Productivity Guide: Pickup this

You expect lots of promises from pickup truck manufacturers as they announce their offerings for the upcoming year. There’s usually a long list of new items both under the hood and inside the cab. This year, in addition to power train enhancements and design changes, there are some optional extras that just might make your job easier. Here’s our roundup of what’s happening with the one piece of equipment seen on every jobsite – the heavy-duty pickup.

If the F-250 or F-350 don’t offer enough muscle for your needs, then opt for Ford’s new 2008 F-450 Super Duty pickup.

Riding on a model-specific chassis, the F-450 incorporates a new rear leaf-spring suspension while using the radius arm front suspension found on Super Duty cabs. It offers a maximum payload of more than 6,000 pounds and a towing capacity of more than 24,000 pounds – a 5,000-pound increase over the F-350.

Powering the F-450 is your choice of either a new 350-horsepower, 6.8-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel or the 362-horsepower, 6.8-liter V-10 Triton gas engine.

All Super Duty models – including the F-250 and F-350 – have been given a complete overhaul, and will reach showrooms in early 2007. Offered in three cab styles – Regular Cab, SuperCab and Crew Cab – the models come with a choice of two bed lengths. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual with overdrive or a TorqShift five-speed automatic. A new drivetrain mounting system better isolates the powertrain and reduces vibration.

A prominent center stack that houses most of the truck’s switches, integrates all functions into one easily accessible area. All auxiliary switches plus the trailer brake control system are now fully housed in the center stack for a cleaner appearance. Need more storage? Both door map pockets have increased in size, plus the center console is designed to hold file folders and keep laptops tucked out of sight.

Ford is continuing its rugged towing tradition, with its TowCommand System, a factory-installed electronic trailer brake controller that offers a trailer brake strategy when the truck’s ABS detects poor traction. TowCommand also includes the TorqShift transmission with tow-haul mode and a just-announced PowerScope integrated power-fold, power-telescoping trailer tow mirrors. The mirrors feature heated glass, clearance lamps and integrated turn signals.

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And Ford has added three devices to help make your life easier: the FordLink business tool, an optional tailgate step and a two-piece stowable bed extender.

An in-vehicle touch-screen computer, FordLink is available as a dealer-installed accessory through the Ford dealer network. The portable, table-style computer runs on Microsoft Windows XP and offers Internet access, GPS navigation with audio prompts, USB 2.0 ports for computer accessories and a printer connection. FordLink can be fitted on all Super Duty trucks from the 1999 model year forward.

The tailgate step, fully integrated into the tailgate, eliminates the need to hop into the bed. To use it, simply drop the tailgate into the down position, grab the bottom step, pull it straight out from the tailgate and drop it down into the step position. A grab handle folds up and out of the tailgate to provide extra support when using the step and it fits snuggly into a channel molded into the tailgate inner liner when not in use.

At first glance, the stowable bed extender looks like others on the market, extending storage space to the end of the bed. This extender, however, separates into two pieces that fold and snap securely to the sides of the bed, allowing you to use the full space of the bed when the extender is not needed.

What’s new

  • F-450 pickup
  • 350-horsepower, 6.8-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel
  • PowerScope integrated power-fold, power-telescoping trailer tow mirrors
  • FordLink on-board computer
  • Tailgate step
  • Stowable bed extender

General Motors
The all-new Silverado and GMC Sierra may share a lot under the hood, but GM has made sure you can tell the cousins apart even from a distance. The Silverado has a wider and taller dual-port grille with a prominent gold bow tie emblem at the center. Large, reflector-optic headlamps and corner lights wrap around the front end and flow into flared front fenders. On the Sierra work truck models, the GMC emblem is given center stage in a large, black grille flanked by large, jeweled-appearance headlamps. Chrome bumpers with body-color top and end caps are standard. Production for both models begins in the first quarter of 2007.

Handles on both the Chevy and GMC models have large, grab-style designs that are easy to open with gloves. Tolerances between panels have been greatly reduced, including a 50-percent reduction in the space between the cab and the cargo box.

In addition to differentiated exterior and interior designs, the pickups also offer a choice of gas and diesel engines.

A beefed-up 365-horsepower Duramax Diesel 6600 V-8 and a new Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission underline the changes on Chevy’s Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500HD and 3500 models. A new Gen IV Vortec 6-liter gas V-8 engine is standard and rated at 353 horsepower, approximately 18 percent more horsepower than the previous engine. The 2500 HD and 3500HD models come in either two-wheel-drive or four-wheel drive in three cab styles: regular, extended and crew cab.

Five suspension packages include:

  • Z83 for a solid, smooth ride
  • Z85 for enhanced handling and trailering
  • Z71 for increased off-road capability
  • Z60 for street performance
  • NHT for maximum trailering capacity

Choices continue with box configurations that include standard (6 foot 6 inches); long (8 foot) and dual rear wheel (8 foot). A one-piece wheelhouse and inner box side add strength. The boxes are more than an inch deeper in the front and more than 11/2 inches deeper at the rear. Stronger inner walls offer improved performance when fitted with tool boxes and other accessories. The regular box has a cargo bed volume of 60.7 cubic feet and the long box has 75.5 cubic feet of volume. The all-steel dually cargo boxes include hydroformed sheet metal outer fenders.

The EZ Lift feature on the tailgates offer torque-rod assist. You can easily remove a tailgate by opening it to 45 degrees and pulling straight out and away from the truck.

One option you might want to consider is GM’s new Cargo Management System, which uses three rails that run the length of the inner truck bed and the forward box wall. Four adjustable tie-down brackets can be located anywhere on the upper and lower tracks, each rated for a load point of 500 pounds. Several accessories can then be mounted to this framework, including an overhead utility rack rated at 500-pounds loading capacity, a sliding diamond plate tool box, a sliding bed divider and diamond plate side storage boxes. The tool boxes use a codeable lock, enabling you to use the vehicle key to lock and unlock the boxes.

The trucks now offer a 2.5-inch trailer hitch receiver platform, allowing them to pull a maximum of 13,000 pounds with conventional trailers. Properly equipped trucks with fifth-wheel hitches can tow up to 16,700 pounds.

Inside, notable features include two glove boxes – both a traditional glove box plus a covered 3.4-liter storage area above it. A stadium-style rear seat with a 60/40-split design and folding center arm rest can be easily folded to provide uninterrupted storage. The rear passenger doors open up a full 170-degrees, eliminating the need to wrestle with any awkward items you may want to store in this area. An available integrated trailer brake controller is integrated with the ABS system and provides immediate and measured brake force signaling to electric trailer brake systems.

What’s new

  • All-new exterior designs
  • Beefed-up Duramax Diesel 6600 V-8 diesel
  • Gen IV Vortec 6-liter gas V-8 engine
  • Allison 1000 six-speed automatic transmission
  • Cargo Management System

Dodge Ram
Dodge is touting its 3500 Chassis Cab, targeted at small businesses, fleet customers and traditional chassis cab users looking for more cab space and enhanced functionality. The 3500 Chassis Cab has a single-rear-wheel GVW of 10,200 pounds, 52-gallon fuel tank, standard V-8, 330-horsepower HEMI engine and 121.7 cubic feet of interior cab room on Quad Cab models. It comes in both two-wheel and four-wheel drive and in either regular cab or quad cab configurations. Dodge has made two cab-axle lengths available: 60 and 84 inches, and all chassis components are below the top of the frame surface.

Under the hood, the theme at Dodge for its 2007 heavy-duty pickup lineup is more, more and less. More horsepower – the available Cummins Dodge Ram turbo diesel has 350 horsepower, compared to the Cummins 325-horsepower 5.9L engine it replaces. More torque – at 650 foot-pounds, the engine has increased its torque by 40 foot-pounds. And finally less, as in less noise, with a 50-percent quieter engine and a 3-decibel reduction in cabin sound levels. The engine will be available in 2007 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 models beginning this January.

The electronically controlled variable geometry turbocharger matches boost pressure with engine needs. The engine’s Exhaust Gas Recirculation system is water cooled, with the air reintroduced to the intake system, keeping turbo and intercooler components clean, thus increasing durability. In fact, the engine has a life-to-major-overhaul interval of 350,000 miles.

The 2007 heavy-duty Dodge Ram lineup also includes several first-time features: an integrated exhaust brake, standard Electronic Range Select system and smart tow/haul controls that give you additional flexibility and safety when towing heavy loads.

Integrated exhaust brake: Since Dodge knows more than 90 percent of Dodge Ram customers tow, they recognize towing capabilities are critical. Using the engine’s new turbocharger, the exhaust brake improves control in heavy towing applications, transforming horsepower into braking power. The exhaust brake also reduces brake overheating and fading on downhill grades and extends brake life by as much as three times.

ERS system: A new 6-speed 68RFE automatic transmission is integrated with the ERS system, letting you select gears that match your driving conditions. The sixth gear, also known as the second overdrive gear, provides low rpms at highway speeds, improving the truck’s fuel economy.

Tow/haul controls: The transmission’s ERS system complements the tow/haul mode, allowing you to select the right gear with a shifter-mounted switch, providing greater control in situations such as towing heavy loads on severe inclines.

Dodge Ram heavy-duty pickup trucks have towing capacities of 16,400 pounds, a payload of 5,020 pounds and GVWR of 12,200 pounds. A combination of standard and optional features make towing easier, including a Class IV hitch receiver with a seven-circuit wiring harness, 750-amp battery, heavy-duty engine cooling and an auxiliary transmission oil cooler. Trailer-tow mirrors can be customized to your needs, providing two views on both the left and right sides: close up and wide out. The mirrors also flip up to 90 degrees for viewing beyond wide trailers.

The Dodge Ram Mega Cab model offers 143.2 cubic feet of interior space and the only reclining rear seats available in a pickup truck. The rear-passenger areas of the Mega Cab has 44.2 inches of leg room, and the rear seats split 60/40, fold down and move forward, offering numerous configurations for carrying cargo and passengers.

What’s new

  • 3500 Class-3 Chassis Cab
  • Cummins 350-horsepower, 6.7-liter, turbo diesel
  • Integrated exhaust brake
  • Standard Electronic Range Select
  • Smart tow/haul controls

Harry Rawlins, the 4-by-4 and trailer tow engineer for Ford Super Duty trucks, offers these suggestions on matching your pickup with the right trailer:

What’s needed to tow: While torque is important, you don’t have to have a high-torque motor. You can tow just fine with proper gearing. A deep first gear helps get the load moving. When you’re on the highway, horsepower is important to maintain your speed on hills.

The impact of trailer weight: For heavy loads, you need a strong rear axle with an adequate rear gross accumulated weight ratio to carry the tongue load of the trailer. This is where a solid rear axle is best. The cargo-carrying capacity of pickups helps fifth wheel and gooseneck trailers, since they can have up to 25 percent of their load on the tongue of the trailer. You’ll need a heavy-duty pickup for any loads of more than 10,000 pounds.

Purchase considerations: Buy a truck based on what functions best, not just on looks. Know what your future trailer needs will be, so your trailer doesn’t outgrow your truck. And be aware all those nice options you add also increase the weight of the truck, and that subtracts from the weight of the trailer you can haul.

Is Toyota unveiling a heavy-duty pickup?
Not just yet. Toyota is set to debut a half-ton next-generation Tundra at the North American International Auto Show in January. According to the company, the redesigned 2007 Tundra will be bigger, more powerful and will feature new body and engine configurations. It will be powered by a 5.7-liter i-Force V8 engine, enabling it to tow more than 10,000 pounds. Rumor has it, however, that Toyota is planning to introduce a true heavy-duty pickup into the market within the next few years.
– Christina Jesson