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January 2011 Drivelines - Off Road News

Posted in Features on January 1, 2011
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New Interior, Top for Wrangler
We had to double-check to make sure we weren't mixing up the photos, but that fancy-looking interior is coming in the '11 Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited. The instrument panel has been redesigned. There are new storage areas and a lockable console. Buttons on the steering wheel operate the radio, cruise control, hands-free phone, and other functions.

Jeep's press release even included this line, which we were sure was straight out of the Grand Cherokee promotional material: "A new USB device interface connects to storage devices (thumb drives and most MP3 players) for use with the vehicle's Media Center, which now includes streaming Bluetooth audio." And who said the YJ was the "yuppie Jeep"? There are still some traditional Wrangler styling cues inside, including hex-head bolts and the passenger grab handle. It's tough to see in the photo, but the handle is engraved, "Jeep Since 1941." Wrangler Sahara models get the new body-color hardtop. New colors available for the '11 Wrangler include Detonator Yellow, Deep Cherry Red, Sahara Tan, Cosmos Blue, and Bright White.

Ram Outdoorsman
Dodge-um, sorry-Ram has changed its fullsize pickup trim level lineup by discontinuing the TRX4 model and replacing it with the Ram Outdoorsman. Developed for hunters, fishermen, campers, and boaters, the Outdoorsman combines trailer-towing upgrades, interior and exterior conveniences, lighting enhancements, all-terrain tires, and underbody protection into a package that's available throughout the Ram line, from the 1500 to the single-rear-wheel 3500 HD.

In addition, Chrysler's Mopar accessory division now offers the RamBox Holster for those half-ton pickups ordered with the RamBox bed storage option. The Holster can hold two rifles or shotguns, or up to six fishing rods (with reels). The $205 option will be available in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Power Standard, More Doors for Raptor
The 6.2L, 411hp engine that was available as an option for the SVT F-150 Raptor pickup is now standard equipment aboard the desert racer. Ford has also made the SuperCrew body available in addition to the standard SuperCab. The wheelbase under the SuperCrew is 12 inches longer, which gives the truck "a more comfortable ride," says Ford. The new body style makes room for a larger, 36-gallon fuel tank and also increases the Raptor's towing capacity to 8,000 pounds.

Harley-Davidson F-150
Ford's beefy 6.2L V-8 isn't just available in the Raptor; it also powers the latest Harley-Davidson edition of the F-150. A 4x4 model isn't offered this time around, but you can get an AWD version that features a ton of H-D badging, plus a billet grille, 22-inch rims, special paint and graphics, and plush interior amenities. Like the Raptor, the H-D F-150 features a specially tuned exhaust "for that throaty V-8 rumble customers will love," says Ford.

Toyota Adds T|X Package to Tacoma
While the Detroit Three seem to be phasing out their compact pickup trucks, Toyota has invested in the '11 Tacoma with two new equipment packages. The T|X equipment, available on V-6 Access Cab or Double Cab Tacomas, enhances the TRD Off-Road Package with 16-inch black alloy bead-lock wheels, 265/70R16 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires, black tube sidesteps, a stainless steel exhaust tip, and unique exterior graphics. A step up is the T|X Pro trim level, which adds a cat-back exhaust system to that list. Toyota has also acknowledged those buyers looking for improved fuel economy by adding five four-cylinder models to the Tacoma line. Four-bangers are now available in regular cab and Access Cab 4x4 models, both with automatic transmissions.

Maybe Mahindra?
The final governmental hurdle facing the Mahindra compact pickup was cleared late this summer when the EPA certified its diesel engines for sale in the U.S. However, at about the same time, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited, the trucks' Indian maker, said it was terminating a four-year agreement with its U.S. importer, Global Vehicles U.S.A. Global Vehicles, according to Automotive News, said Mahindra's attempts at severing its ties were invalid under U.S. and Georgia law (Global is headquartered in Georgia) and that it was "in the process of taking orders and updating all floor plan agreements in anticipation for Mahindra to provide Global Vehicles with the initial production date." Looks like this could get messy. We'll keep you posted.

Durango is Back
Dodge has brought back the Durango name for 2011, but it is no longer a Dakota-based, body-on-frame SUV. Durango now shares a platform with the Grand Cherokee and is more like a crossover with room for seven in three rows of seats. Like the Grand, the Durango will be powered by either the Pentastar 3.6L V-6 or 5.7L Hemi, but unlike the Jeep, driveline choices will be limited to rear- or all-wheel drive.

This Just In
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is calling the new Grand Cherokee "the best vehicle we've made in the history of Chrysler," according to Automotive News. There are probably some Hemi 'Cuda lovers who will take issue with that statement, but it's encouraging to hear the boss speak so highly of the new Jeep. AN says dealer orders for 70,000 Grands have come in, necessitating a second shift at the Jefferson assembly plant in Detroit. Among those orders, 40 percent are for the high-end Overland and Limited models, much higher than the mix for the previous generation.

Look for a redesigned Range Rover in 2013, says Automotive News, one that will use a platform designed by the marque's current owner, Tata, rather than the current BMW platform. An LR4 redo will follow in 2015 or 2016.

Last month we told you about eBay's new Peoples Picks online survey. We've heard from the auction site that since its launch, some 200,000 votes have been cast. Among the preliminary results: F-150 is leading the "toughest truck" voting by a comfortable margin over Silverado; Power Stroke is best diesel engine, followed by Cummins; Jeep leads Land Rover by a big margin in best 4x4 brand voting; the Rubicon Trail is winning as most challenging off-road course; and extra water is beating sat phone in "what you'd like to have during your next desert run."

Earth Watch
The SEMA Action Network (SAN) recently sent out a bulletin about pending wilderness legislation in Congress and the impact these bills could have on off-roading. Once an area is designated as wilderness, it is closed to vehicular travel. SAN points out that wilderness does serve an important environmental purpose in protecting plants and animals and America's natural heritage. The question is the amount of land that needs such a restrictive designation and whether it is possible to permit some motorized activities on portions of the land. Right now there are dozens of wilderness bills under consideration in Congress, all of which could potentially be combined into one sweeping bill that could close millions of acres of land to motorized travel. Among them is the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (H.R. 980), which invents the term "Northern Rockies Bioregion" and then uses it as the reason to outlaw any motorized activity on nearly 24 million acres of land in five states (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming) by using the wilderness designation. There's also the America's Red Rock Wilderness Act of 2009 (H.R. 1925), which would make more than one-sixth of Utah off-limits to any form of motorized recreation. Most of the 168 cosponsors of the legislation represent areas east of the Rockies. There are lots more, but we don't have room for them all here. The best way to find out about these bills, and how to fight them, is to join the SAN. Drop by to find out more.

Four Engines for F-150
Ford is truly running the gamut with its engine options for the latest F-150. We've told you about the 6.2L V-8: Producing 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque, it's found in the Raptor and Harley-Davidson editions (as well as the Super Duty, though it's tuned for the half-tons with a different cam profile). At the other end of the scale is the new 3.5L EcoBoost V-6, which will offer V-8-like power while improving fuel economy up to 20 percent over the previous 5.4L V-8.

3.5L Eco-Boost V-6

Ford hasn't released power figures for this engine yet, and the EcoBoost won't be available until later in the model year. The two engines that will power the F-150 at model launch are a 3.7L V-6 with 300 hp (estimated) and 275 lb-ft of torque, and a 5.0L, dual-overhead-cam V-8 that produces 360 hp and 380 lb-ft. Both will offer "class leading" fuel economy, says Ford (though no numbers have been released), and both are E85 flex-fuel capable. All of these engines will be backed by standard six-speed automatic transmissions.

5.0L DOHC V-8

Fast-Aid Raises Money for Race Victims
In August a competitor lost control of his truck during the California 200 desert race in Lucerne Valley and rolled his truck into a crowd of spectators, killing eight and injuring many. Since then, the desert race community has stepped up to help the survivors and the families of those killed with donations and fundraising events. Fast-Aid, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping injured racers, support teams, and their families, has so far raised more than $130,000 from 1,000 donors in multiple states, with celebrities and racers making appearances and speaking out in support of Fast-Aid and its efforts to help the community members.

Jared Tetzlaff, president of Fast-Aid, said the group's website ( is trying to keep up with the overwhelming response to hold fundraisers. The events page has the list of the events that have been approved." If you or someone you know wants to hold a fundraiser for this good cause, paperwork is downloadable from the site. You can also make donations on the site and earmark them specifically for California 200 relief.

Rick Johnson Wins Vegas to Reno
Rick Johnson's General Tire-sponsored F-150 Trophy Truck dominated the 2010 Best in the Desert Vegas to Reno Race, earning him not only First Place in the Trick Truck class but also First Place overall. Johnson, rolling on 37x12.50R17 General competition tires, jumped out to an early lead in the dusty race and stayed there. This marks the second time he's won Vegas to Reno; the first was in 2008.

Grand Cherokee Fire Danger? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened an investigation of '93-'04 Grand Cherokees to determine if the location of their fuel tanks is responsible for post-crash fires and more than a dozen deaths. During those model years, the tank was positioned behind the rear axle and extended below the rear bumper. (The tanks in '05 and later Grands were moved ahead of the rear axle.) The Center for Auto Safety contends that location made the tanks vulnerable to damage and led to the fires.

Preliminary investigation by the NHTSA found that the Jeep was not "over-represented" in post-crash fire data, and the agency noted that this was an investigation, not a recall. Chrysler is cooperating with the investigation and pointed out that Grand Cherokees from that era met or exceeded "all applicable federal safety standards" and have "an excellent safety record."

Rallye Aïcha Des Gazelles Returns
The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles, the only women's-only off-road rally in the world, returns to Morocco this spring for its 21st running. In the August Drivelines we told you about Americans Emily Miller and her teammate/navigator Wendy Fisher, who finished 12th out of 110 teams in the 2010 event. Miller will be back in 2011, and she's got a podium finish in her sights.

The rally's ceremonial start is March 19-21 in France; after that the racers transit to Morocco for the nine-day race. Unlike in other rallys, competitors in the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles aren't allowed GPS or other technical assistance and have to find their way through the course using old-fashioned maps and compasses.

If you're a hardcore female off-roader and this sounds like your idea of a good time, note that registration for the event closes in February. Visit for more info.

Department of Corrections
Our First Drive article about GM's new heavy-duty pickups (Nov. '10) contained an error about the Ram HD's towing capacity. The Ram HD can be equipped to tow 17,000 pounds, matching the tow rating for the new GM trucks. The 12,000-pound number we cited in error was provided by GM with the note that "Dodge does not publish Ram conventional trailer ratings" and that GM arrived at that number using the Ram Body Builder's Guide. Chrysler's Ram division does, in fact, publish trailer ratings, at least for the media, and we learned about the correct Ram tow rating after the article was published.

•Dec. 3-5: Henderson Banks Power 250 desert race, Henderson, NV, by Best in the Desert (includes JeepSpeed Challenge finals). Information:

•Dec. 4: 4WD Sand Driving Clinic, Oceano Dunes near Pismo, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Information: 310.374.8047,

•Dec. 4: Holiday 200 off-road race, Barstow, CA, by MORE Racing. Information:

•Dec. 10: Winching & Recovery Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA near Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Information: 310.374.8047,

•Dec. 11: Off-road snow driving clinic, Big Bear Lake area, by Off-Road Teach & Tour. Information:

•Dec. 11: Wheelin' 4 Toys trail ride and toy drive, Kansas Rocks Recreation Park near Fort Scott, by the Brush Beaters Jeep Club. Information: 660/200-2052,

•Dec. 11-12: Beginning Off-Road 4x4 Skills Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA near Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Information: 310.374.8047,

•Dec. 13-14: Getting Started Off-Road 4x4 Skills Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA near Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Information: 310.374.8047,

•Dec. 31: The Dash 200, Plaster City West, CA, by Mojave Desert Racing. Information:

•Dec. 31-Jan. 2: Fire & Ice New Year's Run and Bonfire, Superlift ORV Park, Hot Springs, AR. Information: 501/625-3600,

•Note: If you have a 4WD event you want us to publicize, please send the date, location, description of the event, and contact info (phone numbers and/or email/website address) to Calendar, 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245; fax 310.531.9368; email 4wheeloff Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.

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