CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Why no FWD pickup?

I have often wondered why there is no front-wheel-drive pickup truck. It would seem to get good traction without the fuel cost of a four wheel drive truck. Any ideas? (I think Volkswagen built one for a short while, but it was small and could not do the work of a regular-sized pickup.)

Because the traction would be good as long as there is nothing in the back. As soon as you start loading things in the bed the traction and handling would suffer severely. Those little VW pickups were fun as long as they were empty. But with a load of garden soil in the back they didn’t have enough traction to make it up a speed bump. A regular sized FWD pickup? Useless.

It’s not a true pickup, but the Honda Ridgeline is FWD/AWD with 5,000 lb towing capacity, and the drivetrain seems to be quite reliable:

Dodge and Plymouth also buile some front drive small car based pickups. I think their carrying capacity was listed at 500 lb.

I think the real answer isn’t technical. I think the real answer is that there’s no significant market for them.
Even small RWD pickups have almost disappeared. The modern woman wants something huge and intimidating to go to the mall with, the modern man wants the “mine is bigger than yours” pickup to impress his neighbors. This results in pickups being huge with bed heights too high to load and load ratings no bigger than those of a mid-'60s F100, but that seems to be what people want. The loading might not even be a problem, since many of them have hard caps on them and never get anything larger than a bag of potatoes in the bed.

Man, I miss my little Toyota Hi-lux. The Tacoma has grown too big to be considered comparable.

I agree. But there apparently aren’t enough of us to make manufacturing them profitable.

I Drove Rabbit P/U Company Cars When I Worked For Volkswagen. I Used Them For A Variety Of Things And Have No Complaints, Except I Miss Driving Them.

I think a manufacturer could build a small FWD pick-up today. Just a guess, could be that demand isn’t there.
CSA

Demand is low for any small pickup, let alone a FWD small pickup. I suppose Isuzu or Hyundai might try to sell their tiny pickups here in the next 10 years, but the cost of the safety equipment and sales will make it less attractive.

mountainbike makes a good point

Even though Nissan and Toyota still make regular cab, short bed 4 banger pickups, most buyers go for quad cab “small” pickups with fat tires and a 4 liter V6 under the hood

A quad cab, long bed Tacoma with the prerunner package is no “small” truck

It seems the strippo small trucks are quite often used as fleet trucks, or work trucks

Most RV dealers do not recommend towing with a FWD vehicle so that may be a problem as well as all the others that have been mentioned. All in all…I think the RWD pickup is the way to go anyway.

There has been a great range of pickups offered to the public and some just didn’t catch on

https://www.flickr.com/photos/that_chrysler_guy/5981344100/

thankfully

Cool, but I think that’s a one of a kind.

There are no fwd trucks because … Physics doesn’t allow it to function properly. The Ridgeline is AWD which allows it to function as a truck. That’s why every testing publication ranks it as truck. The biggest reason trucks have frames that everyone seems to be hung up on, is the practicality of hanging a variety of body styles on one drive train and platform. Ladder frames are an efficient way of dealing with the duties that trucks have to perform…but that does not make them necessary to be a truck. VW made a truck that was fwd…it was a crappy truck…but a truck none the less. The most recent Ford Ranger with a frame could not have performed like a truck any where near as capably as a Ridgeline in standard form. It was no more or less a truck.

I think the new Ford Ranger would sell like hotcakes in this country but Ford is afraid it would pull sales from it’s high-profit F-150 line of trucks…

In snow country a front wheel drive pickup truck would have a following. Unloaded rear drive pickups are horrible at handling icy roads. I have one, and used to drive it in Colorado, so I know. There’s just no weight to speak of back there. Rear drive pickups have very little traction in the rear on icy roads unless the bed is loaded. Who wants to load the bed with sand all the time in just so it’s possible to drive to 7-11 on a midnight run to get some beer? From what I see on the road in these parts anyway, mostly urban and suburban, for most of the miles driven in pickups, the bed is empty or nearly so.

@GeorgeSanJose‌

You are absolutely right. But I have had a truck for the last 40 years in Maine (except for eight years) and find that putting a few bags of sand all the way forward and leaving it there all winter does little to compromise my hauling and with winter tires, I find it better then fwd in snow because of the clearance. My recent trucks are awesome with limited slips and traction control in the rear. They are hard to spin out with just good AT tires and weight in any condition and the rear traction drive makes them much better going up hills in slippery then fwd. So yes, if you don’t “prepare them” they are a bad experience. But if you do, like a good date, the rest of your time together will be much better. But really, I have no choice. Pick up trucks are Maine’s state car. We have no choice but to learn to live with them. It’s snow country here and no one wants a fwd pick up truck. Put a load in the back of them, they are deadly. Cause here in Maine, we generally carry our toys in the back, year round.

@‌Caddyman
Tacoma outsells the nearest compact truck four to one. Why, because Toyota gives buyers what the want. They are a tougher, more reliable truck with stronger motors then Ranger ever had that can go off road with the best and tow 6500 lbs. they have one of the best resales of any truck going…they aren’t really compact like the Ranger, cause that does not sell. Yes, there are many Rangers still around here. But they are pretty much reserved for going to the dump and parts trucks instead of really hard use.

Trucks are designed to work well when loaded. When empty they can be a handful in slippery conditions, but generally quite all right in normal conditions. When loaded the weight over the rear axle increases traction. With a FWD truck putting weight in the far back could decrease traction in front and make for a truck that slipped going up Hills and handled badly. AND makes a lot of sense for trucks, but adds cost and weight. The little VW and Dodge/Plymouth FWD trucks sold in very modest numbers, though I recall the VW being popular with gardening services. The unusually low bed made it a snap to push a lawnmower up a ramp onto the truck.

Subaru Brats and the VW pick-ups both were FWD and used unibody construction…The bed and the cab were all one piece…They were indeed intended for light-duty use. But they sold fairly well…Outside the United States you see all kinds of small 4 cylinder trucks in service. Down in Mexico, GM sells a cool little Chevy FWD unibody truck popular for local deliveries of small items…

The BRAT was 4WD exclusively. The Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp were FWD like the VW. The Subaru and VW weren’t terribly rare, if not huge hits, but the Dodge/Plymouth models were uncommon. They were less useful than the VW and lacked the Subaru’s 4WD appeal (even if it added little in reality).