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2000 Chicago Show: Trucks and Stuff

CHICAGO — If there were a buzzword from this year’s Chicago auto show, it’d be trucks. Not only are trucks and sport-utes still trendy, but in terms of sales, they’re clearly taking center stage.

Joining them at this year’s Chicago show were the next wave of utility — hybrids and crossover models that mix and match the attributes of two or more vehicles, anything from sedans and sports coupes, to minivans, station wagons, SUVs or pickup trucks.

Here’s a closer look at some of the newest offerings we found most intriguing in Chicago:

Toyota Tacoma Double Cab

Toyota Tacoma Double Cab

2001 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab

Toyota’s newest "hybrid utility" is designed to attract younger buyers to the brand with its versatility and aggressive image. Tacoma Double Cab is scheduled to go on sale in October: it will be offered in SR5 and Limited trim levels with an available off-road package, in either the two-wheel drive PreRunner series with four- or six-cylinder engines, or as a 4x4 powered exclusively by the 190-horsepower six.

The Double Cab stands tall, with eleven inches of class-leading ground clearance, and has a 61-inch cargo bed, which the Japanese carmaker boasts is six-and-a-half inches longer than Nissan Frontier. Its four, large conventional doors open to a well-appointed and roomy interior with a 60/40 fold-down rear bench with three-point outboard belts. A

new StepSide Tacoma, a Tacoma Pre-Runner and a supercharged Tacoma 4x4 also shared the stage in Chicago with the Double Cab.

Last month, at the Detroit auto show, Toyota unveiled Sequoia, a full-size sport-utility vehicle. The V-8-powered Tundra-based SUV will be built alongside the Tundra at Toyota¹s production facility in Princeton, Ind. Toyota also announced that two all-new sport-utility vehicles will debut at the New York Auto Show in April — we’re guessing they’d be the 2001 RAV4 and a Double Cab version of the Tundra.

Nissan Frontier 2001

Nissan Frontier 2001

2001 Nissan Frontier

Although this compact has only been on sale since 1997, the 2001 Frontier receives a complete exterior facelift, numerous interior upgrades and now is fitted with the most powerful V-6 engine available in its class. A new 210-horsepower supercharged engine (up from the current model’s 170 horsepower) with 240 lb-ft of torque will be available on all V-6 King Cab and four-door Crew Cab models.

While this freshening of the Frontier was originally slated as a facelift, the 2001 Frontier has all-new front-end styling, with new front sheet metal, fascia, bumper, headlights and fog lights, in addition to new fender flares, tailgate cover, and bigger wheels and tires. A dramatically new look, which Nissan design engineers describe as being "ballsier, with a lot more testosterone going for it" is achieved with its tougher front-end styling cues that look like a "boxer’s punch," according to Nissan design guru Jerry Hirshberg. The look includes a substantially raised hood integrating the front bumper without a traditional cut line, and unique divot holes outlining the wheel arches, which fasten the fender flares to the truck.

The interior is also freshened with a new steering wheel, gauges, instrument panel cover lighting, interior fabrics and colors and new leather, along with a new audio system lineup, with available in-dash six-disc CD changer and remote steering audio controls. Also new is a standard tailgate lock.

The 2001 Frontier, which is available in 14 models and three trim levels, will go on sale late summer with the supercharged version available soon after. The Frontier is built by Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation U.S.A., in Smyrna, Tenn.

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