Heavyweight Contenders

December 17, 2009 10:46 AM

The heavy-duty pickup fight is heating up again. Truck manufacturers are gearing up to pit all-new three-quarter and one-ton models against each other.

With the economy still gasping and fuel prices driving the public to choose more fuel-efficient models, the full-size pickup market has refocused. Those who really use trucks for work purposes will be the beneficiaries.

Anne Marie Gattari of Ford Truck Communications says Ford statistics show that in 2003, the working and commercial customer made up 30% of the company's pickup sales volume. Today, 40% of the core customers fall into the work category.

Those facts aren't lost on any of the Big Three. Contenders in the heavyweight truck market remain Chrysler, Ford and GM.

Chrysler threw the first punch with the introduction of the new 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 and 3500, which recently appeared on dealer lots.

Kent Sundling, known as "Mr. Truck" (www.mrtruck.net), says he can't help but like the new Ram lineup.

"The big news is the Ram heavy-duty is available in the bigger crew-size cab model and an 8' bed," he notes. (It also comes with a 6'4" box.) You'll notice some design similarities to the Dodge Ram 1500, yet the heavy-duty versions have more of a "big-rig" styling.

Fred Diaz, president and CEO of the Dodge Ram brand, says the company went all over the country to learn how heavy-duty trucks are used. On the gas side, Chrysler sticks with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with a standard 383 hp at 5,600 rpm and 400 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm, variable-valve-timing version. For diesel power, the choice is the Cummins Turbo Diesel, which produces 350 hp at 3,000 rpm and 650 lb.-ft. torque at only 1,500 rpm.

Sundling notes that this engine meets the most stringent of 50-state emission requirements, and Dodge claims it virtually eliminates particulate matter by 90% without using urea.

Gear jammers will like the fact that Dodge still offers a manual transmission option.

This spring, Ford comes to the farm early with a 2011 F-Series Super Duty that boasts all-new powertrains developed and built in-house. Although the company hasn't unveiled horsepower and torque figures, the 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 turbocharged diesel should get some farmers' motors running since it is slated to have biodiesel compatibility up to B20. It does employ an aftertreatment system to reduce nitrogen oxide levels. The company maintains the injection of Diesel Exhaust Fluid allows the engine to run at optimum range in terms of fuel mixture.

A 6R140 heavy-duty TorqShift six-speed automatic gets the new diesel engine's low-end torque to the ground faster and full SelectShift capability is touted to give customers the convenience of a manual gearbox. The new transmission is also available with a segment-exclusive Live Drive PTO to power auxiliary equipment.

Gas guys will go for a new 6.2-liter V-8 that can run on regular-grade, E85 or any blend in between.

Another Super Duty option includes a factory-installed and warranted fifth wheel and a gooseneck substructure directly attached to the frame.

The Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD models were redesigned in 2007, and you won't see much change in 2010. The trucks come standard with a 6.0-liter V-8 engine mated to a six-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission or a 6.6-liter V-8 Duramax diesel mated to an Allison 1000 Series six-speed automatic transmission.

Brian Goebel of Chevrolet Communications says there are new exterior colors coming for this model year, and you'll find a USB port in the center console to charge handheld devices. Ditto for the Sierra HD.

The big changes to GM heavies come in 2011 with enhancements to the truck's capabilities, including a new Duramax engine that will be compliant with the 2010 emission standards.

You can e-mail Pam Smith at psmith@farmjournal.com.

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