2009 Makes & Models: Medium-duty Class 4-6

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In medium-duty, you can sum up the biggest change in 2009 for the U.S. manufacturers specializing in commercial trucks in one word: hybrid. Also, the Detroit and Japanese automakers continue to finesse their medium-duty products by adding more features intended mainly for those who use their trucks for work, not play.

Here are some highlights of the latest offerings:

Dodge: The 2009 Ram 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs now tout longer-lasting front and rear brakes, as well as the Cummins diesel 50-state emissions package and exterior labeling; the Cummins 6.7-liter diesel engine is available with Remote Start on automatics. An ambulance prep package now is available, as well as a 55 percent increase in the power take-off pump rating; also, the PTO prep package now is available with Laramie trim-level trucks.

Ford: The F-450 pickup, which enjoyed a redesign last year, offers a towing capacity in excess of 24,000 pounds and maximum payload of more than 6,000 pounds, and is powered by a 6.4-liter Power Stroke V-8 turbo diesel that delivers quiet, clean power. An integrated tailgate step and stowable bed extender offer cargo-hauling flexibility, while a refined chassis and suspension help improve ride and handling with available options for a premium turning radius. For towing, the PowerScope power-fold, power-telescoping trailer-tow side mirrors help improve rear visibility, while the TowCommand System features an integrated trailer brake controller and the TorqShift transmission helps improve towing performance. A rearview video camera backup system helps enhance visibility at the rear of the box to help drivers maneuver in tight spaces or line up the truck’s hitch with trailers.

Freightliner: The Business Class M2e Hybrid – which features the Eaton Hybrid Electric Drivetrain System, a parallel electric-hybrid system – targets utility, beverage and pickup-and-delivery applications. The truck maker says the hybrid motor provides additional power to launch the vehicle and improves fuel economy in high stop-and-go operations. Users can run mounted gear such as lifts and gates from a quiet, electric PTO.

The company also announced the availability of high-visibility seatbelts as a factory-installed option on the M2. Manufactured by LifeGuard Technologies, the bright orange seatbelts include comfort features such as Komfort Latch, which helps reduce seatbelt irritation by relieving tension so the belt doesn’t rub the driver’s shoulder while driving; and the Sliding Komfort Latch, which helps automate the process of relieving seatbelt tension while safely setting the seatbelt’s slack to about one inch.

GM: General Motors says it has made numerous enhancements to its medium-duty trucks, stressing driver comfort, convenience and productivity. The Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC Topkick now feature 21,500-lb. GVWR on 5500 4×4 models; 22.5-inch wheels on the 4500/5500 4×4 Regular Cab; Allison Prognostics on all Allison 3000/3500 Series transmissions; and revised air seats. Chevrolet’s W-Series trucks, now “Certified Clean Idle,” have a modified front suspension, vertical exhaust, improved seat material and tinted rear windows on crew cab models. Also available are additional functions for the programmable ECM unit, a limited-slip differential, front and rear seat covers, a 33-gallon diesel fuel tank and a chrome front grille.

Hino: All models now have an optional extended cab version. The 30-inch extension – which has the same cab height as the truck maker’s standard cab – has side windows with operating vents, as well as a fully trimmed Hino interior. The outside is constructed using corrosion-resistant composite materials. The base model has no seating, with an optional full-width bench seat in black vinyl, or a 26-inch day bunk with foam mattress and under-bunk storage.

International: The truck maker says its DuraStar Hybrid diesel hybrid-electric truck can provide fuel savings from 30 to 40 percent in standard in-city pickup-and-delivery applications; the fuel efficiency can increase to more than 60 percent in utility-type applications when the engine can be shut off, but electric power still operates the vehicle. Diesel emissions are eliminated when the hybrid truck operates equipment such as overhead utility booms solely on the truck’s battery power, instead of allowing the engine to idle.

Also, International has teamed with Johnson Refrigerated Truck Bodies to jointly launch RouteMax for refrigerated transportation on DuraStar trucks. RouteMax is a self-powered extended-route cold plate refrigeration system used exclusively in Johnson truck bodies.

Isuzu: Isuzu Commercial Truck of America says its 2009 N-Series lineup of low-cab-forward trucks has new features to increase driver productivity, enhance fuel economy and reduce emissions. The front suspensions, spring rates, steering and cab mount bushings have been tuned for more comfort and a better ride, while an optional limited-slip differential distributes torque evenly to the wheels. Also, all Isuzu diesel trucks now are 50-state “Certified Clean Idle,” according to the truck maker.

All N-Series diesel models incorporate a Data Recording Module that provides a Vehicle Health Report showing the condition of the engine, transmission, emissions and brakes, plus fuel economy and driver operating habits. For longer brake life, an Electronic Braking Distribution system helps balance brake pressure to all wheels by automatically adjusting to the load’s weight distribution. Also, more wheelbases have been added to accommodate the widest possible range of bodies; choices from 109 to 212 inches handle bodies from 10 to 24 feet in length.

Kenworth: The Class 5 T170 is a straight truck in a 4×2 configuration with a GVWR up to 19,500 lbs. Standard features include the Paccar PX-6 engine rated at 200 hp and 520 ft-lb of torque, 8,000-lb. front axle and 11,500-lb. rear axle, hydraulic brakes, low-frame height chassis with 19.5-inch wheels and tires, power door locks, passenger-side electric windows (optional on driver’s side) and Kenworth DayLite doors with right-hand peeper window. Customers can choose a manual or automatic transmission.

Kenworth also is in full production of the Class 6 T270 hybrid, which is equipped with a Paccar PX-6 engine and an Eaton hybrid system.

Mitsubishi Fuso: The company, after introducing its redesigned full line of cabover medium-duty trucks last year, has no significant changes for 2009. The current line includes at least one model in every GVWR range from Class 3 to 7.

Peterbilt: The truck maker says it has updated its complete conventional medium-duty lineup with a dash featuring an enhanced ergonomic instrumentation layout, enhanced visibility for safety and driver comfort and Peterbilt navigation functionality. The dash – available on Models 325, 330, 335 and 340 – features an enhanced side window defrost system and new dash panel colors. The Peterbilt Navigation System – which features a VGA screen resolution with a 5-inch touchscreen, an MP3 audio player and a 30GB hard drive – is designed to simplify navigation with turn-by-turn directions and visual and audio cues integrated with the vehicle’s stereo system. Additionally, it comes preloaded with locations for Peterbilt dealers, lodging, fuel, ATMs and restaurants across the United States and Canada.

Peterbilt also has begun production of medium-duty hybrid trucks, specifically the 330 and 335 hybrids. The trucks use Eaton’s hybrid-electric power system in conjunction with an electric motor that assists the Paccar PX-6 engine with supplemental torque for improved fuel economy. The system stores energy during stopping through regenerative braking, and then reuses it for acceleration.

Also, full production of the hybrid low-cab-forward Model 320 Hydraulic Launch Assist vehicle is set for the fourth quarter. Suitable for vocational stop-and-go applications such as refuse collection, the Model 320 utilizes HLA technology developed by Eaton exclusively for Paccar. HLA technology works by recovering up to 75 percent of the energy normally lost as heat by the vehicle’s brakes in the form of pressurized hydraulic fluid; this fluid is stored in an onboard accumulator until the driver next accelerates the vehicle.

Sterling: The Bullet – a chassis-cab Class 4/5 vehicle introduced in March – now is in full production. The Bullet is suited for demanding applications, including construction, utility, residential services, landscaping, municipal services, and pickup and delivery. Standard features include a Cummins 6.7L ISB engine with exhaust brake, a PTO prep package, air conditioning and cruise control.

-Compiled by Dean Smallwood


About Makes & Models
Makes & Models is intended to give truck buyers a general overview of what’s available for 2009. Basic specs are provided, including wheelbases, GVWRs and engine choices, along with a capsule summary of what’s new from each manufacturer.

This is the second installment of Makes & Models, covering medium-duty vehicles in Classes 4-6. We covered light-duty (Classes 1-3) in September, and we’ll cover heavy-duty (Classes 7-8) in November. Keep in mind that these are preliminary listings, as new models, specs and features may be released later this year.

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