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March 2007 4x4 News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on March 1, 2007
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Like most spy photogs, Brenda Priddy typically captures her subjects from ground level. But a tip caused her to get some elevation when staking out prototypes of the '08 Jeep Liberty, and now we know why. Her shots show what appears to be a retractable fabric panel on the Lib's roof. Other body mods to the next-gen KK include the migration of the spare tire from the back hatch to under the truck, a two-piece tailgate that lifts up instead of to the side, and the use of the Load n' Go sliding cargo system that debuted in the Nitro. Priddy says the Liberty will be available with two V-6s at launch, a base 3.7L and optional 4.0L, though the common-rail diesel won't be available until late 2008 or early 2009.

Ever wanted to see your truck in our magazine? Now you've got a chance to see what you-and your fellow 'wheelers-are building for rocks, mud, sand, and snow. Our newest publication, Readers' Rigs, is the only 4x4 magazine devoted exclusively to you and your 4x4, be it a Chevy, Ford, Jeep, Toyota, or anything else that plays in the dirt. In each issue you'll find profiles of more than 100 reader vehicles, with plenty of photos, in-depth specs, and comments from owners about which setups work, which don't, and their favorite parts and accessories. Check out the premiere issue when it hits your local newsstand on February 13, 2007.

First the H1 disappears from dealer lots, now this: The U.S. Army is undertaking a search to replace the aging High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV, or Humvee). In response, International Truck and Engine Corp. has submitted the Future Tactical Truck System, or FTTS, for the Pentagon's consideration. The heavily armored pickup would be about two feet longer than the M1097A2 (base pickup) version of the Humvee, a couple inches narrower, and have similar ground-clearance specs. Like the Humvee, the FTTS design has planetary hubs at each wheel and a Central Tire Inflation System.

Though International says its truck will be available with "conventional powertrain provisions" (which we assume means some form of International diesel), the FTTS is being presented with a Parallel Hybrid System, mating a 3.0L I-4 diesel with an electric motor to give the truck 387 peak horsepower and 564 lb-ft of peak torque. By comparison, the 6.5L V-8 diesel in the Humvee puts out just 160 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque.

The Army earlier this year awarded International $12.25 million to build a demonstrator version of the FTTS. That truck was delivered to the Army for testing in November.

Whether the Army chooses the FTTS or a competing design submitted by Lockheed Martin, it looks like Humvee builder AM General won't be out of the picture entirely. An article in Automotive News quoted an AM General spokesman as saying, "We intend to make light tactical vehicles for the Army for a long time." So even if International's design wins, production could still be in the General's hands.

One of the many news announcements made at the recent SEMA Show was about Toyota's new desert-race FJ Cruiser, which made its debut at the Baja 1000. Driven by the father-and-son team of Rod and Ryan Millen, the FJ was entered in the Stock Mini class (where the long-time rally driver faced serious competition from long-time desert racer Rod Hall and his Hummer H3).

The racing FJ is based on a new TRD Special Edition of the Cruiser, which boasts an all-black paint scheme (including the Cruiser's normally white roof), better synchronization of the locking diff and Active Traction Control, TRD/Bilstein shocks, performance exhaust, and TRD 16-inch alloy wheels.

While the Stock Mini class rules mandate that much of the vehicle remain in factory condition, suspension and safety modifications are allowed. Donahoe Racing coilovers and Fox Racing external-bypass shocks augment the Cruiser's chassis, and the FJ rolls on LT285/75R16 BFGoodrich All-Terrains. The stock 3.73 gears have been swapped out for 4.88s.

As of this writing the race was still a week away; next month we'll let you know how the FJ did against Rodney and the rest of the Stock Minis.

We don't have much in the way of details, but here's a photo of the upcoming '08 Ford Escape. Ford tells us it retooled the Escape inside and out, designing an exterior that bears a closer resemblance to its Explorer and Expedition siblings. Expect powertrain and chassis "refinements," too, says the maker. More info to come as we get it.

How about combining desert racing and rockcrawling into one off-road motorsport? Apparently BFGoodrich and the folks at UROC are way ahead of us. They have announced a new race series, The Triple Crown of RockCross, which will debut in 2007.

Each RockCross race will pit two competing vehicles on a dirt and rock-strewn course. The emphasis will be on speed, so the rock obstacles won't be too extreme. "Since speed is the primary goal of these races, vehicles will take very little modification to compete, so we expect to see teams from UROC Pro drivers to local off-road enthusiasts," said Ranch Pratt, president and CEO of UROC. BFGoodrich is encouraging competition by offering a $10,000 payout to teams riding on BFG tires that win all three of the season's events. A $5,000 prize will go to any team that wins two of the three.

The BFGoodrich Triple Crown of RockCross will visit Salt Lake City August 18, Las Vegas October 20, and Phoenix December 1. For more info, visit

Most of the diesel trucks that comply with 2007 emissions laws aren't hitting showrooms until after the new year. Volkswagen got a head start on diesel sales by offering its Touareg SUV with the 5.0L V-10 TDI in October. VW had offered a diesel Touareg after the SUV's introduction a couple years ago but pulled the turbodiesel from the U.S. shortly thereafter

Stats on the '06 Touareg diesel are similar to the earlier version: The engine makes 310 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, and it's now equipped with a particulate filter that helps it meet the new diesel emissions requirements for all 50 states. Prices for the new Touareg diesel start at-are you sitting down?-$67,750.

PhotosView Slideshow

Suzuki says it wants to be "the car company that makes vehicles for people who really go for it...the kind of people who dirt bike before breakfast, bungee jump on their lunch hour, and board downhill by twilight." Yikes! That rules me out.

But Suzuki hopes those of you living that energy-drink-fueled lifestyle will find its Dune concept cool. Based on an '06 Grand Vitara, the Dune sports custom coilovers with remote-reservoir shocks front and rear. There are 31x12.5-15 Super Swamper Thornbirds mounted on 15x10 Pro Comp Extreme Alloy rims at each corner, and another mounted on the back hatch as a spare. The roof rack extends and rotates downward to make loading your bungee-jumping and snowboarding gear easier, while in the truck is a mobile garage outfitted with integrated storage and a fold-out work surface, a portable air compressor, and tools.

PhotosView Slideshow

His DNF last year only encouraged Robby Gordon to compete again in the Dakar Rally. In early 2007, he'll campaign his highly modified Hummer H3 in the 6,000-mile rally, which stretches from Lisbon into the African desert.

"The differences from last year's team and race vehicle and this year's are virtually night and day," Gordon reports. "Last year we had a very short amount of time to build, prep, and test the H3. This time around, our team has had an entire year to prepare for the rally in terms of the R&D of our aerodynamic, drivetrain, and tire programs."

Wind-tunnel time (with assistance by General Motors) has made the truck faster and more fuel efficient, while key component modifications-a new engine and transaxle and a relocation of the radiator into the back of the H3-will help its speed and reliability. It was a badly holed radiator that ended Gordon's Dakar effort last year. The H3 will again roll on Toyo 37x14.50-15 Open Country M/Ts, as Gordon described last year's tires as "bulletproof."

Each year, the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) stages its Texas Truck Rodeo to determine the best trucks for the Lone Star State. Judging is done by TAWA members in a number of objective and subjective categories, and over the years the event has become quite a big deal, both to Texans and manufacturers alike.

That would explain why Ford chose to enter one of its brand-new '08 Super Duty Power Stroke-powered pickups into the Rodeo. We couldn't get one for our 4x4 of the Year competition, and few other magazines have gotten their hands on one, either. Yet Ford felt this event was important enough to bring one to Ft. Worth. And the Texas journalists were so impressed by the truck that they gave it their top "Truck of Texas" award. The "SUV of Texas" trophy went to the Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Who said Ford don't make bad-ass trucks!?! Here is a picture of the Ford F-350 FX4 completely uparmored escort truck we use here in Iraq. With an M60 machine gun and a protected gunner's position in the back, it's pretty good at moving traffic. Just thought I should share the real meaning behind "Built Ford Tough."
Sgt. Damien Watts, 635th MRD, Trebil, Iraq

* Last month we shared the rumor that Ford may put a Land Rover-sourced diesel into the F-150. Now comes word via industry insiders that the Expedition may also get the same Rover diesel option. Makes sense, since the two trucks are nearly identical from the A-pillars forward.

* More diesel news: According to Automotive News, Toyota has bought a 5.9-percent stake in Isuzu Motors Ltd. Isuzu makes diesels, Toyota makes hybrids; the two will reportedly combine their technologies to develop hybrid diesel powertrains, as well as put conventional Isuzu diesels in Toyota products.

* Indian manufacturer Mahindra may be gearing up to sell two 4x4s in the U.S. market. Automotive News says the company has signed up a distributor and is looking for dealer franchises. The vehicles Mahindra wants to sell here are a turbodiesel-powered pickup and a Jeep Liberty-sized SUV called the Scorpio. We were hoping for Mahindra's flatfender look-alike, too, but that wasn't mentioned.

* The Off-Road Experience, which runs a number of off-road training courses in the Nevada desert, has announced the Corporate Off-Highway Driver Safety Program. It's designed to teach dirt and rock driving skills to members of the mining industry, law enforcement, and government officials, including BLM and Forest Service personnel. Visit for more info.

* Toyo and Fabtech are the presenting sponsors of a new action DVD called Wasteland Warriors 2-Out of the Badlands. It features race footage from Baja and CORR, plus "extreme play" at the Glamis dunes. Hey, it's from the co-creator of Crusty Demons of Dirt, so it's gotta be good, right?

* The Los Angeles Times reports General Motors is developing a new electric vehicle with a novel source of electricity: an on-board internal-combustion engine. Plug-in stations will do most of the heavy lifting when it comes time to recharge the vehicle's lithium-ion batteries, but the engine will come into play when those batteries drain between plug-ins, thereby extending the vehicle's range. True, this isn't a "pure" electric vehicle, but the engine will use less fuel as a generator than it would actually propelling the vehicle. According to the Times, GM is officially mum about the vehicle, but we may learn more after an announcement at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

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