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Honda Targets "Cool Dads" with New SUT Concept
By: Michael LevinePosted: 01-04-04 22:00 PT

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Honda is hoping to continue its strategy of delivering popular new vehicles while rounding out its model lineup when it produces an all new sport utility truck for the 2005 model year. The four-door mid-size pickup was previewed today as a lightly disguised concept vehicle at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Honda is aiming its SUT at "cool dads" - young fathers with 9-to-5 jobs and growing families that like to tear it up on the weekends with their ATVs and jet skis.

According to Dave Marek, lead SUT designer, the "front half of the vehicle is responsible and safe. The back half is the hobby, gear hauling part of the vehicle that you can get dirty and not mess up the interior."

Dick Colliver, executive vice president of American Honda Motors, says this SUT "reflects a growing diversity in the way trucks are being used and viewed by American consumers, many of whom are looking at trucks not as work vehicles but instead as products to support their active lifestyles."

However, Colliver also adds that Honda is, "not really targeting traditional domestic truck buyer with this [vehicle]."

And traditional it's definitely not.

The light trucks Honda has been selling in the US for the past decade use unibody construction, not the well entrenched body-on-frame design most other truck manufacturers use and this truck will continue to do the same. The benefit is an integrated cab and bed that give the SUT additional torsional stiffness and rigidity and a more car-like ride.

The truck also features stereo speakers integrated into the bed and full time all-wheel-drive.

Marek calls the interior a "Mad Max" environment that uses geometric shapes and metal surfaces to convey power and symmetry. A large, rectangular IP houses a huge speedometer and data display screen. The seats are styled like roll bars and Maglite flashlights have been integrated into the front door linings. Climbing rope is used to hold items in the seat back pockets.

The SUT concept is powered by the same six cylinder, high output engine the Honda Pilot uses but Honda claims the production SUT will have more horsepower and torque than the 240hp and 242lb-ft the Pilot is currently rated at.

Colliver says towing is estimated to be 4000-5000 lbs but didn't disclose payload figures for the 5-foot long cargo box.

Speaking of the box, Honda still has some lessons to learn about pickups.

The bed rails angle back from the c-pillar with a rakish slope. While this gives the SUT a nice stance and aggressive appearance - that's actually remarkably similar to the Chevrolet Avalanche's profile - the height of the rails near the cab is close to that of a full-size pickup. Combined with flared wheel wells, this makes it extremely difficult to reach into the back of the bed to get at whatever gear you are hauling. There's a reason why truck bed rails run flat the length of the box.

Colliver says Honda expects produce 40,000-70,000 SUT units annually at its Alliston, Ontario plant.

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