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TRUCK REVIEW

Matching and catching


November 15, 2007
By Top Crop Manager

Rounding up the most recent pickup truck introductions is a combination of
reporting on who is matching or outdoing the competition as well as who is introducing
the next advancement in features and design. Undoubtedly, the modern pickup
has become a product that is suited as much for urban sporty drivers as it is
for the utility commercial users, like farmers, contractors, tradesmen and the
like: the ones that really do have a use for a truck!

In the 'who is catching' category, Ford introduced its upgraded F-150 line
in 2004, advancing its features to reach or surpass recent GM and Dodge releases.
Setting a new benchmark is GM's hybrid line. And in the 'matching' sector, Nissan
and Toyota have brought out full-size pickups, offering agricultural users who
have reasonable dealer access another option when they are ready to trade the
farm workhorse.

Ford F-150
Smooth ride and precise handling have improved the driving habits of Ford's
flagship truck. It has a stiffer, fully boxed frame and new suspension which
uses outboard-mounted shock absorbers and wider rear leaf springs. Power has
been boosted with a new 5.4 litre 300 horsepower three valve-per-cylinder Triton
V8. A four speed automatic transmission is standard.

Towing capacity is rated at 9500 pounds, 9300 pounds for the 4X4 version. The
box size has been enlarged and has a maximum payload of 2900 pounds. The regular
box sizes are 6.5 and eight feet and the SuperCab model has a box 5.5 feet long.
Tailgate Assist is a new feature.

The F-150 has a more aggressive look with a wider front-end stance. Visibility
is improved with side window drops and in-cab features have also been given
some design attention.

GM hybrid
The heart of GM's hybrid Sierra truck is an electric motor located between the
engine and the transmission. True hybrids actually power the truck at cruising
speeds, so you could say this one doesn't exhibit all the traits of both parents!
However, the electric motor provides starting power and generates up to 4.8kW
of electricity which is stored in a 42 volt battery pack as the engine coasts
or decelerates. Urban users save fuel when the engine shuts down at traffic
lights and the battery operates heater and other electrical functions. When
the throttle is pushed, the engine restarts. The batteries also provide 110
volt 20amp power for outlets in the cab and box. Likely cost over the gasoline
equivalent truck is about $3500. Diesel versions now in service with the US
military will be coming in the next few years, apparently.

Nissan Titan
Nissan's challenge to the 'big three' comes with 305 horsepower and 380ft.lb
of torque from its 5.6 litre Endurance V8 and five speed automatic transmission.
"This truck is a rocket! The acceleration is great as is the handling,
although a little too rough and springy over bumps compared with the Ford F-150,"
says Scott Jamieson, editor of Canadian Forest Industries, a sister publication
of Top Crop Manager. Having road tested the Titan, he reports that inside
and out, the Titan is more aggressive in style than GM and Ford equivalents.
There are three trim levels available.

The truck has high clearance, heavy-duty frame and undercarriage, 4WD including
low range, protected bed liner and competitive towing capacity of 9500 pounds.

Toyota Tacoma
With its V6 four litre engine and variable valve timing and 'intelligent' electronic
throttle control, the Toyota Tacoma boasts 245 horsepower and 282ft.lb of torque.
It is available in 2WD and 4WD with a five speed automatic or six speed manual
transmission.

Though it is not really a full-size truck, extended cab and double cab options
are available and there are three box lengths, from 153cm to 187cm (60 to 70
inches) and wheelbase is dependent on choice of cab and box size. Front suspension
is gas shock absorber and double wishbone and rear suspension features leaf
springs.

Sport and function
Honda is building its new Ridgeline sport utility truck at Alliston, Ontario,
based partly on the facility's ability to build quality and reliability into
its vehicles. It is billed as a 'light-duty' truck and is Honda's first step
into the pickup market, with expected annual Canadian sales of 5000 vehicles.
The truck is a uni-body design built on a frame with two longitudinal members
and seven cross-members. It has a 225 horsepower V6 with 252ft.lb of torque
driving through a five speed automatic transmission. A fully automatic 4WD system
directs up to 70 percent of torque to the rear. Towing capacity is 5000 pounds
and payload is half a ton in a five foot long box (four feet between wheel wells).

A unique feature is a 8.5cu.ft below-bed trunk. -30-

 


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