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August 2005 4x4 News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on August 1, 2005
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Jeep Unveils CommanderThe Cherokee-like looks of the new Jeep Commander are no accident. Jeep's stylists had classic Jeeps in mind, including the XJ, Willys station wagons, and original Wagoneer, when designing the new SUV. The new Commander seats seven passengers in three rows of seats. The second and third rows fold forward to make a flat load floor.

Those of you who miss the XJ's classic, squared-off styling will be happy to see its return with the all-new '06 Jeep Commander. Just be ready for a vehicle that, beneath the retro skin, is something completely different from the beloved Cherokee. The Commander, which goes on sale in the fall, seats seven passengers in three rows of seats and manages that feat in an envelope that's not much bigger than the '05 Grand Cherokee's. While the two SUVs sit on 109.5-inch wheelbases, the Commander is just a couple of inches longer overall than the Grand. It also shares many of its mechanical bits with the latest Grand, including independent front/live-axle rear suspensions, powertrain choices (3.7 V-6, 4.7 V-8, and 5.7 Hemi), and 4x4 system options (Quadra-Tracs I and II and Quadra-Drive). The SUV will roll on P245/65R17 Goodyears and will offer 8.6 inches of ground clearance at the rear pumpkin, 9 inches under the front axle. We'll bring you more info on this newest Jeep when we can get our hands on one.

The Hot-Rodded GrandWe have mixed emotions about the newest version of the Grand Cherokee, the SRT-8. We do love the massive, 6.1L Hemi under the hood, which pumps out more than 400 hp and a similar amount of torque. We also like the idea of a Jeep that's quicker to 60 mph than a Porsche Cayenne Turbo or a BMW X5. But that kind of road-burning performance comes at a price: There's but a single-speed transfer case in the SRT-8's full-time 4WD box. Does the world really need a Jeep built just for the pavement?

One More Jeep On The WayReports are coming out of Detroit that Jeep is poised to build a production version of the Compass concept vehicle that was shown in Detroit back in 2002. AutoWeek says the vehicle will go into production in 2007 as a four-wheel-drive crossover vehicle with an emphasis "more on versatility than Rubicon off-road ability." Jeep'll probably sell a jillion of them. Just not to us.

Enter Now For Your Chance To Win An '05 Ford F-150Stylin' Concepts, in partnership with Pro Comp Suspension, is giving away an '05 Ford F-150 to one lucky reader of 4-Wheel & Off Road, Off Road, and Four Wheeler magazines. The Ford sports a mind-boggling array of aftermarket performance and style modifications, including:6-inch Pro Comp suspension lift with billet front coilovers and rear traction bars35x12.50-17 Pro Comp Xterrain tires on 17x9-inch 1079 Xtreme alloy rimsRoush supercharger kit, stainless exhaust, and interior leather kitAuto Meter gaugesKC lightbarBushwacker fender flaresBaer Big Brake kitT-Max 10,000-pound winchHidden Hitch front hitch kitOwens diamond-plate floor matsAnd much, much more.

To find out how to enter, and whether you're eligible, look for the sweepstakes rules on page 120, and for the official entry form in this magazine. The contest begins after midnight Eastern time, May 31, 2005, and all entries must be postmarked by 5 p.m. Eastern time, August 22, 2005. Good luck!

The Monster BoxWhile at Moab we spied a new transfer case that is gonna have lots of folks drooling like we did. STaK 4x4 out of El Paso, Texas, has a three-speed box built to replace Jeep Dana 300s, Bronco Dana 20s, or NP241/231s in driver- or passenger-side front outputs. Here is the cool part: It has a 1:1 high range and both 3.05:1 and 5.44:1 low ranges. It is packaged in a cast-aluminum case just roughly an inch longer than a Dana 300. It's gonna be heavy, at close to 140 pounds, but understandably so with the third set of gears inside. Expect to see them on the market in August, and we'll be sure to show you the nitty gritty as soon as we can get our hands on one. For more info call 915/584-2400 or visit www.stak4x4.com.-Fred Williams

High-Quality FWTVWe are happy to announce that in the coming year, Four Wheeler TV will be broadcast in high definition on the Outdoor Network. This means that the colors will be brighter, and every rock and drop of mud will look so real you'll think they're getting your living room carpet dirty. Current schedules have the show on Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons. To get the service, you will need to talk to your cable provider and have a high-definition television set. Current cost of these sets is in the $3,000 range. Though we would love for you all to watch this show, we realize that you will most likely spend the money on gears, lockers, and tires for your 4x4 so you can get out on the trail and experience the rocks and mud in "Real Life Definition."-Fred Williams

BFG Offers 22-inch Mud-TerrainsFor a limited time, BFGoodrich is selling LT335/55R22 Mud-Terrain T/AKMs, for those truck builders who want to mount an aggressive mud tire on 22-inch rims. The new tire is based on the design of the Krawler T/AKX, and follows in the footsteps of a prototype tire BFGoodrich had on display at the latest SEMA Show in Las Vegas. If this test run of tires proves successful, it could provide the basis for a new generation of KM tires, in a full range of sizes, according to BFGoodrich.

Two New Imports Debut in New YorkAutomakers don't typically launch new truck products at the New York Auto Show, saving those types of products for their bashes in Detroit and Chicago. Yet the Big Apple saw quite a few truck debuts this year, including the Jeep Commander and Grand Cherokee SRT-8, and these new trucks from Isuzu and Suzuki.

The Isuzu i-280 and i-350 pickups are a joint venture with General Motors and share many mechanical components with the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon pickups. Only the i-350 will be available with 4WD, and it will come in a crew-cab body style. As you could probably guess by its name, the i-350 will be powered by the Vortec 3500 inline five-cylinder engine developed for GM's midsize pickups. Production on the new Isuzu pickups was scheduled to begin in Louisiana in June.

Suzuki chose New York to unveil its Concept-X2 SUV. Despite the use of "concept" in its name, this vehicle reportedly is very similar to a production version soon to come, possibly the next Grand Vitara. "It signifies the next great SUV from Suzuki," said Koichi Suzuki, president of American Suzuki Motor Corporation Automotive Operations. Unlike some recent SUV introductions that are more station wagon than utility vehicle, the Concept-X2 was designed for off-road travel. The powertrain features a 185hp V-6 and a full-time 4WD system with High Range, High Range Lock, and Low Range Lock modes.

Goodyear's SilentArmorGoodyear has added a new tire to its Wrangler line featuring what the company calls "SilentArmor" technology. Aimed at the "on/off-road pickup truck driver," according to the company, the new Wrangler features steel and Kevlar belts, sidewalls reinforced with Goodyear's Durawall rubber compound, and traction ridges between the tire's tread elements to improve its traction in wet and muddy conditions. The tire is also certified for severe snow usage. Goodyear has released the new Wrangler in 24 sizes, for rim diameters from 15 to 17 inches.

Like a Stake in Pw's HeartRap star Nelly has a new energy drink called PimpJuice, and it supposedly is the same color as the new Electric Lime Green paint available on Jeep Wranglers and Unlimiteds. As such, his P.R. folks decided to use one to promote this new drink and had Reuther's Jeep in St. Louis outfit it with decals and green lights. Plus, if you like this ride you can eventually bid on it on eBayMotors.com. To find out more, visit letitloose.com. So far there is no word on a yellow TJ being built for Editor Pw's favorite drink "OldGuyJuice," also known as Corona, but we'll keep you posted.-Fred Williams

Tacoma, Dakota Earn Five-Star Crash RatingsAs a result of its 2005 evaluations of front- and side-impact crashworthiness and rollover risk, the NHTSA has awarded the Toyota Tacoma and Dodge Dakota five-star ratings for both frontal and side crash tests, the highest rating a vehicle can earn. A four-door Dakota earned five stars for protecting its driver but four for passenger protection.

This year marks the first time the government agency has actually physically tested trucks for their resistance to rolling over. (Previous rollover risks were computed based on a mathematical formula.) CNN/Money reported that only the Dakota has been tested so far, but the agency found scant difference between two- and four-wheel-drive versions. Ironically, the two-by, with a 19.1 percent chance, had a slightly greater risk of rollover than the 4x4, which earned a 17.9 percent rollover chance.

This Just InWant a four-door Wrangler? Looks like there's one in the works, according to a report by Automotive News from the New York Auto Show. Joe Eberhardt, Chrysler group executive vice president of global sales and marketing, referred to the fact that next year's redesigned Wrangler will remain a very different vehicle than the Liberty, even though both will have four-door models. The Wrangler will retain its "classic, iconic design," Eberhardt said, to maintain its appeal to male buyers; the rounded look of the Liberty attracts more females, he noted.

Bad news for GM: Market share is dwindling, rebates keep getting bigger to help move vehicles off dealer lots, and now one of its trucks, the two-door compact Blazer (which is no longer in production), has been found to have the highest driver death rate of any vehicle on U.S. roads. This cheery piece of news comes from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, which found in a study of '99-'02 passenger vehicles that the Blazer experienced driver deaths at a rate three times higher than the overall rate. In a reply, GM said driver fatalities have "...more to do with behavior than with the vehicle," saying it was "impossible to know" how conditions such as drunk driving and driving without a seatbelt contributed to these statistics.

So what is GM doing to solve its problems? One solution is to move up the launch date of its redesigned midsize SUVs. Bringing to market the next generation Chevy TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy six months sooner means high-profit vehicles are in showrooms quicker. Automotive News also reports that the General will cancel a mid-cycle restyling of the Hummer H2, which was scheduled for 2007.

Environmental & Political WatchOur friends at SEMA are doing a great job watchdogging legislation that could be harmful to our hobby. For example, SEMA reports that an emergency petition was filed with the BLM to restrict off-highway vehicles in the Factory Butte area in Central Utah. At question are 166,000 acres of land located east of the Capitol Reef National Park, of which only 3,800 acres are currently closed to OHVs. Environmental groups want nearly 50,000 acres to be closed on the premise that OHVs are crushing endangered plants and accelerating soil erosion. The petition responds to the BLM's preliminary proposal to close only 4,700 acres, maintain 6,000 of open unrestricted use, and permit limited use on the remaining 156,000 acres.

In better BLM-related news from SEMA, the agency has released two 30-year desert management plans that are intended to balance the needs of recreation, development, and wildlife in the Mojave Desert and Imperial Sand Dunes in southeast California. The BLM plan for the western Mojave Desert encompasses 9.3 million acres and distinguishes between land targeted for development or conservation and protection of more than 100 endangered plant and animal species. The plan adds more than 800 miles of Mojave Desert roads to the off-highway inventory, increasing the total to 5,098 miles. The plan for the Imperial Sand Dunes, also called the Algodones Dunes, covers 160,000 acres. It would open more than 85 percent of the dunes to OHVs, reversing a five-year-old temporary court order. Under both plans, builders, miners, utilities, and others could develop at one location if they set aside or pay to preserve wildlife habitat elsewhere.

SEMA also tells us both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have recently introduced legislation that would ban the use of aftermarket exhaust systems. Of the two, Pennsylvania's proposed law seems stricter, as it would prohibit the use of exhaust systems other than a "factory-installed muffler" or a "muffler meeting factory specifications." The pending Massachusetts bill would outlaw exhaust systems that have been modified "in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the exhaust." Either way they're bad news. Contact your local representative to voice your opposition to these bills.

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