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2005 North American International Auto Show Trucks & Other News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on May 1, 2005
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On page 84 in this issue, David Kennedy writes about some of the most significant new product and concept truck introductions from the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. That show, and the Los Angeles Auto Show that preceded it, had so many new trucks and SUVs that Kennedy didn't have enough room for everything. Here's the rest of the best of the shows.

This Just InFord is recalling almost 800,000 fullsize trucks and SUVs built in the 2000 model year due to a cruise-control switch that could short and spark an underhood fire. On the list are '00 F-150s, Expeditions, and Lincoln Navigators, as well as '01 F-series SuperCrews. If you own one of these trucks and haven't been notified about the recall, contact your dealer. The two-step repair starts with a switch deactivation, followed by a replacement of the unit once Ford has enough stock on hand to undergo the change-over.

Check out Kennedy's story on the Detroit show for details on the Jeep Gladiator (page 84). Then ponder this: According to Automotive News, the Chrysler Group is actually considering building a Jeep pickup based on the Gladiator concept. After gauging consumer and press response to the truck at the show, Jeep execs will see if it makes business sense and if it answers questions like, "Does it resonate with the customer?" and "Is it consistent with the brand?" We'd give it two big thumbs up. You?

Know a hero? Jeep wants to hear about it. The new Jeep Heroes Nomination Program will reward military, police, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel who "deliver exemplary, unique, and heroic service to improve the quality of life in cities and towns across America," says Jeep. Twelve Jeep Heroes (one per month) will be chosen during the year, three in each category: military, police, fire, and EMS. Of those, one from each category will be selected just before Veterans' Day to receive a new Grand Cherokee. Submit your candidates to

Now here's an interesting idea for those of you who live in those cold states. According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, Webasto has developed a "parking heater" that will warm up your truck's engine and activate the heater and defroster without your having to start the vehicle and waste a lot of fuel. A "toaster-size furnace-like device" under the hood warms engine coolant and then pumps it back into the engine, all while using just an ounce of gas or diesel. Drawbacks? Well, the $1,800 cost of the furnace, for starters...

Though the Explorer Sport Trac didn't really light a fire under us, apparently it's a success for Ford. One industry source said a full 20 percent of Explorer sales are Sport Trac models. Which is why Ford built a splashy one for the Detroit show, and why we've heard it will be V-8 powered in another year or so. Maybe we should take another look...

GMC, meanwhile, isn't having as much luck with its Envoy XUV, the midsize SUV with the powered retractable roof. We've read that sales are about a tenth of what GM expected and so the General may drop the model in another year or so.

Super Duty DubsFirst GM got into the accessory wheel business, and now comes word that Ford is offering a line of 20-inch rims for Super Duty pickups. Made by Alcoa, the forged-aluminum wheels are available in five styles and in five- and six-spoke designs. The wheels meet Ford's specs for payload and tow capacities, and they are covered by the maker's new-vehicle limited warranty. The new wheels are available through Genuine Ford Accessories (

Hybrid Truck NewsDodge has started production of the Ram diesel hybrid electric vehicle (HEV). Built on the Heavy Duty (2500/3500) chassis, the HEV combines a Cummins turbodiesel with an electrical system that shuts off the engine when the truck comes to a stop, then restarts the diesel when the accelerator is pressed. Dodge is estimating the hybrid technology will be worth a fuel economy improvement of as much as 15 percent over a comparable, conventional drivetrain. Plus, the electrical system can be used as a generator to provide 110/220-volt AC power, accessible via outlets in the truck's bed. The Ram HEV will be available to fleet customers only.

Chrysler, in conjunction with GM, also announced a cooperative effort to develop two-mode, full hybrid propulsion systems for trucks and SUVs. (The two-mode hybrid is basically "an electrically variable transmission with two hybrid drive modes," explained GM Powertrain's Tom Stephens.) The jointly developed hybrid system will be "mated to different engines, and the respective vehicle programs will have unique performance dynamics and calibration," say the companies. GM previously announced that its first full hybrid applications will be found in the '07 Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon. Chrysler intends to closely follow those introductions with a hybrid Durango.

Toyo Goes Desert RacingToyo has decided to subject its 37-inch Open Country M/T to some pretty harsh R&D: The tires will be used on two Trophy Trucks, one in SCORE's 2005 Desert Series, the other in the Best in the Desert race series. Toyo's first desert outing at the SCORE Laughlin Desert Challenge ended well, as Scott Steinberger's Toyo/Fabtech Ford placed Third in the Trophy Truck class. According to Toyo, Scott's truck was the only competitor in the class using a DOT-approved tire.

Everyone Loves the TacoLook again-this isn't another photo of our Ultimate Adventure Tacoma project. R/C enthusiast Chris Davis built a faithful 1:10 scale replica of our orange Taco. He explains the details:"I started with a stock Tamiya Pajero kit, and went nuts from there. It's 4WD and has full ball bearings in the gears and axles (both front and rear are locked). It has all the necessary skidplate and body protection from those harsh 6-inch rocks. (Remember, 1:10 scale!) The truck has a Warn winch in the "custom" Poison Spyder front bumper, and a pretty articulated suspension setup. She has custom CNC-machined aluminum rims and custom-cut BFGoodrich tires. Notice I even added your funky-lookin' rear "fenders," just to keep it street legal. I know, I know, it's got a cowl induction hood, but nobody makes an R/C Tacoma body, so I had to make my own. I probably spent about a month building it, and I would be honored if you guys would show a pic of the mini Taco in the magazine."

No, Chris, it's we who are honored.

Primedia Cleans UpIn January, though most of Southern California was getting bombarded with rain and mudslides, the desert lakebed outside of Lucerne, California, was amazingly dry-perfect weather for the first annual Primedia Johnson Valley cleanup. With help from more than 75 registered attendees and major sponsors Randy's Ring & Pinion, Don-A-Vee Jeep, Donahoe Racing, All Pro Off Road, Currie Enterprises, Dezert People Video Series, and Toyo Tires, we picked up three huge dumpsters full of trash. Actually we had to get the third one delivered when the first two overflowed. Also removed were the remains of 12 cars that had been shot, burned, smashed, and left for dead. We finished the day with some impromptu wheeling around the area.

Special thanks to title sponsor Randy's Ring & Pinion and to the Inland Empire Four Wheelers Club for cooking lunch and dinner for all the attendees. The event was such a success that plans are already in the works for next year.

First Drive: Ford & Toyota Hybrid SUVsCurious about how a hybrid SUV drives? We were, so we spent some seat time in the Ford Escape Hybrid and the Toyota Highlander HV, both of which should be on sale as you read this. Both are full hybrid vehicles, which means their propulsion systems allow them to run on electricity alone, gasoline alone, or a combination of gas and electricity.

From a powertrain standpoint, the driving experience in both the Ford and Toy is surprisingly similar. If you're easy on the throttle you can scoot around on electricity alone. Mash the pedal to engage the motor and the engine, and both trucks are surprisingly quick. The Toyota, especially, will push you back in the seat with V-8-like g-forces at launch. In both trucks the transition between electric, gas-only, and gas-electric drive modes is fairly seamless, as is the operation of the regenerative braking (which uses the energy spent under braking to charge the battery).

Behind the wheel, both feel like traditional vehicles and can be driven as such. Enthusiastic driving, though, will drop your fuel economy below the EPA ratings. But even when we were hard on the throttle, our mileage figures were better than they would have been driving "normal" versions of these vehicles.

If you're considering a hybrid purchase and trying to decide between the two, their differences are more about the vehicles themselves than their hybrid systems. The Highlander is significantly larger than the Escape, is quicker, will tow more, and offers a more carlike ride. The Escape is more trucklike in its ride and handling, fits in smaller spaces, and can cost significantly less if you choose your options correctly.

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