General Motors has been busy making revisions and changes to its Chevy and GMC fullsize trucks. According to the maker, the list of new and improved features runs to 40 items. Most obvious is a facelift; the front fenders, hoods, and grilles of the Silverado and Sierra pickups have been restyled so that they more closely resemble the other members of their respective truck "families."
The availability of GM's Quadrasteer
four-wheel-steer option has been expanded to include the 1500 extended cab and 1500 HD pickups. If you haven't experienced Quadrasteer it's worth a look. At low speeds the rear wheels turn opposite the fronts, which cuts down the truck's turning circle considerably. At highway speeds the rears and the fronts turn in the same direction, improving the pickup's high-speed maneuverability. Those of you who tow will really appreciate having wheels that steer near the trailer's tongue.
Since GM has announced all-new midsize trucks coming in 2004, the changes to S-10 and Sonoma are limited to interior trim revisions.
New product is also in the pipeline from Nissan in the form of a fullsize pickup truck due sometime next year. Details are sketchy, though the maker confirms it will have V-8 power and be similar in size to American fullsize pickups. Changes to the Frontier compact truck include the introduction of an "Open Sky" model with a power retractable roof on the crew-cab body, and an increase in power (from 170 to 180 hp) for the naturally aspirated V-6.
Since Toyota's big product news is on the SUV side, the Tundra and Tacoma received limited revisions. Tundra gets a new grille and front bumper design, and a new StepSide bed is available for V-8-powered Access Cabs. Tacomas are now fitted with standard four-wheel antilock brakes.
Last year it was the Explorer's turn; this year Ford is introducing a new Expedition. The sheetmetal hasn't changed radically, but the fullsize SUV now has an independent rear suspension, stiffer chassis construction, rear seats that fold flat into the cargo floor, and an optional electronic stability control system, called AdvanceTrac, that uses brake controls to transfer torque side-to-side. Taking a page from the F-150's playbook, the Expedition now has an optional FX4 off-road equipment package that includes skidplates, specially valved shocks, 3.73 gears, and a limited slip rear differential.
Because the Explorer was revamped a year ago, the SUV is largely carried over for 2003. There are some new trim packages-the Eddie Bauer option is back, and there's an NBX ("No Boundaries Experience") equipment group that includes a Yakima roof-mounted cargo basket and larger tires and wheels-and the AdvanceTrac stability control system will be available.
Likewise there aren't many changes to the Excursion, though it can be ordered with the Power Stroke 6.0L diesel later in the model year. And like the Explorer, it will also have a new Eddie Bauer package.
The extended availability of Quadrasteer that reached deeper into GM's pickup truck line also includes some of the General's big SUVs, as 2500-series Suburbans and Yukon XLs can be ordered with the four-wheel-steer option. Quadrasteer reduces the 4x4 Sub's turning circle from 44.3 to 35 feet, a 21 percent improvement. (The Quadrasteer availability seems sort of random-offered on some big trucks but not others-but a GM spokesman explained that currently it can be fitted only to Dana 60 931/44-inch axles with leaf springs.)
Like Ford, GM has developed an electronic stability control system, called StabiliTrak, that's available on Tahoe/Yukon and Suburban/Yukon XL SUVs. It uses sensors and controls from the antilock brake, traction control, and electronic suspension systems to adjust engine torque or brake pressure as needed to "help steer the vehicle in its intended path," says GM.