4-Wheel & Off-Road welcomes letters to the editor. Letters must include an address or a telephone number so the sender can be verified. Once verified, your name may be withheld at your request. Letters published in this magazine reflect the opinions of the writers, and we reserve the right to edit letters for clarity, brevity, or other purposes. Due to the large volume of mail we receive, we regret that we cannot reply to unpublished letters or return photos. Digital photos must measure no less than 1600 x 1200 pixels (or two megapixels) and be saved as a TIFF, an EPS, or a maximum-quality JPEG file.
4-Wheel & Off-Road
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What Is A Sleeper On The UA?
Reader: Congratulations on another enjoyable trip for the Ultimate Adventure (Nov. and Dec. '09), this time through the nation's heart. However, can you explain why you keep referring to the Z71 as a "sleeper"? Maybe the definition of "sleeper" is different on the west coast. Here on the east side, we use "sleeper" to refer to a vehicle that is more capable than it looks. In other words, you'd never know what it could do until you saw it happen. A Toyota Corolla with a hidden fire-breathing V-8 squeezed under the hood somehow would be a sleeper. If I pulled up next to your Z71 at a stoplight, it would not be a sleeper. With huge axles clearly not native to a GM 1/2-ton, massive tires with beadlocks, half the bumpers missing, the bed bobbed, the fenders cut, suspension add-ons in clear view, a full steel rollcage inside, and decals all over a truck, what classifies it as a sleeper? There is absolutely nothing about The Sleeper UA Z71 that lives up to its name. The only thing I can say for it is that at least it's not as wild and crazy as putting a JK body on a Dodge 3500 frame and calling it a Jeep. Anyway, keep up the good work. And how about a little mud once in a while? There are a few people wheelin' east of the Mississippi too.
Editor: Good point. We figured it was more a sleeper than some of our other rigs. Slapping on 40-inch tires while still having less than a 6-inch IFS lift means that it's less noticeable, and all the other work such as bobbed bumpers and a shortened bed means more people will think it's just a lifted truck. You can obviously see what was done, but the general public isn't nearly as astute, and the low-key approach without the flashy paint means it's more of a sleeper than not.
4x4 of the Year Pot Shots and Thoughts
Reader: I'm a little confused about your 4x4 of the Year article (Feb. '09). I'm glad to see a midsize truck (not to mention the lowest-priced vehicle in the test) came away as the winner. I owned an '05 Frontier 4x4 (six-speed, of course) and it was hands-down the best truck I've ever had. What has me confused is the new Ram. You have the transmission listed as a 545RFE manual. How sweet would that be? I did a build and price on Dodge's website and found no manual transmission available for the new Ram. Stick-shifts (and people like me who would rather drive them) seem to be going the way of the dodo bird. You also mentioned that the H3T was the only vehicle in the test with a stick. Did your editors get their sources crossed, or did you guys somehow manage to get your paws on the only new Ram with a stick?
Editor: We wish we could get a Dodge with a stick! Sorry, it was a mistake that we listed a manual, or we were needling Dodge to produce one.
Why didn't Dodge win?
Reader: Are you guys sure you didn't make a mistake in the 4x4 of the Year award? I know that this is probably one of about a zillion letters you will receive in regard to this, but here goes.
I noticed that the Dodge Ram won both Urban/Highway and High-Speed Dirt and Gravel portions, and the Equator only won the Sand portion of the Ride and Drive segment. I suppose you have some numbers relating to how that works? Of course, you don't really have to prove anything to me or the rest of the readers, but seriously...how does that work?
Since the ending numerical difference is so minute it probably isn't that big of a deal, but I for one will go with Dodge for my next truck. I live in Missouri and have relatives and friends who help build those trucks in the Wentzville Assembly Plant. Dodge is still American-built, and I know where my money is going when I buy one of their trucks. (We are still a little mad about the Van Plant closing, but that's a whole other issue.)
Suzuki trucks are made here in the U.S., but I know most of the money goes elsewhere, and in these troubled economic times I am doing all I can to help the economy by buying local and buying American.
I will be surprised if you actually print this letter, but I just wanted to voice my opinion. Thank you for the opportunity to do so.
Editor: Actually, yours is one of the best letters we received on the topic, so here goes. You are correct that the Suzuki didn't win many sections; however, it ranked near the top in every section. That makes for a better score overall. Say that in many tests judged on a scale of 1 to 10 your entry always gets 8s and 9s. That is a better overall score than the guy who gets 10 once or twice but much lower scores everywhere else.
We also factor in the relative value of a point. For instance, a fancy-schmancy stereo system and heated seats aren't worth as much as tow hooks and a locker.
Finally, a good price ranks three times as important as other factors. This is to make sure that the most opulent ride doesn't win on doodads and luxury alone-its high price counts against it.
Our final point standings show an incredibly small difference between the Dodge and Suzuki. In fact, just a few small differences could have made the Ram win. If the Ram's rocker panels hadn't been lowered under the framerail for aesthetic reasons, it might have won. We like form to follow function, and that didn't happen there.
Oh, and by the way, you're right. The Dodge Ram is built in America, in Saltillo, Mexico.
Where's the Chevys?
Reader: I was reading the 2009 4x4 of the Year test and wondering why there were no Chevys or Toyotas in the test. Chevy is the only thing my family drives, and we are feeling a little left out. Thank you for your time.
Editor: We can only test what the manufacturers are willing to let us test. We asked GM, but it declined to participate. GM did, however, supply us with a Hummer H3T. It's not a Chevy, but it is made by GM. Close enough?
Reader: Mr. Pw, you have once again proven to be the jerk I've always thought of you. Only you could sign off on publishing the Suzuki Equator as 4x4 of the Year. Your criteria are seriously convoluted, and your opinion is bought and paid for. Let's see how they sell, or will they go the route of Isuzu?
Editor: Sorry you feel that way, Bob. However, the majority of readers could figure out that the Suzuki won on its own accord.
Reader: I agree with the win, but can Nissan and Toyota get back to making small trucks again like the '70s and '80s? My '04 Chevy Silverado 4.3L V-6 five-speed 4x4 gets 15 mpg city and 20 highway. But 14 mpg city and 19 highway for the Suzuki? That's crazy!
Coos Bay, OR
Editor: We'll never get the '70s and '80s trucks back. They were smaller, leaner, cheaper, but, according to our government, dangerous. Half the crap tacked onto a truck nowadays is to make it safer for occupants and pedestrians. Those laws came about by people whining to their legislators. Whiners, blame yourselves.
More No on Suzuki
Reader: I just wanted to let you know how disappointed I am in the Nissan Equator being the 4x4 of the Year. First off, Suzuki should have enough balls to build its own truck to be able to compete in the challenge. After reading the Dodge truck article, I flipped the pages to see who won. I couldn't believe my eyes. So I had to flip to the Equator to see why this thing drives so well. Maybe it rides like a magic carpet! All I could find is that the judges say it makes them feel young. It was peppy, zippy, and rarely fell behind when wheeling with other trucks. They also said it needed lower gears and more power, and the judges couldn't agree on how it handles in the sand. Maybe Suzuki added nitrous to the A/C vents and you guys where driving with the windows closed, because I can't see how that truck was fun to drive. The Dodge was clearly the winner-it has more power to weight and better on- and off-road handling. Maybe Dodge lost 6 points in the interior category because they didn't install the nitrous package.
Editor: It was darn close, as we explained, but the Equator could go where the rocker panels on the Dodge got hung up. We like to get where we are going, period.
Reader: I was just wondering why you do not include any mud testing in the 4x4 of the Year.
Editor: There are a few reasons. First off, mud that is always the same, constantly rejuvenating (so each truck has equal slop) isn't easy to find where we test. Second, the tires on all-new 4x4s are so street-oriented (even the Hummer's tires are only ATs) that we could get all the rigs stuck in the mud and not learn anything. Third, mud tests on such a vehicle lineup wouldn't reveal much other than the fact that clearance is king, power to weight rules, and tire spin is a must. You already know that, as do we. Good question, and thanks for writing.
Question of the Month
Subscribe or newsstand?
Editor: Sadly, we ran our question of "Do you like to buy our mag on the newsstand or subscribe and why?" for two issues, and only got one reply. Wayne answered the question (see his response below), so we're sending him a license plate and sticker. This month's Question of the Month will surely entice a spirited discussion. We hope to see many more responses this time so send us your answer by email to email@example.com or by snail mail to Editor, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515, fax 323.782.2704.
Reader: I subscribe-for many years. Rack availability is unreliable and I don't want to wait to see the (maybe) 20 percent of each issue that is relevant to me (Drivelines, road/tire tests primarily). I don't hard-core off-road, and I'm no use turning wrenches. I think Hummers are for people with more money than brains (and that goes for other iron like Range Rovers and Lexi as well). I often disagree with your choices and opinions, but I respect them. For example, I would likely have picked the Ram or F-150 since the Suzi is mostly a rebadged Frontier, not something new. But I'm not going to beat you up over it. Mainly, we drive 4x4s (my '07 Yukon) or AWDs (the wife's '05 Pilot) because we want to go when (no matter the weather) and where (even muddy two-track roads) we want to go, and I don't want to get stuck!
Wayne Middleton, Bartlesville, OK
Q. Is an automatic or manual transmission better for 4-wheeling and why?