DFW AUTO SHOW PREVIEW:
TRUCKS. YOU CAN PUT ‘EM TO BED
PLEASE NOTE – AT THE URGING OF DALLAS OFFICIALS, THE 2020 DFW AUTO SHOW HAS BEEN POSTPONED. ONCE THE NEW DATE HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED, WE WILL POST IT HERE.
With the exception of automotive electrification, there is perhaps no automotive category evolving faster than the truck segment. It wasn’t long ago that changes came to the truck lineup about as often as changes came to the Supreme Court. In my lifetime, that needle probably moved in the early ’90s, when Dodge rejoined the ranks of the living with its dramatic redesign of the Ram 1500. And that move propelled both Ford and GM, until that point relatively complacent in their truck strategies, to turn up the wick and turbocharge their lineups. Although the latest truck news deals with electrification, the reality at this year’s Dallas Auto Show at the Dallas Convention Center is more prosaic, but also more readily available.
Truck showrooms have never offered the breadth of selection from full-size, midsize, half-ton and heavy duty to the consumer as they do today. With that, I’m giving a shout-out to Nissan’s revamped 2020 Frontier, perhaps the last analog truck still available in these United States.
The Frontier was last redesigned some 15 years ago, and what Nissan has done for 2020 is to build a bridge between the existing model and an all-new Frontier scheduled to debut next year. Nissan executive Tiago Castro explained, “From its roots tracing back more than 60 years, to the current model, Frontier has had a lasting impact on the compact and midsize truck segments in North America. As Nissan transitions to the next chapter, we celebrate both a proud past and a bright future with the heart of the next Frontier.”
In short, they’ve combined what I regard as the simple, upright goodness of the existing Frontier with the vastly improved drivetrain of the next, all-new Frontier. Out goes the tractor-like vibe of the existing 4.0-liter V6, and in comes a more powerful 3.8-liter V6 coupled with an all-new 9-speed automatic. Horsepower is up by 49, efficiency is improved, and the whole driving experience should be transformed. Thankfully, untouched will be the Frontier’s almost-vintage persona, which I’ve likened to buying a first-generation Land Rover. If, like me, you buy a vehicle hoping to pay it off in five years and enjoy it for another five, the 2020 Frontier should be a leading candidate. The updated Frontier goes on sale this spring, along with Nissan’s refreshed Titan.
With a new F-150 expected to hit the road within the next year, Ford’s current focus is to continue the rollout of its all-new Super Duty. Under the Super Duty hood, Ford is offering a new 7.3-liter V8 on top of the standard 6.2-liter V8, while those continuing to have faith in ignition by compression can check the 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel box. If opting for either the bigger gas or diesel engines, both hook up to an all-new 10-speed automatic. And as you might expect, the enhanced capability of Ford’s new Super Duty is matched with a bed full of “Nanny Aids” (distracted driving features).
Over at Ram, Fiat Chrysler’s truck division continues with a new 1500 which, in 2019, was sold alongside the “Classic” 1500. In this model year, the big news is the addition of a Ram 1500 EcoDiesel which, in 4X2 form, achieves 32 miles per gallon in the EPA’s highway test cycle. And, get this, the EcoDiesel Ram can exceed 1,000 miles of range per fill-up, while offering 12,560 pounds of towing capacity. In short, this constitutes one of the most capable half-ton packages in the marketplace.
Of course, the EcoDiesel is just one chapter of Ram’s pickup narrative. Ram continues to offer a mild hybrid (eTorque) with its V6, which can do 25 miles per gallon on the highway, along with the iconic 5.7- liter HEMI V8 with or without the eTorque feature. The only caveat I see is the $5K hit you’ll take when opting for the EcoDiesel, which would buy one heckuva lot of Shell regular.
Finally, Chevrolet’s new Silverado receives kudos for its enhanced capability, while its own 3.0-liter diesel arrives as an ultra-smooth inline six. And did I mention it’s Truck Month?