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Full-size pickups get smarter

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December 1, 2012 by Bill Roebuck

The full-size pickup truck business is extremely competitive, so frequent mid-cycle updates are common, as are major engineering improvements with each new model cycle. For 2013, the Ram Heavy Duty line is likely to raise the most eyebrows regarding its changes and improvements, with Ford’s F series a close second, although for different reasons. Meanwhile, General Motors, Nissan and Toyota offer more subtle changes for the latest model year.

The Ford F-150 has seen its focus on driver convenience and connectivity technologies increased for 2013, with standard features such as SYNC with MyFord Touch, navigation with SiriusXM Travel Link, rain-sensing windshield wipers and high-intensity discharge headlamps.

Design-wise, all new 150s received a refreshed front-end styling. The new model year also sees the introduction of a new luxury pickup, the F-150 Limited.

“The F-150 Limited reflects a growing trend—more and more customers today have high expectations for luxury and convenience, yet their needs call for a truly capable truck,” says Ford group vice-president for product development, Raj Nair.
More than 30 per cent of F-150 sales are from these high-end trims.

The Limited is available exclusively with a SuperCrew four-door cab configuration. Power comes from Ford’s 3.5-litre Ti-VCT EcoBoost engine, which uses regular fuel to produce 365 hp at 5,000 rpm and 420 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,500 rpm. Up to 90 per cent of the peak torque is available from 1,700 rpm to 5,000 rpm.

Several other engines are available in the F-150 lineup. Ford claims its standard 3.7-litre V6 engine has the highest towing
capacity among competitive models and can tow a 6,700-lb. trailer. Both the 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 and 6.2-litre V8 are rated to tow up to 11,300 lb.

n all, Ford offers 10 versions of the F-150, from the base XL to the fully-loaded Limited, as well as 15 versions of the Super Duty F-250, F-350 and F-450 models. The Super Duty models now offer a Platinum trim for 2013. It’s Ford’s “most premium model ever,” says Brian Rathsburg, Super Duty marketing manager. It includes flashy design elements inside and out, more connectivity technologies, improved seats, a remote start system, power-telescoping mirrors and power-adjustable pedals.

General Motors
GM’s two full-size pickup nameplates, the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra, offer slightly different trim designs and options, but are basically identical from a mechanical point of view. A key focus with these models for 2013 has been the fuel system. Both the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 HD extended cab pickup trucks are now available as bi-fuel models.

These vehicles include a specially designed compressed natural gas (CNG) capable Vortec 6.0-litre V8 engine that seamlessly transitions between CNG and gasoline fuel systems. The fuel system is installed by a GM tier-one supplier and the completed vehicle is delivered directly to the customer. The trucks offer a range of more than 1,000 kilometres. They are available in standard- and long-box versions, with either two- or four-wheel drive.

For 2013, the Silverado/Sierra HD models also get the option of a Duramax 6.6-litre V8 turbo-diesel with 397 hp and 765 lb.-ft. of torque on 3500HD chassis cabs and pickup-box-delete versions. This fall, the 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD was crowned

Canada’s Truck King for 2013 in a head-to-head comparison with the Ford F-350 and Ram Heavy Duty 3500.
For 2013, in addition to some new exterior colours, the whole Silverado/Sierra lineup gets powertrain grade braking with all
six-speed automatic transmissions. This feature reduced brake rotor temperatures 100 degrees C on downhill grade tests by downshifting transmission gears, thereby reducing brake applications.

GM also offers the industry’s only hybrid full-size trucks in the Silverado/Sierra 1500 Hybrids, which offers fuel efficiency of 10.1 L/100 km city and 8.4 L/100 km highway. The maximum towing capacity is 6,100 lb.

Silverado/Sierra 1500 models are available in three cab styles—regular, extended and crew cab—as well as three cargo box lengths: 5 ft. 8 in., 6 ft. 6 in. and 8 ft. They can be configured for a maximum trailer weight rating of 10,700 lb.

Nissan                                                                                                                                                                                     Nissan is basically staying the course with its Titan full-size pickup for 2013, adding a few more standard features to its existing trim lines. The most significant change is a new tailgate design that incorporates an aerodynamic rear spoiler with an integrated rear-view camera. The camera is standard on SV, PRO-4 and SL trims.

Mechanically, the Titan has remained unchanged since 2011. It comes in four models—S, SV, PRO-4X and SL; two cab styles—king cab and crew cab; three bed lengths—5 ft. 6 in. and 7 ft. for the crew cab, and 6 ft. 6 in. for the king cab; as well as 4×2 and 4×4 configurations. The 4×4 models have an advanced shift-on-the-fly system with 2WD/4HI/4LO modes.
The engine is a 5.6-litre DOHC V8 rated at 317 hp and 385 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a standard five-speed automatic that includes tow/haul modes. The towing capacity is up to 9,500 lb. for the King Cab and 9,400 lb. for the Crew Cab.

The PRO-4X trim gets a refreshed appearance this year, with revised graphics, satin chrome grille, dark wheel finish, and a dark finish on the lower radiator skid plate. The interior is embellished with white stitching accents, a new logo design and Titan embroidery for cloth seats (leather seats maintain PRO-4X embroidery).

Aside from a few more design upgrades and seven new exterior colours, on the practical side, the Titan sees a 120-volt outlet in the truck bed as standard on SV, PRO-4X and SL models, along with a centre console 120-volt outlet, and rear reading lamps on the Crew Cab models.

What do an underwater kiss, ears on a dog and Ram trucks have in common? They are all now featured under the Longest World Records category in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Ram specifically is listed as Canada’s longest-lasting line of pickups.

For the 2013 model year, the first retail Ram 2500 Compressed Natural Gas pickup trucks began rolling off Chrysler’s assembly line at the end of October, as the formerly fleet-only vehicle is now available to retail customers. The company says the Ram 2500 CNG is the only OEM-built compressed natural gas-powered pickup truck in North America (GM’s similar CNG offering is installed at a third-party facility).

The CNG model uses compressed natural gas as its primary fuel source, but automatically switches to gasoline when the CNG tanks are emptied.

For 2013, the Ram 1500 offers improved fuel efficiency, technology and features, including an eight-speed TorqueFlite 8 transmission, stop-start engine, and activ
e aerodynamics—including grille shutters and air suspension.
There were many other changes made to the Ram’s mechanicals, from a re-designed frame to new engines and transmissions. Its updated interior features a Uconnect connectivity system.

There is even bigger news in the heavy-duty lineup. Ram 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty trucks have also seen the addition of many features, including an all-new interior, Uconnect, Powernet, remodelled frames and a new suspension.

The Ram 3500 features a factory-installed trailer tow connector in the truck bed, included with the optional fifth wheel or gooseneck tow prep package. New structural support is designed into the body to handle the payload increase and improve durability and performance.

For operators that need to tie into the electrical system, a vehicle system interface module (VSIM) is capable of communicating between aftermarket modules and various factory control modules. The VSIM upfitter interface module features a total of 72 inputs and outputs, including lighting controls, door position and throttle and transmission position. The module acts as a secure gateway to the vehicle’s electrical system.

The Powernet electrical architecture system allows data networks to be equipped with as many as 40 individual modules, all designed to improve vehicle performance and enhance the comfort and safety of the driver and passengers.
Production of the Heavy Duty models begins in the first quarter of 2013.

Several of the 11 models in Toyota’s Tundra full-size pickup line—three 4x2s and eight 4x4s—received enhanced option packages for 2013, including a backup camera with its display integrated into the rear-view mirror.

The Tundra is available with a choice of two drive trains, two engine sizes, three cab styles and three cargo bed lengths. Two Tundra models are available with 4.6-litre iForce V8 engines developing 310 peak hp and 327 lb.-ft. of torque. The others have a 5.7-litre iForce V8 that delivers up to 381 hp and 401 lb.-ft. of torque.

Dual variable valve timing with intelligence, sequential multiport electronic fuel injection, electronic throttle control with intelligence and other engine management systems ensure maximum power and efficiency, says Toyota.

All Tundra models feature a six-speed Super ECT automatic transmission with overdrive, sequential shift mode, tow/haul settings, lock-up torque converter, transmission cooler and automatic transmission fluid warmer. They also include an auto-limited-slip rear differential. Models with 4×4 drivetrains are equipped with one-touch four-wheel-drive and are equipped with underbody plates to protect the engine and transfer case from off-road hazards.

Double wishbone front suspensions are enhanced with stabilizer bars, while rear suspensions feature heavy-duty multi-leaf springs and bias-mounted gas shock absorbers.

Each Tundra has eight airbags and is also equipped with the six active safety technologies of the company’s star safety system: antilock brake system, brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, vehicle stability control, Active Traction Control and Smart Stop Technology.

Standard-equipment comfort, convenience and utility features include: an audio system with CD player and auxiliary input jack; air conditioning; cruise control; a 12-volt accessory power outlet; rear step bumper; removable, locking tailgate with easy lift and lower operation; a tow package with heavy-duty tow hitch receiver and pre-wiring for a trailer brake controller.
Sometimes the choice between engineering prowess and driver conveniences in pickup trucks is difficult to make, but manufacturers are making the decision less challenging by combining the best of both into their latest models for 2013.
Freelance editor and writer Bill Roebuck is a voting member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

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