2020 Pickup Truck Round-Up

2020 Pickup Truck Round-Up

Story by Howard J Elmer, photos courtesy of the manufacturers

The Canadian sportsman regularly travels into remote wilderness locations where a 4WD vehicle is a must-have. They also tow more than most – be it RVs, boats or powersports trailers. These are givens for those who enjoy hunting and angling. And, these needs certainly dictate the kind of trucks sportsmen buy. So, while there are currently many trucks and SUVs that will do these jobs, 2020 is going to grow the available field substantially.

First, we have the arrival of the Jeep Gladiator, a pickup truck based on the current Jeep Wrangler, and Jeep’s first pickup offering in 28 years. Second, we have the return of the Ford Ranger, and this midsize truck outfitted with its FX4 package is an aggressive off-roader.  These two new trucks join the already available Toyota Tacoma TRD-Pro, Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, and Nissan Frontier PRO-4x – all popular with the off-road crowd. Put them all together and these trucks now dominate the off-road capable segment. Also extensively updated for 2020 is the Heavy-Duty pickup segment; with significant improvements for the towing crowd. But first, let’s start with the new Jeep.

The Gladiator is instantly recognizable as a Jeep. It’s only when you peek around the side that you see the bed. However, the 5-foot bed on this truck is not just welded onto the standard Wrangler frame. No, the Gladiator’s design offers the same four doors, but on a stretched frame 31 inches longer than the Wrangler. The wheelbase is also 19.4 inches longer and the rear axle and suspension setup borrows heavily from the Ram 1500. This design nets a payload of 1,600 lb and the tow rating is a class-leading 7,650 lb. These numbers should appeal to any recreational hauler as well as the Jeep enthusiast. Powering this truck is the Pentastar 3.6L V6. It’s matched to a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission. This V6 makes 285 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, and it also comes standard with an engine stop/start fuel saving feature.

The new Ford Ranger (technically a 2019) has returned after an eight-year absence from Canada (even though an “international Ranger” was being sold around the world during those years). On the outside, the new Ranger evokes a muscular body with a high beltline that emphasizes strength, while a raked grille and windshield gives it an athletic appearance. This Ranger has a 126.8-inch wheelbase with an overall length of 210.8-inches (compared to the full-size F-150’s 157-inch wheelbase and length of 243 inches). The standard powertrain is a 2.3L EcoBoost engine and 10-speed automatic transmission. This new engine is designed with direct fuel injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger, and makes 270 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque.  The Ranger offers towing of 7,500 lb and payload of 1,860 lb.

In addition to the FX4 package already mentioned, buyers can also order a new Ranger with an STX Appearance Package, XL Chrome Package, Technology Package or Sport Appearance Package.

The rest of the mid-size segment (and most of the current crop of 1500-series trucks as well) are in a carry-over year for 2020.

In the Heavy-Duty truck segment however, there is fierce competition as the 2020 models debut. New stats show that well over 20 percent of total North American truck sales are now HD pickups (and growing). Why? Manufacturers say that 90 percent of those new buyers need to tow regularly.

Starting with the Ram HD, this past spring, the announcement that the new Cummins 6.7L turbo-diesel engine would make 1,000 lb-ft of torque and tow a new high of 35,100 lb. created almost an instant response from the other Detroit builders. GM and Ford announced their 2020 updates would soon follow and released many of the new numbers, making sure that Ram did not have the advantage of a quiet market as it showed the 2019 HD model.

So, for 2020, GM’s Duramax 6.6L turbo-diesel is now tuned to 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque.  Performance will improve thanks to increased cooling capacity delivered by improved air induction. There is also a new 10-speed Allison automatic transmission (a first-ever offering in the HD segment).

One significant side-note for 2020 will come to the GM 1500-series trucks. It’s the late arrival of the 3.0L I-6 turbo-diesel engine option. The Sierra and Silverado (new in 2019) will now be available with this new diesel engine. This means that as of 2020, each of the Big Three now offers a small diesel option in their half-tons.

On the tech side, GMC is promoting its ProGrade Trailering System which includes an in-vehicle trailering app with trailer light test, trailer electrical diagnostics, trailer tire pressure and temperature monitoring.

GM is also offering a new gas engine in its HD trucks. This 6.6L V8 will make 401 hp and 464 lb-ft of torque and is much cheaper to buy than the diesel. All 2020 options and innovations from the General apply to both the Chevrolet and GMC brands.

Ford is also adding a gas engine to its Super Duty lineup. The standard HD gas engine will still be the 6.2L V8. However, it’s joined by a new 7.3L V8, and both are paired to a new 10-speed automatic designed specifically for HD trucks.

As for the all-new world of electric pickups; we may actually see a production unit in 2020. Rivian says its R1T electric pickup truck will start rolling off the line in the new year. So, while they may be first, Tesla, Atlis, Fisker and Bollinger all have pickup designs in various stages of development. Tesla, for instance, has said they may show their prototype truck as early as this November. Meanwhile Ford and General Motors, not to be left out, announced earlier this year that they too have electrified pickups in development.