Tour De Grille: A Look at the Latest Pickup Truck Façades

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
CC BY 2.0. Ram on giant pistons/ Lloyd Alter

We visit an auto show to look at the latest in front ends.

We recently wondered Why do pickup trucks have such aggressive front ends? in which we quoted Jason Torchinsky of Jalopnik on the subject. He noted that grilles serve a purpose, but have got out of control:

Generously-sized grilles have always been part of truck design—well, at least front-engined, water-cooled truck design—but what we’re currently experiencing goes way beyond just having a big grille. The goal of modern truck grilles—especially the larger, Heavy Duty spec trucks—seems to be less about getting the required cooling air and more about creating a massive, brutal face of rage and intimidation.
Baby Ram

Baby blue Ram. Not intimidating. Torchinsky: 4 Tattoo: 2/CC BY 2.0

I thought he had a good point and decided to visit the Canadian International Auto Show to check out the grilles on the latest pickup trucks. It is a tough and dangerous job; as Torchinsky noted, "While the visual goal of big trucks has for years been to intimidate, I feel like now we’re veering into territory where the desired reaction from seeing a modern truck is short, involuntary emissions of urine right into your underpants." Would I make a mess on the Convention Centre floor?

Little Red Ram

Little red Ram. Plastic softens the facade. Torchinsky (T) score: 5. Body piercing (BP) score: 3/CC BY 2.0

After stopping at Shoppers Drug Mart for a case of Depends, I hit the floor and started with the FiatChrysler Ram trucks, because I previously wrote about the Ram 3500 and it is pretty intimidating.

I thought I would judge the grilles on the Torchinsky scale (TS) out of ten: Does it make me want to pee? Also what I will call the Body Piercing scale (BPS) out of ten: What kind of impression would it make on my body? There will also be a few special awards.

Ram 3500

Ram 3500 Torchinsky scale: 8 BP scale: 8./CC BY 2.0

I had expected the 3500 to be the gold standard of intimidation and had my Depends on, ready to rumble. But in fact, it just seemed a bit silly. Up close, the pattern in the middle seemed a bit boring, and while I thought it would leave quite an impression on my body, I couldn't imagine that it was very impressive, just a bunch of funny shapes. I expected more in the flesh, so to speak.

Shiny Ram

Shiny Ram Torchinsky Scale 7 BP scale 6/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

I liked this Ram. So shiny! I did not find it as intimidating either, because anyone who owns so much chrome is going to be very careful not to mess it up with body parts; it is too pretty a façade.

Jacques Tati trafic

Barbecue grill on M. Hulot's camper van in Trafic/Screen capture

It also wins the Jacques Tati Memorial Award, for the grill most reminiscent of the one on the camper van in Trafic, that folds down and doubles as a barbecue grill.

Ford Facade

Ford grille Torchinsky score 5 BP score 5/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Torchinsky is not impressed with Ford grilles:

Ford likes giant belt-buckle-like expanses of chromed plastic, with fussy tight mesh-work and massive central bars that push the grille into the headlight’s territory, like a massive tumor taking over a face.

He absolutely nails this truck, with that sort of '60s eggcrate ceiling tile on top and under that belt, it looks totally cheesy, laughable rather than intimidating. They totally missed the concept here; this is a dad's truck.

Ford Grille with mirror

Ford grille with mirror Torchinsky Scale 7 BP scale 5/CC BY 2.0

The big belt of chrome really lowers the Body Piercing scale, too much flat surface and not enough edges. It also has the added benefit that you get a last good look at yourself before you get smeared all over it, perhaps checking your hair. It's a nice touch.

Baby Ranger

Baby Ranger Torchinsky scale 3 BP scale 3/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

And this little baby Ranger, so cute! I wanted to pet it, a low front end, that will almost fit in a parking spot. You don't need a ladder to get in. It seems so seventies, right down to the harvest gold appliance color scheme. Ford is totally losing in the intimidation wars.

Toyota Tundra

Toyota Tundra/ Torchinsky score 5 BP score 5/CC BY 2.0

Toyota and Nissan don't seem to have any skin in this game, unless I missed their biggest Tundra. The colour is almost friendly and that façade tries to intimidate but really, I do not think it pulls it off. The grille is also recessed so it won't leave much of an impression on a body at all. They have been spending too much time in Europe and Asia where there are rules about truck design and how they interact with pedestrians. Follow rules and you lose.

Chevy truck

Chevy truck Torchinsky Scale 9 BP scale 8/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Nope, this year it is General Motors all the way for intimidation and scale. If you are going to drive a Chevy to the levee, this is the one you want. The only thing they did wrong is that they should have done a mirror of CHEVROLET like they do on ambulances; I can imagine seeing that in the rear view mirror of my Miata. I can also imagine it pressed into my flesh, very dramatic.

GMC Denali

GMC Denali Torchinsky Scale 10 BP scale 10/CC BY 1.0

But the absolute winner this year is the GMC Denali. Feast your eyes on this grille that's bigger than my garage door.

Detail of grille

Detail of GMC Grille/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

The intricate detail in the metalwork that would cookie-cutter your body into a thousand pieces, they would need a bucket and a spatula to pick you up. And the façade is totally flat and vertical, better to transfer 100 percent of the force of the collision directly into your body. Given that the top of it is at neck level for me, my head might keep going, but it will probably stay attached.

Lloyd with truck

It's so big!/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

And the height of the thing! I am a short person (and look shorter compared to this truck) But really, it comes up to my armpits. I suppose the great thing is that if it did hit me, I would never know what happened. This is my baby, our grand prize winner, our ten out of ten most intimidating and probably dangerous truck in America. Congratulations, GMC!