously based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the Volkswagen Crafter van will go its own way in the second quarter when the new model arrives. Spanning several variants with different engine outputs and body configurations, the Polish-built van will replace its ageing predecessor that has been around since March 2007.

Coincidentally, the new-generation Sprinter will arrive in the fourth quarter with a smoother, more modern look. Driver-assist and connectivity technologies are set to be a focus for this competing van model, which will likely retain its diverse line-up upon launch.

What’s coming

Chevrolet Silverado – April
Ford Ranger Raptor – H2
HSV Colorado SportsCat – January
Mercedes X-Class – April
Mercedes Sprinter – Q4
Nissan Navara – February
Ram 1500 – H2
Ram 2500 MY18 – Q1
Ram 3500 MY18 – Q1
Toyota HiLux Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X – Q2
Volkswagen Crafter – Q2

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