There's Still Life in the Pickup Market

New models and upgrades prove the OEMs didn’t abandon truck owners.

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Dodge rolls into 2009 with an all-new Ram 1500 offering three engine choices. A new-generation 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with a fuel-saving Multiple Displacement System (MDS) and Variable Valve Timing (VVT) delivers 390 hp and 407 lb.-ft. of torque. An E85 flexible fuel 4.7-liter V-8 pumps out 310 hp and 330 lb.-ft. of torque, and allows operation on gasoline and ethanol mixtures. A 3.7-liter V-6 produces 215 hp and 235 lb.-ft. of torque. Its Electronic Throttle Control provides torque control, while compensating for changes in engine load.

The power plants will be mated to four- and five-speed automatic transmissions; part-time and on-demand four-wheel-drive transfer cases; and 3.21, 3.55, 3.92 and 4.10 axle ratios.

An improved frame design incorporating high-strength steel supports a new multi-link coil spring rear suspension. The result is improved ride and handling without sacrificing payload and towing capability.

For greater convenience, the Ram 1500 offers a RamBox cargo management system. Weatherproof, lockable, illuminated and drainable storage compartments are integrated into both fender sides. Each box holds up to five cases (120 cans) of 12-oz. beverages. The Ram Crew 1500 features a pair of “store in the floor” bins large enough for ten 12-oz. beverages and ice.

The 2009 Ram Heavy Duty pickups are available with a new-generation 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 gas engine. Power is transmitted through a five-speed automatic with an overdrive gear that helps to reduce noise and fuel consumption. No manual transmission is offered with this engine. A 6.7-liter Cummins turbo diesel, producing 601 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,500 rpm and 305 hp at 3,013 rpm, is also available.

To keep things under control, the Ram 3500 features larger 360mm front and 358mm rear brake rotors. The calipers have been upsized 7% with twin 60mm pistons, and brake pads are 14% thicker with a 36% larger surface area. These improvements are coupled with a factory-installed exhaust brake. The brake system promises extended service intervals and maximum stopping power, while delivering better fuel economy.

An independent, double-wishbone front suspension with coil-over shock absorbers is standard on two-wheel-drive Heavy Duty models. Four-wheel-drive versions feature a rigid-beam front axle supported by a five-link coil spring suspension. The rear suspension is composed of a heavy-duty solid axle and longitudinal springs. The Hotchkiss-design rear suspension uses leaf springs to reduce wheel hop and deliver confident handling when fully loaded.

Ram Heavy Duty pickups come in regular cab, Quad Cab and Mega Cab configurations. The Mega Cab offers 143.2 cu. ft. of interior space.


Ford unveils a new F-150 for 2009, built on a fully boxed frame constructed with hydroformed and high-strength steel side rails. This lightweight frame promises 10% more rigidity and helps deliver additional payload and towing capacity.

The standard AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control (RSC) predicts the vehicle’s path using a sensor to detect and measure oversteer and yaw by monitoring the vehicle’s speed, throttle position and steering wheel angle. When the system senses wheel slip or loss of traction, it applies braking where needed to keep the truck tracking safely on its intended path.

Trailer Sway Control works in conjunction with this system. Based on the yaw motion of the truck, it can determine if the trailer is swaying and take measures to bring both the vehicle and trailer back under control, such as applying precise braking or reduced engine torque. An integrated brake controller and rearview camera assist are also available.

The new F-150 comes in three cab styles, four box options and seven trim levels, which equate to 35 configurations. There are also 13 wheel choice options.

Three V-8 engine choices include a 5.4-liter, three-valve Triton optimized for better performance and capable of running on E85; a 4.6-liter, three-valve utilizing open valve injection for increased horsepower during towing and reduced emissions; and a 4.6-liter, two-valve promising the same fuel economy as the previously available V-6. The engines are mated to a four-speed or new fuel-efficient six-speed transmission.

The pickup box has a 65.5-cu.-ft. cargo capacity when properly equipped. A Box Side Step is available on 6.5- and 8-ft. Styleside boxes to help customers gain access to the front of the box. The tailgate step introduced on the F-Series SuperDuty is also available on the F-150.

New electronic features include Ford SYNC, a voice-activated, hands-free, in-vehicle communications and entertainment system; SIRIUS Travel Link, which provides real-time traffic and weather information; and voice-activated navigation.


Honda updates the Ridgeline for 2009 with new features and a more powerful engine. All models are now powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 250 hp at 5,700 rpm and 247 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,300 rpm. Power is transmitted through a five-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission and a Variable Torque Management (VTM-4) four-wheel-drive system. The VTM-4 system continuously proportions torque to the rear wheels during acceleration and low traction situations.

A trailer hitch is now standard on every model. A Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and a rearview backup camera are available on RTL models equipped with the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System.

Capable of accommodating 4-ft.-wide sheets of plywood between the wheel wells, the composite cargo bed gains two tie-down points, for a total of eight. An In-Bed Trunk provides hidden, dry and secure storage for luggage, tool boxes and coolers.

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General Motors

GM adds a fuel-saving six-speed transmission to its Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups equipped with 5.3-liter, 6.0-liter and 6.2-liter V-8 engines. A new 6.2-liter V-8 with variable valve timing and E85 capability is also offered on crew cab models.

New XFE (Xtra Fuel Economy) models of the Silverado and Sierra use a combination of mechanical, aerodynamic and mass reducing enhancements. This is accomplished through a lowered suspension, extended front lower air dam, soft tonneau cover, aluminum lower control arms, aluminum spare wheel, 17-in. aluminum wheels, automatic locking rear differential and low rolling resistance tires. The pickups feature a very low 0.349 coefficient of drag. XFE models are offered in two-wheel-drive crew cab body styles only.

A Silverado hybrid model will also be available. It promises a 25% improvement in overall fuel economy, while offering a 6,100-lb. towing capacity.

Convenience and safety-related features being introduced for the Silverado and Sierra 2500 and 3500 pickups include OnStar 8.0 with turn-by-turn navigation, Destination Download and available bluetooth connectivity; a NavTraffic feature; and optional rearview camera system.

Pickup boxes on the heavy-duty models are 1.18 in. deeper in the front and 1.57 in. deeper at the rear than previous generations. Stronger inner walls offer improved performance when fitted with ladder racks, tool boxes and other accessories.


Entering its fifth year of production, the Nissan Titan rolls into 2009 with revised features and equipment packages, including the Max Utility Packages. These packages combine some of the most popular towing and bed utility items.

The Titan is offered in King Cab and crew cab body styles in two-wheel or four-wheel drive with two wheelbase and four bed length options. There are also four trim levels. The PRO-4X model offers an off-road equipment package that includes Rancho shock absorbers, a lower final gear ratio, two additional skid plates and electronic locking rear differential.

The vehicle’s power is derived from a 5.6-liter DOHC Endurance V-8 engine rated at 317 hp and 385 lb.-ft. of torque, and is transmitted through a five-speed automatic transmission. A flexible fuel option enables the Titan to run on E85 fuel.


Toyota expands the Tundra full-size pickup line with an E85 flex-fuel option, available on 5.7-liter four-wheel-drive models in select regions. New Toyota Racing Development (TRD) packages include the Rock Warrior Package featuring off-road suspension and unique wheels, and the Sport Package, which is optimized for on-road performance.

With these additions, the Tundra now offers a choice of 45 models in three wheelbases, three cab styles, three bed lengths, three engines, three trim levels and two-wheel or four-wheel drive.

Available engines include a 4.0-liter V-6 that produces 236 hp at 5,200 rpm and 266 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,000 rpm; a 4.7-liter i-Force V-8 that pumps out 276 hp at 5,400 rpm and 313 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,400 rpm; and a 5.7-liter i-Force V-8 producing 381 hp at 5,600 rpm and 401 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,600 rpm. The engines are equipped with the Acoustic Control Induction System (ACIS). Butterfly valves inside the intake manifold switch the length of the intake runners in two stages based on engine speed and throttle angle, improving efficiency across the entire speed range.

The 4.0-liter V6 and 4.7-liter i-Force V-8 are teamed with a five-speed automatic transmission that features uphill/downhill shift logic. The i-Force 5.7-liter is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. An available tow package on all Tundra i-Force V-8 models increases towing capacity up to 10,800 lbs., depending on the model and drivetrain.

Wheelbases include 126.8 in. for regular cab/standard bed models; 145.7 in. for regular cab/long bed and CrewMax models; and 164.6 in. for the Double Cab/long bed models.