First Look – The 2020 GM HD and Ford HD Trucks take an early bow

First Look – The 2020 GM HD and Ford HD Trucks take an early bow

Story by Howard J Elmer, photos courtesy of GM and Ford

The fierce competition between the pickup manufacturers regularly witnessed in Half-ton advertising is quickly spilling into the Heavy Duty truck segment following the newest Ram HD being introduced as a 2019 model. Not long ago, model updates were most often singular events, with each brand following its own engineering schedule. Not anymore. The  recent Ram release quickly brought news from GM (Chevy and GMC) and Ford. They not only announced a 2020 update to their HDs, they made a point of showing them and releasing many of the numbers. All this to make sure that Ram did not have the advantage of a quiet market as they showed the 2019 models.

Fierce is almost too weak a word for this level of competition. That said, from a consumer’s point of view, this truck war will most certainly offer sharp deals and a new level of content and electronic sophistication as each builder tries to outdo the other – nice.

The first thing you’ll notice when looking at any of the brands is the increased size, power and capacity of all these new HD trucks. The GMC Sierra HD, for example, features a new Allison ten-speed automatic transmission mated to its 6.6-litre Duramax turbo diesel. That is already a significant upgrade, but to demonstrate the power of this new powertrain, a GMC Sierra 3500 HD towed an 80-foot Viking yacht suspended on a marine lift out of the San Diego harbour.  This load totaled more than 225,000 lbs! It’s these types of visual spectacles that the manufacturers are now using to convey the bigger, stronger message for these next-generation HD trucks.

For 2020, the Duramax 6.6L turbo-diesel is tuned to 445 hp and 910 lb-ft of torque.  Performance is also improved thanks to increased cooling capacity delivered by improved air induction. However, the all-new ten-speed Allison automatic transmission (a first-ever offered in the HD segment) is the big story. This ten-speed with closer gear spacing allows the engine to operate in the optimal range at all times with varying load and terrain conditions. A bigger frame, stronger powertrain and smarter technologies will deliver greater towing capacity; in excess of 30,000 lb, says GM.

On the tech side, GMC is promoting its ProGrade Trailering System which will include an in-vehicle trailering app with trailer light test, trailer electrical diagnostics, trailer tire pressure and temperature monitoring, pre-maintenance reminders and a departure checklist. Many of the trailering app’s functions, including the lighting test and pre-departure checklist, are available with the myGMC mobile app.

GM has also announced that an all-new gas engine is coming to the HD lineup. Details are not available yet; but this feature is of particular interest to truck buyers, as many need the capability of an HD truck but don’t do enough kilometres to justify the increased cost of the diesel engine option. All these GM announcements will apply to both Chevrolet and GMC for the 2020 model year.

As for the need for more gas engine options –  Ford knows all about  this. That’s why its 2020 Super Duty announcement led with the news of an all-new gas engine – the 7.3L V8.

This addition now gives HD customers two gas engine choices. The standard is still the 6.2L V8, and now it will be joined by the 7.3L V8 – both paired with the new ten-speed automatic designed specifically for HD use.

This new 7.3L gas V8 design is built on decades of Ford’s commercial engine experience, meant to provide durability, ease of maintenance, and the towing and payload capability customers want. It uses a cam-in-block, overhead valve architecture with cast iron block and forged steel crankshaft. Port injection with variable-valve timing optimizes the intake and exhaust to match performance with workloads. Oil jets cool the pistons under heavy loads. When this engine debuts next year, it will be the largest displacement engine available in its class.

As for the diesel option, the 6.7L Power Stroke is now in its third generation; it too is paired with the ten-speed TorqShift automatic. After Ram announced a 1,000 lb-ft of torque version of the Cummins diesel in its 2019 HD Ram, I expect the Power Stroke to get at least that much of a boost as well. However, at the moment, Ford is keeping its new engine and weight numbers to itself. Expect them to be dropped at regular intervals over the next year.

The planned Ford upgrades they are sharing include a new front-end design that increased cooling performance and lighting. Super Duty will use LED headlamps and revised taillamps for a new look. Interior appointments (as with all brands) are more upmarket as are the number of option packages available. Available technology will include Ford’s exclusive Pro Trailer Backup Assist as well as 4G LTE modem with Wi-Fi access for up to ten devices. Driver assistance features will include lane-keeping alert, Blind Spot Information System (with trailer coverage included), pre-collision assist with emergency braking, and pedestrian detection. Also added is a wireless charging station and USB-C ports to power devices.

So, while the 2019 Ram HD has debuted as of this writing, we have a few months to wait for the GM and Ford HD trucks, but based on the amount of information already available, you can plainly see that they are biting at the bit to get selling the 2020s.