In The Tow

By Bruce W. Smith

What's new in 2014 pickups/SUVs and what to expect in 2015 and beyond.

Photo of a 2014 Chevy Silverado towing a boat

With the average age of pickups on the road being more than 10 years old, and the economy on the mend, it's not surprising that last year's light-duty truck sales were record-breaking. Those record sales were also bolstered by vehicle manufacturers offering sweet deals on 2013 models to make way for a new era of pickups and SUVs that offer better fuel economy, new engine options, and creature comforts more akin to luxury sedans than tow vehicles of old. Just as our boats have become more efficient, comfortable, and user friendly over the past decade, so have the vehicles that tow them; the interiors of the 2014 trucks are plusher and quieter, the engines and transmissions more efficient, the ride and handling tighter, and the styling and safety elements more refined. In addition, new tow vehicles have become so connected they're almost like rolling smartphones.

Unlike previous decades, when many of current boaters' tow vehicles were bought based on tow ratings and horsepower, today's final purchase decision is based on the whole package. We want our new tow vehicle, be it a pickup or SUV, to have it all: Capability. Comfort. Performance. Efficiency. To hit that last mark, manufacturers are bringing back the diesel half-ton. It's been more than a decade since the last diesel was offered in a half-ton pickup or SUV. Those old GM oil burners were always overshadowed by their more powerful V8 gas counterparts, which led to poor sales and eventually their demise. Fast forward to this year. A 240-hp, 420 lb-ft of torque, 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 option for the Ram 1500s will be arriving by late summer or early fall. It costs $2,850 more than the 5.7-liter Hemi but delivers better than 25 mpg on the open road with a 9,200-pound tow rating.

Close on its heels are the 2015 Nissan Titans, with a 5.0-liter Cummins V8 turbo diesel that preliminary manufacturer's estimates show makes 300 horsepower and more than 525 lb-ft of torque. We'll know more details when Nissan makes a formal announcement later this year.

While Ford says they have "no plans" for a diesel in the F-150, and GM remains mum on a Duramax for the full-size Chevy/GMC line, the midsize 2016 Colorado/Canyon pickups are coming with the 180-hp 2.8-liter Duramax I-4 turbo diesel. So if you're in the market for a fuel-efficient pickup, you'll have more options come summer. And if you haven't studied up on the new trucks, here's a quick refresher on what you'll find when you roll into your local dealer for that initial test drive. 

Cost: Then + Now

If you wonder what a moderately appointed new pickup to tow your boat costs, all you have to do is look at the prices of fiberglass bass boats. Curiously enough, they parallel the prices of similarly equipped 4x4 pickups. For example, in 1988, the average price of a mid-level 18-foot bass boat with a V6 was around $16,000. The price of a full-size 4x4 V8 pickup to tow it? $16,000. Get the nicest bass boat with the biggest motor and the nicest pickup to tow it and you'd drop close to $24K on each. In 1994, boat prices averaged around $20,000, as did trucks. The nicer of both was nearer to $28,000. By 2002, as technology started a big climb, a decent truck and boat would run you $24,000 apiece, with the top models going for more than $32,000. By 2006, prices really started moving up with the most expensive pickup nearing $50,000 as were the most expensive bass boats.

Today, while you can get a fairly nice four-wheel-drive pickup or bass boat for around $35,000, you can also drop more than $60K on a top-of-the-line model of each. So when you see a pickup or SUV towing a bass boat, think of the price of each and see how they compare. Usually the price of the boat/trailer combo is very close to the price of the vehicle towing it.

— Published: Spring 2014

GM Revives The Colorado And Canyon

GM is bringing back the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups this fall as model-year 2015 offerings. Both all-new trucks will be available in 2WD and 4WD, and similar cab/bed configurations as their half-ton counterparts. The big news is that in 2016, the 180-hp, 2.8-liter Duramax I4 turbo diesel, which makes more torque than GM's gas V6s, will be available as an option to the midsize pickup's standard 193-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder or optional 302-hp 3.6-liter engines. Max towing capacity of both trucks will be more than 6,700 pounds.

Photo of the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado turbo diesel engine



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