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September 2009 4x4 Truck & Auto News - Drivelines

Posted in Features on September 1, 2009
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Photographers: Nick RepanichDrey Deremo

2010 Land Rover, Range Rover debut
Bankruptcy filings and division closings may get all the headlines, but it's important to remember that the entire automotive industry is not going down the tubes. Case in point: Land Rover. Now owned by India's Tata Motors, the venerable British brand has revised its Land Rover LR4, Range Rover, and Range Rover Sport for 2010 with new running gear and freshened styling.

New under the hoods of all three Rovers is a 5.0L, 32-valve, quad-cam V-8 that produces 375 hp and 375 lb-ft of peak torque, a 25 percent improvement in horsepower and a 19 percent gain in torque over the 4.4L V-8 it replaces. The top-tier Range Rover and Range Rover Sport can also be ordered with a supercharged version of the 5.0 that puts out 510 hp and 461 lb-ft. Mated to these new engines is a new ZF six-speed automatic transmission that's been tuned to reduce torque-converter slip to improve the powertrain's efficiency.

Rover's Terrain Response traction system has been revised as well to improve its performance in conditions like soft sand and rocks. Improved reaction times in the brake and traction control systems keep wheel slip to a minimum and will, in Rover's words, "help to reduce the wheels rolling in an unintended direction when traversing boulders." Always a good thing.

Raptor's Success Continues
Ford continued its racing R&D program for the SVT F-150 Raptor R by entering it in the Terrible's 250 desert race in Nevada. The truck finished Second in Class 8000 and is Second in the class's overall standings for the year. The Raptor team pictured here includes (from left): Rob MacCachren, Greg Biffle, Steve Olliges, and Linsey Weenk.

Robo Side-By-Side
You've seen the unman-ned drones used in lieu of piloted aircraft in war zones, right? Consider this camo Kubota side-by-side a drone for the road. Developed by students and engineers at the California Mechatronics Center at California State University, Chico, the Multipurpose Road Clearing Robot (MRCR) is driven by remote control and can be used to scout unfriendly terrain ahead of a military convoy. The steering wheel, laptop, and other controls are in the photo on the stand to the right.

Nick Repanich, the project's director, explains: "Basically, the operator gets in the passenger seat of an armored Hummer-the first driven vehicle in a convoy.He puts the console with the screen on his lap and the pedals on the floorboard. Then he `drives' the side-by-side up the road as far as he wants in recon mode. When deemed safe, the convoy proceeds. The MRCR stays ahead, even out of sight of the first convoy vehicle, just checking things out."

The next phase in the MRCR's development (pending more funding) will be remote control of the Kubota's low/high range and rear locker. "The first time I drove it I tried to do a poser shot on a mound of dirt, open-open, and stuck it," Repanich admitted.

Want one? Nick and his crew can build you one "for about $45,000. You do the lift."

BFGoodrich has added six sizes in load range E to its line of All-Terrain T/AKO tires. You can now have the heavy-capacity rubber in the following fitments: 225/75R16, 285/75R17, 305/70R16, 325/65R18, 265/75R16, and 325/60R20.

"The additional LRE sizes of the All-Terrain T/AKO will ensure that drivers can go where they want to go and do what they want to do, both on- and off-road, without sacrificing payload and air pressure requirements they expect," said BFG's Joe Mazur.

The Muddin' Report
Let's say you're in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or maybe Idaho Falls, Idaho, and you're itching to play in the mud. But you're not sure if your favorite mud hole is a bogger's delight or a dried-up dustbowl. No problem. Log on to The Muddin' Report ( and check out the handy Mud-O-Meter and its five intensity levels from Dust to Whoa, which translates to "enter at your own risk."

Virgil Nethercott, a teenage entrepreneur from Jackson Hole, started The Muddin' Report (TMR) as a hobby when he was 17. Since then he has expanded his areas of coverage to include western Wyoming and eastern Idaho. TMR is open 24/7 from May 1 to November 31 and closed during snow season.

"We're not all about people with big trucks," Nethercott said. "I've had many tourists who come to visit Jackson ask me for my recommendation on roads to travel using 4x4s they have rented through local vendors. Or better yet, they have a rental car that they don't want to take into rough country but want to get off the beaten path."

Deremo Wins XRRA Moab
Rick Deremo of Team Xtreme Motorsports won the Xtreme Off-Road Racing (XRRA) season opener in Moab, beating 32 other teams for the title. Rick notched another first as well, as his buggy was the first rig with an independent front suspension to win an XRRA event.

PhotosView Slideshow

Cash Back For A Cat-Back
We don't usually promote this kind of stuff in Drive-lines, but these days a buck is a buck, right? DynoMax is offering $75 rebates as part of a Power Up promotion that's going on through August. Not every exhaust system qualifies for the rebate, so visit to get a list of the qualifying systems and where to find your nearest dealer.

MacCachren's New Short-Course Team
Off-road racer Rob MacCachren has built his own racing team to compete in the new Traxxas TORC short-course series. (If all these new short-course events are confusing you, the Traxxas TORC series is the one with motorcycle racing legend Ricky Johnson behind it.) MacCachren will drive his Pro 2WD Rockstar Energy Racing F-150, sponsored by the energy drink, BFGoodrich, Fox Shox, and others, in the 16-race inaugural season. He'll also continue to race his F-150 Trophy Truck in the SCORE Desert Series.

MacCachren is no newcomer to short-course racing. He won the BorgWarner Cup Championships at Crandon in 1999, 2000, and 2001, and the CORR Pro-4 Class Point Championships in 2000 and 2001. "The world of short-course racing is in the midst of a defining period," he said. "The timing is just right for me to make the move to re-establish what I started over 10 years ago."

A-BAT Shelved
The A-BAT, Toyota's hybrid pickup concept, will not go into production, according to a Toyota executive quoted in Automotive News. The truck had apparently never gotten an official go-ahead, but suppliers had been contacted for bids on conventional four-cylinder and hybrid powertrains. Our guess is that if gasoline was still north of $4 a gallon, this truck would have remained a priority. But now that gas is inexpensive again and Toyota is losing billions of dollars around the world, the automaker has other fish to fry.

This Just In
* No light-duty diesel? A report in Automotive News says Ford's 4.4L diesel V-8, which was scheduled to go into the F-150 for the '10 model year, has been put on hold. The reasons? Gas is cheaper than diesel, and GM and Dodge have delayed their light-duty diesel programs, so Ford has no reason to move ahead. Too bad.

* On the other hand, a Nissan executive, also quoted in AN, said his company's agreement to have Chrysler build the next-generation Titan is still viable. Plans call for the new Titan to be built on the Dodge Ram platform for the '11 model year. Final styling has been signed off, and the project is "progressing," says the source.

* Summit Racing Equipment has entered the powersports market with performance add-ons for ATVs, dirt bikes, and UTVs. The line includes air filters, motor oils, safety equipment, exhaust components, tires, electrical components, winches, and more.

* Despite the soft economy, Skyjacker has broken ground to expand its Louisiana facilities with new warehouse and manufacturing space. Growing demand for Skyjacker's suspension products necessitated the expansion, said Lonnie McCurry, Jr., the company's COO.

* The next time you're at Costco buying that 55-gallon drum of peanut butter, check out its leads on car deals. The discount retailer has referred new car and truck buyers to participating dealers for a number of years, but now it's adding factory-certified used vehicles to the program.

Earth Watch
* SEMA reports that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a finding that high carbon dioxide emissions endanger the health and welfare of current and future generations of Americans. While the EPA has the option of drafting carbon dioxide regulations under the Clean Air Act, the Obama administration would prefer that lawmakers pass a new law to define the best approach for regulating carbon dioxide emissions. House and Senate Committees were expected to begin drafting legislation this spring with the goal of enacting a new law this year. Topics under discussion are limiting regulatory oversight to the largest greenhouse gas contributors--powerplants and oil refineries, large factories, and automobiles--and potentially establishing a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide emissions or a carbon tax. Motor vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide are already effectively regulated by Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. For practical purposes, reducing fuel consumption is the equivalent of reducing carbon dioxide emissions since carbon dioxide is released in direct proportion to the amount of carbon-based fuel (gas) that is burned. The questions will be: Are the CAFE standards high enough to address carbon dioxide emissions, and can the auto industry afford anything more stringent?

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