Pickup truck makers increasingly adding luxury features, amenities

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If you're looking for a new pickup truck, you picked a good year to be in the market. (KABC)

If you're looking for a new pickup truck, you picked a good year to be in the market. The 2019 Ram 1500 is all new with a host of changes, the Ford F-150 has gotten a major refresh for 2018, and GM is readying new 2019 models that will be out later in the year.

The truck market is a big one in the U.S., and a competitive one.

"Trucks are pretty specific to people, and what they need them for. Nobody wants a 'pretty good' truck, they want the best truck," said Nick Cappa, director of communications for Ram Trucks.

There are significant improvements to the Ram 1500 in every area -- not just in looks, but in features, too. And it's gone on a weight diet, losing over 200 pounds in the redesign, thanks to use of what's called high-strength steel. Engineers and designers even made aerodynamic tweaks to save fuel. There will be a diesel option later, and there's a mild hybrid system for the gas engines, where a 48-volt battery and motor take some of the load off either the V6 or V8.

"Getting 25 miles per gallon in a four-by-four, crew-cab, full-size truck that weighs 6,000 pounds is not unusual anymore, in a Ram 1500 especially," noted Cappa.

Ford is weighing heavily on its aluminum body of the F-150, which helped it save significant weight over the F-150 that it replaced. Ford is also installing a smaller EcoBoost line of engines to aid fuel efficiency while still delivering towing and hauling capacity.

And in the area of weight savings, GMC announced a significant option for its upcoming higher-end 2019 models: a bed made of exotic carbon fiber.

They're innovations across the segment to help move the metal, and other materials.

Companies that build full-size pickups love to brag about sales numbers. Just using figures from the Detroit Three manufacturers, they moved over 2.2 million units in 2017 alone. And increasingly, individual truck brands are boasting about how many amenities they offer for buyers who want upscale trucks.

The sky seems to be the limit. The top-of-the-line Ram interior, for example, looks like it could be in an upscale sedan. The Laramie Longhorn model lives up to its name with branding on the seat leather, the wood dash, and features you'd normally find on a luxury sedan or SUV.

"We've seen very much a shift in pickup truck buyers, owners and their expectations for sure. And we hope with this 2019 truck we're offering something for everyone. It think that's the best part about the truck," said Ryan Nagode, who heads up the design department at Ram Trucks.

Things like a 12 inch touch screen, USB ports galore, heated and cooled seats, multi-zone automatic climate control, luxury materials, and the list goes on and on. There's even an optional remote tailgate release in the electronic key fob.

If Ford's your preferred truck brand, there's a Limited trim level on the new F-150. It features soft leather, as well as every convenience you could ever need.

We're still awaiting full details on the next Chevy Silverado, but the current High Country trim on the 2018 models suggests that Chevrolet is right in the upscale game too. The Silverado's mechanical twin, the GMC Sierra, will once again offer a premium Denali trim level for those who want ultimate luxury.

It's serious luxury if you want to pay the price, which can range from $60,000 to $70,000 and up these days. And many truck buyers seem willing to pay the tab to own a luxury pickup.
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