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January 2006 Drivelines - 4x4 News

Posted in Features on January 1, 2006
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The Patriot concept looks the most off-road-worthy of the two, and Jeep says all-new technology will make it Trail Rated.

Last month we showed you the sketches; now here are photos of two Jeep concept vehicles that were unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Both the Patriot (the off-roady one) and the Compass (the streety one) "would allow Jeep to provide best-in-class capability to the compact SUV buyer at a great value, and do so with the credibility that only comes with a Jeep," said Trevor Creed, senior VP of Chrysler Group Design. In other words, with these vehicles Jeep enters "cute-ute" territory now populated by the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and others.

PhotosView Slideshow

Jeep was not very forthcoming with technical details about the vehicles. We have their dimensions-just a tad smaller than Liberty, very close to Escape-and we know that in the U.S. they'll get a "powerful yet fuel-efficient all-new 2.4L World Engine" backed by a continuously variable transmission, according to Jeep's press materials. That Jeep debuted these vehicles in Europe points to the company's intent to sell them globally; international markets will have a 2.0L diesel engine option.

It's our understanding that these Jeeps, and the upcoming Dodge Caliber, all share the same front-wheel-drive platform, yet the Patriot will be equipped with "all-new Jeep off-road technology [that] would ensure Jeep Patriot could be a Trail Rated 4x4," says Jeep, "which would make it the most capable vehicle in its class." As more details come to light we'll bring them to you.

Yes, that iconic Swedish automaker is now selling an SUV, the 9-7X. Slightly more engineered than a trim-level execution, the new model sits on the same platform as the Chevy TrailBlazer (GMT360 architecture), but with the AWD traction system of the Buick Rainier. While you wouldn't want to boogie in the Baja, we found the handling somewhat slick and steady on a winding dirt track. The new Saab arrives in two strengths-the $40,000 base version, powered by GM's 4.2L I-6 producing 290 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque; and the $42,000 V-8 model, with a 5.3L, 300hp Vortec under the hood.

(Maybe this means we can expect a V-8 under the hoods of other GM trucks currently five- and six-cylinder powered, like the H3 and Canyon/Colorado, for example.)

True Saab-o-philes will be happy to find the signature center-console ignition; distinctly Saab sheetmetal and interior trim; as well as driver-oriented handling and a level of safety equipment that's up to par with other Saabs. And in case you're wondering why Saab would build an SUV, the company's research indicates that nearly 40 percent of Saab owners also drive an SUV, and 30 percent of former Saab drivers abandoned the brand for a sport utility.
-Sue Mead

At least they do in California. According to the California Highway Patrol and the SoCal chapter of the AAA, the top 10 stolen light trucks in the Golden State are:
1. '88 Toyota pickup
2. '86 Toyota pickup
3. '87 Toyota pickup
4. '85 Toyota pickup
5. '86 Toyota van
6. '87 Toyota van
7. '84 Toyota pickup
8. '85 Toyota van
9. '84 Toyota van
10. '86 Nissan pickup

Alert reader Dave Goddard caught what appears to be a Jeep Wrangler mule on Highway 90 just west of Castroville, Texas. The camouflage coverings, Michigan plates, and numbers on the hardtop indicate this is a proto of some type, but note that the camo is limited to the hood and under the rear bumper. Under the bumper? What are the engineers hiding? Wrote Dave, "As we were doing 70 on the highway, I couldn't hear the Jeep, but I'm guessing it was a diesel." Which means Jeep may be contemplating a diesel Wrangler, or the Wrangler body was being used over something maybe a diesel-powered Patriot. What makes us say Patriot? Because we can't see a rear pumpkin below the muffler out back. Looks more like a front-driver with a rear beam axle. Hmmm.

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Toyo is new to the competitive rockcrawling scene, but it didn't take long for the tiremaker to get on the scoreboard. At the UROC Pro National event in Vernal, Utah, Mark Berger's Super Modified rockcrawler won his event rolling on 37-inch Open Country M/T tires. (The photo is of Berger in Phoenix, just prior to his run in Vernal.)

Ford has launched a massive recall of some 3.8 million '94-'02 Ford F-150s, '97-'02 Ford Expeditions, '98-'02 Lincoln Navigators, and '94-'96 Ford Broncos equipped with factory installed cruise control. The maker wants to correct a "systems interaction"-corrosion, caused by leaking brake fluid, can raise current flow through the cruise control system and cause the deactivation switch to overheat, which could lead to an underhood fire. Ford will install a fused wiring harness between the cruise control deactivation switch and the cruise control mechanism to act as a circuit breaker, eliminating the electrical current to the switch in the rare event of increased current flow.

As of this writing (in early September), Ford was in the process of acquiring enough fused wiring harnesses to make the millions of necessary repairs. If you own one of the affected vehicles, Ford recommends you take it to your nearest dealer. If a fix can't be done right away, the dealer will deactivate the cruise control until the parts are in.

And we're not talking just about the snow on the ground. The Deschutes County 4-Wheelers from Bend, Oregon, together with nearly 100 volunteers from other 4WD clubs, the Forest Service, and a local motorcycle club, spent a chilly day cleaning debris from the Cabin Butte, Coyote Butte, and Horse Butte areas. Members cleared away some 25,000 pounds of trash, including 12 household appliances, a cab-over camper, and an entire trailer full of tires.

PhotosView Slideshow

We applaud the efforts of these dedicated 'wheelers, and we're glad they shared their photos with us. If your club sponsors a clean-up day, let us know about it. Send photos and info to Cool Clean-Ups, 4-Wheel & Off-Road Magazine, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048, or e-mail us at Digital photos need to be high-res, please (at least 4x5 inches at 300 dpi). If you can get us info about your clean-up at least four months in advance, we'll run the date in our events calendar.

Toyota's midsize SUV gets a new look and interior revisions for '06. The facelift includes a new grille, front and rear bumpers, headlamps, foglamps, and taillight clusters, plus new "overfenders" (we think that means fender flares) and lower body cladding. To better differentiate the various 4Runner models, Toyota has added details distinct to each trim level, such as a unique smoked chrome grille, tubular rack and steps, and 17-inch wheels for the Sport Edition; standard 18-inch wheels for the Limited; and chrome door handles for the SR5. Interior upgrades include new rear-seat entertainment and navigation system options across the model line. Mechanically the 4Runner remains unchanged, available with either a 236hp 4.0L V-6 or 260hp 4.7L V-8.

John Carlton, a civilian contractor working in Iraq, sent us this photo of his '85 pickup parked under the Crossed Sabers in Baghdad. "I tried to get one with me and a couple troopers in it with a magazine, but the sabers are about 100 feet tall, so the picture didn't come out quite like I planned. If nothing else you can use it to tell people that this is the same truck as the project Army truck before y'all worked on it."

* Automotive News reports that GM will restyle its fullsize SUVs and pickups for the '07 model year and will offer new powertrains in the trucks, including hybrid systems. A restyled Hummer H2, based on the fullsize truck GMT900 platform, will arrive in '08. Look for an SUT version of the H3 in '08 and a regular-cab pickup model in '09. Also coming in '09 are revamped Colorado and Canyon pickups.

* The Golden Eagle is back! After being away for more than two decades, Jeep's Golden Eagle package-complete with screaming chicken hood decal-is available for the Wrangler. In addition to the graphics, Golden Eagle Wranglers are equipped with a Dana 44 heavy-duty rear axle, special golden 15-inch Ravine alloy wheels, and 30-inch tires.

* Soccer moms, take note: Mindful that car and SUV buyers may be buying its new Mega Cab Ram, Dodge is equipping the big truck with a host of carlike amenities, including a sunroof, reclining and folding rear seats, tinted back glass, and a full-screen navigation system.

* You've no doubt seen the human toll Hurricane Katrina exacted on the Gulf states; now wrap your brain around this statistic: Carfax Inc. estimates the hurricane damaged anywhere from 250,000 to 500,000 vehicles in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. As folks down there rebuild their lives, the to-do list will include replacing lost vehicles, and experts are warning that unscrupulous sellers may try to pass off storm-damaged vehicles with what's termed a "washed" title. According to Automotive News, vehicles damaged or totaled by the storm should have that noted on their titles, but scammers can clean those records off a title by selling and reselling the car through several states, because some motor vehicle departments don't retain the damage or salvage notation. As usual, if the deal is too good to be true, walk away.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed higher fuel economy (CAFE) regulations for light trucks which, if approved, will begin to take effect later in the decade. The multitiered program sets new mpg standards in six categories that are based on vehicle size. The DOT is using a vehicle's "footprint," or its wheelbase multiplied by its track width, to categorize trucks. The plan gradually raises mileage standards between 2008 and 2011 and makes smaller vehicles achieve higher numbers than larger ones. For example, the smallest trucks will need to average 26.8 mpg in 2008 and up to 28.4 mpg by 2011. The largest trucks will go from an average of 20.4 mpg in 2008 to 21.3 by 2011. Under the current regulations, the single, all-encompassing light-truck CAFE standard for 2006 is 21.6 mpg, and 22.2 mpg for 2007.

The goal here is to make people-hauling "trucks"-SUVs, minivans, and crossovers that were unheard of when CAFE standards first took effect in the '70s-as fuel efficient as people-hauling cars. Fair enough. However, the proposed standards apply only to trucks up to an 8,500-pound GVW, which means the true gas guzzlers are exempt. And since the standards are based on size, what's to prevent a maker from stretching a thirsty truck to push it into a less strict size category?

Here's the real kicker: The Department of Transportation estimates these new regulations "would save approximately 10 billion gallons of fuel over the lifetime of the vehicles sold during those four model years." Sounds great, doesn't it? Well, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times, that works out to about 25 days of U.S. gas consumption at current rates. If that's all we're netting, why force the truck makers to jump through these hoops?

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