2004 GM Trucks

After nearly two decades of service, Chevrolet will replace the Chevy S-10 and GMC Sonoma
pickups with the Colorado and the Canyon, while also introducing a new single-rear-wheel
3500-series pickup, a 1500-series Crew Cab, a gas-electric hybrid and a new midsize SUV.

Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon

These all-new pickups will be offered in regular and extended cabs
with a 6-foot-bed and Crew Cab 5-foot-bed models, all of them much
roomier inside than the previous S-pickups. Four inches added to
regular-cab length means that even 6-foot-tall-plus drivers can fit, and
the square styling keeps outside dimensions maneuverable.

A 250-percent-stiffer frame provides the foundation for carrying
ability and a good ride, void of squeaks and creaks even in the
four-door extended-cab models. Three suspension choices are offered —
street/sport, standard and Z71 Off-Road — on two-wheel-drive (2WD) and
electric-shift four-wheel-drive (4WD) models.

The engines are derived from the 4.2-liter inline six in midsize
SUVs and share a majority of parts with the “utes.” The 2.8-liter I-4
and 3.5-liter I-5 use balance shafts for smoothness, under-square
dimensions, variable valve timing and aluminum for the head and block.
Output ratings are 175 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque from the 2.8-liter and
220/225 for the 3.5-liter, but 90 percent of maximum output is
available at 1,400 rpm or below. The standard gearbox is a five-speed
manual, with the 4L60-E automatic optional.

Gross combination weight ratings (gcwr) for the Colorado and the
Canyon are 9,000 pounds, and maximum tow rating, down from S-10 levels,
is 4,000 pounds, but that two-ton rating is good for the I-5/automatic
combination in any configuration of cab style and drive system.

The Colorado and the Canyon are marked improvements over their
predecessors in almost every respect (they probably will cost a bit
more), and offer such features as roof-rail air bags and an XM satellite
radio. A five-cylinder Crew Cab would make a good puller for a young
family with a small trailer.

Silverado/Sierra

With Ford and Dodge now offering a single-rear-wheel one-ton
pickup, GM joins the fray with the 3500HD SRW. These long-bed pickups
come in all three cab styles and feature a gross vehicle weight rating
(gvwr) of 9,900 pounds, but only as 4WD with automatic transmission. A
6-liter V-8 is standard, with the 8.1-liter V-8 and Duramax 6.6-liter
optional; axle ratios are 4.10:1 with gas engines and 3.73:1 with the
diesel. Maximum tow capacity is 12,000 pounds (15,700 pounds for a
fifth-wheel), and payload is up because the tires have grown to
LT265/75R16 LRE.

Since the 1500HD Crew Cab was a bit long and stiff-riding for some
people, production will start in January on a new 1500 Crew Cab with
5-foot 8-inch box, built on the extended-cab 6½-foot-box model’s
143-inch wheelbase; overall length will be shorter than 19 feet. This
truck will use the 285-hp 5.3-liter V-8, but its maximum tow rating —
8,500 pounds — is on the 4WD because it is offered with 4.10 gears and
the 2WD is not.

The last new pickup is the Parallel Hybrid 1500, which supplements
a gas engine with electric power. Initially offered in limited supply,
we anticipate it reaching the consumer market in mid-2004. Inside the
bell housing, this system hides an assembly that serves as electric
motor, starter and alternator, and adds the power from a 14-kW electric
motor to the gas engine’s output. By switching off the engine at traffic
lights — which will stay off up to five minutes before air conditioning
demands a restart — fuel economy is up by 10 to 15 percent, or 1.6 mpg
in the city cycle. The torque converter stays locked down to 13 mph for
coast-down regenerative braking, and in other respects this works just
like any other 1500 except that the system’s 350 pounds will detract
from the vehicle’s gcwr.

While there is plenty of technical detail and pricing hasn’t been
set, the new bed, the economy improvement, near undetectable operation
of the system — which offers a total 20 continuous amps of 120-volt AC
power — should prove beneficial. In addition, the hybrid system doesn’t
cause any loss of interior space in either the cab or the bed.

SUVs

Buick gets a second SUV with the Rainier, sister unit to the
TrailBlazer/ Envoy family. It joins the upcoming Envoy XUV (with opening
roof and folding midgate, á la the Avalanche) as the only
five-passenger GM midsizes to offer a V-8 — the all-aluminum, 290-hp
5.3-liter that will show up in the Chevy SSR hot-rod pickup.

On the smaller side of things, the Aztek, a popular dinghy
vehicle, gets a new Rally Edition, and the Pontiac Vibe has larger
wheels and may be equipped with a GM supercharger system. More
applicable to motorheads than motorhomers, the Saturn VUE Red Line will
use a 250-hp V-6, five-speed manual transmission and lowered suspension
to make it one of the more-wild grocery-getters in the campground.

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