Trucks: Five to drive

Truck manufacturers have been busy the past several years. Between the Chicago Auto Show in February and the NTEA Work Truck Show last month in Atlanta, no fewer than five new trucks aimed at contractors and vocational applications appeared. The five new models cover the gamut from International’s new heavy-duty, “prestige” pickups to Sterling’s new Class 3 360 Model Cabover. Here are the details:

International’s new prestige pickups
It’s not every day you see an all-new pickup truck hit the market. International Truck and Engine did just that two years ago when it unveiled its colossal CXT crew cab truck. Now International has unveiled two smaller pickup trucks: its MXT and RXT models, both of which will be available at dealerships this summer.

Dee Kapur, president of International’s truck group, says the two pickups are a symbol of International’s commitment to breaking into new markets. “The MXT went from a concept to pre-production vehicle in a year based on interest from our customers and the dedication of our development team,” he notes. “It showcases International’s ability to bring quality products to market quickly.”

Look for the MXT to show up at International dealers this summer. Although International considers it an “image truck,” geared toward truck owners who “want to make a powerful statement about who they are,” the MXT is a dedicated work truck. It has 16,000 pounds of towing capacity thanks to a 300-horsepower International diesel engine cranking out 530 pounds-feet of torque. Inside, the MXT can comfortably seat five adults and offers a host of interior comfort options. For now, International is estimating the MXT’s suggested retail price to range from $69,900 for a base model to $85,000 when fully tricked out.

Moving up in size, the RXT pickup, which began appearing on dealer lots last month, is a sportier truck geared more toward customers in equestrian, boating, RV and motorsports markets. A fifth-wheel version will appear in the near future to better accommodate trailers.

The RXT can be spec’d with a host of International diesel engines ranging from 230 to 310 horsepower and generating from 540 to 950 pounds-feet of torque. Towing capacities are impressive: Standard RXT models can pull 11.25 tons, and the fifth-wheel version is rated at 14.75 tons. RXT pricing starts at $76,000.

Sterling’s ‘fuelish’ choice
Taking advantage of DaimlerChrysler’s “Global Excellence” partnership plan, Sterling launched a light-duty cabover truck for the North American market at the Work Truck Show in Atlanta. Based on DamilerChrysler partner Fuso’s successful Class 3 design, the Sterling 360 is built for a wide array of urban delivery and construction applications, including landscape and utility contracting.

“The 360 is the first evidence we’re on our way to becoming a full line truck supplier,” notes John Merrifield, Sterling’s senior vice president, distribution. “This truck delivers a total value package that directly and positively affects your bottom line. And that includes fuel cost savings: The 360 has been engineered in such a way that it delivers $600 in annual fuel savings compared to some of its direct competitors.”

This “fuelish” solution, as Sterling calls it, is based on a calculation of 20,000 miles driven in a single year, diesel fuel costs of $2.50 per gallon and tests conducted by the independent Transportation Research Center.

Sterling says the 360 offers up to 300 pounds in weight savings compared to other Class 3 vocational models and will be offered with five different wheelbase configurations. “That’s the most in this truck class,” Merrifield adds. “We’ve also engineered this truck to easily accept longer bodies with more load carrying capacity.”

Merrifield says a greater range of body mounting positions combined with the 360’s shorter cab-to-body clearance of 4.5 inches allows for optimum weight distribution and reduced wind resistance. Instead of a tapered frame, the 360 is built with a strong, straight-frame configuration crafted from 51,200 psi steel.

Sterling is touting the 360 as having the largest cab of any Class 3 cabover truck currently offered in North America. The cab has more than 90 cubic feet of space, with more belly room and comfortable seating for three. The large front windshield is combined with impressive wheel cuts that deliver outstanding visibility and a 35-foot, curb-to-curb turning radius.
The 360 is available at select Sterling dealers across North America. Class 4 and 5 versions are appearing now, with the Class 3 model rolling out in mid-2007.

The hemi hits class 3
Sterling wasn’t the only DaimlerChrysler company showing new trucks in Atlanta. Dodge is offering legendary Hemi and Cummins turbo diesel engine options in its 2007 Ram 3500 chassis cab vocational truck. “This ‘big Ram’ design offers instant recognition thanks to its massive crosshair grille, large headlights and robust, ‘big rig’ styling,” says Rick Aneiros, vice president, truck design, Dodge. “The end result is the unmistakable bold Ram design now offered in a commercial grade pickup.”

The Class 3 Ram 3500 chassis cab comes standard with Hemi, 5.7-liter V-8 power. A 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel is available as optional equipment. Diesel buyers get a choice of six-speed automatic or manual transmissions, both with standard PTO capability. You can also spec an optional electronic-shift transfer case and factory installed exhaust brake for added safety and increased brake pad life.

Dodge calls the 3500 chassis cab a “job-rated” truck, which means it is designed for heavy-duty vocational applications. In keeping with this philosophy, you can select from four-by-two, four-by-four, single-rear-wheel, dual-rear-wheel, regular and quad cab models. All versions feature solid-beam front and rear axles and five-link, coil-spring front suspension.

Being “up-fit friendly” was a key design criteria for the 3500 cab chassis, Aneiros adds. As a result, the 3500 is the first Ram chassis with industry-standard 34-inch frame rail spacing and clean, flat rails with chassis components mounted below their surface, allowing engineering for virtually any up-fit application. Riveted crossmembers, a one-piece C-channel frame with U-bolt access every 18 inches along its length and shear plate mounting locations all further contribute to the up-fit concept.

Larger, more powerful Tundra to appear in ’07
Toyota will debut a completely redesigned Tundra pickup truck next year. The new truck, which Jim Lentz, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Motor Sales, calls a “true American truck,” is larger, more powerful and will offer new engine and body configurations. “Tundra will set the new benchmark in the full-size truck market,” Lentz says. “It is aimed at what we call the ‘true trucker.’ These are highly credible truck owners who use, punish and demand the most of the pickups they buy.”

The 2007 Tundra will be able to tow more than 10,000 pounds thanks to its all-new 5.7-liter i-Force V-8 engine, manufactured at Toyota’s engine plant near Huntsville, Alabama. (Final truck assembly is at the company’s Indiana manufacturing facility.) Completing Tundra’s powertrain package is a new, heavy-duty, six-speed automatic transmission. High capacity cooling and electrical systems help ensure efficient heavy load towing through even the toughest weather.

The Tundra rides on a new chassis platform and frame that Toyota says is crafted from 30 percent stronger tensile strength steel than on previous models. Stopping power is provided by heavy-duty front-disc brakes with four-piston calipers and larger, vented rotors. Rear-disc brakes are standard.

Setting its sights squarely on the Big Three’s heavy-duty pickup lines, Toyota engineers significantly expanded Tundra’s wheelbase and overall length. As a result, the 2007 model will be five inches higher, four inches wider and 10 inches longer than previous Tundra trucks. “This additional size places Tundra among the segment leaders in the half-ton truck class in overall size,” Lentz adds.

Three cab combinations will be offered for the ’07 Tundra along with three distinctive trim level packages. You’ll also be able to select two optional engines, a 4.7-liter i-Force V-8 and 4-liter V-6 gas power plant.

Sterling 360 quick specs
Engine: 4.9-liter turbo diesel
Horsepower: 175 at 2,700 rpm
Torque: 391 pounds-feet at 1,600 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Gross vehicle weight ratings:
14,050, 14,500 and 17,995 pounds
Wheelbase/body length combinations: 115 in. and 12 ft.; 134 in. and 14 ft.; 152 in. and 16 ft.; 164 in. and 18 ft.*; and 176 in. and 20 ft.**
*At 14,500 and 17,995 GVRW only
** 17,995 GVRW only

Dodge 3500 chassis cab quick specs
Engine choices:
5.7-liter Hemi V-8
Horsepower: 330 at 5,400 rpm
Torque: 375 pounds-feet at 4,200 rpm 6.7-liter high output Cummins turbo diesel I-6
Horsepower: 305 at 3,000 rpm
Torque: 610 pounds-feet at 1,600 rpm
Fuel requirement: Ultra-low-sulfur diesel

Toyota Tundra quick specs
Overall length: 228.7 in.
Overall width: 79.9 in.
Overall height: 76.4 in.
Wheelbase: 145.7 in.
Bed length: 78.7 in.
Bed width (at wheel wells): 65 in.
Bed width (wall-to-wall): 65 in.
Bed depth: 22.3 in.

Engine Choices:
5.7-liter i-Force V-8
4.7-liter i-Force V-8
4.0-liter V-6