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December 2007 4x4 News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on December 1, 2007
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AM General is not among the companies bidding for the U.S. military's Future Tactical Truck System, but it looks like the manufacturer is still developing new products, possibly to win a contract to replace aging Humvees currently seeing active duty. This spy photo shows a prototype pickup with some interesting new features. Our sources indicate there may be a more powerful version of the 6.5L diesel V-8, made by General Engine Products, an AM General subsidiary, under the new, bulbous hood. (Look close under the door and you'll see the letters "GEP No. 7," indicating this is a GEP prototype.) If those tires and wheels look big, they are; they're Goodyear 335/65R22.5 tires on 22.5-inch wheels held together with 18 bolts and attached to the vehicle with eight more lugs. Ground clearance on this proto is also around 22 inches, a significant jump over the current model's 16 inches.

Those of you who live in Orlando, Florida, are probably already aware that the famous Race Rock restaurant has closed, and its performance-themed memorabilia was auctioned off. Among the items sold was a replica of Bigfoot 5 (seen here), the truck Bob Chandler built to run Firestone's enormous Tundra tires.

As quoted in AutoWeek, the owner of the Race Rock said he's "probably gotten $20 million worth of publicity out of Bigfoot. That truck is worth a million dollars to somebody." Apparently that somebody wasn't in the house when the gavel fell on this big 'Foot. The monster sold for just $50,000.

Daytime fireworks go off around Chrysler's headquarters to celebrate the company's first day as The New Chrysler, August 6, 2007.

After a "hiatus" of nine years-the period of partnership with Daimler-Chrysler's familiar Pentastar logo is back as the symbol of the "new" Chrysler. Or, we should say, The New Chrysler, as the company writes it (note the capital letters). Purists will probably notice the symbol looks different. The original Pentastar, designed in 1962, had five triangles that floated independently in a pentagon shape, broken by a five-pointed star in the middle. The new Pentastar, which was massaged by Trevor Creed, Senior Vice President-Design, "conveys strength and precision by fusing the ends of the five triangles to enclose the star and complete the pentagon," said the company.

Will the symbolic new logo appear on Dodges and Jeeps now, as it has on Chrysler products years ago? No, says Creed. "I do not envision us using this mark on our products, only on buildings, signage, corporate stationery, and business cards. It's about who we are, not what we build."

Um, they're not the same?

Honda has broken new ground in the ATV segment by being the first to market with electric power steering (EPS). Fitted to the Foreman 500 4x4 ATV, the EPS system is more than just power steering; it's a variable unit that monitors steering torque and vehicle speed to adjust the levels of steering assist. When stopped or at low speeds, more assistance is provided for a lighter steering feel. As speeds increase, the amount of assistance is reduced. There are even different maps in the EPS's control unit for 2WD and 4WD operation, so that steering feel is consistent in either mode. Yes, the EPS equipment does add 15 pounds to the Foreman's 500-plus-pound dry weight. But according to Honda, an EPS-equipped Foreman "responds to rider input as if it were 75 pounds lighter." Anyone who's muscled one of these big utility ATVs over rough or rocky terrain knows what a workout it can be. We can't wait to get our hands on one of these cush machines.

Hey, Pw told me to jazz up the news column a bit, and what better way than by running a picture of the popular celebutante? We didn't even have to stretch far to do it, either. Notice that the vehicle she's fondling is an '08 Ford Escape hybrid, which was on display at a green-themed party she recently attended. We mean environmentally friendly green, not the night-vision glasses green. If you've seen her video, you'll get the joke.

Several months ago we showed you a lightly disguised version of Volkswagen's mini-ute as it appeared at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Now the German automaker has released photos of the production Tiguan, which makes its public debut at the Frankfurt International Motor Show. In Europe, buyers will be able to choose from a number of gas and diesel engine options; our guess is we'll get gas-only here in the States. But the most powerful of those puts out 200 hp, which should be fun.

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We got all excited when we read that headline on Ford's media Web site. It got even better when we read about the new truck's 3.0L, 156hp diesel V-6. A sneak peek at an upcoming clean-diesel compact truck? Not for us, anyway. Turns out the new truck is for the United Kingdom; we're still motoring ahead with the same ol' compact Ford.

Below is a sketch of the Kuga (we're guessing you pronounce it like "Cougar" with an East Coast accent), a compact 4x4 crossover Ford will unveil at the Frankfurt International Motor Show. It will be manufactured in Germany and sold in Europe starting next spring. There were no mechanical details offered in the press materials, just a tease from Ford's European design director about how its "impressive on-road capability blends seamlessly with substantial off-road ability." This isn't the first time Ford of Europe has produced something way cooler than what we get Stateside, darn it.

Suzuki and Volkswagen came away from the 85th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb big winners this year. Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, driving a 1,000hp Suzuki Sport XL7, broke Rod Millen's long-standing overall time record by completing the 12.5-mile course (which includes some 156 corners and climbs nearly 4,600 feet) in 10 minutes, 1.408 seconds, breaking Millen's record by nearly three seconds. Tajima, who first tackled the Peak nine years ago, said he already has "many ideas" about how to break the near-mythic 10-minute barrier next year.

Meanwhile, a Volkswagen Touareg V-10 TDI diesel driven by Ryan Arciero set a new record for the (OK, take a deep breath before reading this) Alternative Fuel Diesel Truck High-Performance Showroom Stock Division. Arciero's 13:17:70 time beat the old class record by about 17 seconds.

PhotosView Slideshow

* GM has confirmed it will build a "state-of-the-art" 4.5L V-8 Duramax turbodiesel for light-duty trucks and the Hummer H2 built after '09. The dual-overhead-cam, four-valve V-8 engine will take up about as much space as a small-block V-8 gas engine thanks to integral cylinder-head exhaust manifolds, integral cam-cover intake manifolds, and a narrow block. No output numbers have been released; GM says only that the engine "is expected to deliver class-leading torque, power, and refinement while maintaining a significant fuel efficiency advantage over comparable-output gasoline engines." The General is trumpeting the engine's clean-diesel cred, reporting it will improve engine fuel efficiency by 25 percent, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 13 percent, and cut particulates and NOx emissions by at least 90 percent.
* In other GM-related news, it has sold its Allison Transmission commercial and military business to private equity firms The Carlyle Group and Onex Corporation for approximately $5.6 billion. GM will retain Allison's Baltimore production facility, which produces transmissions (including the upcoming two-mode hybrid transmission) for GM's retail pickup trucks and SUVs.
* Rumors are popping up again about a Wrangler-sized Hummer H4, to be built for the '09 model year.
* AutoPacific Inc. has released the results of a vehicle satisfaction study, a measure of how satisfied an owner is with his or her new vehicle. In the light-truck area, the Chevy Silverado and Silverado HD, Ford Explorer Sport Trac, GMC Yukon XL, and Toyota 4Runner and FJ Cruiser topped the pickup and SUV classes.

* SEMA reports that the U.S. Senate approved energy legislation in early summer that included a provision to dramatically increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Passenger cars and light trucks would be required to meet a combined fuel economy average of 35 mpg by 2020. That represents an increase of about 40 percent over the current standard of 27.5 mpg for passenger cars and 21.6 mpg for light trucks and SUVs. Now it's the House of Representatives' turn to produce its version of an energy bill. Stay tuned.
* The BlueRibbon Coalition reports that a "record crowd" of more than 350 off-road recreationists and public land users objected to a federal trail plan that threatens to close 75 percent of OHV routes on forest lands in California's Sierra Nevada mountains. Members of the OHV community spoke up in strong protest to the Forest Service's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for motorized travel management in the Eldorado National Forest, which would close more than 1,000 miles of popular 4x4 roads and dirt-bike trails. Trail enthusiasts stated that many of their favorite routes in the remote backcountry would be closed if the Forest Service follows through with this draft plan. The BlueRibbon Coalition has submitted a formal request for the agency to issue a supplemental EIS to address certain errors in the plan.

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