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2009 Pick-up Farm Truck Review

Despite auto sector troubles now, next two years bringing big changes.


February 21, 2009  By Howard J. Elmer

The 2009 Canadian Truck King Challenge fell victim to the unprecedented economic turmoil we saw last year. Simply put, manufacturers were fighting for survival rather than crowns and opted out of the challenge; not everyone, mind you, but I felt it would be unfair to run a competition where only some of the vehicles were represented.

But as you and I know, the truck business is not going away; not today or tomorrow and I continue to watch it closely. What follows is a roundup of what is happening today and what I see coming for the Canadian pickup truck market.

Consider that despite the current market upset ’09 is the setting for all new pickups from all three of Detroit’s builders along with promises of additional new engines to come. So, rather than dwelling on a dismal market we are all familiar with let’s look at what we can expect to see in the next two years.
First, fuel-saving measures from the truck makers will be coming fast and furious; new smaller diesel engines are supposed to available in the Dodge and GM half-ton trucks by the 2010 model year. This direction assumes that half-ton owners want a diesel option. But the demands on light-duty pickups are different and the price difference between gas and diesel engines, and fuel, may take some of the shine off these new half-ton diesels.


That is why GM is covering its bets by offering a hybrid pickup as well. In fact the GM two-mode hybrid system is now available in the ’09 Chevy Silverado: I drove one over Christmas and it works seamlessly.  Ford had planned on offering a half-ton diesel in 2010 but rumour now has it that this move is on hold. Instead it is pushing EcoBoost, a fuel injected gas-turbo combination that Ford says is fuel efficient and affordable. And with the price of gas they may well have it right. I reviewed purchase numbers for diesel engines, which are favourites among Ford HD truck buyers, and found they had taken a sharp dive in 2008 as the mileage on the new 6.4L Power Stroke turned out to be lower than expected, and the price of diesel higher than gas. Can someone explain to me why that is, other than greed?

EcoBoost is said to offer up to 20 percent better fuel economy, and make 15 percent less CO2 than an equivalent non-EcoBoost gas engine. It is also coming in a V-6 version, which will probably make it into the F-series pickup. Still, Dodge says that with its Cummins clean-diesel technology, its all-new turbo diesel engine the truck maker intends to deliver in the light-duty Ram pickup will increase low-end torque, offer up to a 30 percent improvement in fuel economy and a 20 percent reduction in CO2 emissions, compared to an equivalent gasoline engine.

The engine GM intends to put into its half-tons is a new 4.5L V8 Duramax turbo-diesel. In comparison to a similar sized gasoline engine GM says the 4.5L will improve fuel efficiency by 25 percent and reduces CO2 emissions by 13 percent. This new V8 diesel engine will fit the same as a small-block V8 gas engine. This then opens up the possibility of swapping engines across the line should future markets demand it. Output on this engine will be rated in excess of 310 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque.
Toyota is the other big question mark right now. But having invested over $2 billion in a new truck plant in San Antonio, Texas, building just the new Tundra, it is obvious the company is committed to being a player in the half-ton market. But its problem is that it has the fewest engine options of all the builders and, while I asked, how or when they will move forward with new powertrain offerings is a closely guarded secret; I am just sure they will, as they also have a depth of world diesel experience.  But for ’09 anyway there are no significant changes.   

The 2009 Ford F-150 has increased its offerings, with as many as 35 different configurations available.   
All photos courtesy of Howard Elmer, PowerSports Media Services.

For ’09 the F-series has expanded its offerings with a new longer wheelbase that supports a stretched four-door SuperCrew (six inches more for the backseat alone) without robbing the cargo bed for that stretch. Other choices include three box sizes (5.5, 6.5, 8-ft) and three rear axle ratios to choose from (3.15, 3.31, 3.73). There are also three engine choices and two automatic transmissions, and those seven trim levels. With these choices, as many as 35 differently configured trucks can be ordered.
The new six-speed tranny has a responsive low end and a double set of overdrive gears. This new gearbox alone contributes a four to six per cent fuel savings over the old four-speed. Also standard in ’09 is an integrated trailer brake controller, pull-out tailgate step, retractable box-side steps, stowable bed extender and available cargo management system.

Wheelbase:     126-, 133-, 144- and     163-inch

Cab Styles:    Regular, SuperCab, SuperCrew

Engine:     4.6L (two-valve) V8; 4.6L (three-valve) V8; 5.4L V8

Power:     248 hp and 294 lb-ft  of torque
                – four-speed auto 292 hp and 320 lb-ft  of torque                
                – six-speed auto 320 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque      
                – six-speed auto
Max Payload:    3000 pounds
Max Tow Rating:    11,300 pounds

NOTE: A new standard anti-sway system works automatically with the truck and trailer brakes and is designed to bring a fishtailing trailer back into line.


This new Ram gets some rounding of the fenders and a forward-tilt to the cross-hair grille, yet the truck has kept its old silhouette by pulling the lights back over the new one-piece bumper. The bigger story is inside though. The new interior features redesigned, bolstered seats, soft-touch material in two and even three colour patterns, rather than nasty hard battleship gray plastic. Elements include a new centre console, upper and lower glove boxes and a sculpted dashboard featuring chrome, leather and cloth accents, including items like real saddle stitching across the dash. Other available options include power adjustable pedals, double the number of previous storage spaces and for the first-time items like heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats and even a heated steering wheel. Engines too are largely the same as 2008 with only the 5.7 L Hemi getting a few tweaks, bumping up torque and hp with added VVT. But the tranny remains a five-speed versus the F-series six-speed gearbox. Dodge has gone with a new coil spring rear suspension that changes the ride of the solid rear axle for the better.

NOTE: Mega Cab, the oversized four-door crew that put a new spin on the term Cowboy Limousine is gone from the 1500 series; it is strictly an HD option now.

Wheelbase:     120-, 140-inchCab Styles:Regular Cab, Quad Cab, Crew Cab

Engine:    3.7L V6 (four-speed automatic) ; 4.7L V8 (five-speed  automatic);
                5.7L V8 Hemi MDS (five-speed automatic)

Power:       215 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque                  
                   310 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque                   
                   390 hp and 407 lb-ft  of torque

Max Payload:     1900 pounds

Max Tow Rating:     9100 pounds


The Chevy Silverado Hybrid can save up to 30 percent of fuel costs with its two engine modes.

This two-mode hybrid is designed to power the full-sized Silverado pickup truck from zero up to 30 km/h on electric power in one mode, then to assist the cylinder deactivation function of the V8 engine by adding in power at highway speeds so the engine can remain in four-cylinder-only operation for as long as possible.  That is its second mode. The net result is a possible fuel savings of up to 30 percent says GM.

The key to this capability is the ECVT or electric continuously variable transmission. With its unique setup of two 60 kW electric motors. Also at stoplights the engine shuts off while all the electrical functions remain on. This too saves fuel, particularly for trucks used mostly in the city. But if you do hit the gas hard, the engine responds normally. This Hybrid can handle normal pickup payloads and will also tow as well.

Wheelbase:    143.5-inch

Cab Style:     Crew Cab   

Engine:     6.0L V8

Power:     332 hp and 367 lb-ft  of torque       
                – four-speed auto

Max Payload:     1459 pounds

Max Tow Rating:     6100 pounds

Note: This particular hybrid system is the only one rated to tow this much weight; I have driven it and it works well. The question is, is it worth $10,000 more than a non-hybrid?

Into the second year of its last major half-ton overhaul, these GM pickups are pretty much the same for 2009. In fact they have been well received in the market and continue to sell well. They have won a number of awards and they offer enough versions to satisfy pretty much any need.

    GM 1500-series

Wheelbase:     119-, 133- and  157.5-inch

Cab Styles:     Regular Cab, Extended Cab, Crew Cab

Engine:     4.3L / 4.8L V8 / 5.3L FlexFuel V8/ 5.3L AFM V8 / 6L AFM V8

Power:     195 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque
                 295 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque
                 315 hp and 338 lb-ft of torque
                 315 hp and 338 lb-ft of torque
                 367 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque

Max Payload:     1952 pounds

Max Tow Rating:     10,500 pounds


Stainless steel side step bars and rear parking sensors are just a few of the features on the 2009 Tundra. 

For the Tundra, 2009 is a hold steady year, though there are a few small changes. First the 4.7L engine option has been dropped, so the 5.7L V8 is the only engine for this year. A new A-suffix base model will offer 40/20/40 Split bench seat, steering column shifter, 18 inch styled steel wheels and manually-adjustable driver seat for more of a work truck. At the other end of the scale Tundra now offers an “i-Force” package which includes things like 20 inch aluminum alloy wheels, tri-fold hard tonneau cover, bedliner, stainless steel side step bars, front and rear parking sensors, special colours and detailing. Tundra continues to offer a four-door cab called CrewMax. This last one mimics the MegaCab introduced by Dodge in 2007.

    126, 145.7 and 164.6-inch

Cab Styles:     Regular,
    Double, Crew Max   

Engine:     5.7L V8
Power: 381 hp and 401 lb-ft  of torque

Max Payload:     1900 pounds

Max Tow Rating:     10,800 pounds

NOTE:  Previously hinted at expansion into the medium-duty truck market seems to be on hold as does the diesel – in fact they do not seem quite as gung-ho as they did in 2007 about being in this market.


DODGE 2500 – 5500

This year Dodge offers new Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cab models. The two engines of note are the 5.7 Hemi, which has added Variable Valve Timing and the 6.7L diesel that is now available with a remote start feature. The Hemi’s fuel economy is up four percent and its horsepower now hits 380 as a result of VVT. The Cummins diesel with automatic transmission also offers a unique engine exhaust brake that can save money on rotors and pads.

NOTE: There is an all-new Gooseneck Trailer Hitch for Dodge Ram Heavy-duty Pickups. The gooseneck trailer hitch from Mopar mounts in the pickup bed using a kit that attaches directly to the frame rails.

   2500, 3500, 4500 and 5500 Series

Wheelbase:     120.5-, 140.5-, 160.5,188.5-inch

Cab Styles:     Regular Cab, Quad Cab, Crew Cab, Mega

Engine:      6.7L I6 diesel –
six-speed auto
5.7L V8 – five-speed auto

Power:      350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque
                  345 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque

Max Payload:     11,800 pounds

Max Tow Rating:     18,050 pounds



For 2009 Ford’s TowCommand System returns as an option. It includes a factory-installed electronic brake controller that now works with the anti-lock braking system The TorqShift five-speed automatic transmission also has Tow/Haul mode. Also available is a PTO feature and dash-installed extra power switches for any number of custom applications and/or ready for upfitters equipment installations. Twin alternators in the Super Duty supply enough power for multiple uses including hydraulic add-ons. PowerScope trailer tow mirrors are large, heated mirrors that slide-out at the push of a button affording a clear view down the sides of a towed trailer. A stylish new “Big Dog Daddy” F-450 has in excess of 24,000 pounds of towing capacity and a max payload of 6000 pounds

NOTE: I found out the hard way that the new 6.4L diesel has a flaw. After getting a “check air filter” warning I found it packed with snow. Ford is aware of the problem and is now providing a winter front cover as a remedy to any customer who experiences this problem. Make sure you ask the dealer about it.

   SuperDuty F250, F350 and F450

Wheelbase:     137-, 141.8-, 156.2-, 158-, 172.4-inch

Cab Styles:     Regular Cab, SuperCab and SuperCrew

Engine:     5.4L V8 / 6.8L V10/6.4L V8 diesel

Power:     300 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque
                 362 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque
                 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque

Max Payload:     6120 pounds

Max Tow Rating:     24,000 pounds


With the GM 3500-series, General Motors has stayed with Ford and Dodge in offering best-in-class payload.

GM HEAVY DUTY 2500 – 4500
The 2009 3500-series pickup trucks come standard with the 6L V8 and the six-speed Hydra-Matic transmission. Included are two overdrive gears and a manual range selector with tap up/tap down gear shifting. Optional is the new Duramax 6.6L diesel and the new six-speed Allison automatic. Moving in step with Ford and Dodge, GM now has an all-new 4500 chassis cab that they say will offer a best-in-class payload. It will be available with either the Vortec 6.0L or the Duramax 6.6L turbo diesel. Both come with a new Hydra-Matic four-speed automatic transmission or the six-speed Allison.

    2500 and 3500-Series

Wheelbase:     133-, 143.5-, 153-, 157.5-inch

Cab Styles:     Regular Cab, Extended Cab, Crew Cab

Engine:     6L V8 / 6.6L V8 diesel

Power:      353 hp and 373 lb-ft of torque
                  365 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque

Max Payload:     9100 pounds

Max Tow Rating:     16,700 pounds


*Howard Elmer is editor of Truck King Media Group. 


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