Motor City Truck Wars Heat Up

SEMA News—March 2018


By David Hakim

Motor City Truck Wars Heat Up

The ’19 Silverado is longer and wider than the current model, but thanks to high-strength steel, 450 lbs. lighter.

Despite sporadic gas prices across the country, Americans’ love affair with their trucks is stronger than ever, and so is brand loyalty among consumers. The light-duty truck market is heating up as Chevrolet, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) revealed new models from their clandestine design and engineering arsenals at Detroit’s 2018 North American International Auto Show. That event in the Motor City is basically in the backyard of the domestic OEMs. GM, Ford and FCA may feel that they have home-court advantage, but it’s anyone’s game in this ongoing battle for pickup supremacy.

It’s no secret that the truck business is highly profitable for the OEMs, and light-duty truck sales have eclipsed passenger car sales since 2016 by double digits in some months. The manufacturers know that it’s a war out there among their competitors—foreign and domestic—and that has upped their game to include more technology, including better aerodynamics for increased fuel mileage, more intuitive infotainment systems for an improved user experience, and well-appointed luxurious interiors using premium materials that make owners forget they’re driving trucks.

The following is a look at some of these haulers of families, pets, drywall, lumber, race cars, horses and just about anything else.

’19 Chevrolet Silverado

The ’19 Silverado 1500 is a complete redo from previous models. With this being Chevy truck’s centennial and more than 85 million units produced in the past 100 years, the team of designers and engineers went all out to make it the most advanced pickup the brand has ever built.

The ’19 Silverado is larger than the model it’s replacing. The wheelbase has been increased by 3.9 in. and overall length by 1.6 in. Despite the increased length for more cargo volume and interior space, the new Silverado will be 450 lbs. lighter. It uses an 80% high-strength steel box frame, higher-grade alloys and a high-strength steel bed floor to create a more durable and stronger truck.

Under the hood, an all-new Duramax 3.0L inline turbodiesel is coming, while the 5.3L and 6.2L V8 offerings get infused with more technology for more power, reduced emissions and better fuel economy. A Dynamic Fuel Management System will now be available to disable anywhere from one to seven cylinders, depending on engine load. A Hydra-Matic 10-speed automatic will effectively use the power and torque of the new engines.

Speaking of the truck bed, the new Silverado’s is 6.75 in. wider on the floor and, according to Chevrolet, has best-in-class cargo volume. The company has also thrown in 21 tie-downs throughout the bed, and the rear bumper corner steps are deeper to accommodate users wearing work boots.

The engineers also made the ’19 Chevrolet Silverado more aerodynamic, including an integrated spoiler at the rear edge of the cab that directs air onto the tailgate lip, reducing wind drag from the bed. Changes such as these result in a 7% increase in aerodynamic efficiency.

The ’19 Silverado will come in eight unique models with varying options and trim levels. Buyers can choose anything from a basic work truck to a mean off-road machine and everything in between. We’ll also see a similar redesign and re-engineering
on the GMC Sierra later this year.

The all-new ’19 RAM 1500 has been designed to be more aerodynamic and lighter, with increased payloads and trailer towing capacity. A mild hybrid system called eTorque adds significant torque to the powertrain.

’19 RAM 1500

FCA finally confirmed rumors that had been on the streets regarding the next-generation RAM. The trademark crosshair grille that had adorned the nose of the fabled pickup since the late ’80s is now gone. And while the crosshair grille was a RAM trademark, these are different times we live in, with tougher, federally mandated mileage standards.

The new ’19 RAM 1500 claims to be the segment’s most aerodynamic pickup, with a .357 coefficient of drag that features exclusive active aerodynamics such as front grille shutters, an air dam and air suspension that make this truck less of a barn door when rolling down the highway at 70 mph.

Like the ’19 Silverado, the new RAM is completely brand new from frame to sheetmetal. It was also put on a diet to shed some pounds, and when it was placed on the scale, more than 225 lbs. had been trimmed while the payload rating increased to 2,300 lbs., with a maximum trailer tow at 12,750 lbs. The ’19 RAM features a new frame with 98% high-strength steel, which improves durability, weight and rigidity for improved handling.

Under the hood, the 3.6L V6 and muscular 5.7L Hemi V8 return for an encore performance. Official fuel mileage figures haven’t been confirmed as of yet, but sitting on top of either engine is something that caught our eye and piqued our curiosity.

New for ’19 is RAM’s eTorque mild hybrid system that’s used on both engines. The new eTorque system combines a belt-drive motor generator unit with a 48-volt battery pack to enable start/stop functions, a short-term torque assist, and brake energy regeneration. The eTorque adds as much as 90 lb.-ft. of torque to the 3.6L Pentastar V6 and up to 130 lb.-ft. for the 5.7L Hemi V8.

Applying the power to the new six-lug wheels is a revised, fully electronic TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission with a wide gear ratio spread. The transmission will use a new generation of computer controllers that process data faster and coordinate transmission operation with the eTorque mild hybrid system.

Inside the RAM’s cabin is an all-new, fourth-generation Uconnect system and a class-exclusive 12-in. reconfigurable touchscreen display featuring split-screen capability for dual-application operation. Keeping up with the competition, Ram’s interior is significantly improved with the largest cab in the segment and the use of more premium materials on each trim level.

The ’19 RAM will be built in FCA’s Sterling Heights assembly plant in the Detroit suburbs and should be rolling into dealers just in time for spring.

Ending a seven-year absence from the North American marketplace, the ’19 Ranger will become available later this year in a variety of trim packages. It will be built in Ford’s Michigan assembly plant.

’19 Ford Ranger

Ford also chose its hometown to unveil the new ’19 Ranger pickup, ending a seven-year absence from the marketplace for that nameplate. The upcoming U.S. Ranger will use the same body-on-frame construction as those sold globally, and though it’s close in size to its F-150 bigger brother, the Ranger won’t take sales from its fellow family members if Ford has done its homework.

According to many industry sources, the midsize pickup segment has seen an 83% increase since 2014. Just last year, Ford sold more than 450,000 Rangers worldwide, leading to the decision to bring the Ranger back to our shores.

When it’s built in Ford’s Michigan assembly plant later this year, the new Ranger will be powered by the second-generation, direct fuel injection, 2.3L, twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder EcoBoost engine featuring a 16-valve head and a forged-steel crankshaft. The engine is currently said to be rated at 280 hp and 310 lb.-ft. of torque, but those numbers have not been confirmed as of yet. Neither has a diesel option, but that might change. Regardless, Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission gets mated to the blown four-banger, and no manual trans will be available for the U.S.-spec’d ’19 Ranger.

Ford will offer the new Ranger in various trim packages, starting with the entry-level XL and progressing to the mid-level XLT and the high-level Lariat trim series, with available chrome and sport appearance packages. For those wanting a more aggressive look, there are FX off-road packages in SuperCab or SuperCrew body configurations.

For off-road users, the ’19 Ranger will offer the FX4 off-road package with Ford’s all-new Trail Control technology. It’s designed for low-speed crawling over rugged terrain by controlling acceleration and braking and sending power to each individual wheel via a Dana independent front and solid rear axles on Ranger models.

Like its competitors, the ’19 Ford Ranger will be available later this year.

Keep on Truckin’

Regardless of brand allegiance, the new generation of pickups will offer consumers more choices and creature comforts without sacrificing functionality. With stiff competition and growing sales, look for the aftermarket to quickly ramp up with new parts and accessories for owners looking to personalize their trucks before the new-car smell has evaporated.

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