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May 2011 Drivelines: Off-Road News

Jeep Wrangler Anniversary Edition
Drew Hardin
| Contributor
Posted May 1, 2011

Jeep's 70th Anniversary

Auto Show News
It may have been chilly in Motown for the North American International Auto Show in January, but the mood inside Cobo Hall was upbeat as automakers hoped to ride the current economic upswing with some enticing new products. Most of the news was on the electric/hybrid/small-car front, but here are the highlights from the truck side of the world.

Celebrating 70 Years of Jeep
Many events are planned this year to commemorate Jeep's 70th birthday. Jeep itself is jumping on the bandwagon with 70th Anniversary Edition models of each vehicle in its lineup. Seen here are the Anniversary Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, both fitted with special wheels, badging, and trim. All Jeep 70th Anniversary Edition models arrive in showrooms in the first quarter of 2011, and all will be available in a unique Bronze Star exterior paint.

Compass: The Mini Grand
The resemblance between Jeep's new Compass and the Grand Cherokee is no accident. According to Jeep President and CEO Mike Manley, Jeep wanted "the premium design cues of our award-winning new Grand Cherokee" on a compact SUV platform that delivers 28 mpg and some new off-road capability. The Compass earned a Trail Rated badge when equipped with the Freedom Drive II off-road package, which includes a continuously variable transaxle that stays in low gear when the off-road mode is activated, 17-inch all-terrain tires and aluminum wheels, a 1-inch-raised ride height, a fullsize spare tire, skidplates, and tow hooks. Jeep says this package is "recommended for moderate off-road situations that include steep grades, occasional wheel lift, and rock or log climbing."

The Compass is powered by a 2.0L I-4 rated at 158 hp and 141 lb-ft of torque, or a 2.4L four-banger that produces 172 hp and 165 lb-ft. Both can be ordered with a five-speed manual transaxle or continuously variable transmission. The three Compass trim levels-base Compass, Latitude, and Limited-are available with the Freedom Drive II off-road package, and the vehicles are available at Jeep dealers now.

Future GMC?
Industry analysts looked at GMC's All Terrain HD concept truck and wondered if it foreshadowed new models in the truck's lineup. Lisa Hutchinson, GMC product marketing director, seemed to confirm that in a press release when she said, "Although it is strictly a concept, it is a pretty realistic one."

You could consider this GMC's heavy-duty version of Ford's Raptor or Dodge's Power Wagon. It's based on a Sierra HD powered by a Duramax diesel, but it has been configured with a shorter overall length, a wider track, more ground clearance, custom front A-arms, remote-reservoir Fox shocks, an electronic front stabilizer bar disconnect, and 35-inch BFGoodrich KM2 Mud Terrain tires mounted on 20-inch aluminum wheels.

Trade journal Automotive News reports that the Sierra is due for a redesign in 2014 or 2015; could this be that truck?

Future Ford?
Ford was even more forthcoming than GMC about the thinking behind its Vertrek concept, indicating that it "shows the direction the company will take" in developing a future compact SUV. Ford's intent is to design a product that will appeal to buyers not just in North America but also in Europe and China, and the Vertrek is a response to the demands of compact SUV owners around the globe: "Strong design, great driving quality, smart technology, and the capability that helps get them to places they love to be," said Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president of global marketing, sales, and service.

The Vertrek is powered by a 1.6L EcoBoost gas engine fitted with Ford's new Auto Start-Stop system, which boosts fuel economy and reduces emissions. A six-speed transmission also helps reduce fuel use. Ford indicated that Vertrek could also be fitted with a compact diesel powertrain, most likely for markets outside the U.S. Darn.

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