The Latest 4x4 News
Midway through its fifth generation, Toyota’s 4Runner gets a new look for 2014. Toyota says the revised front end “conveys a more rugged and aggressive appearance” with a restyled grille and smoked, sharp-edged headlamps. We think it kind of looks like a whale shark with crazy vertical gills swimming down the trail. It’s hard to tell where the grille and fenders end and the bumper begins. SR5 and Trail models have a color-keyed grille insert; Trail editions also receive body-colored bumpers and fender flares. The range-topping Limited edition is trimmed with a chrome grille insert, bumpers, and other brightwork, and it rolls on 20-inch wheels (up from the 17s on the SR5 and Trail models).
Inside is more soft-touch trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a revised instrument panel. Fabric upholstery is standard on SR5 and Trail editions; the Limited comes with leather. SR5 and Limited models are available with a third seating row, boosting passenger capacity to seven. A backup camera is now standard on all 4Runner models.
4Runner gets a ‘more rugged’ appearance
Mechanically the ’14 4Runner is similar to the current model—one of the few remaining body-on-frame midsize SUVs on the market. The single engine choice is a 4.0L V-6 sending 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque to a five-speed automatic transmission. SR5 and Trail models are fitted with a part-time 4x4 system, while the Limited’s 4WD is full-time. For serious off-roading, the Trail model is equipped with a sway-bar disconnect system, Crawl Control, and the Multi-Terrain Select system.
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Silk Road Expedition
You’ve probably followed Gary and Monika Wescott over the years as they took their Turtle Expedition all over the globe. Now the adventurous pair is tackling a new challenge: the Trans-Eurasian Odyssey. This three-year expedition will travel from Lisbon, Portugal, through 26 countries before they finish in Shanghai, China, a route that follows the historic Silk Road trading route. We’ll have periodic updates on their adventures; you can also log on to www.turtle expedition.com and click on the Trans-Eurasian Odyssey link for more info.
This Just In
• Ram isn’t the only truck brand enjoying revitalized sales. Ford saw F-series sales grow by some 19 percent in the spring, prompting the maker to add 2,000 jobs to the Kansas City assembly plant to build more F-trucks and the new Transit commercial vehicles.
• Venchurs Vehicle Systems is offering 6.2L F-250 and F-350 CNG conversions, utilizing a new 3M fuel tank, for $8,350. “With our new pricing, customers can reduce the amount of time it takes to see a return on their investment and ultimately make converting to CNG a financially viable option,” said Jeff Wyatt, Venchurs’ CEO.
• You’ve heard of seat-of-the-pants driving? GMC takes that to the next level with the optional Safety Alert Seat in the upcoming ’14 Sierra pickup. Several of the trucks’ safety systems, including the lane departure warning and forward collision alert, will warn the driver of potentially dangerous situations through vibrations in the seat. “It’s akin to someone tapping on your shoulder in a crowd to get your attention,” said GM’s Active Safety Technical Fellow Raymond Kiefer. Well, yeah, if your shoulder’s in your butt.
• A new app from Land Rover, The Trail Less Traveled, allows you to explore the new fourth-generation Range Rover inside and out and take it on a trail ride. You can switch from four camera angles and add your own soundtrack to the trail ride. The app is available for iPads and iPhones through iTunes.
• The Eastwood Company, which offers all kinds of DIY tools, refinishing products, welders, and other goods to work on your rig, is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a new interactive website, new podcasts, live-stream product demonstrations, and more. Log on to www.eastwood.com.
Farmer Ad Sells Trucks
Remember the “Farmer” ad that truckmaker Ram ran during the Super Bowl? The one with the dramatic photos of farming life shown while broadcaster Paul Harvey praised farmers for their hard work? It was controversial (some said it exploited farmers) but apparently it worked. According to Automotive News, Ram sales grew 3 percent in February and 26 percent in March compared to the same months in 2012 (the two months after the Super Bowl).
“Brand loyalty is huge in the pickup market,” Olivier Francois, chief marketing officer for Chrysler and Fiat S.p.A., told AN. “People buy the same brands not just for a lifetime but for generations, which is why I pitched the ‘Farmer’ commercial. We were all convinced that we have a superior truck, but it has to have a little bit of soul. It has to speak with the heart. I receive letters every day from loyal customers of the competition thanking us for doing that spot and saying that they are considering the Ram.”
Ford & GM Cooperate on Transmissions
Engineering partnerships aren’t uncommon in the automotive world, but it is unusual for crosstown rivals to work together for a common goal. Yet that’s exactly what Ford and General Motors are doing, co-developing high-tech 9- and 10-speed automatic transmissions for use in a range of different vehicles, including trucks and SUVs.
This isn’t the first time Ford and GM have collaborated. In fact, this marks their third partnership in developing transmissions. The idea behind the joint effort is that the companies can deliver these new products faster and more efficiently than if they worked on them separately.
All those gears are aimed at raising performance and improving fuel economy, say the makers. No timetable was offered for their introduction.
Land Rover Turns 65
Some 150 vintage and contemporary Land Rovers attended a 65th birthday party for the venerable British off-roader at Packington Estate near Rover’s Solihull hometown in the United Kingdom. Packington was the testing ground for the original ’47-’48 Land Rover prototypes, and it was used as a proving ground through the development of the Range Rover. Huey, the very first Series 1 Land Rover (nicknamed for its HUE 166 license plate) was on hand for the celebration, receiving a cake helicoptered in for the occasion by a member of the British Royal Navy’s Black Cats demonstration team.