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With the new model year arriving, small-truck makers are fulfilling buyers' wishes for carlike comforts, and large-truck makers are racing to catch up with demand. The new light-, medium-, and heavy-duty trucks coming on the market for model year 1999 reflect the wishes of truck drivers, both those who drive commercially and those who use their trucks as practical personal transportation. The Polk Co., an automotive market-research firm based in Southfield, Mich., outside Detroit, reported in July that there are now 68.4 million light trucks on the road in the United States and Canada, accounting for more than one-third of the total vehicle count. The company, which compiles an annual "population profile" of vehicles for the automobile industry; also said that in the past 10 years, the number of passenger cars has increased by 4.8 million while the number of trucks has risen by more than 29 million. The total number of light-, medium-, and heavy-duty trucks sold in 1997 was 7.2 million. This year's sales through July were at 4.6 million, so total sales for 1998 are expected to surpass last year's. With so many people driving trucks, it's no surprise that manufacturers are relying more and more on driver input in the development of trucks. Mixed Messages According to Automotive News, n trade publication, drivers want trucks to be more carlike and cars to be more truck-like. Pickup-truck drivers want more comfort and convenience options, extended cabs, and doors for access to the cabs. Buyers of sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) are indicating that they prefer the carlike ride and handling of vehicles built on the smaller platform of a car rather than that of a truck. Minivan buyers want a second sliding door on the driver's side, and manufacturers are complying. However, because nearly all minivans in production have front-wheel drive, many businesses that once preferred rear-wheel-drive minivans because of their cargo-carrying ability are now opting for SUVs instead. In 1997, 6.8 million light trucks-- including pickups, vans, and SUVs-- were sold in the United States, up nearly 4 percent from 1996. Sales of light trucks will continue to increase, says Lincoln Merrihew, an analyst at the Troy, Mich., location of J.D. Power and Associates, a marketing-information and consulting firm based in Agoura Hills, Calif. Merrihew believes that the addition of carlike comforts, ride, and handling to light trucks has been an important factor in their sales growth. Getting "Productive Miles" In the medium- and heavy-duty-truck market, productivity is the key for buyers. They want trucks that reduce downtime by minimizing maintenance requirements and that are custom-tailored to handle specific tasks. "Productive miles is what original-equipment manufacturers are selling," says Marc Gustafson, president and CEO of Volvo Trucks North America, Inc. Truck makers have been consulting commercial drivers about features that could help the drivers avoid fatigue and stress and do their jobs as efficiently as possible. Two recently developed transmissions that can help reduce driver fatigue and training time are the Eaton Fuller AutoShift 10-Speed, from Eaton Corp. in Cleveland, and the Meritor SureShift, from Mentor Automotive, Inc., in Troy With the Eaton transmission, the clutch is used only for starting or stopping, reducing the driver's workload. When the driver wants more control of shifting, there is a "hold" mode, which maintains the current gear until a new gear is selected with the push of a button. The Meritor system reduces shifting effort and complexity like an automated transmission but retains the driver's ability to choose manual control. As with light-duty trucks, the ranks of medium- and heavy-duty trucks are increasing. Major truck-manufacturing companies are forecasting that U.S. sales of Class 8 vehicles-those with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) of more than 33,000 pounds-will total 200,000 for 1998. Last year's sales were about 178,500. With growing backlogs of orders, heavy-duty-truck makers are trying to increase production to meet strong demand. The Outlook On Prices Prices for light trucks are expected to remain steady, although manufacturers sometimes increase prices during the model year. The announced prices for most new-model light-duty 1999 trucks are only 0.5 to 1 percent higher than the prices for comparable 1998 models, and some prices have dropped. In addition, competition recently has prompted makers of passenger cars to offer incentives such as low finance rates and cash rebates, and such offers are spilling over into the light-duty-truck market. In the medium- and heavy-duty-truck segment, manufacturers are calling for price increases to offset the bare-bones prices of recent years. Light-Duty Trucks Following are new trucks and features in Class 1, up to 6,000 pounds GVW; Class 2, 6,001 to 10,000 pounds; and Class 3, 10,001 to 14,000 pounds. ACURA The upscale SLX sport-utility is essentially unchanged for 1999. It has a 3.5liter V-6 engine and "torque on demand" four-wheel-drive, which transfers power to all four wheels with the touch of a button. AM GENERAL The Hummer civilian truck, with full-time four-wheel drive, resembles a big, wide SUV, Actually, it's a Class 3 pickup truck, modified from the stalwart of the U.S. armed forces in the Persian Gulf War, the Humvee. The Hummer's upgrades include a premium audio system with six speakers. The Hummer's ride has been made quieter with the addition of a sound-deadening package. CADILLAC The Escalade, Cadillac's first entry in the SUY market, borrows from GMC's upscale, full-size Yukon Denali. The five-passenger Escalade is so loaded with features that it offers no options. Among the features: running boards to shorten the step-in and step-out distance; a flush-mounted luggage rack; leather seats; a Bose music system with six speakers; and the OnStar communications system, which combines cellular-phone and Global Positioning System satellite technologies to provide a range of services, from finding a lost vehicle to calling for help automatically in case of an accident. A 5.7-liter V-8 provides plenty of power, and extra pulling power comes from an AutoTrac four-wheel-drive system. There's a full-time all-wheel-drive setting for everyday use. CHEVROLET One of the most expensive new-model programs in GM's history brings to market a conservatively styled, full-sized Silverado pickup and its GMC cousin, the Sierra, GM says that the wider, longer, and taller dimensions, with more rear-seat legroom, add up to the biggest cab in the industry. A third door is standard on extended-cab models. There's a long list of standard-equipment improvements, including four-wheel disc brakes with an antilock braking system and a system that senses minute changes in wheel speed under braking and adjusts the rear brake accordingly In the power department, the Silver-ado's engines range from a standard 4.3liter V-6 to a 6.5-liter turbodiesel V-S. In between are three new Vortec small-block, cast-iron V-S gas engines that produce more horsepower per liter than the engines they replace. The four-speed automatic transmission has a tow/haul mode, which alters the shift pattern to maximize pulling power in each gear. Regular and extended cabs are offered, in six models of the 1500 (1/2-ton) series and three of the 2500 (3/4-ton) series. Chevrolet introduces an all-new Tracker mini-SUV, with a new look. For more information, see the Suzuki listing, where the Vitara-a twin to the Tracker-is described. CHRYSLER The luxurious Town and Country minivan gets even more elegant with a Limited edition featuring chrome-plated wheels and door handles, a gold-accented instrument cluster, radio controls on the steering wheel, and soft leather seats with suede-like trim. The Town and Country has front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is an option. DODGE The Dakota, the only compact pickup with a V-8 engine, has two Magnum V-8 choices: a 230-horsepower, 5.2-liter version and a 250-horsepower, 5.9-liter option on the R/T model. The full-size Dodge Ram pickup has a 24-valve, six-cylinder Cummins diesel engine. On the model with a five-speed manual transmission, power is up from 215 horsepower to 235. A 5.2-liter V-8 engine that runs on compressed natural gas has been introduced, for fleets only, on the full-sized Ram van and wagon. FORD The power, size, and capabilities of Ford's work-truck lineup have been increased with the introduction of the Super Duty F-Series. The full-sized trucks are built on a separate platform from the F-150 and F-250. The two-platform strategy is designed to address the different needs of the commercial and personal-use markets. The new series extends to the F-250, F-350, F-450, and F-550 models. Length has been stretched by 9 inches to 226.6 inches, and the Super Duty F-250 and F-350 have the industry's first standard four-door extended cab in the GVW segment over 8,500 pounds. The Super Duty trucks offer four-wheel drive for dual-rear-wheel trucks, higher GVW ratings, and increased horsepower. They feature new 5.4-liter Triton V-8 and 6.8-liter Triton V-10 engines and an inter-cooled 7.3-liter diesel engine. Customers will have the choice of 44 vehicle configurations, including F-550 models whose GVWs-17,500 and 19,000 pounds-place them in Class 5. The pickups under 8,500 pounds GVW, the F-150 and F-250, get a new front bumper and grille and an optional 5.4-liter Triton V-8 engine. Their SuperCab gets a standard fourth door; making Ford the first manufacturer to offer a full range of extended-cab pickups with four doors from the compact Ranger to the Super Duty series. GMC The all-new Sierra full-sized pickup truck is a close cousin to the Chevrolet Silverado. Except for the Sierra's bigger grille, the vehicles are identical. HONDA Emphasis is on size as a new Accord-based edition of the Odyssey minivan hits the market this fall. The sleekly styled seven-passenger vehicle is 201.2 inches long and 68.5 inches high, making it as large as any competitor. Honda says the Odyssey's 3.6-liter; 220-horsepower V-6 engine is the most powerful in the minivan class. It's combined with an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission. INFINTI A face-lifted QX4 sport-utility is planned for midway through the model year. No major changes are planned before then in the compact, five-passenger QX4, which has four-wheel drive with a two-wheel-drive mode. Isuzu The Vehi-Cross, an SUV based on a truck platform but resembling a sports car; formerly was sold only in Japan, but it is expected in the United States soon. It has full-time four-wheel drive and a front-mounted engine, a 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6. The Rodeo SUV has added amenities such as a standard tilt steering wheel. The Amigo mini-SUV-recently returned to the U.S. market-is a two-door hardtop or soft-top version of the Rodeo. JEEP The new Grand Cherokee has gained an inch of headroom and 1.5 inches of width for improved roominess. The five-passenger SUV has new luxury amenities, such as heated front seats and an overhead console with 14 programmable features. A new on-demand four-wheel-drive system, called Quadra-Drive II, allows virtually 100 percent transfer of torque to a single wheel if it is the only one getting traction. A standard 4-liter, six-cylinder in-line engine produces up to 195 horsepower. The largest available engine is an optional 4.7liter, 230-horsepower V-8. KIA The two-door convertible Sportage is a smaller, more maneuverable version of the four-door model of the SUV. A removable cloth top covers only the rear bench seat; a permanent hardtop roof covers the driver and front-seat passenger. The Sportage is available with two-wheel drive and automatic transmission or four-wheel drive with a five-speed manual transmission. LAND ROVER The new Discovery Series II has permanent four-wheel drive and a standard four-speed automatic transmission. Longer by 6.5 inches and wider by 3.8 inches, the Discovery Series II has seating for seven as an option. It has a system that reduces leaning when cornering-a first for a production SUV Other features include four-wheel electronic traction control and electronic brake distribution to complement the anti-lock braking system. The 4-liter V-8 engine is noticeably quieter than its predecessor. LEXUS There are no changes for the RX 300, which Lexus calls a blend of luxury and sport-utility (it's built on a car chassis). The full-size LX 470 sport-utility, introduced in late 1997 along with the RX 300, also is a carryover for 1999. LINCOLN The successful Navigator sport-utility, introduced in model year 1998, has boosted performance with a standard 5.4liter, 32-valve V-8 with 300 horsepower. An optional adjustable pedal system allows drivers to shift the accelerator and brake pedals forward or back to suit them. A roller-wheel system has been added to the third-row bench seat for easy installation and removal. MAZDA The first import pickup with a four-door cab is the B-Series Cab Plus 4, which went on sale as 1998 1/2 models in late spring. The rear can be opened only when the front doors are open. Cab Plus 4 is available as an option on B-series trucks with the SE trim level. There are three models, powered by a 2.5liter, four-cylinder engine, a 3-liter V-6, or a 4-liter V-6. MERCEDES-BENZ There's a new, more powerful model of the M-Class sport-utility: the ML430, powered by a 268-horsepower, 4.3-liter V-8. The ML430 is distinguished from the earlier ML320 by its standard 17-inch alloy wheels, body-color bumpers, side panels, and side molding. Heated, leather power seats and wood trim are standard, along with a stability system that helps the driver maintain the direction of the vehicle even under hazardous circumstances. MERCURY The redesigned Villager minivan has been lengthened by 4.8 inches, and there's a standard second rear sliding door on the driver's side. The interior is roomier with seven-passenger seating standard. Under the hood, the Villager's V-6 engine has been increased in size to 3.3 liters from 3 liters and in horsepower to 170 from 151. The climate-control and audio systems are new. And for people who get brainstorms while driving, there's an optional Travelnote digital memo recorder mounted on the driver's sun visor. The Mountaineer sport-utility has added optional side air bags in the front seats and an optional rear load-leveling system. An optional sensing system detects obstacles up to 6 feet from the rear bumper when backing up and beeps to alert the driver. MITSUBISHI The Montero Sport, a midsize SUV, has a new Limited model with a 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 engine, a new chrome grille, and a front bumper with fog lamps. New standard features include alloy wheels; cruise control; integrated side steps; and power windows, door locks, and mirrors. NISSAN The Quest minivan, like its Mercury Villager cousin, has many new features, including a standard driver's-side rear sliding door. The Frontier compact pickup has a new 170-horsepower, 3.3-liter V-6 engine, available on four-wheel-drive, extended-cab models. There's a choice of a standard five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission. OLDSMOBILE Refinements on the five-passenger Bravada sport-utility begin with an airbag design that permits a clearer view of the instrument panel in any steering-wheel position. The turn-signal stalk has a headlamp "flash to pass" feature, and there is a warning lamp in the instrument cluster that alerts the driver when the tailgate is ajar. PONTIAC The Trans Sport minivan has adopted a name with a sport-utility flavor, the Montana. An optional performance and handling package includes traction control, automatic load-leveling control, and a sport suspension. SUZUKI Chevrolet's Japanese partner has redesigned its Sidekick and X-90 models from the ground up and renamed the mini-SUV the Vitara. It's available as a four-door or as a sporty, two-door convertible. The Vitara has about 25 percent more power than its predecessor, with a 127-horsepower, 2-liter, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine, which is standard on the four-door model and optional on the two-door convertible. A 155-horsepower V-6 version, not yet available on Chevy's Tracker; is called the Grand Vitara, available only as a four-door. TOYOTA A new full-size pickup, the Tundra, will go on sale in May. It will feature a chassis that is larger and stronger than that of the T100, which has been dropped. The Tundra's 4.7-liter engine is the first double-overhead-cam, 32-valve V-8 ever offered in this segment. Maximum payload is nearly a ton, and towing capacity is 7,200 pounds. The truck will be offered in two- or four-wheel drive and either a two-door regular cab with an 8foot bed or a four-door Access Cab with a 6 1/2-foot bed. Medium- And Heavy-Duty Trucks Following are new trucks and features in Class 4, 14,001 to 16,000 pounds GVW; Class 5, 16,001 pounds to 19,500 pounds; Class 6, 19,501 to 26,000 pounds; Class 7, 26,001 to 33,000 pounds; and Class 8, more than 33,000 pounds. BERING Bering Truck Corp., the first new U.S. truck company in decades, will produce cab-over trucks (the engine is beneath the cab instead of under a projecting hood) in Classes 3 through 8 that combine U.S.-made powertrains and components such as clutches, axles, and transmissions with chassis and cab-over-engine technology from the company's South Korean partner, Hyundai. Initially, all trucks will be built in South Korea, but Bering plans to manufacture Class 7 and Class 8 trucks at a plant being built near the company's headquarters in Front Royal, Va. The company will introduce 13 models in the cargo/delivery, tractor, and vocational categories. They will debut at intervals, beginning with Class 5 cargo trucks and Class 8 day-cab tractors on Oct. 1. FREIGHTLINER The Argosy, a cab-over tractor, has added up to 20 percent more cargo space yet is 2 feet shorter than most tractor-trailer combinations. The 90,000-pound-GVW Argosy, which has replaced the FLB, has a tight turning radius and improved visibility. On the Century Class sleepers, an option called Backpack increases storage space by anywhere from 16.6 to 27 cubic feet, depending on the size of the cab. Backpack, located against the back sleeper wall, concentrates storage behind the bunk between the mufflers. Freightliner debuts a premium interior package, called Chaparral, for its Classic and Classic XL trucks, which are popular with independent owners. GMC The W-series lineup of medium-duty, lowcab-forward trucks--marketed under both the GMC and Chevrolet nameplates--has been expanded with a new W5500 diesel in Class 5. A Vortec 7400 MD gas engine, at 210 or 270 horsepower, is new for the T-series of medium-duty, tilt-cab trucks and the conventional C-series trucks. HINO The horsepower of the diesel engines on the Hino FA and FB medium-duty trucks has been increased slightly, to 168 from 165. On the heavier models--the FD, FE, FF, and SG--computer-controlled anti-lock brake systems have been added. ISUZU The Class 5 NQR joins Isuzu's line of lowcab-forward, medium-duty trucks. Designed for low overall cost and heavy-duty tasks such as refrigeration, delivery, and construction, the NQR has a GVW of 16,500 pounds and a body/payload capability of about 10,500 pounds. Power comes from a new Isuzu 4.8-liter diesel rated at 175 horsepower. Also new are two heavy-duty versions of the popular NPR line of urban delivery trucks. KENWORTH The CityCab is a new Class 8 truck designed as an economical day cab for regional delivery operations. It is offered in single and tandem configurations, powered by Caterpillar C10 and C12 engines with up to 430 horsepower. The Studio AeroCab sleeper is available as an option on the W900B and W900L models. It provides ample storage and living space. MACK A new cast-iron axle that is stronger, lighter, and able to carry more payload has been added for the vocational-truck market. The axle reduces chassis weight by 87 pounds and increases payload capability substantially MITSUBISHI FUSO The FG, technically a Class 3, is the only four-wheel-drive, cab-over truck in the United States. It can handle payloads up to 12,000 pounds and can he fitted with various bodies up to 14 feet long. The FG is available in wheelbases of 109.4 inches and 133.1 inches. NAVISTAR The premium International Eagle 9900, developed with input from 100 owner-operators and drivers, will be available in early 1999. The flagship of the International line sports the long-nose design that truckers say they like, plus a smooth ride. It features a wider chrome grille, headlights set in chrome, and a full-width, bright-finish bumper. PETERBILT A premium cab interior, called Canadian/American Class Platinum, offers a more contemporary design and increased comfort, Increased insulation and padding create a rich appearance and reduce noise in the cab and sleeper. The Platinum interior can be ordered through Peterbilt's SmartSpec system of component specification, which makes available more than 200 customized packages and simplifies the ordering process. STERLING Sterling Truck Corp. takes over Ford's medium- and heavy-duty-truck operation, which was bought last year by Sterling's parent company, Freightliner. The former Louisville becomes the L-line, while the Ford Aeromax becomes the A-line. Sterling is focusing on high-end, high-tech, vocationally oriented trucks in Classes 6 through 8. Sterling now produces the Cargo, formerly marketed by Ford. The Class 7 and Class 8 vehicles provide excellent visibility and maneuverability. The low-cab-forward trucks and tractors are shorter in overall length than similar conventional combinations, and they have a low cab-to-ground height, UD TRUCKS Three new models have expanded the UD line of cab-over trucks to 10, ranging from Class 3 to Class 7. The new UD1200 is a Class 3 powered by a 145-horsepower, turbocharged diesel. It's available with a manual or an automatic transmission and in three wheelbases. The new UD1800CS is a hybrid, intended to combine the payload capacity and performance of a Class 5 (its GVW is 17,995 pounds) with the economy of a Class 4. Its turbocharged diesel engine is rated at 175 horsepower. VOLVO The Class 8 VNM Series offers a choice of two full-sized sleeper cabs in a smaller package--113 inches from the bumper to the hack of the cab. The VNMs combine compact design and maneuverability with comfort and luxury The VNM 610 offers a 61-inch-deep sleeper compartment with 77 inches of stand-up height and an optional upper bunk. WESTERN STAR The Star Light Sleeper weighs 400 pounds less than comparable Western Star models because it is constructed of panels of plastic honeycomb sandwiched between lightweight aluminum. New Western Star cab models feature roomier interiors and swivel seats.

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