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Full-size pickup trucks bulk up


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December 1, 2014 by BILL ROEBUCK

It’s getting to be a whole new world for full-size pickup trucks. Last year, almost every pickup manufacturer introduced newly redesigned or refreshed models, and the changeover continues for the 2015 models now on the market.

With full-size pickups generally guzzling the most fuel of all the models in each company’s lineup of cars, crossovers, SUVs and trucks, the focus of most the updates has been to improve fuel efficiency. Manufacturers are doing this mainly by improving exterior aerodynamics, using the latest powertrain technologies, and by reducing vehicle weight through the use of new materials.

On top of this, some pickup interiors are becoming more car-like, with better soundproofing and more comfort and convenience features. One example is the Ram 1500 pickup, which received a Ward’s 10 Best Interior Award for its 2014 redesign. The Ram is the only full-size truck ever to get that award.

Noteworthy features that are becoming common in the latest pickups are dampened tailgates that don’t crash down when you open them; step-assists to make it easier to climb into the cargo bed; and safety features like backup cameras, forward collision and lane departure warning technology. Plus, you’re likely to find Bluetooth, as well as advanced radio and navigation systems.

Since 70 per cent of the full-size pickup trucks sold in Canada are half-ton versions (usually designated as 150 or 1500 models), this update focuses on those models. Heavy-duty three-quarter-ton and one-ton models (250/350 or 2500/3500) make up the remaining 30 per cent. If you regularly tow more than 4,536 kg (10,000 lb.), you’ll want to investigate the heavy-duty models.

FORD

Ford has been getting a lot of attention this year for the all-new design of its 2015 F-150, which boasts a mostly aluminum body instead of steel to save weight. While some manufacturers have used aluminum components in the past—such as for hoods—this is the first comprehensive use of the lightweight metal in a pickup body.

Each model in the 2015 F-150 lineup benefits from up to 317 kg (700 lb.) of weight savings through the use of high-strength steel in the frame and high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy in the body. As a result, the new F-150 can tow up to 500 more kg (1,100 lb.) and haul up to 240 more kg (530 lb.) than the previous model, all with better fuel economy.

Several features debut in the new F-150, including 11 class exclusive options. These include exterior cameras to create a 360- degree bird’s-eye view of the truck to help drivers park, maneuver in tight spots or navigate narrow roads and trails; integrated loading ramps for easy loading of ATVs, motorcycles or mowers; and a trailer hitch assist that uses a rear-view camera that incorporates a dynamic line based on the steering wheel angle in the display to help line up the truck and trailer with no spotter or need to exit the vehicle.

There are four engine options. The 2.7-litre EcoBoost V6 has standard Auto Start-Stop, and produces 325 hp and 375 lb.-ft. of torque. With a maximum payload rating of 1,021 kg (2,250 lb.) and maximum tow rating of 3,855 kg (8,500 lb.), Ford says this engine offers the mid-range requirements that meet the needs of more than 90 per cent of light-duty truck customers.

The 3.5-litre twin-turbo EcoBoost produces 420 lb.-ft. of torque and 365 hp to enable towing of up to 5,533 kg (12,200 lb.)—more than enough to handle a fully loaded, three-horse trailer or large boat. It has a maximum payload rating of 1,442 kg (3,180 lb.).

The 5.0-litre V8 offers 385 hp and 387 lb.-ft. of torque, and towing capability is up by 500 kg (1,100 lb.) to a maximum 4,989 kg (11,100 lb.), and payload is increased to 1,496 kg (3,300 lb.).

The fourth engine option is a 3.5-litre V6 that produces 283 hp and 255 lb.-ft. of torque, with a maximum payload of 866 kg (1,910 lb.) and a maximum tow rating of 3,447 kg (7,600 lb.), high ratings for a V6 light-duty pickup truck. Five primary trims are available and include XL, XLT, Lariat, Platinum and King Ranch.

GENERAL MOTORS

A new eight-speed automatic transmission will be standard on 2015 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra models equipped with the 6.2-litre EcoTec3 V8. The GM-developed Hydra-Matic 8L90 eight-speed is about the same size and weight as the Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic.

Its 7.0 overall gear ratio spread is wider than GM’s six-speed automatic transmissions, providing a numerically higher first gear ratio to help drivers start off more confidently with a heavy load or when trailering. The 8L90 also enables numerically lower rear axle ratios, which reduce engine rpm on the highway.

General Motors completely redesigned its mechanically-twin Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 half-ton models for 2014, and the redesign has been applied to the heavy-duty models for 2015.

Last year, GM made hundreds of improvements, large and small. Among them are a trio of all-new EcoTec3 engines, a V6 and two V8s; a stronger, quieter and more comfortable cab; a new interior with features and connectivity tailored to truck customers; revised steering, suspension and brakes for improved ride and handling; and enhanced solutions for managing cargo in the bed.

With 420 hp and 460 lb.-ft. of torque, the 6.2-litreEcoTec3 V8 is the most powerful engine offered in any light-duty pickup, and offers a maximum available trailer rating of 5,443 kg (12,000 lb.). As with other EcoTec3 engines, it seamlessly switches to four-cylinder operation under lighter loads to improve fuel economy.

These trucks also offer optional safety features such as forward collision alert, lane departure warning with an active safety seat, and front and rear park assist. StabiliTrak with trailer sway control and hill start assist are standard.

Models include a crew cab, regular cab model and double cab, in seven trim levels. The crew cabs are available with a 6 ft.-6 in. box in addition to a 5 ft.-8 in. box, enabling crews to carry more cargo while still being able to park in many garages.

Focussing on function, GM added step-in assist depressions in the corners of the rear bumper to make it easier to climb into the bed. The tailgate is damped too, so it can be lowered and raised using just one hand, which is ideal when your other hand is holding tools or supplies.

High-strength steel is used in the frames to provide strength with less weight. Aluminum alloys have been used to reduce the weight of engines, front suspension components, hoods and other parts. GM is also reportedly developing an aluminum-body pickup for the 2019 model year.

According to the Vincentric Canada Best Value in Canada awards, the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 has the lowest operating costs in the full-size half-ton pickup segment.

RAM TRUCK

Chrysler got the jump on its Detroit-based cousins by redesigning its Ram pickup for the 2013 model year, with a highlight being the first to offer a fuel-saving eight-speed automatic transmission (compared to five- or six-speed versions on competitors).

Ram is also the only model in Canada that offers a diesel engine in a half-ton pickup. The 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V6 produces 420 lb.-ft. of torque and up to 9,200 lb. of towing capability, yet Chrysler claims it can achieve a highway fuel economy rating of 7.1

L/100 km (40 mpg) and a city rating of 10.7 L/100 km (28 mpg) when equipped with rear-wheel drive and the eight-speed transmission.

Other fuel-saving features include a stop-start system, thermal management system, pulse-width modulation and active aerodynamics, including grille shutters and an air suspension. Other available engines include the 5.7-litre Hemi V8 and the Pentastar V6, both gasoline-powered.

The Ram truck brand set an all-time monthly sales record in October 2014, marking its 23rd month of consecutive year-over- year sal
es gains in Canada.

TOYOTA

Although Toyota’s Tundra full-size pickup was refreshed for 2014, you won’t see a major redesign of it until the 2016 model year.

Last year’s all-new front design integrates the hood and grille for a chiseled image. The grille is taller, visually connecting the upper air intake to the lower bumper. The front and rear lower bumpers have a three-piece design, allowing for lower replacement costs if they get damaged on the worksite. In addition, the fenders and wheel wells have been squared-off to provide a sturdier appearance.

With the refresh came a new bed and tailgate with an integrated spoiler that helps with fuel efficiency. Suspension enhancements were made to improve ride quality over harsh surfaces. Also, several interior upgrades were made to improve seating and storage, and to reduce cabin noise.

Regarding safety, Tundras include a standard backup camera on all grades. A blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert is offered as an option.

The Toyota Tundra is available in 10 models. New for 2015, the TRD Off-Road Tundra model is now available as a Limited grade in both Double Cab and CrewMax configurations, providing it with more features, comfort and utility.

NISSAN

For 2015, Nissan is again offering the Titan pickup in King Cab and Crew Cab body styles with a choice of 4×4 and 4×2 drive configurations and two bed lengths. The full-size pickup is available in four models—S, SV, PRO-4X and SL.

The Titan is built on Nissan’s F-Alpha pickup platform, featuring a 5.6-litre DOHC Endurance V8 engine. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard. The company says it was designed especially for heavy-duty truck use, with an emphasis on towing.

Enhancements made to the Titan for 2015 include a revised interior door panel design and materials, a driver seat power adjustable lumbar support on captain chair models, and two new exterior colours—Artic Blue Metallic and Magnetic Black.

Nissan reportedly has plans to introduce an optional diesel engine for the Titan under a new partnership with Cummins, possibly for the 2015 model year.

Last year, Nissan gave its Titan full-size pickup an updated tailgate design with an aerodynamic rear spoiler and integrated rear view camera that is standard on all but the base S model.

The long-wheelbase model features a range-topping 7-ft. bed with the Crew Cab body configuration. The Titan has wide-open rear doors in the King Cab that open nearly 180 degrees for unobstructed rear cab access, and an optional high-utility bed that includes a factory-applied spray-on bedliner, a Utili-track tie-down system and an integrated, lockable bedside storage compartment.

The bedside storage bin is designed to hold common truck items such as work gloves, chains, ropes, road flares, a first aid kit or a hitch ball. The compartment is double-sealed to help prevent the intrusion of water and dust and uses the ignition key for unlocking. The truck bed also features a 120-volt outlet, except on the S model.

The truck continues to be powered by an all-aluminum 5.6-litre V8 engine that has been in use since 2007. It is rated at 317 hp and 385 lb.-ft. of torque. Maximum towing capacity, when properly equipped, is up to 9,500 lb. for the King Cab and 9,400 lb. for the Crew Cab.


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