March 18, 2019

Texans love their trucks, using them for work, play and everyday transportation. Houston’s no exception. In January 2019 (the most recent data available from InfoNation, publisher of the TexAuto Facts Report), three out of four vehicles sold at retail in the Houston area were either a truck or an SUV.

“In the ’50s and ’60s it was station wagons. In the ’80s it was minivans. Now trucks and SUVs are the new family cars,” said Daniel McDowell, president of Sugar Land-based InfoNation. Just how much does that new family “car” cost? In January, the average retail price of a truck or SUV in the Houston region was $41,685, up 1.2 percent from $41,199 in December 2018.

The pickup universe has become a lot more interesting — and expensive — with this year’s new, or significantly upgraded, arrivals. Scoring the right truck-month discounts could shave off quite a few dollars.

2019 Ford Ranger

The midsize pickup battles intensify with the return of the Ford Ranger for 2019. Offered in XL, XLT or Lariat trims, the Ranger comes with a 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine that produces 270 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque. The turbocharged inline four is paired with a 10-speed automatic that incorporates three overdrive ratios.

The payload ratings range from 1,560 to 1,850 pounds. All Rangers are rated to tow up to 7,500 pounds.

The resurrected Ranger comes as either a SuperCab with six-foot bed or a SuperCrew with a five-foot box. The base SuperCab starts at $24,300 while the basic SuperCrew Lariat 4x4 has an MSRP of $38,385. Ford’s midsize pickup has standard pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking. Stepping up to a XLT gets you a power-locking tailgate, remote keyless entry, 17-inch wheels, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, reverse sensing and blind spot and cross-traffic warning systems. The Lariat adds dual-zone automatic temperature control, 18-inch wheels, dual 4.2-inch productivity screens and Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system.

There’s an FX4 option that includes off-road suspension, all-terrain tires, heavy-gauge steel front bash plate and skid plates, rear locking differential and terrain management system.

2019 Ram 1500

Critics have swooned over the new-for-2019 Ram 1500. Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s re-engineered light truck’s honors include North American Truck of the Year, Motor Trend Truck of the Year, Green Car Journal’s Green Truck of the Year, Truck of Texas by the Texas Auto Writers Association and was designated a Consumer Guide “Best Buy.”

The 2019 Ram 1500 is quieter and thriftier with fuel. Cabins are upgraded across the board and the top Laramie Longhorn or Limited versions are certifiably sumptuous.

The Ram is available in six grades, starting at $31,795 for a Tradesman 4x2 and topping out at $56,940 Limited crew cab 4x4. Depending on trim and configuration, the engine is either a 305-horse 3.6-liter V6 or a 5.7-liter V8 rated at 395 horsepower. A 3.0-liter EcoDiesel will arrive this year. (The diesel engine is available now in the previous generation 2019 Ram 1500 Classic).

The fifth-generation 2019 Ram 1500’s V6 comes standard with a mild-hybrid system Ram calls eTorque that contributes power on take off and contributes to the Ram 4x2 EPA city rating of 20 mpg and 25 mpg on the highway. When ordered as an option on Ram’s 5.7-liter V8, eTorque helps Ram come in at 17 mpg city and 23 highway.

Though longer and more rigid, the Ram 1500’s redesigned frame is as much as 120 pounds lighter. Aluminum is used for the tailgate, engine mounts, front suspension and transmissions cross members, and, on 4x4 models, the front axle center section. The full-size truck has a 9 percent lower coefficient of drag thanks to factors like higher sides for the cargo box.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado

The 2019 next-gen Silverado enters the pickup war armed with improved amenities, comfort and capabilities. More refined and easy on the eyes, the redesigned Silverado adds new and/or revised engines and each trim gets its own grille.

Ranging from $29,895 to $60,690, the 2019 Silverado grows in almost every dimension. The crew cab with short bed, for example, is 231.7 inches bumper-to-bumper, a gain of 1.6 inches. It’s also 1.2 inches wider and 1.5 inches taller.

The latest Silverado’s wheelbase is up to 3.9 inches longer, providing rear passengers 43.4 inches of legroom — 3 inches more than the previous Silverado 1500 crew cab. All three cargo boxes hold more. The popular short bed, for example, is now 62.9 cu. ft. and wider by almost 7 inches in key areas.

Along with a 285-horsepower 4.3-liter V6 and six-speed auto, there’s a 355-horse 5.3-liter V8 and eight-speed automatic and the 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 paired with a 10-speed auto. The V8s employ Chevy’s new dynamic fuel management system that provides up to 17 different firing orders and can light off just two cylinders. The 5.3-liter 4x2 Silverado 1500 returns 16 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway. The 4x4 Silverado has EPA ratings of 16 city/20 mpg highway when equipped with the stout 6.2-liter V8, which earned a spot on the Wards 10 best engines list for 2019 (www.wardsauto.com).

A 2.7-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is new to the Silverado lineup. Paired to an eight-speed automatic, the turbocharged four makes 310 horsepower and 348 lb.-ft. worth of torque. It can tow up to 7,200 pounds and haul a payload of up to 2,280 lbs. According to the EPA, a double cab Silverado with 2.7 should pull down 20 mpg overall, but Car and Driver magazine reported that their tester returned 16 mpg.

2019 Ram Heavy Duty

In the hard-working three-quarter/one-ton truck class, the redesigned 2019 Ram Heavy Duty is making waves with more power, an upscale interior and the latest in convenience and safety technology.

Two things it doesn’t have is a manual gearbox and the 395-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V8. The standard engine is now a 410-hp 6.4-liter V8 hooked to an 8-speed ZF automatic. The popular Cummins 6.7-liter inline six diesel option packs more torque and horsepower, but there’s now a high-output Cummins for the Ram HD 3500 that serves up 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque. Ram says the new Heavy Duty, properly equipped, can handle payloads of up to 7,680 pounds and tow up to 35,100 pounds.

The available driver-configurable 12-inch radio is carried over from the Ram 1500 and placed closer to the driver. Areas in the cabin that get soft-touch materials are increased dramatically. The cabin’s active noise cancelation, acoustic glass, anti-vibration devices and four-way headrests make conversations — with passengers or on Bluetooth — at normal volume levels a cinch.

Underpinning the Ram Heavy Duty is a new frame that’s 98.5 percent high-strength steel. To combat the jouncy ride heavy-duty trucks can have when unloaded, Ram went with frequency response damping shock absorbers, upgraded bushings and progressive springs for the 2019 truck. The 2500s have a coil-spring rear suspension while the 3500s run leaf springs.

Optional on all versions except the Power Wagon is a rear air suspension system that can be set for normal, payload or trailer tow mode. The air system also lets the driver lower the bed. MSRPs range from $34,845 to $67,050.

2020 GMC Sierra Heavy Duty/Chevy Silverado Heavy Duty

General Motors’ GMC and Chevrolet divisions have taken the wraps off their upcoming “near-twins,” the 2020 Sierra HD and Silverado HD.

The new 2020 heavy duties are longer, wider and taller. The crew cab has a 5.2-inch longer wheelbase. A new standard 6.6-liter gas V8 with direct injection makes up to 401 horsepower and 464 lb.-ft. of torque. The 6.6-liter Duramax turbo-diesel packs 910 lb.-ft. of torque and 445 horses. While the V8 is exclusively available with a six-speed automatic, the diesel is paired with a new Allison 10-speed auto.

The trucks’ platform and suspension have been fortified to handle harsh duties. The 2020 GM heavy duty 3500 pickup with the Duramax diesel, regular cab and dual rear wheels can tow up to 35,500 pounds with a gooseneck hitch.

What about towing with a conventional hitch using the high-volume 2500 crew cab? With the standard gas V8 and single rear wheels the Silverado and Sierra HDs can tow up to 14,500 pounds. The Duramax diesel increases that limit to 18,500 pounds.

The Silverado and Sierra heavy duties can also be equipped with video technology offering up to 15 different views, including “transparent” trailer view that helps the driver see around the truck (and compatible trailers) while towing or navigating parking lots, merging into traffic or maneuvering in tight situations.

Prices should be announced late this summer when the 2020 GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado heavy duties are set to arrive at dealers.

2020 Jeep Gladiator

The new Jeep Gladiator is almost certain to drive the curious to showrooms when they arrive in May.

The midsize pickup is offered strictly as a crew cab and is powered by a 3.6-liter gas V6 rated at 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. A six-speed manual is standard but an eight-speed automatic transmission is optional. Jeep says a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 and eight-speed auto combo will arrive in 2020.

Though its five-foot bed is steel, the Gladiator’s doors, hinges, hood, fenders, windshield frame and tailgate are high-strength aluminum, putting the Jeep Gladiator’s curb weight at about 4,650 to 5,070 pounds, depending on trim and equipment

It’s too early for prices or fuel economy ratings, but some metrics have been disclosed and they should make off-roaders happy. Offered in Sport, Sport S, Overland and Rubicon trim, the new pickup can ford water up to 30 inches, tow up to 7,650 pounds and handle payloads up to 1,600 pounds.