The Truth About Cars » Pickup Truck http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 02 Aug 2014 16:04:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Pickup Truck http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Report: Nissan Scraps Small Truck Plans, Navara Now On For North America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/report-nissan-scraps-small-truck-plans-navara-now-north-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/report-nissan-scraps-small-truck-plans-navara-now-north-america/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:15:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876322 Our industry source who reported that Nissan would use an old version of the Frontier has reported back to us with some bittersweet news. The reported next-generation Frontier, which would have been based on the bones of the old, first-generation Frontier, has been abandoned. According to our source, bringing the old technology up to modern […]

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Our industry source who reported that Nissan would use an old version of the Frontier has reported back to us with some bittersweet news.

The reported next-generation Frontier, which would have been based on the bones of the old, first-generation Frontier, has been abandoned. According to our source, bringing the old technology up to modern crash standards was too onerous a task, and the costs were simply too high – even with using an already paid for architecture.

The big issue at hand is this: Nissan still wants to have a small, basic, fuel-efficient affordable truck, since they see it as an untapped niche. Their original thinking was that the D22 Frontier would let them get their in a cost-effective way (remember, small trucks are low-margin, difficult to price and carry significant regulatory burdens). But now that this option is off the table, Nissan is forced to use the all-new Navara as a starting point.

From a superficial perspective, that’s not such a bad thing. The Navara is a modern, global mid-size pickup that is a proven design and a sales success across the globe. The problem is that, as it sits now, it’s far too expensive for what Nissan USA is looking for. So, the North American truck will use the Navara architecture, due to its crashworthiness, and ability to fit a modern, diesel engine under the hood, but the tradeoff will be a fair amount of content will not make it across the ocean.

As with the now dead D22, Nissan Mexico will be responsible for engineering the truck to meet NAFTA standards. This “clean sheet” approach, if it can be called that, will cause further delays. The current Frontier will soldier on until 2018, when the new truck arrives. A diesel variant arrives a year later. The new truck will likely have a different look and stick to the original mandate of being akin to a modern-day Hardbody. But instead of actually being a a modern day Hardbody, it will be a revamped modern truck.

Nissan had planned to give North American truck buyers something truly unique, but it was not to be. We will be getting what is arguably the better, more modern option, but this new approach will just add more time, effort and expense to the program. The goal of a low-cost, fuel-efficient pickup is still in sight. Nissan will just be approaching it in a different way.

 

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General Motors Bumps Up Next Pickups, Will Feature Aluminum Panels, Downsized Engines http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/general-motors-bumps-up-next-pickups-will-feature-aluminum-panels-downsized-engines/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/general-motors-bumps-up-next-pickups-will-feature-aluminum-panels-downsized-engines/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:53:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875113 General Motors is advancing the launch of their next-generation pickups by 9 months, with the next-generation trucks due by 2018. Reuters is reporting that the fairly new generation of full-size trucks will undergo a thorough redesign by 2018, with new full-size SUVs arriving in 2019. While a new 8-speed automatic will arrive in GM’s full […]

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General Motors is advancing the launch of their next-generation pickups by 9 months, with the next-generation trucks due by 2018.

Reuters is reporting that the fairly new generation of full-size trucks will undergo a thorough redesign by 2018, with new full-size SUVs arriving in 2019.

While a new 8-speed automatic will arrive in GM’s full size trucks and SUVs for 2015, the next generation is expected to be even more radical. TTAC has previously reported that the next generation trucks will use substantial amounts of aluminum in the body panels, and a new manufacturing process is expected to reduce both cost and complexity.

The new trucks will also reportedly use a 10-speed automatic transmission (jointly developed with Ford) as well as smaller engines that feature fuel injection, turbocharging and stop-start systems. The end result is a major paradigm shift for the truck market. Consumers may still care about payload and tow ratings, but auto makers are pulling out all the stops to make sure that their trucks meet stringent CAFE rules, which kick in around 2017.

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Ford Announces 2015 F-150 Pricing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-announces-2015-f-150-pricing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-announces-2015-f-150-pricing/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:02:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874697 The 2015 Ford F-150 will get a price bump, but the upgrade fee for an Ecoboost engine won’t be the most substantial part of the hike. For 2015, the 3.5L Ecoboost will carry a premium of $1,995, or $100 less than the 2014 model. The all-new 2.7L Ecoboost will carry a premium of just $495. […]

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The 2015 Ford F-150 will get a price bump, but the upgrade fee for an Ecoboost engine won’t be the most substantial part of the hike.

For 2015, the 3.5L Ecoboost will carry a premium of $1,995, or $100 less than the 2014 model. The all-new 2.7L Ecoboost will carry a premium of just $495.

The breakdown for trim levels looks like this (prices include a $1,195 destination charge:

•XL: $26,615, an increase f $395. The XL, a basic work truck, will come standard as a regular cab with rear-wheel drive and 6.5-foot bed.

•XLT: $31,890, up $395. The base price is quoted for the same RWD/regular cab/6.5 foot bed configuration.

•Lariat:$39,880, or an increase of $895. Its basic spec is an extended cab RWD truck with a 6.5 foot bed.

•King Ranch: $49,460, an increase of $3,515.

•Platinum: $52,155, up $3,055.

Prices will change depending on the bed length, whether 4WD is selected, various option packages and other factors. Ford is also touting higher standard levels of content, and the fact that the XL through Lariat versions, which see only modest price increases, make up 85 percent of their F-150 sales. The King Ranch and Platinum trucks will get steep increases, since they are the profit-rich trim levels, and keeping prices low is likely less critical.

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Ford Expects V6 Engines To Make Up Over 70 Percent Of F-150 Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-expects-v6-engines-to-make-up-over-70-percent-of-f-150-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-expects-v6-engines-to-make-up-over-70-percent-of-f-150-sales/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:30:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872362 Not that long ago, buying a half-ton pickup with anything other than a V8 engine was looked upon as a sign of mental illness or an inadequate reserve of masculinity. The introduction of the Ford Ecoboost V6, as well as Ram’s gasoline and diesel V6s has shifted the tide more towards smaller cylinder counts, but […]

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Not that long ago, buying a half-ton pickup with anything other than a V8 engine was looked upon as a sign of mental illness or an inadequate reserve of masculinity. The introduction of the Ford Ecoboost V6, as well as Ram’s gasoline and diesel V6s has shifted the tide more towards smaller cylinder counts, but Ford is projecting a big shift in take rates for the next-generation F-150.

According to Autoblog, Ford is projecting that roughly 28 percent of F-150s will be equipped with the 5.0 V8, while roughly 56 percent of buyers will opt for either the 2.7L or 3.5L V6 Ecoboost engines. The remainder, about 15 percent, will go to the base 3.5L V6. As to the other 1 percent? Perhaps there’s a CNG powertrain lurking somewhere in the shadows, Ford’s projections aren’t entirely rigorous, or the reporter in question is just bad at math, as reporters tend to be.

Right now, Ecoboost engines account for about 45 percent of F-150 sales, and even though everyone has an opinion on the efficacy of a turbocharged V6 engine in a full-sized pickup, nobody can deny their commercial success. Ford’s V6 push is also being aimed at potential buyers of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size trucks, with Ford’s own PR team already taking shots at the new GM trucks before full curb weights, mpg figures and other specs have been released for either truck.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2014-ram-1500-ecodiesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2014-ram-1500-ecodiesel/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:10:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=868082 Although diesel and pickups go together smoothly in our minds, this is the first light-duty diesel-powered pickup truck available in our market since before I was born. I wasn’t born yesterday. The Ram to which I’ve been granted the keys over the last number of days features the enticing new 3.0L turbocharged diesel engine, but […]

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Although diesel and pickups go together smoothly in our minds, this is the first light-duty diesel-powered pickup truck available in our market since before I was born.

I wasn’t born yesterday.

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The Ram to which I’ve been granted the keys over the last number of days features the enticing new 3.0L turbocharged diesel engine, but it’s also a four-wheel-drive, Laramie-trimmed, crew cab-bodied pickup with a vast array of options.

It isn’t just a pickup. It’s a luxury limo, a work truck, a fuel miser, an all-weather traveller, a style statement, a secure vault, and a family car.

You don’t need your Ram EcoDiesel to be a $70,090 (CDN) Laramie model like the one Chrysler Canada sent me. A Quad Cab will perhaps suffice for those without rear-facing child seats. The V6 diesel is available in trims other than Ram’s high-end Laramie model. You won’t be required to tick off all the checkboxes on the options sheet. And though the new engine can take over a review, the Ram 1500 is good enough that the diesel isn’t the only positive part of the experience.

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The 240-horsepower V6 diesel generates 420 lb-ft of torque at just 2000 rpm. Not at all unlike other diesels, there’s still a moment of hesitation when the throttle is first applied, during which the owner of a Hemi-engined Ram will say to himself, “I ain’t sure she’s got enough pies in the oven.” Thankfully that moment is brief, and the swell of torque enjoyed when overtaking on a rural two-lane is something Pentastar Ram owners ought to try at least once.

The diesel doesn’t deserve full credit. It works in conjunction with an excellent 8-speed automatic. You’re always in the right gear, and the next gear is only a blink away. Together, they make for a tremendously refined powertrain. There’s a hint of dieselly clatter when manouevring in tight spots, back and forth in a nine-point turn. (Thank-you to the Elantra and Civic drivers in Herring Cove, Nova Scotia, who boxed me in. I needed my father’s help to direct me out, which wasn’t embarrassing at all in front of my wife and mother.) But overall, this diesel has been forcefully silenced with enough sound deadening to hush a crowd of guffawing fishermen.

Better yet, the Ram diesel doesn’t use very much fuel, not by pickup truck or even large crossover standards. In the real world, where I can fill the tank, measure the distance travelled, and then calculate consumption by re-filling the tank, the Ram used 13% more fuel than its onboard computer led me to believe. Yet at 20.1 mpg, in mostly urban driving, we used 9% less fuel than we did in a 5.3L V8-engined GMC Sierra tester last fall, and that Sierra was driven mostly on the highway. (We also used 16% less fuel in this diesel Ram than we did in the Pentastar V6 Ram last summer.)

Then again, for American customers, the EcoDiesel is a $2850 option on this Laramie model, over and above the Hemi V8 and $4000 more than the 3.6L V6.

The premium might not matter as much once you start driving the EcoDiesel, once you see how slowly the fuel gauge needle falls, once you solidify your long-held belief that Truck = Diesel. With our family of three in the cabin, a cooler full of sandwiches and chips and pop in the bed, and Ramboxes full of hoodies and blankets, we picked up my parents for a picnic on a hill high atop the ocean outside the city. But we were hardly consuming any fuel, relative to other pickup trucks, so without a moment’s thought we extended our journey from York Redoubt to three different coves and one little harbour.

That’s the kind of freedom that, once paid for on transaction day, diesel owners enjoy throughout the rest of their ownership period. You don’t convince yourself of the long-term financial benefits of a sunroof, and you shouldn’t need to establish the economic advantages of this diesel, either.
Regardless of the engine under the hood, Ram’s crew cab body, like the full-fledged four-doors from Ford and GM and Toyota, is huge inside. Stretch-out-your-legs huge. The bed is shortened, but the available leg room and under-seat storage is truly luxurious whether the seats are leather-clad or sheathed in cloth. It won’t be long until the feature count of a high-priced premium vehicle of today will underwhelm, but space will always equal luxury.

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Two-tone paint, heated leather seating up front, dual-zone climate control, and Chrysler’s big 8.4-inch UConnect are key Laramie features. It also says Laramie three times inside and once outside. (This Laramie badging tags along with four “Ram” mentions outside and eight inside, the Ram logo which appears twice outside and once inside, and just two exterior “EcoDiesel” badges, both of which the truck-loving teens on our street felt were the exact opposite of truckish toughness.)
Our test truck, optioned quite nicely by Chrysler Canada’s PR department, included numerous expensive options, which in U.S. speak would cost $1295 (RamBoxes, which we used on a couple occasions for big grocery loads), $1695 (air suspension, which with 5 modes can be rather useful), $995 (power sunroof), $500 (leather buckets), $600 (side steps), and then more than $4000 in smaller options. Plus the diesel powerplant.

The seats won’t massage, the sunroof isn’t panoramic, there’s no blind spot monitoring or adaptive cruise or even a soft-opening tailgate. By the standards of $70,000 luxury cars, this is under-equipped. But it’s still luxury living, particularly when one considers the flexibility of the package.
I remain convinced that by a small margin, Ram offers the best-handling pickup truck lineup. This is most noticeable when encountering the expansion joints of an overpass mid-corner, where the Ram will feel perfectly normal and other trucks skitter, even if only a little. Yet by an equally small margin, the structure of GM’s new trucks feel stronger and more solid, and the overall sensation is of the superior work truck. (This sensation was clarified during back-to-back drives on an off-road course at an event sponsored by, yes, GM.)

We’re hair-splitting now though, and it would surprise me if the new F-150 isn’t the superior truck in most aspects. At least until the Ford’s competitors receive their own updates. And so the cycle goes.

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I prefer the Sierra/Silverado’s rear seat design; the wider availability of F-150 configurations locally available to me; the simplicity of Ram’s UConnect; the exterior design of the Ram; the silence of a Sierra’s cabin; a column shifter rather than the Ram’s rotary dial; the upcoming Ford’s freshness. The Ram’s touch screen needs to be canted more toward the driver, the fuel gauge should be larger, the dual glove compartments aren’t that large, there’s no built-in helper to enable jumps into the bed.

But it’s easy to see why Ram is picking up market share. The aluminum-intensive 2015 F-150 aside, Chrysler has brought Ram to the forefront of truck awareness by offering us things other truck makers aren’t providing, most notably in the form of the 8-speed automatic and this light duty V6 diesel.

With Ram offering the power we require and the fuel efficiency we dreamed of, do we really need to measure the trivial interior quality differences, the slight towing capacity disparities, and the narrow pricing discrepancies?

A diesel engine might just negate arguments that aren’t typically settled in the Ram’s favour. Especially since, where I live, diesel costs 20 cents less per gallon.

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Capsule Review: 2013 Holden Commodore Ute http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2013-holden-commodore-ute/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2013-holden-commodore-ute/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 12:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=853353   Luke Vandezande, Managing Editor of AutoGuide.com, submits his review of the Holden Ute. What if I told you that there’s a parallel universe where Europeans love muscle cars, have their own country music artists and care less for political correctness than Howard Stern in his heyday. Welcome to Australia. Holden is a subsidiary of […]

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Luke Vandezande, Managing Editor of AutoGuide.com, submits his review of the Holden Ute.

What if I told you that there’s a parallel universe where Europeans love muscle cars, have their own country music artists and care less for political correctness than Howard Stern in his heyday. Welcome to Australia.

Holden is a subsidiary of General Motors that develops, builds and sells cars for the island. Much the same as the fierce yet faded loyalty to old Detroit iron is found among Michiganders, Aussies harbor a passion for Holden as a beacon of the country’s once-glorious auto industry.

Now, most of Holden’s products are re-badged global products. For example, there’s a version of the Spark sub-compact and Colorado mid-size pickup truck bearing the lionized badge.

Genuine Aussie cars are failing to stack up against cheaper imported products. The Holden Commodore is one of the last legitimately domestic vehicles down under and it’s sold in several variations. There’s a sedan, wagon and most notably the uniquely Australian “Ute.” It’s a modern day version of the Chevrolet El Camino, muscle car status and all.

It also might be one of the most heavily hyped obscurities among automotive enthusiasts. It has all the right stuff: an available 6.0-liter V8 powering the rear wheels, a manual transmission and looks mean enough to curdle milk. With virtually no weight over the rear end, breaking the tail loose is easier than slipping back into smoking cigarettes.

Having spent over 30 hours travelling (including layovers), I couldn’t help but wonder if I was in for a disappointment. To a certain extent, I already knew things wouldn’t be as sweet as I had originally planned. The range-topping SS-V Redline model was booked by other members of the media until long after my planned departure. So instead I borrowed the SV6 model with an automatic transmission.

It seemed the sort of hooliganism I had been dreaming of for so long would have to remain a fantasy. Still, it will be a cold day in hell when I forget exactly how fortunate I am to be in the position to borrow cars in the first place. Color me grateful for the chance to drive one at all.

I set about familiarizing myself with the car by spending two hours bombing through the winding roads west of Adelaide. The 3.6-liter V6 and automatic does not disappoint. It makes about 280 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque (converted from metric figures advertised there). It’s still worth noting that the stick is a better choice for more than the fun it offers. The SV6 is Holden’s entry-level sport Ute and as such it comes with a suspension better tuned for sporty driving than you’d expect. Manual models also come with a limited slip differential, but the automatic doesn’t.

I wasn’t in a position to drive anywhere near the point at which that sort of equipment would yield dividends, but it’s hard to ignore nonetheless. Consequently, I can’t speak to its merits. I can tell you how the slushbox V6 drives: surprisingly well.

Throttle tip in feels natural and linear. A light foot delivers moderate power while speed builds progressively when pressing the pedal further toward the floor. It allows driving for fuel economy to be easy without sacrificing any of the spirit that makes the Ute so much fun.

Electrically boosted steering essentially mutes feedback from the road, but the act of actually turning the tiller still feels responsive.

The SV6 model also comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring, reverse traffic alert, sport seats trimmed in either faux suede or leather and a soft tonneau cover. A rear-view camera, parking sensors, hill start assistance, six airbags, trail sway control, dual-zone climate control and a remote starter (auto only) are also all included in the standard equipment list across the model range.

The blind spot monitoring and parking assistance are both welcome features in the low-slung vehicle with challenging sightlines. Large a-pillars can make it tough to see through tight corners and looking for oncoming cars while waiting to turn is equally tough. At least the rear-view camera and radar sensors both make navigating tight spaces easy.

Of course, it isn’t a full-fledged truck and its ability to serve in that capacity is limited. It has almost no ground clearance and a payload capacity well under one ton, meaning any legitimate pickup truck will beat it on a job site with one proverbial hand tied.

In an effort to test how the pseudo-truck drives with a heavy load, I put approximately 525 lbs worth of beer and wine into the bed. Yes, Australians love to drink. No, this wasn’t a normal Thursday. I was helping a friend prepare for his wedding the next day. Impressively, the car’s trip computer reported 9.1 liters per 100 kilometers in fuel consumption (25.8 mpg), including cargo that would make Bo and Luke Duke blush.

Even with the multi-link rear suspension squatting under such a heavy burden, passing tractor-trailers on the highway presented little difficulty. Everything about driving it feels understandably more sluggish when loaded up, but performance remains admirably intact. Six cylinders are enough; the other two are like Vegemite on toast. It’s a lot of extra flavor, but you might not want it every day.

The two-seat trucklet is pretty tight on cabin storage space depending on driver and passenger height. You’ll have some storage to speak of with the seats slid back for maximum legroom, but it’s sparse.

Even halfway around the world, General Motors’ penchant for “frugal” interior materials is alive and well. That’s probably not enough to scare off patriotic purchasers, but the widely-used hard plastics are a weak point. Cheesy checker-pattern faux carbon fiber accents don’t help though the light blue accent lighting in the interior door latches is a nice touch.

With power adjustable lumbar support for the driver and well-bolstered sides, it might be a bit of a tight ride but at least its comfortable. You’ll feel bumps and imperfections, but it’s a pleasant place to be; even over dirt roads littered with little ridges from rainwater.

With a relatively low entry-level price and the potential for hair-raising hoonage, it’s hard not to agree with the Holden Ute’s generally positive reputation. Despite that, it’s a far-fetched option as a primary vehicle. On the other hand, it would make a hell of a supplemental choice.

And to a certain extent, it’s priced that way. Holden dropped the price of its SV6 Ute by $5,500 (AUD) for a suggested starting tag of $32,990. Strangely enough, that means the base version and uplevel SV6 carry the same MSRP. For some perspective, an SV6 Commodore sedan costs almost $5,000 more.

In an unusual twist, the current VF Commodore is much cheaper than the VE it replaces. In some cases by almost $10,000. Holden’s big rear-drivers are struggling to sell and it’s a damn shame.

GM won’t ever offer what would likely be a new El Camino to the U.S., but if that ever changed it would sure be a tempting alternative for anyone with a taste for muscle cars and a need to haul heaps of junk.

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Ford Claims Aluminum F-150 Is On Track, TTAC Sources Report Delays http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-claims-aluminum-f-150-is-on-track-ttac-sources-report-delays/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-claims-aluminum-f-150-is-on-track-ttac-sources-report-delays/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 10:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=851881 A recent note by MorganStanley warned of a “slow changeover, with tight supply” for Ford’s new aluminum F-150, and while Ford America’s boss Joe Hinrichs told Bloomberg that “everything is “on schedule and everything is going as planned”, TTAC is hearing different things. Dovetailing with earlier reports that Ford was having difficulty stamping the aluminum spec’d by […]

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A recent note by MorganStanley warned of a “slow changeover, with tight supply” for Ford’s new aluminum F-150, and while Ford America’s boss Joe Hinrichs told Bloomberg that “everything is “on schedule and everything is going as planned”, TTAC is hearing different things.

Dovetailing with earlier reports that Ford was having difficulty stamping the aluminum spec’d by the Blue Oval – which forced Job 1 to be pushed back by as much as 10 weeks – our sources informed us that MorganStanley’s prediction is likely to come true.

While our source was vague, he noted that the F-150 launch team was in danger of missing key milestones for the project, and that team members may have to work through the summer shutdown.

So far, Ford has been able to deftly work around the aluminum stamping issue – although an earlier launch was initially planned (we heard initially, launch was planned for anywhere from Memorial Day to Q3 2014), Ford PR never announced anything but a Q4 launch date (or “late availability” as another source put it). But now, word of delays appears to be spreading further.

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Nissan Navara Previews Next Frontier [Update: More Pictures] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nissan-navara-previews-next-frontier/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nissan-navara-previews-next-frontier/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 16:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=842050 While light on details, Nissan has released photos and some specs on its newest mid-size pickup, the Navara. The new truck, which is likely to form the basis of the next Frontier, will come with two engine options in the world market, both of which are 2.5L 4-cylinder engines. The main difference lies in the […]

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While light on details, Nissan has released photos and some specs on its newest mid-size pickup, the Navara.

The new truck, which is likely to form the basis of the next Frontier, will come with two engine options in the world market, both of which are 2.5L 4-cylinder engines. The main difference lies in the fact that one is a gasoline engine while the other is a diesel. A seven-speed automatic and a six-speed manual are offered. The diesel is expected to make roughly 187 horsepower and 331 lb-ft of torque. We’ll have more details as they’re available.

 

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Junkyard Find: 1962 International Harvester C-120 Travelette http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1962-international-harvester-c-120-travelette/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1962-international-harvester-c-120-travelette/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=791945 There was once a time when you could buy street vehicles made by a farm equipment manufacturer, and IHC products still show up in self-service wrecking yards today. In this series so far, we’ve seen this ’70 Scout, this ’71 Travelall, this ’71 Scout, this ’72 1010 pickup, this ’73 Scout, and this ’74 Scout. […]

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21 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere was once a time when you could buy street vehicles made by a farm equipment manufacturer, and IHC products still show up in self-service wrecking yards today. In this series so far, we’ve seen this ’70 Scout, this ’71 Travelall, this ’71 Scout, this ’72 1010 pickup, this ’73 Scout, and this ’74 Scout. The crew-cab Travelette is a machine you won’t see every day, so I shot this ’62 that I spotted in a Northern California wrecking yard.
01 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBeing a California truck, there’s minimal rust here, but 52 years of hard work have worn everything out.
04 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHere’s a good old Black Diamond 240-cubic-inch straight-six, rated at 141 horses in 1962. Yes, that’s not much more power than a 2014 Corolla gets; pickup drivers were tougher back when instant annihilation threatened.
14 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinTwo huge bench seats, and a custom shag-carpet headliner.
26 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m a little puzzled by this bumper extension. Is this to protect the open tailgate when hauling extra-long loads?

01 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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2015 GMC Canyon Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/2015-gmc-canyon-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/2015-gmc-canyon-revealed/#comments Sun, 12 Jan 2014 17:10:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=696777   So, it’s mechanically identical to the Colorado. But it comes in brown.

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So, it’s mechanically identical to the Colorado. But it comes in brown.

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A Texan’s First Truck http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/a-texans-first-truck/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/a-texans-first-truck/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2014 14:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=692865 I used to daily drive a 1969 Chevrolet CST/10. The 1967 to 1972 Chevrolet and GMC trucks were a big step towards what we see now as a modern pickup. Gone were the divorced hood and fender styling, strong (uni)brow hood line, and lean-forward look of the cab. This bodystyle would later define the bodylines and grille design of the later trucks, […]

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cst10

I used to daily drive a 1969 Chevrolet CST/10. The 1967 to 1972 Chevrolet and GMC trucks were a big step towards what we see now as a modern pickup. Gone were the divorced hood and fender styling, strong (uni)brow hood line, and lean-forward look of the cab. This bodystyle would later define the bodylines and grille design of the later trucks, especially in the early GMT800 trucks where they share the same hood and style-line down the side.

What arrived was a clean-cut design, with more upright styling, streamlined front and side sheet metal, and modern proportions. The coil spring trailing arm suspension in the rear was a revolution in handing and ride comfort; so much so that NASCAR still uses an identical rear suspension today. The long control arms are resistant to axle hop, and improve the behavior of the rear axle. The front suspension was a short/long-arm design, similar to contemporary GM sedans at the time, though much stronger.

And for HD applications, you could still get a traditional leaf sprung rear end, though on paper the two were rated for the same payload. By far, GM had the best truck chassis at the time compared to Ford and Dodge’s relatively uncivilized pickups. Dodge was still using a dead-beam front axle, and Ford was in full swing with their front swing arms; which after recently driving one makes me appreciate my CST/10′s SLA suspension.

Settling into the 2000′s, these attributes made the truck popular with hotrodders of all types. The custom truck scene clamored to shove airbags into the trailing arm trucks for a cheap and easy bagged suspension. The Pro-Touring scene found that overall suspension package was relatively capable. And the muscle truck guys found comfort in the fact that a fair number of them came with a 396 big block and 4spd, or often a TH400 auto — making these a decent drag truck.

I was in high school when I first started seeing these trucks, but my tastes ran towards the mini-truckin’ scene, and I read Truckin’ mag religiously. Pages and pages of air kits for Hardbodies and S10′s, wheels of every shape and taste and a wealth of custom suspension to gawk at in the various feature trucks. The ’67-’72′s always stood out, since they were just damn good looking no matter what you did, while the platform lent itself to an array of different builds and drivetrains.

My neighbor, also a gear head, had brought home a ’69 CST/10 one day. It took all of five minutes for him to realize it wasn’t going to fit in his garage once he got it here, and offered it to me for $500. It was a rolling shell, no motor or transmission. I scrounged up cash from my parents, and in January of ’07, it was mine.

Most of the big money parts came from my family during Christmas and my birthday. New light lenses, door panels, giant 4-core radiator, lights, etc. I dredged through the 67-72Chevytrucks.com forums for build ideas. Some of what I took back were upgrading to 73-87 “Heavy Half” 12.5” disc brakes up front, seats out of a modern ’08 Silverado (GM has used a flat floorpan since forever, seat swaps are easy), shoulder belts out of an 80′s S10 (the cab has threaded anchors for the upper belt), and H4 conversion headlights. In the winter of ’07, I sold my ’90 Pontiac Firebird and used the cash to finish the truck. It eventually gained a new gas tank, 3” lowering springs and shocks, and a few other tricks before hitting the streets.

On my birthday, February of ’09, I took it for its first legal drive. To say that it was the baddest truck at the highschool parking lot was an understatement. My orange, low, loud, black-steelied CST/10 stood out from the cookie-cutter bro trucks, with its retro looks and the distinct rumble from the mild cam in the 350 small-block.

I drove it hard for four years, before driving it from Austin to College Station for a weekend of drinking and partying, and then to Houston to store it. At the time, I was flipping cars to pay for college, and making half-decent cash. But storage was an issue, and I was stuck with 4 cars at once. My dad had a side driveway for a trailer that I could stash the truck in for the time being.

The truck ended up sitting for three years, partly due to unresolved mechanical issues. I would take it out every few months to go around the block and burn off some fuel, and top it off with fresh gas to keep the fuel happy. Unfortunately, during one nostalgic full throttle run, it blew a freeze plug, and began to overheat. While my Dad was confident that I could drive it the last mile home by driving to speed and coasting with the motor off, I was unsuccessful

I managed to push the orange behemoth into a parking lot and started walking home. I was surfing Craigslist for a new small block, or cheap LS 5.3 truck motor. A buddy of mine came over and we rope-towed the truck to my house. Once I got home, I was so frustrated, I didn’t bother to look at it. When my dad came home later, we put a wrench on the crank and found that the motor still spun. Meaning, it wasn’t seized. The level of relief I felt is hard to put into words. Must be the starter, I thought.

After running to 4 different parts stores, trying to remember where I had a lifetime warranty on the damn thing, I installed it only to find no change. Then, it hit me. Battery cables. The steam from the freezeplug had flash-corroded the terminals and killed the connection. Sure enough, a little backwoods trick of soaking the cable-ends in Coke was all it took to get it fired up. Even so, I never really got around to replacing the freezeplug, on account of my studies and other events in my life.

 

culprit

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I got around to replacing it, fixing the motor mounts and all the other fun stuff that needs to be done after a vintage truck has been sitting idle for years.. My goal now was to get it ready to drive back to Austin on the next weekend. After a few hours messing around with the thing, it came time to fill it with coolant and fire it up.

Almost instantly there was a leak from the back of the block.

No.

Both sides of the block.

No, no.

A quick rev of the throttle to knock the carb off high-idle, and then two more freeze plugs blew. Nope. No more of this day. As the steam billowed from the engine bay I took a long look at the truck. Visions of “For Sale” signs danced around in my mind.

 

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Exclusive: Next-Generation Ford F-150 Delayed By Nearly Three Months Due To Aluminum Issues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/exclusive-next-generation-ford-f-150-delayed-by-nearly-three-months-due-to-aluminum-issues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/exclusive-next-generation-ford-f-150-delayed-by-nearly-three-months-due-to-aluminum-issues/#comments Wed, 11 Dec 2013 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=677538 TTAC’s supplier sources have reported that Ford is facing issues regarding their next-generation F-150 pickup, which is slated to use aluminum extensively. Having previously reported on the F-150′s aluminum body, our source told us that the aluminum (said to be an alloy) supplied by Alcoa and other Tier 2 suppliers did not meet internal forming requirements for the “tooling tryout” […]

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13-Aluminum-Tile

TTAC’s supplier sources have reported that Ford is facing issues regarding their next-generation F-150 pickup, which is slated to use aluminum extensively. Having previously reported on the F-150′s aluminum body, our source told us that the aluminum (said to be an alloy) supplied by Alcoa and other Tier 2 suppliers did not meet internal forming requirements for the “tooling tryout” phase of pre-production. As a result, Job 1 at the Dearborn Truck Plant, which is the lead plant for the program, will be delayed between 6 to 10 weeks.

Our source claims that the main issue with the aluminum comes in its inability to be properly formed. Aluminum’s “elastic or Young’s modulus” (the materials property to return to its normal shape after hitting it with a die) is roughly 1/3 that of steel. If the material properties are even slightly off, then it completely derail a given project.

According to our source, Alcoa and other aluminum suppliers will be under the gun to deliver the proper materials on time and not drag the delays out any further. Ford will have already blown their Memorial Day launch target, with the new F-150 said to be late availability in 2014, with Ford’s Kansas City plant said to be cranking out current generation trucks, which will now feature a frame that is one full gauge thinner on “non-tow” models.

The delay further pressures Ford when it comes time to  launch Dearborn Truck Plant’s body shop.  Since building Aluminum bodies will be new to DTP, pre-production builds will take place at the body shop tooling vendor’s site, and then dropped into Dearborn’s paint shop for Final Assembly.

Ford will then dive headfirst into the MP1 and MP2 cars, which are considered saleable units, leaving them with far less breathing room to iron out the bugs on what is undoubtedly Ford’s most complex and crucial launch this decade. Ford’s gamble on aluminum, which initially looked to be a bold play with lots of potential upside, is now looking like a much riskier bet. And with the F-Series accounting for the vast majority of Ford’s global profits, the Blue Oval literally cannot afford to make a mistake.

 Update: Alcoa responds

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Review: 2014 Ram 1500 Eco Diesel (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-ram-1500-eco-diesel-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-ram-1500-eco-diesel-with-video/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 15:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=664570 There’s just something about a diesel pickup truck that makes grown men regress into Tonka-loving children. Even my Prius-driving environmentalist friends in Berkeley admit they secretly want a diesel pickup. The problem of course is that diesel pickups are expensive (the cheapest diesel Ram 2500 is $36,975 and it doesn’t have an automatic transmission, the cheapest […]

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2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-005

There’s just something about a diesel pickup truck that makes grown men regress into Tonka-loving children. Even my Prius-driving environmentalist friends in Berkeley admit they secretly want a diesel pickup. The problem of course is that diesel pickups are expensive (the cheapest diesel Ram 2500 is $36,975 and it doesn’t have an automatic transmission, the cheapest oil-burning F-250 is $38,250) and, for the majority of us, the high payload and towing capacities are overkill. While economical in a specific sense, the large diesel trucks aren’t “fuel-efficient” either. Until now. Mark your calendars folks, The 2014 Ram 1500 Eco Diesel is the half-ton truck in America sporting a small diesel engine.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Although new in 2010 and refreshed for the 2013, the 1500 is undeniably a Ram. That’s because Chrysler prefers evolutionary rather than revolutionary styling when it comes to their volume truck. That’s not a bad thing, since the 1994 style cues that have lived on were sexy back then, and still attractive today. The big-rig  front end still captures my attention, but despite my family’s Ram addiction, I find the 2014 Silverado’s nose to be the better looker. As with most redesigns, the front end got bigger, brasher and has more chrome than ever before.

As you’d expect from Chrysler’s best-selling vehicle, you can get your Ram in a bevy of configurations. There are 9 trim levels, three cabs and three bed sizes available. Mix and match them and you can drive for miles without seeing an identical Ram. Of course two of those 9 trim levels cannot be injected with some diesel love. Thankfully however the trims are excluded are the Sport and Express, meaning the base Tradesman trim is diesel eligible, bringing the diesel pickup entry point down to $28,465, $8,150 less than the cheapest diesel truck in 2013. Interestingly, nothing outside calls attention to the engine under the hood aside from the EcoDiesel badging on the front quarter panels. Out back, we get twin chrome exhaust tips, just like the V8 model and the engine idles so quietly most people assumed a gasoline V6 was under the hood. More on that later.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-002

Interior

As I said in my Silverado review last week, I was surprised that GM didn’t delay the Silverado launch to spend some time polishing up the interior. Despite the re-tweaked 2013 Ram being on the market a year before GM’s truck launched (and the basis for that interior landing in 2010) the Ram still has the best interior in the segment. Your level of interior refinement varies by trim level with the entry-level Tradesman model using plenty of hard plastics while the top-end Ram coats in the interior in stitched leather and real wood trim. In an interesting move, SLT and Laramie models can be optioned to have the same two-ton dash as the top-end Long Horn edition although the real wood and a few other niceties are skipped. Regardless of the trim, controls are conveniently located and easy to operate. While certain models keep a traditional column shifter, most Ram 1500s will be equipped with Dodge and Ram’s Jaguar-like rotary-knob shifter. While I agree that it saves console space vs a console mounted unit, it strikes me as “gimmickier”. I found it tricky to use at first but did become used to it after a week.

Front seat comfort in the Ram is excellent, but a hair behind the Silverado. That’s thanks largely to someone at Chrysler’s ergonomics department that has a concave posterior. All of Chrysler’s latest seat designs have a pronounced (and firm) bottom cushion that feels like you’re sitting on an exercise ball. Although less of a problem in the Ram than in the Chrysler 200, the problem is still present. Despite this I had no issues driving the Ram for 2 hours at a time and I still found it a better place to spend my time than an F-150. Rear seats are lower to the floor than in Chevy’s new truck and slightly less comfortable as well.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-005

Infotainment

Things start off with uConnect 3.0 which is a basic head unit with a 4-line monochromatic display. Similar to Ford’s basic SYNC system, uConnect 3.0 offers full MP3/iDevice integration for media without the fancy graphics. Next we have uConnect 5.0. While this middle tier system may look like the uConnect system we have seen before, it’s actually unrelated. Running on a Microsoft embedded OS and not QNX (a UNIX variant), the unit is more sluggish than the 8.4-inch system but offers many of the same features excluding navigation. While other Chrysler and Fiat models will have the option to add TomTom navigation later, that doesn’t appear to apply to the Ram.

Our Laramie model was equipped with the second generation uConnect 8.4 system. The second generation system adds smartphone app integration, emergency crash notification and 911 assist (along the lines of OnStar). The big deal here is the inclusion of a dedicated Sprint cellular modem integrated into the system. This allows the head unit to function similarly to OnStar in that you don’t have to have a paired Bluetooth cell phone to get emergency services (like you do with Ford’s MyFord Touch). uConnect can also act as a 3G WiFi hot spot if you pay for the right subscription. Software updates can be downloaded over the air and the user can buy/download apps via the integrated app store, just like a smartphone. The standard 6-speaker sound system is not much to write home about, but the seven or nine speaker Alipne system that comes standard with the 8.4-inch touchscreen on most models has a balanced and natural sound.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine-001Drivetrain

Base models still have a 305 horsepower 3.6L V6 borrowed from Chrysler’s passenger cars, good for 269 lb-ft of torque. That’s about the same as Ford’s 3.7L V6 but well below GM’s truck-only 4.3L engine. Shoppers can still get some HEMI-love by checking the box for the second generation 5.7L V8 making 395 ponies and a healthy 410 lb-ft of torque. But gasoline engines aren’t what’s new, it’s the diesel burning 3.0L V6 that we’re all here to talk about. But first we need to walk back in time.

In 2007 GM purchased 50% of the Italian engine maker VM Motori. The logic was that GM needed a smooth Euro compliant diesel engine for the Cadillac CTS (and other models) in order to compete with the Germans. Sadly, GM declared bankruptcy between the engine being designed and the engine actually being used so it sat on a shelf. In 2011 Fiat bought the other half of VM Motori and found the engine gathering dust. Fiat had some quick tweaks done to the engine to make it more suitable for their use and the EcoDiesel V6 was born. While there was much talk about GM getting their hands on this same engine for Silverado duty, Fiat recently snapped up the other half of VM Motri making this a Fiat/Chrysler engine in every way that matters.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine

The high revving single turbo aluminum-block V6 engine produces 240 horsepower and a stout 420 lb-ft of torque. If those numbers sound impressive, consider this. The first 5.9L Cummins engine Chrysler used in the 2500 and 3500 series RAM trucks produced 94 fewer ponies and 20 fewer twists. In the biggest statement of progress I have seen in a while, that Cummins also delivered its power via five fewer gears.

Like the rest of the Ram 1500 lineup (except for one model with a 5.7L HEMI), all 1/2 ton Rams now use ZF’s 8-speed automatic transmission. If you’re worried it’s just a passenger car transmission that’s not up to the task, ZF’s 8-speed transmissions are also found behind the insane twin-turbo V12s that the Germans love so much.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior

Towing & Payload

The 2014 Silverado’s 1,875 to 2,100 pound payload easily bests the Ram’s 1,340-1,620 pound range and even the F-150′s 1,510-2,090 is superior depending on how you align the trim level comparisons. (Ford still offers a “Heavy Duty” package on the F-150 which gives it a stronger frame comparable to the F-250 but Ram and GM have killed similar packages on their models.) Likewise the Ram Eco Diesel’s 9,200lb tow rating pales in comparison with the Silverado’s 12,000lb towing rating. Until you actually tow or haul that is.

Drive

Unless you need those extra pounds of payload capacity (a valid point to be sure), most shoppers will be better off with the Ram. Why? Because of how it tows and hauls. Let’s start with the 8-speed automatic. Even if you don’t choose the diesel engine, the 8-speed automatic’s greater ratio spread and faster gear changes more than bridge the 30-36 lb-ft divide between the Silverado and the Ram V6 and V8. That ratio spread and the high 4,800 RPM redline of the small diesel engine combine to make the Ram drive more like a gasoline V8 truck around town. With my 7,500lb trailer (loaded) attached, the 1500 Eco Diesel pulled effortlessly up steep grades with the transmission cranking out shifts like a Gatling gun. The small diesel and tall final gear allowed the 5,800lb pickup truck to average an impressive 24.2 MPG during my week with the truck which included out towing, hauling and 0-60 tests. On the open highway it had no trouble averaging 29 MPG at 70 MPH.

This is going to sound nuts to some, but I’m actually disappointed with the way the engine sounds. Chrysler fitted an ultra quiet exhaust system and more foam padding than a teenager’s bra to the 3.0L V6. This means that aside from a glow-plug icon on the dash that flashes for a millisecond, you’d be hard pressed to know a diesel is under the hood. After the engine has been started you get a brief moment of diesel clatter before it settles down to a quiet idle. When pressed, the engine clatters a hair more but it never sounds like a 3/4 ton diesel. Pity.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-010

Ram raised eyebrows when they announced that their half ton truck would use coil rather than leaf springs in the rear suspension. The change has been lauded by some and vilified by the folks with Calvin-peeing-on-Ram stickers on their trucks. The truth is of course somewhere in the middle. Coil springs are more complicated to design because the spring doesn’t locate the rear axle, making trailing arms and other links necessary. Coils also handle overloading poorly when compared to a more traditional leaf setup. On the flip side, coils weigh less, provide a better ride, greater articulation and help in reducing wheel hop when the bed is empty. The simple truth is that the vast majority of pickup trucks spend their time with an empty bed. The spring rate chosen is an obvious trade off to deliver the RAM’s class leading road manners but it does result in payload capacity being about 400lbs lower than the Silverado at a maximum. Thankfully Chrysler’s 5-link suspension design, adapted from the previous generations of Grand Cherokee, maintains its poise when fully loaded (unlike GM’s 1960s attempt at coils.)

The bigger benefit of using a four-corner coil suspension is that it was relatively easy for Chrysler to adapt the Grand Cherokee’s height-adjustable air suspension system to the 1/2 ton truck. The $1,695 system is available on all quad cab and crew cab models, in all trims and in every driveline and engine configuration. In my opinion, the air suspension and $230 integrated trailer brake controller are worth every penny. Yes, the suspension allows you to vary the RAM’s ride height from 6.7 inches to 10.7 inches, but the real reason I’d pay money for it is that it also load levels. Keeping the suspension at the middle of its travel results in a better ride and more effective damping whether your truck is loaded or not.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-009

The Eco Diesel is listed as a $4,000 option over the V6, but there are a few “hidden” costs. The only model that can’t get the 3.0L wonder is the short bed, short cab Tradesman meaning you’ll have to pay $385 for the 8-foot bed to be eligible. You’ll also have to pay $500 extra for the heavy-duty version of the 8-speed automatic bringing the total up to $28,465. That means the true premium is $4,885 at the Tradesman level. Versus the 5.7L HEMI, you’ll pay $3,350 more. When you run the numbers, the diesel won’t save you much over the 3.6L V6 but the V8 is a different matter. Even at the high fuel costs in California (and considering the cost of urea) the diesel would save nearly $750 a year in fuel resulting in a possible payback in under 5 years at 15,000 miles a year.

Even without the Eco Diesel, the Ram is the first choice in the half ton market unless you needed the maximum towing or payload capacities delivered by the 2014 Silverado. It doesn’t hurt that the Ram is slightly cheaper than the Ford or Chevy when comparably equipped. Toss in the first small diesel, the only 8-speed automatic, a load leveling air suspension system and you have quite simply the best tow vehicle in the half-ton segment. Considering that the Ram Eco Diesel is only $2,720 more than a V8 F-150 and $2,560 more than a V8 Silverado, your pay back window is even shorter than compared to Ram’s own HEMI. Or for folks like my dad who are looking to replace their 15 year old RAM 2500 Cummins but are suffering from modern 3/4 ton sticker shock, the 1500 diesel makes an interesting proposition. Compared to that generation of Ram 2500, this Ram 1500 is more capable in nearly every way. Thanks to GM needing a European market diesel Caddy and Chrysler’s bankruptcy and resurrection by Fiat, we have quite simply the most exciting vehicle I have driven this year.

 

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of diesel for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.38 Seconds

0-60: 7.75 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.03 Seconds @ 84 MPH

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 67 dB

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 24.2 MPG over 765 miles

 

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine-001 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine-002 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-001 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-002 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-003 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-004 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-005 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-006 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-007 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-008 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-009 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-010 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-011 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-012 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-001 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-002 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-003 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-004 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-005 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-006 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-007 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-008 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-009 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-010 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-011 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-012 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel LCD Instrument Cluster

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Review: 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-chevrolet-silverado-1500-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-chevrolet-silverado-1500-with-video/#comments Tue, 19 Nov 2013 15:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=649338 I’ve never cared for the phrase “as American as apple pie” as apple pie is far from an American invention. Instead, we should say as “American as the pickup truck.” In 1925 Ford crafted the “Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body” and America’s love affair began. The Chevrolet Silverado, and its mechanical twin the […]

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2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’ve never cared for the phrase “as American as apple pie” as apple pie is far from an American invention. Instead, we should say as “American as the pickup truck.” In 1925 Ford crafted the “Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body” and America’s love affair began. The Chevrolet Silverado, and its mechanical twin the GMC Sierra, may not be the best-selling vehicle in America (that award goes to the aging Ford F-150) but the Chevy alone has outsold the Toyota Camry by 55,000 units this year. Toss in the Sierra and there are more GM trucks sold on our shores in a year than all the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche products put together. The high sales number and high profit margins explain the intense Ford vs Chevy vs RAM rivalry. With a new RAM in 2013 and a light refresh only a year later, GM is firing back with an all-new Silverado and Sierra. Does Chevy’s new half-ton have what it takes to be king of the hill?

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Outside, the 2014 Silverado retains Chevy’s classic styling cues with stacked headlamps and plenty of straight lines. Although I didn’t think it possible, the wheel wells have become even more square for 2014.  GM’s trucks have long been the sedate option in the half ton market, but Chevy has decided to inject a more passion for 2014. Up front we get a bolder grille, and following in Ford and Chrysler’s footsteps, there’s the vaguest hint of “big rig” styling in the hood stamping. New projector headlamps and an enormous chrome bumper round out the transformation.

Although the Silverado has grown slightly over the last generation, the difference isn’t huge. One major change for 2014 that does increase the truck’s size is the availability of the standard bed (6′ 6″) and crew cab combination making this combo 10 inches longer than the 2013 crew cab model and just shy of 20-feet. Also increasing in size for 2014 are the enormous square wheel wells. Square wells with round wheels have always looked a little peculiar to my eye. Be sure to sound off in the comment section. Although it’s a GM design cue that’s lived on for years, I think the square wheel wells would look better with a square-themed wheel. The ginormous openings will likely make aftermarket tuners happy since it’s easier to stuff bigger rubber on the Silverado without modification, but it made out tester’s enormous 20-inch wheels look small. Despite the squareness, and my family’s allegiance to the RAM brand, I think the Silverado manages to be the best looking half ton on the market by a hair.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes
Interior

While the outside impressed me with bold, aggressive styling and impressive fit and finish for a pickup truck, I was honestly disappointed by the interior. I found the Silverado a better place to spend my time than the Ford, but the 2014 RAM is not only more pleasing in style, but also more functional and Chrysler offers an extensive upgrade list including real wood trim and leather door panels. Practical features have long been a selling point and that continues for the Silverado. We get two glove boxes, large door storage pockets and a new center console in 5-passenger models. The wide console sports a whopping five USB ports, two of which are linked to the infotainment system while the others are charge only. There are multiple 12V DC outlets and an optional 120V inverter if you click the right option box. The console storage has been improved for 2014 but I found it to be slightly less useful than Ford or RAM’s stashes due to the cup holder module which “kinda-sorta” covers the front of the console. (Check out the picture above.)

Front seat comfort is easily the best in the half-ton market regardless of trim level. RAM’s front seats suffer from the same ergonomic flaw as many of Chrysler’s latest products: seats you sit on, not in. The Chevy’s seats on the other hand seemed perfectly shaped while the foam ranged from plush in our LTZ tester, to moderately firm in the base models. Likewise the rear seats scored top in the class with soft padding and seat bottom cushions that provided more thigh support than the competition.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Infotainment

If you’re a regular reader, you will know that I have praised GM’s low and mid-range touchscreen systems as some of the best in the business. Sadly the Silverado does not use that system. Instead, the Silverado joins the Impala and Buick LaCrosse in using a modified version of Cadillac’s CUE. So as not to step directly on their luxury brand’s toes, there are a few changes made to the system for truck duty. The expensive glass capacitive touchscreen (looks like a modern smartphone) is swapped for a resistive unit that isn’t as crisp or as glare reducing. The Chevy and Buick systems also get physical buttons for some system features, a marked improvement over Cadillac’s touchscreen only interface. Aside from these charges, the majority of CUE remains.

Like Ford’s MyFord Touch system, MyLink is sluggish in general and sometimes totally unresponsive. The software also suffers from unintuitive menu layouts and old-school mapping software that doesn’t jive with the system’s high-resolution screen. Like CUE, some multi-touch gestures are supported, but the different touchscreen is less able to decipher your intent leading to some frustrating moments. On the bright side, CUE’s selling points remain. The system’s voice command system features natural language commands and instead of treating the USB ports as separate inputs, the system aggregates them into one large music library allowing you to voice command songs without specifying the device.

Overall this implementation of MyLink ties with Toyota’s Entune system in the Tundra for third, with MyFord Touch coming in second and Chrysler’s uConnect taking the lead. uConnect is far more intuitive, the graphics are more pleasing to the eye and the system is generally more responsive. Thanks to a 2014 software update the RAM now offers OnStar like emergency services as well as app integration in the head unit.  The last thing you should know about MyLink is that it is hard to avoid. Most models of the Silverado on the lot have either the large screen or small screen version with only the most basic trim levels getting a standard radio/CD player unit.

2014 5.3L V-8 EcoTec3 AFM VVT DI (L83) for Chevrolet Silverado aDrivetrain

Instead of aping and releasing a new model with old engines, GM packs in three brand-new engines for 2014. Dubbed the EcoTec3 engine family, the Silverado comes standard with a 4.3L V6, an optional 5.3L V8 and soon there will be a 6.2L V8. All three engines share design elements, push rods and direct-injection. The 4.3L V6 is exclusive to GM’s trucks, not shared with cars and crossovers like Ford and Chrysler, the reason is obvious when you look at the power numbers. At 285 HP and 305 lb-ft of torque, the large V6 produced less power but considerably more torque than Ford’s 3.7 or or RAM’s 3.6. Thanks to variable valve timing and the direct-injection sauce, the V6 Silverado manages 18/24 MPG (City/Highway) without any special fuel economy trim parts added. While it doesn’t beat the RAM SFE’s 25 MPG highway number, it beats everything else.

Our tester had GM’s volume engine option, the 355 HP and 383 lb-ft 5.3L V8. In addition to the same variable valve timing and direct-injection systems the V6 gets, both V8 engines feature cylinder deactivation to improve highway MPGs. The 5.3L engine cranks out less power and twist than RAM’s 5.7L HEMI, but is competitive against Ford’s 5.0L V8. Those interested in V8 bragging rights will want to jump up to the 6.2L V8 which produces a class leading 420 ponies and 440 lb-ft of torque.

Regardless of the engine you choose, a GM 6-speed automatic will be sending power to the ground. The rumor mill is alive and well that an 8-speed automatic is in the works but GM has no official line on that. That puts GM on par with the 6-speed F-150 and two cogs behind the 2014 RAM 1500. You’ll find the usual part-time four-wheel drive systems and an off-road package in the Silverado but you won’t find the 2014 half-ton game changer under any Silverado’s hood: a small diesel. If your interest is piqued, come back for our review of the 2014 RAM 1500 diesel in a few weeks.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Towing and Payload

Trucks are all about hauling and towing and GM came to this fight to win. While most pickup trucks advertise high payloads yet only deliver those payload numbers in very specific model/trim combinations, the Silverado boasts large numbers across the board. Ranging from 1,875 to 2,100 pounds, the Silverado easily bests the RAM’s 1,340-1,620 pound payload range (now that the RAM 1500 “Heavy Duty” has been axed) and likewise is more impressive than the F-150′s 1,510-2,090 range. (The F-150 is available in a heavy-duty frame model which uses F-250 frame and suspension parts and F-150 sheet metal, I don’t consider that a half-ton truck.) The big thing to know about the Silverado’s payload numbers however is how simple the payload chart is and how little it varies from one model to the next unlike Ford’s payload chart that is pages long.

When it comes to towing, Toyota would like us all to know that they are the only one with a SAE certification when it comes to towing. Does that matter? Probably not. With the 4.3L six-banger the Silverado is good for 5,900-7,200lbs of conventional trailering, 1,100 more than Ford’s base V6 but lower than the RAM V6 thanks to their new ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic. 5.3L models jump to 6,800-11,400, ahead of the RAM and Ford and if serious towing is your bag, the 6.2L V8 can haul a 12,000lb trailer. Of course anything over 10,000lbs is probably academic for half-ton owners, since most states require you to have a commercial license to haul that kind of weight. When it comes to towing capacity, the Silverado V8s are king, but how about towing feel? That’s a different story.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesDrive

With my 7,500lbs trailer attached, the Silverado and the RAM’s towing abilities are defined by their transmission. With two fewer gears to choose from, the Silverado felt less capable despite the stouter numbers on paper. It’s all about the feel, especially when hill climbing. The Silverado’s V6 may put out more torque than Chrysler’s 3.6L car engine, but as Archimedes said “give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” ZF’s 8-speed automatic seemed to always have the right gear for every situation with the V6. Things get even better in RAM-land when you hitch the sheep up to Chrysler’s more powerful 5.7L HEMI. And that’s before we even talk about RAM’s new 3.0L diesel engine with 420 lb-ft of twist mated to the same transmission. This places the Silverd0, yet again, second in the class behind the RAM but ahead of the Ford.

The RAM beats the Silverado when it comes to ride quality as well.  Whether the RAM is loaded or empty, equipped with the standard coil springs or the optional air suspension, the ride is both softer and more composed than the Chevy. The RAM’s ability to load-level with that optional suspension puts even more daylight between the RAM and the GM pickups. I have to temper that with the reality that the RAM can’t tow or haul as much as the Silverado. Shoppers will need to decide if payload and towing limits are more important than ride quality since needs will vary. Likely due to the F-150′s age, the Ford feels more disconnected than the Silverado both on and off the road.
2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Gauges-001

Although a 16.8 MPG average might sound bad to Camcord shoppers, that’s not a bad number for a V8 pickup truck on a daily commute cycle with 120 miles of weekend trailer towing. GMç 6-speed transmission has a fairly tall 6th gear and the Ecotec3 family of V8 engines has an aggressive cylinder deactivation program. Combined they allow the Silverado with the 5.3L V8 to get 23 highway MPGs in 2WD trim and 22 MPG in 4WD trim according to the EPA. On a level highway with the cruise control set to 68 I had no troubles averaging 26-27 MPG when the ending was in 4-cylinder mode. Despite the RAM’s 8-speed transmission, the Silverado delivers superior EPA and real world MPG numbers while sipping on regular gasoline (RAM recommends mid-grade in HEMI models.)

Our Silverado Z71 LTZ 4WD tester rang in at $50,475 thanks to a bevy of options from park assist to a heated steering wheel and 20-inch chrome wheels. However you configure your Silverado, the 2014 model will be asking a $1,500 premium over the 2013 model thanks to a late price hike from the general. Although there are still plenty of cash on the hood offers, many dealers are complaining that the price tags are scaring away potential shoppers. This means the MSRP for our Silverado was between $1,500 and $2,500 higher than competitive Ford or RAM trucks with the difference widening slightly when you adjust for feature content. When you factor in GM’s deeper discounts the difference becomes negligible but the crazy logic remains the same.

At the end of a week, I was sorry to see the Silverado go but I was also sad GM didn’t delay the Silverado for a year. With the 2013 RAM meeting press and sales success, I think there was a missed opportunity to put the Silverado on hold, toss in a new transmission and an optional self leveling coil spring rear suspension. Doing so would have made the Silverado more competitive in this high volume, high profit segment. Still, the Silverado has a great deal going for it. With the highest payload and towing capacities in the market combined with the best real world fuel economy numbers there are some good reasons to put the Silverado at the top of your list. For the rest of us, the RAM’s better road manners, snazzier feature list, top-notch infotainment system and excellent 8-speed automatic will seal the deal.

 

General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.13 Seconds

0-60: 8.17 Seconds

 1/4 Mile: 16.5 Seconds @ 87.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 16.8 MPG over 784 Miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 67 dB

 

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-001 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-002 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-003 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-005 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-007 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-009 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-010 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-011 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-012 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-013 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Gauges 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Gauges-001 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Infotainment-001 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-001 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-002 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-004 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-005 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-006 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-007 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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The Jeep Grand Cherokamino aka The Jeep Grand Comanche http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-jeep-grand-cherokamino-aka-the-jeep-grand-comanche/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-jeep-grand-cherokamino-aka-the-jeep-grand-comanche/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 22:09:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=637329 TTAC has a new project car and it’s a beauty. Thanks to my dad who volunteered to drive from Austin to San Jose, I’m now the proud second owner of a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with 151,500 miles on the clock. If you’ve been following us on Facebook, then you might have guessed this […]

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2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

TTAC has a new project car and it’s a beauty. Thanks to my dad who volunteered to drive from Austin to San Jose, I’m now the proud second owner of a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with 151,500 miles on the clock. If you’ve been following us on Facebook, then you might have guessed this project would involve a Jeep, but up till now I have kept the depth of the planned Jeep perversion secret. What I’ll be attempting over the next few months might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever done: converting a perfectly good unibody SUV into a “pickup.” Say what?

2000 Jeep Grand Comanche "30 Second Photoshop"

2000 Jeep Grand Comanche “30 Second Photoshop”

This isn’t the first time I have floated this kind of idea before. My last inspired vision was the Comanche reborn out of a Jeep Patriot. Sadly Patriots are holding their resale value too well and after months of searching I was unable to find something worth cutting up. Undeterred by my setbacks I saw an ad for a high mile 2007 Patriot while I was visiting my folks near Austin, TX. Although the lead turned out to be a bust, my crazy parents decided to buy themselves a snazzy new 2014 Grand Cherokee because “we’re already at the dealer.” Gotta love the logic. After hours of bickering, the dealer offered $1800 for their immaculate daily driver and my brain shifted gears. I offered the same price and my dad, in a moment of uncharacteristic generosity, said “why don’t I just give it to you son.” My new plan was put into action.

It is now time for some disclosures and important statements. This project is obviously for entertainment value only. My entertainment value primarily, but if you find it interesting to watch then we’re on to something. This means that comments like “why don’t you sell it and buy a X instead?” are pointless. Also obvious is the fact that I’ve never done anything like this before so it is incredibly likely that I’ll be doing stupid things, getting things wrong and generally making an ass of myself. That’s just par for this course. While I may mention specific products, I’m not endorsing anything and no person or company has given this project any free stuff. (This makes me very sad.) Lastly, if you have any suggestions, know of any sources for parts, or are in the area and want to check the disaster out, let us know.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Why on earth are you trying this?

Aside from the obvious perverse pleasure gained from sawing the roof off a perfectly good car, I need a vehicle that I can use around the house for moving manure, feed, hay/straw and possibly the odd animal or two. I have 9 acres of heavily wooded mountain property, so 4WD and knobby off-road rubber are a must. Logically something like a John Deere Gator would have been a good idea, but they are expensive, boring, and use a crappy rubber-belt CVT and a carburetor that has to be adjusted every hour to work properly.

John Deere Gator

Why a 2000 Grand Cherokee?

Well, it was free. It’s also easy to find parts for, fairly inexpensive to replace and there are a host of aftermarket off-road accessories that should make my conversion easier. Also, the unibody design on the Grand Cherokee is fairly stout for its age and it has “beefier” “frame rails” than most unibody SUV/CUV designs of the time. This additional floor strength should allow me to cut the roof off without too much issue.

It’ll fold like a taco!

Maybe. And if it does it should be incredibly funny. Hopefully it will also get caught on video.

What’s the condition of the donor car?

Near perfect for a 2000 with 151,000 miles on it. Since the Jeep was driven by a little old lady from Texas (my mom is 72 and 5’2″), everything is original, it has always been dealer serviced, has a recorded service history three miles long and everything except the CD changer works. The engine had some valve troubled at 140,000 miles and had a partial rebuild to address the problem, it has never towed and never been taken seriously off-road.

As soon as it arrived, the first thing I did was swap in a 3-inch lift kit with new springs, dampers, tie rods and a new track bar up front. Once the lift was complete I slapped on the 16-inch black steel rims shod with 265/75R16 rubber and that’s what you see before your eyes. What’s next? The removal of the interior.

 

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Review: 2013 & 2014 RAM 3500 Diesel (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2013-2014-ram-3500-diesel-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-2013-2014-ram-3500-diesel-with-video/#comments Tue, 08 Oct 2013 12:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=532417 Nothing is more American than the pickup truck. If the stars and stripes thing ever gets old, they will probably get replaced by a RAM / GM / Ford montage.  The other thing that’s quintessentially American is an arms race. No, I’m not talking military hardware, I’m talking about the eternal RAM vs Chevy/GMC vs […]

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2013 RAM 3500 Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Nothing is more American than the pickup truck. If the stars and stripes thing ever gets old, they will probably get replaced by a RAM / GM / Ford montage.  The other thing that’s quintessentially American is an arms race. No, I’m not talking military hardware, I’m talking about the eternal RAM vs Chevy/GMC vs Ford tuck wars. Who has the best frame? Who has the best engine? Who can haul the most? Be prepared to draw your weapons and click past the jump. Chrysler sent me a 2013 RAM 3500 for a week and then invited me to taste test the refreshed 2014 model for a day.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

What can we say about the exterior? It’s pickup truck shaped. Aside from that revelation, the RAM can be had with three different cabs and two different bed sizes. Regardless of the options you choose, the RAM “big rig” styling that rocked the pickup world in 1994 is still with us although it’s been softened slightly. 2013 brings new headlamps and more chrome but keeps the seriously large grille which is raked slightly forward. Fear not, there is ample room to install a set of horns on the front.

2013 RAM 3500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesInterior

I was initially a little perturbed, I had asked for a Tradesman trim of the RAM 3500 because I have a thing for the stripper commercial vehicles. Instead I ended up with a top-of-the-line Laramie Long Horn Edition in the driveway. If I’m honest the interior is a little over the top in my book, but I’m much more of a minimalist when it comes to interior design. Regardless of how you feel about the bedazzled instrument cluster, the RAM exudes quality. I’ll say that again, the RAM exudes quality. How exactly Chrysler went from crafting the cheapest feeling interiors to some of the best on the market is anyone’s guess but the result are stunning and boil down to one decision: stitched leather.

I breezed by my local RAM dealer to checkout the Tradesman, and the difference is marked. The Tradesman has an attractive interior design, but the Long Horn takes it up several notches with an injection molded dash that features real stitching, real wood trim that isn’t heavily lacquered and genuine cow hide on the doors and seat backs. The front seats are large and supportive in all versions of the RAM but don’t offer much lateral bolstering.

Rear seat comfort has been a new focus for pickup trucks owing to their increased use as family haulers and daily drivers. The RAM’s rear seats are higher off the ground than in the Ford pickups which I found more comfortable, but those with short legs may complain. Although the seats in the back don’t recline and they are slightly more upright than any other vehicle type, they proved comfortable for an hour trip. Instead of folding down, the seat bottom cushions flip up revealing storage compartments and, in our Longhorn Edition, a subwoofer. In addition to the swanky interior trappings, the RAM 3500′s cabin is almost luxury sedan quiet at 71 db at 50 MPH.

2013 RAM 3500 Interior, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

uConnect 2 is the first major update to Chrysler’s 8.4-inch touchscreen system that launched in 2011 and the first version found in the RAM 1500. Based on a QNX Unix operating system, the system features well polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. In addition to extensive voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem on-board, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. Garmin’s navigation software is still available as a $500 add-on and it still looks like someone cut a hole in the screen and stuck a hand-held Garmin unit in the dash. The interface is easy to use but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. If this bevy of techo-wizardry hasn’t convinced you that Ram is now in the 21st century, consider this: our tester didn’t have a CD player. If the bevy of USB ports has you confused, you can rock your John Denver CD by paying $395 for a single-slot disc player jammed into the center armrest.

2013 RAM 3500 6.7L Cummins-001

Drivetrain

The standard engine for both 2013 and 2014 is Chrysler’s ubiquitous 5.7L “Hemi”  V8 tuned to 383 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the refreshed 1500, the 2500 and 3500 don’t get the Chrysler/ZF 8-speed automatic instead relying on the Chrysler 66RFE 6-speed to put the power to the ground.

Our tester had the optional 6.7L Cummins turbo Diesel engine we at TTAC have come to know and love. The 6-cylinder oil burner comes in three flavors depending on the transmission you select. The 6-speed manual (a class exclusive) gets the lowest tune at 360 ponies and 660 lb-ft. Checking the box for the Chrysler 68RFE 6-speed transmission bumps power to 370 HP and torque to 800 lb-ft. If that’s not enough a new Aisin AS69RC 6-speed automatic can be selected which gets you 385 HP and a whopping 850 lb-ft. The new Aisin transmission is capable of handling a PTO, should you need it.

2014 brings a new truck version of Chrysler’s SRT 6.4L V8. RAM was quick to say the engine isn’t just an SRT transplant and a high percentage of parts are unique. The “big gas” as RAM is calling it is good for 410HP and 429 lb-ft which may not sound like a huge increase over the 5.7 but looking at the torque curve the larger engine has considerably more grunt. The 6.4 is an alternative to the expensive Cummins for most applications and it can be paired with the 66RFE automatic or the Aisin 6-speed if you need a PTO.

If you’re buying a 4×4 pickup and fuel economy is a factor, the 2014 RAM models include a front axle disconnect system. By essentially decoupling the front right wheel and front left wheel from one another, parasitic losses inside the front differential are greatly reduced. This is similar to the rear axle disconnect system employed on the new Jeep Cherokee.

2013 RAM 3500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Payload and Trailering

Thanks to the revised drivetrain and that new Aisin 6-speed automatic, the RAM reaches new (and insane) heights in towing with a 30,000lb tow rating when properly equipped. This isn’t just a slight increase in towing ability, this is a whopping 6,800 more than GM’s 2014 trucks and 8,800 more than Ford’s F-350. True to RAM’s commercial heart, the maximum tow rating can be had in all trim levels of the 3500, including the stripper Tradesman. All you have to do is select the Cummins and Aisin combo and be willing to spend $38,895.

What’s it like to tow that kind of weight? I wish I knew. It’s illegal in California (and many states) to tow more than a 10,000lb trailer without a class C license so I hooked up my 7,500lb trailer at home with the 2014 and RAM provided a 9,999lb trailer with the 2014 model for testing. Shoppers should know that the 66RFE and 68RFE transmissions are related to the 65RFE that I have frequently complained about. However, the reason for my complaint had to do with the 65RFE’s gear ratio spread, this is not a problem in the 66RFE or 68RFE as they use a different set of ratios. Even so, the Aisin transmission is the transmission of choice for towing and hauling as it has a notably lower first and second gear and is capable of torque converter lockup in first. As you would expect, 7,500 lbs of trailer is no match for 850 lb-ft of torque and the Cummins felt like it wasn’t even trying as I climbed up a 2,200ft mountain pass.

2013 RAM 3500 Interior, 4WD controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesIf you’re the kind of guy who does serious towing or hauls heavy payloads, forget the 2013 RAM and tell your Ford and GM friends to join you at the RAM dealer for the 2014 3500 with a rear air suspension. This is not the same system used on the RAM 1500 which is a four-corner height adjustable  system, the 2500 and 3500 are rear load leveling only. 2500 trucks get a new 5-link coil suspension standard with available air suspension while the 3500 gets a beefier multi-plate leaf spring standard and optionally a single leaf with a set of air bags. Aside from being totally cool, leveling suspensions improve ride as well as suspension dynamics by keeping the suspension in the middle of its travel so that jounce and rebound (check?) are optimized. The air suspension also allows the maximum payload to creep up to 7,320 lbs in the 3500 for 2014 and the truck will perform better while under load.

In addition to the new rear air suspension, 2500 models get an entirely new frame and a new front suspension setup based on the 3500′s multi-link front suspension. I was worried this would decrease the 2500′s ride quality but impressively the opposite was true.
2013 RAM 3500 Interior-020

Drive

The 5.7L V8 isn’t a bad engine by any stretch, but the RAM isn’t a light weight hauler. Our Cummins model rang in at 6,799lbs ad the V8 isn’t that much lighter. Put a few thousand pounds of concrete in the bed and you’re in for a slow slog up the hill. If you can’t bring yourself to pay for the diesel, my suggestion is to drive the RAM 1500, 2500 and 3500 back to back and seriously ask yourself what your towing and hauling needs are. The 1500 isn’t just 1,800lbs lighter, it has that new 8-speed automatic which makes towing a breeze. If however you’re a serious hauler, then nothing but the 6.7L turbo diesel will do.

As much as I love manuals, and as happy I am that the Cummins can still be mated to one, the automatic is the transmission you want. Not only does it make trailering easier, you get 140 lb-ft more twist for your $500 as well. Anyone serious about towing (and anyone with a class C license) will want to step up to that Aisin transmission. Aside from getting an extra 50 lb-ft, you get higher torque rated internals, more evenly spaced gear ratios and a lower first gear.

If you notice, I haven’t spoken to the way the RAM drives yet. That’s because driving manners are secondary to the mission in a heavy-duty pickup truck. Even so 2013 brings a notable improvement to the RAM and opting for the air suspension in 2014 takes things up to the next notch. If you’re upgrading from a half-ton truck, keep in mind that 2500 and 3500 trucks will have a rougher ride in general thanks to the heavy-duty suspension components.

2013 RAM 3500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

RAM was the first to market with an exhaust brake in 3/4 and 1 ton trucks and they continue to lead with one of the best on the market. This system shouldn’t be confused with the “Jake Brakes” found in Cummins’ big-rig engines, the system Cummins employs here is sometimes called a “potato brake” because it operates by closing the vanes of the variable geometry turbo charger to increase back pressure and thereby increasing engine braking. This type of engine brake is rate in horsepower for some reason and the 6.7L diesel now brakes to the tune of 225 ponies which has a big impact on brake pad life if you tow in mountainous terrain.

When it comes to pickup trucks, especially heavy-duty trucks, shoppers are extremely brand conscious and extremely brand loyal. Think about it, how many people do you know that rotate around pickup brands with every purchase? As a result it would be easy to say the RAM 3500 is a great truck for RAM loyalists and the other trucks are all lovely too. However, the 2014 RAM might be the first truck since 1994 to sway hearts and minds. Not only does the RAM deliver the best interior and infotainment system in the segment, but it also delivers 30,000lbs of bragging rights, a stellar Cummins engine and a rear air suspension that is nothing short of revolutionary for the heavy-duty pickup market. If you’re looking at an F-350 or eagerly waiting that new Silverado 3500, swallow your pride and give the RAM a test drive. You’ll thank me later.

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of diesel for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.39 Seconds

0-60: 8.72 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.76 Seconds at 85.7 MPH

Sound Level: 71 db @ 50 MPH

2013 RAM 3500 Interior, 4WD controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-021 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-013 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-004 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-006 2013 RAM 3500 6.7L Cummins 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-005 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 RAM 3500 Interior, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 RAM 3500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-012 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-011 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-020 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-019 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-010 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-001 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-003 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-002 2013 RAM 3500 Interior 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-018 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-009 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-001 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-008 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-017 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-016 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-007 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-009 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 RAM 3500 6.7L Cummins-002 2013 RAM 3500 6.7L Cummins-001 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-007 2013 RAM 3500 Exterior-008 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-006 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-005 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-014 2013 RAM 3500 Interior-015

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Capsule Review: Ram 1500 EcoDiesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/capsule-review-ram-1500-diesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/capsule-review-ram-1500-diesel/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 18:49:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=594393   The most important year for the American pickup truck might have been 1996. Although the tenth generation Ford F-Series would debut that same year, the biggest development for the segment had nothing to do with trucks. It was the death of the General Motors B-Body sedan. A perennial best-seller in America through the 1970s, […]

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2014-Ram-1500-diesel-grille

The most important year for the American pickup truck might have been 1996. Although the tenth generation Ford F-Series would debut that same year, the biggest development for the segment had nothing to do with trucks. It was the death of the General Motors B-Body sedan.

A perennial best-seller in America through the 1970s, the B-Body’s demise left American consumers with only one choice for a traditional full-size sedan, the Ford Panther cars. Conventional wisdom states that SUVs subsequently picked up the slack as America’s family hauler of choice, but there’s a case to be made that it was the half-ton crew cab pickup truck that truly replaced the large sedan as America’s family hauler. From 2002 onward, domestic full-size SUV sales began to trend downward, as pick-up sales, well, picked up.

The crew cab era began in earnest right around that time, with the Ford F-150 SuperCrew and a subsequent GM crew cab trucks debuting in 2002. Over a decade later, and both GM and Chrysler have replaced the rear-hinged doors on their extended cab models with a shorter crew cab model, supplemented with even bigger crew cab models that feature massive rear doors.

Shortly before we were invited to test out the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel CrewCab (the bigger of the two 4-doors in Ram nomenclature, with QuadCab being smaller) shown above, TTAC was loaned another Ram 1500 CrewCab – a Pentastar V6 Outdoorsman model, which featured the 8.4″ UConnect system, the lockable Ram Box storage system and a rather spartan interior with drab hard plastics and cloth upholstery (appropriate given the nature of the truck, but a little surprising given the $46,000 pricetag).

The timing of the Outdoorsman test coincided with a reunion for the summer camp I attended as a youth. Located roughly 200 miles from Toronto, the route to the camp is largely composed of rural two-lane highways with some decent grades and winding roads – a good place to put the Pentastar V6 and the new 8-speed automatic to the test.

With its enormous interior space, the CrewCab Ram acquitted itself well with my passengers, all of whom were over 6’2″. No sedan could possibly give them this much space to stretch out, not even the legendary Town Car Signature L. The air suspension provided an effortlessly smooth ride along the less-than-perfect stretches of pavement we traversed. But the Pentastar V6, as refined as it may have been, was a little lacking in power, especially when passing on two-lane highways. Some leeway has to be granted, on account of the Ram hauling a combined weight of 840 pounds of human cargo, plus the associated detritus, but the Pentastar’s power delivery wasn’t quite effortless. Last time we traversed these roads, we had used a friend’s Sierra 2500HD with a 6.6L Duramax diesel, and I found myself wishing for that kind of turbocharged torque that one can find in a diesel or an Ecoboost Ford.

2014-Ram-1500-diese-logo

Two months and 2547 miles later and I’m staring face to face with Mopar’s answer for how to get some real grunt without sacrificing on the green front. The Ram EcoDiesel is indistinguishable from the regular Ram, save for the fender mounted emblem shown above. Under the hood is a 3.0L V6 made by VM Motori. Originally planned for the Cadillac CTS, the diesel engine puts out 240 horsepower (43 less than the Pentastar V6) and 430 lb-ft (20 more than the 5.7L Hemi V8). Drawing comparisons to a Cadillac might be a bit of a stretch, but the V6 oil burner is incredibly refined. There is very little clatter at start-up or at idle, and the traditional diesel noises are largely kept in check. One noteworthy change is the addition of a Diesel Exhaust Fluid gauge in the cabin. DEF is used as part of the emissions control package, and the fluid is meant to be replenished at 10,000 miles (the same interval as the engine’s oil). However, regulations require that the engine must be disabled when the DEF supply is exhausted, so keeping an eye on its levels is essential.

Most of the seat time in the diesel Ram came in the form of various stop-and-go scenarios as part of the city driving loops, with the diesel returning a very impressive 24 mpg according to the vehicle’s trip computer. While the Pentastar V6 is said to add about a second and a half compared to the Pentastar Ram’s 7.5 second 0-60 time, the diesel felt much stronger, with plenty of torque available throughout the rev range. Merging and passing was a cinch, with the feel resembling that of a boosted gasoline engine. In a blind taste test, nobody would confuse the Pentastar, the Hemi or the diesel, but the oil-burner’s overall feel is closer to that of the Ford EcoBoost V6 than a traditional heavy-duty diesel engine. Although towing wasn’t a part of my drive, Ram claims that the diesel can haul up to 9,200 lbs with the right equipment.

The biggest sticking point for the diesel is likely the amount of time it will take to break even on the $4,500 premium the diesel commands. Based on a national average prices of $3.62 for gasoline and $3.97 for diesel, the payback over the Pentastar V6 will take decades. When the diesel is put up against the Hemi, the proposition makes more sense, taking about 5 years to pay off.

Nevertheless, rationality doesn’t always play in to these kind of purchasing decisions, as evidenced by the legions of buyers who frequently opt for fuel-efficient vehicles that in reality take lots of time to provide any kind of ROI. The notion of a diesel half-ton pickup will likely prove alluring for many in terms of curb appeal, and the powertrain’s combination of brawn and refinement will win buyers over on the dealer test drive. Otherwise, there’s very little to distinguish the diesel from gasoline powered Ram 1500s. And that’s hardly a bad thing.

Ironically, Ram wasn’t even supposed to be the first one to market with a diesel. At the end of the last decade, Ford reportedly shelved a 4.8L twin-turbo diesel V8, fearing that it would steal sales away from the Super Duty trucks.  They won’t be the second one either, since Nissan will release a half-ton diesel Titan within the next year or two. It appears that in this marketplace, the Super Duty trucks are gravitating towards the traditional heavy-duty users, while half-ton trucks are creeping upmarket, serving as replacements for all manner of large cars. Features like four full-size doors, better ride characteristics and lots of passenger space helped spur this trend – and the increasing push towards better fuel economy will only keep it going.

Chrysler provided airfare, accommodations and meals for the event. Photos courtesy AutoGuide.com

 

 

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Review: 2014 Chevrolet Silverado http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-chevrolet-silverado/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-chevrolet-silverado/#comments Mon, 23 Sep 2013 12:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=525569 Instructions: Step 1. Put on Fanfare for the Common Man. Step 2. Light a hand-rolled cigarette. Take a deep drag. Step 3. Begin reading aloud with as low and gravelly a voice as you can muster. Your script: Pickup trucks are America. In the vast expanses that make up this country, they feel completely comfortable […]

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2014-Silverado-02

Instructions:

Step 1. Put on Fanfare for the Common Man.

Step 2. Light a hand-rolled cigarette. Take a deep drag.

Step 3. Begin reading aloud with as low and gravelly a voice as you can muster.

Your script: Pickup trucks are America. In the vast expanses that make up this country, they feel completely comfortable with their bulk. These are the broad-shouldered blue-collar working class of the vehicular world. Just like the people that drive them, these trucks are alternately unembellished hard workers or rhinestone cowboys. They give of their bodies and brawn to get.work.done. At every disaster, you’ll find trucks. Construction sites, too.

2014-Silverado-13

Trucks build things up, break things down, and clear the way. They are the last stand of dominance for the once-muscular North American auto industry.

Okay, that’s enough of that nonsense. American pickup trucks are both deeply loved and uniquely evolved for our landscape and way of life. That doesn’t mean that the dominant domestic automakers can be arrogant and take the sales for granted. We saw how that worked out with cars.

That’s why they bash each other’s brains out with their trucks, swinging the cudgels of ever-increasing tow ratings, powertrain options, or luxury tack shop interiors by Nudie Cohn. When a pickup truck gets
fully redesigned, it’s a big deal, and so it is with the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado.

The recently-launched 2014 Chevrolet Silverado has hit the dealer lots and the press fleets. The short take-away is this: the Silverado is more car-like, very fuel efficient for its class, and has a few little oddities. Those assessments are partly right.

2014-Silverado-06

The Silverado is not like a car. It is a truck, and as such, it rides like a truck. A very good-riding truck in the 1500 LT 2WD trim I drove. The frame is stiff, the suspension is well-tuned, and the steering is precise, all pluses. The new hydraulic cab mounts and rack and pinion steering really pay off. Even if the leaf springs on the rear axle aren’t the wispy cloud of compliance that the Ram’s coil springs are, the Silverado has a higher tow rating when equipped just right.

Inside, it is very quiet. So much so that even with your foot deep into the new 5.3 liter Ecotec3 V8, it sounds like someone else’s vehicle is roaring away. The engine sounds great, and it’s very punchy, so hearing more of it would be welcome. The new cab has its doors inset into its sides, lots of high-strength steel and hydroformed structural elements, and it’s shockingly quiet.

Would that the seats were more comfortable for spending long hours. The squishy cloth-upholstered 40/20/40 front bench seat in the Silverado LT I drove was supportive in the you’re-not-on-the-floor sense, but long-haul comfort is lacking, and it made me fidget after a while. Also weird: the steering wheel is offset toward the center of the truck, just like the early Dodge Caravans, and it feels just as strange now.

Despite being a rear-driver, LT trim includes Z71 suspension with Rancho shocks and a locking differential; enough equipment to get you hopelessly stuck should you believe the “off-road suspension” claim Chevy makes for the heavier duty chassis. Machined aluminum wheels, 17-inchers with all-terrain tires, fog lights, chromed bumpers and recovery hooks are standard for the LT, as well. The tailgate that doesn’t slam and integrated bumper steps are nice touches.

There’s now a single cabin design with a dashboard that looks weirder in pictures than in person. This particular truck had the LT Plus Package ($795) and All Star Edition ($1,830) which means some up-fitting. The standard MyLink audio system with its 4.2” LCD gets traded out for an 8” color touchscreen interface that also displays the rear camera’s view, but navigation is still optional. You do get six months of OnStar Directions and Connections service, which can pipe turn by turn navigation instructions into the system. The steering column gets notchy 1970s-grade tilt adjustment, and a separate lever adjusts reach. Other All Star Edition goodies are 18” wheels, interior AC power outlet, remote start, power driver’s seat and climate control. The LT Plus package contributes a power-sliding rear window, rear park assist, power-adjustable pedals and universal remote. None of this stuff helps the Silverado work any harder.

2014-Silverado-11

Of course, every Silverado you can currently buy is optioned-up. You can’t even get the standard configuration of new 4.3 liter standard V6 and six-speed Hydramatic yet. Not that the 5.3 liter V8 based on the C7 Corvette engine is any kind of penalty, but it does cost an extra $895. It’s punchy as hell, though, and still spat back 21 miles per gallon in a week of mixed, mostly-highway driving. A four-wheel drive configuration would have probably cost a couple mpg in the same conditions. That’s impressive economy, and it’s likely to get better when an already-in-the-works transmission with more ratios becomes available. The six-speed jumps right to the highest gear it can as fast as it can, so you wind up doing 20 miles an hour with the tachometer near idle before dropping down two gears and moving off smartly,. It’s kind of a herky-jerky way to get down the road.

With a few more useful bits of optioning, a trailer brake controller, chrome runing boards, heated front seats, and moveable tie-downs in the bed, the bottom line came to $40,910. That’s a lot of dough for a truck that still has a long way to go on the options and luxury side of the ledger. It might be just me, but for that kind of debt, I’m going to at least want to be breaking wind on leather and have a navigation system to tell me I’m lost. It’s also a lot of extra crap you don’t need if you’re just looking to get some work out of the truck, in which case the basic W/T configuration is your bogey.

Look at the full-size truck landscape, and it’s clear that right now, the Silverado is on top, though maybe by default. In 1500 trim, it’s more efficient and lighter than the comparable Ram or F-Series. The Ram has a high-quality interior, comfortable ride and willing powertrains. The Silverado is in the fight, though, and it’s a lot lighter on its feet and less thirsty at the gas pump. Both point up how shamefully old and crappy the F-Series cab is, though the rest of that truck is nothing to be trifled with.

Closing the door and shutting out the noise of the jobsite or the stress of meeting those Ag Loan payments and John Deere financial responsibilities during a dust-bowl drought is something the Silverado is very good at. It’ll willingly yank some steers to auction or drag your travel trailer to the KOA campsite for some vacation. The primacy of the pushrod engine in terms of packaging efficiency and durability is a high point, as is the Hydramatic transmission and increased use of aluminum in the chassis to keep weight down.

This is why, for now, the Silverado is on top. When the new F-Series debuts with its aluminum cab and weight loss equal to a trio of morbidly obese Americans (you know, average folk), it might be a different story, but that’s not going to make the Silverado a bad choice overnight.

See, that’s the thing with the full-size pickup field. Just take a scattershot approach and you’ll be fine. You’ll get your work out of the truck. If you’re looking for all the frosting on the cake, then the brand becomes important. While the Silverado can be outfitted that way, it still doesn’t quite measure up to a Nash-Vegas-trimmed Ram. But there’s not a truck on the market right now that blends efficiency, muscle and capability as well as the Silverado, and that’s why it lives up to its big deal billing. For now.

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Pre-Production Review: 2014 Toyota Tundra (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/pre-production-review-2014-toyota-tundra-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/pre-production-review-2014-toyota-tundra-with-video/#comments Wed, 11 Sep 2013 20:02:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=514913 We don’t just love pickup trucks in America, we practically worship them. The half ton pickup truck is an American icon embedded into our music, our entertainment and almost the core of our culture. If you haven’t owned or wanted to own a pickup truck, you’re probably a communist infiltrating American society and should be […]

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2014 Toyota Tundra Exterior-002

We don’t just love pickup trucks in America, we practically worship them. The half ton pickup truck is an American icon embedded into our music, our entertainment and almost the core of our culture. If you haven’t owned or wanted to own a pickup truck, you’re probably a communist infiltrating American society and should be stopped. Despite inroads from the Japanese competition, the full-size truck market is a solidly American segment that isn’t just led by the big three, it’s dominated by them. In August, RAM took third place with 33,009 pickups sold in the US of A, more than three times the number four player: this week’s Toyota Tundra. Why is this gap so large when Toyota crushes the big three in so many other segments? Let’s explore that while we look at Toyota’s refreshed 2014 Tundra.

Click here to view the embedded video.

When it comes to trucks, we’re talking half-ton cargo haulers, not the compact truck market where Toyota arguably leads. The full-size truck market is about image and brand as much as it is about capability. Aside from men’s razors, no other product in America is marketed in such a completely-divorced-from-reality fashion. We buy trucks both because they haul and because they make us look cool. (Come on, you can admit it.) Truck advertising tells us that real Americans buy trucks, have cattle ranches, sing in country groups and get all the blonde babes. Real Americans also go muddin’, drink Bud and (most importantly) buy American. It is therefore no surprise that Toyota’s biggest market is California. (Make of that what you will.) It’s also no surprise the folks at the launch event were trying hard to sell the Tie-o-ter as the most American pickup on the market. With the highest percentage of American content, plus assembly in San Antonio, there is some truth to their assertions.

Exterior

I think that part of Toyota’s tuck sales problem was the old T100 from 1993-1998. That truck was a half-step between the American mid-size and full-size trucks leading people to consider the T100 more of a mid-size competitor. Then came the 1999-2006 Tundra which grew but failed to keep up with the Americans in terms of styling and dimensions. In 2007 we got the all-new Tundra which yet again grew a half size and was finally competitive with the big three featuring two V8 engines and part-time 4WD. Sales were less than stellar. Why? Toyota believes styling was to blame and I’m inclined to agree. The “bubbly” theme of the old Tundra was fairly emasculating when you parked next to the “rugged” F-150 or RAM 1500.

2014 Toyota Tundra Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

For 2014 Toyota has addressed this problem with an enormous new grille that comes in three flavors (you can see two of them in the gallery) and features a prominent Toyota logo and very upright styling. It’s so upright the front bumper hardly protrudes from the grille at all. The larger and “chromier” grill is flanked by new headlamps that pay homage to the daring big-rig style of the 1994 RAM. The new nose makes the Tundra look bigger and meaner even though the dimensions have barely changed at all. Mainstream looks? Check.

2014 maintains the Tundra’s three cab, two bed, two wheelbase product mix. Things start out with the three-seat, two-door SR and stretch up to the six-seat four-door SR5. In a nod to the large number of truck shoppers that buy for image, not payload, Toyota offers three premium trim levels: Limited, Platinum and 1794. 1794 is named after the ranch that used to operate on the property the Tundra factory was built on. Mainstream product portfolio? Check.

2014 Toyota Tundra Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Truck makers have finally read the memo that truck shoppers expect passenger car quality interiors. Toyota listened in 2007 but didn’t catch the all important detail “car quality interiors” not “car-like interiors.” Thankfully the 2014 refresh banishes the awkward Camry-esque of the old model for a more masculine design language. Like the competition there is plenty of hard plastic in this cabin, more fake tree than a 1970s suburban tri-level and plenty of bling. I can finally say with a straight face that the Tundra’s interior looks like a truck.

Unfortunately for Toyota, 2014 also brings a raft of refreshed, redesigned and tweaked trucks from the big boys. Compared back to back with the 2014 Silverado and the 2013 RAM, the Tundra’s interior looks a little too “try hard” with shapes that are discordant and not harmonious and parts quality that is a notch below the pack. The F-150 is getting a little old with a 2015 redesign widely expected, but I still find the Ford’s interior to be a better place to spend my time than the Tundra. Mainstream interior? Check.

2014 Toyota Tundra Interior, entune, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

2014 brings a few changes to the Tundra’s infotainment head unit. The major change is that all Tundra models will come with Toyota’s 6.1-inch Entune system only. The 7-inch system that ran the high-end software shared with the Lexus brand is not available in any model of Tundra. Consider me pleased. Toyota’s low-end system still seems to suffer from a dim LCD but the software itself is slick, speedy and easy to use. As before navigation is optional as is smartphone app integration. If you want the detailed look, check out the video. Mainstream tunes? Check.

2014 Tundra 5.7L V8, Picture Courtesy of Toyota

Powertrain

Delivering a new truck with an old drivetrain isn’t new, Ford’s been doing that for years. Unfortunately Ford is known for refreshing the under-hood-bits the next year while Toyota is known for  maintaining the status quo until a redesign. Unless Toyota breaks from tradition, this puts the Tundra at a serious competitive disadvantage. The base engine is ye olde 4.0L V6 mated to Toyota’s tried-and-true (but also tired and behind the times) 5-speed automatic. The rated 270 ponies and 278 twists are competitive with RAM’s 3.6L V6 and Ford’s 3.7L V6 on paper where torque is more important than horsepower for towing, but in the real world Ford’s 6-speed automatic makes better use of the power and 2014 brings ZF’s 8-speed to the RAM 1500 giving Chrysler’s 3.6L engine three more 60% more gears to play with. Toyota claims the V6 exists for a low entry price and as a result doesn’t even list a rated towing capacity for the V6 SR model. (Toyota says it’s 4,400 lbs.) I think that’s a serious mistake when we take two things into account. First, many truck buyers, especially those in California where Toyota is making headway, have no idea what a trailer even looks like. Second, Detroit is changing their tune on the V6 models changing them from entry engines to fuel efficient options that can haul some serious loads. RAM’s 2014 V6 model will tow 7,450lbs. Toyota was quick to say that they are the only ones with SAE verified towing numbers but I’m here to tell you the Chrysler 3.6L V6 and ZF 8-speed transmission are a weekend warrior’s towing wet dream.

Because the V6 is the milquetoast discount engine, Toyota offers two different V8s to fill out the product portfolio. Because Toyota only offers the V6 on the base SR model with the regular cab, most buyers will have a V8 under the hood. Both V8s are closely related to the engines found in modern Lexus models and as such are buttery smooth with a rich V8 burble and a torque curve that’s higher and “peakier” than the American competition. The 4.6L V8 is good for 310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft of torque, only slightly higher than GM’s 4.3L V6 and well behind Ford’s fire-breathing Ecoboost 3.5L V6. Still, this is not going to be the most popular engine because most Tundras will have Toyota’s 381HP 5.7L V8 capable of cranking out 401 lb-ft. Both V8s are mated to a mode modern 6-speed automatic which is on par with GM and Ford but notably shy of the RAM’s new ZF 8-speed for 2014. If you need more power TRD will be selling the same supercharger kit as before (as a TRD accessory it is covered by the Toyota factory warranty) which bumps the 5.7 to a class blowing 504HP and 550 lb-ft.

2014 Toyota Tundra Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Driving and hauling

If you are one of the few that tow with their pickup truck, you may be happy to know that Toyota is the only company that follows the SAE standard completely when determining tow ratings.  Or, like me, you may look at the situation more skeptically and say “OK, so Dodge, Ford and Chrysler fiddle with their numbers” but does that matter? Not to me. The big three’s 1500 series trucks all slot in around 10,000 lbs with Chevy currently claiming king of the hill. Big deal. How the vehicles behave while towing is more important to me than the numbers and with that in mind there is one clear winner: the 2014 Ram 1500. Why? It’s all about ZF’s 8-speed automatic. The octo-swapper is two gears ahead of the competition and as a result can better keep the engine in its respective power band. Towing with Chrysler’s 3.6L V6 and 8-speed automatic is an eye opening experience and even though Chrysler’s 5.7L V8 lacks the power of the larger GM and Ford V8s the extra gears make a huge difference. Still, most half ton truck owners in suburbia have a truck because they bought a Ski-Doo and can’t imagine towing a 500-pound jetski behind a crossover with a meager 5,000 pound tow rating. (Seriously, I know some of these people.) With that in mind we can just say everyone in this segment can tow more than you need.

Out on the road the Tundra drives just like a pickup truck. If you had hoped that Toyota’s badge on the nose would turn the full-size cargo hauler into a FR-S on stilts you will be disappointed. The Tundra tips/dives and leans just like a Chevy, RAM or Ford and like the competition the horizontal grip varies depending on the cab, bed and rubber you choose. Steering is accurate but numb amd cabin noise is well controlled for a pickup truck.

2014 Toyota Tundra Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

With limited time behind the wheel of the pre-production models I must draw my V6 experience from a dealer provided 2013 model. The V6 is slow and thirsty, with the 5-speed automatic always a step behind what’s required. The 4.7L V8 is thirstier than the V6 but doesn’t drink anymore than the competition. Power delivery is smooth and  the 6-speed automatic shifts firmly with a relative eagerness to downshift when towing. The 5.7L V8 drinks like a college co-ed on spring break and has a somewhat high (3,600 RPM) torque peak which makes it feel out of sorts when towing compared to GM’s 6.2L monster.

After a day tossing the Tundra around Washington state and towing trailers with unknown weights inside (seriously, nobody seemed to know how much weight was in the demo trailer) I came to the conclusion that the Tundra is finally a solid middle of the pack contender. With the exception of ye olde 5-speed on the V6, there’s nothing about the Tundra that’s smaller, weaker, less masculine or less capable than the popular configurations of the Detroit trucks.

Everything about the Tundra is quintessentially middle of the pack, but does that make it the Goldilocks of the 1/2 ton truck market? Yes and no. In the pursuit of mainstream, Toyota has abandoned the attempt to be class leading. As a result, there is nothing extraordinary about the Tundra in a positive or negative way except, possibly, Toyota’s reputation for reliability. In a segment where brand is practically more important than payload and towing (just ask the Chevy vs Ford guys), that’s a problem for Toyota as it gives shoppers little reason to try something new. The 2014 Tundra is the best pickup truck Toyota has ever made and it’s a solid alternative to any of the American pickup trucks.  But, unless Toyota breaks out of their shell and does something radical, the Tundra isn’t likely to sway many shoppers in the heartland.

 

Tundra flew me to Seattle to sample the Tundra refresh.

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Confirmed: 5.0L Diesel V8 For Next-Gen Nissan Titan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/confirmed-5-0l-diesel-v8-for-next-gen-nissan-titan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/confirmed-5-0l-diesel-v8-for-next-gen-nissan-titan/#comments Tue, 20 Aug 2013 18:30:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=500126 Nissan’s next-generation Titan has now been confirmed for a 5.0L twin-turbocharged diesel V8. Exact power figures have yet to be released but the Indiana-built powertrain should put out over 300 horsepower and over 500 lb-ft of torque. While the Ram 1500 is the first half-ton pickup to offer a diesel engine, it comes in the […]

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Nissan’s next-generation Titan has now been confirmed for a 5.0L twin-turbocharged diesel V8. Exact power figures have yet to be released but the Indiana-built powertrain should put out over 300 horsepower and over 500 lb-ft of torque. While the Ram 1500 is the first half-ton pickup to offer a diesel engine, it comes in the form of a 3.0L V6.

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Nissan, Cummins To Announce Diesel For Next-Generation Titan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/nissan-cummins-diesel-next-generation-titan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/nissan-cummins-diesel-next-generation-titan/#comments Mon, 19 Aug 2013 22:39:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=500017 Sources tell us that Nissan and Cummins will make a joint announcement Tuesday regarding a diesel engine for the next-generation Titan. Our sources suggest the powertrain could be either a Chinese-made 4-cylinder engine or alternately a 5.0L V8. Currently, Ram is the only truck maker to offer a Cummins powertrain. Nissan recently hired Fred Diaz, […]

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Sources tell us that Nissan and Cummins will make a joint announcement Tuesday regarding a diesel engine for the next-generation Titan. Our sources suggest the powertrain could be either a Chinese-made 4-cylinder engine or alternately a 5.0L V8. Currently, Ram is the only truck maker to offer a Cummins powertrain. Nissan recently hired Fred Diaz, Ram’s former CEO, to head up Nissan Division’s day-to-day operations.

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GM Teases Next-Generation Colorado, Canyon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/gm-teases-next-generation-colorado-canyon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/gm-teases-next-generation-colorado-canyon/#comments Fri, 09 Aug 2013 13:06:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498746   TTAC readers looking to debate the “mid-size vs. full-size” truck matter have more fodder now that GM has unveiled a teaser photo of their new mid-size trucks. The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon will go into production next year, with a debut rumored for as soon as November’s Los Angeles Auto Show. Based on […]

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TTAC readers looking to debate the “mid-size vs. full-size” truck matter have more fodder now that GM has unveiled a teaser photo of their new mid-size trucks.

The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon will go into production next year, with a debut rumored for as soon as November’s Los Angeles Auto Show. Based on the Thai-developed global mid-size truck platform, the trucks will be the lone mid-size domestic entries, and will compete with aging mid-size products like the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.

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Rental Review: 2012 Nissan Frontier S King Cab 4×2 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/rental-review-2012-nissan-frontier-s-king-cab-4x2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/rental-review-2012-nissan-frontier-s-king-cab-4x2/#comments Thu, 01 Aug 2013 17:34:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=497769 The compact pickup is an endangered species in North America, but the reasons for its demise depend on which camp you ask. Its proponents will tell you that CAFE, the chicken tax and marketing campaigns have all conspired to kill off small trucks. Detractors claim that the new generation of full-size trucks are just as […]

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The compact pickup is an endangered species in North America, but the reasons for its demise depend on which camp you ask. Its proponents will tell you that CAFE, the chicken tax and marketing campaigns have all conspired to kill off small trucks. Detractors claim that the new generation of full-size trucks are just as fuel-efficient and affordable, while in many cases being more refined.

I really like pickups, but haven’t had a lot of seat time in them. Hell, it wasn’t that long ago that I mistakenly called the new Ram 1500 a “quarter ton” pickup, with some members of the B&B responding in a manner that made Kohmeni’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie look measured and calm. In keeping with our new mandate to expand TTAC’s rental review program, I decided to work out my Zipcar membership when I needed to haul two sets of R-Compound tires and wheels to the tire shop. And it just so happened that I ended up with what could actually be called a quarter-ton pickup.

For $14.25 per hour or $113 per day (including taxes, insurance, fuel and 120 miles of driving), Zipcar’s Toronto outpost offers you a choice of a Nissan Frontier or a Toyota Tacoma. There is no vague “pickup truck” category that surprises you with the exact model. You can pick your car of choice assuming it’s available at the time you want it. It just so happened that all the Tacomas were booked up, but the Zipcar website showed a Lava Red Frontier Crew Cab SL.

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Imagine my surprise when I strolled up to the parking lot (above the fold, situated in the showroom for one of the city’s ubiquitous condo development projects) to see a silver, base model “King Cab”, Nissan’s nomenclature for an extended cab truck. Press fleets never stock such a basic vehicle, so I seized the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a truly basic vehicle.

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This Frontier’s sole option was the automatic transmission hooked up to the 2.5L 4-cylinder engine. It had basic creature comforts like air-conditioning, power locks and windows and a tinny sound system, but everything else was decidedly poverty-spec. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen block-off switches in a new car.

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Not that I blame Zipcar for ordering the most basic trim. I’d be hard pressed to think of a car that has gone through a rougher life than a pickup being operated by an urban car sharing service. Those 23,479 km (14,589 miles) are without a doubt some of the hardest ever racked up on any car. But a quick walk-around reveals something disconcerting for such low mileage.

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Rust. All over the unlined bed. This car has likely had all sorts of crap mercilessly tossed in the back, and gone through one wretched winter of road salt and associated grime, but I find the notion of surface rust all over the bed (the spots were too numerous to photograph) to be rather disconcerting after such a short service life.

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Undettered by the corrosion, I made the 7 mile journey from the lot to my storage area, which necessitated a drive through dense, urban traffic. And you know what? I quite liked the Frontier. The 2.5L 4-cylinder is hardly a model of refinement, and it’s quite eager to rev up and make lots of noise without doing anything, but for this kind of driving, it was perfectly adequate. The ride quality was most surprising: it was hard to unsettle the Frontier. I’ve driven other Japanese full-sizers with far worse ride quality, and NVH for that matter. This truck was quiet, something I noticed because the stereo was so awful that turning it up even one-quarter of the way would immediately make everything sound like a Yoko Ono performance art piece. By far the biggest dynamic letdown were the brakes, which were as firm as a moldy apricot.

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Once I finally arrived, I was easily able to fit all 8 wheels into the fairly long bed. Once the rims were separated from the tires, I threw a set on the pitiful jump seats, which are suitable for a house cat at best. It’s hard to imagine any human or canine being comfortable back there for any period of time.

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In this setting, the Frontier performed admirably. One might even say its spartan character lent it a bit of charm and I was perfectly satisfied with the way it performed. I can’t say it’s an object of lust for me like a nicely equipped F-Series or RAM 1500 might be, but I’d have no problem renting one again.

The big problem that this and other mid-size trucks face is when customers take a look at actually purchasing one. For the same $22,218 Nissan wants for this exact truck in Canada, you can get a far superior full-size truck. Take Canada’s best-seller, the Ford F-150, for example. Ford is now offering a basic V6 standard cab F-150 XL for just over $18,000, while a 5.0L STX can be had for $19,611 – add another $1000 for the 5.0L V8 and you’re still undercutting the 4-cylinder Frontier with a truck that is undoubtedly a generation ahead of the Frontier. Add 4-wheel drive to the mix and you’re stepping up to the $27,218 Frontier SV V6, while adding it to the STX brings the total to $22,911. Given that the Frontier and F-150′s respective powertrains are within 1-2 mpg of each other, the fuel economy argument becomes moot. And at 205 inches long, this Frontier isn’t exactly the ideal urban truck that people tend to think of when discussing smaller trucks. All this illustrates exactly why mid-size trucks have had such a tough go in the United States (and Canada for that matter). The new full-sizers are better than ever and priced so competitively that it’s tough to make the case for one over a full-size truck. I’ll leave it to the commentariat to make the case. For now I’m not quite convinced.

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Potential TTAC Project Car: Jeep Patriotamino http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/potential-ttac-project-car-jeep-patriotamino/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/potential-ttac-project-car-jeep-patriotamino/#comments Fri, 12 Jul 2013 18:31:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494935 You may have gathered from my posts and reviews that I live in a mountainous and rural area. I have 9 acres of moderately steep to rolling hillside on which I have more chickens than I can count, some crops that need tending and soon a few sheep will be tossed into the mix. Up […]

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Jeep Patriot Pickup Truck

You may have gathered from my posts and reviews that I live in a mountainous and rural area. I have 9 acres of moderately steep to rolling hillside on which I have more chickens than I can count, some crops that need tending and soon a few sheep will be tossed into the mix. Up till now we’ve been schlepping anything that needed to be relocated by hand and that’s just getting old fast. My folks in Texas have tried to convince me to buy a John Deere Gator, but they aren’t exactly cheap or reliable. What’s a car nut to do? How about a backyard red-neck conversion? Before I dive headfirst, let’s run this by the best and brightest for some input.

The need

I need something that has AWD, can accept an aggressive off-road maximum traction tire and is light-weight. Not only is weight an enemy off road but I don’t want to compact the soil any more than is necessary. I want something that’s cheap to buy, fairly inexpensive to repair and easy on the gas.

The Patriot

The Patriot with the CVT and the lower final drive ratio made a positive impression when I had one last year. 19:1 isn’t exactly stump-pulling, but it is lower than most vehicle’s effective first gear ratio. 35 feet is a fairly small turning circle, the wheelbase is short and approach/departure angles are appropriate for my terrain. Most important however is the weight. At 3,300lbs soaking wet the Patriot is light to start with and my plan involves weight reduction.

The Plan

The hair-brained scheme is as follows:

  • Find a 2007ish patriot with cosmetic damage, or possibly a salvage tittle depending on the level of damage.
  • Strip the interior, and I mean everything. Remove the rear seats, headliner, interior plastics, carpet, airbags, dash, etc.
  • Remove the entire rear portion of the body starting after the B pillar. Just sawzall that puppy right off till you have a flat-bed Patriot with a cab.
  • Modify the rear hatch and weld it to the gaping hole I’ve just created after the B-pillars. (This would be to keep the critters out of the cab.)
  • Remove all extraneous weight like the hood, quarter-panels, bumper covers, A/C compressor, headlights, tail lights, HVAC system, heater cores, etc.
  • Re-route the exhaust so it doesn’t go under the Patriot but perhaps up and behind the cab somehow. (We don’t want to cause a grass fire.)
  • Sell all the parts I’ve removed to recoup some of the cost.
  • Swap steel wheels with off-road rubber in.
  • Toss on a 2″ Patriot lift kit.

I suspect that when I’m done I will have an AWD flatbed contraption weighing in between 2,100-2,400lbs depending on how aggressive the weight reduction plan ends up being.

Input

I know the plan is insane. I know the plan is likely to be more expensive than a Gator, but what the heck, it’s has to be more fun. What input do our readers have on this, and most importantly, would it be entertaining to read regular updates and editorials on this insanity? Any other vehicles I should consider for the chop?

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Ford F-150 Tremor Vs Ram Express: Battle Of The Standard Cabs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/ford-f-150-tremor-vs-ram-express-battle-of-the-standard-cabs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/ford-f-150-tremor-vs-ram-express-battle-of-the-standard-cabs/#comments Fri, 28 Jun 2013 12:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493485 The standard cab, short bed pickup is a rare breed these days. Most trucks that leave the dealer lot tend to be an extended cab, if not a four-door crew cab, with a longer bed and all the bells and whistles typically seen on a luxury vehicle. For a couple years, Ram has had the […]

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2014 Ford F-150 Tremor

The standard cab, short bed pickup is a rare breed these days. Most trucks that leave the dealer lot tend to be an extended cab, if not a four-door crew cab, with a longer bed and all the bells and whistles typically seen on a luxury vehicle. For a couple years, Ram has had the monopoly on a hot version of the standard cab with the Ram Express, a Hemi powered no-frills Ram, which starts at just $23,400. Not anymore.

Today, Ford announced the introduction of the F-150 Tremor. Silly moniker aside, the Tremor is a standard cab short bed truck that is explicitly aimed at “sport truck” enthusiasts. I always thought that crowd died away with the mini-truck era, but the combination of a 3.5L Ecoboost motor and a 4.10 rear axle ratio is an enticing one – don’t expect it to get anywhere near the vaunted fuel economy numbers that the taller-ratio equipped cars are apparently capable of. Power for the EcoBoost remains unchanged at 360 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, while the car gets FX4-style black alloy wheels, Boss 302-esque graphics and some loud paint hues.

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The Express is pretty much as different as it gets. Rather than the newfangled EcoBoost, there’s an old-fashioned Hemi V8 breathing through dual exhausts. The fancy 8-speed ZF auto available on other Ram models is not available, nor is the big UConnect touch screen or any sort of “soft touch” interior. It’s all black plastic and the most basic head unit, with a 6-speed automatic as the sole gearbox. Outside, it’s indistinguishable from any other mid-grade Ram. No badges, no stripes, no alloys. You can even get it in a crew cab if you want, though this pushes the price up another $10,000.

What would you take?

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