(TNS) Trucks are no longer the gas-thirsty roughnecks from yesteryear. Today's best full-size and midsize pickups are packed with more technology than your media room, ride more comfortably than a private jet and can still do dirty work. From aluminum bodies to Wi-Fi hot spots and new diesels, here's what's new for 2016 trucks.
According to Automotive News, Ford F-Series is No. 1 among full-size trucks with 35 percent share, but GM's combined Silverado/Sierra take 38 percent. Ram slides in with 21 percent, followed by Toyota Tundra at 6 percent and Nissan at 0.6 percent. This could change.
"I'm not sure Ford has touted its aluminum body and efficiency enough," said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst with Edmunds.com. "Chevy has come out with commercials and a high-strength steel body message. Ford's message hasn't come through as much. Ram is such a good value, with diesel, but people just don't know about it."
Then there's the all-new Nissan Titan XD.
"Nissan is entering a space in the market the Detroit Big Three have left largely open. It aims to fill the void in capability between the traditional 1/2-ton and 3/4-ton pickups," said Jason Gonderman, editor, Truck Trend Magazine. "The most exciting full-size pickup entering the market is the 2016 Nissan Titan XD."
THE NOOB: NISSAN TITAN XD
Nissan exploits the gray area between light- and heavy-duty with the all-new Titan XD that uses a 5.0-liter Cummins turbo-diesel V-8 engine delivering 310 horsepower, 555 pound-feet of torque and 12,000-pound towing capacity.
"Partnering with Cummins was the best thing that Nissan could have done for the Titan XD," Gonderman said. "Their partnership with Ram for the past 26 years will give the Titan XD instant credibility."
The exterior of the Titan XD has an uncanny resemblance to Ford's, but interiors feel Infinitiesque with Zero Gravity seats, Rockford Fosgate audio, and heated and cooled seats. Convenience is enhanced with a 120-volt in-bed plug, LED cargo lighting, Around View Monitor and dash brake controller.
—Base price (estimated): $45,000.
THE CHAMP: FORD F-SERIES
Having convinced brawny truck drivers that aluminum body panels won't crumple and turbo engines aren't feeble, F-Series advances from its 2015 overhaul.
Joining King Ranch and Lariat luxury models are appearance packages on XLT and Lariat with sinister 20-inch dark-painted wheels, smoked headlamps and Alcantara seat inserts with red stitching.
The F-150 adopts Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system with more intuitive controls and adds Pro Trailer Backup Assist, a knob-controlled backing system that semi-automatically adjusts steering and vehicle speed. Engines range from a 325-horsepower 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine to a 365-horsepower 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine and 385-horsepower V-8 engine.
Bigger news comes next year when Super Duty gains aluminum panels, seven-camera towing assist system, in-cab trailer tire pressure monitor, adaptive cruise, and lane keep assist.
"I think (Super Duty) will do OK," Caldwell said. "There hasn't been much blowback from the F-150 with an aluminum body. It is important to get the aluminum body to help fuel economy. There is only so much you can do with the shape to improve aerodynamics. Finding ways to change it up is important."
—Base prices: $27,510-$59,175
STEP UP: GMC SIERRA 1500
Quieting critics who moaned about the truck's boring design, styling is updated with a more sculpted hood, signature LED driving lights, LED taillamps and available HID headlamps. It's much sexier.
Sierra's newest member is the sinister Elevation Edition that flashes 20-inch wheels, body-color trim and all-terrain tires. GMC's gentrified Denali line, 13.4 percent of Sierra sales, returns with 20-inch wheels, Bose audio, wireless phone charging and heated steering wheel. Corvette-derived Magnetic Ride Control tames all roads.
CornerStep rear bumpers, LED cargo lighting and EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate improve utility across the range while 4G LTE Wi-Fi and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto ensure connectivity. Powertrains range from a 285-horsepower V-6 engine to 355-horsepower and 420 horsepower V-8 engines, connected to 6- and 8-speed transmissions.
—Base prices: $27,275-$50,015
CLOSING IN: CHEVY SILVERADO 1500
Sierra's blue collar sibling, and essentially the same truck, is redesigned with a sexier hood, bolder horizontal grille and LED driving lights. Projector beams and LED taillamps illuminate luxury LTZ and High Country models. High Country is further distinguished by power steps, saddle leather, Bose audio and 22-inch wheels. Eight-speed transmissions join 5.3-liter V8-equipped LTZ and High Country models.
—Base prices: $26,520-$48,615
CONTENDER, NOT PRETENDER: RAM 1500
Big rig styling is the foundation for two new models: Laramie Limited and Rebel. Laramie Limited spoils passengers with Argento wood accents, premium leather, air suspension, and blinged chrome grille with "RAM" spelled in large font.
That grille is the new face of Ram, which looks even better in black on the Rebel off-road special that employs an air suspension, increased ride height, skid plates, and tow hooks to tramp through Hades. Rebel interiors dress with seat inserts with tire-tread pattern and red stitching.
Underpinning Ram's tough truck reputation are engines that range from a 29-MPG diesel to a 305-horsepower V-6 engine and 395-horsepower HEMI V-8 engine. All come with TorqueFlite 8-speed transmissions. Start-stop technology and active grille shutters enhance fuel efficiency.
—Base prices: $25,865-50,880.
THE TEXAN: TOYOTA TUNDRA
Tundra's bigger-than-Texas persona is fortified with freshened front styling on SR5 and 1794 Editions, but Toyota devotees will covet the TRD off-roader with its old school TOYOTA grille, aluminum skid plate, black trim, 18-inch black alloys and suspension lift. Fuel tanks increase from 26.4 to 38 gallons on 1794/TRD Pro editions.
Tundra began as a larger option for Tacoma buyers but stands on its own with the ranch-themed 1794 Edition that corrals saddle leather-trimmed seats and suede interior accents. Toyota's Entune infotainment system can be optioned with JBL speakers, navigation, Siri Eyes Free, and App Suite that adds Slacker Radio.
Powertrain choices are limited to a 310-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 or 381-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8.
Proving it's all hat and cattle, Tundra is built in San Antonio, Texas.
—Base prices: $28,640-$49,080.
Don't need the hauling capacity of a full-size truck, or want something more urban- and garage-friendly? One of these midsize trucks could be an excellent alternative.
MPG KING: CHEVY COLORADO/GMC CANYON
Resurrected for 2015, GM's midsize twins play like big boys with the addition of a diesel and upgraded infotainment options. A segment exclusive, the 2.8-liter turbo-diesel engine delivers 181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque that, at 31 mpg highway, gets the best fuel economy of any pickup. Diesels tow up to 7,700 pounds and come standard with integrated trailer brake controllers and exhaust braking. Drivers will also appreciate the addition of Apple CarPlay for smartphones, 4G Wi-Fi hot spot, lane departure warning and forward collision alert systems. Look for a Canyon Denali to debut next year.
—Base prices: $20,100-$38,675
HEY MCFLY: TOYOTA TACOMA
Marty McFly's pickup arrives in the future with a beefier design and bicycles/gear bed attachments. Gadgets include a GoPro mount under the rearview mirror, app-based Entune infotainment system, JBL speakers and wireless phone charging. Turn wheels with a 159-horsepower 2.7-liter I-4 engine or 278-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine for up to 6,800 pounds towing. All we're missing is a production version of the recent "Back to the Future" concept that cribs the original's black paint, jacked suspension and KC spotlights.
—Base prices: $23,300 — $37,820.
IN SEARCH OF A NEW FRONTIER: NISSAN FRONTIER
Ready for a redesign, Frontier slogs forward with its durable reputation intact. Updates include a Moonroof Package for Crew Cab SV models and three new colors: Forged Copper, Gun Metallic and Magnetic Black. A full array of body and trim configurations are powered by a 261-horsepower V-6 engine and 152-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Check the Desert Runner package (4x2, V-6) for a ridge between off-road fun and on-road performance.
—Base prices: $18,190-$35,510
THE LONG HAUL
Falling in love with a pickup may be good for your finances, but consider options carefully.
"Pickup trucks have done really well lately," said Anil Goyal, vice president of Blackbookauto.com. "Historically, trucks retained 45 percent of their value after three years. Now, demand is up; trucks retain 63 percent of their original price after three years. On higher trim levels, values tend to go down more on a percent basis," Goyal said. "In used vehicles, it's more of a value buyer. If you're buying for the short term, look at more basic models. If long-term, do what you want."
WHAT ABOUT DIESEL?
"Diesel pays off," Goyal said. "There's a $6,000 premium for diesel and you retain 80 percent of that after three years."
Most important; open your mind to possibilities.
"Drive them," Gonderman said. "All vehicles have their strengths and weaknesses, but there's honestly not a bad truck in the bunch. Don't let bias or brand loyalty dictate the purchase."
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