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2009 Chicago Auto Show - Fighting Back

Posted in Events on June 1, 2009
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Photographers: The Manufacturers

The Chicago Auto Show has always been a key venue for major four-wheel-drive debuts and surprisingly this year was no exception. Even with the auto industry suffering a black eye and a bloody nose from an economy acting like a big bully, they got in a few punches of their own at this year's show with some important new products.

It was Show 101 for the Chicago Auto Show and this year its host location at McCormick Place, nestled between downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan, was packed with 1.3 million square feet of the latest and greatest from automakers around the world. Here's the lowdown on the major unveils and a look at a couple of other things we found at the show.

Heavy-Duty Heaven
Dodge took the wraps off the brand-new 2010 Ram 2500 and 3500 Heavy-Duty pickups. During the official unveil they displayed this Cummins-powered 3500 dualie 4x4 model in Laramie trim. From these two angles you can see how incredibly smooth the new Heavy-Duty's look. Visually they differ from their light-duty 1/2-ton counterparts with a unique grille, hood and bumpers. The mega-smooth new dual-rear-wheel fenders improve aerodynamics and give the rig a high-quality look. The tailgate includes a lift-assist feature for one-hand operation; it's sculpted for better airflow; and it incorporates a spoiler in the upper part of the sheetmetal. The 2500 comes standard with the 5.7L Hemi V-8 matched to the 545RFE five-speed automatic. The 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel engine with G56 six-speed manual or 68RFE six-speed automatic is optional. The 3500 comes standard with the Cummins turbodiesel and the G56 while the 68RFE is optional. Get all that? Good, 'cause there will be a quiz. Dodge says these trucks have improved driving dynamics, both loaded and unloaded, thanks to re-tuned suspension components and a new C-pillar with fluid-filled hydro mounts. These Heavy-Duty rigs will be available in two cargo box sizes and three cab styles; regular, crew-size and Mega Cab. Trim levels will include ST, SLT, TRX, Laramie and Power Wagon. Yep, you read that right, the outstanding Power Wagon is returning for 2010.

Chassis Cab Coolness
Dodge also took the wraps off of their brand-new Ram 3500, 4500, and 5500 Heavy-Duty chassis cab models, and they showed off this Cummins-powered 4500 model fitted with a crane body. Available in regular cab or Crew Cab, all chassis cabs come with a number of cool standard items including a 52-gallon fuel tank; upfitter switches (shown); Electronic Vehicle Information Center; increased alternator size on diesel models; and rear heating ventilation and air conditioning ducts on Crew Cab models. The 3500 comes standard with the 5.7L Hemi V-8 engine while the 4500 and 5500 models come standard with the Cummins turbodiesel with exhaust brake. All models have the option of getting a manual six-speed transmission with PTO capability, and Cummins-powered models can even get a PTO-equipped Aisin automatic transmission. Two transfer cases will be offered: the electric-shift NV273 and the manual-shift NV271. Dodge points out that these trucks have best-in-class fuel economy and the largest front brake rotors and calipers. Options include an integrated trailer brake controller, heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, power inverter, and a navigation system with traffic-alert feature. Most importantly, the chassis cab trucks have been designed to be upfit-friendly with a number of upgrades like a rear ground stud that'll handle up to 50 amps and a special capped auxiliary fuel line for auxiliary equipment the run on fuel.

Tundra Tidbits
Toyota did a low-key intro of some very interesting new products. One was the new 4.6L V-8 engine shown here. This new engine will be available on all 2010 Tundra pickups. It has 310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft of torque, which is a 34 hp and 14 lb-ft of torque improvement over the 4.7L V-8 engine currently offered in the Tundra. Toyota says it has preliminary fuel efficiency estimates of 15 mpg city and 20 mpg on the highway, though they don't specify whether those are 4x2 or 4x4 numbers. Like the current 4.7L engine, the 4.6L will be mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Other Tundra news from Chicago revolved around two new Tundra trim packages. The first is a high-zoot Platinum Package, which Toyota describes as offering a higher level of refinement and additional convenience features. Think "loaded with options and bling." The other trim package, the one that really caught our eye, was the recently announced Tundra Work Truck. This model ditches exterior chrome in favor of black and eliminates stuff like keyless entry and cruise control. The Work Truck also offers an interior designed for real work with washable vinyl seats, rubber flooring, and a black instrument panel (shown) instead of the usual silver. Final pricing of the Work Truck will be released shortly before the vehicle goes on sale this spring, but Toyota says it should have a price adjustment of $550 to $655 less than the truck's standard MSRP, depending on the model.

Road Hog
Ford took the wraps off the 2010 Harley-Davidson F-150. This is the first time the Harley-Davidson edition has been integrated into said vehicle since it was redesigned in 2009. Based on the SuperCrew, it's available in 4x2 or all-wheel drive (offering 4x2, AWD or 4x4 high) configurations. The truck shown here is painted Lava (deep maroon with three-color metalflake) but it's also available in Tuxedo Black. Standard equipment includes 22-inch wheels with low-profile performance tires; premium handmade Harley-Davidson badges on the seats and console lid; seating designed to resemble a Harley biker jacket; ribbed leather treatments on the seat backs; engraved Harley-Davidson button snaps; and zippered map pockets featuring zippers from Harley jackets. The truck is powered by a 5.4L V-8 (and later a 6.2L V-8), and it has a sport-tuned exhaust and a top speed of 115 mph.

Bunker On Wheels
The auto show also had some unusual vehicles on display like this SandCat Protected Multi-Role Vehicle by Oshkosh Corporation. This is the transport variant so it can haul four to eight people. It has some features us 'wheelers are familiar with like an ARB Air Locker in the rear, a limited-slip in the front, a Power Stroke 6.4L diesel engine, TorqShift transmission and a two-speed transfer case. It also has some features our rigs don't have, like two available levels of armor kits and Blast Management Technology (V-shaped belly deflector, impact-absorbing seats, advanced suppression systems and composite materials to absorb and deflect blasts). The SandCat has a 38-degree approach angle, 30-degree departure angle, 13 inches of ground clearance and a maximum governed speed of 74.6 mph.

Now Something Really Different
Hey, it doesn't get more off-highway than a helicopter. But wait, this one looks weird. Where are the windows? Fact is, this is the Northrop Grumman Fire Scout MQ-8B, and it's the next level of drone. Yep, that's right it's a giant radio-controlled helicopter. It's a hair under 23 feet in length, has a gross weight of 3,150 pounds, and is powered by a Rolls-Royce 250-C20W turboshaft engine. Great for recon and surveillance, it's also capable of detecting mines, camouflaged targets, etc... It can also lay down the law via Hellfire laser-guided missiles, Hydra rockets, Viper Strike precision munitions, etc... And we thought our electric toy helicopters were cool.

Props For Nissan
The outstanding '09 Nissan Xterra Off-Road won our 2009 Four Wheeler of the Year competition. At the Chicago Auto Show we presented Nissan with our exclusive Four Wheeler of the Year award. Receiving the award on behalf of Nissan is Scott Vazin, director of product PR, shown on left. Great job on the Xterra, guys.

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