2014/15 Pickups Preview
The Best Selling Vehicles in the U.S.A.
For over four decades, the best selling vehicle sold in this country is a pickup truck. Last year, two pickups were at the top of the annual vehicle sales chart. Every month, we buy around 150,000-200,000 pickups – either for business or personal use.
The symbol of Americana has been domesticated, becoming the family vehicle that hauls families, boats, the backyard project and our work home. You could equip them with virtually nothing or go for every convenience known to even the most discriminating consumer.
While full-sized, half-ton pickups rule the market, there is a push to buy even smaller. However, the old minitruck is all grown-up to a fraction of its full-sized brethren. We are now seeing pickups improve in fuel economy, either through turbocharging, diesel fuel alternatives or other technologies to make engines more efficient from within.
If you know your trucks, you may be familiar with what is available. Here is a listing of all the trucks available on the market – or soon to be available.
CHEVROLET: General Motors is going with a “three truck strategy,” offering a broad range of options for more pickup buyers. The new strategy began with the Silverado half-ton. Some may have criticized the Silverado for not going “far enough.” Though the cab may appear to have not been given a more adventurous design, Chevrolet retains a straightforward approach to maintaining brand identity. The engines have been rebranded as “Ecotec 4,” but the three-mill lineup received cylinder deactivation and direct fuel injection across the board. The interior received a major refresh that works in Chevrolet’s favor. Not to mention, the Silverado exhibited some much needed improvements on the ride/handling mix with driving manners almost akin to a car. The Silverado now has a new luxury model at the top of the range – the High Country.
Following up on the new half-ton is the 2015 HD lineup. The three-quarter and one-ton pickups already established a reputation for strength, rigidity and diesel performance. The new cab and bed design expands on the half-ton’s design language by mixing boldness with accessibility. The interior design from the half-ton is also seen in the HD models.
Rounding out GM’s trio is the mid-sized 2015 Colorado. Though it appears to be a slight fraction smaller than the half-ton Silverado, the new truck is designed to make the job more attainable. A series of four- and V6 engines will join a new Duramax diesel designed specifically for the Colorado and its global brethren. In case you are wondering, the Colorado is sold worldwide in places such as Thailand, Australia, Brazil and South Africa – proven to be a very popular pickup in those markets. Chevrolet hopes it will be popular here given the proposed price point and available diesel engine.
FORD: The F-Series is the best selling vehicle in this country – period. This year, the Super Duty received some updates on the Power Stroke diesel, as well as other cosmetic changes. It is not hard to see why the Super Duty leads amongst heavy-duty pickups in both three-quarter and one-ton segments. Super Duty pickups are also available in heavier duty versions, some will be revised for 2015 for more capability and capacity.
Most of the F-Series sales go to the F-150 half-ton pickup. In the coming months, the 2015 model will arrive in showrooms with a new twist on the full-sized pickup. The new F-150 will have all-aluminum cab and bed, while still bolted to a rolled steel frame. Ford will introduce a second EcoBoost engine in the new F-150, a 2.7liter V6 with a turbocharger and promised performance and efficiency. Ford claims a savings of 700 pounds on the 2015 F-150 over the 2013/14 models. The promise is there; its fans and owners are waiting for the new truck to arrive.
GMC: Mirroring Chevrolet’s take on GM’s “three truck strategy,” GMC went a step further by creating a distinguished look to separate itself from the bowtie. The new Sierra half-ton came out with a mix of subtlety and luxury. There is a definite upscale look to the Sierra further positioning it towards the middle of the full-sized truck market. The same improvements are seen in the Sierra, with the new Ecotec 4 engine lineup, the improved rode/handling mix and updated interiors.
The 2015 Sierra HD is now available in showrooms, again following the pattern of Chevrolet. While most specifications are the same between the two brands, GMC continues its design theme distinguishing itself as more upscale The Denali versions retain its top booking as the most luxurious pickups sold by GM.
To join the Colorado is the mid-sized 2015 Canyon. Similar to the Chevrolet and its global variants, the Canyon shows off the same design language as the larger Sierra pickups. GMC promises to have the same engines and powertrains as its Chevrolet twin, but will make further distinctions between the two pickups – a major break from the past.
HONDA: The only remaining unibody truck available in this market is the 2014 Ridgeline. With the Ridgeline, you get a four-door spacious cab, four-wheel drive with a 250 horsepower 3.5liter V6 powering it. The truck part offers a payload of around 1,500 pounds and a 5,000-pound towing capacity with five trim levels to choose from. In essence, the Ridgeline competes amongst the midsized trucks – the Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma and the upcoming 2015 Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon – even with the integrated cab-bed design. Another reason to consider the Ridgeline – it is a Honda after all.
NISSAN: The Frontier and Titan have been with us for a while with minimal changes. They represent a solid core of truck available in our market. The Frontier is a global product sold everywhere Nissan sells trucks. Though showing its age, nothing beats its four-wheel drive system and powerful VQ40 4.0liter V6 – especially in the Pro-X trim. There may be some changes coming up with Nissan’s new ties to Cummins for a series of diesel pickup engines. A concept with a small Cummins engine was shown at the Chicago Auto Show. Will it make it into production? Stay tuned…
However, we should see a new full-sized Titan as early as next year. Fred Diaz left Chrysler’s truck brand for a more expansive role at Nissan North America. He was brought in to redo the full-sized pickup. The fruits of his labors, including a new Cummins V8 turbocharged diesel, is being positioned for its unveiling in Detroit come January, 2015. In the meantime, the current Titan soldiers on with its 5.6liter V8, no nonsense design and half-ton capability. If you do not wait, you could get some of the best deals in pickup history.
RAM: Most automotive pundits will tell you that Chrysler’s truck line is considered the best pickup in the market. A distinctive cab design with high interior quality and components cement Ram’s reputation. Not to mention HEMI V8 power and a coil spring set up in the rear instead of standard-issue leaf springs. The 1500 gets the added bonus of the EcoDiesel V6 turbocharged oil burner from VM Motori.
Some of the 1500’s improvements are now being deployed on its Heavy Duty lineup – mainly the 2500 and 3500. Capability is up, as well. Ram has always been one to exhibit massive towing and payload capabilities in their Heavy Duty trucks. The key engine to get is the Cummins turbocharged diesel with its mountain of torque supporting Ram’s big capability numbers. You could also opt for the new HEMI 6.4liter gas V8 – a truck-tuned version of SRT’s hammer. Finally, quality is up across the Ram truck line – another reason to consider these pickups.
TOYOTA: Reputation is where you win or lose in the truck game. Toyota has always built solid trucks with substantial frames and capable four-wheel drive systems. The mid-sized Tacoma is the direct ascendant to this legacy dating from Toyota’s early years in the USA. For its size, it is a powerful truck – especially when equipped with the 4.0liter V6 and four-wheel drive.
Stepping up to the Tundra, you get a solid half-ton pickup that will compete with its rivals. You do get a range of engines, topping off with the i-Force 5.7liter V8, the most spacious crew cab in its class and a choice of trims that suits everyone’s tastes. However, if you wait a few more months, you could opt for a true off-road experience on either the 2015 Tacoma and Tundra – the TRD Pro. If Toyota needed an injection of fun onto their truck line – Toyota Racing Development has the cure with a package that changes an already strong four-wheel drive system and adds a suspension set-up worth scaling mountains and canyons.