Some information has surfaced about the upcoming Ram 2500/3500 trucks. You can add it to the report we gave you in February ("Dodge Heavy-Duty Axles," Drivelines). To bring you up to date, Dodge's big guns will be restyled for 2003 to look like their 11/42-ton stablemates, but the 4x4 models won't be saddled with IFS as their light-duty siblings were. Instead, they'll be fitted with a revised version of the five-link, coil-spring, live-axle front suspension found on the current trucks. The rear suspension will be revamped too, with longer leaf springs. And for the first time you'll be able to order a Ram 3500 with single rear wheels.
Also new in the Ram's chassis is a choice of transfer cases. The electric-shift NV273 torque-splitter will be offered in SLT Plus models. The ST and SLT trucks will retain the NV271 manual box. Both have 2.72 low-range ratios.
There are more new choices under the hood. The fabled Hemi name is back on a 5.7L, 345hp V-8 that replaces the 5.9L Magnum. The original Hemis from the '50s and '60s were legendary; the name comes for their hemispherical combustion chambers. These motors could be built to make so much power that most of the mills in professional Top Fuel drag racers (putting out 5,000 hp, give or take a few) are still based on the Hemi architecture.
If the current Hemi's 365 lb-ft of peak torque isn't enough for your hauling needs, you can still opt for the 8.0L V-10 with its 455 lb-ft, or go with the new High Output version of the Cummins inline-six turbodiesel, which pumps out 555 lb-ft at only 1,400 rpm.
Want more? We'll bring it to you when we get our hands on these babies. Hey, the 1500 may be the mayor of Truckville, but it looks like these trucks will truly rule.
New Kia SUVThe cute/ute Sportage is getting a stablemate. Kia announced it will add the five-passenger Sorento SUV to its lineup for 2003.
Kia calls the Sorento an "authentic SUV" (as opposed to...?) with features like a 3.5L, 192hp V-6, an electronic four-speed automatic transmission, a choice of two 4WD systems, four-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch wheels, and an Eaton limited slip in the rear diff. The Sorento is built on a traditional ladder frame with a double-wishbone front suspension and a multilink rear. With a wheelbase of 106.7 inches and a track width of 62.2 inches, it's a bit larger than Toyota's RAV4 but smaller than Ford's Explorer.
The Sorento will be available in two trim levels-LX and EX-both of which are loaded with features. The base LX has power windows and door locks, air conditioning, and a CD stereo. Go with the full-boat EX luxury package and you'll get features like a six-disc, in-dash CD changer, automatic climate control, leather interior trim, and Torque-on-Demand 4WD.
Prices have not been released as of press time, but Kia execs promised that the Sorento "will set a new standard for value in the compact SUV segment." It will also benefit from a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, a 5-year or 60,000-mile basic warranty, and a 5-year unlimited-mileage roadside assistance program.
Hummer H2 NewsTruck journalists are finally getting a chance to wring out the new Hummer H2, and from what we can see in these photos, they aren't pussyfooting around. Figuring that the Rubicon Trail is pretty much owned by Jeep, Hummer execs took the media to Moab and also to AM General's Proving Grounds in South Bend, Indiana, for a first-hand experience of the H2's off-road prowess. Yes, that's Moab's Golden Crack passing under the truck, and we gave you the hot smoke and dope last month ("The New Hummer").
Now to the silly stuff. Apparently fans of the new Hummer are so eager to get their hands on it that they're bidding for spots on dealership waiting lists. Online auction site eBay reports bids in the $5,000-$10,000 range-just to be put nearer to the front of the waiting list so the bidder can then pay over $50,000, plus taxes, to be the first guy on his block with an H2.
And about the future: Look for an H2 model with a pickup bed and possibly a version of the GM Midgate between the bed and the passenger compartment, but don't look for it soon. Sources say the H2 SUT won't be out until 2004. Hummer also wants to add a third model to its line, the H3, which would be a smaller version of the original H1. If they can pull that off, Hummer execs, quoted in Automotive News, believe the division could be as profitable for GM as Cadillac.
World Supercrawl Purse Over $50,000Prize money for the UROC World Supercrawl, to be run October 8-12 in Farmington, New Mexico, hit $52,000 as we were going to press. It's probably even higher now. UROC calls the World Supercrawl "the biggest rockcrawling event ever," with a field made up of Top 10 finishers from UROC, CalROCS, EROOC, and other competitive rockcrawling series. Think the "World" part of the title is just hype? Wrong. The event has entries from Italy and Iceland as well as the U.S. and Canada.
If you want to get in on the action, contact UROC at 435/864-3199 or visit UROC4x4.com.
Business Buzz*Dealers are begging Ford for more Super Duty pickups. The maker is working on it by making changes to the Louisville, Kentucky, plant that builds the F-250 and F-350 pickups as well as the Excursion. *Not to be outdone, GM is upping capacity at its Pontiac, Michigan, assembly plant to churn out up to 30 percent more Silverado and Sierra pickups. *Chevrolet says it's making progress on its fuel-cell development program. It has built an S-10 pickup that GM says should get between 35 and 40 mpg and be 80-percent energy efficient, which is twice the efficiency of a standard internal combustion engine. One problem, though: The fuel-cell stack and gasoline reformer needed to power the truck fill most of its bed. *Four of the top five best-selling vehicles in the U.S. in April 2002 (the most recent sales data) were pickups or SUVs. Ford's F-series was first, followed by Chevy Silverado. The Dodge Ram was fourth, and the Ford Explorer was fifth. Somehow, the Toyota Camry snuck in as third. *Speaking of sales, most pickup and SUV sales are pretty flat so far this year, with a couple of exceptions: The Dodge Ram is selling better than it did last year, as are the Explorer and the Chevy Tahoe. *Honda has phased out the Isuzu Rodeo-based Passport and is now selling the Pilot, which is built on the Acura MDX platform and shares most of its mechanical systems. Two trim levels will be offered. The LX starts at $26,900; the EX at $29,270. *Just in case you were waiting to buy one until this was available: A power sunroof is now a $595 option on the Hyundai Santa Fe SUV. Gas-charged hood struts and larger A/C vents have also been added to the Korean ute, which, remarkably, has been selling like gangbusters.
New Power Stroke Diesel on the WayA new 6.0L Power Stroke diesel engine will be available for Ford Super Duty pickups and Excursions in mid 2003. Built by Navistar's International Engine Group, the new V-8 will produce 325 hp at 3,300 rpm and 550 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. Those numbers far exceed the output of the most recent Power Stroke 525, named for its 525 lb-ft of torque. (Think it's a coincidence that this Power Stroke is coming out at the same time as the High Output Cummins turbodiesel in the '03 Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks? Neither do we.)
The Power Stroke's engineers were able to find all that power by adding some innovative features to the new engine, including direct-injection fuel feed from a high-pressure (up to 26,000 psi) hydraulic rail system. The engine also employs pilot injection, which delivers a small amount of fuel to the combustion chamber just before the main injectors do their stuff. Pilot injection, says Ford, makes the combustion process both smoother and quieter. The turbocharger has been improved too, with an Electronic Variable Response Turbocharging system that uses variable vanes within the turbo to optimize airflow for the driving conditions.
The engine consists of a cast-iron block and cylinder heads; a single, in-block camshaft; and eight overhead valves per cylinder. According to Ford, the new Power Stroke will improve fuel economy as much as 10 percent and reduce emissions as much as 20 percent. Noise levels and NVH should be better too.
To handle all of the Power Stroke's twisting forces, Ford has developed a new, heavy-duty, five-speed automatic to back it. The electronically controlled TorqShift has a tow-haul feature, new First and Second gear ratios "to launch a truck loaded with cargo more quickly and smoothly," says Ford, and a torque converter designed to get as many of those 550 lb-ft to the wheels as possible. There's a PTO in there too.
Jeep Lowers the LibertyJust how stable is the Liberty? According to the government, not very. In its measurement of rollover resistance, which compares a vehicle's center of gravity to its track width, the NHTSA granted the Jeep a two-star rating (on a one-to-five scale, with the lowest rated vehicles at least four times more likely to roll over than the highest rated).
Then we heard that our "buddies" over at AutoWeek had some trouble when track-testing a Jeep Liberty last year. They rolled one during their slalom test, the first rollover they've experienced since beginning their slalom testing in 1992. To verify what had happened, AutoWeek retested the Liberty a month later. Didn't roll this time, but it did go up on two wheels.
Now, it should be said that no 4x4 tested by the NHTSA scored higher than a 3. And Jeep has some issues with the weekly magazine's slalom methodology. Yet it was probably not a coincidence that the new Jeep Liberty Renegade, introduced at this year's Chicago Auto Show, arrived on a suspension that was nearly an inch lower than the original Liberty's. All Libertys, including the Renegade, will now be built with the revised suspension, which has shorter coil springs, revised shock damping, and less ground clearance at the front axle.
Jeep spokesman Rick Deneau, quoted in AutoWeek, said the changes were made primarily to address ride quality concerns voiced by Liberty buyers. But he did note that the alterations would address "ride quality and any perceived safety concerns" as they relate to published reports of the vehicle's stability.
According to Deneau, Jeep made the change after its research showed few Liberty owners needed, or were using, its off-road capability. They wanted a better on-road ride instead.
RecallsIf you own one of the following vehicles and haven't yet been notified by the maker that it is under recall, get yourself down to your dealer to find out if the recall affects you.
*'97-'98 Dodge Ram 2500/3500 diesels: A fitting in the engine compartment could corrode from the road salt used in winter. Dealers will install new fittings with improved corrosion resistance.
*'02 Dodge Ram 1500: A weld on a rear axle bracket on certain four-wheel-drive models may be weak. Dealers will install a reinforcement bracket.
*'99 Ford F-250, F-350, F-450, F-550 trucks: On certain trucks with manual transmissions, the failure of the front parking brake cable input button could result in failure of the parking brake system. Dealers will replace the cable and the controller and verify the performance of the parking brake system.
*2000-'02 Jeep Wranglers, 2000-'01 Jeep Cherokees, '99-'02 Jeep Grand Cherokees: Certain models with 4.0L engines could accumulate debris in the engine compartment, which may result in a fire. Dealers will attach a shield to the manifold area of the engine to prevent debris accumulation.
*'01-'02 Jeep Wrangler: Water and impurities can enter the ignition switch, causing a short that could lead to a fire. Dealers will replace the ignition switch with a redesigned model.
Mean and ThirstyOh, you're gonna love this. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (don't you hate 'em already?) felt the need to score '02 cars and trucks on their tailpipe emissions and fuel economy. Their results, in a guide called ACEEE's Green Book: The Environmental Guide to Cars and Trucks, named some of our favorite vehicles the "meanest" to the earth.
Among the bottom of their barrel are the Ram 2500, Silverado/Sierra 2500, Suburban/Yukon XL, Mercedes G-Wagen, Lexus LX470/Toyota Land Cruiser, Chevy Avalanche, and Ford Excursion. One sports car made the list: the nearly $300,000 Lamborghini Murcielago. We keep good company.
Environmental & Political BeatThe California Association of 4-Wheel Drive Clubs is joining other recreation groups as well as elected and appointed public officials in opposing Senator Barbara Boxer's newly announced California Wild Heritage Act of 2002. The bill would close nearly 2.5 million acres of public land used by 4x4 and other off-highway-vehicle enthusiasts, including mountain bikers. Boxer's bill would designate huge chunks of California as wilderness area, which means the land would be off-limits to any mechanized (not just motorized) vehicle. The closures would affect acreage in the Inyo National Forest, Mendocino National Forest, Sequoia National Forest, and Tahoe National Forest. California's off-highway enthusiasts are already denied access to some 21 percent of California's national forest lands and 25 percent of the land overseen by the BLM. If you hate this as much as we do, contact Boxer (firstname.lastname@example.org) or another member of the Senate or House of Representatives to voice your opposition.
In a positive development, the Hollister Hills SVRA in northern California can finally move ahead with an expansion plan that's been in the works for 10 years. A lawsuit that was slowing the process has been settled, so more than 3,000 acres can now be added to the park. California off-roaders need the room; studies have shown that attendance at the state's six main State Vehicular Recreation Areas increased by 52 percent between 1985 and 2000.
Calendar of EventsOct. 4-6 9th Annual Gateway to the Cumberlands Jeep Jamboree, Williamsburg, KY. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
Oct. 4-6 13th Annual Maine Mountains Jeep Jamboree, Bethel, ME. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
Oct. 4-6 Ramsey National Off-Road Challenge Series, Badlands Off Road Park, Attica, IN. Information: 800/556-2801, www.sportsintherough.com
Oct. 4-6 Victor Valley 4 Wheelers Fun in the Desert, Johnson Valley, CA. Information: 760/240-1954, email@example.com
Oct. 6-9 Bill Burke's on the Road...Moab 2002, driver training course, Moab, UT. Information: 970/858-3468, www.bb4wa.com
Oct. 8-12 Fall Fling at Moab, hosted by NAXJA. Information: Dan Riggs, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.naxja.org
Oct. 8-12 United Rockcrawling and Off-Road Challenge World Supercrawl, Farmington, NM. Information: 435/864-3199, www.uroc4x4.com
Oct. 11-13 19th Annual Appalachian October Jeep Jamboree, Murphy, NC. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
Oct. 11-13 10th Annual Monster Truck Thunder Drags, Ozark Empire Fairgrounds, Springfield, MO. Information: 317/236-6515, www.familyevents.com
Oct. 12-13 6th Annual Carolina 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Anderson County Fairgrounds, Anderson, SC. Information: 317/236-6515, www.familyevents.com
Oct. 18-19 California Rock Crawlers Association Rocktoberfest 2002, Menifee, CA. Information: email@example.com, www.californiarockcrawlersassociation.com
Oct. 18-20 13th Annual Mohawk Trail Jeep Jamboree, Charlamont, MA. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
Oct. 18-20 4th Annual Sea of Cortez Jeep Jamboree, San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
Oct. 18-20 Superlift 4xAdventure, Superlift Off-Road Park, Hot Springs, AR. Information: 800/556-2801, www.sportsintherough.com
Oct. 18-20 Tellico 4x4 Fall Crawl, Murphy, NC. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.tellico4x4.com
Oct. 19 Sport/Utility and 4x4 Driver's Education and Training, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA. Information: Harry A. Baker, 818/705-3930, www.4x4quest.com
Oct. 25-27 13th Annual French Lick Jeep Jamboree, French Lick, IN. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com
Oct. 25-27 4th Annual Moab Jeep Jamboree, Moab, UT. Information: 530/333-4777, www.jeepjamboreeusa.com