Dodge will offer a new version of its Sprinter van in 2007, although details are scarce at this point. The '07 Sprinter will feature an adaptive Electronic Stability Program (ESP), which can help prevent rollovers by measuring the weight of the vehicle's load, calculating the center of gravity and adapting its braking and engine-speed responses correspondingly.
Production of the Sprinter will shift to the U.S. in ‘07, when parent company DaimlerChrysler completes a $35-million conversion of its Ladson, NC, plant to van assembly later this year.
On the pickup side of the ledger, Dodge plans to market its Ram 3500 Mega Cab dually to commercial buyers, emphasizing the higher payload capacity and greater trailer-towing stability compared to standard pickups. The '07 Mega Cab dually, which can be configured with a 4×2 or 4×4 drivetrain with a 6-ft., 3-in. box, comes standard with a 5.9-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine offering 610 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,600 rpm. Six-speed manual transmissions are standard; automatics are optional. An electric-shift transfer case is standard on 4WD models, with limited-slip differential as an option.
GVWR on the Ram 3500 Mega Cab dually is 10,500 lb., with payload capacity topping out at 3,240 lb. and rear Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) hitting 9,350 lb. It offers a Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of 23,000 lb. and maximum trailer weight of 15,600 lb., thanks to the heavy-duty 11.5-in. solid axle and longitudinal leaf springs, with three leaves carrying normal loads and an auxiliary leaf supporting additional load capacity.
A Tow/Haul mode and an Overdrive Off mode deliver maximum trailer-towing performance by providing crisp shifts and reducing gear searching when climbing hills.
The Mega Cab provides seating for six adults, with plenty of head, shoulder, leg and hip room. A standard 60/40 two-position fold-down rear seat can be used in several configurations to accommodate passengers and gear.
Finally, the '07 Rampage is a concept vehicle that builds on the functionality of the pickup, yet adds a dash of style and new options, all powered by a 5.7-liter gasoline MDS HEMI engine. Behind the brushed aluminum accents and styling, Dodge is experimenting with new door patterns on the Rampage. When either front door is opened, the sill pivots down to expose a handy step assist. While the front door is hinged conventionally, the rear door slides open for easier entry, aided by the absence of the customary B-pillar.
With all seats in use, the Rampage is able to carry five passengers. However, the right front seat and the 60/40 rear seats can be folded into the floor, marking the first use of Dodge's Sto-N-Go Seating and Storage Unit in a pickup truck. “The interior of the Rampage is durable, functional and efficient,” says Irina Zavatski, principal interior designer for the vehicle. “Everything is there for a reason.”
The F-150 pickup and its stablemate, the Explorer Sport Trac, a hybrid SUV/pickup built off of Ford's Explorer chassis, will get some new looks and capabilities in 2007.
The FX2 is an example of the new styling changes and cab/pickup bed options Ford is rolling out with its F-150 line next year. According to Raj Sarkar, assistant marketing manager for the F-150, Ford is beefing up styling “cues” to appeal to younger customers. “It looks aggressive both because of its design and its stance,” he adds. The F-150 FX series was originally introduced in model-year 2004.
The FX2 features a dark billet grille, clear headlamps with platinum bezels and a sporty, deep front valance. The monochromatic paint scheme adds body color to exterior components such as the bumper fascias, side mirror caps and door handles.
It's all part of melding big towing and cargo capacity with styling and quality, says Sarkar. That includes marrying the '07 F-150's SuperCrew cab to a 6.5-ft.cargo box, offering a flexible-fuel 5.4-liter Triton V-8 capable of running on straight gasoline or an ethanol/gasoline blend, and getting traction assist on 4×2 V-8 models
The '07 Explorer Sport Trac is an all-new version of the SUV with the cargo box of a truck. The 4.5-ft. cargo box is made from corrosion-proof sheet molded composite (SMC) with a molded-in black inner liner that is dent-proof and resists scratches. The box is notched, allowing customers to place two 2×4 boards across the span to provide tiered storage of materials, including the ubiquitous 4×8 plywood sheets.
Three integrated cargo bins are recessed into the bed floor, while two six-pack-sized bins sit in the right and left rear of the box and one large bin runs the length of the headboard. Bins are equipped with weather-resistant lids and removable drain plugs for storing wet gear or ice.
The '07 Sport Trac also gets a new frame that is 444% stiffer than the previous model, standard AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control and adaptive safety features, as well as a new independent rear suspension for refined ride and handling.
The OEM's Class 1 & 2 E-Series vans will also see some changes next year. The 12- and 15-passenger extended-length vans will be outfitted with Ford's proprietary AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control technology, which features roll-rate sensing and correcting capability, offering assistance to the driver in maintaining vehicle control during extreme maneuvers. The AdvanceTrac system automatically engages counter measures to help the driver maintain maximum control and further reduce the risk of rollover.
The big news from General Motors for 2007 is the total makeover of its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. Details won't be available until August, but GM says it plans to start production of the completely new pickups in the fourth quarter. “Our new '07 model redesign will give the Silverado and Sierra more refinements, more power, and more safety features,” said Ed Peper, general manager for GM's Chevrolet division. “But we're deliberately keeping a tight lid on the details for now.”
Peper added that the first '07 Silverado and Sierra pickups to roll off the production line at the end of the year are going to be crew cab models, followed by extended cabs and then the standard pickups. He also said ‘06 models of those pickups will be renamed the Silverado Classic and Sierra Classic to distinguish them from the '07 versions.
The OEM also announced some changes to its Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans in '07. FlexFuel packages will be offered on the 2WD and AWD 1/2-ton models, enabling them to operate on E85, a blend of 85% ethanol/15% gasoline.
Available with Duramax 6600 6.6-liter turbodiesel engines delivering 250 hp. and 460 lb.-ft. of torque, also standard on the Savana and Express vans will be GM's StabiliTrak for better handling and safety. The company's OnStar communications package will be optional. According to GM, its goal is to make the OnStar system standard on nearly all of its retail vehicles in the U.S. by the end of '07, including light trucks.
GM is also widening the availability of its Active Fuel Management (AFM) system, formerly called “displacement on demand,” to include V6 and V8 models in '07. Equipped with AFM, the new 3.9-liter V6, rated at 233 hp. and 240 lb.-ft. of torque, will automatically operate on half of its cylinders under light load conditions, thus improving efficiency by reducing fuel consumption. When the cylinders are deactivated, the 3.9-liter effectively operates as an inline 3-cyl. engine, with cylinders 1, 3 and 5 deactivated on the left cylinder bank. The engine returns to V-6 mode the instant the controller determines that vehicle speed or load requires additional power.
Introduced three years ago on GM's Gen IV V8 engine, AFM uses a new E38 engine controller that determines when to deactivate cylinders, allowing the engine to maintain vehicle speed in lighter-load conditions such as highway cruising. GM says the seamless changeover process is not perceptible to the driver. The OEM will offer AFM on 11 vehicles in '07.
Honda Motor Co. says that although there are no major changes in store for its Ridgeline pickup in 2007, it does plan to speed up development of the V4 and V6 clean diesel engines. These powerplants would give the Ridgeline more low-end torque and better fuel mileage than commercial light-duty buyers often look for in the U.S.
“Based on our highly successful diesel engine currently sold in Europe, [we are] now developing a cleaner next-generation 4-cylinder diesel engine that shall meet the EPA's stringent Tier 2 BIN5 emission standard requiring NOx emission levels equivalent to a gasoline-powered vehicle,” says Takeo Fukui, president and CEO of Honda.
“We plan to introduce this super-clean diesel engine to market within the next three years and also [plan] to work toward development of a clean V6 diesel engine,” he notes.
The Ridgeline offers a half-ton, 5-ft. cargo bed built on a closed box unibody frame that combines the strength of a ladder frame with the many advantages of a unibody design. Vehicles are equipped with a 247-hp. VTEC V6 engine; 5-sp. electronically controlled automatic transmission; advanced Variable Torque Management 4WD; and fully independent 4-wheel suspension.
The following features will also continue to be standard on the Ridgeline: ABS with Electronic Brake Assist and Vehicle Stability Assist with Traction Control; advanced dual-stage, dual-threshold driver's and front passenger's airbags; driver's and front passenger's side airbags (passenger side with Occupant Protection Detection System); two-row side curtain airbags with rollover sensor; a tire pressure monitoring system; air conditioning; tilt steering wheel; power side windows, power sliding rear window and door locks; cruise control; keyless entry; and automatic heated wiper zone.
All models also come equipped ready to tow with standard transmission and oil coolers, heavy duty brakes, dual radiator fans, an exclusive fresh air intake system for improved towing performance in hot weather conditions, and pre-wiring for 4- and 7-pin trailer hookup.
Nissan plans only minor changes to its Frontier and Titan pickups in 2007. For the Frontier, different bed configurations and choices will be made available, with the addition of an auxiliary jack on some models. The SE, LE and NISMO trim levels will have LEV2 and ULEV Emission Certification.
For the '07 Titan, engine power is going to jump to 315-320 hp. and a new chrome package will be offered that includes chrome step rails, rims, mirrors, etc. The Titan is available in King Cab and Crew Cab body styles, each with a standard 305 hp. 5.6-liter DOHC V8 and a choice of 4×4 or 4×2 drive; the higher horsepower engine package is optional.
The '07 Frontier and Titan are also going to play bigger roles in Nissan North America's (NNA) new Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) and Fleet Division, which was formed last February. “This is a major part of Nissan's future profit and volume plans for the U.S.,” said Jed Connelly, senior vp-sales and marketing for NNA. “A dedicated division will help us meet the specific needs of the American light commercial vehicle customers, in terms of both products and services.”
Completely redesigned for 2007, the Tundra pickup will not only be bigger and more powerful, but will also offer new body and engine configurations, according to Toyota Motor Sales USA, the U.S. manufacturing and sales arm of Toyota Inc.
The '07 Tundra will feature a brand new 5.7-liter i-Force V8 engine mated to a new heavy-duty 6-sp. automatic transmission, giving it a towing capacity of 10,000 lb. Other features include larger front disc brakes; standard rear disc brakes; higher capacity cooling and electrical systems; and a chassis platform made with 30% higher tensile strength steel.
The Tundra will have three engine options in '07: the new 5.7-liter V8, a 4.0-liter V6 and a 4.7-liter i-Force V8. The full-size '07 Tundra platform features a significantly expanded wheelbase and an increase of 10 in. in overall length, with a nearly 5-in. gain in height and 4 in. in width.
The '07 Tundra will be available in three cab configurations and three trim levels: Base, SR5 and Limited. A redesigned “command and control” center provides an unobstructed view of the instrument panel and puts knobs, switches and buttons within close reach of the driver, with all Tundra models offering four more inches of shoulder room to the passenger cabin. Two-row cab models, by extension, are going to offer rear passengers nearly 3 in. more shoulder room.
For buyers who use their Tundra as a work truck, the '07 model has a tailgate that can be opened and closed with two fingers. Robust dampers on the hinges have been added to help cushion the tailgate when opening, as well as help reduce bouncing when driving with the tailgate down. Other design features with workers in mind include large door handles inside and out, easy-to-turn HVAC knobs, and adjustable headrests, allowing drivers and passengers to ride to their next work site without having to remove protective gear such as hardhats and gloves.