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  • Commercial Interests: Work Trucks in Today's Market

Commercial Interests: Work Trucks in Today's Market

Howard J Elmer
Aug 22, 2008
Commercial trucks aren't just for the job site anymore. In fact, as payloads and towing capacities go up, more people who need larger trucks to haul cargo and tow their fifth-wheels, horse trailers, etc., see commercial vehicles as a creative solution. Likewise, as companies like Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, and International take note of these buyers, the manufacturers are coming to market with more luxurious and appointed models. The success of the Super Duty F-450 and Ram 5500 Chassis Cabs are just two examples that could lead to more growth in this segment. Toss stronger, smarter, and more efficient turbodiesels into the mix, and the possibilities are nearly endless. For now, each of the major players is bringing something new to the table, with several more ready to make the jump. In the short term, look for Nissan and Toyota to enter the heavy-duty market, with GM and International making changes in the long run.
Photo 2/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 Dodge Sprinter
DODGE
For 2009, Dodge continues to expand its position in the work-truck market with new chassis offerings and engine upgrades. A bit player until the arrival of the Mercedes-built Sprinter commercial van in 2003, Dodge has increased its available offerings threefold in the last five years. This year the key trucks, the Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cab models, offer better fuel economy and new trim levels, and now have up to 1172 pounds of payload capacity. Also added is an all-new institutional package for ambulances and increased PTO output.
Photo 3/15   |   commercial Trucks heavy Duty Dodge Ram
The two engines of note are the 5.7 Hemi, now with variable valve timing, and the 6.7-liter diesel, now available with remote start. The Hemi's fuel economy is up four percent and its horsepower now hits 380 as a result of VVT. The Cummins diesel (when backed by an automatic transmission) also offers a unique engine exhaust brake that can save money on rotors and pads. For dealers that specialize in these trucks look for the Dodge BusinessLink designation.
- The towing ability of the Sprinter has increased to 7500 pounds, and the van can be ordered with the hitch and electrical couplings right from the factory.
- There's an all-new gooseneck trailer hitch available for Dodge Ram Heavy-Duty pickups. The hitch from Mopar mounts in the pickup bed using a kit that attaches directly to the frame rails.
Photo 4/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 Ford F450
FORD
Of all the work-truck builders, Ford offers the most options. For 2009 it hangs onto that title with new models and more features. 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. To complement this capacity, Ford offers power-fold and telescoping mirrors and TowCommand that includes an integrated trailer brake controller and transmission setting. F-450s, 550s, and even 650s are available in chassis cab, clean-rail configurations while still offering a choice of regular cab, SuperCab, or SuperCrew with several trim packages.
Photo 5/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 Ford E Series
While a V-10 gas engine is standard, the engine of choice for these trucks is the new 6.4-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel that makes 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. For the first time a factory spray-in bedliner will also be available.
New 2009 Ford E-Series vans also are improved with better handling, cargo security technologies, and the return of the diesel engine option. Also new is a revised steering system and front and rear suspensions. These improvements have increased load capability to a 14,500-pound GVWR. The E-450 comes standard with the 5.4-liter V-8 (E-150, 250, and 350 come standard with the 4.6), and the 6.0-liter Power Stroke diesel is available on E-350 commercial cargo vans, E-350 regular-length wagons, and E-350 and E-450 cutaways.
- New optional suspensions have bumped the GVWR on the E-350 from 11,500 pounds to 12,500.
Photo 6/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 Ford F450 Supercrew
Photo 7/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 Ford E Series
Photo 8/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 GMC Kodiak
GENERAL MOTORS
This year, 3500 Series pickup trucks come standard with the 6.0-liter V-8 and the six-speed Hydra-Matic transmission. Included are two overdrive gears and a manual range selector with tap up/tap down gear shifting. The new Duramax 6.6-liter diesel and the six-speed Allison automatic are optional.
While GM's TopKick and Kodiak medium-duty trucks (4x2 and 4x4) are currently available as 2008 models, GM has entered into a tentative agreement with International Truck and Engine Corporation to sell those brands. So, what 2009 holds isn't clear. The deal should be done in the next few months. At the same time though, GM will continue to offer its W Series cab-forward medium-duty trucks it introduced just last year, and it has completely revamped its full-size commercial and institutional van lineup for 2009. An all-new 4500 chassis cab will offer a best-in-class payload of 9100 pounds and a GVWR of 14,200. It will be available with either the Vortec 6.0-liter or the Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel. Both come with a new Hydra-Matic four-speed automatic.
Photo 9/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 Chevy Interior
- A fuel-operated heater is now standard for vans equipped with the 6.6-liter Duramax to quickly provide heat to the vehicle's interior in cold weather.
- Express' new instrument cluster now includes:
• Service notices for the fuel filter, exhaust filter, and air-conditioning system
• Warnings for hot transmission, disengaged traction control, low fuel level, and attempted vehicle theft
• Turn-signal reminder, gas-cap reminder, and notice that the vehicle's top speed is limited
Photo 10/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 Chevy 3500 HD
Photo 11/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 Chevy 4500 HD Cutaway

MERCEDES-BENZ
Unimog trucks are known for severe service performance. These vehicles roam underground mines, do mountain rescues, and cross Antarctica regularly. This year marks the entry of a new Unimog--the U 20. Smaller than most of the other 'Mogs, it has a GCWR of around 18,000 pounds. It features an all-wheel-drive setup with differential locks, power takeoffs, and a powerful hydraulic system. It's powered by a four-cylinder 904 LA diesel engine, which also features the new ultraclean Bluetec technology.
Photo 12/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 Mercedes Benz Unimog U20
The eight-speed transmission allows the vehicle to run at speeds of between 0.6 and 55 mph. Being smaller it's also highly maneuverable with a wheelbase of just 106 inches. Incidentally, the U 20 is the first Unimog built as a cab-over design and the all-steel cab also features a storage box behind it. In the United States, Unimogs are available through select Freightliner dealers.
- The Unimog's ground clearance is greater than the military's Humvee, made possible by using portal gears that allow the axles and transmission to be higher than the tires' centers. Most Unimogs can be equipped with front and rear hydraulic equipment connections.
STERLING
The Bullet covers Class 3 to 6 specs and is offered through Sterling Truck dealers. Essentially, though, what you're buying is a Dodge Ram. Why, then, does the Bullet exist? Having made it clear that it wanted to reenter the chassis-cab business in 2006, Dodge spread its net as wide as possible by creating the Bullet for Sterling. Of course, that was when they were cousins, both part of DaimlerChrysler. Even with the divorce, this deal remains in place.
Photo 13/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 Sterling Bullet
The Bullet features Cummins' 6.7-liter engine with the new exhaust brake, a power takeoff prep package, and a 34-inch-wide, 50,000-psi frame, ready for upfitting. It can be ordered with a regular cab in four wheelbases or as a Quad Cab in two wheelbases. GVWRs range from 16,500 to 19,500 pounds for both regular and Quad Cab with a max GCWR of 26,000 pounds. It can also be spec'd as two- or four-wheel drive with optional snowplow and towing packages.
- XT trucks can be ordered with touchscreen CD/DVD, GPS navigation, ivory-faced sport gauges, power windows and doors, embroidered custom floormats; center floor console; metallic silver accents and padded full-length armrests for cool cruising.
Photo 14/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 International MXT
INTERNATIONAL
We probably won't see how International will repackage the GM TopKick and Kodiak until next year. In the meantime, the big news is an all-new engine lineup that's prompted a fuel-economy challenge offered by International on its medium-duty trucks equipped with the new MaxxForce diesel engines. These promise at least a seven-percent improvement in consumption. If a customer doesn't get at least that much after six months over his previous qualifying truck, International will give him a $1000 fuel card.
Photo 15/15   |   commercial Trucks 2009 International MXT Engine
Several versions of this engine are available including those that will now power the XT family of trucks. Covering class 4, 5, and 6, the CXT, RXT, and MXT are available with pickup bodies, chassis cabs, or as custom haulers--like the new RXT that will haul 14.75 tons with a MaxxForce 9 diesel that makes 310 horsepower and a remarkable 950 pound-feet of torque. These trucks are also available with a twin-range 4WD setup and plenty of space to carry five adults.
- Base-model options include cruise control, foglights, power windows and locks, power tow mirrors, and radio options, while GPS, power seats, and an Infinity MP3/CD player are options on the Premium models. The six-speed offers a "best-in-class" gear ratio spread.

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