While only minor changes are being made to the venerable F-150 pickups for the 2013 model year, Ford is planning to make big changes to its line of light-duty commercial vans. The company will gradually phase out the E-Series and replace it with an all-new Transit van platform, which will be introduced with a diesel engine option for the 2013 model year.
Changes to the 2013 Ford F-150 include a new frontend design, new grille, high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, 18- and 20-in. wheels with various trim packages, and power-telescoping and power-folding trailer-tow sideview mirrors.
The F-150 can also be equipped with Ford’s Sync voice-activated communications and entertainment package with 911 Assist and Vehicle Health Report as standard equipment for the XLT Series and above. Sync includes a 4.2-in. LCD center-stack screen that provides enhanced displays of audio and climate-control functions. In addition, the instrument cluster contains a 4.2-in. driver-configurable LCD productivity screen that includes menus for gauge setup, trip computer, fuel economy, towing, and off-road applications.
On the van side, when Ford begins building the new full-size Transit cargo and passenger van in 2013, it plans to offer a diesel powertrain as an option to the vehicle’s standard 3.5L EcoBoost V6 gasoline engine.
Mike Levine, Ford’s truck communications manager, stresses that the E-Series will continue to be built even after the U.S.-built Transit goes on sale.
The full-size Transit, which will be built at Ford’s Kansas City assembly plant, represents a $1.1 billion investment by the OEM. It will weigh about 200 lbs. less than the E-Series it replaces and should provide up to a 25% improvement in fuel economy.
Eric Guenther, Ford’s general marketing manager for North American fleet, leasing, and remarketing operations, notes that the OEM is expanding the range of alternative fuel and hybrid powertrain options for its trucks, with only the F-150 remaining in its lineup without an alternative fuel prep package, something he says the company plans to change soon.
Right now, Canada’s Westport Innovations is providing a bi-fuel CNG/gasoline option for Ford’s F-250 and F-350 Super Duty models called the “WiNG” system. Westport says it expects its WiNG production facility, located alongside Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant outside Louisville, to be fully ramped up by September.
The big news from General Motors for the 2013 model year is that it will offer a factory-built bi-fuel system for both its Chevrolet and GMC extended cab heavy-duty pickup trucks. This option allows the trucks to run on both CNG and gasoline and will sell for $11,000 above the suggested base-vehicle prices.
GM’s 2013 Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra 2500 HD equipped with the bi-fuel package come with a Vortec 6.0L V8 engine that seamlessly transitions between the two fuels, with a single lightweight Type 3 tank in the bed maximizing available payload and bed space.
The automaker says the trucks should attain more than 650 mi. in range as well. With the current average price of CNG equivalent at $1.89/gal., GM believes its pickup customers could save $5,000 to $10,000 over a three-year period, depending on their driving habits, running its bi-fuel capable trucks on CNG alone.
The bi-fuel trucks will be available in standard and longbox, 2WD or 4WD in the extended cab models, and will be covered by GM’s 3-yr./36,000-mi. new vehicle limited warranty and 5-yr./100,000-mi. limited powertrain warranty and vehicle emissions warranty. All Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board emissions certification requirements are met.
GM adds that its bi-fuel trucks are being built in Fort Wayne, IN, and then sent to the Tier One supplier for installation of the CNG bi-fuel delivery and storage system. A bi-fuel option already exists for the company’s Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana cargo vans, which won’t see any change for the 2013 model year.
Both vans are available in regular 135-in. and extended 155-in. wheelbase lengths, with models rated at 7,300 lbs., 8,600 lbs., and 9,600 lbs. GVWR; vans at the heaviest end of the GVWR spectrum will be offered with either a 6.0L V8 gasoline engine or the Duramax 6.6L diesel engine.
While the base design for International’s eStar Class 2c-3 all-electric truck won’t undergo any changes for the 2013 model year, it’s going to be central to a broader strategy to bring electrified commercial vehicles to urban centers across the U.S. The truck is built by the Navistar-Modec EV Alliance.
The Electrification Leadership Council (ELC), of which Navistar is a member, is a group of private companies such as FedEx Corp., GE Capital, and Pacific Gas & Electric that work alongside advocacy groups such as the Electrification Coalition and the Electric Drive Transportation Assn. to promote public policies and education to facilitate wider deployment of electric vehicles (EVs).
Part of ELC’s strategy going into 2013 is to design demonstration projects that focus on large‐scale deployment of EVs within densely populated local markets. These markets will bring together all of the components of an EV ecosystem so ELC can better understand the interoperability between EVs and the electric grid across a variety of vehicle classes and applications.
Navistar says its eStar is an ideal fit for this effort as it retains a range of up to 100 mi. per charge and can be fully recharged within six to eight hours.
Navistar reiterates that the eStar is a “purpose-built” allelectric truck, meaning it’s been designed to run on electric power from the beginning. Some of the hallmarks of this design, the company says, are its low center of gravity, with battery placement between the frame rails and not mounted on top of the vehicle; a 36-ft. turning circle; walk-through cab; and a quick-change cassette-type battery that can be swapped out in 20 min.
Other features include nearly 180-deg. visibility, a lowfloor design that provides easy loading/unloading, and a noise level near zero, which makes this nimble vehicle ideal for urban areas facing noise challenges.
The eStar is built at Navistar’s Wakarusa, IN, manufacturing plant.
Few, if any, changes have been announced for 2013 model-year Sprinter vans, with a lineup that still consists of the cargo van, passenger van, minibus, cab chassis and crew van, which seats five with remaining interior room for cargo. Controlled and sold by Mercedes-Benz USA (MB-USA), a division of Germany’s Daimler AG, the Sprinter is powered by a 3.0L V6 diesel that offers 30% better fuel economy than a comparable gasoline engine, according to MB-USA. The four-valve-per-cylinder Mercedes-Benz BlueTec diesel features centrally located piezo-electric injectors, CDI direct injection, variable-nozzle turbocharger, exhaust gas recirculation and provides 188 hp. and 325 lbs. -ft. or torque.
The Sprinter’s interior standing height remains at 6 ft. 4 in., with cargo capacity of up to 547 sq. ft. and payload capacity of up to 5,358 lbs. Cargo van models feature a side-door opening that’s 4 ft. 3 in. wide and 6 ft. high and has the industry’s lowest step-in height at 19.9 in.
The Sprinter is also still available in three different gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) platforms for the cargo van model: the 2500, with a GVWR of 8,550 lbs., and two versions of the 3500, one with a GVWR of 9,990 lbs. and another with a GVWR of 11,030 lbs.
In related news, Noregon Systems updated its PC-based diagnostics program this year to include 2007-2012 Sprinter 2500 and 3500 vehicle coverage. Version 5.2 of its JPRO Commercial Fleet Diagnostics software now includes a coverage module for Dodge, Freightliner, and Mercedes-Benz model Sprinter commercial vans.
The Sprinter diagnostics module, which requires the use of either the Noregon JPRO DLA+ or DLA+ wireless adapters, provides a full array of data and bi-directional tests for technicians, including full OEM trouble code coverage on engines, transmissions, brakes, chassis and body controls; diesel cylinder cutout test on model years 2007-2009; and diesel particulate filter (DPF) regeneration on 2007-2009 engines.
The big news coming from Nissan’s commercial vehicle division for the 2013 model year is the Nissan NV200 compact cargo van, designed as a “new entry point” for cargo van and small pickup fleets looking for improved fuel efficiency.
The NV200 joins Nissan’s NV cargo full-sized van and its full-sized NV passenger van introduced earlier this year. Nissan points out there won’t be any major changes to those two existing models for the 2013 model year, with only exterior color options shifting to red, white, and dark blue. All options and specs for the NV cargo and passenger vans remain the same from the 2012 model year.
While the NV200 will be new to the North American market for the 2013 model year, it’s already on the ground in approximately 40 countries around the world.
The key attributes of the North American version of the NV200, says Joe Castelli, Nissan’s vice president-fleet, are its cargo capacity of 123 cu. ft. and extended body size—a full 7.9 in. longer than the non-North American version.
Measuring 186.2 in. in overall length on a 115.2-in. wheelbase, the NV200 can carry a 1,500-lb. maximum payload. It comes with standard integrated mounting points that allow for the installation of racks and shelves without drilling into the sidewalls, plus six available floor-mounted hooks in the cargo area.
The van is powered by a 2.0L 16-valve dual overhead cam 4-cyl. engine matched with an Xtronic CVT transmission. The van’s suspension features independent struts with a stabilizer bar in front and a leaf spring design in the rear. Front disc/rear drum brakes with antilock braking system and electronic brake force distribution are standard, along with electric powerassisted steering and 15-in. steel wheels mounted with 185/60R15 high-load all-season tires.
The van also features low-effort dual sliding side doors, tall 40/60 split rear doors with dual opening positions (90 and 180 deg.), plus low floor height and tall interior cargo height to make loading and unloading easier.
Other exterior features include halogen headlights, durable black front and rear bumpers, and outside mirrors with wide-angle spotter mirrors and available heated function. Standard safety features include the Nissan advanced air bag system, roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental air bags for front occupant head protection, front seat-mounted driver and passenger side impact supplemental air bags, vehicle dynamic control, and tire pressure monitoring system.
Chrysler’s Ram Trucks division has overhauled the Ram 1500 pickup for the 2013 model year, offering a pair of retooled engines connected to a new 8-spd. automatic transmission dubbed the TorqueFlite 8. The new transmission, which replaces the 4-spd. model, is said to improve fuel economy without sacrificing power.
The new 3.6L Pentastar V6 is the standard powerplant and offers 42% more horsepower, 13% more torque, and at least 20% better fuel economy than the 3.7L V6 powertrain it replaces. The optional 5.7L V8 Hemi, equipped with what Ram calls “fuel-saver technology” and variable-valve timing, cranks out 395 hp., 407 lbs.-ft. of torque yet offers 10% better fuel economy than the 2012 Ram V8 powertrain it replaces.
That extra power also gives the 1500 heavy-duty tradesman model, which automatically comes spec’d with the V8 package, 11,500 lbs. worth of towing capacity and 3,125 lbs. of payload.
The TorqueFlite 8 electronic transmission is also operated in a different way: via a dash-mounted “rotary e-shift dial” that eliminates the need for steering column or floormounted shift levers, enabling what the company calls “quick blind-shift” transitions from reverse to drive when towing or navigating out of mud, snow or busy parking lots. The dash-mounted shift system also yields space for more functional and usable storage in the console as well, Ram notes.
A new air suspension option offers five ride height settings to choose from, including two higher levels for off-road operation, a low-to-the-ground aerodynamic setting, as well as one to help during parking maneuvers.
Ram is also offering a factory-built bi-fuel configuration for its 2500 HD pickup that runs on both compressed natural gas (CNG) and gasoline. Sold in a crew cab configuration with either a long or short bed, Ram’s bi-fuel model is powered by a 5.7L Hemi V8 engine linked to a 6-spd. automatic and is equipped with two CNG tanks providing 18.2 gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) worth of storage secured in the pickup’s bed to its frame. The truck also comes with an 8 gal. gasoline tank that can be upgraded by Canadian customers to a 35-gal. option.
Few changes are in the works for Toyota’s Tundra full-size pickup for the 2013 model year. The company says it plans to remain focused on offering simplified option packages, which it first rolled out for the 2012 model year. Among those option packages is the “work truck” configuration.
The Tundra continues to come with three engine choices: 270-hp. 4.0L V6, 310-hp. 4.6L V8, and 381-hp. 5.7L V8. All Tundras now feature standard heavy-duty battery, heavy-duty starter, windshield wiper deicer, daytime running lights (DRL), front and rear mudguards, and heated power outside mirrors.
Like previous iterations, the 2013 Tundra is offered in two grades (Tundra and Limited); three cab styles (regular, double cab and CrewMax); three wheelbase lengths (126.8, 145.7 and 164.6 in., depending on model and configuration); and three bed lengths (78.7 in., 97.6 in. and for the CrewMax configuration only, 66.7 in.).
By combining popular equipment, option packages for the Tundra debuted last year were simplified to make it easier for customers to spec this pickup for specific applications. Tundra-Grade double cab and CrewMax models now offer four streamlined packages: convenience package, convenience package with bucket seats, upgrade package, and SR5 package. Regular cab offers four redesigned packages: SR5 package, SR5 upgrade package, TRD off-road package, and color-keyed bumper package.
For commercial users, the Tundra work truck package remains available for the 2013 model year, crafted for customers who desire a “no-frills” truck with exceptional cargo and towing capacity, Toyota says.
The work truck package features heavy-duty vinyltrimmed seating surfaces, and heavy-duty all-weather flooring; it is available in regular and double cab configurations with any of the Tundra’s three engine choices.
Toyota notes that the Tundra continues to be built on what it calls its “TripleTech” frame, using wide, fullboxed rails for the front portion; a reinforced C-channel under the cab; and an open C-channel underneath the bed to maximize strength, ride quality and durability. The double arm front suspension uses coil-over spring shock units, while a front-mounted steering rack helps enhance steering feel and response; the rear suspension uses staggered shocks mounted outboard of the springs to improve the shocks’ dampening efficiency. Spring rates are tuned to provide a flat vehicle stance when fully loaded, Toyota says.