Light-duty trucks for 2000

In recent years the truck market has virtually exploded with product launches, new technologies and new support packages. And manufacturers continue to push the envelope.

They are producing vehicles loaded with creature comforts to attract and retain drivers. Trucks are more comfortable and reliable than ever before, and packed with technological advances that deliver low-cost, dependable service. Manufacturers also are concentrating on improving service and parts support to provide fleet managers with worry-free operations.

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Dodge Details on Dodge's 2000 model-year trucks haven't been released yet, but few major changes are expected for the full-size Ram pickup and Ram van. The most noteworthy change will be greater availability of a 6-speed manual transmission with constant-mesh helical gears for the 6-cylinder Cummins ISC Turbo Diesel and Magnum V10 gasoline engine options in the Ram pickup.

Three Ram pickups and a cab chassis will be available with GVW ratings that range from 6,400 to 10,500 pounds. All are offered with the four-door extended Quad Cab option. In addition to the Cummins diesel (235 hp/460 pound-feet) and Magnum V10 (310 hp/450 pound-feet), the Ram can be ordered with the 3.9-liter Magnum V6 (175 hp/230 pound-feet), 5.2-liter Magnum V8 (230 hp/300 pound-feet) or 5.9-liter Magnum V8 (245 hp/335 pound-feet).

The Ram van, which underwent a redesign in 1998, will return in 2000 with the same powertrain and payload specs.

The compact Dodge Dakota will join the ranks of the four-door pickups with the addition of a Quad Cab option in 2000. Unlike the Ram Quad Cab, all four doors will open forward on the Dakota model.

Ford Light-truck changes at Ford Motor Co. for 2000 are focused on passengers. The all-new nine-passenger Excursion is built on the Super Duty F-series chassis and a crew-cab model for the F-150 pickup.

The F-150 SuperCrew will technically be a 2001 model, but the six-passenger pickup with four full-size doors will arrive in dealer showrooms this January. The standard powertrain will be the 4.6-liter Triton V8 mated to Ford's 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. Other F-150/250 models will see few changes for 2000.

The lightest member of Ford's commercial truck lineup, the 8,800-pound-GVW Super Duty F-250, also will remain relatively unchanged for 2000. But its chassis will provide the underpinnings for the Excursion, which has almost 50 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third-row seat and a towing capacity of 10,000 pounds. Power options include the 5.4-liter Triton V8, the 6.8-liter Triton V10, and the Power Stroke 7.3-liter V8 diesel.

Few changes are expected on the 2000 model Econoline full-size van and Ranger compact pickup.

Freightliner Freightliner Corp.'s MT-35 walk-in van chassis will remain essentially unchanged for 2000. Rated 9,998 pounds GVW, the chassis is powered by Cummins' 130-hp, 4-cylinder B 3.9-liter diesel mated to an Eaton Fuller 5-speed Direct manual transmission. Options include an Allison automatic transmission and a choice of 138-, 158.8- and 178-inch wheelbases.

General Motors After the 1999 introduction of the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado full-size pickups, General Motors carries over its extensive light-truck lineup with few changes for 2000.

One notable change for the Sierra/Silverado: Adding a fourth door for extended-cab versions. Both regular- and extended-cab models with short or long cargo beds will be offered in 1/2, 3/4 and 1-ton versions with GVW ratings ranging from 6,400 to 8,600 pounds Engine choices include three Vortec V8s with outputs ranging from 225 to 300 hp and peak torques from 285 to 355 pound-feet.

For those looking for a pickup or cab chassis with more capacity, GM will continue offering its older model as the Chevrolet C/K and GMC Sierra. GVWs run from 8,600 to 10,000 pounds, and a crew cab is available in addition to regular and extended cabs.

The full-size Chevy Express and GMC Savanna cargo vans and cutaway chassis also remain essentially unchanged for 2000, as do the midsize Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari vans. The compact Chevrolet S-10/GMC Sonoma pickup is also a carryover from 1999.

Nissan Nissan Truck's 2000 Frontier becomes the first compact pickup to offer a four-door crew cab. In addition to four full-size doors, the Frontier Crew Cab's standard equipment includes a 3.3-liter V6 engine and 5-speed manual transmission. An optional 4-speed automatic boosts towing capacity from 3,500 to 5,000 pounds.

Standard and King Cab versions of the Frontier will see only minor changes for the 2000 model year.

Toyota Developed just for the North American market and built in Indiana, the 2000 Tundra is Toyota's new full-size pickup. With a 128-inch wheelbase and GVW ratings of up to 6,050 pounds, the Tundra will handle 1-ton payloads and offers towing capacities up to 7,200 pounds. The new truck's standard engine is a 190-hp 3.4-liter V6, and an optional 32-valve double-overhead cam V8 produces 245 hp and a peak torque of 315 pound-feet. Both engines come with a 4-speed automatic transmission, and a 5-speed manual is available with the V6.

The regular-cab version of the Tundra will have an 8-foot bed, while the four-door, six-passenger Access Cab model will come with a 6.5-foot bed.

Jim Mele is editorial director for Fleet Owner magazine, Intertec Publishing Corp. (Overland Park, Kan.), a division of PRIMEDIA (N.Y., N.Y.).

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