A dusty fracker deep in the North Dakota oil fields scrambles into his shiny new pickup and pushes the electronic ignition. He settles in as the calming fragrance of cedar whispers from the vent. Reaching behind, he pulls a cold kombucha from the built-in chiller. As a man-made starscape flickers on the headliner, he sits back and lets the truck drive him home.
Of course, this vehicle doesn't exist, at least not yet. Though American factories are stamping out increasingly opulent and expensive pickups — some cracking the $80,000 mark — the creature comforts and tech-drenched amenities on these machines still fall years behind what buyers typically find on similarly priced luxury cars.
Step into the top trim of a half-ton pickup these days, and you'll find a small herd's worth of buttery leather, enough bins and wireless-charging docks to keep things Kondo-tidy, excellent WiFi and a suite of active safety features such as lane warnings and automated cruise control. Impressive? Yes, but only relative to the rough-and-tumble recent past of the American truck. These kinds of features and digital safety chaperones have been available on Subarus for years now.
What's missing from these trucks is the next level of opulence that comes standard on a swanky sedan that costs just as much. Truck infotainment screens still can't be navigated with hand gestures like those of a BMW, the glove compartments aren't stocked with fragrance "atomizers" like those at Mercedes, the sound systems can't be set to mimic the acoustics of the Gothenburg Concert Hall (like Volvo's) and none of these high-end pickups will drive itself around like a low, louche Cadillac — or, for that matter, a Tesla.
The reason, of course, is such perks would cut the huge profit margin that comes with selling pickups in a country obsessed with urban cowboy street cred.
While swanky sedans are now accented with soft-close doors, power sunshades and audio systems that protect eardrums in advance of a crash, top-shelf pickup trucks are still touting "Ice Blue" ambient lighting. Ford Motor trims the cockpits of its Lincoln utilities in "open-pore ash," though the fanciest versions of its main moneymaker, the F-150, are sold with "Genuine Wood" accents.
At General Motors, the price on GMC's Sierra pickup can easily be pushed north of $70,000, but the infotainment screen never gets much bigger than an iPhone. Those opting for GM's Cadillac CT6, however, will enjoy an additional 2.2 inches of touchscreen.