2021 truck and van preview
By Mario Cywinski
While most models for 2021 have engine, package, trim, or colour changes, two light-duty pick-up truck heavyweights have made major changes to their vehicles
By Mario Cywinski
Ford has completely re-designed its F-150 for 2021, and added a hybrid powertrain for the first time. While Ram has added a new TRX off-road model to compete with the Ford Raptor.
On the other end of the spectrum, Nissan will be pulling the Titan, NV, and NV200 from the Canadian marketplace after the 2021 model year, leaving the Frontier, which is set to reveal a completely redesigned model in the near future.
Chevrolet is adding new trailering technology and capacity to its trucks for 2021, while Mercedes-Benz is doing incremental updates to its vans, and Toyota is adding new packages to its pick-ups. Honda Ridgeline unibody pick-up truck is also still available.
The big news for the Gladiator for 2021 is the addition of a 3.0-litre EcoDiesel V-6 engine with engine start/stop. If offers 260 horsepower and 442 foot/pounds of torque, and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Also, all models now have the option of full-time four-wheel drive. Other package changes also occur.
Two special edition models are also new for 2021. A Willys model starts life as a Sport S trim and adds limited-slip rear differential, rock rails, 32-inch mud tires, and unique exterior appearance. An 80th-anniversary edition offers 18” wheels, grey metallic exterior accents, 8.4” touchscreen, berber floor mats, and special exterior badging.
The big news for the Ram 1500 is the addition of the performance-oriented TRX model. TRX will have 702hp and 650 ft/lbs of torque from a 6.2L supercharged HEMI V-8 engine. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, which has high torque capacity. TRX is 203 millimetres wider, has a 152mm wider track, the front axle is 20mm farther forward, brakes are 381mm, ride height is 51mm higher (with a ground clearance of 300mm, and water fording of 813mm), 18” wheels with 35” tires are exclusive. Ram has put 15” (381mm) rotors all around on the TRX.
An aluminum hood has a hood scoop which allows for 50 per cent of air going into the engine, with the other 50 per cent going in through the grille, part of the dual-path air induction system. LED headlights and taillights are standard. TRX has five dynamic drive modes (auto, sport, tow, snow, and custom) that control the four-wheel-drive system, throttle response, transmission, paddle shifters, suspension, and electric power steering. Also, three dynamic off-road modes (mud/sand, rock, and baja) can be chosen. A launch control button is standard.
The Uconnect system standard on the TRX is a 12” model and can be paired to a Harmon Kardon audio system with 900-watts and 19 speakers. An available head-up display can show up to five items at one time (lane departure, lane-keeping, adaptive cruise control, navigation, speed, gear and speed limit).
Safety and technology-wise the TRX offers a 360-degree camera view, which includes a forward-facing camera that is used for off-roading. An available digital rear-view mirror replaces the glass view with a view from the rear camera. As with other versions of this style mirror, it can be revered to a regular rear-view mirror. A sampling of safety features includes a standard backup camera, ESC, and six airbags; and available blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and much more.
For 2021, the Ram 1500 gets a new available colour heads-up display, which is customizable, as well as a digital rearview mirror (which can revert to a regular rearview). The Trailer package now includes trailer reverse steering control (allowing the driver to enter measurements and allows the vehicle to steer while reversing). A snow plow prep package is now available. A new Limited Longhorn 10th Anniversary edition is added and offers special badging throughout, and brown interior with unique touches inside.
Other options added for 2021 include: power fold trailer mirror available as standalone or with 360-degree camera; Sport model is exclusive for Canada (20-inch black wheels are standard); wired trailer camera prep package now available; pedestrian detection added to advanced safety group; and other package changes also happen.
2500/3500 Heavy Duty
A Limited Night Edition model is added with 20” black wheels (17” on dual rear-wheel models), black RAM grille, grille surround and badging, headlights and taillights have black bezels, mirrors have black caps, bumpers are body colour, a variety of body colours are available on the model.
The Promaster now comes with crosswind assist (which helps while in windy conditions) as standard. Available new options are a digital LCD review mirror (replacing the traditional rear view mirror), and new safety features (blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning with emergency braking, and lighting).
ProMaster City sees wheel and fog light availability changes.
The top-selling vehicle in Canada takes things a step further for 2021, with the F-150 being available with a hybrid powertrain for the first time. PowerBoost combines the 3.5L EcoBoost engine (mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission) with a 47 hp (35 kilowatt) electric motor, and a 1.5 kW-hr lithium-ion battery. It can go an estimated 1,100 km on one tank of fuel, and can tow at least 12,000 lbs (when properly equipped). The hybrid model is available on all trims, XL to Limited. Other engine options available are a 3.3L V-6, 2.7L EcoBoost V-6, 3.5L EcoBoost V-6, 3.0L Power Stroke V-6 diesel, and 5.0L V-8.
PowerBoost comes with Pro Power Onboard, which turns the truck into a mobile generator. Three levels are available, 2.4kW system with two 120V 20A outlets is standard on the PowerBoost; a 7.2kW system with four 120V 20A outlets and a NEMA L6-20 240V 30A outlet is available on PowerBoost; and a 2.0kW system with two 120V 20A outlets is available on 2.7L and 3.5L EcoBoost and 5.0L V-8 models.
The truck is being redesigned inside and out, the front end sees a new front fascia, choice of 11 grilles, three headlight options, 13 wheel options, and addition of active grill shutters and an active air dam. Ford says that every panel on the truck has been redesigned.
New trailer friendly features include trailer theft alert, which sends a message to a mobile device when the trailer is being unhooked and the truck is locked, trailer light check, which can check if trailer lights are working through FordPass app, and trailer reverse guidance, that shows various views along with steering wheel graphics of the trailer by using five cameras.
Over-the-air updates and new SYNC system that can connect Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and AppLink apps wirelessly, are added. Two centre stack screen sizes are available for 2021, standard eight-inch and available 12”. An available 12” digital gauge cluster is also added. New driver-assist technologies added include Active Drive Assist, that allows hands-free driving on Canadian and United States divided highways, by having a camera facing the driver and making sure they are focusing on the road. Intersection Assist, detects oncoming traffic while driver is doing a left turn, and will apply brakes if needed. Active Park Assist 2 is also new.
A Tremor package is added for 2021, which has a lifted suspension with FOX 2.0 monotube dampers with rear piggyback reservoirs, tuned front coil-over and rear leaf springs, 32” all-terrain tires, frame-mounted steel front bash plate and underbody skid plates, rear locking differential, and six-switch aux power pack. Visually it has hoop-style steps, rear recovery hooks, painted grille, wheels lips, available hood and body graphics, and a one-inch wider stance. Other Ranger models get colour and package changes for 2021.
Super Duty was all-new for 2020, it sees only minor package, trim, and colour changes for 2021. Transit Connect and Transit vans are straight carryover models for 2021, with only minor colour changes.
For 2021, Silverado adds the Multi-Flex tailgate, a version of which debuted on the GMC Sierra, and allows for six functions, to help load and unload the truck bed. Trailering enhancements are what Chevrolet focused on with their truck this year, as Silverado 2.7L turbo models; with crew cab short box can now tow 9,300 lbs (a 2,500 lbs increase), while the regular cab long box ups its capacity to 9,600 lbs (and has a payload of 2,280 lbs in 2WD). Silverado 3.0L turbo-diesel models now offers a max capacity of 9,500lbs on 2WD models, while increasing capacity by 1,900 lbs on most other configurations.
New trailering technologies are also added for 2021, with trailer length indicator, jack-knife alert, and new cargo bed views (zoom view and bed hitch guidance), making trailering easier. While rear trailer view now offers guidelines and a trailer-angle indicator, and rear side view is enhanced. Other package, trim, and colour changes also occur.
Just like the Silverado 1500, the Heavy Duty models get the same trailering technology improvements stated above. Silverado 3500 HD WT with 6.6L Duramax diesel mated to 10-speed transmission in regular cab, dual-rear wheels, 2WD, with gooseneck hitch and max tow package can now tow 36,000 lbs (a 500 lbs increase). A selection of special edition packages are also added for 2021. They are Carhartt Edition available on LTZ, while Midnight Edition, Z71 Sport Edition, and Z71 Chrome Sport Edition, are available on LT and LTZ. Other minor package, trim, and colour changes also occur.
Colorado has an updated lower fascia, front skid plates, centre bars, new logos, embossed tailgate, and unique looks for each trim, for 2021. ZR2 will feature lettered Chevrolet front fascia, standard front and rear electronic locking differentials, two-inch suspension lift, 3.5” wider track, off-road rocker protection, cast iron control arms, and multiple skid plates, Multimatic DSSV position-sensitive dampers, and red tow hooks.
Canyon adds two new trim levels for 2021. An AT4 mode offers a unique exterior with dark chrome finishes, a new larger grille and red hooks. Interior features Kalahari stitching and AT4 headrest embroidery. Off-road features include 31” tires on 17” wheels, off-road tuned suspension with hill descent system, four-wheel-drive system with automatic locking differential, and transfer case skid plate. Top of the line Denali grade is also added, with exterior offering a new grille, chrome assist steps, and 20” wheels, while the interior has wood trim, aluminum décor, unique stitching, and heated seats and steering wheel.
General Motors offers full-size vans, GMC Savana and Chevrolet Express, which see a new 6.6L gas V8 engine added with 401 hp and 464 ft/lbs of torque. GMC Sierra is a carryover for 2021.
For 2021, Metris receives a handful of updates. First is a new nine-speed automatic transmission, which replaces the outgoing seven-speed version. Active Break assist (which helps a driver to stop if needed, it shows a distance warning, assist in braking, and will use automatic emergency braking if needed) and Distronic (which is an adaptive cruise control system) are added to the Metris. A digital interior rearview mirror is added and uses the rear camera to show what is behind the vehicle.
Other changes include: multifunction steering wheel now standard on cargo vans, instrument cluster with pixel-matrix display and seven-inch touchscreen display with smartphone integration are now standard (version with navigation is available). Finally, a hold function is added, plastic floor covering added on cargo vans, radiator grille is new, as are wheels and tires. Package also see minor changes.
The long-running Sprinter, sees a few changes for the 2021 model year. The biggest change is the return of the four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine (offering 161hp) that is mated to a nine-speed transmission. V-6 diesel engine and four-cylinder gas engine, are also available.
Standard equipment now includes active brake assist, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, full front floor covering, and power and heated mirrors. New suspension has an adapted front axle spring, and removal of stabilizer bar at rear axle. Packages also see updates.
For 2021, Toyota is adding two packages to the Tacoma family. Trail and Nightshade packages both have five-foot truck beds and double cabs. Nightshade package offers an automatic transmission, premium options, black exterior features (18” black alloy wheels, black chrome taillight inserts, black grille, mirrors caps, door handles, exhaust tip, badge covers, wheels locks and lug nuts) and a black leather interior. Trail package offers an automatic transmission, 16” off-road wheels, side-step bars, black badge covers, power driver’s seat, and interior accents.
All other Tacoma models carry over with minor changes (TRD Pro halo colour is now Lunar Rock), all now offer dual-zone automatic A/C, and audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Tundra adds a Trail package, which starts as a SR5 Plus, and adds TRD off-road wheels, side step bars, 1794 edition grille, black exterior badging, and black interior seats with tan stitching. All Tundra models carry over into 2021 with minimal changes (TRD Pro halo colour is now Lunar Rock).
About the author: Mario Cywinski is the editor of Machinery and Equipment MRO magazine and Food and Beverage magazine, a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, and a judge for Canadian Truck King Challenge. He has more than 12 years of editorial experience; more than two years of maintenance, reliability, and operations experience; over 16 years of automobile industry experience, as well as small business industry experience.