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January 2007 4x4 News - Drive Lines

Posted in Features on January 1, 2007
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All of the Big Three truck makers have developed new diesel engines in the wake of the 2007 mandate for cleaner emissions (a law that includes the use of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel). Starting in January, '07 Dodge Ram 2500- and 3500-series pickups will have a 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel on their options list, capable of putting out 650 lb-ft of torque at 1,500 rpm and 350 hp at just a tick above 3,000. That's an improvement over the 325 horses and 610 lb-ft produced by the outgoing 5.9L Cummins. Also new is a six-speed automatic transmission available to back the new 6.7. Dodge's 5.7L Hemi gasoline engine remains the standard powerplant for the big Rams.

Buyers of Chevy and GMC 2500 and 3500 Heavy Duty pickups are getting a new turbodiesel too: a 6.6L Duramax V-8. GM hasn't released final output figures for the engine, though the company estimates power production at around 360 hp at 3,200 rpm and 650 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm. The Chevy Kodiak and GMC TopKick medium-duty trucks will get the 6.6 too, though one that produces a bit less oomph. The new Duramax is fitted with a variable-geometry turbocharger that provides boost over a wide range of driving conditions.

Following the successful launch of Diesel Power, Primedia has announced a new magazine for the heavy-duty diesel pickup enthusiast. 8-Lug Diesel Truck is aimed exclusively at the 3/4- and 1-ton truck owner who wants to modify his or her favorite rig to improve its performance. The premiere issue (which went on sale in October) highlighted a 5-inch lift kit to put 37s under a Super Duty, a Cummins buildup, and brake improvements for Chevys. Watch for future issues of 8-Lug Diesel Truck at your local newsstand, or call 800.777.5182 to subscribe.




Anyone familiar with the Hummer brand knows there's usually nothing "little" about them. But this time we're talking about a toy, a limited-edition Team Hummer H3 available at Hummer dealers. It's similar to the toys offered recently in McDonald's Happy Meals, only this one is done up like Rod Hall's racing H3. Only 250,000 were made to distribute through Hummer's 173 dealers, so if you don't have yours already, it may be too late.

At the luxurious end of DaimlerChrysler's spectrum, the Mercedes GL-series SUV will be available in the U.S. with a 3.0L common-rail-diesel (CRD) V-6. It will be sold only in 45 states, however, due to emissions. This is the same engine found in the CRD model of the Grand Cherokee, and it produces 376 lb-ft of torque in the Mercedes.


This time next month we can show you the '08 Ford Super Duty and release details about its new diesel, the 6.4L Power Stroke V-8. Until then, here's all we know: Up in displacement from the previous 6.0L 'Stroke, the new engine features a common-rail fuel-injection system with piezo-electric injectors, which "allow ultra precise timing of fuel injection for quietness and better emissions," says Ford. The new Power Stroke "is the cleanest and quietest diesel ever sold in America," the company claims.

Labor Day weekend was a sweet one for off-road racer Scott Douglas. At the 2006 Crandon World Championships, he found himself on the winner's podium no fewer than five times-for outright wins in Pro 4 both Saturday and Sunday, Second and Third Place finishes in Pro 2, and as the winner of the Borg-Warner World Championship Off-Road Cup, a massive trophy similar to the Borg-Warner Cup awarded to winners of the Indy 500. Douglas is only the second driver to win the Borg-Warner Cup twice. He scored his victories behind the wheel of two F-150 race trucks, the AMSOIL/Kumho-sponsored 4x4 in Pro 4, and the Rancho-sponsored 4x2 in Pro 2.

Eager to see what Toyota's new truly fullsize truck will be like? So are we, but we'll all have to wait just a little longer. A report by Wardsauto.com said the launch won't take place in January, as originally planned, but at least a month later. Toyota doesn't want to "rush" the introduction, said one exec, to make sure quality is where it should be. As far as we know, the truck will make its public debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and we'll bring you photos and details as soon after that as we can.

We tend to drool over military vehicles. If you do too, get your spit cups ready, as the 16th Annual Papago Military Vehicle Show is coming to the Arizona National Guard facility in Phoenix January 27 and 28. In addition to the wheeled and tracked vehicle displays, there will be a military surplus auction and an indoor swap meet full of uniforms and other military collectibles. Check out www.armytrucks.org for more info.

In its annual roundup of product developments, Automotive News reports that GM has ended plans to restyle its midsize Chevrolet TrailBlazer SUV for '09 and will instead stop producing the vehicle (along with, presumably, the GMC Envoy). The trade journal says higher gas prices and low sales caused the truck's demise, but said no phase-out timeframe has been determined. The Colorado and Canyon midsize pickup trucks, which share some of the same engineering features, will be freshened in '08, says AN.

No, not the Jeep. With an eye on the growth of the heavy-duty pickup market, Goodyear is launching a new Wrangler tire featuring SilentArmor Technology Pro-Grade. The tire's "enhanced toughness" is just the ticket for "contractors, landscapers, boaters, horse enthusiasts, or any other professional or private pickup truck owner who regularly hauls or tows heavy loads," said the tire maker.

Features on the new tire include a new, chip- and chunk-resistant tread compound, two steel belts and a layer (or two, depending on the tire's load range) made with Kevlar, an enhanced Rim Lock for a more stable bead area, a Rim Guard to protect wheels from accidental curb damage, Goodyear's Durawall rubber compound to reinforce the sidewall, and a tread pattern designed for maximum traction, even in wet or muddy conditions. The tire carries the mountain-snowflake symbol, certifying it for "severe snow" usage.

At introduction, LT sizes in load ranges D and E and rim widths from 16 to 20 inches will be available to fit 2500- and 3500-series Ford, GM, and Dodge trucks. More sizes will be added to the line in 2007.

During the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame induction ceremony, BFGoodrich was celebrated for three decades of dominance in desert racing. As a symbol of that long string of victories, Scoop Vessels' F-100 race pickup was displayed at the museum. Vessels' victory in the '77 Baja 500 is credited with beginning BFGoodrich's winning streak. Celebrating with Vessels (left) is Hall of Fame inductee Sal Fish.

The Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame recently inducted five new honorees into its ranks. Among them:

Clark Collins, a trail-bike rider turned land-use advocate who co-founded the BlueRibbon Coalition to fight for OHV user rights;

Sal Fish, president and CEO of SCORE International, who raised the fledgling off-road-race sanctioning body to the behemoth it is today;

Bob Ham, another land-use advocate who co-founded CORVA, the California Off-Road Vehicle Association;

Corky McMillin, the "elder statesman of off-road racing" who was a pioneer in the sport;

Ivan Stewart, the "Ironman," best known for tackling endless desert races solo, usually at the wheel of a high-tech Toyota.

To give its off-road-race competitors an extra edge, Toyo has developed some competition-only variations on the Open Country M/T tire. Stan Chen, Toyo's manager of events and motorsports, noted that "Track conditions, especially in closed-course off-road racing, can vary from muddy and slick, to polished dry, more like asphalt. Trucks that can exceed 800 hp need optimized compounds to perform at their best."

Toyo didn't release details of its tread compounds, but we'd guess the tires are soft and gummy-great for track grip, less so when faced with the government's durability tests. That's probably why they're being offered as race-only tires without DOT approval for street use.

Tom Giacomini, president and CEO, Warn Industries

Drivelines: What kind of 4x4 do you own?

Tom Giacomini: I have a '94 Jeep YJ with a fuel-injected Chevy LT1, Advance Adapters Atlas transfer case, a handbuilt XCL suspension, Dana 60 rear axle, Detroit Lockers front and rear, and 38.5-inch Super Swampers. It's built for all-around use, not just for rockcrawling. I've been 'wheeling for about 20 years, and I like to take my family; we like to do all types of off-roading activities. My favorite spot and event is the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab. The other one I really enjoy is the Pacific Northwest 4WD event in Naches, Washington.

DL: What's Warn's most popular product right now?

TG: Currently it's the 9.5ti winch. It's a great, very high-performance winch that looks really rugged and powerful on a vehicle. It really makes a statement about the capability of that vehicle.

DL: How has your business changed in the past five years?

TG: It has grown so rapidly. The off-road industry, and the sport, have just taken off. We're very excited to be a participant in this industry and really encouraged about the number of young people coming into the sport. When I started 'wheeling, lots of people involved in the hobby had been doing it since the '60s. Now there's a real resurgence of young people, and that's great.

DL: What might people not know about Warn that would surprise them?

TG: A lot of 4WD and AWD powertrains under trucks and SUVs have Warn products in them. We design and engineer those systems in-house for the automakers. Our customers include Ford, GM, DaimlerChrysler, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, the list goes on. So Warn has a very sophisticated product development department, with tools that those manufacturers require. We bring those design strengths and rigorous quality standards from the auto industry to the aftermarket. Warn products are manufactured with the same high quality as OEs around the world.

DL: What trends do you see in the hobby?

TG: We're seeing a trend for people who really cross over with their activities, go off-road as one activity and combine it with other activities, like hunting, fishing, camping. In terms of product, we see people looking for multifunction products for their vehicles. Which is one of the reasons we developed the PowerPlant [Warn's latest product, which combines a winch with an air compressor in one unit], to address one of those key aspects: If you're going off-road, whether for work or pleasure, you're really going to need compressed air on your vehicle.

* GM has announced it will introduce a new, light-duty V-8 turbodiesel for North America after 2009 that improves fuel efficiency by 25 percent. It will be a dual-overhead cam, four-valve V-8 that will fit in the same space as a small-block gas V-8, thanks to a narrow engine block and integrated air system

* Rumors persist that just about every other truck maker, including Toyota and Nissan, is looking into light-duty diesels for their trucks too

* The American Petroleum Institute (API) has created a new diesel motor oil category, API CJ-4, for '07-and-later trucks using the new ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel, to protect against engine wear, piston deposits, soot, oil foaming and aeration, viscosity loss, and to minimize the blocking of diesel particulate filters, which are key in making these engines meet new emissions regulations. Shell has announced a new Rotella T motor oil designed to meet, or exceed, the new API CJ-4 specifications

* The diesel land-speed record has been upped from 235 to almost 329 mph. British pilot Andy Green set the record at Bonneville in a streamlined vehicle powered by two 4.4L four-cylinder diesel backhoe engines that produce a combined 1,500 hp. (That's some backhoe.) Green also holds the world's absolute land-speed record, a supersonic 763 mph.

* In engine-related news, Automotive News brings word of a wholly new internal combustion technology. Called homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI), the process combines the high efficiency and torque production of a diesel engine with the low emissions of gasoline. That's because HCCI ignites fuel with high cylinder compression, like a conventional diesel engine. Yet it can do so using gasoline as fuel, so it doesn't have the same emissions issues as diesel. In practice, an engine will run in HCCI mode only part of the time-like during steady state cruising-and will have to transition between HCCI and conventional operation as conditions change. GM plans to have an HCCI engine running for test purposes by next year and hopes that the HCCI technology will eventually deliver 80 percent of a diesel engine's efficiency for less than the cost difference between diesel and gas engines.

* Think high gas prices are killing truck sales? You'd be right, but not completely. According to SEMA and Wardsauto.com, large pickup sales in general were down 11.2 percent for the first half of 2006, while small pickup sales fell 10 percent. But some individual nameplates are faring far better. Honda Ridgeline sales, for example, were up a whopping 88 percent, Nissan Frontier sales were up nearly 20 percent, and Toyota Tacoma sales climbed 10 percent. Among fullsize trucks, only the luxe Lincoln Mark LT posted a sales gain-137 percent!-but that was due to its production ramp-up over the time period.

* In case you haven't heard the ads by now: GM has increased the powertrain warranties on all its '07 vehicles to five years or 100,000 miles.

* Looking into its crystal ball, Automotive News laid out these plans for Toyota: Land Cruiser will get a redesign in the world market this year, with a version coming to North America in '08; Sequoia will get a redesign in '08 as well, sharing the Tundra's new fullsize platform; and 4Runner is due for a redo in '09.

* AN's prognostications for Nissan: Frontier and Pathfinder will be freshened for '08, and the SUV will be fully redone for '10 or '11; a diesel may be available for Titan in '08, and both it and its sister Armada will be completely redesigned for '10; Xterra gets a facelift in '09 or '10.

* Tonneau and cap manufacturer SnugTop recently did some back-to-back testing of tonneau-equipped pickups to see if the accessory had an effect on fuel economy. Testing fullsize Ford, Chevy, and Dodge trucks over 100 laps at the Irwindale Speedway oval track, the results were mixed: The Dodge and Chevy improved their fuel economy by 7 and 2 percent, respectively, while the Ford's economy actually dropped by half a percent. According to SnugTop, the economy gains would have been greater had the trucks run faster than the 45-mph limit set by the track. Reading between the lines, it looks to us like Ford had done its aero homework pretty well, while the Ram needs the help.

* Can't get enough Trent McGee? Superlift's Off-Road Adventures TV show, broadcast on the Outdoor Channel, is now available on DVD. Log on to www.superlift.tv for more info.

* Government doings, brought to us by SEMA's Washington, D.C., staffers: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) wants to establish safety standards for ATVs. They would be largely based on current industry standards and would cover the mechanical operation of ATVs, require that the ATV industry provide safety information to consumers on how to operate the motorized vehicles, and include certification, testing, and record-keeping mandates. The proposed standards would cover adult, single-rider, tandem, and youth-size ATVs. The CPSC rule would ban three-wheeled ATVs.

* Interested in buying a flex-fuel vehicle that can run on the gas/ethanol blend E85? Are you still interested after learning that your fuel economy will go down when burning E85? Those questions were posed in a recent consumer survey by Synovate, which found 37 percent of U.S. consumers would consider purchasing a flex-fuel vehicle that runs on gasoline or E85. But more than a third of these same consumers lost interest in flex-fuel vehicles when they learned that using E85 means a drop in mpg. "It certainly appears as if consumers have bought into the appeal of a flex-fuel vehicle that can run on either gasoline or E85," said Scott Miller, CEO of Synovate Motoresearch. "However, consumers also are largely unaware that they will experience a 25 percent loss in fuel economy when the vehicle is running on ethanol." Miller believes this fuel-economy loss won't impact flex-fuel vehicle sales, but "it will generate disappointment among enthusiastic buyers. It also means that E85 will have to retain a substantially lower price per gallon over gasoline for it to have any impact on consumption."

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