CLASS 1-2light

July 1, 2008
DODGE More power, performance, and body/cab options are the major features being introduced for Dodge's 2009 Ram pickup line. In addition to a new 5.7L Hemi V8 gasoline engine, which produces 380 hp. and 404 lbs.-ft. of torque, the 2009 Dodge Ram can also be equipped with a 4.7L gasoline V8 cranking out 310 hp. and 330 lbs.-ft. of torque, as well as a 3.7L V6 generating 215 hp. and 235 lbs.-ft. of


More power, performance, and body/cab options are the major features being introduced for Dodge's 2009 Ram pickup line.

In addition to a new 5.7L Hemi V8 gasoline engine, which produces 380 hp. and 404 lbs.-ft. of torque, the 2009 Dodge Ram can also be equipped with a 4.7L gasoline V8 cranking out 310 hp. and 330 lbs.-ft. of torque, as well as a 3.7L V6 generating 215 hp. and 235 lbs.-ft. of torque. Four- and five-speed automatic transmissions, part-time and on-demand 4WD transfer cases, with 3.21, 3.55, 3.92 and 4.10 axle ratios are also on the option sheet for 2009. An automatic-transmission floor shifter, incorporated into a configurable center console, is available for the first time in a Dodge Ram. For the 2010 model year, Dodge noted it plans to roll out an advanced two-mode hybrid system for the Dodge Ram line.

Cab options include regular cab, Quad Cab and crew cab models, with three box lengths: 8 ft. (regular cab), 6 ft., 4 in. (regular cab and Quad Cab), and a new 5 ft., 7 in. box option for the crew cab. Five trim levels are available as well: ST, SLT, TRX, Sport and the premium Laramie package.

An improved frame design incorporates high-strength steel supports for an all-new multi-link coil spring rear suspension that improves ride and handling characteristics without sacrificing payload (up to an estimated 1,850 lbs.) and towing capability (up to an estimated 9,100 lbs.).

The Dodge Ram crew cab 1500 also features the new RamBox cargo management system that provides weatherproof, lockable, illuminated and drainable storage compartments integrated into both fender sides, with each “box” containing up to 4.3 cu. ft. of storage space — equivalent to five cases (120 cans) of beverages. More than 30 active and passive safety features are available, including standard front and rear side-curtain air bags, seat-belt pretensioners, ABS, BeltAlert System, and electronic stability control.

For small business owners, the Dodge Grand Caravan Cargo Van retains upgrades made to the vehicle last year, including a new exterior vinyl window shading, both full- and half-width cargo dividers, wire mesh and solid metal window interior inserts, and a cargo compartment floor mat.

The 2009 Dodge Sprinter van — a legacy from days when Daimler AG and Dodge's parent Chrysler were still one company — is undergoing relatively little change after being “super sized” for the 2008 model year and features a V6 diesel as well as an optional V6 gasoline engine.

Dodge is also offering a $1,000 allowance towards the purchase of an upfit body for installation on all Dodge Sprinter chassis cab models from now until January 2, 2009. The program is not a retail incentive and is open to all approved Dodge Sprinter dealers nationwide, applying to all upfits valued at more than $1,500. Participating upfitters must be members of the National Truck Equipment Assn.; recreational vehicle upfits, limousine upfits and shuttle bus upfits are excluded.


A redesigned F-150 pickup and a light duty van brought over from Europe represent the big news from Ford for 2009 in the light duty category. Key improvements for the Ford F-150 are a higher-strength yet lighter-weight chassis and expanded safety features, such as AdvanceTrac with RSC (roll stability control) and trailer sway control, plus optional rearview camera assist and integrated trailer brake controller — a segment-first on light-duty pickups.

The new F-150 features a fully boxed frame constructed from hydroformed, high-strength steel side rails — and crossmembers that pass through the frame rails — for increased durability and safety, with high-strength steel doing double duty, providing about 10% more torsional rigidity, while also contributing to a 100-lb. weight reduction versus the current F-150.

The Hotchkiss-designed rear suspension mounts for the rear shock absorbers are outboard of the frame rails on the new F-150 and provide for a smoother ride and improved body control. The revised suspension features 6-in. longer leafsprings, and springs are extended forward to provide better lateral compliance and refined rear axle steer characteristics. All 4×4 F-150s offer a choice of manual or electronic shift-on-the-fly 4WD systems.

On the plus-sized side, Ford expanded the interior on the F-150 SuperCrew by 6 in. to improve rear seat leg room and cargo capacity. A mechanically articulated second-row seat flips up and out of the way. Combined with a truly flat load floor, the feature gives the new SuperCrew some 57.6 cu. ft. of space behind the front seats.

The F-150 line gets a choice of three V8 engines, mated to either a 4-spd. or a new, more fuel-efficient 6-spd. automatic transmission. The engines include a 5.4L, three-valve Triton V8 that is capable of running on E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline), regular unleaded gasoline or any blend in between; a 4.6L, three-valve V8; and a 4.6L, two-valve V8. All the V8 engines deliver a fleet-average 1 mpg improvement in fuel economy versus the outgoing F-150, notes Ford. The company adds that diesel and new “Eco-Boost” gas turbo direct injection engines are planned for the F-150 in 2010 as well.

In mid-2009, Ford plans to fully roll out its European-engineered Transit Connect light-duty van in the North American market for commercial customers. “Ford Transit Connect is built on a dedicated, commercial vehicle platform to meet the rigors business use demands. This workhorse is like nothing available today in the American market,” says Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vp-global product development.

With its standard, 2.0L 4-cyl. engine and automatic transmission, Transit Connect delivers fuel economy estimated at 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on highway, Kuzak notes. The cargo doors on the Transit Connect open on both sides and at the rear — dual sliding side doors and 180-deg.-opening rear doors — that make accessing its generous cargo area more convenient. Cargo capacity is 143 cu. ft. and can accommodate loads up to 6.5 ft. long and 4.7 ft. wide.


The Sprinter van will undergo relatively little change after being “super sized” for the 2008 model year. The 2009 Sprinter continues to feature a V6 diesel as well as an optional V6 gasoline engine, along with higher maximum gross weight ratings and a range of active safety systems added as standard equipment.

With a more pronounced hood and more streamlined profile, the Sprinter retains its 2 in. wider girth from last year and remains available in three lengths — 233, 273 and 289 in.; two wheelbases — 144 and 170 in.; and three roof heights, including a new 84-in. high “Mega” option.

The roll-open side door, which can be spec'd on either side of the body, is now wide enough to handle a standard pallet and the rear doors open a full 270 deg. The maximum cargo capacity for Sprinter goes to 600 cu. ft., and GVW ratings are offered up to 11,030 lbs. for both van and cab-chassis versions.

The truck's 3.0L V6 turbodiesel produces 154 hp. and peak torque of 280 lbs.-ft. and is fitted with a diesel particulate filter to meet 2007 U.S. emissions requirements. The gasoline engine option is a 3.5L V6 rated at 254 hp. and 250 lbs.-ft. peak torque. Both engines are mated to a 5-spd. automatic transmission.

For diesel models, an average 20.2 mpg was confirmed through independent testing and validation performed by AMCI (Automotive Marketing Consultants Inc.), Oceanside, CA, with gasoline-powered models averaging 15.2 mpg. In addition, the 3.92 axle ratio is now standard for diesel models, ensuring superior fuel economy.

All Sprinters now come with Daimler AG's adaptive electronic stability program (ESP), which compensates automatically for changes in vehicle payload. ESP is integrated with a variety of new safety-related electronic and suspension systems, including rollover mitigation, skid control, ABS, electronic brake distribution and emergency brake assist, all standard.

Other features include 16-in. wheels, high-density halogen headlamps with cornering lights, park assist with front and rear bumper sensors, power windows and mirrors, and automatic rain and light sensors to control the windshield wipers and headlights.


The big news for General Motor's light-duty lineup in 2009 is the introduction of its patented 2-Mode Hybrid system for both its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. The company said its hybrid system is going to deliver 40% improved city fuel economy and 25% combined fuel economy gain for its full-size pickups. Both trucks feature an electric motor and battery pack combined with a 6.0L V8 engine with active fuel management and late-intake valve closing technology to further improve fuel consumption — while still providing 6,100 lbs. of towing capacity.

The hybrid's fuel-saving performance is derived from GM's electrically variable transmission (EVT) and 300V, nickel-metal hydride energy storage system (ESS), which works in concert with the standard 6.0L V8 Gen IV gasoline engine. GM said its hybrid technology system not only enables the Silverado and Sierra to launch and drive up to 30 mph on electricity alone, it also allows the engine to operate in its more economical V4 mode for longer periods.

GM added that with its 2-Mode Hybrid system, the electric power used to propel the vehicle is generated by the hybrid system itself. When the brakes are applied or the vehicle is coasting, the electric motors within the hybrid system create electricity that is stored in the 300V battery. This stored energy is used to move the vehicle and the regenerative braking cycle is renewed.

The Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra hybrids go on sale late this year and are based on platforms rolled out for the 2007 model year — platforms that will remain relatively unchanged both for hybrid and non-hybrid models. The Silverado is offered as a regular, extended and crew cab. Cargo box lengths are short (5 ft., 8 in.), standard (6 ft., 6 in.) and long (8 ft.). The pickup is available in WT, LT and LTZ trim levels. It's also available in 2WD and 4WD.

The GMC Sierra has its own distinct trim packages, which include work truck, SLE (SLE1 and SLE2 models) and SLT, along with 2WD and 4WD configurations. Cab styles offered are regular, extended and crew cab. Cargo box lengths are 5 ft., 8 in.; 6 ft., 6 in.; and 8 ft.

Both Chevrolet's Silverado and GMC's Sierra offer StabiliTrak electronic stability control system, a locking rear axle and a trailer package.

GM's light-duty vans will see few changes for the 2009 model year. The Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans now come standard with StabiliTrak on all one-ton passenger models. Offered as options are all-wheel drive and the available OnStar safety and security system on both passenger and conversion models. The versatility of the Express and Savana — as both cargo vans and passenger haulers able to accommodate up to 15 people — gets beefed up with the addition of a standard Vortec 5.3L V8 that delivers 295 hp. and 335 lbs.-ft. of torque. Both vans can also be equipped with the Duramax 6.6L turbodiesel V8, which delivers 250 hp. and 460 lbs.-ft. of torque, as well as a FlexFuel E85 version of the Vortec 5.3L engine.


The Honda Ridgeline light truck is going to stay relatively the same for the 2009 model year, with its 8.5-cu.-ft., in-bed trunk, four-wheel independent suspension, plus standard safety equipment that includes side-curtain airbags and a vehicle stability assist (VSA) system.

The four-door, five-passenger Ridgeline is built on a closed-box, unit-body frame that combines the strength characteristics of a ladder frame with the handling and packaging advantages of a unit-body design. Powertrain highlights include a V6 engine, a 5-spd. electronically controlled automatic transmission and a variable torque management 4WD system (VTM-4) as standard equipment.

The all-aluminum 3.5L VTEC engine produces 247 hp. at 5,700 rpm and 245 lbs.-ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. Variable valve timing and lift electronic control (VTEC) enhance low rpm torque while extending high rpm horsepower, Honda says, resulting in a broad torque curve that starts early at low rpm while still delivering top-end horsepower.

The fully automatic VTM-4 system provides decision-free operation in rain, snow, ice, sand and mud, while also improving on-road and towing performance by distributing torque to all four wheels as needed. The system provides front-wheel drive for dry-pavement conditions and engages all-wheel drive when needed. The VSA system can apply braking force to a wheel with low traction and direct driving force to a wheel with more traction. For the rear differential, a VTM-4 lock button located on the instrument panel allows the driver to temporarily hold engagement of both rear wheels to aid traction while in first and second gears.

Maximum towing capacity is rated at 5,000 lbs. when properly equipped, and all Ridgeline models are ready to tow with the addition of an available accessory trailer hitch (standard on the Ridgeline RTX model). Additionally, all models come equipped with standard transmission and oil coolers, heavy-duty brakes, dual radiator fans and pre-wiring for four- and seven-pin trailer hookup (prewired on RTX). A 5-ft. composite cargo bed provides half-ton payload capacity and features six heavy-duty tie-down cleats and four integrated bed lights. A dual-action tailgate opens down or to the side for ease of access to the lockable in-bed trunk.

All Ridgeline model trucks are equipped with standard antilock brakes; VSA; brake assist; advanced dual-stage, dual-threshold driver and front passenger SRS airbags; front-side airbags with passenger-side occupant position detection system (OPDS); and two-row side-curtain airbags with rollover sensor. A tire pressure monitoring system is also standard.


Few changes are in the works for the 2009 Nissan Titan pickup as the company prepares to roll out a light commercial vehicle (LCV) line with vehicles designed specifically for the North American market starting in 2010 — a lineup that may include a heavy, full-size version of the Titan.

The current lineup of Titan models will remain in place for 2009. This includes the XE, SE, PRO-4X and LE, along with two cab styles (King Cab and Crew Cab) and four bed lengths, clocking in at 5 ft., 6 in. and 7 ft. for the Titan Crew Cab and 6 ft., 6 in. and 8 ft. for the King Cab configuration. The Titan is offered in 4×2 and 4×4 drive configurations, with a Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV) to run on E85 ethanol as a no-cost option.

The new Titan LWB models feature a 7-ft. bed with the Crew Cab body configuration and an 8-ft. bed with the King Cab body, along with a 37-gal. fuel tank for increased driving range. The new Titan PRO-4X model offers a special off-road equipment package, including Rancho shock absorbers, a lower final gear ratio, two additional skid plates, electronic locking rear differential, white-faced interior gauges, body-color exterior trim, and special interior styling and trim. The 2009 Titan also features freshened styling with a revised front end, wheel lip moldings and new wheel styles. Inside, Titan features a new seat design and refined meter clusters.

Nissan is keeping a spate of special features in place on the Titan, including wide-open rear doors for the King Cab model that open nearly 180 deg. for unobstructed rear cab access; an available high-utility bed that includes an industry-exclusive, factory-applied, spray-on bed liner; a tie-down system that provides cargo hauling flexibility; and a segment-exclusive integrated, lockable bedside storage compartment.

Nissan's Endurance all-aluminum, 5.6L V8 engine remains the standard powerplant for the Titan, cranking out 317 hp. and 385 lbs.-ft. of torque. The use of advanced engine technology such as aluminum block with cast iron cylinder liners, forged steel crankshaft, microfinished crankshaft and camshaft, graphite-coated pistons, six-bolt main bearing caps, and Super Silent single-stage timing chain result in enhanced fuel economy with no sacrifice of performance, Nissan notes.

The Titan comes standard with a 5-spd. automatic transmission with advanced shift-on-the-fly 4WD with 2WD/4HI/4LO modes with electronic control part-time transfer case. Maximum towing capacity is 9,500 lbs. for the King Cab and 9,400 lbs. for Crew Cab (when properly equipped) models. Standard features include power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, 4-wheel disc brakes with Bosch ABS, and electronic brake force distribution (EBD).

As Nissan gears up to enter the light commercial market, it is partnering with Cummins Inc. on the development of two diesel engines specifically for the new line, both of which will meet 2010 EPA and CARB standards and be manufactured in the U.S. Newly designed automatic transmissions will be supplied by Germany's ZF Friedrichshafen AG, NNA adds. According to Ward's Automotive Reports, the LCV line will include three vehicles with GVW ratings under 16,000 lbs. and one model may be a heavy pickup.


Not many changes are in store for the 2009 Toyota Tundra, largely due to the full overhaul of the full-size pickup line for the 2008 model year. Toyota is adding 13 new Tundra models and enhancing standard equipment levels, so customers can choose between 44 different models in three cab styles, including wider availability for the popular double cab and CrewMax configurations.

Previously, these four-door models were available only in the intermediate SR5 and top-line Limited grades. With the introduction of a new “Tundra grade,” positioned just below the SR5, Toyota said customers can equip double cab and CrewMax models with key standard features, such as power bucket front seats, AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer, cold kit, heated mirrors, and mudguards at no additional cost.

Standard features for the Tundra Limited grade double cab and CrewMax include the front and rear parking sonar, cold kit and mudguards. The Tundra is available with 4×2 and 4×4 drivetrains and offers three cab styles, three wheelbases, three bed lengths, three engines, and three trim levels. All models feature as standard equipment ABS, electronic brake force distribution (EBD), brake assist, vehicle stability control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC).

Engine options for the Tundra include a 381-hp., 5.7L i-Force V8 engine teamed to a 6-spd. automatic transmission; a 4.7L i-Force V8 producing 276 hp. at 5,400 rpm and 313 lbs.-ft. of peak torque at 3,400 rpm (the standard powerplant for the CrewMax models); and a 4.0L V6 generating 236 hp. at 5,200 rpm and 266 lbs.-ft. of peak torque at 4,000 rpm (the standard powerplant for the Tundra regular and double cab models). Both the V6 and i-Force 4.7L V8 are teamed with a 5-spd. automatic transmission that features uphill/downhill shift logic.

A diesel engine option is planned for 2010, based on a concept Toyota unveiled last year. The Tundra CrewMax diesel dually project truck, introduced at the 2007 SEMA Show, featured an 8.0L, inline 6-cyl., high-torque diesel engine made by Toyota affiliate Hino and mated to an Eaton 5-spd. manual transmission.

Tundra features three wheelbases: 126.8 in. for regular cab/standard bed models; 145.7 in. for regular cab/long bed, double cab/standard bed and CrewMax models; and 164.6 in. for double cab/long bed models. The pickup's 4×4 configurations offer a part-time, electronically controlled 4WD system featuring a six-pinion planetary reduction gearset to provide 4×2, 4×4 Hi and 4×4 Lo ranges. The driver selects the drive mode using a dial on the dash. Tundra regular cab and double cab models are offered in standard bed (78.7 in.) or long bed (97.6 in.) configurations; the CrewMax comes with a short bed (66.7 in.). In all models, the bed measures 22.2 in. deep.

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