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October 2008 4x4 Truck Breaking News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on October 1, 2008
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In Previous Issues We've Revealed information about several new-for-'09 trucks, including the Dodge Ram 1500, Ford F-150, and Hummer H3T. Here's more new-truck news.

Nissan: Revised Frontier, XterraTwo of Nissan's trucks get facelifts for '09, as both the Frontier midsize pickup and Xterra SUV receive new front fascia and grilles as well as new wheel designs. The Pro-4X off-road package-Bilstein shocks, electric rear locker, additional skidplates, unique 16-inch wheels, and BFGoodrich P265/75R16 Rugged Trail tires-will now be available on Frontiers as well as their big-brother Titans.

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GM's two-mode gas/electric hybrid drive system arrives in the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. The electric-motor-backed 6.0L V-8 will be available in crew-cab/short-box models in either 2WD or 4WD (not AWD, but real, low-range-equipped 4WD). The two-mode system gives the 4x4 pickup an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 20 mpg city/20 mpg highway, which is an improvement over the conventional 6.0L's 13/18. The hybrid's working abilities are lower, however: Payload capacity drops from 1,714 pounds for the conventional crew-cab/short box to 1,418, while tow capacity is cut almost in half, from 10,400 pounds to 5,900. No word yet on hybrid pricing.

On the other side of the pickup coin, GM will offer its Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups with a new 5.3L V-8 option. Available on extended- and crew-cab models, the V-8 produces 300 hp, close to a 25 percent increase over the next biggest engine, the 3.7L I-5. Fuel economy ratings are still pending.

Minor exterior changes differentiate '09 Tacomas from previous models: The grille is now argent colored, and LEDs are used in the taillights. Toyota has added Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), and an automatic limited-slip differential as standard equipment on all Tacoma models for '09. Base prices for Tacoma 4x4 models range from $19,130 for the regular cab with a four-cylinder and five-speed manual transmission to $27,075 for the Double-Cab longbed V-6 with a five-speed automatic.

The Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango hybrid SUVs go on sale in August with prices starting at $45,570 for the Aspen and $45,340 for the Durango. These are Chrysler's first entries in the hybrid SUV market and use the same two-mode gas/electric hybrid system found in GM trucks. (The system was developed jointly among several manufacturers.) In these two SUVs the two-mode system backs 5.7L Hemi V-8s, but Chrysler is claiming the same fuel economy benefits as GM: a 40 percent improvement in city economy and a 25 percent improvement in overall mpg. Note, though, that the "4WD" systems in both the hybrids have single-speed transfer cases.

Here's a chance to get your club's activities in our magazine. We're starting a new Drivelines feature called Club Spotlight, a place for news about what 4x4 clubs around the country (and heck, around the world) are doing. If your club recently put on a trail ride, show, parade, OHV area clean-up, you name it, and you're shooting pictures and writing up the event for your club's newsletter, why not send us the story too? We're especially interested in events you're doing for your local community-food or toy drives, raffles, benefit shows, trail cleaning-as we hope those ideas will inspire other clubs to do the same.

Just shoot us an e-mail or letter with a short description of what your club did and where, plus some info about the club itself. If you're sending photos (please!), we need high-resolution digital files (images at least 3x5 inches at 300-dpi resolution) or good-quality color prints. Sorry, prints can't be returned.

You can mail your submissions to Club Spotlight, 4-Wheel & Off-Road Magazine, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048, or e-mail them to Please put Club Spotlight in the subject line.

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First off, this photo is not the rumored "baby F-150." It's a Ford concept truck from 2000 called the 24.7. But we chose it to illustrate just how much the light-truck market may change as manufacturers react to the sharp increase in gas prices. Industry sources are buzzing about the junior F-truck, which could revive the F-100 nameplate and replace the Ranger. AutoWeek wrote a lengthy story about future Ford pickups, suggesting that they may ride on a unibody frame and be powered by a 3.5L twin-turbocharged V-6 under development for the '10 Ford Flex. Tuned for truck use, the turbo 3.5 could produce 340 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. Another potential powerplant could come from a series of "Ecoboost" engines, small-displacement (2.0L and smaller) motors that are powerful, yet efficient, for their size.

Keep in mind that it's not just expensive gas driving these changes. Fuel economy standards will climb as the decade rolls on, and the OEs have to find a way to trim fuel use somehow. Unibody, car-based "trucks" just may be the answer, though it's to a question we certainly didn't ask.

Rod Hall landed in the Baja racing record books by earning his 18th career Baja 500 win in the 2008 SCORE International Baja 500. He and Mike Winkel wheeled their Hummer H3 race truck to victory in the Stock Mini class, finishing the 441-mile run in 14 hours and 42 minutes. Rod's son, Chad, also grabbed a victory for Hummer by piloting his H3 Alpha to the top of the Stock Full class. Chad's Hummer was the first production vehicle to cross the finish line.

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The Blacktail/Wild Bill National Recreation Trail in northwest Montana was honored by BFGoodrich Tires, Tread Lightly!, and the United Four Wheel Drive Associations as one of its 2008 Outstanding Trails. More than 75 off-roaders and members of the Skyliners Four Wheel Drive Club attended the celebration as BFG presented a grant to the club's president to be used for trail preservation. Other trails chosen for recognition in 2008 include the Black Cat Trail near San Diego, California; the? Iron Range OHV Recreational Area in Gilbert, Minnesota; the? Quinn Trail that leads to Quinn Lake in Ottawa, Canada; ?Pritchett Canyon in Moab, Utah; and Beasley Knob OHV trail near Blairsville, Georgia.

Ever dreamed of speeding across Baja in a buggy? You could get the chance if you're one of the Grand Prize winners in Bilstein's Baja Challenge Sweepstakes. The two Grand Prizes are all-expenses-paid trips to Cabo San Lucas, where each winner and a guest get to drive Bilstein-shock-equipped Wide Open Baja race cars for three days on the Baja 1000 race course. The contest is open until September 30, and winners will be announced in October. Log on to to enter.

I recently took a vacation to Key Largo, Florida, to do my second favorite hobby (next to wheelin' of course). While there I went on scuba charters to the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary aboard the HMS Minnow, captained by Jeff Jarvis. I wanted to catch up on the 4x4 world above while logging some "bottom time" on Molasses Reef.

Craig Lewis, Fuquay Varina, NC

*Mopar, Chrysler's performance-parts arm, has developed accessories for the Jeep Wrangler that include a winch bumper (with winch), a chrome grille, and an off-road navigation system. On the drawing board is a lift kit. By offering these accessories through Mopar, a Jeep buyer could have them installed by the dealership at the time of the vehicle's purchase.

*In tough economic times you don't want to ask things like, "Can it get much worse?" But these days, how can you help it? Gas prices are shattering records, and rumors are flying that we'll be paying $7 or more per gallon by the end of the year. New truck sales have fallen off a cliff, and every OE manufacturer is scaling back truck production, switching assembly lines from trucks to cars, or both. If there's a silver lining to all this mess, it's this: The work force in this country will always need trucks, so pickups won't be going away anytime soon. Just be prepared for "personal-use" trucks to become car-based vehicles with truck beds, just like SUVs evolved into crossover vehicles.

*Bye-bye Hummer? Reacting to the free-fall in new-truck sales, GM is "undertaking a strategic review of the Hummer brand," the General said in a recent press release. Meaning? Anything could happen to Hummer, "from a complete revamp of the product lineup to a partial or complete sale of the brand." Trade journal Automotive News reported that "several global companies have shown interest in Hummer, making the sale of the brand a strong option." AN did not say which companies but did say one not on the list was Tata, recent buyer of Land Rover.

*Late In May, The Southern Four Wheel Drive Association (SFWDA), United Four Wheel Drive Associations (UFWDA), and the BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service to restore access to closed off-highway recreation trails in the Upper Tellico OHV area in North Carolina. The Forest Service closed the area due to pressure from the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the North Carolina and Tennessee Councils of Trout Unlimited, as well as Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project. The SFWDA feels that the Forest Service took incorrect steps by closing the trails and the lawsuit is intended to reopen them. There are several ways you can help in this fight: Donate online at,, or through the United Land Action Fund at P.O. Box 15696, Chesapeake, VA 23328. You can also purchase Rescue Tellico items at All proceeds are donated to the Rescue Tellico Fund.

*Our Friends At Sema Report That Proposals For NEW wilderness areas in the Southwest were approved by the House Natural Resources Committee. Among the bills was a proposal to expand federal protection to 190,000 acres of Southern California desert and forest by creating four new wilderness areas and increasing the size of six existing areas. In addition, it would add about 5,000 acres to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. Under the bill, 41,000 acres of Joshua Tree National Park would be labeled "potential wilderness" until the National Park Service settles property claims, at which point they would become true wilderness areas. A second California proposal creating a wilderness area in the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park was also approved, designating approximately 70,000 acres in the Mineral King Valley as wilderness. After several months of negotiations, the Committee also approved a bill creating the Sabinoso Wilderness Area in northeast New Mexico. Through continued discussions with the Bureau of Land Management and other stakeholders, the amount of land in the proposal was reduced from 19,880 acres to 15,995 acres.

*Sema Has Good News As Well: The Bureau Of Land Management has released three new management plans covering two national monuments and millions of acres in a remote area of northern Arizona. The proposal covers 2.8 million acres of federal land from north of the Grand Canyon to the Utah border and allows OHV use on more than 1,700 miles of existing trails and dirt roads in the monuments and across other portions of the management area. All three plans will outline how the areas will be managed for development, mineral recovery, and OHV recreation for the next 20 years.

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