Showcase: Out on the job or out on the town

Light-duty, full-size pickups have evolved over the years from Spartan, decidedly utilitarian vehicles into luxurious, spacious rolling lifestyle statements. But no matter how many bells and whistles manufacturers hang on them, trucks are still, at their core, designed to work hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re hauling mowers on a trailer or driving to a jobsite to see how an irrigation installation job is going, pickups are an integral part of your business. Here’s a look at what you’ll see on models coming out this year.

Chevrolet Silverado 1500
An all-new design offers bolder looks, more hauling and towing power and refined driving

Chevrolet went back to basics when it designed its 2007 Silverado pickup. Engineers started by putting the cab and chassis on an all-new platform specifically designed to deliver a smoother ride with more responsive handling characteristics. Complementing this new body platform are six fourth-generation small-block V-8 engines delivering up to 10,500 pounds of towing capacity and maximum payload capacities up to 2,160 pounds. Other 2007 features include a new, fully boxed frame, coil-over-shock front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering to deliver unwavering ride-and-handling on all road surfaces.

For 2007, Silverado will be offered with three cab styles: regular, crew and extended. You can choose from three cargo box lengths, including a 5-foot, 8-inch short bed, the standard 6-foot, 6-inch bed or a long 8-foot cargo box. All versions are available in both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive configurations.

Silverado gets a new exterior look this year, too. A broad, chiseled face gives the truck a wide stance, further enhanced by a large grille, which is both wider and taller than those on previous Silverado models. A “power dome” hood hints at the V-8 power lurking underneath it, while the front windshield slopes down 57 degrees to aid in forward visibility while improving fuel economy thanks to its improved aerodynamic design. Chrome bumpers are standard on LT trim level models, while LTZ trim packages receive body color bumpers.

Recalling the evolution that has taken place with pickups over the past 20 years, Chevy offers two distinct interiors to best match the differing needs of today’s pickup buyer. The WT and LT trim level interiors reflect what Chevy calls a “pure” pickup interior, while the LTX trim package is a luxury-inspired interior similar to the one found on Chevrolet full-size SUVs.

The WT and LT interiors feature new, larger controls and door handles that can easily be manipulated with gloves on. Cloth seats are standard, although leather seats are available on LT model trucks. A large-capacity, double glove box is integrated into the instrument panel. The new lockable, in-seat storage bin built into a new split-bench seat offers additional storage. This bin is large enough to accommodate a laptop computer and features a 12-volt power outlet.

Rear seats on all Silverado crew cab and extended cab models feature more supportive cushion material, firmer support structures and revised seat back angles for a more comfortable ride.

Dodge Ram 1500
New MDS cylinder deactivation system takes Ram’s 5.7-liter HEMI engine from eight cylinders to four in 40 milliseconds

Dodge’s Ram 1500 pickup gets some significant tweaks this year, most notably the addition of an E85 (ethanol) compatible 4.7-liter V-8 engine and an optional electronic stability control system. Also of note is the MDS (Multi-displacement-System) cylinder deactivation system offered on Rams equipped with the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 gas engine.

Dodge calls the MDS the “first-ever” fully functioning cylinder deactivation system and claims it can transition the HEMI engine from all eight cylinders firing to just four in 40 milliseconds. That’s quicker than the blink of an eye. Benefits of the MDS system include improved fuel economy without any change in the driving experience or forcing drivers to change their driving habits. Dodge estimates some Ram owners will see fuel economy increases of up to 20 percent under certain driving conditions.

In a similar vein, Dodge Ram 1500 four-wheel-drive models feature a front-axle-disconnect system designed to disengage the front-axle driveshaft when operating in two-wheel drive. This system relieves the drivetrain of parasitic drag, further enhancing fuel economy. All 2007 Ram 1500s also feature reduce-drag brake calipers, low-rolling resistance tires and a rear spoiler positioned in the tailgate – all of which contribute to better fuel economy.

A hydroformed, fully boxed frame and suspension give Ram 1500s increased chassis strength and smooth road handling characteristics. Monotube shock absorbers – configured in a coil-over-shock-absorber and double-wishbone front suspension system – ensure a controlled and predictable ride while a Hotchkiss rear suspension with leaf springs reduces wheel hop in rough road conditions. The spring rates provide a poised ride when the pickup is unloaded, or weighted down with up to 6,800 pounds of cargo in the bed. When equipped with the 5.7-liter HEMI, the Ram 1500 boasts a gross combined weight rating of 14,000 pounds and a gross trailer weight rating of 9,200 pounds.

Inside for 2007, Dodge has given the Ram upscale finishing touches like Maple Pommele accents on instrument panels and door facings, chrome control knobs and optional French-stitched leather seats. You can also spec optional bucket seats with leather trim. Also new for 2007 are an optional remote start system and one-touch, three-blink lane change indicators. Thicker front door glass and re-engineered door seals have reduced wind noise and created a quieter interior cabin.

Ford F-150
A new, sportier trim level debuts for this year’s F-150

Ford’s F-150 upgrades for 2007 include a new FX2 Sport Package, which is available on 4X2 SuperCab and SuperCrew XLT models. This trim package features Styleside cargo box, dark-accent, billet-style grill insert with body color surround trim, 18-inch wheels, available 20-inch wheels and other sport-themed design features.

If you’re in the market for a more work-oriented truck, fear not. Ford continues to offer three cab choices, three cargo box lengths, two cargo box styles and five different F-150 vehicle packages: the entry-level F-150XL, the “fun and athletic” F-150 STX, the all-purpose F-150 XLT, the off-road-equipped F-150 FX4 and the luxurious F-150 Lariat. A “King Ranch” version of the Lariat model is also offered – Ford’s top-of-the-line luxury pickup truck. All cabs feature four, full-size doors for easy passenger entry and exiting.

The Ford F-150 checks in with a maximum tow rating of 10,500 pounds (when properly equipped) and a maximum payload capacity of 3,050 pounds. Ford claims both of these capabilities are class leading for pickups under 8,500 pounds.

You can spec an F-150 with three distinct engines: a 4.2-liter V-6, a 4.6-liter Triton V-8 and the top-of-the-line 5.4-liter Triton V-8 engine. The 5.4-liter Triton engine features three valves per cylinder working in conjunction with variable cam timing and other features to provide increased horsepower with quieter operating and improved fuel economy. All told, the engine delivers 300 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 365 pound-feet of torque at 3,750 rpm. An optional flex-fuel version capable of running on up to 85 percent ethanol is also available.

Regardless of the power plant selected, all Ford F-150s feature a torque-based electronic throttle control that monitors driver input to the accelerator pedal to actively control torque at the drive wheels. According to Ford, the system produces seamless and consistent engine response to driver inputs while helping to improve fuel economy and enhance the integration of vehicle systems such as the transmission, variable camshaft timing, truck speed control and engine idle speed control.

Inside the F-150, Ford has created a quiet, comfortable and functional driver and passenger environment. A flow-through center console allows you to spec two captain’s chairs with a floor shifter on FX4 and Lariat models, while trucks equipped with 40/20/40 split-front-bench seats have a different instrument panel center stack for optimized middle passenger room. A modular, overhead rail system lets you easily customize interior storage options to meet your specific needs. Individual modules designed to hold items such as first-aid kits, toolboxes, flashlights or two-way radios easily snap onto the rails wherever you prefer.

GMC Sierra 1500
Sierra pickup offerings range from a “fleet-oriented” work truck to the luxurious and exclusive Denali trim package

Like its kissing cousin the Silverado, GMC’s Sierra pickup line is all new this year. In a nod to GMC’s “Professional Grade” ad campaign, its 2007 lineup starts with two base SLE work truck trim levels, a more upscale SLT trim level and three cab styles (regular, extended and crew). Three cargo boxes are available in 5-foot, 8-inch, 6-foot, 6-inch and 8-foot lengths, and you can specify two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive for all models.

In addition to the SLE and SLT trim packages, Sierra will be offered as a distinct Denali model. Highlighted by exclusive exterior design features like a special chrome grill and rims, Sierra Denali models also feature performance enhancing upgrades such as a 6.2-liter, all-aluminum V-8 engine that is available for Denali models only.

Regardless of trim level, all Sierra models except the fleet-oriented work truck model come with chrome hood molding and a refined appearance emphasizing muscular body lines combined with rounded edges. The truck’s front end appearance is complemented by a “center-focused hood,” which engineers designed to flow outward to meet the front fenders and stamped-in rear wheel flares to heighten the truck’s wide-stance appearance.

Sierra’s engine family for 2007 centers on one V-6 and 7 V-8 engines (including the Denali-exclusive 6.2-liter engine). Two FlexFuel engines are available. These engines can burn E85 ethanol, gasoline or a combination of both fuels. To further enhance fuel economy, Sierra FlexFuel engines are partnered with GM’s Active Fuel Management System, which uses onboard computers to monitor engine performance and seamlessly transition the truck from having all eight cylinders firing when power demands are greatest, down to six and then four active cylinders as cruising speeds rise and horsepower demand falls off.

GMC has added further electronic safety enhancements to the Sierra, notably its StabiliTrak stability control system, which is standard on crew cab models and available as an option on extended cab models (as a GM segment exclusive feature). StabiliTrak works with Sierra’s improved, high-capacity brake system and four-channel, four-sensor, electronic brake controls to provide more precise, controlled ABS stops, as well as enhanced traction and lateral stability on the road. Vehicle handling is further enhanced by the new design’s wider front and rear tracks and a more responsive suspension system including a new coil-over-shock front suspension design coupled with new rack-and-pinion steering.

Nissan Titan
Higher horsepower and flex-fuel capability among ’07 standout features

The Titan full-size pickup truck from Nissan will receive relatively minor enhancements for the 2007 model year. One such upgrade is its availability as a Flexible Fuel Vehicle thanks to a new, common fuel tank designed to accommodate varying blends of gasoline with ethanol or other fuel.

Look under a Titan’s hood and you’ll find an all-aluminum, 5.6-liter V-8 gas engine. This year, that power plant gets an increased bell mouth radius on the air cleaner and port diameter on its intake manifold. These modifications helped Nissan engineers increase Titan’s horsepower rating from 305 last year to 317 horsepower. The truck’s torque rating increased as well, from 379- to 385-pound-feet. Titan’s maximum towing capacity is now 9,500 pounds for King Cab models and 9,400 pounds for properly equipped Crew Cab models.

Titan’s five-speed automatic transmission was designed especially for heavy-duty pickup applications, with an emphasis on towing capacity and performance. On four-wheel-drive models, an advanced, shift-on-the-fly transfer system features two-wheel and high and low four-wheel-drive ranges. An available off-road package offers even lower transmission gear ratios, a switch-on-demand, electronically activated locking rear differential and high-performance gas shock absorbers. Other off-road features include fog lights, large, all-terrain tires and skid plates over the oil pan, radiator and transfer case. Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering is standard for Titan pickups, as are four-wheel disc brakes with a Bosch anti-lock-braking system and electronic brake force distribution.

Two interior configurations are available in Titan crew cab models – a standard bench seat with column shifter or optional captain’s chairs with two, front bucket seats. The passenger seat can be folded flat to use as a work desk. Titan King Cab models feature wide opening rear goods that swing open 168 degrees for excellent entry and access to the rear seat and cab area.

Titan’s bed is designed to make hauling loads easier. An available Utili-track tie-down channel system uses five special C cross-section rails and removable utility cleats rated at 200 pounds each slide into the channels to provide a wide range of tie down points. The channels are open at the rear of the bed, allowing for easy cleaning when not in use. TLC

Toyota Tundra
All-new platform in ’07 has more than 10,000-pound towing capacity

Toyota will release an all-new Toyota Tundra pickup truck in North America later this spring. The company has shown advance versions of the truck to journalists and Total Landscape Care will feature in in-depth report on it in February.

For now, Toyota is only saying that the all-new, full-size vehicle platform will feature a significantly expanded wheelbase and be significantly longer than the first-generation Tundra. The new truck will be taller and wider as well and offered in three cab configurations.

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