New models focus on the environment

New truck buyers will find many brands with the same designs and options as last year’s models, but with renewed focus on emission controls, the 2008 trucks are friendlier to the user and the environment.

The 2008 Ford F-Series Super Duty powers through mud.

Ford

The perennially popular Ford F-150 holds payload bragging rights with 1,000 pounds more payload than the nearest competitor. The F-150 has a class-leading 11,000-pound towing capacity, with help from its 300 hp, 5.4-liter V-8 engine, fully boxed frame and robust suspension. An innovative approach to reducing fuel consumption includes the segment’s only 4×4 system with integrated wheel ends that automatically disconnect when the truck is shifted into 4×2, and reconnect when it is shifted into four-wheel mode. The system reduces fuel consumption by up to a half gallon per mile in 4×2 driving conditions compared to more traditional systems. This combines with fuel-saving engine technologies such as variable cam timing.

The F-150 is one of the only half-ton pickups to have earned NHTSA’s five-star crash rating for both driver and front passenger. A new rearview video camera parking aid system enhances visibility at the rear of the box through an innovative video feed customers can conveniently see on the rearview mirror.

There’s plenty of legroom in the ’08 Ford F-Series Super Duty XLT.

Another innovation new for ‘08 is the factory-installed Cargo Management System. The bed area system comes with two side rails and four cleats. Additional options include a pair of bins, a pair of crossbars and a header bar. Extra bins and crossbars are easily added when extra capability and flexibility is needed. The adjustable, cast-aluminum cleats can hold more than 600 pounds. Side-mounted plastic tool bins can hold up to 60 pounds and feature double-wall construction, providing a watertight, thermal barrier that keeps beverages cold when used as a cooler. The Mid-box feature—a customizable box between the cab and bed—provides lockable storage for tools and other valuable items. This feature is available to commercial and fleet customers, and features rugged, steel construction with double-paneled doors accessible from both sides of the vehicle.

The 2008 F-Series Super Duty TailGate Step pulls down and out in one motion enabling easy access for climbing into the bed.

As customization continues its surge in popularity, buyers will have a growing number of custom-factory choices for F-150 models. Watch out for the model co-branded with Harley-Davidson, the Ford Harley-Davidson F-150 Super Crew, with high-quality leather usually reserved for the King Ranch series, as well as a 5.4-liter V-8 is reported to produce 450 hp and 500 foot-pounds of torque.

Another F-150 with star appeal is the Chip Foose Edition. The half-ton pickup is touted as the fastest and most powerful production truck on the planet. An intercooled, supercharged Triton V-8 pumps out 450 hp at 5,200 RPM and 500 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 RPM. A special grille treatment adds to a surrounding design featuring lower rocker moldings that appear to lower the pickup’s stance.

The F-450 Super Duty is an entirely new truck for Ford and, as with its larger sibling the F-550, it trumps past commercial-only configurations. The new F-450, however, resembles the one-ton F-350 dualie, a layout that the company says is a response to what heavy-duty truck users asked for. The F-450 offers more towing and payload capacity than what a smaller dualie can offer, achieving this by an essentially stronger one-ton dualie configuration. Towing capacity exceeds 24,000 pounds, and maximum payload is more than 6,000 pounds. The model is available with dual rear wheels and a crew-cab body.

The F-450’s one-ton frame has been modified for stiffer performance, complete with a new boxed front section using longer, wider sloping frame rails to accommodate the enlarged 6.4-liter, twin-turbo, Power Stroke diesel and huge intercooler. Horsepower is estimated at 360 and torque at 650 foot-pounds.

All models in the Super Duty series come with a few innovations. An integrated tailgate step can be unfolded and extended to easily board the cargo area. A stowable bed extender is an industry first, neatly stowing away in the cargo area until it is used to fence in the length of the open bed. As with the F-150 series, a rearview video system gives drivers added security when backing up.

2008 GMC Sierra 2500HD SLT Extended Cab.

The new F-Series Super Duty gets other maneuverability improvements as Ford F-350 dual-rear-wheel models can now be outfitted with the F-450’s front suspension with the segment’s best turning radius. These features add to the truck’s towing innovations, including the industry-first PowerScope power-folding and power-telescoping sideview mirrors and Ford First TowCommand, an integrated trailer brake control system.

The new GMC Sierra heavy-duty pickup offers the driver and front passenger ample space.

General Motors

When it comes to the fuel economy wars, GM gets top billing in the light-duty class with its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.

Silverado models carry over their ’07 redesign with a few enhancements. GM held onto a winning design, as the truck received major accolades for last year’s model: at its introduction, the 1500 received Motor Trend’s 2007 Truck of the Year Award and Car and Driver’s 2007 Five Best Trucks in the pickup category, as well as 2007 Truck of the Year.

2008 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD LTZ Crew Cab Dually.

The Silverado is built on a platform that supports a smoother ride and confident handling while delivering segment-leading capability and power. A lineup of powerful small-block V-8 engines complements the stronger chassis to deliver the light-duty segment’s highest-rated towing capacity for the higher-volume crew and extended cab models (10,500 pounds), horsepower (367 hp), with a maximum payload capacity of 2,160 pounds.

Changes to the Silverado 1500 for ‘08 include standard XM Satellite Radio on all models, availability of a power-adjustable driver’s seat on regular cab models with a bench seat, brighter instrument pointers in the gauge cluster and two new exterior colors.

2008 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD LT Extended Cab.

The heavy-duty Silverado lineup for 2008 is also largely carryovers from last year, with the same minor revision as the light-duty trucks. The 2500HD (three-quarter ton) and 3500HD (one ton) models are highlighted by all-new and differentiated exterior designs, two unique interiors and class-leading power and efficiency. Dually models in 2008 receive new, larger 17-inch wheels (replacing 16-inch wheels), which are available with bright wheel covers. Also, the 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine is capable of running on B20 biodiesel.

Among those full-size truck manufacturers that offer three-quarter-ton or one-ton heavy-duty trucks, the 2008 Silverado HD pickups offer these segment-best capabilities: 18,500-pound gross combined vehicle weight rating for vehicles with a gas V-8 and a 13,000-pound conventional trailer weight rating enabled by a larger-capacity trailer hitch platform. Maximum towing capacity is 16,700 pounds when equipped with a fifth-wheel hitch.

The news is much the same for the new batch of GMC Sierras. Basic design and power packages carry over from last year, with updates that mirror Silverado’s. Customers can now order a set of new, 22-inch bright-finish aluminum wheels and complementing tires for their Sierra 1500, available as a dealer-installed option. For the light-duty of heart, the unique Sierra Denali also returns for 2008. It offers differentiated, exclusive features that elevate its performance and design, such as an exclusive 6.2-liter, all-aluminum V-8 engine with variable valve timing and a six-speed automatic transmission.

On the heavy-duty side, the Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD are Silverado HD’s close cousins, with virtually matching packages. The pickup boxes have great versatility, strength and capacity, which greatly factored into last year’s accolades. A one-piece wheelhouse and inner box side offers strength and a more integrated appearance. The boxes are 1.18 inches deeper in the front and 1.57 inches deeper at the rear than previous-generation models, with stronger inner walls that offer improved performance when fitted with ladder racks, toolboxes and other accessories. Cargo bed volume is 60.7 cubic feet with the regular box and 75.5 cubic feet with the long box.

Dually cargo boxes are completely made of steel, including hydroformed sheet metal outer fenders. They have a smooth appearance and enhanced strength. All Dually models feature marker lights on the fenders and new, sleek cab roof lights that are aerodynamically integrated into the top of the cab.

Dodge

Little has changed in the Dodge Ram lineup, the third Ram generation with top-notch powerplants, since its 2006 refreshment. The Ram Mega Cab will again be available, featuring a 6-foot cargo box and 20 inches of extra cab space, allowing seating for six with rear recliners. A full-screen, mapping, in-dash navigation system is also an option.

Known for its impressive towing and power packages, the Ram benefits from the mid-2005 switch from the first version 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 in half-ton models to the newer Multi-Displacement System Hemi V-8 that is available in Chrysler and Dodge sedans. The same performance is seen, but a cylinder-deactivating feature enabled under light loads increases fuel economy by 3 mpg city and 4 mpg highway. The new Hemi delivers a notable 345 horsepower and 375 foot-pounds of torque.

Dodge introduced its new Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cab, complete with a new and larger Cummins turbo-diesel engine. The Ram chassis cabs are class 4 or 5 trucks with a gross weight of 16,500 and 19,500 pounds, respectively. Both trucks come equipped with a version of the Cummins ISB 6.7 diesel rated at 305 hp and 610 foot-pounds of torque. Sterling, which worked with Dodge in development, has its own version called the Sterling Bullet with a unique grille. Sterling is a division of Freightliner LLC which, like Dodge, is owned by the former DaimlerChrysler.

It may behoove buyers to wait to purchase a Dodge out of the showroom. The company has announced a 2009 redesign that will have improved towing and payload capacities, along with great fuel economy. The Hemi engine will be improved for 2009, and the front headlights will be changed similar to this year’s Durango.

Toyota

In the light-duty segment, the Ram’s nearest competitor is the Toyota Tundra, which, until last year, had never posed much of a threat. The introduction of the new 2007 Tundra used a similar type of approach as the Ram, forcing Dodge to significantly increase the incentives to keep demand up for their vehicle. As a result, Dodge Ram sales were down 1.4 percent year-to-date through August 2007. With the help of its increased size and output, the Toyota Tundra is the best-selling foreign full-size, half-ton truck.

The ’08 Tundra adopts last year’s powerplant options including: a 4-liter V-6 that produces 236 hp; a 4.7-liter V-8 of 271 hp; and a 5.7-liter V-8 of 381 hp. The truck comes with many enhancements over the first-generation Tundra, such as a towing capacity that exceeds 10,000 pounds, a payload capacity of over 2,000 pounds and a new six-speed, automatic transmission.

Toyota has announced that when Tundra half-ton sales hit 200,000 units per year they will start production of a Tundra diesel to get into the heavy-duty show. Industry insiders have noted that they will use a 6.4-liter V-10 diesel that will produce 380 to 420 hp and around 750 foot-pounds of torque. Motor Trend and Car and Driver magazines report that production for a heavy-duty Tundra may begin as soon as late 2008.

The author is a Charlestown, Ind.-based freelance business writer and editor, as well as a frequent contributor to Turf.