Test Drive: “Born In The USA” Pickups

Think you know an all-American pickup when you see one? These days you have choices — like this pair of distinctly different homegrown pickups:

Buying “Made in America” products has taken off in the last year or so. This helps make the all-new Toyota Tundra the right truck at the right time.

That’s because the third generation of this full-size pickup was completely designed, engineered and manufactured in the U.S. It’s also full of American ingenuity, like a rear suspension that uses coil springs for improved ride and handling. Available air suspension also helps automatically level the truck when toting heavy loads. Speaking of which, maximum towing capacity is a robust 12,000 pounds.

Power comes from a choice of two twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter V6 engines, including a hybrid version boosting output to 437-hp with a 36 kW electric motor. Under the hood of the Limited model we drove, this powertrain delivered enough performance that no one is going to miss the outgoing V8.

There’s more clever innovation inside. Highlights include a 14-inch central touchscreen, multiple camera displays and an expansive panoramic sunroof. Add a complete list of advanced safety features and you have a powerful new reason to buy American.

Hyundai Santa Cruz

If we were to sum up the new Hyundai Santa Cruz in a single succinct phrase, it might be, “expect the unexpected.”

The most obvious way that idea plays out on this Alabama-built compact pickup is in its styling. Simply put, it’s like nothing else on the market.

Aesthetics aside, the four-door Santa Cruz had a lot going for it. The 281-hp, 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder propelling our top-of-the-line Limited test truck (base models get a 191-hp, non-turbo 2.5-liter) delivered peppy performance and decent fuel economy. The suspension gives it a surprisingly good ride quality and solid handling.

The passenger cabin was handsome and offered car-like comfort and amenities for front-seat occupants, though touch-sensitive audio/climate controls were hard to use. The downside of the Santa Cruz’s compact dimensions is a tight rear seat best suited for kids.

Out back, the four-foot bed is also on the small side. A hard tonneau cover and lockable under-bed “trunk” are handy touches in everyday use, however.

Taken together, these elements make the Santa Cruz a pickup you wouldn’t have expected to like.

MPG (City/Highway): 21/27 (2.5L turbo AWD)

Looking for a new ride? Check out more car reviews at AAA.com/TestDrive.

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