'98 NEW MODEL PREVIEW: Midrange Class 3-5

July 1, 1997
For the most part, there are few announced changes for 1998 midrange models. Aside from powertrain tweaks needed to meet new diesel emissions requirements, most of the manufacturers plan to carry current models and designs into the new year. The one exception is Hino, which has already announced an entirely new midrange lineup. Unofficially, however, look for similar moves by UD Trucks and Isuzu before

For the most part, there are few announced changes for 1998 midrange models. Aside from powertrain tweaks needed to meet new diesel emissions requirements, most of the manufacturers plan to carry current models and designs into the new year. The one exception is Hino, which has already announced an entirely new midrange lineup. Unofficially, however, look for similar moves by UD Trucks and Isuzu before the beginning of calendar-year 1998.

With or without major new-model introductions, the Class 3 to 5 midrange continues as the most varied segment in the industry, offering fleets a wide choice of conventionals, cabovers, stripped chassis, and cutaways with lengths and weight ratings to fit almost any application.

Ford With all-new sheet metal scheduled for model year 1999, Ford Motor Co.'s popular F-Super Duty has only minor changes for 1998. The Class 4 conventional cab chassis has a 14,500-lb.-GVW rating when equipped with the standard Ford 5.8L V8 gasoline engine or an optional 7.5L V8 gasoline engine. Either engine can be spec'd with a 5-speed overdrive manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic.

The popular diesel option for the Super Duty is Ford's DI (direct injection) V8 turbodiesel, which generates 210 hp. and a peak torque of 420 lb.-ft. The standard transmission with the big V8 diesel is Ford's 4-speed automatic, and the 5-speed manual is also available. As in previous years, the F-Super Duty is offered in 137-, 161-, and 185-in. wheelbases.

Freightliner Sharing the conventional cab and many chassis components with Freightliner Corp.'s heavier Business Class models, the Class 5 FL50 will have only minor engine changes for 1998. The midrange Freightliner will continue to be offered in a range of wheelbases and GVW ratings for a wide variety of applications ranging from retail delivery to emergency response.

The standard powerplant for the FL50 is Cummins' ISB, a redesign of the B-Series 5.9L diesel with new electronic controls and a 24-valve head. Rated at 175-hp., the standard powerplant is mated with Eaton's Fuller 4205A manual transmission. Other power ratings are offered up to 250 hp.

The FL50's other diesel power option is Caterpillar's electronically controlled 3126 7.2-liter in-line 6-cyl. engine, which has also been redesigned to meet 1998 emissions regulations. Changes include an 18-valve head and advanced electronic controls, while power ratings range from 175 to 330 hp. and peak torques from 420 to 860 lb.-ft.

Unchanged from 1997, gasoline engine options for the FL50 come from Dodge. An 8-liter V10 produces 300 hp. and a peak torque of 450 lb.-ft. The 5.9-liter Magnum V8 generates 230 hp. and 330 lb.-ft. of peak torque. Both come with Chrysler's 46RH 4-speed automatic transmission.

General Motors General Motors has embargoed details on 1998 midrange models for GMC Truck and Chevrolet until the end of the summer, but expect only minor changes for its 1998 conventional and cutaway models. An all-new cabover midrange is expected later in the model year, but no details are available. In Class 3, the full-sized van GMC Savana Special and Chevrolet Express cutaway has dual rear wheels and a 12,300-lb.-GVW rating. Offered with 139-, 159-, and 177-in. wheelbases, the Savana/Express cutaway can be ordered with the Vortec 5700 or Vortec 7400 V8 gasoline engines, or with GM's 6.5-liter, 195-hp. turbodiesel V8.

Moving up to Class 4, GMC Truck's Sierra HD 3500 cab chassis is rated 15,000 lb. GVW. It carries the 290-hp. Vortec 7400 V8 as standard equipment. The 6.5-liter turbodiesel is also offered as an option for the cab chassis model, which comes in 136-, 160-, and 184-in. wheelbases.

Aimed at van applications, GMC will continue to offer its P-3500 forward-control chassis in 1998. Available with GVW ratings up to 14,500 lb., a 4-speed automatic is standard equipment with all three power options.

Although most C-Series conventionals are up in the medium-duty classes, both GMC Truck and Chevrolet will continue to offer a low-profile Class 5 version rated at 18,000 lb. GVW. Power choices for the low-pro C-5500 include Caterpillar's 3116 diesel or either Vortec V8.

Both Chevrolet and GMC Truck will continue to offer the W4 and W5 midrange cabovers until the replacement models are ready later in the model year. The W4 is available with the Vortec 5700 V8 or with a 4-cyl. 135-hp. diesel transmission. In one change for 1998, the gasoline-powered model gets a 760-lb.-GVW boost to 14,010-lb., while the diesel version continues with 11,050- and 14,250-lb. GVWs.

Also unchanged for 1998, the W5 cabover is powered by a 200-hp., 6-cyl. turbodiesel. The W5 is offered with a GVW rating of 19,500 lb., and comes in three wheelbases capable of accommodating body lengths of up to 22 ft.

Hino The 1998 model year brings a complete redesign for the two midrange models offered by Hino Diesel Trucks (U.S.A.) Inc.

The Class 4 FA1517 (15,000 lb. GVW) and Class 5 FB1817 (17,600 lb. GVW) have an all-new cab that's longer, wider, and more aerodynamic, according to Hino. The new cab's features include a larger windshield, a redesigned instrument panel, increased storage space, a fully adjustable driver's seat, doors that open 90 deg., and a new cab suspension system.

Also new for the 1998 FA and FB is Hino's J05C-TB diesel. The 4-cyl., 5.3-liter engine features a four-valve head and other "low friction" design elements that are said to improve fuel economy and performance. The electronically controlled engine is rated at 165 hp. and has a peak torque of 352 lb.-ft. at 1,500 rpm. The standard transmission is a 5-speed, direct-drive synchromesh, and Allison's AT452 4-speed automatic is an option.

Other features for the new Hino midrange models include standard exhaust brake, and front access panels for routine maintenance items.

Isuzu Officially, American Isuzu Motors Inc. will start the 1998 model year with only minor changes for its low-cab-forward midrange models. However, a complete replacement for the popular NPR Class 3 and 4 models is expected to be introduced by the beginning of the 1998 calendar year. The Class 5 FRR will remain largely unchanged.

The current NPR is offered in Class 3 and 4 GVWs. The NPR-EFI carries a GM 5.7-liter V8 delivering 245 hp. at 4,400 rpm and 325 lb.-ft. torque at 2,800 rpm. The standard transmission is a 4-speed overdrive automatic. Accommodating bodies 10 to 18 ft. long, the NPR-EFI is available with wheelbases of 109, 133, and 150 in.

The NPR-Diesel is powered by a 3.9-liter 4-cyl. turbocharged diesel that produces 135 hp. at 2,800 rpm and 255 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 1,900 rpm. A full-synchronized 5-speed manual transmission is standard, and the 4-speed automatic is available as an option.

The 1998 Class 5 FRR has a 19,500-lb.-GVW rating and can be ordered with wheelbases of 148, 167, or 191 in. The tilt-cab truck is powered by Isuzu's 7.1-liter 6-cyl. diesel producing 200 hp. at 2,500 rpm and 426 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 1,500 rpm. The standard transmission is an Isuzu 6-speed manual with overdrive, and Allison's 4-speed AT automatic transmission is available as an option.

Mitsubishi Fuso Having introduced engines last year that meet the 1998 diesel emissions requirements, Mitsubishi Fuso plans only minor changes for its 1998 midrange models.

In Class 3, the Mitsubishi Fuso FE is rated 11,600 lb. GVW and the FE-HD is rated 13,500 lb. Moving up to Class 4, the FE-SP is rated 14,500 lb. GVW. Available wheelbases for all three are 108, 132, and 148 in.

The two Class 3 models are powered by a 4-cyl. turbocharged, direct injection diesel producing 135 hp. and 253 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 1,800 rpm. The heavier FE-SP model has a more powerful version of the 4-cyl. diesel producing 145 hp. and peak torque of 275 lb.-ft. at 1,600 rpm.

The standard transmission for all three is a Mitsubishi 5-speed overdrive manual with synchromesh in 2nd through 5th gears. A JATCO 4-speed automatic is available as an option.

In Class 5, the Mitsubishi Fuso FH is rated 17,995 lb. GVW. It's offered in five wheelbase lengths ranging from 115 to 182 in. Power for the FH is supplied by a direct injection 6-cyl. turbocharged diesel generating 175 hp. The standard transmission is a 5-speed manual direct-drive unit, and the Allison AT542 4-speed automatic is offered as an option.

UD Trucks Plans for the 1998 UD Trucks midrange lineup had not been finalized at presstime, but sources predict that the new model year will bring major powertrain and cab changes. Currently the American operation of Nissan Diesel markets two midrange cabover models, the UD1400 and UD1800.

The Class 4 UD1400, rated 14,250 lb. GVW, is offered with 109-, 132-, and 150-in. wheelbases. Power is supplied by a 140-hp. 6-cyl. turbocharged diesel with a peak torque of 239 lb.-ft.

Using the same cab as the heavier UD medium-duty trucks, the Class 5 UD1800 is rated 17,995 lb. GVW and is offered in six wheelbases ranging from 127 to 217 in. The powertrain features a 210-hp. 6-cyl. turbocharged diesel with a peak torque rating of 434 lb.-ft. and a synchronized 6-speed manual overdrive transmission. Two Allison AT automatic transmissions are available as options.

Other features for the midrange cabover include 215/75R17.5 low-profile tires, a hydraulic cab suspension system, a high-output alternator, and corrosion-resistant composite underbody panels.

About the Author

Jim Mele

Nationally recognized journalist, author and editor, Jim Mele joined Fleet Owner in 1986 with over a dozen years’ experience covering transportation as a newspaper reporter and magazine staff writer. Fleet Owner Magazine has won over 45 national editorial awards since his appointment as editor-in-chief in 1999.

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