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Detroit auto show: Trucks, vans get new refinements

Published January 17, 2013

Chevrolet Silverado

While it wasn’t officially unveiled at the show — that happened at a smaller media event last December — the 2014 Silverado and its GMC Sierra sibling will meet the public for the first time at the Detroit show. It’s the first major redesign of these trucks since the 2007 models.

The three engine choices are a 4.3 L V6, 5.3 L V8, and 6.2 L V8. Those are the same displacements as in the outgoing model, but they are completely new engines. All will include direct gasoline injection, continuously variable valve timing, and cylinder deactivation (all will default to four cylinders when full power isn’t needed) to reduce fuel consumption.

The body will be stronger and quieter, the interior is vastly improved, and there will be numerous new features, such as a heated steering wheel, a bumper step for easier access to the box, and a seat that vibrates to warn if you’re drifting out of your lane. Horsepower and towing capacity figures will be announced closer to launch.

Ford Transit Connect

Back in 2009, Ford introduced its compact Transit Connect to North America, which proved popular with companies that didn’t need a full-size van. For 2014, there’s an all-new Transit Connect work van, along with a new passenger version.

Both the Transit Connect van and wagon will come in two wheelbase lengths, with a 1.6 L EcoBoost four-cylinder or naturally-aspirated 2.5 L four-cylinder, and with six-speed automatic transmission. Available options will include MyFord Touch, rain-sensing wipers, and rearview camera.

Both have dual sliding doors and a choice of rear liftgate or two swing-out doors. The wagon, which has an interior similar to that of a minivan, will be available with five- or seven-passenger seating, and should put Ford back into the segment that it left when its Freestar was retired after 2007.

Ford Transit

New to the North American market, Ford’s large Transit van will compete in the commercial segment with the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Nissan NV, and Chevrolet Express.

It’s a worldwide update for 2014, and will replace the various Transit models that Ford builds for individual markets in Europe. Transits for North America will be made in Kansas City.

Three engines will be available. Gasoline choices will be a 3.7 L V6 or premium 3.5 L EcoBoost V6 engine, plus a 3.2 L five-cylinder turbo diesel, all with six-speed automatic. There will be two wheelbase lengths, three roof heights, and with single or dual rear wheels. The largest configuration will have over twice the interior volume of the current E-Series van, which will bow out as the Transit comes in, after a run that dates back to the first Econoline of 1961.

The Sprinter has virtually owned the large commercial van category since its introduction (under the Dodge brand, which Mercedes owned at the time), but given that it’s now sold through a limited number of Mercedes-Benz dealers, the Transit should have a viable shot at leapfrogging it.

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