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Annual pickup truck report: technology and power are hallmarks of 2017 models

Key considerations for contractors are visibility, towing power and off-road capability

Construction sites are not easy on equipment. Mud, ruts, rough terrain and other factors can give most any type of vehicle a beating. Considering that contractors drive into these types of environments on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that when it comes to purchasing pickup trucks, they’re looking for something just as rugged as the locations where they work.

For 2017, pickup truck manufacturers are embracing the need contractors have for tough trucks, and combining it with technology to make these versatile vehicles safer and more efficient. From increased power to the use of multiple cameras for trailering safety, the new crop of trucks has a variety of improved features to make driving on the road and jobsites both safer and easier.

“The truck market has transformed tremendously over the last ten to fifteen years – trucks started out as a rudimentary piece of fairly generic equipment and now have transformed into what is often a very specialized multi-use space,” said Michael McGarrell, Truck Communications Manager for Ford. “The truck is serving the purpose of transportation, office space and also as a functional base for whatever equipment they’re putting on it.”

Depending on the main use of the vehicle, there are three key considerations owners look at when buying, according to Ram Commercial Vehicle Marketing head Dave Sowers.

“Business customers in general have three top priorities – efficiency, overall cost of ownership, and capability: will this do more than what other vehicles might do?” Sowers said. “On lighter, half-ton trucks, total cost of ownership might be their first consideration, but when you get into the heavy-duty market, capability rises to the top.”

Comfort and convenience remain part of the equation as well. For Andrew Harkness, Chief Marketing Manager of Trucks at Nissan Canada, the development of driver features has also been key for heavy-duty operators.

“More and more, customers are looking to a pickup truck to be as capable as ever but just as refined as the family SUV or the luxury sedans in the market,” Harkness said. “Using higher-end materials – such as hydraulic body mounts, acoustic side glass, zero-gravity seats – we are able to deliver a comfortable and quiet ride which is still capable of handling the everyday grind that one’s truck is submitted to.”

Each of the heavy-duty pickup manufacturers has improved their offerings in numerous ways for 2017 and following is a look at some of the key changes.

Major changes for Ford F-Series Super Duty

2017 marks a major change for Ford’s Super Duty flagship truck line with a focus on powertrain, technology and chassis updates to enhance the capacity of the trucks.

The Super Duty line includes the F-250, F-350 and F-450 in a variety of models, along with the F-350, F-450 and F-550 chassis cabs. All are built using high-strength military-grade aluminum alloy and high-strength steel, which help reduce weight up to 350 pounds.

Under the hood, customers have options when it comes to their preferred engine. The 6.2-litre, V8 engine puts out 385 hp and 430 lb.-ft. of torque. For customers who need more power under the hood, the Ford-designed-and-built Power Stroke turbo diesel is available as a 6.7-litre V8 generating 440 hp and 925 lb.-ft. of torque.

Towing performance is significantly upgraded across the 2017 line. One example is the F-450 SuperCrew 4x4, which features maximum gooseneck towing of 32,500 pounds. Fifth-wheel towing is increased to 27,500 pounds, and the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) is 41,800 pounds.

Trailering is made easier for drivers with new technology. A high-mounted stop-lamp camera adds visibility into the box for hooking up gooseneck and fifth-wheel trailers, and the ultimate trailer tow camera system uses four digital high-definition cameras to give a 360-degree view. Another useful feature is Trailer Reverse Guidance which gives drivers visual cues and tips to help make backing up a trailer easier. A factory-available trailer camera can even be placed on the trailer for improved visibility.

Nissan Titan XD fills gap in truck sizes

Customer input has been key in updating the Titan XD for 2017. “The engineering of the platform, the capabilities offered, as well as the features available, are all a result of our time spent in the field with customers, contractors, independent business owners, oil riggers and others,” said Andrew Harkness, Chief Marketing Manager of Trucks at Nissan Canada.

The strength of the XD line is that it fits into an area of trucks that has often been a challenge for contractors and fleet owners who can’t find quite the right truck for their needs at the right price, according to Harkness. “Typical domestic half-ton trucks today output approx 400 lb.-ft. of torque and tow roughly 9,000 to 10,000 pounds. Three-quarter-ton competitors output 800 lb.-ft. and tow 15,000 to 17,000 pounds. This gap continues to widen between the two classes of trucks along with a proportionate price premium.

“By providing 555 lb.-ft. of torque and the ability to tow 12,000 pounds...we believe we can answer the need for the customer who is serious about towing but [like 90 percent of Canadian pickup truck owners], tows less than 10,000 pounds regularly.”

Nissan has also added a new member to its Titan family of trucks – the Titan Single Cab model. This is the first single-cab offering in the line’s history and the company says its intention is to provide a rugged entry point into the commercial and work truck market.

Titan will ultimately be available in a total of three cabs, three bed lengths, three engines, 4x4 and 4x2 drive, and S, SV, SL, PRO-4X and Platinum Reserve trim levels. Both the XD single cab and crew cab will be available with a choice of engines: the Cummins 5.0-litre V8 turbo diesel, which is rated at 310 hp and 555 lb.-ft. of torque; or the 5.6-litre Endurance V8, rated at 390 hp and 394 lb.-ft. of torque. The Titan Single Cab, with about a foot shorter wheelbase, will be offered initially with the new 5.6-litre Endurance V8 or a V6 to be announced later. Diesel-equipped models feature an Aisin 6-speed automatic transmission and V8 gasoline engine-equipped versions will utilize a 7-speed automatic transmission.

More power in Chevrolet’s Duramax engine

The 6.6-litre, Duramax V8 diesel engine, a popular engine option for the Chevrolet Silverado HD pickup, has been redesigned for 2017. It has more horsepower and torque, now 445 hp and 910 lb.- ft., making for easier, more confident hauling and trailering.

“Nearly everything about the Duramax is new, designed to produce more torque at lower rpm and more confidence when trailering or hauling,” said Gary Arvan, chief engineer. “You’ll also notice the refinement improvements the moment you start the engine, and appreciate them as you cruise quietly down the highway – with or without a trailer.”

In addition to the redesigned engine, the Silverado HD has a new look on the front. A patent-pending vehicle air intake system – distinguished on the Silverado HD by a bold hood scoop – brings cool, dry air into the engine for sustained performance and cooler engine temperatures during difficult conditions, such as trailering on steep grades. Cooler air helps the engine run better under load, especially in conditions where engine and transmission temperatures can rise quickly.

Chevrolet offers Silverado in a number of models. The 1500 is the light-duty version of the pickup, while the 2500HD and 3500HD provide powerful torque to handle big payloads and towing capacity.

Toyota Tundra built on TripleTech frame

“Tundra offers Canadian truck fans impressive towing capability plus a choice of engine sizes, drivetrains, cab sizes and bed lengths – all generously equipped for performance, comfort and safety,” said Larry Hutchinson, Vice President of Toyota Canada.

The Tundra is designed and built in North America. It can be powered by one of two available i-Force V8 engines. The standard 4.6-litre i-Force V8 produces 310 hp and 327 lb.-ft. of peak torque. The 5.7-litre ups the power to 381 hp and 401 lb.-ft. of peak torque.

All Tundra models with the 5.7-litre engine are equipped with a Tow Package. This package includes an added trailer brake controller and 144-litre fuel tank. The Tow Package also includes a heavy-duty tow hitch receiver, 4+7 pin connectors, supplemental transmission cooler and a transmission fluid temperature gauge.

The foundation of Tundra’s strength and 10,500-pound towing capacity is its TripleTech frame. “Triple” refers to the wide, full-boxed rails for the front portion; a reinforced C-channel under the cab and an open C-channel beneath the bed for strength, ride quality and durability. The double A-arm front suspension uses coil-over spring shock units, and a front-mounted steering rack enhances steering feel and response, while decreasing the overall turning diameter.

GMC adds Sierra HD All

GMC is adding the Sierra HD All Terrain X, the most off-road-capable model in the Sierra HD lineup, joining the Canyon and Sierra 1500 as the third model in the All Terrain X series. This package is offered on the Sierra 2500HD crew cab 4WD with a 6.0L gas V8 engine or the all-new, next generation Duramax 6.6L V8 turbo diesel. More powerful than ever, the new Duramax delivers a segment topping SAE-certified 445 hp (332 kW) and an SAE-certified 910 lb.-ft. of torque (1,234 Nm).

GMC’s 2017 Sierra lineup also features the updated Duramax diesel engine with 445 hp and 910 lb.-ft. of torque, improving performance for trailering and hauling. The 2500HD and 3500HD are offered with either gas or Duramax diesel engines. They enable a maximum conventional trailering rating of 20,000 pounds and a maximum fifth-wheel/gooseneck trailering rating of 23,300 pounds.

Regular, double cab and crew cab models are offered across the lineup, with the premium Sierra Denali HD offered exclusively as a crew cab.

A factory-installed, gooseneck/fifth-wheel trailering prep package is available for towing large trailers.

RAM increases towing

Dave Sowers said that the 2017 Ram pickup truck updates are targeted at improving driver comfort, towing capacity and utility for contractors.

Ram offers the 1500, 2500 and 3500 models in a range of trim levels and the 3500, 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs. The chassis cab options feature increased towing capacity, with each model’s capacity increased by 1,000 pounds to a maximum of 30,600 pounds on the Ram 5500 and GCWR of 38,500 pounds. In addition, contractors can benefit from optional power takeoff (PTO) installations for running such equipment as generators and compressors.

“We’ve always had right and left PTOs on our 4x2 trucks and rightside-only on the 4x4s. A lot of contractors use 4x4 trucks, so we are now going to offer a PTO on the left side – that’s on the side of the truck where the transfer case would be.

There is an aftermarket company that can put a pass-through in the transfer case,” Sowers said.

Ram pickups have a range of engine options. A 3.0- and 3.6-litre V6 and a 5.7-litre Hemi V8 are available in the 1500 model. For the 2500, Ram offers the 5.7-litre Hemi, the 6.4-litre Hemi V8 and the popular 6.7-litre Cummins High-Output Turbo Diesel, which generates up to 385 hp and 900 lb.-ft. of torque. Chassis cabs can choose between the 6.4-litre Hemi with 370 hp and 429 lb.-ft. of torque or the 6.7-litre Cummins with 325 hp and 750 lb.-ft. of torque.