By Jonathan Oke

Work vehicles are decked out more than ever

Rides are getting smoother and amenities more plush, with pickup truck manufacturers making further strides in 2020 to blur the line between performance and luxury vehicles. 

Even electric options are appearing on the horizon, with companies like Tesla’s Cybertruck and and Rivian’s R1T slated for 2021. GM is also targeting an autumn 2021 date for its plug-in pickups to hit showroom floors. But Ontario’s first mainstream electric truck will likely be Ford’s famed F-150. 

“Looking ahead, Ford has a bold strategy that includes going all-in on electrified vehicles,” says Ford Motor Company of Canada President and CEO Mark Buzzell. “Earlier this year, the company announced a US$11 billion investment in electrification, with plans to put 40 new electrified vehicles on the road by 2022, bringing more capability, performance and efficiency to nameplates Canadians already know and love, from F-150 to Mustang to our entire utilities lineup. “Yet with more electrified vehicles available to Canadians than ever before, consumer adoption remains low, at about 2% of all new car sales,” Buzzell notes. “Still, Ford remains committed to electrification because we believe a consumer shift is on the way, and it’s the right thing to do.”

As Canadians wait for more of the powers that be to power up, there’s still a host of winning work vehicles to propel this year’s market as builders, contractors and renovators look to put the pedal down and go full tilt with COVID-19 concerns disappearing in the rearview mirror. 

Here’s a look at some of the brightest lights among 2020 models this summer.

 Nissan Titan
(from $50,498)

“The Titan has being revamped a bit for this year, although there’s a whole new redesign coming for 2021,” notes Paul Sabatino, Fleet and Commercial Manager at Brantford Nissan.

But it’s what comes standard on the current model that most distinguishes the Titan, Sabatino explains. “Our Safety Shield technology includes intelligent emergency braking with pedestrian detection and rear intelligent emergency braking, where the vehicle stops itself if it’s about to back into something. It already has blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning with steering wheel vibration. 

“The ‘Big Three’ (truck manufacturers) have had those type of options for a while, but they are standard in even the “S” entry-level model.

The bolder looking 2020 model includes a new front bumper design and large new LED taillights, with a panoramic moonroof in select models.

Under the hood, the environmentally unfriendly Cummins engine has been dropped, with the 5.6-litre Endurance V8 now powering all models, with a best-in-class 400 hp and 413 lb-ft., according to Nissan. 

“The new 9-speed transmission is great when it comes to fuel efficiency,” Sabatino says. 

In regular form, the Titan now features a maximum payload and towing of 1,630 lbs. and 9,350 lbs., respectively, while numbers jump to 2,450 lbs./10,800 lbs. for the larger Titan XD.

The luxurious interior is complemented with new 8”/9” touchscreens loaded with the latest technology, including standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. HD Traffic, Wi-Fi hotspot and NissanConnect Services are also standard.

“Were a different breed of truck,” Sabatino says. “We like the quality in it, and everyone who has one loves it. There are just some guys bred to buy Ford, GM or Chevy. But for most contractors, a half-ton pickup is all they need. And the 5 year/160,000 km warranty put us ahead of the competition.” 

 Nissan NV Cargo
(from $35,998)

The motto for 2020 is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” says Sabatino of the 4.0L DOHC V6-powered NV Cargo van (375 HP V8 optional, with 9,400-lbs towing capacity).

Offered in both standard and high-roof models, the NV is also well-adorned by standard features that include GPS, four-wheel anti-lock braking and power outlets with up to 400W of electricity in the centre console and by the rear door.

And the warranty is again a huge selling point, Sabatino notes. “This is an essential tool for (our consumers), so when you’re spending $40,000-$50,000, it’s nice not to have to do anything but general maintenance for first 160k.”

Styling-wise, this is simply a good-looking van, Sabatino offers. “And with the high-roof option, you can be 6’3” and stand up in it.”

The NV also impresses with its storage capabilities, with 234 cubic feet and a payload of 2,730 lbs. in the standard model. Flat-loading floors can fit two 40″ × 48″ pallets. Ten-foot piping fits the length of the van, and its 54″ between wheel wells allows for 4’× 8’ drywall and plywood sheets.

Mercedes-Benz Metris
(Short-wheel base from $37,500; Long-wheel from $39,100)

“The Metris has its own unique market,” says Oakville Mercedes Van Centre’s Myke Ward of the easily manoeuvred cargo van. “It works great for service companies, like HVAC. And it will fit in an underground parking lot! Plus, you can get a 4’x8’ sheet in the back.”

Both vehicles are based on car platforms, Ward explains, “so they provide a smoother car-ride feel. Every time I go on a test drive with a customer who has never driven a Metris but is used to, say, a GMC, they have this ‘wow’ feel—because of the transmission, engine tuning and car platform.”

The gas-only Metris features a standard backup camera and Bluetooth pairing and a beautifully redesigned instrument panel.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
(from $47,400)

“Mercedes-Benz was the first to create a van not for cargo, but for passengers,” observes Myke Ward of Mercedes-Benz’s Van Centre Oakville. And there’s something to be said for reputation and that iconic logo, Ward notes. “For many, Mercedes is a status thing for their business. But reliability is a huge thing too. They run forever, especially being diesel. We have a client with probably 1.5 million kms on their vehicle right now.

“You can also see the longevity in the fact that is has the highest resale of any commercial van,” Ward adds. 

For the price-sensitive, Mercedes added a gas option ($4,000 cheaper) to this 3L V6 engine model last year. But the most attractive features remain the same, including the Sprinter’s interior dimensions. “You can be 6’3” and stand up in the High-Roof model,” Ward says. “If you’re already on your knees all day, you don’t want to be crawling in and out for supplies. 

“And depending on what you’re carrying material-wise, there are two lengths. The short wheel base is great if you’ve got drywall and supplies under 10 feet. If you’ve got 14-foot lengths of flooring, then you want to go with the long wheel base.”

The shiny exterior of both the Sprinter and Metris has been enhanced in 2020 with new paint colours, with Selenite Grey among the most popular.

Inside, creature comforts and safety technology include Bluetooth connection, brake assists and backup camera and sensors. A 7.5” screen upgrade includes Apple CarPlay, Google app, while a three-seater upgrade adds storage below. 

And there are upgrades aplenty. While it has a base cost is $47,400, the Sprinter can be decked out to the tune of about $90,000.

Ford F-150
(XLT model from $30,769)

The proverbial 600-pound gorilla of the market remains Ford’s F-150, the best-selling pickup in Canada for the 54th consecutive year and the best-selling vehicle in Canada for the 10th straight year

“The F-150 lineup continues to deliver on its promise to give full-size truck customers even more value, functionality and smart technology innovations, with best-in-class towing, payload and fuel economy,” says Ford Canada Communication Manager Christine Hollander. 

Although Ford will unveil an all-new 2021 F-150 in the fall, which will include a hybrid version, the 2020 model is packed with style, with standard features on the XLT model including fog lights, chrome bumpers, 17” alloy wheels and a two-bar-style chrome grille with chrome nostrils, black surround and black background. Inside, the SYNC 3 infotainment centre offers an 8” capacitive screen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Engine options vary from a 2.7L twin-turbo V6 and 3.3L V6, to 5.0L V8 gas engines, with six-speed and 10-speed automatic transmissions. There’s additionally the 3.5 L EcoBoost engine as well as a diesel option.

The F-150 is available in three bed sizes: 5.5’, 6.5’ and 8’. Overall length ranges from 209.3” to 250.5”.

The XLT also boasts the highest payload capacity in the F-150 lineup. On the 4×2 regular cab with a 5.0L V8 engine, the maximum payload tips out at 3,270 pounds when accompanied by the Heavy Duty Payload Package. Even without those bells and whistles, the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 still hauls a payload of up to 2,610 pounds. 

 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty
(Tradesman model from $51,595)

Need a tow? The Ram HD is the 2020 MotorTrend Truck of the Year. Its heavy-duty 2500 Canadian model features a standard 6.4L HEMI VVT V8 gas-powered engine that churns out 410 hp and 429 lb.-ft. of torque, while hauling up to 29,680 pounds. And hitching it up is a breeze with its centreline display hookup assist and available Class-Executive Auto Level Rear Air Suspension. And the class-exclusive Multilink Coil Spring Rear Suspension helps make for a smooth ride even when hauling large payloads. 

Its best-in-class interior, meanwhile, is augmented with great storage options, the Uconnect 3 multimedia centre with an available 12” touchscreen, hands-free communication and Bluetooth streaming audio. And speaking of sound, there’s an optional Harman/Kardon audio system with 17 speakers (including an 8” subwoofer) and a whopping 750 watts.

Toyota Tundra Trail Edition
(Pricing unavailable until September)

Although Consumer Reports describes the Toyota Tundra as “the most reliable full-sized truck on the market,” there’s much more to consider, notes Cyril Dimitris, V.P. of Toyota Canada Inc.  

“Toyota knows that those who build our communities work hard and need a truck that can keep up. While we have a range of dependable, rugged trucks that would be the perfect jobsite partner, there’s nothing quite like the go-anywhere, do-anything capability of the 2021 Toyota Tundra Trail Edition,” Dimitris says. “Available in a choice of Army Green or Cement body colours, this special edition of our 4×4 full-size pickup is built off the SR5 model to deliver great value. We’ve added a larger fuel tank, front bucket seats, front centre console, tilting and telescoping steering wheel, anti-theft system and much more. We then finished it with black exterior badges, black seating with tan stitching, a bold chrome grille with colour-keyed surround and special edition wheels.”

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