The latest crop of trucks and SUVS will be offered with more features and higher capacities for pulling trailers and fifth-wheels
It is often said that competition breeds innovation. It forces everyone to do a better job — or lose market share and, eventually, relevance. Exponential advancements in technology have resulted in lighter materials, better fuel economy, and comfort and convenience features that we never thought possible just 10 years ago. When a new model arrives these days, it’s not just an improvement — it’s almost a completely different vehicle. Technology is also making it possible for vehicle manufacturers to respond to market demands more quickly, up to and including “first ever” models that create a new segment in the industry.
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What all this means to consumers is that there are more choices than ever for the family vehicle. While we once chose a pickup truck to park alongside the family car, the pickup can now be the family car, and has the manners and refinement to competently fill that role. There are SUVs and crossovers to fill every family need and budget, and hybrid/electric vehicles continue to show promise for future tow vehicles as well.
It’s an exciting time to be considering a new family vehicle that can serve as a commuter during the week and a competent, comfortable tow vehicle on family vacations. Here are some of the latest.
Compact SUVs are the fastest- growing luxury segment, according to Cadillac, a fact that has given rise to the all-new XT4. Positioned between the full-size Escalade and midsize XT5, the smartly styled XT4 was developed on an exclusive compact SUV architecture and is powered by a 237-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and nine-speed automatic transmission. Thusly equipped, the XT4 can tow up to 2,500 pounds, Cadillac reports.
At introduction, the XT4 will be offered in seven “interior environments” based on Luxury, Premium or Sport trims, and will include the Cadillac User Experience (CUE), the brand’s most advanced infotainment interface. Accessed through a rotary controller, CUE incorporates an 8-inch diagonal screen and available technologies such as navigation, embedded 4G LTE connection and 15-watt wireless charging.
Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra
Ford’s bold move to lighten its trucks and offer more fuel-efficient engines has pushed its domestic competition to respond in kind. The 2019 1500 version of the Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra is, according to GM, better in every measurable way than the outgoing model.
First of all, it’s bigger.
The Silverado Crew Cab short box is 1.2 inches wider, 1.5 inches taller and 1.7 inches longer, and its wheelbase grows by 3.9 inches. Moreover, Silverado/Sierra offers an additional 3 inches of cab length for all configurations, and up to 4 cubic feet more interior volume. GM claims it offers the largest cargo volume of any full-size truck in shortbeds, standard beds and longbeds. The trucks are up to 450 pounds lighter, which bestows Crew Cab models with a 14 percent increase in payload, or 340 pounds.
In all, six engine/transmission choices include a new 2.7-liter turbo I-4 that will be offered as standard equipment in LT and RST trim levels with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The new engine represents a clean sheet of paper, according to GM, and was built specifically for use in truck applications. Technologies such as a dual-volute turbocharger and continuously variable valve timing result in pretty impressive numbers: the 2.7 cranks out 310 horsepower and 348 lb-ft of torque, good enough for 0 to 60 mph in under 7 seconds and a tow rating of up to 7,200 pounds. Also brand new is a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder Duramax diesel and 10-speed automatic transmission combo.
Light Makes Might
The 2019 Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra is up to 450 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, owing to advanced manufacturing techniques and the use of mixed materials. Its fully boxed steel frame is 88 pounds lighter than its predecessor yet boasts a 10 percent improvement in torsional rigidity.
Across the board, towing capability has increased, with the 4.3-liter V-6 rated at a maximum of 8,000 pounds and the 5.3-liter V-8 with Max Tow Package offering up to 11,600 pounds. The potent 6.2-liter V-8 and 10-speed automatic, meanwhile, is now offered with 4WD only and can pull up to 12,200 pounds.
At presstime, Chevrolet announced that the new Silverado 1500 would bring with it several new standard/available features designed to take the stress out of towing, including a myChevrolet phone app that makes trailer-light checks a one-person job, Hitch Guidance with Hitch View, an Advanced Trailering System infotainment app, an integrated Trailer Brake Controller with brake-gain memory, a Trailer Camera Package and an industry-first Trailering Label.
Located in the driver’s side doorjamb, the Trailering Label is designed to take the guesswork out of towing and hauling. By linking the VIN of each truck to the label, owners will now know the gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr), gross combined weight rating (gcwr), gross axle weight rating (gawr), maximum payload, maximum hitch weight and curb weight of the truck they own or intend to buy, providing a clearer picture of its actual capabilities.
Frankly, we don’t know why Ford stopped building the Ranger in the first place, but now that midsize truck sales are up 83 percent since 2014, it makes good business sense to bring it back. New from the ground up and built with a high-strength-steel frame, this new Ranger is equipped with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine mated to the only 10-speed automatic transmission in the segment. Ford hadn’t released power figures at press time, allowing only that the four-cylinder produces torque on par with its V-6 competitors. In Mustang guise, the engine produces 310 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque, so even a detuned version designed for truck use should have a pretty healthy output.
Offered in entry-level XL, mid-level XLT and high-level Lariat trim, the Ranger will also be available with the FX4 Off-Road Package for those who like out-of-the-way places. FX4 packs hardware such as protective skid plates, upgraded tires and off-road suspension, plus technologies like a Terrain Management System and Trail Control to make challenging conditions a snap. Tow ratings have not been released yet, but look for the Ranger to be competitive on this front as well.
The F-150 may be the leader of the pack, but with the competition constantly nipping at its heels, the company is continually improving its flagship product to keep it fresh in consumer’s minds. This year, the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, 5.0-liter V-8 and new 3.0-liter Power Stroke turbo-diesel V-6 will all be paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, while the base 3.3-liter V-6 engine will carry on with a six-speed automatic.
Now for the big news: The introduction of the F-150 Limited, which will employ the Raptor’s high-output 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine to become the most powerful light-duty pickup in America with 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque. According to Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager, the Limited combines the Raptor’s engine with business-class features to deliver “Baja fierceness, boardroom style and the grit to tackle tough jobs.” With that in mind, the Limited will also offer a higher-content interior with a Miko suede headliner, two-tone leather seating/trim and ash-wood accents, and will, of course, come loaded with an array of convenience and safety features.
We tested the 2019 Ram 1500 in the October issue, but in case you missed it, here’s a quick overview. First, and most noticeably, the Ram has been completely redesigned to be sleeker, lighter and more aerodynamic than ever, with a wind-cheating .357 coefficient of drag. It’s also more capable, with a maximum payload of 2,300 pounds and a maximum tow rating of 12,750 pounds. Cab length was stretched 4 inches, which yields limolike rear-seat legroom, and Frequency Response Damping shock absorbers plus active noise cancellation make this the quietest, smoothest-riding Ram yet. – Chris Hemer
Canada’s Ram 1500 Sport
In Canada the Ram truck brand holds the number-two sales spot behind Ford, whereas in the United States it trails behind Ford and GM. These sales results inspired Ram to build a Canadian-exclusive Ram 1500 trim package called the Sport.
So what does the 2019 Sport look like? It starts with a monochromatic exterior design that features all-black badging and a body-color grille, door handles and mirrors. In essence, it’s a chrome-delete look that can be accessorized with a Sport Performance Hood and 22-inch black-accented wheels. The interior is all black with accent stitching in diesel gray.
While the Sport is an appearance package only, it has the longer wheelbase, stronger frame and lighter overall body weight of the new generation of Ram 1500s, along with all the towing and payload gains. Other features include a 3.92:1 final drive ratio as part of the Max Tow Package, larger front brakes (14.9 inches) and the class-exclusive four-corner air suspension with load-leveling capability (ordered separately). – Howard J. Elmer
Hyundai’s best-selling SUV is all new for 2019. Now in its fourth generation, the Santa Fe undergoes some changes to its looks as well as its naming convention. The five-passenger Santa Fe Sport is now simply Santa Fe, and the long-wheelbase, three-row, seven-passenger model will be known as Santa Fe XL. Where a 3.3-liter V-6 was once available, all models are now powered by four-cylinder engines — a base 2.4-liter with 185 horsepower, a 2.0-liter turbo with an estimated 235 horsepower, and an all-new diesel with 190 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque, all of which are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Available in front- or all-wheel drive, 2.4-liter I-4 models can tow 2,000 pounds, while the turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 will be rated to tow 3,500 pounds. The diesel tow rating was not available at press time, but with the most torque of all the engines offered, it’s safe to assume that it will have at least a 3,500-pound rating as well.
The welcome successor to the MKX, the midsize Nautilus SUV continues Lincoln’s elegant new design language and offers a wide range of luxury features. Among these are available Ultra Comfort seats, which were developed with input from orthopedic surgeons and can be adjusted up to 22 ways. That’s likely great news for Los Angeles commuters, but what is probably more pertinent to RV enthusiasts is the Nautilus’ powertrain. A standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder develops 245 horsepower, while an available 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine can summon 335 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, good enough for a 3,500-pound tow rating.
A suite of new technologies includes lane-centering, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality and evasive steer assist, which, in Lincoln’s words, “uses radar and cameras to analyze the gap between slower-moving and stationary vehicles on the road ahead to lessen the risk of a rear-end collision.” Additional driver-assist technologies include Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Information System, active park assist, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping aid and an auto-hold feature, which relieves the driver from having to hold the brakes in stop-and-go traffic.
For as long as we can remember, Subaru has been calling its line of all-wheel-drive station wagons “SUVs.” With the possible exception of the oddly named and ill-fated B3 Tribeca, however, it never actually offered a vehicle that fits that mold. The new Ascent definitely does, and in a big way — as in the biggest vehicle Subaru has ever offered. Available with seven- or eight-passenger three-row seating and standard with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive (of course), this Subaru is powered by an all-new turbocharged 2.4-liter Boxer engine with 260 horsepower, matched with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). While somewhat underpowered compared to the competition, the Ascent still commands a respectable 5,000-pound maximum tow rating (the highest of any Subaru in history) and comes standard with Trailer Stability Assist (TSA) to help maintain vehicle stability while towing. Using yaw sensors to monitor trailer sway, the TSA system will brake individual wheels as necessary to stabilize the vehicle/trailer.
The Ascent will be offered in four trim levels (base, Premium, Limited and Touring) and is claimed to be the most versatile Subaru ever with nine unique seating configurations and two rows of 60/40-split flat-folding seats that yield up to 72.6 cubic feet of cargo space. A second-row bench seat is standard, while Premium and up trim levels offer second-row captain’s chairs as a no-cost option. Standard are three-zone climate control and a 6.5-inch Multimedia system with Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and smartphone integration with audio streaming, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Aha and Pandora, as well as SiriusXM services and a rear-vision camera. Higher-model grades offer 8-inch Multimedia Plus and 8-inch Multimedia Navigation systems. Wi-Fi connectivity is also available. Standard safety features include Automatic Pre-Collision Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, and Pre-Collision Throttle Management. Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are also available.
What once resembled an athletic shoe on wheels, Toyota’s RAV4 has steadily improved in appearance, refinement and capability since its North American introduction in 1995. Now in its fifth generation, the 2019 RAV4 sheds its “soft-roader” image, taking on a tough new look that shares design cues with its bigger siblings, Highlander and 4Runner. The implementation of the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) chassis gives the new RAV4 a slightly lower and wider stance, along with a wheelbase that is more than 1 inch longer. It’s also 57 percent stiffer than the outgoing model, with shorter front and rear overhangs that give the RAV4 more favorable approach and departure angles when driving off-road.
RAV4 is available in several trim levels in both front and all-wheel drive, standard or hybrid powertrains — but the Adventure AWD will be the most popular choice with RVers for two reasons: it’s the only model rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds, and it comes standard with Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive with Rear Driveline Disconnect. This all-new system can send up to 50 percent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels, as well as distribute it to the left or right rear wheel for improved handling. As its name would imply, the Rear Driveline Disconnect system transmits driving force to the front wheels only when AWD isn’t required, improving efficiency and reducing rotational vibration, according to Toyota.
The Adventure AWD grade also delivers off-road specific content like Multi-Terrain
Select, and unique styling, thanks to aggressive-looking over fenders, grille, fog-light surrounds and wheels.