Upgraded haulers

What's new in trucks from the LA and Detroit auto shows

March 29, 2017
by Howard J Elmer

The Ram Rebel TRX concept is a full-engineered and designed pickup meant for extreme off-roading. Images courtesy of: Howard J Elmer.

From the February 2017 print edition

Chevrolet has re-ignited the mid-size truck segment with its Colorado and GMC Canyon. That may be old news but going into the third year of production the General has made sure it keeps the buzz going by adding something in each of these model years. First, the original debut brought back the trucks that some said there was no market for—wrong. Last year they followed it up with a diesel engine option, a first in this segment and a first for small diesel in trucks period. This year at the LA Auto Show, Chevy went all in on an off-road version of its small truck—the Colorado ZR2.

This is not a decal package; it will feature front and rear electronic locking differentials; an available gas or diesel engine; and the first off-road application of Ontario-based Multimatic’s Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSVTM) damper technology.

The 2017 Colorado ZR2 underneath.

This technology cut its teeth in the Corvette and Camaro performance packages; now its unique shock technology goes off-road in the ZR2. This is a fully mechanical system, and initial reports suggest it’s unlike anything currently serving the off-road truck market. The ZR2 frame is lifted and runs 17×8-inch aluminum wheels in a pattern exclusive to the ZR2. Tires are 31-inch Goodyear Duratrac off-road tires.

Driving those tires is probably the most sophisticated four-wheel drive system in this segment. The components include electronic-locking differentials front and rear and Chevrolet’s AutoTrac transfer case. With these parts, nine drive configurations are possible.

Looks like the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is finally going to have some competition. Or, put another way, the mid-size off-road truck market finally offers another choice to buyers. These trucks will be coming to dealers in the early spring of 2017.

Ford F-150 diesel
So, while Chevy was first out of the gate at LA in November, Ford followed up in Detroit in January with a blockbuster of an announcement. The best selling truck in Canada for the past 51 years is getting a diesel engine option.

The 2017 Colorado ZR2 onstage.

Yes, the 2018 F-150 will offer an all-new 3L Power Stroke V6 turbo diesel. (No horsepower or torque specs are available yet for this engine.) This move, though, is just one of the coming upgrades to this venerable nameplate. For 2018 all engine offerings will be updated and include a standard Auto Stop/Start feature across the line. The new standard F-series engine will be 3.3L V6 EcoBoost that will offer the same 282hp and 253 lb.ft. of torque as the current 3.5L V6.
The current 2.7L EcoBoost is also being updated to a second-generation offering that will feature direct injection technology and improved durability. The 5L V8 will also be improved and also matched (for the first time) to the 10-speed automatic transmission. In fact, this transmission will be matched to all of Ford’s 2018 engine’s including the new diesel.

This new F-150 will also get an updated look. Seen on the stage in Detroit we saw new grilles, headlamps and bumpers that made the truck appear even wider and more planted than the current model. A new sculpted tailgate also had “F-150” stamped into the metal.

The 2018 Ford F-150 will offer an all-new 3L Power Stroke turbo diesel.

Another feature that Ford is heavily promoting is its electronic technologies. For instance, in the new truck the Start/Stop function will also work with the adaptive cruise control. The truck will have Pre-Collision Assist and Pedestrian Detection. It will also come with a 4G LTE modem and a WiFi hot spot that can handle up to 10 mobile devices at one time. These trucks should arrive in the last quarter of this year.

So, while all-new trucks are few and far between in any given year, all the manufacturers are engaged in upgrading systems and components that make up those trucks.

For instance GM has announced a new Duramax diesel engine offering. The original Duramax which has sold over two million copies since 2001 is now updated 2017. What’s offered is a new 6.6L V8 turbo-diesel that has been redesigned with a new cylinder block and heads. Oil and coolant flow capacity has been increased, and the turbocharging system is now electronically controlled.

Horsepower has increased to 445 and torque now reaches 910lb-ft. Ninety percent of both numbers are achieved at just 1,550rpm.

The Ram Rebel TRX concept.

As part of this second generation Duramax GM is offering a new patent-pending air intake system. This new intake uses an integrated hood scoop (available on 2017 HD Silverado and Sierra) with a trap for snow, sleet, and rain, allowing cool, dry air to get to the engine without clogging up the intake.

Ram showed some paint and plastic in the way of “special editions” at the shows. These are nice, but not technical in any way. The one exception is a concept (which actually was shown first in Texas during the Texas State Fair) called the Ram Rebel TRX. Dubbed a concept by FCA; it could easily be built—and the reaction in Texas suggests that they’d do well with it if they did built it.

The ZR2 frame is lifted and runs 17×8-inch wheels in an exclusive pattern.

Based on the Ram 1500, this is not a show truck. It is a fully-engineered and -designed pickup meant for extreme off-roading. It starts with a 575-hp 6.2-litre HEMI V8 coupled to a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission. Front and rear axles are built for severe duty, and the truck sports 13 inches of wheel travel at all four corners. The use of bypass performance shocks at the front and rear should mean impressive damping ability.