Here’s the lowdown on pickups

When I was a kid, living back east, I couldn’t wait for September to roll around. And no, not because school started up, but because that was when the new vehicles hit the showroom floors.

We guys, and occasionally a tomboy girl, would make the rounds. Even then, all we wanted to see were the new styles. The new colours. What was standard equipment this year, and how many options could be ordered. Most of all, who was selling the biggest engine. Back then, it was cubic inch displacement which was king of the road for the next 12 months.

This week’s 2014 Vancouver International Auto Show is my teenage September re-visited, a trip down memory lane, but with a modern twist. I’m looking for a number of special vehicles that have piqued my curiosity. There are a couple of 2015 pickups that I’m going to head right to, plus a vehicle or two that I didn’t think could be improved, but apparently have.

Here’s five pickups I’m looking forward to getting an up-close look at.

2015 Ford F-150

This is for real. This is a vehicle the folks at Henry’s place decided to put on display around North America, and see what you and I think. Look now and own one in September/October of this year. They’re bragging about its being made of Military-Grade Aluminum Alloy and High Strength Steel. Calling it the best of both worlds. On top of all this, they’ve added a 2.7-litre EcoBoost engine, which is the next generation of ecoboost. They still offer the 3.5 ecoboost, plus a new 3.5 V6 and the 5.0 litre V8-FFV. Other goodies in this futuristic pickup include 400-watt power plugs so we can charge up tools while on the job. A 360-degree camera system, so we can see all four sides of the vehicle; no blind spots anymore. When you want to order yours, Ford mechanics across North America will have received special training on how to repair this metal alloy.

2015 GMC Sierra HD

Why not stay in the future for the moment. The General is keeping pace with Henry with the ‘look today, order for this fall’ theme. GMC is not bragging about special metal used in construction, but making a lot of claims in other areas for all three HD series — the 2500, the 3500 and the Denali HD. Stating this pickup can do it all with such goodies as highest conventional trailering rating — 8,890 kg (19,600 lb.), to gas and Duramax diesel powertrains that even include a bi-fuel option that pairs the gas engine with a compressed natural gas system. The cab has won me over. The doors are now triple sealed. It’s so quiet, it’s unbelievable. The instrument panel is to die for. Don’t quite have to go back to school to learn how to use it, but the new owner will need to spend some time with the instruction manual. It’s beautiful. The centre console is deep enough to hang file folders, and of course there are USB ports, 12-volt charging outlets, with additional 110-volt outlets for power tools. These HD vehicles will make it pretty hard for those inside to ever want to get out and go to work.

2014 Nissan NV High Roof

This is a vehicle that was truly designed for the North American worker. Why? We’re a tall bunch. Our kids are taller. Every generation seems to be taller yet. So with this vehicle, a person 6-foot-3 can stand up inside, comfortably, and do his or her job. I can feel my neck and back thanking me already. What it looks like is a regular cargo van with a raised roof, yet it does not look like an add-on. It is aerodynamic with rear doors to match the roof height. The power can either be a V6 or a V8, the latter offering 317 horses and 385 lb-ft torque. There are two trim levels, but I prefer the SV package as it includes a trailer towing option, full GPS, six built in lock-down-and-secure-your-cargo hooks, and the designers even pre-drilled quite a few holes in the inside wall framing, that can be used to fasten shelving or use for additional clamps for load security. Even though the 2014’s won’t be in the local showrooms until April, they are being built, right now, in the North American plant, down in Tennessee.

2014 Toyota Tundra

I don’t think I have come across a vehicle in the last 40 years that offers a list of interior and exterior options like this one so that in reality, no two Toyota Tundra pickups are identical. What a list it is — 33 exterior and 35 interior options. Impressed the you-know-what out of me. There are four models to choose from, to which you can apply your option selection. I like the deck rail system with tie down clamps, and also the heated chrome power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators with the manual extend and fold feature. I also like the look of the tail gate with the sort-of built in air deflector on the leading edge. What I’m not sure about is their claim of easy-lower-easy-lift tailgate. Seems as though a light fingered thief could make off with your tailgate in 15 seconds or less. Moving to the interior, I get a real charge out of the folks who make up the wording for the options. It’s priceless in itself. There’s single or dual control A/C, lots of buttons and gadgets wired into the steering wheel or your choice, there’s even an auto-dimming rear view mirror with built-in compass, and the expected remote keyless entry.

2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel
Cut to the chase right from the get-go. The 2014 Motor Trend Truck of the Year, AND Canada’s only Light-duty diesel pickup to offer eight-speed automatic transmission, five-link coil spring rear suspension and RamBox Cargo Management System. Now, for this offering, Ram features the 3.0 litre Ecodiesel V6. If you haven’t checked it out, because you think it will be too noisy, too smoky, too gutless, well, listen up folks. This engine has made a believer out of this stubborn Scot. It is very quiet, clean burning, turbo-charged 60-degree, dual overhead cam, 24-valve V6 that is so powerful, it will, and has already done so, given rival V8s a run for their money with power and capability. Hook it up to that eight-speed tranny, and you achieve unbelievable low end torque of 420 lb-ft at only 2,000 rpm. 240 hp at 2,000 rpm. That’s right. The engine is barely humming. When properly optioned out, this same engine will haul up to 4,173 kgs, or 9,200 pounds, cargo capacity. I could go on, but in closing let me tell you that an expert panel of judges recently tested 13 of the most popular pickups in our country, and the overall winner of that challenge? The Ram 3.0 litre EcoDiesel V6. Better check it out and see if I’m tell you the truth or not.

John G. Stirling’s Big Rigs column appears in the Province Driving section each Tuesday.

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