When Sergio Marchionne (RIP) was CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, he actively and quite publically pursued a partnership or merger with another mainstream automaker. GM was one of them. He knocked but the other side didn’t open the door, and that was that. But Marchionne understood the big picture that automakers would be stronger if they created alliances. Their futures would depend on doing so. Heck, he orchestrated Fiat’s successful purchase of Chrysler.
His successor, Mike Manley, also sees what Marchionne saw, so it wasn’t a big surprise last week when it was reported PSA, consisting of Peugeot, Citroen, Opel and Vauxhall, and FCA had discussed the possibility of merging. An agreement wasn’t made for a number of reasons, but now The Financial Times, via Automotive News, has learned that Renault and Nissan intend to make a joint bid for FCA.27
The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance has been front and center in the headlines since November when its now former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, was arrested in Tokyo for financial wrongdoing. Since then, the automakers have been renegotiating their alliance, which both hope to complete within the next year. Once that’s done, the plan is to make a deal for FCA.
The ultimate goal is to create an even bigger alliance that could better compete against the Volkswagen Group and Toyota. Now that the dust has settled somewhat since the Ghosn scandal broke out, Renault-Nissan has named Jean-Dominique Senard as its new chairman. Aside from Renault-Nissan and PSA, this isn’t the first time in recent years an automaker was interested in purchasing FCA, or at least part of it.
A couple of years ago, China’s Great Wall Motor Co. wanted to buy Jeep, but FCA was rightly unwilling to part with its most profitable brand. But a Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi-FCA tie up, however it’s decided, could be a good fit. Aside from major cost savings involving suppliers, R&D, and manufacturing, each brand would likely gain a foothold into markets where it’s currently weak.
But for now, no decisions have been made and spokespeople for all companies involved refuse to comment. Make no mistake though, it looks like FCA will soon be cutting a deal with someone.
The new Ram 2500 and 3500 raise the bar on both performance and luxury.
Following up on a successful launch of the 2019 Ram 1500, Ram Trucks has focused its engineering efforts on revamping its heavy-duty lineup of trucks. The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty lineup has some of the most advanced features found in any pickup truck, and the power and performance to back it all up.
We went to the remote desert areas outside of Las Vegas, near the Colorado River, to put these new rigs to the test. Throughout the day we spent time in the whole lineup, including a diesel-powered 2500 on the road, a Power Wagon off-road and a 3500 Cummins dually for max towing. Will the 2019 Ram Heavy Duty meet the ridiculously high bar set by the new half-tons?
Unlike Chevrolet, who made a bold design choice with its new big trucks, Ram kept the looks similar to the half-ton. Gone is the crosshair grille, replaced with R-A-M lettering on all models. The new grille is wider, too. Partially to improve airflow but also to create a more imposing presence on the road.
All models get new headlights, with many models receiving upgraded LED units with accent lighting. On the Laramie Longhorn and Limited models, the LED lights are curve-adaptive, too. Most of the trucks also feature rear LED lighting.
The regular cab returns, along with a four-door extended cab and the absolutely massive Mega Cab. You could hide a Zeppelin in the back and not be able to find it. Different bed lengths are also available depending on what work you’re trying to get done. For those who need the maximum towing or payload,dual-rear-wheel trucks are optional. The backup sensors even protect the fenders on the dual-rear wheel models.
Engine, Performance and MPG
The standard engine in Ram Heavy Duty is a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 making 410 horsepower and 429 lb-ft of torque. It’s also the only engine available on the off-road brute Power Wagon.
Buyers can opt for a Cummins turbodiesel I-6 that makes 370 horsepower and 850 lb-ft of torque. Though if you really need the grunt, there’s a high output Cummins available on the 3500 that boosts output to 400 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft of torque. That’s a torque number that requires a comma and is a lot.
When equipped in a regular cab 3500 dually with the proper towing package, the Ram 3500 can tow 35,100 pounds or 7,680 pounds of payload when equipped properly. That towing number is currently best-in-class, at least until the Silverado HD goes on sale with its 35,500 pounds of towing.
Trucks with the gas engine get a new ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic transmission, while the diesel versions have a new version of the 6-speed AISIN automatic. The manual transmission offering that used to appear is officially dead for the 2019 models.
The EPA doesn’t require fuel economy testing on these types of trucks, but the new trucks should be a bit more efficient than the outgoing models, thanks to the new transmissions and lighter-weight materials.
Interior Design, Features and Dimensions
The interior of the Ram Heavy Duty is what makes it really stand out from the competition. Everything you see is real. If it looks like metal, it’s metal. If it looks like wood, it’s wood. Everything you touch is a soft material of some kind.
Standard is a 5-inch Uconnect system, but most models will have the 8.4-inch model or the new 12-inch touchscreen that debuted in the half-ton. For those who opt for the big screen, they get access to SiriusXM 360L, which includes on-demand content and a system that learns what you like and adapts to it. Both the 8.4-inch and 12-inch screens support Apple Car Play and Android Auto.
Gasoline models lose the column-mounted shifter and get a new rotary dial unit. The diesel models still have the column-mount. New safety features make its way to the Ram Heavy Duty, including blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control that works with a trailer attached. Autonomous emergency braking will also help you avoid a collision and is designed to take the trailer you’re towing into consideration when braking.
On the Mega Cab, the rear seats have available heating and they can recline. Wireless charging is available, and tons of USB-A and USB-C ports are littered throughout the cabin. Optional upgrades also include a 750-watt, 17-speaker Harman Kardon stereo system.
Trunk and Cargo Space
Silverado and Sierra HD have the title for most bed volume on a heavy-duty pickup, with their DuraBed increasing cargo box volume by 14% on the standard bed and 9.5% on the long bed. That is a total of 83.5 cubic feet on the Silverado HD long bed.
Ram’s long bed only has a total of 74.7 cubic feet of volume, but Ram does offer something that GM does not. That feature is called RamBox, and it’s a lockable, sealed and drainable storage that buyers can add to the truck.
RamBox is a $1,295 option on the current truck, and even though pricing hasn’t been announced for the option on the new truck, we don’t expect it to change much. It includes a 115-volt 3-prong outlet for powering tools and accessories and is locked by the key fob or pressing the remote access button on the RamBox door itself.
Interior volume of the RamBox is 8.6 cubic feet and is the equivalent of approximately 140 beverage cans. With ice, that number would be less.
Inside, the regular cab model has 62.5 cu-ft of overall space. The crew and Mega Cab models each get 63.9 cu-ft up front, but the crew cab also gains 60.7 cu-ft in the rear while the Mega Cab gets 66 cu-ft in the rear. Ram says total storage in the Mega Cab is an impressive 258 liters.
On the crew cab and Mega Cab models, there are under seat storage bins that are lockable. The center console is large enough to hold a laptop computer and is designed to support hanging file folders. The HD models also have two glove boxes. A button on the dash pops open the top one, and the bottom one opens like a traditional glove box.
Most people tow or haul with a heavy-duty truck, but that doesn’t mean that Ram hasn’t gone great lengths to improve the unloaded ride quality of the truck.
While it’s not as smooth as the 1500, living with a 2500 or 3500 day-to-day wouldn’t be an exercise in masochism. The opulent interior and driving aids also help improve the comfort of the long haul.
When attached to a 40-ft trailer weighing 22,000 pounds heading up a 5-percent grade, the Ram 3500 with the High Output Cummins takes everything in its stride. For towing beginners, it might seem frightening to have to keep your foot to the floor to maintain speed, but as hard as the truck is working it doesn’t feel like it is.
Even attached to the trailer, the AISIN’s shifts are smoother than ever. Shifts are nearly imperceptible, which is a huge improvement over the older trucks. Even though the competition is going to 10-speed transmissions on their big trucks, the 6-speed in the Ram seems to hold its own.
Hooking up a trailer is a piece of cake with all the available cameras on the Ram Heavy Duty. The tailgate camera has a zoom function. The Center High Mounted Stop Lamp (CHMSL) camera even has a line on it to show you where the 5th-wheel or gooseneck hitch is.
Side view cameras make it easy to see what’s both beside you and behind you. You’re still backing the trailer up yourself, but you have visibility at all angles that you never had before. The only thing that might make backing a trailer up easier would be something like Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which isn’t even on their Super Duty trucks until the refresh hits the market later this year.
The Power Wagon is still the most capable pickup truck you can buy. It retains the front and rear lockers, the electronically-disconnecting sway bar, the manual transfer case, and the winch. It does get a new version of that winch using a synthetic cable instead of steel. This means it won’t kink and it’s safer if it breaks. It still has the 12,000 pounds of capability, though.
Power Wagon also comes with many of the interior niceties as other models, including the 12-inch screen as an option. For those who want the Power Wagon but don’t want the flashy graphics, you can order it as a package on top of the Tradesman trim. You still get all the off-road technology, including the winch, but you’re flying a bit more under the radar.
The new Ram Heavy Duty is currently the best heavy-duty truck on sale. Competition this year will be fierce, with updates from Ford, Chevrolet and GMC. But for right now, the Ram is easily king of the hill.
Reliability and Problems
Being that the truck is new, it’s unlikely that there’ll be many problems. The 8-speed automatic in the gas versions has been used in other products, so there is no real worry there. The Cummins name also carries a lot of credibility in the truck world, and major issues would be unlikely.
Obviously, your mileage may vary.
Price and Trims
The Ram HD starts at $33,395 plus a $1,695 delivery fee. To add the regular output diesel, expect to pay an additional $9,100. For the High Output engine, the one with the 1,000 lb-ft of torque, expect to add $11,795 to the price of a Ram 3500.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Ram 3500 HD Limited with four-wheel drive, the Mega Cab, and the 12-inch Uconnect screen starts at $67,050 before destination. The Power Wagon starts at $52,900 before destination. All of the trucks will be on sale later this year.
The new lineup of Ram HD pickups raises the standard for all heavy-duty trucks by offering impressive capability with refinement and comfort. Buyers no longer have to make sacrifices to creature comforts for increased towing and hauling. Like the Ram 1500, the 2500 and 3500 will be the standard that other truck makers will be trying to match over the coming year.
This fall the typical three-year transition to a completely new Ford Super Duty becomes complete. The transformation began with the epic swap from steel to aluminum for most of the bodywork back in the 2017 model year. That truck was actually the first completely new Super Duty since 1998, so we can forgive the company for developing and launching its new body and chassis with carryover powertrains. Ford has spent the last few years renewing most of what goes under the hood and (transmission hump).
With 60-70 percent of Super Duty buyers opting for diesel and with a lot of news being made recently by competitors in this space, it’s no surprise that the Power Stroke 6.7-liter turbodiesel V-8 has undergone a thorough freshening while retaining the essential architecture that first appeared for 2011. Ford will no doubt spend most of the months between now and the Super Duty’s fall 2019 on-sale date tweaking and tuning the engine (and truck) to ensure its power, torque, payload, and towing numbers trump those of all competitors. For now, all we can tell you is to expect the numbers to improve from today’s 450 hp, 935 lb-ft, 7,640 pounds, and 35,000 pounds. The current target is the Ram 3500, which launched in January and raised those bars to 1,000 lb-ft, 7,680 pounds of payload, and 35,100 pounds of towing. GM has yet to divulge the numbers for its newest HD, but expect Ford to try to top them all.
The more interesting news is on the gas-engine front, where Ford seems to have taken an “Even if you beat ’em, join ’em anyway” approach. The Blue Oval owns 44 percent of the commercial truck market, handily outselling its domestic rivals, and yet the company is putting its modular 90-degree Triton 6.8-liter SOHC V-10 engine out to pasture in favor of the competition’s preferred pushrod V-8 configuration. After 22 years, Ford’s Modular/Triton architecture is reaching the end of the road, and the Super Duty team acknowledged the power- and torque-density advantage held by the cam-in-block setup GM and FCA have used all along. Oh, and we confirmed the new V-8’s internal “Godzilla” code name when we found it printed on a valve-cover ID tag in a test vehicle. Here again, power, torque, payload, and towing stats have yet to be disclosed. A third engine offering, at least at the beginning on base models, will be the carryover 6.2-liter Boss SOHC 16-valve V-8, which will likely continue to produce 385 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque.
All three engines will be paired with a new 10-speed TorqShift transmission that is a heavy-duty incarnation of the new transmission architecture already available in the Mustang and F-150. It’ll be interesting to compare it with the Allison 10-speed GM is putting in its HD pickups, as that one is believed to also utilize the planetary gear and clutch design that was co-developed by GM and Ford. For a deeper dive into the engine and transmission tech—all of which Ford has subjected to 7 million miles of torture and durability testing—see our 2020 Ford F-Series Super Duty Powertrain First Look.
Naturally Ford is taking this opportunity to update the Super Duty to the latest and greatest level of connectivity and advanced driver assistance technologies. Standard FordPass Connect technology with 4G LTE modem brings Wi-Fi connectivity for up to 10 devices to all models, and Ford offers fleet managers a suite of telematics and data services to help monitor driver behavior and optimize costs and fleet utilization. There’s available wireless charging plus USB type A and C jacks to keep everyone’s technology juiced while on the job.
To reduce downtime due to accidents, all trim grades from XLT on up get standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping alert, and blind-spot information with trailer coverage. These items are optional on the XL grade. Other useful driver-assistance options include adaptive cruise control and Pro Trailer Backup Assist. The latter allows the driver to steer a reversing trailer via a knob, and new for 2020—it works with gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailers.
Design-wise there are new grilles, with special enlarged openings on all dual-rear-wheel models to further improve cooling. LED headlights improve illumination and high-line models get new signature daytime running lamps. There are three new taillight designs and seven new wheel styles. Some interior trim parts and materials have been upgraded, with Limited models getting the biggest upgrade in order to close the gap opened by the new Ram interiors. That model’s navy and parchment combo could be mistaken for a Ram until you spot its diminutive 8.0-inch infotainment screen.
Keep it tuned right here come Truck of the Year time when we hope to subject all three domestic heavies to our own regimen of real-world and torture testing to reveal which truck truly is the king of the hill.
The Japanese marque expects big things from its little crossover.
While Lexus is widely considered to be a world-class luxury brand, not everyone views the Japanese carmaker with the same level of prestige as European luxury brands. Lexus has suffered as a result, especially in Europe. Despite enjoying strong sales in the United States, a strong love of diesel in Europe has hindered the brand’s success there.
The current decline of diesel sales in Europe may finally offer an opportunity for Lexus to increase its market share using hybrid models as an alternative. According to Autocar, Lexus expects the introduction of its UX crossover to be a massive turning point for sales in the United Kingdom.
Lexus sold nearly 300,000 vehicles in the US in 2018 but only 12,405 units in the UK. This just goes to show how differently the Lexus brand is perceived in the US versus the UK. Even when looking at Europe as a whole, Lexus only sold just over 46,000 vehicles. Largely thanks to the new UX, Lexus expects its sales in the UK to rise by 20% to around 14,000 units. This UK sales increase will go along with the brand’s larger plans to sell 100,000 vehicles per year in Europe.
“Irrespective of the economy, people are walking towards hybrid and away from diesel. That lets us control our own destiny,” said Lexus UK boss Ewan Shepherd. The UX is sold as a 250h model, which pairs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a hybrid system to produce 176 horsepower.
Lexus believes the UX 250h will be an appealing alternative to diesel-powered cars. The brand expects to sell 4,000 units in the UK in 2019, and 6,000 units in 2020. Even with the sales increase, Lexus won’t come close to matching the sales volume of its German rivals, which may come now to brand awareness.
“The LC is the first big car we could tell the story behind but it’s in an inaccessible segment,” Shepherd said. “Now we have the UX, which is in a very accessible segment.” It may not help Lexus reach the same sales volume as the European brands but it will be a massive step up for brand awareness in Europe.
The B7 may not have 12 cylinders but its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 has been tuned to produce 600 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. Without so much weight over the front axle, the B7 is actually a tenth of a second quicker to 60 mph than the M760i at 3.5 seconds. And unlike the M760i, the Alpina isn’t limited to 155, so it can hit a top speed of 205 mph – that should come in handy on all of those speed-limited US roads.
In order to coax all that extra power out of the V8 (the standard 750i xDrive produces 523 hp), Alpina used unique intercoolers with an interconnection to “equalize and reduce pressure pulsations between the two cylinder banks of the V8 engine.”
Along with new engine management software, the engine’s 590 lb-ft of torque is available from 2,000 rpm up to 5,000. Alpine has also reworked the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, giving it closer gear ratios and a new lock-up clutch, so no torque reduction is necessary during upshifts.
Alpina has also gone to work underneath the 7 Series to improve its ride and handling. The standard two-axle air suspension system and Dynamic Damper Control combine to minimize body roll during cornering. Alpina says the self-leveling suspension is capable of being adjusted by up to 1.4-inches and automatically lowers itself by 0.6 inches at speeds of over 140 mph.
The B7 should also turn tighter courtesy of rear axle steering. BMW steering feel hasn’t been perfect lately but Alpina calibrated the variable-ratio electric steering system to work with the suspension and model-specific Michelin performance tires. Of course, those tires will surround Alpina’s legendary 20-spoke wheels measuring 21-inches in this application.
Inside, The Alpina B7 is equipped with Nappa leather multifunctional comfort seats, a leather instrument panel, ceramic inserts on control elements, and soft close doors (all interior and engine photos are taken from a 2018 model and weren’t available for this new 2020 model). We will be interested to see interior pictures because Alpina says it has created a unique design for BMW’s new digital instrument display.
As you’d expect, the B7 comes nicely optioned with a head-up display, rearview camera, and the latest iDrive 7 with navigation. Alpina’s classic blue and green stitching appears throughout the cabin and Contemporary Piano lacquer or classic Myrtle Luxury Wood adorn the doors and dashboard. The cabin can optionally be decked out with the Rear Executive Lounge Seating Package, including a touchscreen tablet and two 10-inch full-HD displays with a Bluray player.
This B7 will even include a unique individual production plaque to remind the driver they are behind the wheel of something special. Pricing begins at $141,700 plus a $995 destination fee and deliveries will begin in the third quarter of 2019.