Fleet owners, especially of medium- and heavy-duty power units, may not be in the best of buying moods next year, given their concerns about how much trucks with EPA '07-compliant diesel engines may cost to buy and run. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of tires to kick on perhaps the biggest convoy of all-new or updated Class 1 to 8 commercial vehicles to come into view in quite some time.
Many of the new-for-'07 trucks are indeed new, thanks to '07. In many cases, OEMs needed to make adjustments to their cab and chassis designs to properly engineer in EPA '07 engines.
While the '07 engines have had a massive impact on medium- and heavy-duty trucks, the lighter side of trucking is also enjoying a design renaissance. There are new models available from several Class 3 to 7 manufacturers and many Class 1 to 2 commercial pickups and vans now boast major improvements.
All told, 2007 will be a bellwether year in truck design. And if the economy keeps chugging along as it has for some time now and truck buyers become convinced they have little to fear from the new engines, more of these trucks may get sold than the doomsayers are predicting now in the sunny summer of '06.
CLASS 1-2 LIGHT, 3 MEDIUM
Dodge plans to market its Ram 3500 Mega Cab dually to commercial buyers, emphasizing the higher payload capacity and greater trailer-towing stability compared to standard pickups. The '07 Mega Cab dually, which can be configured with a 4×2 or 4×4 drivetrain with a 6-foot, 3-inch box, comes standard with a 5.9-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine offering 610 pounds per feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. Six-speed manual transmissions are standard; automatics are optional. An electric-shift transfer case is standard on 4-wheel drive models, with limited-slip differential as an option.
GVWR on the Ram 3500 Mega Cab dually is 10,500 pounds, with payload capacity at 3,240 pounds and rear Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) hitting 9,350 pounds. It offers a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of 23,000 pounds and maximum trailer weight of 15,600 pounds, thanks to the heavy-duty 11.5-inch solid axle and longitudinal leaf springs, with three leaves carrying normal loads and an auxiliary leaf supporting additional load capacity.
A Tow/Haul mode and an Overdrive Off mode deliver maximum trailer-towing performance by providing crisp shifts and reducing gear searching when climbing hills.
The '07 Rampage is a concept vehicle that builds on the functionality of the pickup, yet adds a dash of style and new options, all powered by a 5.7-liter gasoline MDS HEMI engine. Behind the brushed aluminum accents and styling, Dodge is experimenting with new door patterns on the Rampage. When either front door is opened, the sill pivots down to expose a handy step assist. While the front door is hinged conventionally, the rear door slides open for easier entry, aided by the absence of the customary B-pillar.
With all seats in use, the Rampage is able to carry five passengers. However, the right front seat and the 60/40 rear seats can be folded into the floor, marking the first use of Dodge's Sto-N-Go Seating and Storage Unit in a pickup truck.
Dodge is expanding its Ram pickup line into the Class 3 segment with the 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 Chassis Cab, offering an upfit-friendly design that does not require expensive re-engineering for body installations, according to Joe Veltri, director of body-on-frame designs for Dodge.
The 3500 is offered in single-rear-wheel and dual-rear-wheel models, and two cab-axle lengths (60 and 84 inches).
The '07-model Class 3 carries a single-rear-wheel GVWR of 10,200 pounds, while maximum GVWR for dual-rear-wheel models is 12,500 pounds. When equipped with optional diesel power, the truck has a GCWR of 23,000 pounds. Standard power is a Chrysler V8 330-hp Hemi engine rated 330-hp and 375-pound per feet of torque; the 6.7-liter Cummins TurboDiesel, with 305-hp and 610-pounds per feet torque is optional.
Other key features include a 50-psi steel 52-gallon fuel tank; 121.6 cubic feet of interior space for Quad Cab models and 65.2 cubic feet for regular cab models; 15,000-mile oil change intervals; four-wheel disc brakes with ABS; optional exhaust brake.
The Ram 3500 is available with a 6-spoke automatic transmission (diesel only) with PTO capability, or a 6-spoke manual with PTO capability. Both 2-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive models feature a re-circulating ball system that the OEM said provides precise response and on-center steering feel through lower internal friction. Visit www.dodge.com for more information.
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The F-150 pickup and its stablemate, the Explorer Sport Trac, a hybrid SUV/pickup built off of Ford's Explorer chassis, will get some new looks and capabilities in 2007.
The FX2 features a dark billet grille, clear headlamps with platinum bezels and a sporty, deep front valance. The monochromatic paint scheme adds body color to exterior components such as the bumper fascias, side mirror caps and door handles.
It's all part of melding big towing and cargo capacity with styling and quality, says Sarkar. That includes marrying the '07 F-150's SuperCrew cab to a 6.5-foot cargo box, offering a flexible-fuel 5.4-liter Triton V-8 capable of running on straight gasoline or an ethanol/gasoline blend, and getting traction assist on 4×2 V-8 models.
The '07 Explorer Sport Trac is an all-new version of the SUV with the cargo box of a truck. The 4.5-foot cargo box is made from corrosion-proof sheet molded composite (SMC) with a molded-in black inner liner that is dent-proof and resists scratches. The box is notched, allowing customers to place two 2×4 boards across the span to provide tiered storage of materials, including the ubiquitous 4×8 plywood sheets.
Three integrated cargo bins are recessed into the bed floor, while two six-pack-sized bins sit in the right and left rear of the box and one large bin runs the length of the headboard. Bins are equipped with weather-resistant lids and removable drain plugs for storing wet gear or ice.
The '07 Sport Trac also gets a new frame that is 444 percent stiffer than the previous model, standard AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control and adaptive safety features, as well as a new independent rear suspension for refined ride and handling.
Ford anticipates very few changes to its E-Series and F-Series medium-duty trucks in 2007. While base models for the E-Series continue to be the E-350 and E-450, the OEM is adding a stripped chassis configuration, including a cutaway version that can be prepped for ambulance, school bus, and shuttle bus bodies, for example.
Standard on E-Series vehicles is an Electronic Throttle Control (ETC). And for the cutaway chassis spec'd with the 6-liter PowerStroke diesel engines (built by International Truck & Engine Corp. exclusively for Ford), a 140-amp alternator is an option.
For gasoline fleets, the E-350 comes with a 5.4-liter EFI V8 engine, while the E-450 gets a 6.8-liter ERI V10. The transmission package for both engines is a TorqShift electronic 5-sp. Automatic with tow/haul mode.
Ford F-Series models F-250 through F-750 are offered with several engine options: the 5.4-liter 3-valve Triton V8 and 6.8-liter 3-valve Triton V10, both with electronic throttle control (ECT) and an optional 50-state emissions system; and the 6.0-liter PowerStroke V8 Turbo Diesel. All engines are available with the TorqShift 5-spoke automatic transmission.
Also standard are antilock brakes, coil front springs and the BlockerBeam front bumper underride protection system. A trailer brake controller is optional. Visit www.fordvehicles.com for more information.
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The big news from General Motors for 2007 is the total makeover of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. Details weren't available at publication, but GM says it plans to start production of the completely new pickups in the fourth quarter. “Our new '07 model redesign will give the Silverado and Sierra more refinements, more power, and more safety features,” said Ed Peper, general manager for GM's Chevrolet division. “But we're deliberately keeping a tight lid on the details for now.”
Peper added that the first '07 Silverado and Sierra pickups to roll off the production line at the end of the year are going to be crew cab models, followed by extended cabs and then the standard pickups. He also said ‘06 models of those pickups will be renamed the Silverado Classic and Sierra Classic to distinguish them from the '07 versions.
According to GM, its goal is to make the OnStar system standard on nearly all of its retail vehicles in the U.S. by the end of '07, including light trucks.
GM is also widening the availability of its Active Fuel Management (AFM) system, formerly called “displacement on demand,” to include V6 and V8 models in '07. Equipped with AFM, the new 3.9-liter V6, rated at 233-hp and 240 pounds per feet of torque, will automatically operate on half of its cylinders under light load conditions, thus improving efficiency by reducing fuel consumption. When the cylinders are deactivated, the 3.9-liter effectively operates as an inline 3-cycle engine, with cylinders 1, 3 and 5 deactivated on the left cylinder bank. The engine returns to V-6 mode the instant the controller determines that vehicle speed or load requires additional power.
Introduced three years ago on GM's Gen IV V8 engine, AFM uses a new E38 engine controller that determines when to deactivate cylinders, allowing the engine to maintain vehicle speed in lighter-load conditions such as highway cruising. GM says the seamless changeover process is not perceptible to the driver. The OEM will offer AFM on 11 vehicles in '07. Visit www.gm.com for more information.
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Honda Motor Co. says that although there are no major changes in store for its Ridgeline pickup in 2007, it does plan to speed up development of the V4 and V6 clean diesel engines. These powerplants would give the Ridgeline more low-end torque and better fuel mileage than commercial light-duty buyers often look for in the U.S.
“Based on our highly successful diesel engine currently sold in Europe, [we are] now developing a cleaner next-generation 4-cylinder diesel engine that shall meet the EPA's stringent Tier 2 BIN5 emission standard requiring NOx emission levels equivalent to a gasoline-powered vehicle,” says Takeo Fukui, president and CEO of Honda.
The Ridgeline offers a half-ton, 5-foot cargo bed built on a closed box unibody frame that combines the strength of a ladder frame with the many advantages of a unibody design. Vehicles are equipped with a 247-hp VTEC V6 engine; 5-spoke electronically controlled automatic transmission; advanced Variable Torque Management 4-wheel drive; and fully independent 4-wheel suspension.
The following features will also continue to be standard on the Ridgeline: ABS with Electronic Brake Assist and Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control; advanced dual-stage, dual-threshold driver's and front passenger's airbags; driver's and front passenger's side airbags (passenger side with Occupant Protection Detection System); two-row side curtain airbags with rollover sensor; a tire pressure monitoring system; air conditioning; tilt steering wheel; power side windows, power sliding rear window and door locks; cruise control; keyless entry and automatic heated wiper zone.
All models also come equipped ready to tow with standard transmission and oil coolers, heavy duty brakes, dual radiator fans, an exclusive fresh air intake system for improved towing performance in hot weather conditions and pre-wiring for 4- and 7-pin trailer hookup. Visit www.honda.com for more information.
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Nissan plans only minor changes to its Frontier and Titan pickups in 2007. For the Frontier, different bed configurations and choices will be made available, with the addition of an auxiliary jack on some models. The SE, LE and NISMO trim levels will have LEV2 and ULEV Emission Certification.
For the '07 Titan, engine power is going to jump to 315- to 320-hp and a new chrome package will be offered that includes chrome step rails, rims, mirrors, etc. The Titan is available in King Cab and Crew Cab body styles, each with a standard 305-hp 5.6-liter DOHC V8 and a choice of 4×4 or 4×2 drive; the higher horsepower engine package is optional.
The '07 Frontier and Titan are also going to play bigger roles in Nissan North America's (NNA) new Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) and Fleet Division, which was formed last February. Visit www.nissanusa.com for more information.
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Completely redesigned for 2007, the Tundra pickup will not only be bigger and more powerful, but will also offer new body and engine configurations, according to Toyota Motor Sales USA, the U.S. manufacturing and sales arm of Toyota Inc.
The '07 Tundra will feature a brand new 5.7-liter i-Force V8 engine mated to a new heavy-duty 6-spoke automatic transmission, giving it a towing capacity of 10,000 pounds. Other features include larger front disc brakes; standard rear disc brakes; higher capacity cooling and electrical systems and a chassis platform made with 30 percent higher tensile strength steel.
The Tundra will have three engine options in '07: the new 5.7-liter V8, a 4.0-liter V6 and a 4.7-liter i-Force V8. The full-size '07 Tundra platform features a significantly expanded wheelbase and an increase of 10 inches in overall length, with a nearly 5-inch gain in height and 4 inches in width.
The '07 Tundra will be available in three cab configurations and three trim levels: Base, SR5 and Limited. A redesigned “command and control” center provides an unobstructed view of the instrument panel and puts knobs, switches and buttons within close reach of the driver, with all Tundra models offering 4 more inches of shoulder room to the passenger cabin. Two-row cab models, by extension, are going to offer rear passengers nearly 3 inches more shoulder room.
For buyers who use their Tundra as a work truck, the '07 model has a tailgate that can be opened and closed with two fingers. Robust dampers on the hinges have been added to help cushion the tailgate when opening, as well as help reduce bouncing when driving with the tailgate down. Other design features with workers in mind include large door handles inside and out, easy-to-turn HVAC knobs and adjustable headrests, allowing drivers and passengers to ride to their next work site without having to remove protective gear such as hardhats and gloves. Visit www.toyota.com for more information.
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