By: Steve Sturgess
Pickup trucks are robust and last a long time. So what’s a manufacturer to do to keep sales momentum? Answer, keep improving the product. More horsepower, more payload, more towing capacity, more expensive. But the flipside of that coin is that some really big strides have been made in fuel economy.
News of the next model year’s full-sized pickups is in, and Ford’s continued economy measures include highly refined EcoBoost engines and that stunning reduction in weight — 700 pounds — through the use of aluminum throughout the body. The 2017 Super Duty was previewed in December 2015 with all-new high strength steel frame, 16 new features and up to seven cameras to make it the ultimate tow machine, with complementary raised tow ratings. But it doesn’t go into production till the end of 2016, so for now Super Duty features aluminum in the cab and body for weight savings.
Dodge turned to diesel last year in the shape of a 3.0 V6 that gives the Ram 1500 outstanding — for a truck — highway fuel economy of 29 mpg. One of the stars of the Detroit Auto Show was the Titan XD which is just now going to dealers ready for the start of 2016. It is the first of a whole new range of redesigned Titan trucks. But the big news with the XD is its all-new Cummins diesel engine: a 5-liter V8.
And generating a lot of excitement are the mid-sized Chevy Colorado and the GMC Canyon. These two see The General returning to the so-called compact truck fray — an arena where there’s not been much happening for a decade, though for 2016 the Toyota Tacoma gets a complete makeover. The Nissan Frontier, by contrast, gets a few new colors. By fall, there will be a 2.8 diesel option for the GM compacts, upping the ante with a promised 32 mpg highway rating.
But while not every pickup is a new model, everywhere there is a race to add content and performance, making the new crop really good haulers as well as comfortable family transport.
Full-Size Pickups for 2016
The 2015 model-year F-150 caused quite a stir when it was announced late in 2013 and now the aluminum cab F-150 moves it to the street with a mild makeover that includes breakthrough towing technology, new Special Edition Appearance Packages, SYNC 3 and alternative fuel capability allowing customers to use natural gas or propane from the factory. The F-150 also features:
- Pro Trailer Backup Assist makes it easier for drivers of all skill levels to back a trailer up to launch a boat or park in a driveway. The segment-first technology allows customers to steer a trailer instinctively by turning a knob left or right to indicate direction; the truck controls its steering and limits vehicle speed.
- Industry’s claimed best towing and payload capability among full-size pickups; F-150 can haul 3,300 pounds and tow 12,200 pounds.
- A unique feature is the 360-degree camera view that uses exterior cameras to create a bird’s-eye view of the truck to help drivers park, maneuver in tight spots, and navigate narrow roads and trails.
- In the pickup bed, there are integrated loading ramps for easy loading of ATVs, motorcycles and mowers and in-bed metal brackets and custom cleats to secure a variety of accessories – from ramps to storage bins to bed dividers. For trailering there’s trailer hitch assist. This adds a new rearview camera feature that incorporates a dynamic, curving line based on steering wheel angle to permit backing right onto a trailer’s hitch.
The lineup includes four engine options:
- 7-liter EcoBoost V6 with standard Auto Start-Stop: advanced design produces 325 horsepower and 375 lb.-ft. of torque. The 2.7-liter EcoBoost 4×2 has a maximum payload rating of 2,250 pounds and maximum tow rating of 8,500 pounds;
- 5-liter EcoBoost V6: This twin-turbo engine delivers V8-like 420 lb.-ft. of torque and 365 horsepower to enable towing of up to 12,200 pounds. It has earned a maximum payload rating of 3,180 pounds;
- 0-liter V8 with twin independent variable camshaft timing: Improved power and efficiency, delivering 385 horsepower and 387 lb.-ft. of torque;
- 5-liter V6 with twin independent variable camshaft timing: This engine produces 283 horsepower and 255 lb.-ft. of torque. It has a maximum payload of 1,910 pounds and maximum tow rating of 7,600 pounds.
Five primary trims are available, and include XL, XLT, Lariat, Platinum and King Ranch. The FX4 off-road package can be added to most four-wheel-drive models, improving trail capability with an electronic locking rear axle, skid plates and off-road-tuned shocks.
Ford Super Duty
Ford’s second-generation 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbo diesel, available in the F-250 and up to F-450 Super Duty, now boasts 440 horsepower and 860 lb.-ft. of torque.
The 2016 F-450 tops the F-Series Super Duty pickup truck lineup with maximum fifth-wheel/gooseneck towing capacity which Ford says is class-leading at 31,200 pounds, a gain of 6,500 pounds. The truck’s gross combined weight rating (GCWR) increases to a class-leading 40,000 pounds, a gain of 7,000 pounds.
Innovations on the 6.7-liter Power Stroke include its reverse-flow layout and a larger turbo. This enables improved engine braking, manually controlled by a push-button switch on the dashboard.
F-350 Super Duty is available with a high-capacity towing package that includes new front springs and a wide track axle, increasing the GCWR with the 6.7-liter Power Stroke engine, up from 31,900 pounds to 35,000 pounds.
Improvements to F-450 that allow it to handle the increased tow rating include commercial- grade 19.5-inch wheels and tires, upgraded rear U-joints and suspension components with new leaf springs, front and rear stabilizer bars and shocks. The steering has stronger gears and linkages and the fifth-wheel/gooseneck has increased towing capacity. The brakes, shared with Super Duty chassis cab models, are larger and feature new antilock calibration for enhanced performance.
Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra
The General Motors half-ton pair, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 were new in 2013 and are upgraded for 2016 with a new, bolder front-end treatment. Highlights on the Silverado include:
- Hydra-Matic 8L90 eight-speed automatic transmission for 6.2L V-8 models;
- 12,000-pound max trailering capacity, based on the SAE J2807 rating practice;
- MyLink infotainment gets text messaging alerts and Siri Eyes Free;
- Available OnStar with 4G LTE and built-in Wi-Fi hotspot (3GB/three-month data trial). For 2016 this is enhanced with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto;
- Spray-on bed liner is now offered on all models;
The Sierra Denali is the only full-size truck to offer:
- Magnetic ride control for the rear shock absorbers;
- 2L V-8 and new eight-speed automatic transmission is a highly refined, technically advanced pickup
Additionally, the entire Silverado/Sierra lineup is available with a number of features engineered for serious towing, including the available NHT max trailering package, which features a 9.76-inch rear axle, heavy-duty rear springs, revised shock tuning, enhanced cooling and an integrated trailer brake controller to optimize capability and comfort when trailering.
Both 1500 ranges include regular cab, double cab and crew cab body styles, all offered with 4WD. Models and trim levels at Chevy include Work Truck (WT), LS, LT, LTZ and High Country. Regular cab models are available with a 6-foot 6-inch box or an 8-foot box. Double cab models are offered exclusively with the shorter box, while crew cabs are available with a 5-foot 8-invh box or the 6-foot 6-inch box. The GMC Sierra lineup is SLE, SLT and Denali. The off-road-inspired All Terrain package is offered on double cab and crew cab models with SLE or SLT trim and includes the Z71 Off-Road suspension.
Both brands feature:
- An available 6.2L EcoTec3 V-8 that is claimed the most powerful engine offered in any light-duty pickup, with 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque. Like other EcoTec3 engines, it switches to four cylinders to improve efficiency in light-load driving;
- High-strength steel that makes the frames and cabs stronger and lighter and helps Silverado and Sierra deliver a 5-Star rating in the newest government crash test;
- Strategic use of aluminum alloys to reduce the weight of engines, front suspension components, hoods and other parts;
- Driver-focused interiors feature ample storage, multiple power and USB connections.
- The segment’s only standard projector-beam headlamps.
Silverado and Sierra HDs
The 2016 Silverado and Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD models got the facelift of the 1500 models in 2014. Chevies are available in Work Truck (WT), LT and LTZ trims, and offered in regular cab, double cab and crew cab configurations (regular cab available only in WT and LT trims). These are matched in the GMC Sierra line-up without the work truck level. The new double cab model replaces the previous extended cab and features forward-hinged rear doors.
Additional updates for 2015 included:
- Enhanced cooling air flow, which enabled the 6.6-liter Duramax turbo diesel and 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 to better maintain full power;
- Integrated cruise control, auto grade braking and diesel exhaust braking;
- An expanded lineup of bi-fuel trucks that run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas (CNG);
- Standard StabiliTrak with Trailer Sway Control on all models including 3500HD dually.
- Maximum available payload of 7,374 pounds, up from 7,222 pounds;
- Maximum available conventional towing of 19,600 pounds with the available factory hitch;
- Maximum available fifth-wheel towing of 23,200 pounds, up from 22,500 pounds.
Chrysler Ram 1500
The big news of last year was the 3.0 diesel which continues for 2016. The Ram 1500 with EcoDiesel powertrain is claimed America’s most fuel-efficient pickup truck and now accounts for 20 percent of Ram 1500 production. For 2016 it offers:
- 9,200 pounds of towing capacity;
- TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission;
- Exclusive air suspension that enhances fuel economy, improves ride control and off-road capability along with constant-height entry/exit and loading;
- Mid year launches of the Ram 1500 Rebel and Ram 1500 Laramie Limited continue into 2016
The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine is mated to the TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission and produces 240 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 gasoline engines offered on the Ram 1500 are also mated to the TorqueFlite 8. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine with variable-valve timing offers 305 horsepower, 269 lb.-ft. of torque and gasoline fuel economy of 25 mpg. The 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with fuel-saving cylinder shut-off and VVT provides 395 horsepower and 410 lb.-ft. of torque.
For the 2015 model year, the Ram 1500 benefited from a number of weight saving features that include boxed floor cross-members, aluminum front lower control arms. The Ram 1500 also featured an aluminum hood, saving 26 pounds. The combination of the new Pentastar V-6 engine and new TorqueFlite 8 transmission reduced weight by approximately 76 pounds.
For 2016 the Limited’s all-new grille is the most prominent change of the exterior. As the leading point, its new billet port grille breaks from the long tradition of crosshair styling with bold “RAM” lettering. Limited also features all-new 20-inch forged multi-surface aluminum wheels.
New for Ram Truck, and debuting on the Limited and Rebel models, is an all-black headliner and pillars combination. A pulse-width modulated electrical system includes an HVAC blower continually controls fan speeds for optimal performance in all driving scenarios, offering quiet, efficient operation.
Ram trucks says the 2500 and 3500 models are designed to deliver a broad package of features. This includes:
- New Cummins 6.7-liter calibration that edges out even Class 4 pickup competitors with 900 lb.-ft. torque;
- Ram 3500 delivers over 31,200 pounds of SAE J2807-spec. towing capacity; Ram 2500 claims 17,970 pounds of SAE towing capacity;
- Top payload of 7,390 pounds (Ram 3500)
- Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of 39,100 pounds
Chrysler Group’s 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 develops 410 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and a peak torque rating of 429 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm.
Other engine options include the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8, standard equipment for the Ram 2500 and 3500 (SRW). The engine produces 383 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and generates peak torque of 400 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. The 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 is mated to a 66RFE six-speed automatic transmission.
The 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel I-6 is available in three versions. The first version is paired with Ram’s segment exclusive six-speed manual transmission. This combination delivers 350 horsepower and 660 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,400 rpm. The second option matches the Cummins to the 68RFE six-speed automatic transmission. This diesel cranks out 370 horsepower with 800 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,600 rpm.
The Ram Heavy Duty trucks feature a factory-installed seven-pin trailer tow connector in the truck bed, included with the optional fifth wheel or gooseneck tow prep package. Ram features a standard Class 5 receiver hitch with four- and seven-pin connectors on the bumper. A tailgate handle-mounted, rear high-definition camera backup system is available with dynamic imaging in the 8.4-inch display. Also, the cargo-view camera located in the center high-mounted stop light provides a view of the bed for easier connection to fifth wheel or gooseneck trailers as well as monitoring bed loads.
RamBox cargo management system and tailgate power locks create a convenient solution for locking all exterior doors and storage with one push of a button. Auto rain-sensing wipers and SmartBeam headlamps also are available.
The full-size Nissan Titan is all new for 2016. The big introduction was January with the diesel-powered Titan XD, the first model unveiled for the new Titan range of full-sized pickups. The XD features a new cab and available Cummins ISV-5 diesel. The 5.0-liter V8 engine had already been announced by Cummins but it gets a new rating and name: Turbo Diesel, rated 310 horsepower with a stump-pulling 555 lb.-ft. of torque. The truck has just entered production at the end of 2015.
The new Titan XD Crew Cab is the first of three cab configurations, two frame sizes, three powertrain offerings including 4×4 and five grade levels to be available in the full Titan lineup.
Titan is built on Nissan’s full-sized pickup platform. Gasoline models will likely feature the 5.6-liter DOHC Endurance V8 rated at 317 horsepower and 385 lb.-ft. of torque. Titan offers a standard 5-speed automatic transmission and a maximum towing capacity of up to 9,500 pounds for King Cab and 9,400 pounds for Crew Cab.
Features of the 2016 XD include utility features and convenience aids such as:
- Rearview monitor with trailer guides;
- Around View monitoring with moving object detection;
- A trailer Light Check system that allows one-person hook-up operation – including checking turn signals, brake lights and running/clearance lights from outside the vehicle;
- Also available are blind spot warning and front and rear Sonar system.
The wide range of available interior features includes front and rear NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats and a large center console designed to serve as a mobile workstation.
Tundra was redone for the 2014 model year and was further improved for 2015, including standard V8 power across the board, a new TRD Pro model with special off-road suspension and an available spray-in bed liner.
The line includes the SR, SR5, the upper level Limited, and two premium grades, the Platinum and 1794 Edition that features a western lifestyle theme with saddle brown premium leather-trimmed seating. Matching soft-touch materials also accent the shift console, the front and rear door trim, and the instrument panel. Like the Platinum, the 1794 Edition includes such luxuries as heated and ventilated front seats, and Entune premium JBL audio with navigation.
Tundra is available as a two-door Regular Cab, four-door Double Cab, and the super-sized four-door CrewMax. Tundra Regular Cab models come exclusively with a long bed (8.1-foot) configuration. Double Cab models are offered in both standard bed (6.5-foot) or long bed (8.1-foot) configurations and include Rear Under Seat Tray Storage on the SR5 and Limited grades. The CrewMax comes with a 5.5-foot bed.
For 2016, the Tundra comes standard with the 4.6-liter i-Force V8 with 310 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 327 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 3,400 rpm. The 5.7-liter i-Force V8 makes 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 401 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 3,600 rpm. The 5.7-liter is offered in both gasoline and Flex Fuel variants. Both V8s come teamed with with a 6-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, with 4WD optional.
With up to 10,500-lb. towing capacity (SAE J2807), it has a Toyota’s advanced TripleTech frame. The Tundra’s Vehicle Stability Control integrates traction control and automatic limited-slip differential.
The Tundra’s quiet interior is claimed ideal for the Entune Audio systems. Standard on the SR grade, it includes a 6.1-inch touchscreen display; AM/FM CD Player with MP3/WMA playback capability.
Compact Pickup Trucks
Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon
In 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon were introduced as a pair of all-new General Motors midsize pickups, claimed to combine the versatility of a truck with the refinement, maneuverability and efficiency of a crossover SUV. Having driven both, we can confirm they deliver on that promise. Both are available in four-door extended- or crew-cab models, with a choice of four-cylinder or V-6 engines and EPA-estimated 27 mpg highway for the four-cylinder and 26 mpg with the V-6 on 2WD models. Big news for 2016 is the late-year availability of a 2.8 diesel that will beat out the Dodge with 31 mpg highway. They also offer the highest-available trailering rating in the mid-sized lineup: 7,000 pounds with the available V-6 engine and heavy-duty towing package.
Traditional truck features such as four-wheel drive and a highly flexible bed with GM’s GearOn system are available.
The Colorado and Canyon both feature triple-sealed doors inlaid in the body sides, like the bigger Silverado/Sierra, for improved aerodynamic performance and a quieter interior. To help keep overall mass down, lightweight materials such as an aluminum hood are used. Also offered are the segment’s first active aero grille shutters, designed to enhance aerodynamics when closed.
Colorado model trim levels include Work Truck (WT), LT and Z71. The off-road-inspired Z71 features a gunmetal grille surround – a change from the chrome standard on the other models – projector headlamps and 17-inch aluminum wheels with all-terrain tires. GMC Canyon is offered in base, SLE and SLT models, in 2WD and 4WD, and with an aggressively styled All-Terrain package offered on SLE models. It includes 17-inch painted aluminum wheels and all-terrain tires, a body-color grille surround with horizontal chrome bars, a body-color rear bumper, front tow hooks, hill descent control and specific suspension tuning.
Extended cab models feature a 6-foot 2-inch bed and crew cabs have a 5-foot 2-inch bed or the 6-foot 2-inch bed. With the tailgate down, the longer bed allows hauling of 8-foot-long cargo. The trucks’ seats are designed for long-haul comfort and wear, says GM. They use dual-firmness foam for greater comfort on long drives and high-wear, stain-resistant cloth seating trim. Leather-appointed seating is available.
The four-wheel drive employs an electronically controlled transfer case that allows the driver to shift on the fly. The driver can select from three modes, 2WD, 4WD HI or 4WD Lo.
The 2.5L and 3.6L engines offered are tuned uniquely for truck duty. The 2.5L four is rated at 200 horsepower and 191 lb.-ft. of torque. The 3.6L engine is rated at 305 horsepower and 269 lb.-ft. of torque.
All models are matched with a six-speed automatic that complements the truck-tuned engines with features that make hauling and trailering easier and more comfortable, including auto grade braking and a tow/haul mode. Extended cab 2WD models equipped with the 2.5L engine are also available with a six-speed manual transmission.
For 2015, Frontier received a number of enhancements, including:
- Moon roof standard on Frontier SL Long Wheelbase models;
- NissanConnect with Navigation and Mobile Apps now standard on PRO-4X models;
- NissanConnect with Mobile Apps and 5.0-inch color display now standard with Frontier SV and Desert Runner grades;
- For 2016 there’s a moon roof for the crew cab and new exterior colors
The Nissan Frontier mid-size pickup continues in the 2016 model year in King Cab and Crew Cab body styles, two bed lengths and in 4×2 and 4×4 driveline configurations, along with five trim grades: Frontier S (4-cylinder and V6), SV, PRO-4X, Desert Runner and SL (Crew Cab only). Two engines are also available – a 4.0-liter DOHC V6 engine rated at 261 horsepower and 281 lb.-ft. of torque or a fuel-efficient 152-horsepower 2.5-liter inline 4-cylinder engine (4×2 King Cab only) rated at 19 mpg city, 23 mpg highway.
Frontier 4×4 models are available with 4-wheel limited-slip system, with available Hill Descent Control engaged by the driver.
Long Bed models are available with Frontier Crew Cab SV and Crew Cab SL. King Cab and Crew Cab offer a high-utility bed that includes a factory-applied spray-on bed liner and the Utility-track tie-down system.
Removable storage boxes are tucked beneath the rear seats. A locking dual glove box, center console storage, one-liter bottle storage integrated into the front doors and a multitude of cup holders and power points are standard. Frontier Crew Cab also offers an available leather-appointed interior and available tilt and sliding moon roof. The moon roof is now standard on Frontier Crew Cab SL long wheelbase model.
Frontier’s maximum towing capacity is rated at up to 6,500 pounds (maximum, when properly equipped; J2807 compliant).
The new 2016 Tacoma features high strength steel to help enhance rigidity and overall strength. Ultra-high strength steel was integrated into the body shell using a new hot stamping process that reduces weight.
The suspension was fine-tuned to help deliver a smoother on-road ride for the all-new Tacoma, while making it even more capable off-road.
Two engines are featured: a carryover 2.7-liter DOHC four-cylinder with VVT-i that produces 159 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque. EPA estimated city/highway/combined mpg for the 4×2 with an automatic transmission is19/23/21. Estimated fuel efficiency for the 4×4 with a manual transmission is 19/21/20 and 19/22/20 for the automatic.
For added performance, Tacoma offers an all-new V6 with a segment-first 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle with VVT-iW (Variable Valve Timing with Intelligent Wider Intake) equipped with Toyota’s D-4S technology, featuring both direct and port fuel injection. The new V6 will generate 278 horsepower, an increase of 42 HP over the previous V6, and 265 lb.-ft. of torque. Estimated city/highway/combined mpg for the 4×2 automatic is 19/24/21. The estimated mpg for the 4×4 manual is 17/21/19 and 18/23/20 for the automatic.
Both engines will be paired with a new six-speed automatic transmission with electronic shift. The V6 can also be mated to a new six-speed manual transmission and the four-cylinder to a five-speed manual
When equipped with the V6 Tow Package, the new Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 lbs. (SAE J2807 tow standard), an increase of 300 lbs. over the previous V6.
There’s a standard automatic limited-slip differential, which uses brake intervention to help reduce tire slippage at the rear wheels.
Amenities include SofTex-trimmed seats, heated front sport seats, variable speed windshield wipers, metallic tone instrument panel trim, leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls and dual sun visors with mirrors and extenders. Standard on the Limited grade and available for the SR5 grade, the Entune Premium Audio system adds Navigation and the Entune App Suite.
The new Tacoma will be available in 29 configurations in two cab types, the extended Access Cab and four-door Double Cab. Each cab will be available in both 4×2 and 4×4 configurations.
Tacoma will now be available in five model grades, each with its own personality and unique look.
- Work-ready SR
- Iconic SR5
- TRD Sport
- TRD Off-Road
- Top of the line Limited
An all-new Honda Ridgeline pickup truck will come to market in less than two years. Like the innovative first-generation model that earned 2006 North American Truck of the Year and Motor Trend Truck of the Year honors after its fall 2005 debut, the next-gen Ridgeline is being designed and developed by Honda R&D Americas, Inc. at its Los Angeles and Ohio R&D centers.
The Honda Ridgeline was the first to be built on a closed-box unibody platform and introduced new features to the pickup segment, such as its large In-Bed Trunk and dual-action tailgate.
Honda says the next generation Ridgeline will play an even more important role in Honda’s product portfolio and may well be worth waiting for, say Honda insiders.
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