New HD Pickups From the Big Three
By Howard J. Elmer
The first year of this new decade sees fresh Heavy Duty trucks from each of the Big Three. And while this means little to the broader spectrum of the automotive market, these HD offerings are much more than fashion accessories to the buyers who work and play with them. New engines, cabs, electronics and, of course, increased capability can be found in each. For an industry like forestry, this is going to be an interesting truck buying year.
By Howard J. Elmer
As part of the Detroit Heavy Duty pickup truck trilogy, Dodge is first out of the blocks with a new HD truck for the new decade. It’s also the first all-new product from the newly restructured Chrysler and (as if that weren’t pressure enough) it is the first new truck to wear the “Ram” badge – as Dodge becomes a car-only company and the Ram name becomes a brand used exclusively for trucks. Of course, so far all this is just more ink on brochures, which means nothing if the product is weak.
Having recently driven this HD iron I can happily say, “it’s not.” Plus, with a decent field of options offered across the HD line, Dodge is a real contender – even starting its price walk at $700 less than last year’s base MSRP.
Among the new options added to 2010 build sheets is a crew cab (replacing the smallish Quad Cab) – which Dodge simply calls “Crew.” The unique Mega Cab is still available along with a regular cab, making for three Dodge cab offerings that can be matched to either a 6’4” or 8-foot cargo box. As for trim – there are four distinct levels – ST, SLT, SXT and Laramie.
This year Dodge has joined GM and Ford in offering an integrated trailer brake controller, and one with a nifty feature. The gain settings and actual braking action appear in the centre screen (between the speed and rpm gauges) as numbers and a bar graph.
In terms of capability the 2010 HD Ram can tow up to 8,391 kg (18,500 lb) and carry 2,318 kg (5,110 lb) of payload. On all 3500 models with dual rear wheels GCWR is increased to 11,521 kg (25,400 lb) with the 6.7L TD. For those who also plow snow with their trucks, note that a higher front Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) of 2,495 kg (5500 lb) has been added to all 4×4 models.
Power for the 2500-series and up trucks remains the veteran combination of the 5.7L Hemi V8 (383 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque) or the 6.7L Cummins I6 Turbo Diesel (350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque). These come with a six-speed automatic (with electronic range select feature) or six-speed standard (with ultra-low first-gear ratio) tranny – the only standard transmission offered in a HD truck in Canada, says Dodge. Another feature introduced two years ago on the diesel is also still a segment-exclusive – a standard switch actuated exhaust brake.
Other braking advances includes new larger front (360mm) and rear (358mm) brakes with integrated ABS and electronic brake force distribution that adjusts braking pressure from front to rear. New features and options include manual and electric shift-on-the-fly 4×4 transfer cases; ParkView – a back-up camera for easy hook-ups; a larger grille opening for better cooling, and a Vehicle Information Center.
The other substantive upgrade in the ’10 Ram HD is the interior. It’s all new and takes its inspiration from last year’s light-duty Ram restyle. But, in addition to an award-winning cab design, new features abound. For instance: premium front seating with heat and ventilation; heated rear-seats, heated steering wheel; automatic temperature control; two-tone upholstery; memory seats, radio and mirrors; navigation; adjustable pedals; SIRIUS Backseat TV with three channels of programming, uconnect tunes with a 30-gigabyte hard drive, and an available first-in-segment 10-speaker surround-sound system. These trucks are available at dealers now.
For 2010 the Ford Super Duty trucks are unchanged, but these trucks are also being rushed off the stage, so to speak, with the recent November release of the 2011 Super Duty lineup. These trucks were shown at the Regina Agribition to a crowd of rural buyers in a province that, thanks to the discovery of more oil, gas and potash, is buying up more large pickups than ever before.
This rushed intro follows the successful release of the all-new Dodge Ram HD, an event which I’m sure hastened Ford wanting to show off a substantially changed Super Duty.
But this 2011 is not just about changes to the tin, as, when it does come to market, it will have two entirely new engines as well. Coincidence or stroke of luck, whatever caused this event makes this third generation of Super Dutys that much more important in the continuing lineage of this brand.
First, and probably most importantly, is the debut of the all-new 6.7L V8 Power Stroke turbodiesel. This new engine heralds the end of the International/Ford engine program that has seen at least 20 years of Ford diesels being built by Navistar International. Instead, this new design is created by Ford, and built by Ford, a fact, showcased in a radical new design. For example, the exhaust manifolds reside in the valley of the V8 engine rather than outboard, while the intake is outboard where the exhaust normally is. Also, the cylinder heads are flipped around in comparison with previous V8 layouts.
Ford says this unique layout – an automotive-industry first – has several advantages. Exhaust system pressure is reduced, meaning air is fed to the single turbocharger faster, and it is also bolted to the block, rather than hanging on the outboard exhaust system, which reduces vibration and noise.
In addition, new aluminum cylinder heads make the engine lighter and the mid-deck construction has dual water jackets for optimal cooling, while six-head bolts, instead of four-head bolts, help improve sealing. Another bonus feature is new instant-start glow plugs that start even in extremely cold temperatures.
Ford is claiming the new 6.7L diesel will have class-leading fuel economy – but for the moment fuel consumption numbers are not available. Horsepower and torque numbers have not been released either, though it follows that they should exceed the 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque of the outgoing engine.
The other important numbers that Ford has yet to release are hauling figures, primarily because these are also tied to the new engine’s horsepower and torque specs. At the moment, payload and towing limits take a backseat to those offered by the new Dodge – a situation I’m sure Ford is looking to change.
The other new engine – a standard gasoline engine – will be the 6.2L V8. This motor also promises more power but with better fuel economy (again, for now, we have to take Ford’s word for it, as no performance numbers are available as yet). The engine is E85/flex fuel capable, meaning you can run regular, partial or up to 85% ethanol mixed gasoline.
Getting the power to the wheels is a new 6R140 heavy-duty TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission. This transmission will come with Ford’s SelectShift feature, which lets the driver shift manually. Downshifts can also be commanded through brake pressure (using a brake pressure transducer), which monitors the pressure applied when down-shifting the tranny.
For even greater trailer control, the new Super Duty is going to harness the back pressure of the Power Stroke diesel by increasing pressure, helping to slow the vehicle and trailer. There will be no buttons to push, as the calibration will work automatically when slowing. This transmission will also have an optional Live Drive Power Take Off (PTO) for diesel-equipped trucks.
It’s been a decade or more since the truck industry as a whole recognized the need to make truck cabs more work friendly. Features that let fleet buyers and individual contractors run their businesses out of their trucks have been increasing across the board – so what’s new in this Super Duty is just adding to good systems already in place.
At the centre of Ford’s offering is a new 4.2-inch LCD screen and a five-way button on the steering wheel that lets drivers navigate through menu options that cover everything from fuel economy to towing convenience while an off-road message centre is added as well. While message centres are not new, the information they now offer is truly impressive.
The first drive of this Super Duty will be this coming March with trucks becoming available sometime in summer.
Of the Big Three, the least is known about what GM is planning for its 2011 update. Rumours suggest the truck will get a minor facelift, but the bulk of the work will be going on under the hood. Certain spy photos of Silverado HD test mules have shown the trucks sporting a new grille and bumper – the grille looks to be going black and the bumper has moved away from the huge flares at the corners. The air inlet in the bumper is also larger than it is currently (this feeds air to the transmission cooler).
GM’s Duramax is expected to receive an increase in horsepower and torque (well over 700 lb-ft of torque, some sources tell us). Of course, the engines must also meet the newest clean-diesel emissions that came into effect Jan. 1 of this year. To do this, it’s believed the Duramax will use a urea injection system to neutralize the NOx stream in its exhaust. This means adding an onboard tank of urea liquid that will have to be replenished at GM-specified intervals. Typically this action will be handled by the dealer during the regular service work. This is pretty much the same system Ford has adopted with its new 6.7L Power Stroke. Dodge, on the other hand, is the only one that has gone another way using an NOx absorber containing precious metals that converts the NOx into inert gases.
With these upgrades (particularly power) it follows that the V8 Duramax diesel’s Allison transmission should also be improved. Add these two improvements up and you get a very likely increase in payload and towing capacity. And for GM, which currently sits in third when it comes to weight capability, that’s a good move. Frankly, it may be one of the reasons Ford hasn’t released its numbers yet as they may be wanting to see what GM does first.
No release schedule has been seen for this new truck, but I suspect we will see something during the coming auto show season that ends in March.
Howard Elmer is a truck and ATV writer living in rural Ontario. He produced this report for CFI magazine.