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May 2009 4x4 Truck & Automotive News - Drive Lines

Posted in Features on May 1, 2009
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Photographers: Chris Doane/Brenda Priddy& Co.

2010 Jeep Cherokee Spied
With all the bad news coming out of Detroit at the start of the new year, it was good to see that Chrysler was still moving ahead with some new Jeep product. According to Brenda Priddy, the SUV her shooter captured in full camo is the '10 Cherokee. Code-named WL, the new Cherokee rides on an all-new platform that will also appear under the next-generation Dodge Durango and Mercedes ML. This platform was intended as the basis for the new Commander, but when that vehicle was killed, it became the new Cherokee.

The platform is flexible enough, says Priddy's inside sources, to accommodate five- and seven-passenger models. Engine choices will range from 3.3L and 3.6L versions of Chrysler's new Phoenix V-6 to the 5.7L Hemi. Expect the Chrysler/GM/BMW two-mode hybrid system to make an appearance as well. Insiders hint that the new Cherokee will have an aluminum front axle and a tow rating of up to 8,000 pounds and most likely independent suspension front and rear. Those who have seen the Jeep without its invisibility cloak say it looks like the Trailhawk concept (below, from the '07 North American International Auto Show) "but with sharper lines." Production should begin at the start of 2010.

Vote For The Turtle!
Remember our bright green Toyota FJ Cruiser from the '06 Ultimate Adventure? Well, Toyota wants the truck back. Turns out this FJ is a preproduction model, and all of those need to be scrapped eventually. We all shed a tear at this news until one of the smarter heads in our office suggested we go wheel the living tar out of it before sending it to meet its maker. Brilliant! But what would be a most fitting end to the FJ we named Turtle (for its Ninja Turtle appearance)? Again that smart guy said, "How about we enter our sister mag Four Wheeler's Top Truck Challenge?" So we did.

Here's where we need your help. We need you faithful readers to pick up the April Four Wheeler and vote for the Turtle so we can get elected into the event! We promise that we will bash, crash, and smash up the trails in our mean green machine if you vote us in. It won't be pretty, but this truck deserves one last party, and we're planning to throw it a helluva good time. -Fred Williams

Dakar 2009 Explores New Continent
After last year's Dakar rally was cancelled due to terrorism concerns, race organizers vowed to continue the historic event but in a new venue-South America. This year the rally begins and ends in Buenos Aires, traveling some 6,000 kilometers (more than 3,700 miles) through 14 stages in Argentina and Chile. Our press deadline fell smack dab in the middle of the Dakar's running, but we hear that the course is among the most difficult in the rally's 30-year history. According to Toyo Tires' Ramses Perez, who's traveling with Robby Gordon's Hummer team, two-thirds of the rally's competitors had dropped out of the race by the midway point.

When we checked on the race's progress, Volkswagen's Touaregs were sweeping the top three car positions overall. Not far behind, Gordon's Hummer was fifth overall. A second H3, piloted by veteran French driver Eric Vigouroux (at left, with Gordon), was hanging in at 26th overall.

In other Dakar news, Polaris became the first manufacturer to participate in the rally, with an official factory ATV team. Four Polaris France riders are aboard '09 Polaris Outlaw 525 IRS models and are eighth and ninth overall at the midway point.

F-150 Is '09 Truck Of The Year
Ford's new F-150 is pulling in some new iron for the trophy case. It was named Truck of the Year by our sister magazine Motor Trend and also named North American Truck of the Year, an award that was announced at the North American International Auto Show. This award is decided by a panel of 50 American and Canadian automotive journalists, who choose the most worthy truck based on such factors as innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction, and value. The F-150 beat two other finalists, the Ram 1500 and Mercedes ML SUV.

Best 4-wheel In A 3-Wheeler
Reader Ken Hatch of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, sent us this photo of a rickshaw from his Missions Trip to Sri Lanka. How the heck did you ever fit in that thing, Ken?

New Icon Models, Details
When we received the latest Icon newsletter and saw new models of the hand-built, FJ-like 4x4s, we realized it had been a while since we checked in with the company. Icons, for those unfamiliar, are sort of a modern recreation of the classic Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser. We say "sort of" because the trucks are built using aluminum bodies, late-model Chevrolet small-blocks, and hard-core off-road equipment-like Atlas II transfer cases-not available when the original FJs were built.

The first Icon FJ40 model has been joined by several others, including an extended-wheelbase FJ43 (which will seat up to six) and the limited-edition FJ45 pickup truck. Since there are just 24 Icons assembled a year, "limited edition" is really limited-just three FJ45s will be built annually. Also available in limited numbers is the SCORE Baja 1000 Icon, with its brushed-aluminum body panels, 450hp LS6 V-8, 1-ton Dynatrac axles, four-link coil suspension, and remote-reservoir shocks. To find out more, visit

PhotosView Slideshow

Club Spotligh
Bangin' Bones
The Bangin' Bones 4x4 Club of Elko, Nevada, will celebrate its 10-year anniversary over Memorial Day Weekend, which has been dubbed the annual Wild Weekend. Bangin' Bones is a club of families and individuals who enjoy the outdoors of northern Nevada. They strive to keep the public aware of the enjoyment to be had in the outdoors, while emphasizing the Tread Lightly! code. Nearby trails offer a bit of everything from dusty back roads to some very hard-core wheeling and a lot in between. Community oriented, they have an annual Christmas Drive in which they donate to various charities, including the seeing-eye-dog program, local senior citizen centers, the domestic violence center, and the terminally ill children's ward of the local hospital. For more info, visit -Ken Weight

This Just In
* Warn Industries has announced that its axle business, including heavy-duty front axles, hub conversion kits, and replacement parts, has been sold to Randy's Ring & Pinion. The product line will be renamed, but the designs will remain "basically the same," says Warn. Contact Randy's for more info: 800.292.1031.

* Both the '09 F-150 and Dodge Ram 1500 earned five-star crashworthiness ratings in the government's latest front-impact crash tests. The Ford also won a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

* It was a tough year for new vehicle sales, but Ford can boast that its F-Series pickup was the best-selling vehicle, car or truck, in the U.S. in 2008. This marks the 32nd consecutive year the F-Series is the best-selling truck, and the 27th consecutive year as best selling vehicle. However, the 515,513 F-Series units sold in '08 represented a 25 percent decline over the previous year's volume, says Motor Trend.

* Mitsubishi announced it will stop offering the Raider-basically a rebadged Dakota-after the 2010 model year. The Raider was never a big seller for Mitsubishi, and in 2008 sales dropped a whopping 64 percent, according to Automotive News. Mitsu has no plans to replace the Raider with another pickup.

* Nissan's Titan fullsize pickup could be another casualty of the country's economic woes. Remember that Nissan and Chrysler entered into an agreement by which Chrysler will build the next generation Titans, based on the Ram, starting in 2010. Should Chrysler go under, however, Nissan has no plans to resurrect the truck.

Earth Watch
* Tread Lightly! is working with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) to educate outdoorsmen on the ethical use of off-highway vehicles. "A major goal for Tread Lightly! is to further incorporate our important message of responsible OHV use into the hunting, fishing, and shooting sports communities," said Tread Lightly!'s executive director Lori McCullough. "With its extensive membership and in-depth educational programs, NWTF is a perfect partner for Tread Lightly!" The NWTF will help distribute information through its 2,350 chapters in North America to educate members on ethical OHV use.

* Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A., via the company's new OHV Access Initiative, donated more than $700,000 in cash and equipment in 2008 for projects supporting safe, responsible riding and sustainable, open riding areas. Yamaha provided GRANTs (Guaranteeing Responsible Access to our Nation's Trails) to more than 65 local, regional, and national organizations. "By directly funding public and private land management and enthusiast-initiated projects, the Yamaha OHV Access Initiative is leading the grassroots effort in creating and sustaining safe and responsible riding opportunities," said Mike Martinez, Yamaha's general manager of ATV and Side-by-Side Operations. "These GRANTs have become an important asset to the OHV community, and we are pleased to continue this support into 2009."

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