2009 Makes & Models: Light-duty Class 1-3

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Unlike many medium- and heavy-duty OEMs that are launching new models and introducing big redesigns, new engines and revamped platforms, most light-duty truck makers are just tweaking their product lineups.

However, several light trucks will see some interesting changes, mostly under the hood, along with a few other touchups worth noting, such as new technologies and safety features.
Also, some of the major players are steering more of their existing mainstream products toward the commercial market by adding features intended mainly for those who use their trucks for work, not play.

Here are some highlights of what to expect:

Dodge: The 2009 Ram, now available in a crew cab, has more safety and security features. In addition to offering a standard four-wheel antilock brake system and standard Electronic Stability Program with Hill Start Assist and Trailer Sway Control, the 2009 Ram includes standard advanced multistage front driver and passenger air bags, standard supplemental side-curtain air bags and available ParkSense Rear Park Assist System. Also, a new 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 provides 390 horsepower and 407 lb.-ft. of torque with an estimated 4 percent increase in fuel economy.

The Ram 3500 chassis cab now offers an optional 3.42 axle ratio to improve fuel economy with the Cummins 6.7-liter diesel engine. Dodge says the truck has been verified with a 55 percent increase in the power take-off pump rating to provide more power for pumps, lifts and hydraulics. Dodge also upgraded the brake system with larger rotors and calipers and thicker brake pads, which helps accommodate the 3500’s increased standard gross combined weight rating of 24,000 pounds. In addition to braking performance, the upgraded system reduces brake drag, resulting in a fuel economy improvement of 0.5 mpg, Dodge says. Also, the Ram 3500 chassis cab features the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with Variable Valve Timing for fleets desiring a gasoline engine. The engine and related powertrain integration improvements result in a 4 percent improvement in fuel economy and improvements in peak torque and power, according to Dodge.

On the Sprinter, an electric sliding door will be available on 2009 models.

Ford: The 2009 F-150 features a tougher-looking new exterior highlighted by a three-bar grille; a more spacious, flexible and refined interior; and a wide choice of cab styles and trim levels – including a new Platinum luxury series. Meanwhile, a new high-strength lighter-weight chassis is designed to allow the truck to deliver more horsepower, better fuel economy and safety, and additional towing and payload capacity.

The 2009 F-Series Super Duty includes an integrated trailer brake controller and trailer tow mirrors on select models. Also available is Ford Work Solutions, a collection of affordable technologies available on 2009 F-Series Super Duty XL, XLT and FX4 trucks. The system includes an in-dash computer with high-speed Internet access and Garmin navigation; Tool Link, a RFID asset-tracking system; Crew Chief, a fleet telematics and diagnostics system; and a Cable Lock security system, developed in partnership with Master Lock. Also, a new factory-applied spray-in bedliner is intended to deliver added weather resistance and protection against gouging, scratching, cracking and chipping.

E-series updates include a redesigned instrument panel and console, door trim panels with more storage, customizable built-in auxiliary switches, wider-opening rear doors, more comfortable seats and a factory-installed navigation system. The van – which also has Sirius Travel Link and a reverse camera system – also features the Ford Work Solutions collection of technologies. A new message center featuring standard vehicle maintenance information – as well as miles-to-empty and fuel economy numbers – is standard on vans equipped with the 6.0-liter Power Stroke V-8 Turbo Diesel engine and includes an engine-hour meter that keeps a running total of engine use, even while idling, the company says.

GM: GM’s hybrid vehicle lineup continues to expand and for 2009 includes the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 2 Mode Hybrid pickups launch. GM Fleet and Commercial Operations also offers a host of vehicles that can run on E85 ethanol fuel, including the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans – available as commercial or conversion vans – and full-size pickups such as the Chevrolet Avalanche and Silverado, and GMC Sierra. Meanwhile, six-speed automatic transmission will be standard on all Avalanche models.

The 2009 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon chassis cabs – with either Astro Body or Mid Box packages – will target the plumbing and heating/cooling trades, accommodating tools and equipment while delivering comfort, convenience, maneuverability and fuel economy, as well as a high level of safety, durability and reliability, GM says. Also, a 5.3L V-8 will be available on Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon extended and crew cab models.

The Chevrolet HHR Panel is designed to offer commercial customers the spaciousness and cargo capacity of an SUV in an easy-to-maneuver fuel-efficient package that achieves more than 30 mpg on the highway. For 2009, HHR Panel delivers enhancements that include more commercial options; a performance-oriented SS model; a more powerful, more efficient 2.2L engine; FlexFuel capability; more convenience; and more safety features – along with added interior and exterior design flourishes.

Isuzu: Isuzu Motors America announced that effective Jan. 31, 2009, it would discontinue distributing new Isuzu passenger vehicles in North America. The decision results from the prospective cessation of production by GM of the Ascender SUV and the i-290 and i-370 pickups. Although Isuzu will cease supplying passenger vehicles in North America, “we are fully committed to continue providing service support to our customer base and dealers for years to come” says Terry Maloney, president and chief operating officer. Isuzu will continue to honor all product warranties and roadside assistance programs, and will maintain its owner-relations call center.

UD Trucks: The company says all of its trucks comply with California Air Resources Board reduced idling/emissions regulations implemented on Jan. 1, 2008, which requires equipping an idle stop device, or affixing an official label on the cab if the vehicle’s gaseous emissions comply with 2004 standards. In lieu of an engine shutdown system, UD Trucks says its engines have been certified to meet the stricter NOx idling emissions standard of 30 grams per hour. Starting with the 2009 model year, UD Trucks will carry this “Certified Clean Idle” label on the driver side door of all models.

Workhorse: Workhorse Custom Chassis – a wholly owned subsidiary of International Truck and Engine Corp. – now carries the MetroStar badge on the side of the company’s walk-in truck. The rebranding, coupled with the new hood and grill design, makes the walk-in a clear sibling of the other Star brands of the International truck lineup, including the WorkStar, DuraStar, TransStar, ProStar, PayStar and CityStar.

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