Where quad-cab pickups rule

South America could be referred to alternatively as The Land of Quad-Cab Pickups. In the 6,000 miles we drove, the proportion of quad-cab models to standard cabs was at least fifty to one, if not greater.

The manufacturer range is extraordinarily broad. In Argentina, Chile, and Peru, the Toyota Hilux predominates in spite of its age (little changed since 2005). Manufactured in Argentina, it’s normally powered by the 1KD-FTV 3.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel, a bombproof powerplant that takes advantage of significantly cheaper diesel fuel prices here, but is beginning to lag in the power department with 172 hp and 260 lb.-ft. (A redesigned Hilux will soon be entering the market, but reports are that engines will be largely held over.)

Two other brands offer newer models arguably superior to the Hilux, at least on paper. The handsome Ford Ranger T6 has a 3.2-liter turbodiesel that produces significantly more power than the Hilux (197 hp and 346 lb.-ft.) ; the Ranger also boasts a greater fording depth.

The Volkswagen Amarok (which means ‘wolf’ in Inuit—and we get the ‘Tacoma’?) manages up to 177 hp and 310 lb.-ft. from a tiny but hyper-efficient two-liter turbodiesel. Despite their more modern design, neither the Ranger or Amarok seems to have cut far into Hilux sales. We also saw a few of the new and impressively specced Chevrolet Colorados, set to give the U.S. Tacoma some competition.

The Mitsubishi Triton appeared to be the second-most popular truck in a lot of areas, despite its (to me) ungainly styling and middling turbodiesel. Speaking of ungainly, in Chile the Mahindra is extremely popular, and I have to admit its wonky looks are growing on me—it’s definitely styling by Bollywood compared to Detroit’s Hollywood, but I like the huge window area.

Much more conservative is the Great Wall Wingle 5—the Chinese managed to combine an awesome brand name with an utterly dorky model name (but then there’s ‘Tacoma’ . . .). How long will it be before a Chinese vehicle manufacturer mounts a serious import campaign in North America?

Korean manufacturer Ssangyong fields a stylish pickup called the Actyon Sports. With all-coil suspension and a long list of family-friendly features, it appears to be aimed at a more urban audience.

Finally, we spotted just an example or two of a mid-size truck called the Xenon from Tata, the Indian megacorporation that owns Land Rover and holds the fate of the Defender in its hands.

And, we had some indication that the South American fondness for quad-cab pickups is perhaps not a recent phenomenon: