The big news from Ford for the 2011 model year is the introduction of an all-electric version of its Transit Connect cargo van. The Transit Connect Electric uses a Force Drive electric powertrain manufactured and integrated by specialty upfitter Azure Dynamics.
Ford says its Transit Connect Electric is well-suited for commercial fleets that travel predictable, short-range routes with frequent stop-and-go driving in urban and suburban environments and access to a central location for daily recharging. The vehicle accelerates at a rate similar to its gasoline-powered twin and has a top speed of 75 mph and range of up to 80 mi. on a full charge. The gas-powered version has a Duratec 2.0-liter dual overhead cam I-4 engine mated to a 4-spd. transmission that delivers a 22 city/25 highway mpg rating.
The Transit Connect Electric, equipped with a liquid-cooled 28-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, can be recharged with either a standard 120V outlet or the preferred 240V charge station installed at the user's base of operations for optimal recharging in six to eight hours.
Although there are significant differences between the Transit Connect Electric and the gas-powered version, there are many things in common, such as 135 cu. ft. of cargo volume with 59.1 in. of floor-to-ceiling load height and 47.8 in. of load width between the wheel arches; load length of 72.6 in.; split rear cargo doors that open at a standard 180 deg., or an optionally available 255 deg.; and power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering that allows a 39-ft. curb-to-curb turning circle for maneuverability in tight urban spaces.
On the pickup side of the ledger, not much is changing on the 2011 F-150. The truck is equipped with a 5.4-liter three-valve engine rated at up to 320 hp. and 390 lbs.-ft. of torque. It is mated to a 6-spd. automatic transmission. The F-150 is available in 4×2, all-wheel drive and 4×4 high configurations.
Big changes have been made to General Motors' 2011 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup truck models, along with major enhancements to GM's Duramax diesel engine that will be felt across the company's light truck line, which includes the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana cargo vans.
For starters, the new 2011 model-year Silverado and Sierra pickups are touted to offer 11% better fuel economy along with increased horsepower, torque, towing capacity and payload than the models they replace.
Both get new fully boxed steel frames for a variety of body, cab, and powertrain configurations, along with 20,000 lbs. of towing capacity and 6,335 lbs. of payload capacity.
The standard engine for both pickup lines is the Vortec 6.0-liter small-block gasoline V8 producing 322 hp. and 380 lbs.-ft. of torque married to a Hydra-Matic 6L90 6-spd. automatic transmission. A redesigned and optional 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine cranking out 335 hp. and 685 lbs.-ft. of torque features a selective catalytic reduction system to control exhaust emissions in line with 2010 regulations.
A 36-gal. fuel tank gives Silverado and Sierra pickups an estimated operating range of over 680 highway mi., which translates to roughly 18.8 mpg.
The Duramax is also B20 compatible, allowing operators to use a blended fuel made from 20% biodiesel and 80% regular diesel while not only staying compliant with 2010 emissions standards, but maintaining its 5-yr./100,000-mi. warranty coverage.
To make the Duramax and its fuel system compatible with B20, Gary Arvan, chief engineer for the Duramax diesel, says some seals and gasket materials were upgraded to withstand the ester content of biodiesel. This included an upgraded fuel filter that includes a coalescing element to improve the separation of water that may be present in the fuel because biodiesel can attract and absorb water. Also, additional heating of the fuel circuit was added to reduce the chance of fuel gelling or waxing that could plug filters.
Both the new 2011 Silverado and Sierra are built on a completely new chassis that boasts 60% all-new parts. An independent front suspension offers a 25% increased front axle weight rating and there is a wider asymmetrical rear-leaf suspension, with all single rear wheel models equipped with GM's StabiliTrak roll-stability control system, even the one-ton versions. Four-wheel drive (4WD) models will all be rated for snowplow capability, including 4WD crew-cab configurations.
The same Duramax diesel engine option will be available in the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana vans as well, though the refueling location for the diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), which is sprayed by the SCR system into the exhaust stream to reduce emissions, will be different. The DEF refueling port for the vans is nestled right next to the one for diesel fuel, whereas in the pickups, the DEF filling port is against the engine firewall, under the hood.
Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana cargo vans are also getting several new options, including a 5-yr./100,000 mi. transferable powertrain limited warranty.
An extended wheelbase increases the cargo space of both van models from 225.1 to 261.6 cu. ft. The Vortec 4.8L V6 is standard on Express and Savana cargo van models. It provides 280 hp. and 296 lbs.-ft. of torque to handle payloads of up to 3,058 lbs. with the regular wheelbase version, and 2,848 lbs. on the extended wheelbase model.
The Express and Savana cargo models also come standard with a Hydra-Matic 6L90 6-spd. automatic transmission and revised rear axles to help improve low-rpm torque, highway fuel economy and overall drivability.
The 2011 model year may be the end of the road for Honda's unique “unibody” Ridgeline pickup truck. Refreshed for the 2009 model year, the 2010 version of the Ridgeline pickup only featured minor changes — and even fewer changes are going to occur for the 2011 model year, largely just paint and trim packages.
The Ridgeline represented Honda's first step into the light truck market back in 2005, a step quickly followed by its small Pilot sport utility vehicle. The Ridgeline's “unibody” design is what attracted the attention of the commercial fleet market, combining a light duty pickup and four-person cab in a single body package as opposed to the “body-on-frame” design used by almost every other light truck manufacturer.
That initially helped the Ridgeline exceed its 50,000 unit per year sales target (50,193 units in 2006, actually). In recent years, however, sales dropped steeply to 33,875 units in 2008 and then to 16,464 last year.
The four-door, five-passenger Ridgeline remains built on a closed-box, unibody frame powered by a 250-hp., 3.5-liter VTEC V6 engine, that achieves ratings of 15 city/20 highway mpg.
A 5-spd. electronically controlled automatic transmission plus a Variable Torque Management 4WD system (VTM-4) are standard features on the Ridgeline, along with a fully-independent suspension with MacPherson struts in the front and a multi-link suspension design in the rear contributing to a smooth ride and responsive handling.
Standard equipment for towing includes an integrated tow hitch, transmission oil coolers, heavy-duty brakes, dual radiator fans, and a wiring harness for a 7-pin trailer hookup (prewiring only on the RT model). All models are rated for a maximum tow capacity of 5,000 lbs.
Designed for 1,546 lbs. of total vehicle payload, the Ridgeline also features a vehicle stability assist (VSA) system with active yaw control to monitor lateral stability by integrating traction control, 4WD, antilock braking, throttle control and stability control functions.
Next Page: INTERNATIONAL
Navistar rolled out an all-electric truck this year that spans the light/medium-duty markets with plans to improve it further for the 2011 model year. The Class 2-3 eStar is produced through the Navistar-Modec EV Alliance, a joint venture between Navistar and Modec Limited of the U.K. It has a top speed of about 50 mph and operating range of 100 mi. per charge.
The eStar has a GVWR of 12,100 lbs., with a payload capacity of 4,000 lbs. The front axle is rated at 5,730 lbs. with a rear axle rating of 7,053 lbs. The electrohydraulic power-assisted steering provides a turning radius of 36 ft.
There is no engine and no transmission, so the eStar has no tailpipe emissions, or tailpipe for that matter. It features a low floor for easy loading/unloading; and a low center of gravity thanks to the below-frame, rail-mounted battery system. A huge windshield offers nearly 180 deg. of visibility, which gives drivers a better view of the area ahead of the truck, while a back-up camera and unique mirror systems offer improved side and front-of-bumper views.
The eStar comes standard with antilock brakes and a regenerative braking system to help charge the battery during operation through the onboard charger. Full recharging through a Level 2 recharging system can be completed in approximately 8 hrs., or the batteries can be traded out in less than 20 min. The truck is designed to easily accommodate changes to batteries or energy storage options, making it “future-proof” as new technologies become available. The vehicle itself is almost entirely recyclable when its work life is finished, Navistar says.
Some changes and enhancements to the truck scheduled for 2011 include the transition to the SAE J1772 EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) charger connector system, and the addition of air conditioning. According to Navistar, trucks delivered in 2010 will be retrofit to include these and other enhancements. www.estar-ev.com
The biggest changes to the 2011 model Sprinter cargo van don't directly involve the vehicle itself; rather, they affect the sales and support structure surrounding the popular vehicle.
Originally introduced to North America as a Freightliner model in 2001, the European-designed and built Sprinter then was sold under the Dodge brand in 2003 as part of Daimler AG's ownership stake in Chrysler. With Daimler's sale of Chrysler in 2009, the Sprinter agreement lapsed and Daimler moved marketing and distribution responsibility to its Mercedes-Benz (MB) USA division as of January.
In terms of vehicle changes, MB-USA added a shuttle van model to Sprinter's existing cargo van, passenger van and cab-chassis models. The shuttle model will be offered with four seating configurations for up to 16 passengers for airport, commuter, hotel and paratransit shuttle applications.
MB-USA also reduced sticker prices on the Sprinter between 5.3 and 6.3%, despite the addition of selective catalytic (SCR) reduction technology to meet new U.S. diesel emissions requirements. The switch to SCR, which all Daimler groups market under the BlueTec brand name, also improved the power ratings of the V6 diesel engine, boosting its ratings to 188 hp. at 3,800 rpm from 154 hp., with peak torque climbing to 325 lbs.-ft. between 1,400 and 2,400 rpm, up from its previous level of 285 lbs.-ft.
The Sprinter remains available in three lengths (233, 273 and 289 in.) and two wheelbases (144 and 170 in.) plus three roof heights, including an 84-in. -high “Mega” option.
Maximum cargo capacity tops out at 600 cu. ft. GVW ratings are offered up to 11,030 lbs. for both van and cab-chassis versions. A V6 gasoline engine mated to a 5-spd. automatic transmission is optional. www.mbsprinterusa.com
Brand new to the light-duty market are the 2011 Nissan NV1500, NV2500 HD and NV3500 HD full-size vans. They will be available with a choice of 4.0L V6 or 5.6L V8 engines and in two body styles: standard roof and high roof (NV2500 HD and NV3500 HD only).
The cargo area of the NV provides a 120.7-in. floor length and 70.3-in. maximum cargo floor width. NV standard roof models offer a maximum 55.4-in. cargo area height. The high roof offers a maximum of 76.5-in. cargo room height.
Along with wide door openings, the NV offers room between the wheelhouses to accommodate standard plywood, drywall sheets or pallets. There is also a range of cargo area tie-down rings and ample cargo area lighting.
The NV was also designed to accommodate aftermarket outfitting and modifications. For example, the roof rack mounting brackets are designed for installing various rack systems without piercing holes in the roof, which can lead to corrosion and water leaks.
A full-length cargo area inner panel protects the outer walls from dents and dings from the inside. Multiple weld-nut attachment points for shelving and racks require no sheet metal drilling. The NV's nearly vertical sidewalls maximize the usable cargo space to accommodate common aftermarket storage systems as well as a bulkhead behind the driver.
Key driver-comfort features include wider front doors; supportive bucket seating with extensive adjustability; large armrests and a truck-like driving position with ample legroom and foot room; and a removable center console that offers a range of integrated storage features.
Next Page: RAM TRUCKS
The newly reborn Chrysler Group LLC aims to take a big swing at the lighter end of the U.S. commercial truck market over the next several years in part by upgrading its 2011 model-year heavy-duty pickups while eliminating the Dodge Dakota light pickup — part of an attempt to increase Chrysler's annual sales of commercial trucks some 50% by 2014.
The intensified focus on commercial trucks is part of a sweeping five-year growth plan unveiled by the OEM's new owner, Italy's Fiat SpA. Part of Chrysler's strategy includes slicing its truck products off from the rest of its Dodge division, placing them into a separate division called “Ram Trucks.”
By 2014, Chrysler expects to have replaced almost three-quarters of its current engine lineup for this segment to improve overall fuel efficiency. Part of this will include offering a Fiat engine.
For its Ram Heavy Duty pickups, a crew-cab model was added for the 2010 model year and will be carried over into 2011. Improved suspension tuning and new C-pillar hydromounts were added to the Ram's hydroformed, fully boxed frame. A coil-spring suspension setup is used up front, while the multi-leaf spring design is maintained in the rear for heavy-duty capability. Front and rear shocks and springs are tuned for optimum ride quality and capability.
Powertrain choices include an optional 6.7L Cummins diesel engine, which produces 350 hp. at 3,000 rpm and 650 lbs.-ft. of torque at 1,500 rpm; and a standard 5.7L Hemi V8 gasoline engine, delivering 383 hp. at 5,600 rpm and 400 lbs.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. The redesigned 5.7L Hemi offers a spate of improved technologies, including variable-valve timing; increased compression ratio; active intake manifold with long runners for low-end torque and short runners for high-rpm power; improved cylinder head port flow efficiency; and reduced-restriction exhaust and induction systems.
The Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups offer a standard exhaust brake for diesel-equipped models to help reduce brake fade, prolong brake life, and provide confidence and safety when hauling heavy loads on downhill grades.
Ram pickups boast an increased GVWR on 2500 4×4 crew-cab diesel models of 9,600 lbs. from 9,000 lbs., with increased GCWR of 24,500 lbs., up from 24,000 lbs., on 3500 dually models with diesel engine and automatic transmission. With the Max Tow Package, GCWR increases to 25,400 lbs. www.ramtrucks.com
Upgrades made to all 2010 Toyota Tundra full-size pickups are going to carry over to the 2011 model year, including the 4.6L i-Force V8 engine and two vehicle packages: the Tundra Platinum and Tundra Work Truck.
The engine is available on all models and features a double overhead cam aluminum alloy head with dual independent variable-valve timing that is “intelligent” (VVT-i) in order to achieve the best fuel economy. It offers 310 hp., 327 lbs.-ft. of torque, and an estimated 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway on 4×2 models. Like Tundra's optional 5.7L i-Force V8 engine, the 4.6L is mated to a 6-spd. automatic transmission.
The Tundra Work Truck package is aimed at commercial truck buyers or those who otherwise require a tough no-frills truck with exceptional cargo and towing capacity.
These “specialized” trucks include vinyl seating and rubber flooring and will be available in “regular” and “double cab” configurations with a V6 or one of two V8 engines, including Tundra's 5.7L 381 hp. V8 with a towing capability of up to 10,800 lbs. Tundra models equipped with the Work Truck package will carry a price adjustment less than the truck's standard MSRP, though that depends on the model.
For buyers looking for a high level of refinement, the Platinum package is available on CrewMax Limited models equipped with the 5.7L V8 and Flex Fuel powertrains. The package contains an assortment of luxury features such as heated and ventilated seats, sunroof, and wood grain trim.
The Tundra continues to be offered in 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 a massive 164.6 in. for double cab/long bed models. www.toyota.com