Varoom with a view

Anyone who’s already got “new truck fever” knows that the 2008 models are red hot and ready to rock and roll.

Even if the fever hasn’t struck, there might be a new truck in the future for any builder, contractor, weekend warrior – heck, anybody who appreciates the power under the pedal.

Caravanrearview.jpgHere, with descriptions compiled from the respective manufacturer web sites and literature, are some of the hotties for the new year.

Dodge Dakota
Chrysler Group unveiled the new 2008 Dodge Dakota mid-size truck with a new engine that not only offers 25 percent more horsepower and 10 percent more torque, but also better fuel economy and increased refinement. The 2008 Dodge Dakota also features new exterior and interior styling, and many best-in-class capabilities. The new truck arrived in dealerships just weeks ago.

“The new 2008 Dodge Dakota was redesigned to broaden its appeal to younger customers with active lifestyles,” said Tom Loveless, Director – Dodge Marketing and Global Communications. “Dodge Dakota will attract 25- to 35-year-old individuals who need a vehicle to meet a variety of needs. Depending on an owners’ lifestyle, the 2008 Dodge Dakota may be equipped for work or play, but every Dakota is equipped with capability and versatility.”

For 2008, Dakota comes standard with a 3.7-liter Magnum V-6 engine producing 210 horsepower and 235 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine also comes with Electronic Throttle Control for positive throttle response, and exhaust gas recirculation to help lower emissions.

Its powerplants are backed up by a choice of a six-speed manual transmission, standard on all V-6 equipped Dakota models except Laramie; a four-speed automatic with overdrive available with Dakota’s V-6 engine; and a five-speed automatic available on V8-equipped models.

Dodge Ram
Dodge worked the magic here, too, when it gave the 2008 Ram the largest turbodiesel in the segment. Ram HDs, say reviews, “Come to market this year with the biggest, cleanest, most powerful Cummins turbodiesel the lineup has ever seen. It’s the first diesel to meet the strict 2010 emissions regulations ­­– almost three years early – thanks in large part to several pieces of the Mercedes-Benz-developed Bluetec system.”

“Backing up the bigger turbodiesel is a new six-speed automatic transmission smart enough to know how to adjust to empty versus loaded torque loads. It also has a thumb-controller switch that allows the driver to select or lock out specific gears without the shifter’s need to be in manual mode ­­– similar to the auto trans in the GM six-speed truck.

“As impressive as the Cummins is, it would be unfair to minimize the impact of the transmission, which does a tremendous job of smoothing out the 1-2 shift and 2-3 shift at low speeds with the hammer down (as when merging onto the freeway from a dead stop with a 12,000-pound trailer).”

The new Cummins is available in 2500 and 3500 model Rams (regular, Quad and Mega Cabs).

Ford’s 2008 Super Duty F-450 offers itself as “America’s leading workhorse,” with towing capacity in excess of 24,000 pounds and maximum payload of more than 6,000 pounds. Its clean diesel technology delivers quiet power on a refined chassis and suspension for a good ride and handling.

Crews will like the integrated tailgate step and stowable bed extender for cargo-hauling flexibility. Three cab styles make room for crews in this overhauled 2008 model.

The rest of the F-Series sets the standard for strength and toughness with more trucks on the road with more than 250,000 miles than any other brand. With a maximum tow rating of 11,000 pounds when properly equipped and maximum payload capacity of 3,050 pounds, the F-150 is dubbed “most capable full-size pickup in its class.”

A rearview camera system is mounted in the tailgate handle bezel and is activated when the vehicle is shifted into reverse, giving the driver a clear view behind the vehicle. The video image is displayed in the self-dimming rearview mirror, a natural place for the driver to look while in reverse. For those truckers that tow, this system gives them the visibility they need to back up to their trailer and lineup precisely to hook up the hitch.

Super Duty F-250 and F-350 are promising even more capability and features only a few months after their launch. Ford is quickly adding new features to respond to strong initial customer demand for the highest-end, most capable Super Duty models, including the all-new Ford F-450 – the first-ever Class 4 pickup from the factory.

From the new HHR Panel to the brawn and refinement of full-size SUVs and trucks, there’s never been a broader or more capable range of Chevrolet trucks. Chevy trucks take another leap forward in ’08 with the introduction of the Tahoe Hybrid. It features the world’s first production 2-Mode full hybrid propulsion system, which offers a 25-percent improvement in fuel economy. In addition, the fuel-saving advantages of the Tahoe Hybrid are balanced with a superior driving experience and uncompromised capability.

Along with the Tahoe Hybrid and Equinox Sport, the Chevy truck lineup moves into 2008 with many models that were only recently introduced to the public. Models like the Silverado and HHR panel were introduced last year, while vehicles such as Colorado received significant powertrain upgrades.

Additional changes for ’08 include a change to a 40/20/40-split bench seat in LS models that provides convenient storage space in the center section, along with woodgrain trim added to the forward center console and brighter instrument pointers in the gauge cluster. Two new exterior colors are Blue Granite and Deep Ruby Metallic.

Returning for 2008 is the Tahoe’s popular Z71 Off Road appearance package. This optional package includes the Z71 Off Road suspension with high-pressure, gas-charged monotube shocks, 18-inch on/off-road tires, automatic-locking rear differential, front recovery hooks, a durable skid plate and a high-capacity air cleaner. Also included are leather-appointed bucket seats that are available in solid Ebony, Ebony with Light Titanium inserts and Ebony with Morocco Brown inserts.

Power articulating running boards are available. They blend smoothly with the vehicle’s design, but automatically move downward and outward when the doors are opened, providing a lower step-in height.

Tahoe features a stiff, fully boxed frame, which reduces vibrations transmitted to the passenger cabin. The strength and accuracy of the frame also enable more precise mounting and tuning of chassis and suspension components, which also helps reduce vibration. Even the tires on the large, 17-inch standard and 20-inch available wheels were designed to reduce noise.

The ‘08 Sierra lineup is built on a platform that was introduced last year. It supports the strongest, most capable Sierra in history, with segment-leading fuel economy, capability and power — as well as agile ride and handling and an exceptionally quiet interior.

Sierra Denali.jpgSierra 1500 is available in several trim packages, including Work Truck, SL (crew cab only), SLE (SLE1 and SLE2 models) and SLT, along with 2WD and 4WD configurations. Three cab styles — regular, extended and crew cab — and cargo box lengths of 5 foot 8 inches, 6 foot 6 inches and 8 foot — are offered.

The unique Sierra Denali, a truck that fuses performance and unmatched luxury, also returns for 2008. It is a distinct model, with differentiated, exclusive features that elevate its performance and design, such as an exclusive 6.2L all-aluminum V-8 engine with variable valve timing and a six-speed automatic transmission.

Because Sierra was all-new in 2007, changes for ’08 are comparatively minor, but include standard XM Satellite Radio on all models, availability of a power-adjustable driver’s seat on regular cab models with a bench seat and two new exterior colors: Dark Crimson Metallic and Sonoma Red Metallic.

Also new for ’08 is an integrated trailer brake controller on light-duty models. It is available on extended cab and crew cab models.

Later in the 2008 model year, the Sierra All Terrain will bow. This special model is based on the popular Z71 Off Road package and offers a distinctive, eye-catching combination of style and refinement.

When smaller is better

By now, anyone who hasn’t seen the Honda Ridgeline, the half-ton truck that loves rough roads and offers plenty of versatile cargo room, should take a look. Or maybe it’s time for a closer look.

Because whether you’re hauling big payloads or tackling the rugged terrain, the 2008 Ridgeline says it’s ready to impress.

A 5,000-lb. towing capacity and 1,550-lb. total payload capacity boast exceptional strength from an integrated closed-box frame with unit-body construction and powerful, 247-hp, V-6 engine with 4-wheel independent suspension. Plus, this one-of-a-kind truck carries a five-passenger crew cab, lockable In-Bed Trunk and a dual-action tailgate.

Ridgeline was the first 4-door pickup to achieve the highest government crash-test rating (5 stars) for both frontal and side-impact tests. And it has the lowest chance of rollover among all pickup trucks tested, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

After two generations of also-ran, too-small full-size trucks, the 2008 Toyota Tundra represents “a gargantuan leap to the head of the pack,” says Toyota Motor Sales president and COO Jim Press. That leap, coming later than expected, was scheduled to go on sale late this year as an ‘07, but Press says it’ll be on sale about next January, as an ‘08 model.

The 2008 Ford Ranger goes bolder, tougher, more fuel efficient and more affordable. The most fuel-efficient pickup truck now gets even better fuel economy thanks to improved aerodynamics delivered by an updated front-bumper design. Owners will make fewer stops as well, thanks to service intervals that have been extended to 7,500 miles. The 2008 Ford Ranger has a maximum towing capacity of 6,000 pounds and has been tested in the most extreme North American climates and conditions.

Whether the destination is off road or the highway, Mazda B-Series Pickup Truck was built for both. Whatever the needs, there’s a choice of engine, transmission, drivetrain and body style to meet it. And in every configuration, there’s Mazda’s legendary performance, function, style and safety. As NewCarTest says, “Speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering, rarely used on a pickup, further increases the Mazda’s agility, making it more enjoyable to drive on winding roads. … the B4000 delivers no-fear passing, even on steep mountain grades.”

Vans carry the load


The new 2008 E-Series commercial van —America’s best selling cargo vans, cutaways and passenger wagons — gets a major makeover inspired by the new F-Series Super Duty’s bold new front-end design to communicate a list of chassis and suspension upgrades that increase capability and improve ride and handling. Safety and security are improved with the addition of available traction control and features.

There’s also an improved chassis that got upgrades to the braking, suspension and steering systems, resulting in ride and handling, braking performance and load carrying capability. A new geometry on a re-engineered front suspension uses larger sway bars to provide a better stance and firmly plant the front end to the road.

Dodge’s all-new 2008 Grand Caravan Cargo van provides “garagable” solutions for small business and commercial needs, while still giving an ideal balance of utility, functionality and visibility. Consider the model’s enhanced commercial suspension for heavier cargo without sacrificing ride quality, as well as its rear hatch convenience and dual sliding doors for ease of loading and unloading.

With outstanding interior cargo volume space (143.8 cubic feet), flexibility and durability to handle the most demanding commercial jobs, there are standard features that include a 3.3-liter V-6 flex-fuel capable engine, front and rear power outlets, industrial cargo floor, sunscreen glass and dual sliding doors.

Chevy Tahoe
Here’s a hybrid that delivers up to 25 percent improved fuel economy. Chevrolet Tahoe, a best-selling full-size SUV, was comprehensively redesigned for 2007, giving customers the capability expected of a full-size SUV with a sharper, more precise driving feel, more power with improved, segment-leading fuel economy, increased interior refinement and improved quietness.

A another leap forward in the segment, it features the world’s first production 2-Mode full hybrid propulsion system, which offers a 25-percent overall improvement in fuel economy. Better still, the fuel-saving advantages of the Tahoe Hybrid are balanced with a superior driving experience and uncompromised capability.

A car for transporting family, crew or clients, Tahoe Hybrid combines the functionality and comfort of a full-size SUV with a 2-Mode full hybrid system that optimizes fuel efficiency in both city and highway driving, said Tom Stephens, group vice president, GM Powertrain. “The Tahoe Hybrid offers great performance, 25-percent better overall fuel economy and legendary Tahoe utility.” Best, it can still tow up to 6,000 pounds (2,721 kg). To maximize its efficiency, the 6.0L V-8 engine is equipped with GM’s Active Fuel Management technology, which switches between four- and eight-cylinder power in certain driving situations.

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