Class 1-2 Roundup

Redesigns, New Features Add Value

October 2008, - Test Drives

by Tom Berg, Senior Contributing Editor - Also by this author

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Like most of its competitors, Toyota works with supplier-members of the National Truck Equipment Association to be sure work-related equipment is available for the Tundra. Boxes, racks and other items that bolt into a Tundra's bed can be arranged through dealers. Ford, GM and Dodge have had these NTEA arrangements far longer, so Toyota has had to work hard to catch up, Bame says. That's also true of special treatment at dealers.

Nissan North America has no special business programs or any relationship with NTEA, but it does do fleet sales of cars and pickups, says Randy Dale, national product manager for Titan. And some of its dealers seek business sales. Titan's entry level, competitively priced XE model - a King Cab, because there's no regular cab in the lineup - is the most likely to see rough service, and can be ordered with a factory-applied spray-in bed liner, Dale says. The next-up SE model can be ordered with Utili-Track cargo securement equipment, but the bars, racks and tie-downs are not available as dealer accessories.

All the full-size pickup builders also offer smaller models. Two are midsize: Dodge sells the Dakota and GM has the Chevy Colorado and the GMC Canyon. The others are compacts: Ford with its Ranger, Nissan with its Frontier and Toyota with the Tacoma. Sales of smaller pickups have fallen in recent years as customers moved up to full-size models, but Toyota has noted some reversal of that in some regions as buyers seek more economical vehicles. There is limited use of small pickups by commercial enterprises, such as parts chasers by stores and dealers, as service trucks by pest exterminators, and specialty hauling trucks by public utilities.

Our product roundup covers the much more widely used full-size pickups. They undergo continuous improvements, and manufacturers extensively redesign them every few years to leapfrog past each others' models. Thus they represent great utility and value, especially now, when prices are heavily discounted. And though sales are down, pickup trucks are so useful that for the foreseeable future, they won't be out.


F-150 has been America’s best-selling single automotive model for three decades, but probably not this year, as sales of all pickups have dropped off. Yet the extensively redesigned 2009 version remains a desirable vehicle with edgier styling, a stronger, fully boxed frame, new interior amenities and electronic features, and towing capacity of more than 10,000 pounds. A lockable Midbox compartment on long-wheelbase Regular and Super Cab models is in the front of the bed behind the cab, and adds 26.3 cubic feet of secure storage. All F-150s have Advance Trac with RSC (roll stability control) that cuts power and selectively applies brakes when accelerometers sense an impending rollover or excessive swaying while towing a trailer. An Integrated Trailer Brake Controller and backup camera help in pulling, stopping and hooking up to trailers. As before, F-150 buyers can pick a Regular, Super or Super Crew, each with four doors. There are three Triton gasoline V-8s: two 4.6-liter versions and a 5.4-liter which can burn E85 (85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline).


Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500-series pickups claim best-in-class EPA-rated fuel economy, and 2009 models are available with an XFE (extra fuel economy) package that adds about 1 mpg to the EPA numbers (see main story). For more serious fuel savings, GM’s 2-Mode Hybrid system will be available on these pickups in early calendar 2009, and it should be a less costly stand-alone option (instead of being packaged with other features as in the Tahoe and Yukon). In straight-gasoline models, Regular, Extended and Crew Cabs are available in several trim levels, and the longer cabs get hydraulic rear mounts to filter out road vibration and harshness. In Work Truck form the 1500s can get Blue Tooth connectivity for phones and other electronics. WT trucks are available with three Vortec gasoline engines: a 4.3-liter V-6, a 4.8-liter V-8 and a 5.3-liter V-8. The 4.3 and 4.8 use a 4-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, while 5.3s get a 6-speed Hydra-Matic. Some higher trim levels can be ordered with high-performance 6- and 6.2-liter V-8s, and many engines can now burn E85.

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