I can now honestly say that I have immersed myself in true Americana (even if by way of a Japanese manufacturer), because I have driven a flat-bed truck. And not just any old, boring pick-up, but a metallic-black, chrome-wheeled, raised suspension, red-flames-down-the-side, Troy Lee designed one! And boy did it get some attention. Indeed, I think Hollywood, bored of all the oversized SUVs and common German luxury cars, took joy in the sight of this bit of originality on the Sunset strip. And more so, I think, because there was a girl behind the wheel.
The truck is good looking, both inside and out, which can be attributed to Troy Lee, a designer more well-known for his spectacular motor cycle helmet designs, but who has lent his artistic touch to this special edition. The grey interior, with light-grey piping and Troy Lee embossed doors was very comfortable. There are 2 rear jump seats, easily accessed by 2 rear doors, which allow for a cab-full of passengers, although not in necessarily any comfort, if sat on said jump seats (definitely better-suited to those with small posteriors). The front seat allows room for a third passenger, with the middle storage compartment becoming a back rest.
The B3000's "double wishbone" suspension offers an extremely stiff ride, almost spine-jarringly so, with very little absorption of any bumps in the road, but this stiffness translates to some very nice handling, ably aided by the light, yet precise, rack-and-pinion steering and a resulting "chuckability" which was somewhat surprising. The 3.0 litre V6 engine offered a ready supply of power, with good acceleration and no dull spots of which to speak. The engine, which produces 185 ft-lbs of torque at 3,000 rpm, was also relatively quiet, its 150 horses (@ 5,000 rpm) content with performing at a less-than-macho decibel level, a pleasant surprise given the image of the truck itself.
The automatic transmission was smooth and with the gear lever located on the steering column, allowed more room for the possible third, front passenger. The only thing I would say, from a girl's point of view, is that driving in anything but flat shoes required contortion of the accelerator foot in order to fully depress the pedal, or, of course, the removal of said footwear for driving. The brakes were OK, if not brilliant, and driving with a full load would require vigilance, so as to avoid the need for a sudden application of the brakes.
The raised driving position, which was extremely comfortable, offered great visibility, and the small windows in the 'rear' doors complemented this all-seeing ability. The dash was easy to read and nicely laid out, if a bit plain. The Troy Lee also comes equipped with a CD player, so that the utility aspect of such a vehicle need not mean a lack of driver-friendly amenities.
The Troy Lee offers a payload range of 1260lbs to 1600lbs with the optional towing/payload package. The relatively low load platform allows easy access to the space and the truck has a towing capacity of 2750 lbs. The stated fuel consumption for the B3000 4x2 is 17mpg for city and 22mpg for highway, but it seemed like it offered a better rate, given that I motored around all week with no sign of a refill necessary, and that was going over 2,000rpm once in a while too!
The advantage of this 4-door pick-up is that it offers a little extra storage space for items which don't necessarily need all the room that the flat-bed offers. I mean, how are you supposed to transport groceries without ending up with a ready-made fruit salad at the other end? Maybe the target audience for this vehicle doesn't have to worry about such mundane matters, but I would have thought that the inclusion of a cargo net, at least, would be of some use in these situations.
Fruit salad aside, if you're going to make a statement, and have a functional vehicle to boot, you could do far worse than blazing (no pun intended) around town in your flames-down-the-side B3000. At well under $20,000 for the base model, you'll be feeling the holes on the dirt road more than the one in your pocket. And besides, it doesn't half make the valet boys' eyes light up.
FACTS AND FIGURES Base Price: $18,445 Model Tested: $20,775 includes: Automatic Transmission $ 1,095 Convenience Package $ 700 - Tilt steering wheel, cruise, bed liner, sliding rear window, floor mats Power Package $ 535 - Power: windows, door locks, mirrors, remote keyless entry Engine 3-liter, overhead valve, 12-valve, V6 Displacement cu./(cc) 182/(2957) Bore x Stroke (in.) 3.50 x 3.14 Compression ratio 9.1:1 Output (SAE hp@rpm) 150 @ 5000 Torque (SAE ft-lbs @ rm 185 @ 3750 Transmission 4 speed automatic electronically controlled w/ overdrive Tires 225/70R14 all season radial Wheels 14" full-faced styled alloy wheels Suspension Double wishbone w/ coil springs, heavy-duty, gas-filled (front) shocks & stabilizer bar Semifloating live axle w/ gas-filled shocks, multi-leaf 2 stage springs & stabilizer bar Brakes Hydraulic, dual circuit, ventilate front disc/rear drum Steering Power assisted rack-and-pinion Fuel Economy 17 city / 22 hwy