Dec. 15 2015 07:50 PM
Truck Show

2016 Trucks... More High-Tech Than Ever

Look to 2016 as an exciting year for anyone thinking of adding to their truck fleet. Because, whether they’re medium or heavy-duty pickups, chassis cabs or cab-over-engines, trucks are getting better, smarter, safer and more high-tech than ever. We’re not quite in the era of Jetsons-style flying vehicles yet, but self-driving ones aren’t far away.

We’re already starting to see some of this technology being incorporated into the 2016 models.

It’s in the form of auto-assist backup features and adaptive cruise controls that use radar to automatically adjust speed in order to maintain proper distances between vehicles traveling in the same lane.

Manufacturers recognize that contractors use their trucks as mobile offices. So, you’ll be able to sync and power all of your mobile devices in the cab, and even turn it into a Wi-Fi hotspot. Your office-on-wheels will be a comfortable place, too, with advanced climate controls, heated and cooled seats and air filtration systems.

We’ve come a long way from radio-plus-CD player. Radios are just one part of these trucks’ sophisticated infotainment centers, which are starting to look more like tablet devices. Expect touchscreen displays, enhanced Internet connectivity, and access to a whole host of mobile apps. Integration with your cell phone will let you talk, text, check traffic and weather—all without taking your hands off the wheel or your eyes off the road.

Dedicated GPS navigation systems are also available; however, “We’re finding most customers, particularly people who spend a lot of time on the road, are used to using the nav systems in their phones,” said Chevrolet communications manager Tom Wilkinson.

Those systems are updated in real time and can guide you around traffic jams.

Because fuel economy is important to you—but not at the cost of performance—a wide variety of engine types and options for fueling them are available, including compressed natural gas (CNG), propane, biodiesel and E-85.

You’re also going to be able to see better than ever—not just in front of you, but around the sides, in back, in the bed, and even in what were formerly the blind spots. Some trucks even have the ability to warn you should you wander out of your lane.

“Contractors are looking for a number of things in their trucks,” said Ford communications manager Mike Levine, such as “improved towing and payload capabilities, better fuel economy and lower operating costs. They also want flexibility. Many of them not only use their trucks for work, but for personal and family time.”

The truck makers have worked hard to overcome meeting the EPA’s Tier 4i emissions standards and the impact they have had on diesel engines. “About two-thirds of heavy-duty pickups have diesel engines,” said Wilkinson. “They provide particular advantages for trucks: fuel economy, for one. They’re also very well-suited for towing heavy trailers.”

Damen Kobo, operations manager at Jeffco Grounds Maintenance in Anchorage, Alaska, says that his company is switching its truck fleet entirely over to diesel. “They’re heavier-duty and pull trailers better. They’re also more fuel-efficient, require less maintenance, and have a longer lifespan.”

Others are not as enthusiastic.

“We used to be 100 percent diesel,” said Chris Murphy, owner and president of Classic Lawn Care, Inc. in Salisbury, Maryland. “Now, we’re a mixture of both. The cost of an upgraded transmission and engine on a diesel is anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 more. You really have to make sure you need that extra power.”

Jeff Chaffee, co-owner and director of operations at Manhattan, Kansas-based Master Landscape, Inc., says those new emission requirements are the reason he’ll probably stop buying diesel trucks.

“We used to get 20 to 22 mpg from our large diesel trucks, considerably better than what we’d get from our small, gas-powered ones. But with all the different devices they’ve bolted onto the engines, our diesels are down to about six.”

Murphy says the gas-versus-diesel debate is the hot topic amongst contractors right now. “A lot of guys are looking hard at whether they really have to have diesel. Even really big, 26,000- pound GVRW trucks are being offered with gas-engine options. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t think of buying anything that big without a diesel engine.”

“If contractors are looking for a diesel engine, we offer that; if they’re looking for gasoline, we give them the choice of an EcoBoost engine,” said Levine. “Or, they can go with the gaseous-fuel prep kit to run CNG or propane, or a bifuel combination.”

Let’s see what’s out there for 2016

Chevrolet

More choice in fueling options and enhanced connectivity are the headlines from this division of GM.

The 2016 Silverado 1500s will have a flex-fuel option to use E-85. All of Chevy’s diesel trucks are approved to run biodiesel, as long as it meets the low-sulfur standard. Heavyduty pickups are now available in CNG versions.

“On the light-duty pickups, we’re expanding the use of eight-speed transmissions,” said Wilkinson. “They have gear ratios that help with towing a trailer, or hauling a load. Our heavy-duty pickups will have a new Digital Steering Assist system. It provides a much better road feel.”

For those who need to use their tablet or laptop in the cab, 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity was added. It will be standard on everything but basic fleet Silverados. Both trucks also have USB ports. GM’s OnStar emergency contact system is also available.

The new 2016 Silverado 1500 has a dramatic new design with a sculpted hood. You can get it with an EcoTec3 6.2L, 420 hp V8 engine that features direct injection, Active Fuel Management and continuously variable valve timing for fuel economy. This engine is capable of towing 12,000 pounds.

The Hydra-Matic 8L90 eight-speed automatic transmission is now available on Silverado LTZ and High Country models equipped with the 5.3L V-8 engine.

The mid-sized Colorado for 2016 adds a new, optional 2.8L Duramax turbo diesel four-cylinder, 181-hp diesel engine with 369 pound-feet of torque that can tow up to 7,700 pounds. It’s B20 biodiesel-compatible.

A standard 2.5L four-cylinder gets up to 27 mpg on the highway, while an optional 3.6L V-6 hauls up to 1,590 pounds of payload and can tow 7,000 pounds.

Dodge RAM

For 2016, there are even more changes to the RAM 2500 and 3500. New for the 3500 is the Cummins 6.7L, a high-output turbo diesel engine which provides 385 hp at 2,800 rpm with 900 pound-feet of torque. RAM claims it’s the most torque currently offered in a mass-production vehicle. The engine increases the trucks’ towing rating to 31,210 pounds and its payload capacity to 7,390 pounds. It’s B20 biodiesel compatible.

For 2016, the CNG option, available on the 2500, has been extended to include the 2500 regular cab and 2WD, 4x2 and 4x4 models. It’s a factory-installed CNG option; no prep kit or upfitting is required.

For 2016, the ParkSense front and rear parking assistance system was added to all RAM pickups—the light-duty 1500 and the heavy-duty 2500 and 3500. The 1500 has also received reinforcements to its frame and body for added structural integrity.

Also new for the RAM 2500 and 3500 is a switchable display for the Parkview rear-view camera system (standard on higher trim levels, and available on all RAM trucks); you can now toggle between rear tailgate or cargo views. New LED bed lighting is standard on RAM 2500 and 3500.

As for the RAM 3500, 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs, an optional 74- gallon dual fuel tank is now available for all frame lengths.

The UConnect infotainment system has been upgraded for 2016, with new center consoles on all pickup trim levels. New features include iPhone compatibility and drag-and-drop functionality on the 8.4-inch screen. A new task bar at the bottom of the screen eases access to often-used functions. All pickups and chassis cabs now have Wi-Fi connectivity, with the ability to make the trucks their own ‘hotspots.’

Ford

Ford put its F-150 on a diet this year, taking off 700 pounds by going with a ‘military grade, high strength’ aluminum-alloy body and high-strength steel frame. The F- 250 to F-550 Super Dutys will be similarly lightened up in the future.

“Our truck customers told us they need better towing and hauling capacity,” said Levine. Part of what a vehicle hauls is its own weight; when that goes down, hauling and towing capacities go up. F-150s can now haul payloads up to 3,300 pounds and tow 12,200 pounds.

The F-150 was all-new last year, when it got a new design, a new diesel engine and other major revisions and improvements. Now, in response to customer requests, is a gaseous-fuel prep kit for the F-150 5L V8s. The $325 kit converts the truck to CNG-only, propane-only or bifuel operation, either gasoline/ CNG or gasoline/propane. You’ll need to have one of Ford’s qualified vehicle modifiers add the fuel lines and tanks.

A new lane-keeping system on the F-150’s undercarriage continuously monitors the stripes on the highway, and will inform you, via steering-wheel feedback, should you start drifting out of the lane.

Also new for the 2016 F-150 is the optional Pro Trailer Backup Assist. “If you’ve ever backed up a truck and trailer, you know that you normally turn the steering wheel the opposite direction you want the trailer to go,” said Levine.

“This makes it as easy and intuitive as turning a knob.”

The 2016 F-150 and Super Duty models will have the brand-new Sync 3 system, which uses Bluetooth to connect your mobile devices to the truck. Voice controls for the entertainment and navigation system help a driver keep his eyes on the road. Sync a Wi-Fi-enabled smartphone or other mobile device, and the truck becomes a hotspot.

Super Dutys are available with either a 6.2-L V8 gasoline engine that produces 385 hp and 405 pound-feet of torque, or a 6.7L Power Stroke V8 turbo diesel that provides 440 hp and 860 pound-feet of torque.

Both engines are paired with Ford’s 6R140 TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission with standard tow/haul mode for improved capability and efficiency while towing.

Ford also offers the only gasoline engine available for this truck class, a 6.8L V10. The V10 can be factory-prepped for conversion to CNG or LP fuel. There’s also a new tractor model with a fifth-wheel hitch.

GMC

New for 2016, HID projector-beam headlamps and LED lighting will be standard on all models of the heavy-duty GMC Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD. Also new is Active Steering Assist power steering, available on some double-cab and crew-cab models. It’s not available on WT or regular-cab models.

For 2016, the midsized Canyon, reintroduced and redesigned in 2015, will be getting an optional 2.8L Duramax turbo diesel engine with a maximum trailering rating of 7,700 pounds. The standard 2.5L four-cylinder gas engine gets up to 27 mpg on the highway, while an available 3.6L V6 can haul up to 1,590 pounds of payload and pull up to 7,000 pounds.

The Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD and Sierra Denali HD are offered with a Duramax 6.6L turbo-diesel engine and Allison 1000 six-speed transmission. This powertrain combination provides a maximum trailering rating of up to 23,200 pounds.

GMC’s IntelliLink infotainment system has been enhanced for 2016 with the addition of a new HD radio, a faster processor for improved performance, and Apple CarPlay; Android Auto compatibility will be coming later in the model year. It’s standard on the SLE and SLT editions of the Canyon, Sierra, Sierra HD and Sierra Denali. The OnStar system is also available.

Isuzu

Next year brings a new entry-level model to Isuzu’s N-Series of low-cab-forward (LCF) cab-over-engine (COE) trucks, the 13,000 GVWR NPR diesel, designed for greater fuel economy. It’s powered by their newest and most modern engine, the turbocharged, intercooled 3.0-liter 4JJ1-TC, that provides 150 hp and 282 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 to 2,800 rpm, and has an engine life rating of 310,000 miles. It’s compatible with B20 biodiesel fuel.

The new NPR offers more capability than previously available in an entry-level Isuzu COE diesel. “With a 13,000-lb. GVWR, the new NPR diesel approaches the capacity of a Class 4 truck, but at a Class 3 price,” said executive vice president and general manager Shaun Skinner.

The new model is mated to an Aisin A460 six-speed automatic transmission with double overdrive, a lock-up torque converter that operates in second through sixth gears, and optional power takeoff (PTO). A PTO allows an operator to run other power equipment off the NPR’s engine.

Five different engines are available for all N-Series trucks, in gas or diesel. Gas engines can be converted to CNG or LP operation post-purchase.

Isuzu claims to be the only manufacturer to offer gas-powered LCF/COE trucks. Another unique feature: a ‘tattler’ computer chip that tracks how a truck is being driven, and can flag things like too many sudden stops or periods of excessive idling.

Mitsubishi FUSO

Brand new for 2016 is FU- SOFirst, a new driver education and customer service app that includes web-based tutorials, driver tips and roadside assistance. It’s currently accessible on the web via a smart device with Internet access; later, as a downloadable free app. Roadside assistance, including troubleshooting, towing, tire and lockout service is free for new FUSO trucks for the duration of the warranty period, and after that, for a fee.

Some new driver operability features have been added to the 2016 Canter COE. The oil sump has been increased in capacity, and the dipstick has been relocated. Now an operator can check engine oil level without tilting the cab.

In addition, the Canter’s transmission clutch fluid housing has a new direct-view sight plug that allows a driver to check fluid levels with a quick glance. A new air filter restriction indicator makes it easy for a driver to check the filter without having to take apart the housing or snorkel.

Also new is an optional Idle Limit System, to help drivers comply with no-idle limits in jurisdictions where they’re mandated.

Nissan

The all-new, completely redesigned 2016 TITAN XD is the first of what will be a whole family of new TITAN trucks, with staggered launch dates starting this month. Future models will offer three different cab configurations, two frame sizes and three choices of powertrains in five trim levels.

Exclusive to the TITAN XD is a new 5.0L Cummins turbo diesel V8 engine that can deliver 310 hp at 3,200 rpm and 555 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. “It’s the first vehicle in the industry to feature this engine,” said product communications manager Phil Lienert.

It’s paired with a heavy-duty six-speed Aisin automatic transmission. Together, they’ll provide a maximum towing capacity of more than 12,000 pounds, and more than 2,000 pounds of maximum payload capacity. Numbers aren’t available yet, but Toyota is projecting 20 percent better fuel economy over gas V8s while towing.

The 2016 TITAN XD will feature a host of brand-new driving aids, standard on certain trim levels (not yet determined). They include an integrated trailer-brake controller, blind-spot warning system, front and rear sonar sensors, trailer sway control, hill start assist and descent controls, and a tow/haul mode with downhill speed control.

Moving Object Detection, also new, alerts you with an on-screen notification and warning chime when a shopping cart or other large object is heading towards the truck while backing.

Trailer hookups will also be made easier, courtesy of a new rear-view monitor with trailer guides. A new trailer-light check system will allow one-person hookup and the ability to check turn signals, brake lights and running/clearance lights.

The TITAN XD crew cab has a 151.6-inch wheelbase and a 6.5-foot bed, giving it an overall length of 242.9 inches. A gas V8 and a traditional half-ton version will be coming out early next year.

TITAN XD’s infotainment center, NissanConnectSM, standard on certain trim levels, features a seven-inch color touch-screen display with navigation and mobile apps. The “SM” refers to the SiriusXM streaming Internet radio circuitry. Anyone who buys or leases a new Nissan equipped with SiriusXM is eligible for a free 90- day trial of the XM All Access package.

As for the mid-sized Frontier, it’s virtually unchanged from 2015. Choose from two engines, a 4L DOHC V6 engine rated at 261 hp with 281 pound-feet of torque, or a 152 hp 2.5L inline 4-cylinder engine.

Toyota

The 2016 Tacoma, Toyota’s midsize pickup, is all-new. Highstrength steel has been added to the frame and ultra-high-strength steel added to the cab structure to increase rigidity while reducing mass.

“Some portions of the cab structure are over three times the strength as last year’s,” said Jason Nunamaker, subject matter expert for body-on-frame vehicles. “It’s a safer truck, with greaterrollover protection.”

Two engines are available for the Tacoma: a 2.7L four-cylinder that will produce 159 hp and 180 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The second engine, available on both the Tacoma and the Tundra, is an all-new V6 3.5L direct-injection engine capable of 278 hp, an increase of 42 hp over the previous V6. It produces 265 pound-feet of torque at 4,600 rpm.

The new V6 incorporates Toyota’s new D-4S technology. “It allows the engine to occasionally go through a self-cleaning cycle that prevents carbon buildup, something that happens with direct fuel injection,” said Nunamaker. A D-4Sequipped engine constantly monitors itself. When it senses buildup, it’ll send fuel at higher pressure through the direct injectors, knocking the carbon deposits off.

Both four- and six-cylinder engines can be paired with a new six-speed automatic transmission with electronic shift. The V6 can also be mated to a new six-speed manual transmission and the four-cylinder to a five-speed manual.

With the optional V6 tow package, the new Tacoma can tow up to 6,800 pounds, an increase of 300 pounds over the previous V6. Payload capacity is 1,620 pounds.

Other options include a smart-key ignition with push-button start, and a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.

Tundra now has an integrated trailer-brake controller. Unlike an aftermarket trailer-brake controller, integration gives Tundra’s brakes the ability to ‘talk’ to the trailer’s brakes directly, giving you greater control over the trailer. That’s a nice feature, because this truck can tow up to 10,500 pounds.

Backup cameras are now standard on both Tundras and Tacomas. “It was costly to do, but Toyota really puts a lot of emphasis on safety,” says Nunamaker. An optional 120-volt AC outlet lets you run power tools when you’re way out in the boonies.

Ten more flex-fuel models, which can use E85 as well as regular unleaded fuel, have been added to the Tundra lineup.

Three cab styles are offered for the Tundra SR5 and 1794 Editions, a two-door regular cab, a four-door double cab, and the super-sized four-door CrewMax, with a 5.5-foot bed. An exclusive 8.1-foot long bed is available on regular cab models and double cabs. Or, choose a standard 6.5-foot bed.

A blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and front and rear parking sonar is standard on the Tundra Platinum and 1794 editions. These models also include a HomeLink universal transceiver.

Whatever make or model you choose, whether it’s one truck or several, you’ll be driving an advanced piece of technology with better fuel efficiency, safety, durability and haul-and-tow capacity than ever before. And, you’ll have a field day while you’re doing it. Next year, 2016, will be a very good year for trucks, indeed!