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February 2007 4x4 News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on February 1, 2007
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As we've reported for the past few months, all the Detroit 3 truckmakers have had to retool their diesel engines in the wake of changing emissions regulations. Ford and General Motors have gone a step further and timed the release of new 3/4- and 1-ton trucks to coincide with the new powerplants.

It's already 2008 for Ford, as its new Super Duty trucks are labeled '08 models. The new Supers have been restyled on the outside, refined where the rubber meets the road, and even include a new model: the F-450. Intended for serious towing, the dualie-only F-450 utilizes the solid-axle/coil-spring/radius-arm front suspension from the medium-duty F-450 chassis cab and new, longer leaf springs in the rear. The F-450's max payload rating is 6,120 pounds for the 4x2, 5,720 pounds for the 4x4, figures about 300-400 pounds over the F-350 dualie. Its max tow capacity (with a fifth-wheel/gooseneck) is 24,500 pounds with either drivetrain, compared to 18,800 for the F-350 dualie.

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The new Super Dutys offer this step integrated into the tailgate. It'll hold 300 pounds.

The new Super Dutys are available with the 300hp/365-lb-ft 5.4L Triton gas V-8; the 362hp/457-lb-ft 6.8L Triton gas V-10; and the new 6.4L Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8, rated at 350 hp at 3,000 rpm and 650 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. To meet new emissions regulations, the Power Stroke is outfitted with Ford's "Clean Diesel Technology," which includes a high-pressure, common-rail fuel system, Piezo-electric fuel injectors and a diesel particulate filter in the exhaust. From a driveability standpoint, the diesel's acceleration has been improved over the outgoing engine through the use of two sequential turbochargers-a small, variable-geometry turbo that comes on at low engine speeds, and a larger, fixed-geometry turbo that works with the smaller turbo in the mid-range and takes over at high revs. According to Ford, the new Power Stroke is more than a full second quicker from 0 to 60 mph.

Designwise, the new Super Dutys feature a much taller grille than the old models, a styling feature that also improves engine cooling. The trucks come with some interesting exterior options, including a 300-pound-capacity tailgate step that folds out from the 'gate's top rail; and a polypropylene bed extender that, when not in use, separates into two pieces that fold into the bed sides. Trailer towers will also appreciate the new power-folding and -telescoping side mirrors.

The Super Dutys will be available in regular-, Super-, and Crew-Cab configurations, and with 6.75- or 8-foot cargo boxes, though regular cabs will get the long box only.

Like Ford, GM has given its Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra HD pickups styling features that distinguish them from the light-duty trucks. And like Ford, GM has a new diesel engine in its quiver-a 6.6L Duramax turbodiesel V-8 that's rated at 365 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque. A single, variable-geometry turbocharger boosts the Duramax's performance throughout the rev range, while a diesel particulate filter scrubs the exhaust to help it meet the new smog laws.

Also interesting, though, is something GM doesn't offer this year: a big-block gas engine. The only other engine choice for the '07 HDs is a Gen IV 6.0L gas small-block V-8 that puts out 353 horses and 373 lb-ft of torque. It's a techy motor, with variable-valve timing that improves both low-end torque and high-rev horsepower. But it can't match the 450 lb-ft of grunt that last year's Vortec 8100 big-block offered. So buyers who need abundant torque will have to opt for the Duramax.

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The HD truck chassis are equipped with short/long-arm front suspensions and torsion bars, and a solid-axle/leaf-spring setup in the rear with either two- or three-stage spring packs. The Z71 4x4 suspension option package will be available on HD models for the first time.

The HDs will be available in regular-, extended-, and Crew-Cab configurations, and with 6.5- and 8-foot cargo boxes.

Some of the features introduced on GM's new-generation light-duty pickups are carried over to the heavy-duty models, including the optional cargo-management system with adjustable tie-down points. The HDs also receive GM's two-tier interior schedule. Silverado LT, Sierra SLE, and the Chevy/GMC WT models get the "pure pickup" interior, while the higher-end Silverado LTZ and Sierra SLT get the luxe interior with a distinct instrument panel, heated leather seats, and special dash trim.

Dodge may be feeling a little left out right about now. It, too, has a new diesel engine for '07, but it's not making headlines like Ford and GM since there isn't an all-new Ram to stick it in. But here's the skinny: The new 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel I-6, available for the Ram 2500 and 3500 in January, produces 350 hp (up from 320 in the previous 5.9 Cummins) and 650 lb-ft of torque (up from 610) at a low, low 1,500 rpm. It's B5 biodiesel compatible and has a diesel particulate filter in the exhaust system to clean its emissions. New engine mounts, an intake silencer, and an engine-block shield help make this Cummins 50 percent quieter than its predecessors, says Dodge. And here's something that'll set the Cummins apart from the field: It's available with an optional, from-the-factory exhaust brake.

As diesel engines get cleaner, just about every truckmaker, foreign and domestic, is eyeing new opportunities for the "alt-fuel" engine. According to Automotive News, Ford may be the first to put a diesel in a light-duty truck if it moves ahead with plans to offer a diesel F-150 in '08 or '09. A retired Ford exec told the trade magazine that the F-150 will receive a version of the 3.6L, twin-turbocharged V-8 diesel offered in the Euro-spec Range Rover. In the Rover, the diesel makes 267 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque.

According to AN, GM will have a small diesel V-8 after 2010, while Dodge will get new V-6 and V-8 diesels from Cummins at about the same time.

The magazine also reports that Toyota may be going out-of-house for a diesel to put in its new, bigger Tundra. While it can lean on its Hino commercial-truck division for a diesel powerplant, a Toyota exec didn't rule out the possibility of sourcing the engine from an established diesel manufacturer, such as Caterpillar or John Deere.

Better late than never? Chrysler finally has an SUV to sell, the Durango-based Aspen. It's a "premium" SUV, says the company, with distinctive Chrysler-300-like styling and amenities that include optional 20-inch wheels, powered rear lift gate, full-screen nav/radio, heated front- and second-row seats, and a rear-seat DVD system. With three rows of seats, the Aspen can hold eight passengers. The Aspen's standard engine is the 235hp, 4.7L Magnum V-8, but the 5.7L, 335hp Hemi (with the cylinder deactivating Multi-displacement system) is optional. Two 4WD systems are available, including one with a two-speed transfer case that gives the Aspen an AWD mode plus high and low ranges.

It was bound to happen: Higher gas prices have taken their toll on sales of vehicles with big engines. As a result, Chrysler has cut back on Hemi engine production. According to, the daily build rate for Hemis dropped by about 25 percent between August and September, and Chrysler is considering cutting production shifts at its Mexican assembly plant from two to one.

What would you do to win a free '07 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited? Go mud diving? That's exactly what Homero Perez did. At the recent State Fair of Texas, Jeep set up a "Stick in the Mud" competition, where 120 contestants dug through some 14,000 gallons of goo looking for hidden sticks. Perez found the most sticks during three rounds of competition, and he was awarded the new "4x4x4."

More fun from the State Fair of Texas: As part of its launch of the new Silverado, Chevrolet put on the Silverado Drive for Farm Aid, a 2,800-mile cruise from Texas to New Jersey that featured Chevy pickups new and old. Along the way, participants enjoyed four free concerts, including Farm Aid 2006 in Camden, New Jersey. At the final concert, members of the Drive presented a donation check to the organization, which assists farming families.

As of this writing we're still a couple months away from the launch of Toyota's new Tundra pickup, but Toyota is already revamping its dealerships to accommodate the bigger truck. According to a story in Automotive News, Toyota has spent about $1 billion in various dealership renovations, which include making room for the pickup. Representatives brought a Ford F-250 (!) to every store to make sure service bays, lifts, jacks, and other tools could handle the Tundra.

Here are a few pictures of my son in his pedal-powered monster truck that I scratch built for him. As you can see, he enjoys them very much and gets good exercise at the same time. I also built a snowplow and a double axle trailer. He spends countless hours playing with these. Wish I could have had one of these when I was young. The trucks are 50 inches long, 32 inches wide, 31 inches tall, with 15x6.600-size tires. They weigh about 65 pounds.
Paul Gaudet

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Coolest Historical Reading Place
This picture was taken at Omaha Beach while on duty in Ste-Mere Eglise, France, June 6, 2006, 62 years after the invasion of the Normandy Beaches. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, 176,000 U.S. and Allied troops went ashore along a 40-mile stretch of the Normandy coastline with over 20,000 vehicles. During the invasion there were over 10,000 casualties, with over one third coming from Omaha alone. After seeing all the beaches, I believe if the 20,000 vehicles would have had lockers, big tires, and winches, the invasion would have only lasted a few minutes. Thanks for your continuous support of our troops!
MSG Sam Gillis
81st Regional Readiness Command
Birmingham, AL

Coolest Reading Place in the Motor Pool
Here's me and my buddies from SECFOR Maintenance enjoying your fun-filled magazine during routine maintenance on my truck in Afghanistan. Thanks.
Spc. Justin Hall
Operation Enduring Freedom

* GM Performance Parts has an all-new Web a new design, new parts photography, and tools that include a parts finder,a crate engine showcase, and downloadable product catalogs. A second phase of upgrades will include an engine configurator, which allows you to virtually build your dream engine, and also a dyno configurator, where you can test your parts combinations.

* American Racing Wheels has acquired Weld Wheel, giving American Racing deeper penetration into the truck wheel market. Weld's operations will be folded into American Racing's Southern California organization, but Weld wheels will continue to be manufactured in Kansas City and elsewhere under the Weld brand.

* A quartet of German manufacturers-Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen-are forming an alliance to promote diesel in the U.S. as a viable alternative to hybrid powertrains, reports Automotive News. All four will offer vehicles using the Bluetec emissions treatment system, several of which were on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. If Bluetec sounds familiar, it's also the system that will be used in Jeep's upcoming Grand Cherokee diesel.

* Look for the government's five-star crash-test ratings to start showing up on window stickers at your local dealership, thanks to a new law that went into effect in 2006. The rule applies to all passenger vehicles with a GVWR of 10,000 or less. Pickups are exempt, since pickups don't technically have to have the Monroney window stickers, but the government expects truckmakers to voluntarily display the stars.

* First the good news: Congress approved and sent to President Bush compromise legislation that would designate 300,000 acres in Northern California's Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, and Napa counties as wilderness. Although OHV use is traditionally restricted in wilderness areas, a compromise supported by aftermarket trade association SEMA provides for approximately 79,000 acres to be set aside as recreation management areas for off-road vehicles. The measure also provides for the use of "cherry-stem" roads within the wilderness areas to allow continued motorized access to existing roads and trails. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.

* Now the bad: A Federal court in California reinstated the so-called "roadless rule," issued by the Clinton Administration to prohibit development within 58.5 million acres of U.S. Forest Service lands. The court ruled that the replacement rule adopted by the Bush Administration in 2005 violated existing federal environmental and endangered species laws. Unlike the Clinton policy, which provided blanket protections for all designated roadless areas, the Bush Administration established a state-by-state process to allow governors to petition the Forest Service on which areas would remain "roadless" and which would be opened for development and recreational use. To date, California, Idaho, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia have submitted petitions to the Forest Service. The Bush policy is consistent with SEMA's position that state government and local communities should participate in forest management decisions. SEMA has also noted that the state petitioning process could be an opportunity to correct inaccurate roadless designations and include uninventoried routes well known to users and state officials but that do not appear on current USFS maps. U.S. Forest Service officials have indicated that they will continue to work with states in managing roadless areas; however, all parties should anticipate the legal fighting to continue. Given the conflicting opinions from the two different Federal courts, it is highly likely that the Supreme Court will have the final say on the matter.

* Responding to a U.S. Senate bill that would designate an additional 125,000 acres of wilderness around Mount Hood, SEMA sent a letter a letter to key Congressional members stating that additional public involvement was needed. SEMA also commented that the U.S. House has already approved a measure which would increase the Mount Hood Wilderness Area by 77,000 acres. Included in the SEMA-supported House bill were provisions for the conversion of old forest roads into new recreational trails and to provide for a revenue sharing system for the fees collected from recreation and land use.

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