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Light trucks draw a crowd

Feb. 11, 2014
New Ford F-150, Ram demo, midsize GM pickup turn heads at Houston Auto Show

They call it an auto show, but when it’s in Texas, pickups have to be there, too.

The 2014 Houston Auto Show was held January 22-26 at the Reliant Center next to Houston’s Reliant Statdium.  The event occupied more than 700,000 square feet of display space. More than 34 manufacturers of automobiles, trucks, vans, and SUVs exhibited.

Ford displayed its 2015 aluminum pickup, and GM showed of the return of the Colorado and Canyon midsize pickups.  But Ram Trucks may have stolen the show with by letting show visitors hop inside a parade of half-ton 4 x 4s and sending them through a torture course for light-duty trucks.

While ride and drives are common fare, this was the first for in which a truck manufacturer produced an inside demonstration of this type.  Ram Trucks brought a 25,000-square-foot track that enabled show visitors to experience what it is like to ride with professional drivers through a series of obstacles.  Among the sections of the track:

• A steel articulation demo consisting of a series of off-set steel ribbons that showcase the suspension capability.  As the truck traveled along the ribbons, the high points on one side of the vehicle corresponded to the low points on the other side—generating severe racking of the body.

• A large concrete wedge simulated what it is like to drive on a road that slants 30 degrees and demonstrated the vehicle’s stability.  Integral ramps at the front and rear sections of the wedge provided lift for the truck, enabling it to travel the length of the wedge at a 30-degree angle.

• A 12 x 25-foot section of terrain that simulated fallen logs.

The professional drivers drove a small fleet of Ram 1500 4x4 trucks up a 13-foot high, 30-yard long hill at a 30-degree slope.   

Ford’s aluminum pickup

The use of aluminum body for the F-150 will knock 700 pounds off the tare weight, Ford says, while a new steel frame, with steel rated up to 70,000 psi, will provide durability.  Aluminum Ford F-150s have been subjected to more than 10 million miles of testing including completion of the Baja 1000.

Accessories for the new Ford include 360-degree camera view, integrated loading ramps stowed in the pickup bed, 400-watt power outlets inside the cab, LED headlights and sideview mirror spotlights, and remote tailgate release.

Trailer hitch assist, a new rear view camera feature that adds a dynamic line based on steering wheel angle in the display, can help customers line up truck and trailer without requiring a spotter or having to get out of the vehicle

A smart trailer tow module uses a new tow wiring harness to help identify and inform the driver of potential trailer connectivity issues, burned or unlit trailer marker lamps, and brake light and trailer battery faults.

Remote tailgate allows the tailgate to be locked, unlocked and released with the key fob – eliminating manual locking and increasing convenience and security. The tailgate also is damped, dropping down, hands-free, to a flat position when opened.

The aluminum F-150 will go on sale late this year.  It will continue to be manufactured at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan, and Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri.

New midsize pickup

It was the Texas premier of General Motors new midsize pickup truck, the Chevrolet Colorado and the GM Canyon. Targeted for customers who don’t require a full-size truck, the new midsize goes on sale in fall 2014 as a 2015 model.

A 2.8-liter turbodiesel will be available next year.  The four-cylinder Duramax will be based on an established diesel engine currently available in GM vehicles built in Europe.  The Colorado and Canyon will debut this year with a gasoline powered 2.5L I-4 as standard, and a 3.6L V-6 for customers desiring additional power.  Each is matched with a six-speed automatic transmission, and the 2.5L is available with a six-speed manual transmission on extended cab 2WD Work Truck models.

When properly equipped, the Colorado is expected to offer payload capacity and trailering capacity of more than 6,700 pounds.

The 2015 Colorado’s configurations are an extended cab model with a 6-foot bed, a crew cab with a 5-foot bed and a crew cab with a 6-foot bed. With the tailgate down, the 6-foot bed allows hauling of 8-foot-long items.  Each of the three trim levels will be offered with two-wheel or four-wheel drive.

The Colorado has an aluminum hood. It also features active aero grille shutters, which close at certain highway speeds to enhance aerodynamics.

Several ergonomic features will be available, including a standard CornerStep rear bumper design pioneered on the 2014 Silverado and an EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate that uses an internal torsion bar to make raising the tailgate easier with one hand, and a damper for more-controlled lowering. 

Standard two-tier loading allows a platform to effectively split the bed into upper and lower sections, making it easier to haul, store and conceal items such as tools. 

Cargo control features include 13 standard tie-down locations throughout the bed for use with available, movable cargo tie-down ring. 

Bed rail and tailgate protectors are standard, and an optional spray-in bed liner is available from the factory.

Standard and available features designed to keep the Colorado’s occupants safe before, during and after a crash include:

• Six standard air bags, including head side curtain air bags designed to help keep occupants from being ejected in a crash.

•  Standard rear-vision camera system for greater visibility.

•   Forward collision alert system is available as an option.

•   Lane departure warning available.

•   Standard StabiliTrak electronic stability control system with rollover mitigation, trailer sway control, hill start assist and hill descent control (Z71).

Colorado also features the segment’s first application of electric power steering, which enhances efficiency by avoiding the energy used by what conventionally is an engine-driven feature.

The Colorado has a turning radius of about 41 feet, enabling easier turning in tight areas such as city streets or backing a trailer into a tight spot.

Not all specs are final.  Chevrolet will continue to work on and develop the Colorado until the start of production in 2014. This story is based on current GM testing and is subject to change.