By H. Kent Sundling
Auto makers introduce new cars at flashy auto shows. But new trucks are introduced at the State Fair of Texas—the state with the highest truck sales in the U.S.This year’s fair gave us a peek at the 2015 Ford Super Duty and the 2015 Silverado and Sierra heavy-duty trucks from General Motors (GM). Ram’s big changes occurred with their 2014 lineup, specifically a new 1⁄2-ton diesel, a 6.4-liter Hemi and air suspensions. The Nissan Titan lineup remains the same, while the Toyota Tundra sports a new interior and sheet metal for 2014.
2014 Ram. Ram got serious about the truck race this past year with one innovation after another. (Read "Ram Leads With Diesel," November 2013). Several of the 2014 models, including the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel in the 1500, the 2500 with rear air bags and the 3500 with air assist, are poised to hit dealer lots in the first quarter of 2014.
The new 6.4-liter Hemi gas engine fills the missing link in Ram’s heavy-duty lineup. The initial cost of a diesel engine, in addition to the price of fuel, has triggered more gas engines in heavy-duty pickups the past couple of years. The new 6.4-liter Hemi, boasting 410 hp and 429 lb.-ft. of torque, is priced $1,495 more than the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 but can deliver long-term fuel savings.
When the new 6.4-liter Hemi is mated to the six-speed Aisin automatic and the PTO is stationary, the multiple displacement system (MDS) lets the engine run on four cylinders instead of eight. On the road, MDS can help drivers conserve gas by switching from eight cylinders to four.
The new 6.4-liter Hemi is standard on 4500 and 5500 Ram trucks—a first for the 4500 or 5500 cab and chassis truck sector.
2015 Ford Super Duty. Since the 2011 model year, all three major truck brands have had exhaust brakes on their diesel engines. Ram and GM had a dedicated button to turn on the exhaust brake, while Ford’s exhaust brake turned on in Tow Mode. Unlike Ram or GM, you couldn’t tell if anything happened with Ford’s diesel exhaust brake. As a result, in truck shoot-outs, the Ford Super Duty diesel had to use its truck brakes more often than Ram or GM diesels because of the exhaust brake issue.
David Ives with Ford says the company has fixed the exhaust brake issue on the 2015 Power Stroke 6.7-liter with a new larger GT37 turbocharger, up from a GT32. The 88-mm turbocharger has a single larger compressor wheel instead of the dual compressor wheel on 2011 to 2014 models. The 2015 Super Duties will include an exhaust brake button, resulting in less dependence on truck brakes and more control with bigger trailers.
Ives adds that the 6.7-liter diesel will have more horsepower, torque, and likely a higher towing capacity from the new turbocharger and fuel injectors. (No numbers are available yet.) A new fuel pump and injector tips atomize fuel better in the 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel.
There shouldn’t be a turbo lag, he adds, and the improved transmission grade shifting and new torque converter will also improve towing ability. Ford says the fuel mileage should stay the same.
Ford’s other big news is the F450 is back again, sporting 19.5" 10-lug wheels with 12-ply tires, bigger brakes and more capacity. From 2008 to 2010, the F450 was the segment leader for payload and towing. Standard features included the wide front axle, rear frame balancing damper, 19.5" wheels, 10-lug and 12-ply tires.
In 2011, the F450 became a F350—they just didn’t tell you. Ford went to 17" tires to get a higher speed rating so drivers in Texas could drive more than 80 mph. The truck went down to 8-lug wheels and 10-ply tires. But payload and towing capacity went up on the de-tuned F450 with the strong 6.7-liter Power Stroke engine.
For 2015, Ford corrected the F450 to the same heavy-duty truck it was in 2008 but with a usable exhaust brake, larger turbocharger, new
injection system and larger brakes. The 2015 King Ranch is upgraded with new trim color and enhanced "Running W" on the center console and seatbacks. The 2015 models will be produced for second quarter 2014.
2015 GM Silverado and Sierra. New sheet metal and interior from the newly redesigned 2014 Silverado and Sierra 1500 will find its way on to the 2015 heavy-duty 2500 and 3500 models from GM, scheduled to be released in spring 2014.
The 3500 will boast a 7,374-lb. payload rating; 19,600-lb. bumper tow capacity, with or without a weight-distributing hitch; and a 23,200-lb. fifth wheel/gooseneck trailer rating.
GM is trying to differentiate between Silverado and Sierra again, using a larger grill on GMC models and different hoods and headlight stack. Look beyond the same fully boxed frame and powertrain since 2011; it’s the new look inside you’ll notice with higher quality interior, better controls and a roomier driver’s seat. The soft-touch dash and door inserts; real stitches in the dash; aluminum instead of plastic in the dash; plenty of 12-volt outlets and USB ports; and a 115-volt plug are the highlights to the comfort upgrades. The GMC Denali has an unique 8" digital display in the instrument panel.
The boxed frame and powertrain are the same, but the 2015 GMC heavy-duty diesel has a redesigned interior and integrated controller for electric-over-hydraulic trailer brakes.
Big news for big trailers: GM will have an integrated trailer brake controller for the first time with electric-over-hydraulic capability. On trailers, hydraulic brakes are more powerful than electric, and GM is the last of the Big Three to be compatible. The hydraulic brakes will be automatic, sensing which brakes your trailer has and switching. Ram and Ford have dash screen readouts where you manually switch between trailer brake types. With GM’s new dash, the integrated trailer brake controller is moved higher for better access but is still to the left of the steering wheel.
GM is now the king of quiet—doors roll under the roof into the body and are inlaid with triple seals. High-strength steel throughout enables bigger rear doors on crew cabs and more rear leg room. The extended cab is replaced with a new Double Cab, and the back doors are longer and hinged from the front for better access.
The rear bumper has a corner step built in, the rear stake pocket has a handle built in, and an EZ Lift and Lower tailgate softly drops the tailgate. The bed is outfitted with high and low cargo rings and built-in LED lights under the rail. The 3500 dually will now feature StabiliTrak with Trailer Sway Control.
On the 2014 GM light duties, the lane departure system is interesting. It notifies you on the dash and vibrates your seat when you are too close to objects in the front and back and side to side. If you cross your lane lines on the road, it vibrates the seat bottom left or right. You will quickly learn if you’re swerving too much.
GM says the midsize Canyon and Colorado are coming back, reportedly with a diesel option.
That’s a lot of big changes coming to truck lots—but that’s what happens when new models are released in Texas.
For more details about what’s new on dealer lots, including videos, visit www.FarmJournal.com/trucks
H. Kent Sundling, also known as Mr. Truck, has been testing pickups, trailers and accessories for 14 years. His product reviews, including photos and videos, can be found at www.mrtruck.com.