Trucks are the best-selling segment in Canada, and that is a bonus for those who buy them for work. With so much demand, they are being updated far more frequently than they have in the past.
That can increase the price, but the other hand, many trucks are using much less fuel than ever before. And engine improvements, combined with synthetic oil, help space out scheduled maintenance to provide cost savings despite the oil’s higher price tag.
While some fuel efficiency technologies provide only minor improvements on their own, they add up when they are all combined on a vehicle. Some automakers use small-displacement turbocharged engines, saving fuel under moderate load and producing power when required (although these can get thirsty when towing).
Cylinder deactivation shuts off some cylinders when full power is not needed, while start/stop technology turns off the engine at idle. Improved cooling, friction reduction, electric power steering, and mild hybrid systems also help.
Lightweight materials such as high-strength steel, aluminum, and composite materials reduce weight and improve efficiency. However, you seldom get “something for nothing,” and they can increase damage repair costs. Consider all factors when it is time to replace your service vehicle.
What contractors are buying:
“In spite of all the available add-ons, many contractors think simple is good. “We need a three-quarter-ton long-box with crew cab, and that’s all that matters,” says Ken Swann, president of Interwest Mechanical Ltd. in Saskatoon, SK. “We need to be able to take a minimum crew of four, and we sometimes haul trailers with it. It has to have Bluetooth, because the guys need to be able to talk on their cell phones. The work trucks all come standard with air, tilt and cruise, and that’s about all we need. Any time you start looking at options, you’re increasing the cost of the vehicle.”
Tom Coleman, asset manager for G.J. Cahill & Company Ltd. in St. John’s, NL, doubles down on safety. “We buy work trucks, but I like to have backup alarms and cameras. Some people say it makes drivers complacent, but I like it. And rearview defrosters should be standard in pickup trucks. Sometimes they steam up and you can’t see out the back. I also like heated mirrors, because it’s good to have clear mirrors for safety.”
What’s all-new for 2019
There is a lot happening for 2019: all-new trucks, and other models getting new engines. While full specifications are not yet available, here are the basics on what is coming.
All-new heavy-duty trucks tend to arrive a year or two after the half-tons, so be patient if you are waiting on the heftier version.
Chevrolet Silverado – The all-new model has a longer wheelbase, but it is up to 200 kg. lighter. The bed is wider, has a high-strength steel floor, and contains available locking bins.
There are still 5.3-L and 6.2-L V8 choices, but they are a completely new design, and their sophisticated cylinder deactivation can run combinations from one to eight pistons. A new Duramax 3.0-L inline six-cylinder diesel is coming, and it and the 6.2-litre use a 10-speed automatic transmission.
GMC Sierra – The Silverado’s sibling is also all-new, and will offer the same powertrain options as Chevrolet. A MultiPro Tailgate with six functions and positions, including second-tier loading and a standing workstation, will be available. Alongside the standard steel bed, the Sierra will offer an industry-exclusive version with carbon fibre panels, although it is unlikely to end up in very many fleets.
Ford F-150 – Along with a mild facelift, the 2019 F-150 adds an all-new 2.7-L EcoBoost V6 engine making 400 lb-ft of torque, and 3.0-L Power Stroke V6 diesel engine making 440 lb-ft of torque, both with 10-speed automatic transmissions. Consumers can only get the diesel in top-level trims, but fleets can in all levels of SuperCrew, and SuperCab with 6.5-ft. bed. Also new are low-speed adaptive cruise control, and emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
Ford Ranger – The Ranger returns as a midsize truck, carrying a 2.3-L EcoBoost four-cylinder with 10-speed automatic transmission. It will come in SuperCab or SuperCrew configuration.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – There are new styling cues, more cabin storage including lockable compartments, and connected fleet management. Available in rear- or all-wheel drive, the Sprinter will offer 2.1-L four-cylinder or 3.0-L V6 diesel engines. A gasoline engine will also be added. There are five tonnages, three body lengths, and two roof heights.
Ram 1500 – The all-new Ram is larger but lighter and boasts a stronger frame, and maximum towing capacity of 12,750 lbs. It uses a new 3.6-L V6 or 5.7-L V8. Both are available with a mild hybrid eTorque system that provides a burst of extra torque when needed, and start/stop capacity. The battery recharges with regenerative braking and doesn’t need plugging in. The 3.0-L V6 EcoDiesel is expected to return later in the model year.
2018 models | full-size trucks
Ford F-150 – Five engines are available: naturally-aspirated 3.3-L V6 and 5.0-L V8, and turbocharged 2.7-L V6, 3.5-L V6, and a high-output 3.5-L V6 that makes 510 lb-ft of torque. The truck’s all-aluminum body (with steel frame) is unique to Ford.
Ford Super Duty – The F-250, F-350 and F-450 offer a 6.2-L V8 gas engine, or 6.7-L V8 PowerStroke diesel making 935 lb-ft of torque. Conventional towing maxes out at 21,000 lbs.
Ram 1500 – Engine choices are a 3.6-L V6, 5.7-L V8, or 3.0-L V6 EcoDiesel that makes 420 lb-ft of torque. Maximum towing is 10,640 lbs. The optional air suspension improves the ride and auto-levels a loaded truck, but its weight cuts into payload.
Ram Heavy-Duty – The 2500 and 3500 gasoline choices are a 5.7-L or 6.4-L V8. There is also a 6.7-L inline-six Cummins diesel that makes 800 or 930 lb-ft of torque, depending on which automatic transmission it has. You can also get a stick shift, which drops the torque to 660 lb-ft.
Nissan Titan – A rearview camera is now standard on all models. The Titan uses a 5.6-L V8 and can tow up to 9,760 lbs. Bumper-to-bumper warranty is five-years/160,000-km on Titan and Titan XD.
Nissan Titan XD – Nissan says the XD “bridges the gap” between half-ton and three-quarter ton trucks. It uses a 5.6-L V8 gas engine, or 5.0-L V8 Cummins diesel. Maximum towing is 12,030 lbs. That is less than some half-tons, but the XD tows its highest weights with far more ease.
Toyota Tundra – One trim level offers a 4.6-L V8; all others use a 5.7-L V8 making 401 lb-ft of torque. Maximum towing capacity is 9,700 lbs. All 2018 models come with several new standard safety features, including lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and emergency braking.
2018 models | midsize trucks
Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon– Three available engines are a 2.5-L four-cylinder, 3.6-L V6, and 2.8-L Duramax four-cylinder diesel. Maximum trailering with the diesel is 7,700 lbs. It comes in Extended, or Crew Cab with two box lengths.
Honda Ridgeline – The SUV-based Ridgeline is light-duty, but could work for service calls. It has considerable storage space, including a locking under-bed trunk. It uses a 3.5-L V6 and all-wheel drive, and can tow up to 5,000 lbs.
Nissan Frontier – Available with 2.5-L four-cylinder or 4.0-L V6, and manual or automatic transmissions. Configurations are King Cab or Crew Cab, and maximum towing capacity is 6,710 lbs.
Toyota Tacoma – Available in Access or Double Cab models, the Tacoma offers a 2.7-L four-cylinder or 3.5-L V6, with automatic or manual transmission. Maximum V6 towing capacity is 6,500 lbs.
Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana – Available in 2500 or 3500, these mechanical twins use a 4.8-L V8, 6.0-L V8, or 2.8-L four-cylinder Duramax diesel. Top payload is 4,311 lbs, while maximum towing is 10,000 lbs.
Ford Transit – Available in 150, 250, 350, and 350 Heavy-Duty, the Transit uses a 3.7-L V6, 3.5-L V6 EcoBoost, or 3.2-L inline-five Power Stroke diesel. Maximum payload is 4,650 lbs, while top towing is 7,500 lbs.
Nissan NV – It comes in 1500, 2500 or 3500 configuration, offers two roof heights, and uses a 4.0-L V8 or 5.6-L V8 gas engine. Payload goes up to 3,985 lbs, and towing up to 9,500. It’s covered by a five-year/160,000-km bumper-to-bumper warranty.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – Available in 2500 and 3500 configuration, and in rear- or four-wheel drive, the Sprinter comes in three lengths and two roof heights and uses a 3.0-L V6 diesel engine. Maximum payload for the 3500 is 5,574 lbs.
Ram ProMaster – The ProMaster comes in three wheelbases and two roof heights. It uses a 3.6-L V6 or new 3.0-L V6 EcoDiesel that replaces the previous four-cylinder diesel. Its front-wheel-drive configuration is unique among competitors and gives a lower step-in. Maximum payload is 4,430 lbs; maximum towing is 5,100 lbs.
Chevrolet City Express – A version of Nissan’s NV200, the City Express uses a 2.0-L four-cylinder engine and continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Maximum payload is 1,500 lbs; towing is not recommended.
Ford Transit Connect – Both trim levels use a 2.5-L four-cylinder engine with six-speed automatic. Payload tops out at 1,610 lbs, and it can tow 2,000 lbs.
Mercedes-Benz Metris – The only midsize van on the market, the Metris fits in most underground garages. It now comes in two wheelbase lengths, and uses a turbocharged 2.0-L four-cylinder gas engine. Maximum payload is 2,502 lbs, and it can tow up to 5,000 lbs.
Nissan NV200 – Also badged as the Chevrolet City Express, the NV200 uses a 2.0-L four-cylinder engine with CVT, and has a longer bumper-to-bumper warranty than the GM version.
Ram ProMaster City – Ram’s small van uses a 2.4-L four-cylinder engine with nine-speed automatic transmission. Maximum payload is 1,901 lbs, and it can tow up to 2,000 lbs. <>
Jil McIntosh is an automotive writer and reviewer, with a specialty in trucks and commercial vehicles. She writes for numerous outlets including the National Post and AutoTrader.ca, and is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Her work can be found at WomanOnWheels.ca.