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September 2013 Drivelines - Industry News

Posted in Features on July 18, 2013 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Manufacturers

4Runner Facelift
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.

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Earth Watch
• Nevada has a new association working for the protection of public lands. Del Albright tells us of the launch of the Nevada Four Wheel Drive Association, which is “dedicated to preserving responsible access to Nevada backcountry, while uniting the Nevada four-wheel-drive community, providing leadership, governmental oversight, and education to recreationists,” says the group. Membership categories have not been finalized, but you can follow the N4WDA at www.facebook.com/n4wda.

• Good news from SEMA: Johnson Valley may be safe from annexation by the Marine Corps. A proposal by Representative Paul Cook outlines a compromise by which the Marines would have access to the Johnson Valley OHV area (adjacent to the Twentynine Palms USMC base) for up to 42 days per year for training exercises. However, the land would be designated a “national” OHV recreation area under the continued management of the BLM. Urge your legislator to accept this proposal to keep Johnson Valley, the Hammers, Soggy Dry Lake, and the rest of the area open for wheeling.

• Florida is moving closer to banning gasoline mixed with ethanol. According to SEMA, legislation (H.B. 4001) to repeal the requirement that all gasoline offered for sale in the state contain a percentage of ethanol was approved by the Senate on a 33-1 vote. The bill will now be sent to the governor for his signature and enactment into law.

• SEMA also reports that legislation (H.R. 1459) has been introduced in the U.S. Congress to require the President to complete an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) before designating more than 5,000 acres as a National Monument. The bill would ensure public involvement in the process. Current law gives the President authority to declare land of “historic or scientific interest” to be a National Monument, which can lead to road closures for motorized recreation. While this authority has only been used 137 times in 100 years, vast amounts of land have been set aside in the process.

Stadium Super Trucks Launch
Robby Gordon’s new Stadium Super Trucks series got under way at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Toyo Tires was proud to announce that the top three finishers of the 18-lap final event were all wearing Toyo Open Country M/T-R tires. Rob MacCachren won the inaugural Super Trucks race decisively, moving up from sixth place to first by the fourth lap and never letting go. Justin Matney and Robby Gordon finished second and third, respectively.

Top 10 Finish for Americans in Gazelles Rallye
The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles is an all-women’s rally-raid held in the desert of southern Morocco. The course traverses some 1,200 kilometers (about 745 miles). The race teams—a driver and a navigator—have to negotiate the nine-day rally using only a compass, a ruler, and outdated maps as navigation aids. No GPS or cell phones allowed.

This year a record five American teams took part, with the team of Bethany Hamilton and Chrissie Beavis (seen here) finishing Eighth in the 4x4 class, the highest finish ever for a rookie American team. Hamilton’s name may sound familiar. She’s the professional surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack. This was her first off-road race. Navigator Beavis brought experience to the team, as she has guided drivers like Tanner Foust and Rhys Millen in other rallies.

The event was won by Syndiely Wade and Florence Pham, who had held a strong third place throughout the week and were able to take advantage of mechanical issues suffered by the top two teams late in the going.

McMillin NORRA Grand Marshal
Baja racing champion Mark McMillin was named the Grand Marshal for this year’s running of the General Tire NORRA Mexican 1000. McMillin joins an elite group of Baja legends who have been honored with the title, including Parnelli Jones and Bruce Meyers.

A five-time Baja 1000 overall winner, McMillin has competed in all three previous NORRA Mexican 1000 rallies. Last year he missed defeating overall vintage winner Michael Gaughan by a little more than 20 seconds after four days and 1,200 miles of trans-Baja competition.

Discount Armada
In an effort to shore up its flagging market share—especially among Internet car shoppers—Nissan announced some deep discounts on certain ’13 cars and trucks. Among them is a $4,400 discount on the Armada SUV, which stickers for $40,000-$50,000, depending on the model.

Calendar
• Aug. 1-3: 4x4 Blast by Two Rivers Jeep Club, Pittsfield, IL.
Info: 866.483.3982, www.trjc.com

• Aug. 1-3: Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree, Shamokin, PA.
Info: www.jeejamboreeusa.com

• Aug. 1-3: Roof of the Rockies Jeep Jamboree, Snowmass-Aspen, CO.
Info: www.jeejamboreeusa.com

• Aug. 2-4: 35th Annual Jeep Jamboree, Rubicon Trail, Georgetown, CA.
Info: 530.333.4771, www.jeepersjamboree.com

• Aug. 3: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

• Aug. 3: Stadium Super Trucks location TBD.
Info: www.stadiumsupertrucks.com

• Aug. 3-4: Adventures in Off-Road Driving Level 1 instruction by Off-Road Experience, Fernley, NV.
Info: 925.606.8301, offroadexperience.com

• Aug. 8-9: WERock East Round 3, Dayton, TN.
Info: www.werocklive.com

• Aug. 8-11: Sierra Trek by California Association of 4WD Clubs, Meadow Lake near Truckee, CA.
Info: www.cal4wheel.com

• Aug. 8-11: Rubicon Trail Jeep Jamboree, Rubicon Trail, CA.
Info: www.jeejamboreeusa.com

• Aug. 12: Rubicon Trail Adventure by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Lake Tahoe, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

• Aug. 15-17: Vegas to Reno desert race by Best in the Desert, Las Vegas NV.
Info: www.bitd.com • Aug. 16-18: King of the Hammers Qualifier, Superlift ORV Park, Hot Springs, AR.
Info: 501.625.3600, www.ultra4racing.com

• Aug. 16-18: Muddy Buddys Jeep Jam 2013 by the Muddy Buddys Jeep Wrangler Club and Dave Dennis Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, Sada Farms, Wilmington, OH.
Info: jeepjam.muddybuddys.net

• Aug. 17-18: Iron Range Offroad Driving School, Iron Range OHV Park, near Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN.
Info: www.ironrangeoffroad.com

• Aug. 23: Off-Road Night at the Iron Horse Bar & Grill, Ventura, CA.
Info: 805.477.0783, www.facebook.com/RoperDesignand FabricationInc

• Aug. 23-24: WERock Dirt Riot Southeast Round 3, Durhamtown Plantation, Union Point, GA.
Info: www.werocklive.com

• Aug. 23-25: Applegate-Lassen Trail Ride by Off-Road Experience, northern NV.
Info: 925.606.8301, offroadexperience.com

• Aug. 24: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Borrego Springs, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

• Aug. 24: Crawling for Downs by Ben Hur Masonic Lodge 322, Kansas Rocks, near Mapleton, KS.
Info: www.ksrockspark.com

• Aug. 24-25: Warrior Salute by Maine 4x4, Rocky Mountain Off Road Park, Carthage, ME.
Info: www.maine4x4.org

• Aug. 25: Advanced Beginner Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Borrego Springs, CA.
Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com

• Aug. 29-31: Big Horn Mountains Jeep Jamboree, Dayton, WY.
Info: www.jeejamboreeusa.com

• Aug. 30–Sept. 1: Midnight Special desert race by SNORE, Jean NV.
Info: snoreracing.net

• Aug. 30–Sept. 2: High Sierra Poker Run by California Association of 4WD Clubs,Swamp Lake Trail east of Fresno, CA.
Info: www.cal4wheel.com

• Aug. 31–Sept. 2: Superlift Fall 4xAdventure, Superlift ORV Park, Hot Springs, AR.
Info: 501.625.3600, www.orvpark.com

• Note: If you have a 4WD event you want us to publicize, please send the date, location, a description of the event, and contact info—phone numbers and/or email/website address—to Calendar, 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245; fax 310.531.9368; email 4wheel offroad@sorc.com. Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.

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