Pickup trucks are popular throughout Canada for so many reasons, but if work or tow with them – well, a lot of what I saw at this year’s Detroit Auto Show will be of interest to you. I saw a whole new wave of iron (with a lot of aluminum thrown in) coming from each of the builders at a show that for a change was dominated by trucks. 

First was the re-introduction of the Ford Ranger; then the next generation of the 2019 Chevy Silverado and also the 2019 Ram 1500 – the first time it’s really been all new since ‘09.  Each one is a new truck with new chassis, drive gear and powertrains. No warmed over models with a dab of new paint this year! 

But past the obvious next-gen headlines there are is a further seismic shift going on in truck world.  Diesel.  For the first time ever each of the builders will offer a small displacement diesel engine in its half-ton trucks.  3.0L to be exact. So, while Ram took the lead on this front, both Ford and GM have now committed to a diesel powered half-ton and this one development alone should have a profound impact on the market.  You will now be able to cross-shop not only the brands – but the diesel engines as well.

So, what am I looking forward to?  All new gas engines, as well as the diesels. The updated electronics, infotainment and driver assist technology’s that each truck is promising. The increased payload and towing capacities – which I will test, my way. But best of all is driving and living with the newest designs from each of the brands we love.  Here is what we know so far about each one.

2019 Ford Ranger

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Ford’s midsize truck was a mainstay from 1983 to 2011 and now it’s back. And, it’s not just the global version being warmed over. One look at the truck on the Detroit stage shows that Ford is taking this re-introduction seriously. They have crafted a body that is different enough to make it uniquely North American.

I saw a truck, which looks good and heard a little about the underpinnings and powertrains. But, at this point, there is not much more detail. 

Here is what I do know. The power will come from a 2.3L EcoBoost engine that uses twin-scroll turbochargers and a 16-valve design mated to a 10-speed transmission. No numbers though were provided at the introduction.

Ranger trim will start with the entry-level XL package, the mid-level will be XLT and high-level Lariat will cover the luxury end. . There will also be available Chrome, Sport and FX Off-Road packages. The body will be available as either SuperCab or SuperCrewcab configurations.

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Inside, the Ranger interior exudes a Ford vibe, generally looking neat and functional. It will seat up to up to five people and has some space for gear.  The center stack includes an 8-inch touch screen for the available SYNC 3 system, while the instrument cluster features dual LCD screens showing real-time vehicle, navigation and audio information.

One of the few things Ford did expand on was the availability of the FX4 option. This Off-Road package will include skid plates, upgraded tires and an off-road tuned suspension and shock setup. For traction electronics the Ranger will use Ford’s Terrain management System and something called Trail Control (not sure what that is – yet) to navigate the rocks and the dirt.

And, in typical Ford fashion I’m sure they will time the release more information on the Ranger in dribs and drabs – right up to the date of arrival on dealer lots. 

2019 Chevy Silverado

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Here is what rolled out on to the stage at Cobo hall. A new truck that looks flatter, with stretched lights that round the corners front and back. The body is also slightly bigger (4-inches longer) than the previous generation.  Aerodynamics on this truck is also improved and these slick changes influence the compressed look of the sheet metal.

But, the bulk of the “what’s new” is found underneath and inside. Let’s start with aluminum. A wide variety of parts and panels are now built out of aluminum – but not the cargo bed – that is still steel. This mixed materials approach, says Chevy, makes for a stronger chassis and a total weight reduction of 450 lb.  The cargo bed on this new truck got its fair share of attention from the engineers – the result being a new inner sidewall stamping method that lead to best-in-class cargo volume of 63 cu-ft (on a short-box). Bed width was increased by seven inches. To fill it Chevy now offers optional removable storage bins. Tie down points have been increased to 21 – each with a 500 lb capacity. The bed gets available task lighting, a 120V in-box outlet and bigger cutouts for the CornerStep bumpers. The tailgate can now also be ordered with a power up/down feature that works off a key fob or interior switch. 

This 2019 Silverado will also offer more powertrain combinations than ever before, including, for the first time, a diesel engine. This all-new Duramax diesel displaces 3.0L, is turbo-charged and uses an inline-six cylinder design. Gas engines include the veteran 5.3L and 6.2L V8s – while two other engines are listed as “to be announced”.  However, Chevy has revealed a companion technology called Dynamic Fuel Management. This is a cylinder deactivation system; but unlike current and past ones it will be able to deactivate any combination of one to seven cylinders – as needed. Both the 3.0L diesel and 6.2L engines will use a new Hydra-Matic 10-speed automatic transmission as well as start/stop technology to improve fuel economy.

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Over the past two years consumers have watched Chevrolet roll out one “special edition” truck after another. Well, this effort (which was well received) has spawned a more permanent model differentiation. As Chevy says “No one size fits all”. So, in addition to the expected interior upgrades that come with eight different trim levels the Silverado will now be available with chrome and without; different grilles, blacked out trim (or not) and unique paint and wheels packages.

Inside the crew-cab gets an additional three-inches of rear seat legroom and storage is increased with unique in-seat trays. The rear floor is also flatter. GM, the first to offer Wifi, will continue to do so as well as , Apple Car Play, Android Auto, wireless phone charging and OnStar. For 2019 though new safety and convenience features will be announced later this year.

So while Chevrolet is showing off now – GMC fans can expect to see the Sierra get its own update later in the year.

2019 Ram 1500

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This Ram, now in its second incarnation (since the Ram brand went stand-alone in ’09), has plainly stuck with its key design elements. But, they have made enough changes to the metal to bring the design forward. Firstly, the new face has an updated Ram’s head logo on a new Ram grille – one seen only on the Rebel last year. It is now the standard – the cross-hair bars are gone. Lights are thinner and elongated – and three illumination packages will be offered. The belt-line and overall body shape can only be described as slippery and is visually pleasing. But, happily, this truck features much more than sheet metal changes – it has addressed a laundry list of issues and wants that customers have spent the last nine years compiling.

To start with – the new aluminum tailgate finally gets a damping feature as well as an internal lift assist; and it drops using the keyfob or an internal switch. This along with the aluminum hood (a fixture since ’09) and several new aluminum components have reduced the chassis weight by 225 lb.  Though it’s lighter it actually is bigger; with the overall length stretched by 4-inches and the bed height raised by an inch and a half.

This Ram also makes some new claims: largest front brakes, most aerodynamic shape, exclusive next-gen air suspension, most spacious cab and increased load limits.  Payload capacity on the new Ram is now 2,300 lb and a maximum tow limit of 12,700 lb.

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Powertrain choices though remain virtually the same with the 3.6L V6 Pentastar (305hp and 269 lb-ft of torque) being the base engine and the big power being delivered by the 5.7L Hemi V8 (395hp and 410 lb-ft of torque).  These are both coupled to an automatic eight-speed transmission, same as the current truck.

What is new is a mild hybrid system that adds the torque of an electric motor for starting acceleration. In the case of the V6 the belt-driven generator adds 90 lb-ft of launch torque while the V8 Hemi gets a 130 lb-ft jolt off the line.

Inside the new 12-inch touch screen dominates the centre stack. It’s driven by the fourth-generation Uconnect system that incorporates, NAV, cameras, HVAC, infotainment and it now also offers Wifi. Another inclusive option is the harman/kardon 900 watt audio system driving 19 speakers and a 10-inch subwoofer in the truck.

Ram Box continues to be offered, however with a new 115V plug and in-box lighting. The 2019 Ram 1500 will get four new colours, including the first use of Tri-coat paint with Ram: Billet Metallic, Ivory White Tri-coat, Patriot Blue Pearl, and Diamond Black Crystal Pearl. There will also be a choice of sixteen new wheel designs available in18-inches up to 22-inch diameter.

Also driven onto the show stage was a Ram Rebel with a new 4x4 Off-road package. This truck features 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires, an electronic locking rear differential, one-inch factory lift, Bilstein shocks and unique air suspension. The underbody features several skid plates, tow hooks and hill-descent control.  Nice to see that this package isn’t just about stickers anymore.

So, while Detroit introductions are the beginning – rest assured there is much more information to come on each of these trucks as we move through the year towards their actual arrival at dealers.