Jeep revealed two new models at the New York Auto Show in April. One was the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, which we told you all about in our June '06 issue. The other was the production version of the Patriot, the second compact SUV from Jeep based on the same platform that underpins the Compass (and Dodge Caliber).
The Patriot's styling-sort of a mini Commander-looks more off-roady than either the Compass or Caliber, and that's just the start of the differences between them. The Patriot is the only one of the three available in a "Trail Rated" model, thanks to its Freedom Drive II Off-Road package. "Freedom Drive" is what Jeep calls the Patriot's two 4WD systems; Drive I swaps the Patriot's standard front-wheel drive for all-wheel drive with a center diff lock. Drive II is where things get really interesting, with a continuously variable transaxle (called the CVT2L) that features a pseudo-low-range that's engaged when the vehicle's "off-road mode" is activated as well as locking the center differential. Jeep's press material says this drive system "is recommended for true off-road situations that include steep grades, wheel lift, and rock or log climbing." Obviously we'll have to get our hands on one and see just how "true" an off-road situation the Patriot can handle.
The Drive II's Off-Road Package doesn't stop at the low-range CVT. This Patriot sits an inch higher than non-Trail Rated versions "and meets Jeep off-road capability requirements for traction, water fording, articulation, maneuverability, and ground clearance," says Jeep. Ground clearance measures 9 inches, while the Patriot also has a 29-degree approach angle, a 33-degree departure angle, and a 23-degree breakover angle. Brake Lock Differential (BLD) is also included for traction control.
Power for the Patriot comes from a 2.4L four-banger with 172 hp at 6,000 rpm and 165 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. (A 2.0L diesel will be offered outside North America.) Sizewise, its 103.7-inch wheelbase and 173.6-inch overall length are just an inch shorter than those of the Liberty, though Patriot is 2 inches narrower and gives up about 5 inches in overall height to the Lib. Patriot production begins in the third quarter of 2006.
Extreme Pickups from International
The little Patriot not quite what you want out of a 4x4? How about going to the other extreme? International Truck and Engine Corporation, which made a big splash a couple of years ago with its massive CXT pickup, will offer two new variations on the CXT this year: the MXT and RXT. International describes the MXT (shown here) as "a sleek and dominant truck geared for the 'image' truck market"; while the RXT, with its fifth-wheel option, is targeted at "commercial customers in the equestrian, boating, RV, and motorsports markets." Tow ratings for both trucks are huge-8 tons for the MXT, 14.75 tons for the fifth-wheel-equipped RXT-yet both are priced somewhat south of the CXT. International, in fact, calls the MXT "the most affordable pickup in the XT family" with a base price starting at $69,900. The top-line CXT starts at $115,000. Gotta have one? International dealers are taking orders as we speak.
4-Wheel Jamboree Turns 25
It's hard for some of us old-timers to believe, but the 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals, produced by The Promotion Company/Special Events Performance Series, marks its 25th anniversary in 2006. Lots of special events (pun intended) are planned as part of the celebration, including the giveaway of a special Silver Anniversary Edition Chevrolet Silverado. You can enter the sweepstakes by visiting www.familyevents.com or by registering at one of the year's Jambo events. The winning entry from entries collected throughout the season will be drawn at the Indy Fall 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals in September.
The Special Events folks also commissioned Brutus-Avenger Racing to build a special monster truck, called Metallic Mayhem, as part of the celebration. MM made a smashing debut at the Texas Jamboree in April.
It's not too late to get in on the anniversary action. The Summer 4-Wheel Jamboree in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, takes place July 7-9; the Bond Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals happens August 5-6 in Essex Junction, Vermont; and the granddaddy of them all, the 25th O'Reilly Auto Parts 4-Wheel & Off Road Jamboree Nationals in Indianapolis, takes place September 22-24.
Wanna Race your Nissan?
The factory can help with its just-released Nissan Motorsports catalog. Not to be confused with the line of NISMO accessories for street vehicles, the parts listed in this catalog are for hard-core competition. And yes, there is a section devoted to truck and SUV parts, ranging from racing clutches and ring-and-pinion sets to fiberglass body pieces. The catalog is available at Nissan dealers, or you can call 310.538.2610 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking of Nissan, industry trade journal Automotive News reports that the Japanese maker will build a commercial version of its fullsize Titan pickup when the truck is revamped in 2009. Aimed at the domestic 3/4-ton truck market, the new, beefier Titan will also be available with a diesel engine option, though a diesel supplier has not been named.
Entries Open for Nevada Trophy
Looking for something a little different to do with your 4x4? Check out the Nevada Trophy, an event its organizers call a combination of Camel Trophy, the Warn Challenge, and geocaching. Now in its 10th year, the Nevada Trophy is a three-day competition in which participants are given a list of waypoints to find using GPS navigation. Along the way there's plenty of off-roading, in addition to "special tasks" to keep things interesting. While the organizers have a list of gear they suggest each participant bring-two GPS units, a laptop computer, winter clothes, snow chains (the event is held in December around Lovelock, Nevada, which is northeast of Reno), and so on-they say you don't have to have a highly modified rig to compete. More stock vehicles have won the trophy than not.
The Nevada Trophy will be held December 8-10. For more information, log on to www.offroadexperience.com.
Sierra Trek Turns 40
You've been reading about the California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs' Sierra Trek for years now-decades, even, as the popular event turns 40 this year. Maybe it's time you joined in the fun. The Sierra Trek has a long-standing reputation as a family event, due not just to its great four-wheeling but also because of its home-cooked meals, games for kids and adults, and live entertainment each night. Trail rides range from SUV and historic tours of the Gold Country to the hard-core granite challenges of the Fordyce Creek OHV route. This year the Trek takes place August 9-15, and registration will sell out. Call the Cal 4 Wheel office at 800/4x4-FUNN (494-3866) or log on to www.cal4wheel.com for more info.
Tire Makers Support Racing
Toyo is expanding its involvement in off-road competition by sponsoring the 2006 Xtreme Rock Race Association season. The XRRA's series will be televised on the Speed Channel's "Lucas Oil Presents" show. For more information on the XRRA's five-race season, log on to www.rockrace.com.
Also, Mickey Thompson has announced that it's continuing to sponsor the Tough Truck Challenge at this summer's 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals. As part of its sponsorship, Mickey T is funding an end-of-season payout of $8,700 to the top 10 Tough Truck drivers.
Chris Kersting, SEMA President & CEO
Editor's note: SEMA is a trade association for automotive aftermarket companies that puts on the annual SEMA Show, where parts and accessories companies introduce their latest and greatest products for us to drool over. Here's Kersting's view on our industry, and whether or not the public will ever be invited to drool with us at the SEMA Show.
Drivelines: How has the 4WD segment changed in the last five years?
Chris Kersting: We've seen growth in two key areas of the off-road marketplace. On one hand, we've seen strong growth among core enthusiasts-the type of enthusiasts that participate in extreme off-roading like rockcrawling, desert racing, and hard-core trail rides. We've also seen growth among mainstream consumers. Off-roading is catching on with families and other "non-core enthusiasts," and they're using four-wheel-drive technology in such lifestyle categories as kayaking, bicycling, boating, and winter sports. It wasn't too long ago that second- and third-hand vehicles were the primary target for this category with increasing interest among mainstream consumers. We see more and more new SUVs and trucks being accessorized.
DL: What is the hottest trend in the 4x4 industry right now?
CK: Diesel performance is among the emerging trends right now, although diesel engines aren't exclusive to the four-wheel-drive niche. This emerging technological trend will have a big impact on the four-wheel-drive market.
DL: What scares you about the segment?
CK: I'm afraid that the threat of unreasonable legislation will continue to be a challenge for everyone in the off-road industry. Through our relationships with ORBA, Tread Lightly!, and other interested groups, the industry will work to protect enthusiasts' ability to enjoy off-roading.
DL: Favorite off-roading area or event?
CK: A favorite off-roading event is the Easter Jeep Safari by the Red Rock 4-Wheelers held in Moab.
DL: Will the public ever be allowed in the SEMA Show?
CK: For the last 40 years, the SEMA Show has been an event where businesses participate in all kinds of activities, from education to new product demonstrations, that ultimately lead to the sales of products and technologies. It's important to remember that these businesses are often geared for sales using distributors, and it's critical that they get a chance to meet once a year with time to hear about new products and business plans. Given the scope and importance of these business activities, our exhibitors are telling us that they really would have a difficult time handling consumer traffic at the show. For the near future, everyone is going to have to rely on fine publications like yours to get inside scoops from the SEMA Show.
* Cash-strapped General Motors announced it will sell its stake in Isuzu for $300 million. Three Japanese trading houses, including Mitsubishi Corporation, will divvy up GM's 7.9 percent share in the maker. According to Automotive News, GM will remain involved with Isuzu on an operational level, as the General needs Isuzu's diesel-engine experience.
* The Ford Explorer, Explorer Sport Trac, and Mercury Mountaineer recently earned the highest frontal offset crash test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. All three vehicles previously earned five-star ratings in the U.S. government's frontal and side crash tests for drivers and passengers.
* Hummer continues to donate vehicles to the Red Cross to strengthen the agency's emergency preparation and disaster response capability. A combination of H1, H2, and H3 SUVs have been delivered to Atlanta; Detroit; Los Angeles; New York; Norfolk, Virginia; Philadelphia; San Diego; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C. In addition to the vehicles, the GM Foundation is making cash contributions of $100,000 annually for six years.
* We like it, but apparently the Commander isn't selling as well as Jeep hoped it would. According to an Automotive News report, the maker is having to pay some $5,400 in per-vehicle incentives to move the new SUV. That's almost $2,000 more than the average incentive for midsize SUVs. Jeep says the spending is "on par" for the segment.
* Speaking of incentives, another AN report says even cash offers of $3,000 per vehicle haven't been enough to move Mitsubishi Raiders off dealer lots. So Mitsu has asked DaimlerChrysler to suspend production of the Dakota-based pickup. No one is sure when (or if) production will begin again.
After working on it for months, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has put into effect new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules for light trucks that will see the mileage target grow from its current 21.6 mpg to 24 mpg by 2011. But as we've indicated in previous reports, the rules now are different. According to a report from SEMA, NHTSA will set actual fuel-economy rates based on the vehicle's footprint as measured by wheelbase. The bigger the footprint, the lower the mileage requirement. The actual mileage rates achieved will vary depending on the mix of trucks sold by each automaker. Vehicle manufacturers that sell mostly smaller vehicles will have higher CAFE requirements than those that sell larger vehicles. For the first time, the rule will also apply to SUVs and vans with GVWRs of between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds.
All three of Detroit's automakers are promoting their alternative fuel programs in one way or another. DaimlerChrysler joined with Ohio Governor Bob Taft, the state's soybean growers, and a refiner, Peter Cremer North America, to promote the use of Ohio-made biodiesel fuel. The diesel engines in Liberty CRDs are fueled with B5 (5 percent biodiesel) as they leave the factory; and this fall, DCX will approve and endorse the use of B20 (20 percent biodiesel) in diesel-powered Dodge Ram trucks used by government, military, and commercial fleet customers.
GM is throwing its promotional weight behind E85, the ethanol flex fuel, with a major advertising campaign as well as the loan of E85-capable vehicles to 28 states and agencies across the country. GM has nine models that are E85-capable, and plans to add more than 400,000 E85-capable vehicles to the fleet in 2006.
Ford recently took part in Biotech 2006, a forum to demonstrate the latest advances in biotechnology and its many uses in consumer products. Ford was the only automaker at the conference and exhibited its latest advancements in ethanol-powered flexible fuel technology. By the end of the year, Ford will have placed nearly two million flexible-fuel vehicles on the road.