Year in Preview: 2017 Diesel Truck Buyer’s Guide

It’s an exciting age for diesel lovers. For the first time in 30 years, at least one compression ignition engine option exists in each pickup truck category. The Chevrolet Colorado occupies the compact segment, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel lays claim to the half-ton category, the Nissan Titan XD essentially created its own class of truck, and the usual suspects (Ford, GM and Ram) continue to battle it out in the ¾-ton and larger department. Without a doubt, the diesel truck scene is the liveliest we’ve seen it in decades.

While diesel options are still limited in the North American market, any growth is welcomed; and with one look at the latest offerings, it’s blatantly apparent that diesel is diversifying the pickup truck field.

For a closer look at the current crop of diesel-powered trucks gracing dealer lots, look no further than our comprehensive 2017 model year review. Whether you’re in need of 30-mpg, 3 tons’ worth of hauling ability or 30,000-pound towing capability, there’s something for everyone.

Ford Super Duty

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With a new body, new technology and cosmetic changes throughout, Ford’s Super Duty represents the biggest makeover in the heavy-duty segment for 2017. Perhaps the biggest news is that Ford trucks will now make use of an aluminum body.

In fact, the Super Duty line now shares the same, high-strength aluminum cab as the F-150 (although the Super Duty version is considerably longer), complete with the 170-degree swing-out rear doors and virtually identical interiors. Getting away from sheetmetal shaved roughly 350 pounds off of the truck’s curb weight, which Ford promptly reinvested in the form of beefing up the frame (95 percent of it is fully boxed now).

BEST-IN-CLASS TOWING/TORQUE

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But Ford didn’t stop there. The 6.7L Power Stroke V8 sees a 65 lb-ft jump in torque output, upping the ante to a class-leading 925 lb-ft of twist. Its horsepower rating of 440 stays the same. Coupling some suspension tweaks in with the aforementioned powertrain and frame improvements, and Ford now lays claim to the highest gooseneck towing capacity in the industry: 32,800 pounds (GCWR checks in at 41,800 pounds when properly spec’d).

Conventional towing beats out Ram and GM as well at 21,000 pounds. And to complement the added towing capability, the ’17 Super Duty features Ford’s Trailer Reverse Guidance. This system automatically shifts viewing perspective (via the navigation screen) depending on which way the trailer is being turned, and a color-coded birds’-eye diagram of the truck helps warn the driver of jackknife conditions.

HARD FACTS

ENGINE 6.7L Power Stroke, direct-injection, turbocharged, 32-valve V8
INJECTION SYSTEM Bosch high-pressure common-rail with CP4.2 pump and piezoelectric injectors
HORSEPOWER 440 hp at 2,800 rpm
TORQUE 925 lb-ft at 1,800 rpm
EMISSIONS Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
TRANSMISSION 6R140 TorqShift six-speed automatic
PAYLOAD CAPACITY 6,460 pounds
CONVENTIONAL TOWING CAPACITY 21,000 pounds
GOOSENECK TOWING CAPACITY 32,800 pounds
PRICE RANGE $41,130 - $87,145

 

Chevrolet/GMC 2500/3500 HD’s

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Aside from the cosmetically new, yet fully functional cowl hood, it’s all about the powertrain on the ’17 Chevy and GMC HD trucks. Specifically, the sixth generation 6.6L Duramax V8 has been revealed, and it packs a potent punch. Along with a best-in-class horsepower rating of 445 hp, the new Duramax (engine code L5P) produces 910 lb-ft of grunt at a low 1,600 rpm.

A stronger cast-iron block and crankshaft, connecting rods with larger rod bearings, and redesigned (more robust) cast-aluminum pistons prepare the short block for the added cylinder pressure (i.e. torque) it will see. Higher-flowing aluminum cylinder heads and a Denso-sourced high-pressure common-rail fuel system play a key role in the L5P Duramax mill’s 48 hp bump and 145 lb-ft increase over ’16 model year trucks.

SEAMLESS DURAMAX ALLISON COMBO

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With ample power on tap, a variable geometry turbocharger and six gear options, the Duramax/Allison combo is as polished as it’s ever been. To cope with the added torque dished out by the new engine, the Allison 1000 was treated to an upgraded torque converter. Conventional towing capacity (20,000 pounds) and gooseneck towing capacity (23,200 pounds) remain unchanged, but with a more potent Duramax power plant under the hood, GM is a chassis beef-up away from upping the ante in this area.

HARD FACTS

ENGINE 6.6L L5P Duramax, direct-injection, turbocharged, 32-valve V8
INJECTION SYSTEM Denso high-pressure common-rail with HP4 pump and solenoid-style injectors
HORSEPOWER 445 hp at 2,800 rpm
TORQUE 910 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
EMISSIONS Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
TRANSMISSION Allison A1000 six-speed automatic
PAYLOAD CAPACITY 5,587 pounds
CONVENTIONAL TOWING CAPACITY 20,000 pounds
GOOSENECK TOWING CAPACITY 23,200 pounds
PRICE RANGE $40,194 - $75,380

 

Ram 2500/3500 HD

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While 2017 marks more of the same for the Ram HD truck camp, a new off-road package is available for all Crew Cab and Mega Cab configuration 4x4 2500 models (diesel or gas). Selecting the off-road option means the truck of your choice will come equipped with a limited slip rear differential, hill-descent control, Bilstein shocks, tow hooks and the same heavy-duty skid plates used on the Power Wagon.

Beyond that, properly spec’d 3500 dual rear wheel Rams still lay claim to a best-in-class payload rating of 6,720 pounds. As for max tow ratings, Ram remains in the thick of things with its 31,210-pound capacity — a close second to the Ford Super Duty. And just like ’16 models, three power ratings are available, depending on which transmission you choose.

FULL REDESIGN IN 2019

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As was the case back in 2010, the 2011 model year trucks from Ford and GM brought fresher overall packages to market at the same time, and easily ousted the Ram in terms of power, acceleration and (let’s be honest) “newness.” But Ram fans can rest assured, however, that once these trucks receive their full redesign for the ’19 model year, they’ll likely reclaim (or at the very least, attempt to reclaim) the coveted best-in-class tow rating.

And who knows? The high output version of the venerable 6.7L Cummins might once again see a leap in torque output, which begs the question: will Ram be the first manufacturer to offer a diesel engine packing 1,000 lb-ft of torque?

HARD FACTS

ENGINE 6.7L Cummins, direct-injection, turbocharged, 24-valve I6
INJECTION SYSTEM Bosch high-pressure common-rail with CP3 pump and solenoid-style injectors
HORSEPOWER 385 hp at 2,800 rpm (with Aisin AS69RC transmission)
TORQUE 900 lb-ft at 1,700 rpm (with Aisin AS69RC transmission)
EMISSIONS Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
TRANSMISSION Aisin AS69RC six-speed automatic
PAYLOAD CAPACITY 6,720 pounds
CONVENTIONAL TOWING CAPACITY 17,870 pounds
GOOSENECK TOWING CAPACITY 31,210 pounds
PRICE RANGE $38,490 - $72,575

 

Nissan Titan XD

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Nissan has been (somewhat unsuccessfully) vying for increased sales in the ever-competitive half-ton market since debuting the Titan in 2004. With the release of the Titan XD for the 2016 model year, Nissan brought to market a truck that attempts to bridge the gap between the half-ton and ¾-ton truck segments. Unofficially designated a “5/8-ton,” the Titan XD is in a category all its own.

At the height of the XD’s appeal is a commercial-grade, 5.0L Cummins V8 option, kept in its power band courtesy of an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission. A 5-year, 100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty certainly doesn’t hurt the Titan XD’s appeal, in our book.

SINGLE CAB OPTION

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While no major cosmetic or powertrain changes exist on ’17 models, truck purists can rejoice. For the first time in its history, Nissan is offering standard cab models on both the Titan and Titan XD. Called the “Single Cab” option, pricing is said to begin at $38,335 for a 4x2 version of S model Titan XD (vs. $41,340 for an S trim, 4x2 Crew Cab). As you can imagine, a single cab option reduces the curb weight of the Titan XD, thereby increasing its towing and payload capacities. 2017 model trucks in single cab, 4x2 trim are rated to tow 12,640 pounds (vs. 12,314 pounds in Crew Cab, 4x2 form) and haul 2,420 pounds (vs. 2,091 pounds) in the 8-foot bed.

HARD FACTS

ENGINE 5.0L Cummins, direct-injection, turbocharged, 32-valve V8
INJECTION SYSTEM Bosch high-pressure common-rail with CP4.2 pump and piezoelectric injectors
HORSEPOWER 310 hp at 3,200 rpm
TORQUE 555 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm
EMISSIONS Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
TRANSMISSION Aisin A466ND six-speed automatic
PAYLOAD CAPACITY 2,420 pounds
TOWING CAPACITY 12,640 pounds
PRICE RANGE $41,340 - $61,960

 

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

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When it comes to the first diesel to grace the half-ton segment in more than 20 years, the Ram EcoDiesel remains largely unchanged for the ’17 model year. Along with its gas-powered counterparts, the Ram 1500 is patiently awaiting a full makeover for 2018.

The biggest change to effect ’17 models entails the scrapping of the Outdoorsman trim level, with its key features being broken up and redistributed throughout several other trim levels. The 3.0L VM Motori-sourced V6 remains the same, still cranking out 240 hp, 420 lb-ft of torque, and being mated to Chrysler’s ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic.

FORCING FORD'S HAND?

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Perhaps what is most interesting about Ram’s EcoDiesel is the interest it’s said to have garnered from the folks at Ford. With a 15-percent take rate on the EcoDiesel engine, Ram has shown that a sizable group of consumers will choose the diesel option — even over the likes of the highly-marketable Hemi V8 and amidst record-low gas prices.

Rumors have already been confirmed that an ’18 Ford F-150 will most likely entail a diesel option, in the form of the Ford-built 3.0L V6 currently being used in the Range Rover.

HARD FACTS

ENGINE 3.0L VM Motori, direct-injection, turbocharged, 24-valve V6
INJECTION SYSTEM Bosch high-pressure common-rail with CP4.2 pump and solenoid-style injectors
HORSEPOWER 240 hp at 3,600 rpm
TORQUE 420 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm
EMISSIONS Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
TRANSMISSION ZF 8HP70 eight-speed automatic (TorqueFlite 8)
PAYLOAD CAPACITY 1,620 pounds
TOWING CAPACITY 9,200 pounds
PRICE RANGE $37,685 - $62,525

 

Chevy Colorado Diesel

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When it comes to the ’16 and ’17 model year Chevy Colorado Diesels, much of the story is the same — but it’s a good story. For the first time since the mid 1980s, a diesel-powered compact pickup is being produced, and we like that... a lot.

Just as with ’16 models, the 2.8L inline-four Duramax produces 181 hp and churns out 369 lb-ft of torque. Like its bigger brother, the 6.6L Duramax, it sports a Denso high-pressure common-rail fuel system. The same Hydra-Matic 6L50 six-speed automatic remains the only transmission offering.

Fuel efficiency is what you’d expect from a compact truck packing a diesel engine. It’s good: 31-mpg-highway and mid-to-upper-20’s-around-town good.

SUBTLE CHANGES

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Subtle additions for ’17 include: a 7-inch diagonal color touch screen MyLink radio, optional heated front cloth seats on LT models and a low-gloss black stripe package (available on all trims levels except base models) that includes stripes on the hood and tailgate. While Red Rock Metallic and Inferno Orange Metallic paint colors have been axed, GM is introducing four new hues, including: Graphite Metallic, Cajun Red Tintcoat, Laser Blue (available mid-year), and Orange Burst Metallic (also available mid-year).

HARD FACTS

ENGINE 2.8L LWN Duramax, direct-injection, turbocharged, 16-valve I4
INJECTION SYSTEM Denso high-pressure common-rail with HP4 pump and solenoid-style injectors
HORSEPOWER 181 hp at 3,400 rpm
TORQUE 369 lb-ft at 2,000 rpm
EMISSIONS Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filter (DPF), selective catalytic reduction (SCR)
TRANSMISSION Hydra-Matic 6L50 six-speed automatic
PAYLOAD CAPACITY 1,508 pounds
TOWING CAPACITY 7,700 pounds
PRICE RANGE $35,975 - $45,235

 

All photography courtesy of the manufacturers

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