ROAD RULES

This preview of 2003 commercial trucks highlights new models from every manufacturer, as well as significant changes for their current offerings. Despite the slow economy, you'll find that truck makers have moved ahead aggressively with both completely new models and major redesigns as they continue efforts to tailor commercial trucks more closely to all types of applications.

Every effort has been made to ensure that all of the 2003 trucks model information presented is as comprehensive and accurate as possible. And if in some cases 2003-model plans were not available at presstime, we've tried to offer at least a glimpse of what might be coming from these manufacturers as the year progresses.

DODGE

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Daimler Chrysler's Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups for 2003 will have a new diesel option from Cummins, the High Output turbodiesel 5.9-liter, which produces 555 pound-foot of torque at 1,400 rpm and 305 hp at 2,900 rpm. The engine features a new high-pressure, common-rail fuel system that injects a small amount of fuel to start combustion before the primary fuel charge is injected. According to Cummins, by smoothing out the combustion pressure in the cylinder, noise is reduced substantially. Average major overhaul interval for the turbo-diesel is 350,000.

The standard gasoline engine for these pickups is the new 5.7-liter HEMI Magnum V-8, generating 345 hp at 5,600 rpm and 365 pound-foot of torque at 4,400 rpm.

A new rack-and-pinion steering system improves handling of the 2WD Dodge Rams; for the 4WD, an all-new recirculating ball system improves on-center steering feel through lower internal friction. Two new transfer cases are available for 4WD 2500 and 3500 Dodge Rams — a conventional manual shift for ST and SLT models, and an electric shift for the SLT Plus. Rear-axle capacity is boosted to 12,000 pounds.

FORD

Ford Motor Co. has a number of improvements slated for its light-duty pickups next year. At the top of the list is a brand-new 6.0-liter V8 diesel that increases horsepower to 325 and torque to 550 pound-foot as a low-displacement option for the company's F-250 and F-350 models. This V8 comes with a new Torque Shift automatic transmission. In addition, Ford is increasing the torque on the 7.3-liter Powerstroke diesel option with automatic transmissions. The enhanced engine produces 525 pound-foot of torque at 1,600 rpm, and 250 hp at 2,600 rpm. This is an increase of 20 pound-foot of torque over last year's Power Stroke engine. Both the 6.0 V8 and the 7.3-liter Power Stroke are built exclusively for Ford by International Truck & Engine Corp.

Ford has increased the towing capacity on the F-250 and F-350 models equipped with either the 7.3-liter Powerstroke engine or the 6.8-liter V8 gasoline engine to 12,500 pounds. Ford will also offer an optional skid-plate package on the 4WD versions of the F-250 and F-350. A four-wheel antilock braking system is standard for the F-Series line, including XL models.

Also new next year is an off-road option package for Ford's Excursion SUV, including the new 6.0-liter diesel and Torq Shift automatic transmission.

Ford also has made a number of changes to its E-Series commercial vans and F-Series Super Duty trucks for model-year 2003. For the E-Series vans, power mirrors are standard and include a driver-side flat lens and passenger-side convex lens. Also standard is a full-length vinyl floor covering and optional daytime running lights. Standard engine on both the Cutaway and Chassis cabs will be a 6.8-liter V8 gasoline engine; a 7.3-liter diesel will be optional. Five wheelbases will be offered for the 2003 E-series lineup (E-350, E-450 and E-550): 159-inch, 177-inch, 191-inch, 209-inch and 233-inch.

An array of commercial “prep” packages is available for the E-Series models, including an ambulance, school bus and shuttle bus, with optional trailer tow mirrors. Roof marker or clearance lamps and tail lamps are standard on all cutaway models; daytime running lights are optional.

New for the Super Duty F Series is a 6.0-liter V8 diesel engine that increases horsepower to 325 and torque to 550 pound-foot. This engine will be available on the 2003-model F-450 and F-550 chassis cab models.

Other changes to the F Series in '03 include hydraulic brakes and an optional 18,000-pound GVWR towing package for the F-650. For the F-750, air or hydraulic brakes are available, with an optional 26,000-pound GVWR towing package, as well as an 8,500-pound front axle and 17,500-pound rear axle. The F-650 and F-750 will have a special National Hi-Back Air Ride driver's seat as an option; it will be available immediately for the 2003 regular cab model, and later in the year for the crew cab version.

GENERAL MOTORS

The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra will include more than 40 new features and enhancements for 2003. Chief among those changes are a passenger-sensing air bag system, a modified instrument panel including a new driver information center, new redundant steering wheel controls and the expanded availability of GM's new Quadrasteer four-wheel steering system.

For 2003, the Quadrasteer will also be available on the Silverado and Sierra 1500 HD 2WD and 4WD shortbox pickups. Quadrasteer is an electromechanical system that turns the vehicle's rear wheels (up to 12 degrees) in relation to the front wheels, resulting in unprecedented low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability.

At lower speeds, Quadrasteer reduces the 1500 HD models' curb-to-curb turning diameter by up to 21 percent to 39.2 feet, comparable to the 37.1-foot turning radius of a Saturn S-Series compact car. At higher speeds, Quadrasteer reduces the vehicle's “yaw,” or rotational motion, for better control during lane changes and when being passed by a large truck, according to GM.

GM's redesigned 2003 Chevy Express and GMC Savana full-size vans come with a range of new features, including an all-wheel drive option, a left-hand-side entry/load door, and unique side access panels on Express Access and Savana Pro models. The 2003 Express and Savana vans are available in both regular (135-inch) and extended (155-inch) wheelbases and cutaway chassis with GVW ratings of 8,600-12,300 pounds.

GM has officially turned its new GMT560 medium-duty truck chassis into the 2003 Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC TopKick models. The Kodiak and TopKick names should be familiar to commercial fleets since they were used by GM from the early 1980s through the mid-1990s.

The Kodiak/TopKick C4500-C5500 Series (Class 4-5) have been redesigned and reengineered from the ground up for 2003. From regular and commercial cutaway chassis cabs to vocational packages such as school bus, fire and rescue, and snowplow configurations, there are more model choices than before, with crew cabs and 4WDs on the horizon. GVWRs range from 16,000 pounds for the C4500 to 18,000 and 19,500 pounds for the C5500.

The new Kodiak/TopKick C6500, C7500 and C8500 trucks replace GM's conventional-cab C-Series with regular and crew cab, chassis cab offerings. With GVWRs covering 19,501 to 61,000 pounds, model ranges include LoPro, Tandem and Tractor chassis configurations.

The Kodiak/TopKick line for 2003 features better maneuverability and visibility, expanded powertrain choices, upgraded serviceability, advanced chassis and braking systems, as well as improved ride and handling.

ISUZU

American Isuzu Motors now functions under a joint venture identity, General Motors Isuzu Commercial Truck, which combines General Motors and Isuzu medium-duty commercial vehicle sales, service and marketing functions in the United States. The GMC, Chevrolet and Isuzu brands remain intact.

Minor modifications to Isuzu's Class 3-7 line for '03 include a beefed up alternator for the N-Series and W-Series models equipped with diesel engines. The NQR and W-550 series trucks feature a new 6-speed manual overdrive transmission that's 64 pounds lighter than the previous model. For the FRR and WT-5500, a low-emission vehicle/clean-fuel fleet diesel engine will be available for vehicles with a GVW of 19,500 pounds.

The rest of the truck specs carry over from the 2002 model year. The Class 3-4 N-Series includes the NPR Diesel, NPR HD Diesel, NPR Gas and NPR HD Gas. The NQR takes the N-Series design to Class 5 weight specs with an increased GVW rating of 17,950 pounds and a body payload capacity of 10,382-10,592 pounds. Class 5 FRR GVWR is 18,000 -19,500 pounds; Class 6 FSR is 21,300 pounds.

MITSUBISHI FUSO

Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America plans to make its 4M50 dual overhead cam diesel engine available for a Class 5 under the model designation FH. The 175-hp engine, which produces 347 pound-foot of torque at 1,600 rpm, comes with an Aisin 4-speed automatic transmission; it also incorporates Mitsubishi Fuso's twin balance shaft system. Standard equipment on the 17,900-pound GVWR FH includes an exhaust brake and power windows and door locks. User-friendly features such as a park position on the shift selector and an in-cab oil level check are standard, as are safety features like door crush bars, collapsible steering wheel and daytime running lights.

Mitsubishi Fuso's current Class 5, the FH-SP, will still be available. Specs for this model are GVWR of 17,995 pounds; 6-cyl. diesel engine; and manual or automatic (optional) transmission.

The FH and FH-SP are designed to handle a variety of body styles, but Mitsubishi believes refrigerated applications are a particularly good match with this chassis because its heavier front axle capacity can accommodate the extra weight of a refrigerated body and cooling system.

NISSAN

The Frontier 4-door Crew Cab is the heart of Nissan's pickup line, and it will undergo little change for the 2003 model year. The most popular model is the Long Bed, which measures 74.6 inches and has extensive frame reinforcements. The 2003 version comes complete with a center console, 25 percent larger glove box and up to three power outlets. Engine offerings include a 4-cyl. V6 and a 210-hp supercharged V6.

Nissan is introducing an all-new full-size pickup concept vehicle called the Alpha-T for 2003. The prototype features a sharply sloped A-pillar and unique glass panel/roof treatment, with a scooped hood and aggressively styled 4-door body and a cargo bed. The 4WD Alpha-T is powered by a 300-hp, 4.5-liter DOHC V8 engine and equipped with a rugged, off-road suspension to handle tough work environments.

TOYOTA

Although the 2003 Toyota Tundra will not undergo significant changes, several models will now come standard with features that used to be optional, including ABS, daytime running lights, keyless entry and an anti-theft system.

The standard engine spec for the Tundra is a 3.4-liter V6 engine that generates 190 hp and 220 pound-foot of torque. However, an option for the full-size Tundra is the 4.7-liter i-Force V8, strong low-end torque and top-end acceleration, delivering 245 hp and 315 pound-foot of torque. The V6 comes standard with a 5-speed manual transmission; 4-speed automatics are optional for both the V6 and V8 engines. Several 2003 V8 models can also be equipped with a new Limited Slip Differential for added traction.

The Tundra comes in a variety of 2WD and 4WD configurations, including 2-door regular-cab and 4-door Access Cab. The Access Cab features large double-doors with interior and exterior handles, and its 60/40 rear split-bench seats three.

This article was compiled by the staff of Fleet Owner magazine, a property of PRIMEDIA Business Magazines and Media (New York, N.Y.).

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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