Need to tow a classic? The Big Three bring half-ton diesels to Detroit

The truck market in the United States is booming, and Detroit’s Big Three are the big winners. GM sold 943,000 trucks in 2017 across midsize and fullsize models from Chevrolet and GMC, while Ford nearly matched that number with F-Series alone (Ford is hoping to surpass GM’s truck sales with the addition of the Ranger). Across town, Ram posted record sales in 2017, marking eight straight years of growth. With so much on the line, competition is fierce, which means more significant light truck product launches at the 2018 North American International Auto Show than we can remember. Chevrolet, Ford, and Ram each launched new powertrains in the Silverado, F-150, and Ram, respectively. And for the first time ever, all three will offer a diesel option. Here are the half-ton highlights:

2018 Ford F-150

2018 Ford F-150 Diesel at the NAIAS
For the first time ever, Ford will put a diesel into the F-150. At 250 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque, it’s more powerful than the 7.3-liter Power Stroke V-8 used from 1992-1997. Brandan Gillogly

The 2018 F-150’s 3.0-liter Power Stroke V-6 diesel is aiming for a 30 mpg highway rating from the EPA, with Ford claiming the highest towing rating of any half-ton at 11,400 pounds. The new engine cranks out an impressive 250 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque and is paired with the 10-speed automatic transmission jointly developed with General Motors. After a complete redesign in 2015 that included a switch to a lightweight aluminum body, Ford refreshed the F-150 for 2018 by adding a handsome new grille and headlights while beefing up the chassis for the trucks’ improved powertrains. The Power Stroke, the first diesel ever offered in the F-150, is one of six engines for 2018 and will be available this spring.

2019 Dodge Ram

2019 Ram 1500 Rebel
Ram’s sporty off-road Rebel trim package returns for 2019, keeping its bold grille and interior colors. Brandan Gillogly

The 2019 Ram debuted with an all-new frame, larger cabs, and a new look. Edging away from the prominent fenders that were a splash hit in the 1994 Ram and the two generations since, the 2019 Ram follows in the Durango’s footsteps with a look that is more conventional but still carries the family resemblance and is easily recognizable as Ram. The chassis is 98-percent high-strength steel and is both stronger and lighter.

Overall, weight is down by as much as 225 pounds. New powertrains include the venerable 5.7-liter Hemi that’s now paired with an optional 48-volt hybrid system, helping the V-8 run on four cylinders more often. The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel, available in the Ram since 2014, will return along with optional four-corner air suspension that allows the coil springs to adapt to load and road conditions. Inside, higher trim level Rams will offer a huge, 12-inch touch screen capable of running Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but even the mainstream models bring an improved interior with some of the best-looking cloth seats in the industry.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado

2019 Silverado Trail Boss
Trailboss is Chevrolet’s answer to the Rebel, upping the Z71’s off-road options with 33-inch tires and a two-inch suspension lift. Brandan Gillogly

Chevrolet hasn’t offered a diesel half-ton pickup since the 1980s, the same goes for an inline-six. That’s going to change when the 2019 Silverado is available with GM’s own 3.0-liter Duramax inline-six. The turbodiesel is one of six new powertrains for the fourth-generation Silverado and is all-new along with chassis and roomier bed and cab. Much of the focus on the next-gen Silverado was on efficiency, with improved aerodynamics, a stronger chassis that is 88 pounds lighter, and a switch to aluminum doors and tailgate that saved an additional 88 pounds on the way to dropping more than 400 pounds total.

Overall length has grown, but wheelbases have increased even more, meaning less overhang for better approach and departure angles. Trailboss editions increase off-road prowess with a two-inch lift and 33-inch tires, in addition to the Z71’s skid plates and rear differential locker. Six powertrains are planned, yet so far only three have been mentioned. New versions of the 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8s will be available with 8-speed and 10-speed transmissions, respectively, and both engines use Dynamic Fuel Management allowing the engine to shut down cylinders individually to increase fuel efficiency. Chevrolet’s previous Active Fuel Management allowed its V-8s to run in four-cylinder or eight-cylinder modes, but Dynamic Fuel Management will constantly monitor the engine’s load and power demands, running on as little as a single cylinder.

More details, like the power and torque figures from the 3.0-liter inline-six turbodiesel, will trickle out as the GMC Sierra is unveiled in the months to come, but so far we know that GM developed the engine in-house at its Global Propulsion Systems facility in Pontiac, Michigan. GM is claiming that the engine’s power and efficiency will top Ford’s 3.0-liter Power Stroke.

If you’re in the market for a half-ton truck for your car-towing needs, you may consider one of these trucks and their powerful, efficient diesel powertrains that will be available later in 2018. With the truck market as big as ever, there’s never been more pressure to one-up the competition and the results are a crop of pickups that are more comfortable, capable, and efficient than ever.

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