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5 Rear Backup Cameras

Five of the six 2009 half-ton pickups on the market offer wide-angle rear backup cameras mounted on the tailgate to improve safety when backing up and to help reduce guesswork when lining up a truck and trailer without a human spotter. Some of these backup displays are mounted in the rearview mirror, while others display in the navigation screen. Kudos to Ford for displaying helpful markings in its Reverse view to show distance even in a fisheye view of the world.

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Coil-Spring Rear Suspension

Leaf springs and pickups go together like trampolines and acrobats. Leaf springs are simple suspension components that enable trucks to perform amazing load-carrying feats. But leafs trade ride comfort and lateral rear axle control for their simplicity. Dodge thinks it has a better idea. The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 is the first pickup in more than 30 years to offer a multi-link coil-spring rear suspension instead of leaf springs. The result? Excellent ride and handling, particularly when the truck is unloaded, and the same load-carrying capability as last year’s Ram, plus a bonus weight savings of 40 pounds.

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Two-Mode Hybrid System

Can a full-size pickup be considered a green vehicle? If any truck can, it’s GM’s twin Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra half-tons. GM’s two-mode gas-electric hybrid system gets 40 percent better fuel economy in city driving than its conventional 6.0-liter V-8 gas engine. Perhaps even more remarkable is that, in our experience driving it, GM’s hybrid pickup was able to tow 5,000 pounds up to 15 mph using electricity only. How’s that for fuel savings?


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RamBox

Truck owners have been improvising or purchasing aftermarket storage solutions for pickup beds since the inception of the truck, from roped-down milk crates and drop-in cargo boxes to Hide-and-Side storage. It was only recently that truck manufacturers began to get in on the act.

The Chevrolet Avalanche debuted in 2002 with two small, weatherproof, secure cargo pouches built into the bed rails that could hold up to 3.5 cubic feet of cargo. The 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 offers the slickest solution yet, called RamBox. The RamBox has 8.6 cubic feet worth of dry lockable side saddle storage space, with room to squeeze a 4x8 sheet of plywood between the bed walls. The only drawback? Price. At $1,895, the cost has a good chance of making this feature a non-starter for trucks shoppers on tight budgets.


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Ford Work Solutions

For most of the past decade new features in half-ton pickups were aimed primarily at casual truck buyers. Now those buyers are fleeing big trucks for smaller vehicles. Core truck buyers are making up ever larger percentages of half-ton purchases. Ford hasn't forgotten commercial customers' needs. The company is introducing a game-changing suite of work productivity applications that includes an in-dash computer with high-speed wireless internet and a printer; “Crew Chief,” which monitors and helps route fleets of trucks in real time; and “Tool Link,” which uses radio frequency tag readers in the truck to keep track of tools so they aren’t left behind at home or a jobsite.

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