2004 Truck & Van Preview

The economy is still down, gas prices continue to rise, and the 0-percent financing deals that helped to buoy the automotive industry and boost the public's buying potential are no more, making the rest of 2003 and the first half of 2004 seem like a bad time to invest in a new truck. The fact that many professionals are taking a considerable hit during the construction slowdown isn't helping matters either. But as it turns out, truck manufacturers are still making improvements to their models, hoping to make them that much more appealing to a truck-buying demographic that's being forced to place an increased emphasis on the bottom line. Once again, the editors of Fleet Owner magazine have done their homework to bring you the information on all of the important changes to the 2004 models of trucks and vans, making it easier for you to make an informed decision if you're in the market for a new set of wheels.

LIGHT CLASS 1-2

DaimlerChrysler

DaimlerChrysler's Sprinter greets the '04 model year as a Dodge but will be badged as a Freightliner through '06, according to the company. The Class 2 commercial van's cab/chassis version will debut this year, along with the Electronic Stability Program (ESP).

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As with cargo and passenger versions of the Sprinter, the cab/chassis offers a choice of three wheelbases (118, 140, and 158 inches) and two GVWRs (8,550 and 9,990 pounds). The truck boasts straight frame rails, integrated body-mounting rackets, and a fuel system integrated into the cab.

The ESP, which will only be available on 2,500 vans, reduces the danger of skidding by helping the driver handle critical situations more effectively. The ESP computer constantly compares the actual behavior of the van with precalculated target values. If the vehicle deviates from the line indicated by the driver's steering commands, a specially developed “logic” ensures that the system intervenes quickly.

Also new this year is a crew van option that places a rear bench in the cargo van. Other new Sprinter features and options include availability of additional windows around the cargo van and a heated windshield with rain sensor. Only 2,500 models will be equipped with a CARB-emissions-certified engine, as well as new 16-inch aluminum wheels.
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Dodge

Information on the full line of DaimlerChrysler's Dodge 2004 pickups won't be available until later this summer, but the company has made it public that it will release a super high-performance version of the Dodge Ram, called the SRT-10. Powered by a 500-hp, 8.3-L V-10 gasoline engine, the new truck has 525 pounds-feet of torque and a top speed of 150 mph. It can go from 0 mph to 60 mph in about 5 seconds.

The truck will be outfitted with the same engine from Dodge's Viper sports car line. The decision to pump up the power image of Dodge pickups can be traced to last year's inclusion of higher-power diesel engine options. The '03 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500 models were specified with a “high output” turbodiesel 5.9-L Cummins engine, which produces 555 pounds-feet of torque at 1,400 rpm and 305 hp at 2,900 rpm. Also new last year was the 5.7-L-HEMI Magnum gasoline V-8, which now serves as the standard engine on Dodge Ram Heavy Duty pickup trucks. This powerplant produces 345 hp at 5,600 rpm and 365 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm.
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Ford

Ford Motor Co. is updating its popular 8,500-pound GVWR F-150 pickup for 2004 with a wide range of improvements. The '04 F-150 will be available in five models — XL, STX, XLT, FX4, and Lariat — with three cab options.

The regular cab offers a single row of seats and rearward-swinging doors that access a 13-inch wide storage area. The SuperCab is a two-door extended cab version that features a second row of seating that passengers can access via two rearward-swinging doors. The SuperCrew features two rows of seating and four forward-swinging, full-size doors.

The new F-150 also comes with three box lengths — 8, 6.5, and 5.5 feet — and two box styles. The SuperCab 5.5-foot box is a new offering and a full-size pickup exclusive. The fully boxed frame is about nine times stiffer torsionally than its predecessor, providing the foundation for improved durability, driving dynamics, and ride refinement and quietness.

Maximum tow rating is 9,500 pound, and maximum payload capacity is 2,900 pounds. The F-150 is specified with Ford's new 5.4-L, 3-valve Triton V-8 engine, which produces 300 hp, a 15 percent improvement over the earlier model. New Occupant Position Sensing technology exceeds federal safety standards for air bag and offset crash performance.
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General Motors

GM is adding some new models to its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup lines in 2004, including a 1500 crew cab, a hybrid propulsion model, and a single-rear-wheel drive one-ton truck.

Silverado/Sierra hybrid “Flex Power” pickups, aimed at commercial users, go into production in January. GM is only outfitting 500 of these half-ton extended cab models, which feature the standard Vortec 5300 V-8 engine and Hydra-Matic 4L60-E 4-speed automatic transmission, with hybrid propulsion technology. The company expects demand to increase because the hybrids should show fuel economy gains of 10 to 15 percent, and offer 120V electrical power with ground fault detection and accessory-powering capability equivalent to a 20A household circuit. The hybrid will be available in 2WD and 4WD versions.

One-ton single-rear-wheel models of the Silverado/Sierra K3500 (4WD) will be available mid-year, as long-box pickups or chassis cabs.

New to the Silverado/Sierra 2500 Series is a shortbox crew cab model (2WD and 4WD).
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Nissan

In 2004 Nissan Motor Co. is launching the Titan, a full-size pickup designed to go head to head with Ford's F-150. It will have a 5-speed automatic transmission and curtain airbags that run the length of the cab for more head protection. The Titan also features a fully boxed, closed ladder frame, independent double-wishbone front suspension, solid rear axle with dual-stage shackled leaf springs and offset shock absorbers, and the company's new 5.6-L V-8 engine with double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder.

Nissan's V8 aluminum engine block has cast-iron cylinder liners, a forged steel crankshaft, six-bolt main bearing caps, and a single steel timing chain. The company hasn't published production specs, but it promises more than 300 hp and at least 375 pounds-feet of torque, as well as class-leading acceleration, towing capacity, and fuel economy.

Rear doors will open 180 degrees and fold flush against the side of the bed, which will have a resin bed liner with a Utili-track system. These tracks serve as drawer slides or flexible mounting points, allowing for a wider variety of tie-down options and rack and compartment possibilities. An exterior compartment in the bed behind the left-rear wheel well can function as a tool storage area, and a 12V power point in the rear of the bed and an illuminated tailgate make the truck more jobsite friendly.

The Titan will launch first with a King Cab model, followed by a Crew Cab version.
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Toyota

The 2004 Toyota Tundra will include a crew cab option available this fall, called the Tundra Double Cab, that measures 230 inches, or 13 inches more than the '03 four-door option. The Double Cab's wheelbase is 12 inches larger, and its cargo bed is 4 inches deeper. The model has an additional 3 inches of height and 4 inches of width.

Other features include 60/40 split-fold-and-tumble seats, with a seatback angle of 24 degrees and improved thigh support. The '04 Double Cab has a vertical power sliding full rear window, similar to that on Toyota's Sequoia SUV; all four of the door windows are fully retractable. A power sliding moon roof is optional.

A number of features have already moved from optional to standard on several '03 Tundra models, including antilock brakes, daytime running lights, keyless entry, and an anti-theft system. Toyota says it will continue this trend in its '04 lineup.
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