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Pickup truck makers target ‘best-in-class’ goal


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December 1, 2013 by BILL ROEBUCK

In the work truck world, the venerable Ford F-150 has held the leadership role in overall sales for decades. In fact, it’s the best selling vehicle in Canada, outpacing any car, SUV, Crossover or other light truck. But its competitors are upping their game. 

Witness the latest version of Chrysler Canada’s Ram Truck. The light-duty 2014 Ram 1500 model now claims ‘best-in-class’ leadership in a few categories, including standard V6 horsepower and 4×2/4×4 fuel economy. It’s the only one to offer a V6 diesel engine, and the horsepower rating of its standard V8 easily bests the competitors. 

The new Ram is also the only pickup to offer an eight-speed automatic transmission, a coil spring rear suspension and optional four-corner air suspension. 

When Ram engineers looked at the competitors—not only the F-150 but also the Chevrelet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500 twins, the Toyota Tundra and the Nissan Titan—they decided to go big when it comes to towing capacity. The new Ram’s standard 3.6-litre V6 will haul 3,379 kg (7,450 lb.), the 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V6 is rated at 4,173 kg (9,200 lb.), and its standard V8 pulls 4,740 kg (10,450 lb.). 

The only way to tow more in a half-ton is to turn to the Chevy/ GMC twins, whose optional big V8 can tow 5,443 kg (which sounds more impressive in Imperial units at 12,000 lb.). 

Need to have a trailer towing capacity of 13,608 kg (30,000 lb.)? Then you can turn to the Ram 3500 Heavy Duty, powered by an upgraded 6.7-litre Cummins Turbo Diesel engine that produces 850 lb.-ft. of torque. It can haul 500 sheets of drywall or more than 900 cases of beer. 

The heavy-duty 2014 Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups get new frames, a new powertrain and an all-new 6.4-litre HEMI V8. The Ram 2500 offers gooseneck or fifth wheel capability, plus a cargo-view camera for easier trailer loading as well as monitoring of bed loads. 

What’s garnering a lot of attention in the light-duty line, though, is the new 3.0-litre EcoDiesel, a turbocharged V6 that produces 240 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque, yet is claimed to be more fuel efficient than all V6 and V8 gasoline engines in the half-ton pickup category. Official numbers have not yet been released, but Chrysler estimates 7.3-7.4 L/100 km on the highway. This engine is mated to the only eight-speed automatic in the half-ton class. 

The Ram 1500 is offered in regular cab, quad cab and crew cab versions with either two- or four-wheel drive and in short-box (5 ft. 7 in.), medium-box (6 ft. 4 in.) or long-box (8 ft.) versions. 

Of note, the Ram 1500 equipped with the 3.0-litre EcoDiesel and eight-speed transmission recently won the 2014 Canadian Truck King Challenge. This diesel half-ton earned the top score in 

 

the competition as well as coming first in its Over-$45,000 class. 

In addition, the 2014 Ram 1500 3.6-litre V6 with the eight-speed was the first-place winner in the Under-$45,000 category. And in the Heavy Duty class, the Ram 2500 diesel-powered pickup towed its way to a Truck King win. 

Next, let’s look at the leader for half-ton pickup towing capacity, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (sister to the GMC Sierra 1500), with its rating of 5,443 kg (12,000 lb.) from its big V8 engine, the 6.2-litre V8. 

General Motors says its models are new from hood to hitch, and include improvements such as a trio of all-new EcoTec3 engines— a V6 and two V8s; a stronger, quieter and more comfortable cab; a new interior with comfort features and connectivity tailored to the needs of truck customers; revised steering, suspension and brakes for improved ride and handling; and new solutions for managing cargo in the bed. 

Consumer testing organization Consumer Reports ranked the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT/GMC Sierra 1500 LT crew cab pickups as its top pickup truck choices. With its new design, and equipped with the 5.3-litre V8 and four-wheel drive, it edged out the competition in a head-to-head comparison test. 

For its new models, General Motors has strategically replaced traditional steel with lightweight, high-strength steels for improved capability, safety and fuel efficiency. 

High-strength and ultra-high-strength steels make the Silverado and Sierra’s fully boxed frames and cabs lighter and stronger, helping the trucks deliver V8 consumption as low as 8.7 L/100 km on the highway. 

The new Silverado/Sierra models come with a choice of three new engines: a 4.3-litre V6, a 5.3-litre V8 and a 6.2-litre V8. Fuel-saving technologies are designed into all three, including direct gasoline injection, variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation that use only four cylinders when full power isn’t required. 

Silverados and Sierras with the 4.3-litre V6 can tow up to 3,447 kg (7,600 lb.), with fuel consumption rated as low as 8.4 L/100 km on the highway. 

On the heavy-duty front, General Motors has already 

 

revealed what we’ll see in its 2015 Chevrolet Silverado HD model. Updates for the 2015 model year include new exterior styling with enhanced cooling air flow, which enables the 6.6-litre Duramax turbo diesel and 6.0-litre Vortec V8 to better maintain full power, even under heavy loads and high ambient temperatures. 

To improve towing, the 2015 HD will offer integrated cruise control, Auto Grade Braking and Diesel Exhaust Braking (on diesel models). A 6.0-litre bi-fuel V8, which runs on either gasoline or compressed natural gas, will be available on regular-cab, crew-cab and new double-cab Silverado 2500 and 3500 models. StabiliTrak with Trailer Sway Control will be standard on all models, including 3500 duallies. 

The new design will also include new 6.5- and 8-ft. boxes with standard CornerStep bumpers, EZ Lift and Lower tailgates, and other features to make cargo handling easier. 

Payload and towing capabilities of the 2015 Silverado HD will increase from 2014 models. Maximum available payload will be 3,508 kg (7,374 lb.). Maximum available conventional towing capacity will be 8,890 kg (19,600 lb.) with the available factory hitch. Maximum available fifth-wheel towing is to be 10,523 kg (23,200 lb.). 

In the Ford camp, the changes are minor, as its pickup truck line-up was refreshed for 2013. Updates to the 2014 F-150 include a bolder front-end design using high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps on XLT and higher trims, an optional power-telescoping and power folding trailer-tow sideview mirror, and other appearance enhancements. 

There are a wide range of engines in the F-150 lineup, including a 3.7-litre V6, 5.0-litre V8, 6.2-litre V8 and 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6. Both the 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 and 6.2-litre V8 are rated to tow up to 5,126 kg (11,300 lb.). Ford has equipped its entire full-size pickup truck line-up with six-speed automatic transmissions in order to provide reduced fuel consumption. 

Overall, 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. 

 

As for Toyota, the Tundra half-ton full-size pickup truck has been redesigned for 2014 with a bolder, more chiselled exterior and new, more refined interior that offers improved driver ergonomics and intuitive technology. The redesign is the first major change to the Tundra since the 2007 model year. 

2014 Tundra models include the SR, SR5, Limited, and
two premium grades—the Platinum and the all-new 1794 Edition. The 1794 Edition is a tribute to the ranch, founded in 1794, on which the Tundra plant is located in San Antonio, TX. 

Three cab styles are available: two-door Regular Cab, four-door Double Cab and four-door CrewMax, with either 4×2 or 4×4 drivetrains. Short-bed, standard-bed and long-bed versions are offered. A lockable easy-lower-and-lift tailgate lowers slowly with no slam and can be removed. 

The new design includes an integrated spoiler in the deck, which helps with fuel efficiency. The front and rear bumpers changed from one piece to three, for lower replacement costs if they get banged up on a job site. 

Inside, the reach to the audio and HVAC controls was reduced by 2.6 in. Large knobs mean they can be operated while wearing work gloves. The CrewMax model rear seats can now be folded up for additional cargo space. 

The interior of the SR5 features a ‘professional gear’ theme, with unique driver and passenger zones, metallic accents and contrasting fabrics. 

Engine offerings include a standard 4.6-litre V8 and an optional 5.7-litre V8. Both come with a six-speed automatic transmission. 

Several enhancements were implemented on the 2014 Tundra to improve performance. Shock-absorber valving has been re-tuned to improve ride quality over harsh surfaces. Steering 

 

feel and straight-line stability were enriched by steering-system enhancements. 

Patented aerodynamic stabilizer fins were added to the outside surface of the rear tail lamp lens and the outside mirror bases. These patented Aero-Fins reduce air turbulence along the sides of the vehicle and also aid in enhancing straight-line stability during normal driving conditions and while towing. 

When equipped for towing, the Tundra offers a maximum tow capacity of 4,760 kg (10,500 lb.) with the 4×2 Regular Cab Long Bed. The Tow Package provides a tow/haul shift mode and upgrades the cooling and electrical systems. The seven-and four-pin towing hitch connectors sit above the hitch to help avoid damage during high-departure-angle driving. Trailer Sway Control is standard. 

The 2014 Tundra is the first in its segment to be equipped with a standard backup camera on all grades, and the only full-size pickup with optional Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems—available on Limited CrewMax, Platinum and 1794 Edition models. 

There are no major enhancements to Nissan’s 2014 Titan half-ton pickup. Mechanically, the Titan has remained unchanged since 2011. 

The full-size pickup is available in King Cab and Crew Cab body styles with a choice of 4×2 and 4×4 drive configurations, along with two wheelbases and three bed lengths. Trim lines include S, SV, PRO-4X and SL models. The 4×4 models have an advanced shift-on-the-fly system with 2WD/4HI/4LO models. 

Last year, Nissan incorporated a new tailgate design with an aerodynamic rear spoiler and, on SV, PRO-4 and SL trims, an 

 

integrated rear-view camera. Amenities include 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. 

The standard engine is a 5.6-litre V8 mated to a five-speed automatic that includes tow/haul modes. Towing capacity is as much as 2,948 kg (9,500 lb.) for the King Cab version. 

The big news from Nissan will come with its next-generation 2015 Titan. This all-new truck will add powertrain options and cab-and-box configurations to broaden its appeal when it comes to market at an as-yet undetermined date. 

Significantly, the new Titan will offer a newly-developed Cummins V8 turbo diesel. “We have done our homework on the next-generation Titan. Truck owners told us there’s a demand for the performance and torque of a diesel in a capable truck that doesn’t require the jump up to a heavy-duty commercial pickup,” said Fred Diaz of Nissan North America. 

“We’re going to be the only ones to have a V8 diesel in a 1500 truck, which is a pretty neat space to play in because you’re actually going to be more powerful and bigger and have more capability than a 1500—but not quite at the level of a 2500,” he said. 

“With a torque rating in the mid-500 lb.-ft. and more than 300 horsepower, the Cummins 5.0-litre V8 turbo diesel will provide light truck customers the combination of towing capacity and mileage that is expected in the highly-competitive North American truck marketplace.” 

Bill Roebuck is a voting member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Send comments to editor@on-sitemag.com 


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