Here's how WLTP killed the pickup
With so many manufacturers now having to consider WLTP, it was only a matter of time until we had some 'fatalities' in the automotive world...
The world is fast pace and changing in an increasingly faster way, so really it’s no surprise that the automotive industry has to keep on their toes to ensure they’re in front of new rules and regulations before it hits them. In the past few years emissions have been the main point, with many manufacturers making their engines cleaner than ever before and researching hybrid and electric technology.
However, quietly behind closed doors a thing called WLTP was created - a new way of looking at real world emissions and economy. Before long, manufacturers found themselves with their hands up trying to ensure their vehicles could pass this new test. Whilst passenger vehicles had money pumped into them ensuring they met new criteria, commercials were a few years behind the trend and as a result… we have the above title. Ladies and gentlemen, today we bid farewell to legends like the Mercedes X-Class, Ford Ranger 3.2 and VW Amarok because WLTP killed them in their prime.
What is WLTP? Where is NEDC?
Effectively, WLTP is a test which is a global harmonised standard for determining pollution levels, CO2 emissions and actual fuel consumption in every day use. NEDC results were based on ‘theoretical’ driving cycles, no real everyday data was documented and used (within reason). NEDC was developed in the 1980’s, so it probably was time for a change up in the industry. However, the change between the two came very quickly which made some manufacturers jump quickly to ensure their vehicles fit the new rules.
WLTP is effectively made up of four tests: low, medium, high and extra high. Each test consists of different driving cycles, stops and accelerations etc, in some car types they test the lightest (fuel efficient) and heaviest (fuel not-efficient) variants to get the results. Really they wanted to showcase to consumers the ‘potential real world’ results from manufacturers. In theory then, it's a brilliant test to show people real world results. In reality, it's not quite as simple.
How did it kill the pickup then?
WLTP isn’t perfect. I’ve had multiple cars on test which on paper only get 50mpg in the best driving cycle possible, however in actuality they returned 58mpg (or much more in some cases). Every one drives differently, some have heavier right foots and others hold gears for longer. Four tests won’t showcase the best and worst of a vehicle, because it could differ from person to person because of so many different factors.
A good example is the Mercedes X350d, a vehicle which I’m spending a month with - saying farewell to because, although not entirely responsible, really WLTP is what put the final dagger in and killed it off. In NEDC testing cycles, the X350d would demonstrate 25mpg city, 35mpg motorway and about 28-30mpg combined. It would also output 236g/km of CO2 under these testing cycles.
Under WLTP it was showing 15mpg as worst and 29mpg as absolute best - figures which I know aren’t perfectly correct from what I’ve experienced. To get 15mpg you’d have to be sat in standstill traffic and you’d have to floor it every single chance you got. It easily gets 34mpg on a run if you sit at 60mph, however sit at 70mph and you will see 32mpg. The X350d is a truck which is limited to 60mph on ‘a-roads’ though, 70mph isn’t seen very often (if you’re being legal about it). With these lower ‘tested’ economy figures, it also then gave much higher CO2 readings. Put all of these knock backs in place and suddenly, it’s a truck which is more difficult to sell and more expensive to tax which isn't meeting all of these new criteria. This is echoed with the Amarok and Ranger 3.2 - going, going… gone. For the X-Class though, it seems for the foreseeable future, it’s never coming back - which makes me very very sad.
What pickup can I buy now then?
There are still some options left, with the Mitsubishi L200 or 2.0 4-cylinder Ranger probably being the popular ones. Mitsubishi saw the WLTP regulations coming in and quickly ensured the new L200 could meet expectations - something they’ve successfully accomplished. Whilst a smaller engine with less power is now used, generally you don’t feel the different too much - it can also thankfully still tow 3.5 tonnes behind it. Ford foresaw the same fate and acted as quickly as they could - you may even see hybrid Ranger soon from the Transit platform. You can also buy used (obviously), as these new ratings won’t be affecting used vehicles previously tested on the NEDC cycles.
The market place has shrunk considerably though, which for business that rely on pickups for shifting stuff about or using them to write off tax (wait, what?) isn’t a good thing. Now they can’t buy brand new V6 (or inline-5) power houses, as they’re off the production line. Oh, and those 4-cylinder ones? They too have been affected by the way. In total, a huge loss to the commercial segment for companies and personal buyers.
What do I do? WHAAT DOO III DOOOO???
Right here, right now, there’s nothing you can do. Mercedes have withdrawn X-Class from production, meaning my personal favourite pickup truck isn’t on sale anymore. A truck which got so much hate at conception but in reality was so epically great - well, it’s no more. It also means you’ll be sat around for about a year waiting for the WLTP appropriate Amarok to come back on sale - so you’d better hold on to the truck you’ve already got unless you’re happy to look at a smaller engine rival.
The Ranger 2.0 is great, but lacks the commotion of the old 3.2 litre 5 cylinder. The WLTP compliant L200 is slightly slower than before, however it can still tow 3.5 tonnes. The immensely popular Amarok V6 is not really available from new now (only pre-registered ones now) - which means the market is really a lot more limited than before. WLTP is here to stay, so manufacturers need to find ways to make it work for them - even if it's a far from perfect test. I'm just sad the potential of these amazing pickup trucks is being limited by an imperfect test which wasn't designed for those types of vehicles anyway.