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Nissan Dunehawk Concept Truck & Other News- Drivelines

Posted in Features on January 1, 2004
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Nissan Dunehawk: The Next Pathfinder?Officially, no. Officially the Dunehawk is a Nissan concept truck, unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, that "lays the foundations of Nissan's 4x4 future," says the company. Which is a pretty strong hint in its own right. Yet we've also heard from-well, we can't tell you where; let's just say "sources"-that the concept distinctly resembles the next-generation Pathfinder.

As you can see, the Path-um, Dunehawk-borrows a lot of styling cues from the fullsize Pathfinder Armada. This kind of family resemblance is also consistent with yet another rumor we've heard about future Nissans: that the next-generation Frontier pickup, scheduled to debut in 2005, will look like a miniature version of the Titan pickup.

Anyway, speculation aside, here's what we know about the concept SUV. The Dunehawk, says Nissan, combines minivan versatility with the "dynamic attributes of a genuine SUV." Translation: The vehicle combines seating for seven passengers (in three rows) with a truck-like ladder frame, within which is fitted an electronically controlled All Mode 4x4 system that switches from RWD to 4WD depending on road surface conditions. Nissan has revealed that the Dunehawk has about 9.3 inches of ground clearance, and approach and departure angles of 34 and 25 degrees, respectively. It hasn't revealed what will power the Dunehawk/Pathfinder, though a report in Automotive News says it will be a 4.0L V-6. That same story also said a production version of this vehicle will be shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

New Scrambler Owner's Club FormedIf you own one of the increasingly rare Jeep CJ-8s, you can now trade tech tips and parts sources with a nationwide group of like-minded owners. The Scrambler Owners Association (SOA) was recently formed by several charter members and now has more than 50 members from 25 states across the U.S. The organization's charter is "the preservation, restoration, and promotion of Jeep CJs," says Matt Donaghy, SOA's president. The club's main link to its members is its Web site (www.cj-8.org), which offers a searchable directory of members, discussion forums, a detailed member profile section, and other features. A national CJ-8 Scrambler-only event is also in the works for 2004, Donaghy tells us. To find out more, visit the SOA Web site or contact the SOA by e-mail at info@cj-8.org.

Hummers In The NewsWhile radical environmentalists were vandalizing Hummers (and other SUVs) at a Southern California dealership this summer, Hummer took a much more proactive step toward preserving recreational areas in need by teaming with Tread Lightly! to form a new partnership called Hummer Helps. The program was announced during a trail clean-up day in Drummond Island, Michigan, that was held by the International Hummer Owners Group.

The Hummer Helps program was created "to recognize Hummer owners who have utilized their vehicle's capability for acts of humanity, and to sustain the lands where outdoor enthusiasts enjoy off-highway activities," according to General Motors. As part of the effort, Hummer made a $100,000 endowment to Tread Lightly! The funds are to be allocated to enthusiast clubs that are Tread Lightly! members and that have pinpointed recreational areas in need.

"Hummers are purpose-built vehicles with superior off-highway capability, and many of our owners work to protect the environment for future use," said Mike DiGiovanni, Hummer general manager. "This donation to Tread Lightly! will bring local community volunteers together with federal, state, and local land management agencies to work toward a common goal-enhancing our recreational areas."

This Just In...*Jeep Liberty owners could be considered the Rodney Dangerfields of the off-roading world...they just don't get no respect. Until now. A group of enterprising KJ owners has started the Liberty Owners Special Team, or LOST, for other Liberty enthusiasts. It started as a joke, admitted the club's founders, but it soon turned into an active Web site with more than 350 members and lots of tech info for Liberty owners. The club is now part of the California 4Wheel Drive Association and has been showing up at places like Moab, Calico, and Big Bear. Want to proudly say, "We got LOST"? Check out www.lostjkwest.com or www.kjjeep.com.

*It came down to the wire: Championships in two of the popular CORR racing divisions weren't decided until the final two events of the 2003 season. When the smoke (or is that dirt?) cleared, Chevy pilot Carl Renezeder captured his first Pro-4 title, while Jeff Kincaid's Toyota was the Pro-Lite champ. Pro-2 champion (and Ford driver) Scott Taylor clinched his title after Round 12 in the series.

*The whole "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign and other SUV-bashing efforts seemed just a lot of silly posturing until some nutcase(s) in California took the message too seriously and burned down a dealership full of Hummers and other SUVs. In response, Jason Vines, president of the SUV Owners of America, said one of the most rational things we've heard in a long time: "This country has disturbingly seen an upswing in the number of domestic terrorism attacks on SUVs and SUV owners. With their misguided efforts and oftentimes fact-challenged statements, people like Arianna Huffington of the Detroit Project, Rev. Jim Ball and Rev. Bob Edgar of the Evangelical Environment Network, and Robert Kennedy Jr. of the Natural Resources Defense Council, are doing nothing more than encouraging the dangerous and criminal antics of out-of-control zealots. While we believe these groups do not condone such activity, those who have generated the greatest amount of media coverage are creating an atmosphere where it is open season on SUV owners and their vehicles. It must stop." Hear, hear.

More Rollover, Crash-Test ResultsThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released a new round of rollover resistance ratings and the results of its latest frontal- and side-impact crash tests. For anyone who's been keeping score, the latest rollover numbers should come as no surprise: Almost all 4x4s evaluated by the agency received low 2- or 3-star ratings, which means the vehicles have a greater tendency to roll over than those vehicles that earned 4- or 5-star ratings.

We say "almost all 4x4s" because there were several that were ranked higher, including the Honda Pilot (a car-based crossover utility), Nissan Murano (another crossover), and Subaru Outback (a station wagon). Traditional 4x4s that rated in this latest report include the Ford Explorer Sport Trac 4x4 (2 stars), Jeep Liberty (3 stars), Kia Sorento (3 stars), and Toyota 4Runner (3 stars).

Keep in mind that the NHTSA's rollover resistance numbers are based only on a mathematical formula that compares the vehicle's center of gravity with its track width to see how top-heavy the vehicle is. The agency is preparing an actual, dynamic test of rollover resistance but has yet to start that type of evaluation.

The 4x4s fared much better in the frontal-impact scores (which come from actual, crash-into-a-barrier tests). The Liberty scored all 5s (the highest score) and one 4 in driver and passenger frontal- and side-impact tests. The Sorento scored 4s for frontal and 5s for side-impact, as did the 4Runner. (The Sport Trac was not impact-tested.) Those numbers correspond to a risk of serious injury as a result of the crash; the higher the number, the lower the risk of injury.

RecallsIf you own one of the following vehicles and haven't been notified by the maker that your vehicle is under recall, get yourself down to your local dealer to find out if the recall affects your 4x4.

*'04 Volkswagen Touareg: On certain sport/utility vehicles, the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) wiring harness may have been improperly routed during assembly, so it may contact the parking brake cable. If this happens, the TPMS wiring circuit could be interrupted, resulting in an inoperative TPMS and causing a short-to-ground condition that could potentially result in a fire. Dealers will inspect the TPMS wiring harness routing and, if necessary, correct the wiring harness routing. Owners may contact VW at 800/893-5298.

CalendarAttention promoters, club officers, racing sanctioning bodies, and anyone else planning a 4x4 event: Please send us your calendar of 2004 listings. Because of press lead times, we need your info at least three months in advance of the event. Don't miss out on free national publicity for your special happening! Send all events listings to: Calendar, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048; or e-mail them to 4wheeloffroad@primedia.com.

Dec. 14 5th Annual Toys for Tots Parade and Christmas Party, Chicago, IL. Information, Great Lakes Jeep Thing, www.gljt.org.

Dec. 20 4x4 Safety Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA. Information: 818/370-3582, www.4x4quest.com.

Jan. 8-1114th Annual Advanced Engine Technology Conference, Colorado Springs, CO. Information: 866/893-2382, www.aetconline.com.

Jan. 7-17 9th Annual Truckhaven Challenge poker run, near Salton City, CA. Information: CORVA, 800/42-CORVA, ext. 512.

Jan. 17-18 13th Annual Papago Military Vehicle Show, Phoenix, AZ. Information: Military Vehicle Collectors Club, 602/840-5019, www.armytrucks.org.

Jan. 17-19 6th Annual Superstition Mountain Run, Superstition Mountain Off-highway Recreation Area near El Centro, CA. Information: San Diego 4 Wheelers, www.sd4wheel.com, e-mail Patti Elkerton, wello@earthlink.net.

Political & Environmental Watch*Tread Lightly! has begun a new program called Tread Trainer, in which enthusiasts can spread the organization's message through a grassroots network of Tread Trainers and Master Trainers. Tread Lightly! offers professional training on its land use ethics, and those Trainers who have successfully completed the course can then share the organization's message with club members, schools, community events, or other venues. For more information, go to Tread Lightly!'s Web site (www.treadlightly.org) or call Dianne Olson at 800/966-9900.

*The Bureau of Land Management has set the use fees for Southern California's Imperial Dunes recreation area. The good news/bad news scenario is that the fees have gone up since last year, from $10 per week to $25, and from $30 per season to $90, but they didn't go as high as was recommended by an outside business consultant. Vendor fees have gone up too. BLM has made no decisions on recreation fees for BLM-managed OHV areas in other parts of the California desert. The agency is continuing its outreach and consultation efforts with users and other interests concerning these areas, including Dumont Dunes, El Mirage, Johnson Valley, Stoddard Valley, and Rasor.

Gain Wintertime Traction By SipingClawing your way across wet, snowy, or icy terrain, be it off- or on-pavement, is often a challenge during the winter. Recent tests by a company called Mobility Research found that adding extra siping to a tire-by cutting thin slits across the tread-will improve its wet-weather traction.

Two disclaimers here: The test results were sent to us by the Tire Service Equipment Manufacturing Company, which makes Saf-Tee tire-siping machines. And the tests it shared with us were done on street tires. But the principle is sound, and it can also work on long-wear or specialty performance tires that are fitted to trucks and SUVs. (However, adding extra siping is not recommended for those all-terrain tires that already have numerous grooves cut into the tread or smaller tread blocks.)

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