Full-Size Pickups More Capable for 2011

By Walt Moore, Editor | May 9, 2011

If you’re considering a new heavy-duty, full-size pickup truck, you’ll find that these new trucks have new or refined engines, both gas and diesel, with the diesels having increases in torque that make them absolute stump-pullers when towing loads. Transmissions also are brand new or significantly refined to handle the added torque and to provide more control for matching performance with the load. For standard-duty pickups as well, the selection of engines and transmissions for most models has never been greater, and like their heavy-duty counterparts, these capable trucks offer buyers a wide range of cab and cargo-bed configurations in both two- and four-wheel-drive versions.

Ram 1500

New in the Ram 1500 lineup for 2011 are the Laramie Longhorn Edition (the most luxurious Ram ever, says the manufacturer); the Outdoorsman, combining off-road capability and trailer-towing hardware; and the Tradesman.

The Tradesman is a basic work truck that starts with Ram’s popular 1500 ST trim package and adds a standard 5.7-liter Hemi engine with a five-speed automatic transmission. (Hemi-powered Ram 1500s are rated at 390 horsepower and generate 407 lb.-ft. of torque.) The regular-cab Tradesman is available with either the Ram mid-length or long bed and with a choice of 4x2 or 4x4 drive. Properly equipped, says the manufacturer, Tradesman models can tow up to 10,450 pounds.

Overall, the Ram 1500 range is available with three engines, two transmissions, two wheelbases (120.5 and 140.5 inches), and three bed lengths (5 feet 7 inches; 6 feet 4 inches; and 8 feet).

The 3.7-liter V6, standard on two-wheel drive regular-cab and Quad Cab models, has 215 horsepower and 235 lb.-ft. of torque. The 4.7-liter, with 310 horsepower and 330 lb.-ft. of torque, is standard on four-wheel-drive crew cab models. The 5.7-liter is standard on Sport and Laramie versions, plus the Tradesman; it’s optional on all other models. A four-speed automatic transmission is used with the 3.7-liter engine, and a five-speed with the 4.7 and 5.7-liter engines. Towing capacities for the three engines range up to 3,750, 7,600 and 15,500 pounds, respectively. Payload capacity across the Ram 1500 lineup ranges up to 1,810 pounds.

Nissan Titan

The Nissan Titan four-model lineup for 2011 includes the S, SV, PRO-4X and SL models offered in King Cab and crew cab body styles, except for the top-of-the-line SL, which is crew cab only. All are powered with the 317-horsepower, 5.6-liter Nissan Endurance V8 engine, which delivers 385 lb.-ft. of torque and features an aluminum block and cast-iron cylinder liners.

All trim levels offer both 4x4 and 4x2 drive configurations, except for the four-wheel-drive-only PRO-4X. Maximum payload capacity for the Titan lineup tips the scale at 2,150 pounds, and towing capacities range from 7,100 to 9,500 pounds.

The 2011 Titan uses two wheelbases and three bed lengths. The King Cab is built on the 138.9-inch platform and is fitted with a 6-foot 6-inch bed. Crew cab models also use the 138.9-inch-wheelbase chassis, but with a 5-foot 7-inch bed. The SL Long Wheelbase model features a 159.5-inch platform and a 7-foot 3-inch bed.

The Titan’s standard five-speed automatic transmission is designed especially for heavy-duty truck use, says Nissan, with an emphasis on towing and smooth shift quality. Power-assisted, rack-and-pinion steering is standard, along with four-wheel disc brakes (with a Bosch anti-lock braking system) and electronic brake-force distribution. An Active Brake Limited-Slip Differential system, standard with both 4x2 and 4x4 models, works with the Titan’s anti-lock braking system to provide optimum traction. For 4x4 configurations, the available E-Locker rear differential provides added traction.

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

The 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is available with a wide selection of engines, including a 4.3-liter V6; 4.8-liter V8; 5.3-liter V8 (iron block or aluminum block); and a 6.2-liter V8. Horsepower ratings for these engines are, respectively, 195, 303, 315, and 403. Torque ratings are 260, 305, 335 (iron)/338 (aluminum) and 417 lb.-ft. Three of the engines, the two 5.3-liter models and the 6.2-liter, have Flex-Fuel capability, allowing owners to fuel with E85 ethanol, gasoline or a combination of both fuels.

The 4.3- and 4.8-liter engines are backed by the electronically controlled Hydra-Matic four-speed automatic transmission, and the 5.3- and 6.2-liter engines use the Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed. A maximum-towing package combines a heavy-duty rear axle, locking differential and heavy-duty cooling system for a maximum towing capacity of 10,700 pounds on extended cab models. Payload capacities range to 1,980 pounds for 4x2 crew cab models having the enhanced towing package. A trailer-brake controller, integrated with the four-channel anti-lock braking system, is available on all models.

The Silverado 1500 lineup includes three cab styles—regular, extended and crew—and three cargo box lengths: 5 feet  8 inches (short), 6 feet 6 inches (standard), and 8 feet (long). The Silverado 1500 is available in four trim levels: WT, LS (crew cab only), LT and LTZ, with all available in 4x2 and 4x4 drive configurations.  Five suspension systems allow tailoring suspension to best match driving requirements.

Toyota Tundra

The Toyota Tundra full-size pickup for 2011 has a more powerful base engine, the 270-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6, now with Toyota’s Dual Independent Variable Valve Timing that can adjust timing of the intake and exhaust valves independently. The new engine develops 278 lb.-ft. of torque at 4400 rpm. Also available are three V8 engines, a 4.6-liter that produces 310 horsepower and 327 lb.-ft. of torque, and two versions of a 5.7-liter, one with ethanol technology, but both developing 381 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque.

Paired with the 4.0-liter is a five-speed, electronically controlled, automatic transmission. Behind the V8 engines is a six-speed automatic, which, when the Tundra is equipped with the available tow package, provides a Tow/Haul mode, selected by the driver, to change the transmission’s shift logic. The Tow/Haul mode essentially holds the transmission in lower gears when accelerating to prevent it from “hunting” between gears. In certain configurations (regular  cab/long bed/5.7-liter engine/4x2 drive), the Tundra’s towing capacity can top out at 10,400 pounds.

The Tundra is available with three cab styles—regular, Double and CrewMax—and with three bed lengths, standard (6 feet 6 inches), long (8 feet 1 inch), and short (5 feet 6 inches). The regular and Double versions can use either the standard or long bed; the CrewMax uses the short version. Maximum payloads for the three cab styles range up to 2,090, 1,745 and 1,665 pounds, respectively. All cab versions are available in either 4x2 or 4x4 drive configurations.

All Tundra models are equipped with Toyota’s Trailer-Sway Control system that detects trailer sway and adjusts braking and engine torque to compensate. Also standard is the Automatic Limited-Slip Differential that detects wheel spin and automatically brakes the spinning wheel on the axle. Other safety features include vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and a brake-assist feature that applies additional braking pressure in emergency situations.

Ford F-150

According to Ford, the 2011 F-150 incorporates the “most extensive power-train overhaul” in the 62-year history of the F-Series. Three new engines are available: 3.7-liter V6 (302 horsepower, 278 lb.-ft. torque); 5.0-liter V8 (360 horsepower, 380 lb.-ft. torque); and a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost model (365 horsepower, 420 lb.-ft. torque). Also available is a version of the 6.2-liter V8 (411 horsepower, 434 lb.-ft. torque), which is the base engine in the 2011 Ford F-Series Super Duty. The new engines are projected to be up to 20 percent more fuel efficient than 2010 models.

Another fuel saver, says Ford, is use of an electric power-assisted steering system (with the 3.7-, 5.0- and 3.5-liter power-trains), which draws power only when needed. This system replaces the previous hydraulic steering system, which ran continuously off the engine.

Each engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that features progressive range select, which, says Ford, allows locking out available gears while in Drive. Also enabled is the Tow/Haul mode, which is designed to provide improved control when hauling a heavy load or towing a trailer, especially when descending grades. The system uses electronic sensors to predict the need for a downshift and to provide engine braking.

The 2011 F-150 lineup offers four wheelbases—126, 145, 157 and 163 inches; three cab choices—regular, SuperCab and SuperCrew; and three bed lengths—5 feet 7 inches, 6 feet 6 inches, and 8 feet. Basic trim levels include the XL, STX, XLT, FX2/FX4 and Lariat; upscale trim packages include King Ranch, Platinum, SVT Raptor and Harley-Davidson F-150. Also available is the premium Lariat Limited, with U.S. production set at only 3,500 units.

GMC Sierra 1500

The GMC Sierra 1500 is available in several trim packages, including Work Truck, SL (crew cab only), SLE and SLT, along with two- and four-wheel-drive configurations. Three cab styles—regular, extended and crew cab—are available, and available bed lengths are 5 feet 8 inches, 6 feet 6 inches, and 8 feet. Standard equipment on the SLT models includes a heavy-duty cooling system, automatic locking rear differential, heavy-duty towing package, remote starting system, and Bluetooth connectivity for phones. Also available for 2011 are the Sierra All-Terrain and Sierra Denali.

Sierra 1500 models use a boxed frame with coil-over-shock front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering. Five suspension systems are available, each tailored, says GMC, to suit specific driving requirements, such as towing or off-road. The StabiliTrak electronic stability control system is standard on all models except with the 4.3-liter V-6. A trailer-brake controller is available and is integrated with the anti-lock braking system to provide measured brake force signaling to the electric-controlled trailer brake system.

The 2011 Sierra 1500 range is available with a 4.3-liter V6 (195 horsepower, 260 lb.-ft. torque); 4.8-liter V8 (303 horsepower, 305 lb.-ft. torque); 5.3-liter V8, either iron or aluminum block (315 horsepower, 338 lb.-ft. torque); and a 6.2-liter V8 (403 horsepower, 417 lb.-ft. torque). Three of the engines, the two 5.3-liter models and the 6.2-liter, have Flex-Fuel capability, allowing use of E85 ethanol, gasoline or a combination of both fuels. The Hydra-Matic electronically controlled, six-speed automatic transmission is used with the 5.3- and 6.2-liter engines, and a four-speed Hydra-Matic with the smaller engines.

Ram 2500/3500

The Ram 2500 is equipped with the 5.7-liter Hemi engine and a five-speed automatic transmission as standard equipment; optional for the 2500 is the 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel and a six-speed manual transmission. The 3500’s standard power train includes the Cummins Turbo Diesel and the six-speed manual transmission. If the Cummins in either the 2500 or 3500 is paired with the optional six-speed automatic transmission, then the High Output version of the engine is used, with revised performance mapping that boosts torque to 800 lb.-ft., up from its 650-lb.-ft. rating with the manual transmission. A new torque converter, says Ram, improves transmission/engine integration for better towing capability on grades.

The High Output version, still rated at 350 horsepower at 3,000 rpm, reportedly yields an additional 46 horsepower at highway cruising speeds. The Cummins does not require diesel exhaust fluid in 2500 and 3500 applications, and an exhaust brake is standard. The engine features an electronically controlled, common-rail fuel-injection system (with injection pressures in excess of 26,000 psi), variable-geometry turbocharger, and an integrated grid heater designed to allow cold starts in temperatures as low as minus 20F without glow plugs or ancillary block heater.

When properly equipped with the “Max Tow—Towing Optimization Package,” the Ram 3500 Heavy Duty is rated up to 22,700 pounds capacity for fifth-wheel towing. Ram also claims the largest brakes among heavy-duty pickups, with 14.17x1.54-inch fronts and 14.09x1.34-inch rears. New trim levels for the heavy-duty Ram include the Laramie Longhorn Edition (“the most luxurious Ram Truck ever,” says the company), and the Outdoorsman, which combines off-road capability and trailer-towing hardware in one package.

Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 2500HD/3500HD

The new heavy-duty Chevy and GMC pickups for 2011 use a refined version of the 6.0-liter Vortec V8 engine as standard equipment. Rated at 360 horsepower in 2500HD models (5,400 rpm) and 322 horsepower in 3500HD models (4,400 rpm), the Vortec develops 380 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm in both applications. The engine features a more sophisticated idle-management system, and camshaft changes that allow the engine to develop some 90 percent of its peak torque at speeds under 2,000 rpm. The 6.0-liter Vortec is matched with a stronger six-speed 6L90 Hydra-Matic transmission, which has a heavier output shaft and features Tap-Up/Tap-Down shift control and a Tow/Haul mode.

The optional engine for the Chevy and GMC is a refined Duramax 6.6-liter diesel, now with 397 horsepower and 765 lb.-ft. of torque—the latter figure coming close to that of the Ram. The Duramax features a stronger piston design and changes to connecting rods and main bearings to accommodate its increased torque. A new oil pump provides increased flow and pressure at low speeds, and the turbocharger lube circuit has been modified to deliver oil faster and at higher pressure. Estimates are that the engine’s diesel-exhaust-fluid tank (required for the selective-catalytic-reduction aftertreatment system) needs to be refilled only at 5,000-mile intervals.

Paired with the Duramax is the Allison 1000, a heavy-duty, six-speed automatic transmission that has been strengthened to handle the stronger engine. Duramax-equipped models also are fitted with a new driver-selectable exhaust brake that uses the turbine control of the turbocharger and the compression of the engine to generate backpressure for slowing the vehicle without the brakes. According to GM, brakes on the 2011 Silverado and Sierra heavy duties have been “completely revamped to deliver smoother, more immediate performance.”

The frames for these heavy-duty pickups also have been redesigned and feature boxed construction, along with increased cross-sections and added high-strength steel for greater durability and higher towing capacities. In addition, frame design more easily accommodates installation of fifth-wheel and goose-neck-type towing hitches. 

Ford F-250/F-350 Super Duty

Engine choices for Ford’s 2011 next-generation F-Series Super Duty pickup trucks include the new Ford-designed, Ford-built 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 Turbo Diesel and the new 6.2-liter V8 gas engine. The new diesel, rated at 390 horsepower and 735 lb.-ft. of torque, features “inboard exhaust architecture,” which places the exhaust manifolds in the valley of the engine, while the intake is outboard. The cylinder heads are essentially flipped, says Ford, in comparison with previous V8 engine architecture. The Power Stroke uses a compacted-graphite-iron block, aluminum heads, and a high-pressure, common-rail Bosch fuel system that operates to pressures of 29,000 psi.

The new gas engine, with 385 horsepower and 405 lb.-ft. of torque, features a cast-iron block, aluminum heads, cast-iron crankshaft, and forged connecting rods. The valve train is of single-overhead-cam design with variable valve timing. Both new engines have flexible fueling options—the diesel can accommodate up to B20, and the gas engine can use E85.

According to Ford, the new 6R140 TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission was developed specifically to manage the torque developed by the new Power Stroke diesel. The new transmission, says Ford, “seamlessly delivers the enormous low-rpm torque produced by the new diesel engine and efficiently manages the higher rpm of the new gasoline engine.”

The Progressive Range Select feature of the transmission allows the driver to use a toggle switch on the shift lever to reduce the number of available gears while in Drive, the resulting benefit being that upper gears are not available when the truck is heavily loaded or towing on grades. A full-manual mode also is available, allowing the driver to use the toggle to select the desired gear and lock the torque converter. In addition, for 2011 diesel-powered Super Duty models with the power-take-off prep option, a Live Drive Power Take Off feature is available to power snow plows, aerial lifts and dump bodies.

To handle the increased towing capacity, frame cross members are strengthened and the hitch has greater  capacity.