HWT’s top test drives of 2015

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Each year, Hard Working Trucks is fortunate to have the opportunity to drive many vocational and vehciles for the purpose of reviewing them for our readers.

Our editor’s intent with each test drive is to review the vehicle for how it would perform in a work-setting. Who cares what the 0-60 time is for a Ford Transit, or what the quarter-mile time is for a Peterbilt Model 330? They are not going to be pushed to those limits, and I fear for the career of any fleet driver who thinks they should be.

Below, in no particular order, are recaps of our test drives from this year.

Freightliner SD

Almost five years ago, Freightliner updated its work truck lineup to take advantage of powertrain and ergonomic upgrades found on its long-haul model Cascadia. The result was the SD series that comprises three models: a 108-inch BBC, a 114-inch BBC and a 122-inch BBC. All accept a bewildering array of bodies and allow for easy spec’ing of compressed and liquefied natural gas systems.

Peterbilt Model 567

In terms of evolution, the design for Peterbilt’s new Model 567 Bridge Formula model is not a quantum leap forward. The most significant enhancement is the repositioning of the front axle 17.5 inches forward in order to achieve a better center of gravity and payload balance for mixers and trucks specifically working on bridge jobsites. Deeper wheel cuts also allow for greater maneuverability in tight working confines. But the Model 567 still retains the design cues and style accents Peterbilt pioneered with its highway/long-haul Model 579.

Isuzu NPR XD

The 2016 NPR XD follows the first-generation model introduced this year and its 16,000 GVWR fills a gap between the 14,500 GVWR NPR HD and the nearly 18,000 GVWR Isuzu NQR. The truck features a body/payload allowance of about 9,500 pounds. The 150-inch wheelbase truck featured a turning radius of 46.5 degrees. The truck is also available in 109-, 132- and 170-inch wheel base lengths in standard cab configurations, and 150- and 176-inch for crew cab.

Cummins 2017 ISX15

Details here are scarse, but test drives in loaded ProStar tractors showed Cummins’ next-generation ISX15 to be peppy in terms of acceleration, quiet and instantly responsive to throttle inputs. Instantaneous fuel economy numbers logged by the driver information center were impressive as well: 9.7 mpg seemed to be my average result when in cruise control, although I did note numbers as high as 12.7 mpg on very slight downhill grades.



2016 Ford Transit 350 HD

New for the 2016 Tranist are a handful of technology bumps, like a standard rearview camera and trailer hitch assist. Trailer hitch assist automatically engages when the vehicle is shifted into reverse and displays a graphical overlay on the screen that helps guide drivers to line up a hitch with a trailer. Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system is also made available to Transit this model year as an option. Transit’s fleet customers can add an available speed limiter that caps top speed at 70 mph. For the previous model year, speeds could be held to 65 mph and 75 mph.

Ram ProMaster City Cargo Van

The 2015 Ram ProMaster City Cargo van is Ram’s newest addition to its commercial vehicle lineup, and contributes to the expanding, purpose-built, van segment with a number of best-in-class, functional elements tied directly to commercial customer demand. Joining the larger Ram ProMaster and Ram C/V as a Class 1 van offering, the ProMaster City actually competes with compact commercial and passenger vans. In fact, Ram says the small van is the class leader in payload capacity, cargo area, performance and fuel economy.

Mercedes Benz Metris

Metris product manager Jan ten Haaf says what sets Metris most apart from the field is the ease in which Metris goes where most commercial vans rarely dared go before – namely low-clearance parking garages and crowded metropolitan roads. The fact that it rides and drives more like the German automaker’s more luxurious sedans, I guess, is simply an added bonus.


2015 Ford F-150 SuperCrew

The thirteenth generation of Ford’s F-150 is quite remarkable on many fronts. The remote tailgate was quite handy when loading plywood in the bed, and the smart-trailer tow module that immediately let me know the trailer lights and connections were good-to-go sped up the trailering process. Voice-activated navigation, the lane-departure warning system, and the 360-dgeree camera view made it easy to know where I was and how to get where I wanted to go. The keyless start/stop feature meant I never had to fish for the ignition keys.

Ram 3500 series pickup

Ram has seriously upped the ante in the on-going towing wars being waged among medium duty manufacturers today. Thanks to its long-standing partnership with Cummins, 2016 3500 Series Rams are now rated with towing capacities of 31,210 pounds. A lot of fine-tuning of the suspension and transmission went into achieving this goal. But Ram engineers are quick to give the lion’s share of the credit to the exclusive Cummins 6.7 turbodiesel engine, which cranks out an amazing 900 pound-feet of torque.

Nissan Titan XD

With hopes of carving out a bigger slice of the pickup market, Nissan developed a very competitive truck—so competitive that with a beefy Cummins diesel engine, larger frame, increased cooling capacity, over 2,000 pounds of payload capacity and over 12,000 pounds towing, it’s really gone beyond a 1/2-ton truck into a 5/8-ton beast.

Toyota Tacoma

The last time Toyota’s best-selling mid-size pickup saw any significant changes was in 2005 when the “second-generation” Tacoma, which was first introduced in 1995, rolled out with a new powertrain and body design. A decade between vehicle upgrades is a long time when most manufacturers make a rejuvenation cycle every four -to five years. The new V-6 powertrain gives the Tacoma an additional 300 pounds of trailering capacity, bringing the 4Ă—4 Double Cab 4Ă—4 up to 6,800 pounds when using a weight-distributing hitch.


Chevrolet Colorado Z71 4Ă—4 Crew Cab

The V-6 Z71 4Ă—4 model we tested featured 305hp and a towing capacity of 7,000 pounds, which means it can handle many lighter towing tasks with ease, all the while being more fuel-efficient and costing thousands less than a similarly equipped full-size model. The 4Ă—4 Crew Cab shortbed can handle up to 1,440 pounds of payload, which is about 1 ½ yards of mulch.