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February 2012 Drivelines Off-Road News

Posted in Features on February 1, 2012
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Double Take
What’s that old saying about imitation? Raptor, meet Toyota’s Tacoma T|X Baja Series limited edition pickup. Read on for more on both.

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Front Torsen, Camera for Raptor
We know the Raptor can go fast. For the ’12 model year, Ford’s SVT team put a Torsen unit in the front differential to improve slow-speed (as in rockcrawling) ability. Ford says the system is set up with a torque bias ratio of 2.5:1 to help multiply torque from wheel to wheel, while the preload is set to zero to help minimize steering feedback.

Also new for Raptor this year is a front-view camera that’s mounted in the grille and displays its view on the nav screen in the truck’s center stack. It’ll work at speeds up to 15 mph and even has its own washer.

The ’12 Raptor has a new look too, thanks to a new wheel design and fresh body-side graphic treatments. Inside is a new matte anodized blue color accent package, and cooled seats now come with the optional luxury package.

Baja Edition Tacoma
Toyota has added new equipment to the Tacoma T|X pickups to create the limited-edition T|X Baja Series. Named as an homage to Toyota’s desert racing heritage, the Baja Tacoma sits 2 inches higher than the T|X models and has Bilstein race shocks front and rear (the rears are remote-reservoir units), a TRD cat-back exhaust, and LT265/70R16 BFGoodrich T/A KO tires mounted on beadlock-style wheels. Special body-side graphics further differentiate the Baja Series Tacomas from the rest of the line. Look for these trucks at Toyota dealerships this spring.

Small Duramax for Overseas Colorado
Chevrolet has finally confirmed that the Colorado compact pickup truck, which will soon go on sale in Thailand and elsewhere overseas, will be sold in a U.S. version too. The current American version of the Colorado will be available through 2012, and there’s no word as to when the new one will go on sale here. We also haven’t been told what Chevy will put under the hood of our new Colorado, but the one going on sale overseas is available with two new, small-displacement Duramax diesels. The bigger of the two produces 346 lb-ft of peak torque and 180 hp from 2.8 turbocharged liters. A 2.5L naturally aspirated Duramax will make 150 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The two share a number of components, including their blocks and DOHC cylinder heads, to cut down on production costs.

Want one? Let the General know.

This Just In
• Don’t hold your breath for a diesel-powered Wrangler in the U.S. After a chat with some Jeep folks recently, we learned that, yes, there is pent-up demand for such a combo, but because Jeep is already selling every Wrangler it can make these days, and because of the high premium a diesel powertrain would command, it just doesn’t pencil out. Still, European diesel regulations are going to catch up to the U.S. ones in a couple years, so in order to meet Europe’s standards the Wrangler will also qualify for sale stateside. Cross your fingers.

• You’ll also have to wait a while for a Wrangler pickup, according to Automotive News. At the Frankfurt Auto Show, Jeep CEO Mike Manley said, “It is too late in Wrangler’s product cycle to add a pickup. The 2015 or 2016 timeframe makes more sense. That’s when we will refresh the Wrangler.” Unless, that is, you want to buy the JK-8

Independence kit from Mopar and make the conversion yourself. Dealer demand for the kit is “very strong,” Manley said, and about 300 have been sold.

• Shopping for a new F-150? Check out the new Head-to-Head Pickup Comparison Tool at experiencef150. Type in your trucking needs (payload, towing, work, play), and the web app will suggest the best Ford powertrain for the job.

• The W.E. Rock Grand National Championships were held at the Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, where East Coast competitors met West Coast competitors to determine the National Champion at the season finale. After the dust settled, the final scores crowned Brent Bradshaw the Unlimited Class National Champion, Troy Bailey the Pro Modified National Champion, and Duane Garretson the Stock Class Champion.

• Ram Truck drivers Ricky Johnson (in Pro 4), Bryce Menzies (in Pro 2), and RJ Anderson (in Pro Light) each won his main-event race at the Traxxas TORC Series at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois.

• SR5 and Limited versions of the ’12 Toyota 4Runner can be ordered with automatic running boards—something we could have used on many 4x4 of the Year tests, to get those suckers up and out of the way. Toyota is also offering a whole bunch of audio and connectivity options for the new 4Runner, including the Entune system, with mobile apps for Bing, iHeartRadio,, OpenTable, and Pandora, plus a fuel price guide, sports scores, stocks, traffic, and weather.

• Continental Tire will build an all-new tire plant in Sumter, South Carolina. The first phase of production capacity is expected to be nearly five million passenger and light truck tires when the plant reaches full production levels in 2017. A second phase is expected to bring the plant’s capacity to eight million units per year by 2021.

Heavy-Duty Half-Ton Ram
You read that right. Ram has introduced a heavy-duty version of its Ram 1500 Tradesman with payload and tow capacities more like a 3/4-ton truck. In fact, this Tradesman rides on Ram 2500 framerails, axles, and eight-lug wheel hubs. It is powered by a heavy-duty version of the 5.7L Hemi V-8 making 383 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, and the engine is backed by the HD six-speed automatic transmission. It even has the HD trucks’ brakes. All these features give the truck a 3,100-pound payload capacity and the ability to tow up to 11,500 pounds. The bummer? It’s 2WD only.

Earth Watch
• So far GM is the only company selling trucks with gas/electric hybrid powertrains, but Chrysler is distributing some 140 plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) Ram 1500s in cities all over the U.S. over the next three years. The PHEV Rams will be used to evaluate customer usage, drive cycles, charging, thermal management, fuel economy, emissions, and impact on the region’s electric grid, says Chrysler. The company is careful to call this “strictly a demonstration program” and emphasizes that “there are no plans for a production version of the PHEV Ram 1500 truck at this time.” But where there’s smoke, or should we say that distinctive smell of electricity in the air…

• In other alt-fuel news, GM will sell a compressed natural gas bi-fuel commercial pickup truck in the fourth quarter of 2012. The General already offers CNG-powered Chevy Express and GMC Savana cargo vans to the commercial market. The addition of a bi-fuel CNG pickup “will help satisfy a broader range of needs for commercial customers looking for a one-stop alternative-fuel vehicle from the factory,” says GM. No word yet of the CNG truck being available to retail customers.

• With the recent introduction of its NextGen motor oil, which is made with 50 percent re-refined oil, Valvoline is stepping up its efforts to promote conservation and motor oil recycling. The Let’s Do MORE (Motor Oil Recycling Education) project invites consumers to visit to learn more about what they can do to recycle oil and use recycled oil products. In addition, for every click on the website, Valvoline will donate $1 to Keep America Beautiful.

Mopar Outfits the Wrangler
With ’12 Wranglers now in showrooms, Chrysler’s Mopar division has developed some 250 accessories for the Jeep, “from $18 grab handles to a $12,000 off-road camper trailer,” says the company. Among the newest items is a winch-capable steel bumper (PN 82211715ac, $612) that has been engineered to be compatible with the Wrangler’s airbag. Mopar also offers a Jeep tent that attaches around the rear door, offering 10x10 feet of floor space and an additional 6x6-foot screen room (PN 82212604, $355). Seat covers, cab covers, floor mats, half-doors, and more can be found at

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Bigger RamBox
In more Ram news, new larger RamBox bedside storage compartments will fit the Ram’s 6-foot 4-inch beds. These RamBoxes are 10 inches longer than the shortbed versions, and their storage capacity grows too. What didn’t grow is the price; in fact, Ram has lowered the cost of the RamBox option from $1,895 to $1,295. And yes, there are drain plugs in the RamBox so you can use it to cool your favorite beverages just like the photo shows.

Best Chevy of All?
Chevrolet celebrated its 100th anniversary in November, and during the centennial festivities it hosted an online ballot to see which Chevrolet product was the “Best Chevy of All Time.” The winner? Some 125,000 respondents voted through a four-round elimination bracket and said the ’69 Camaro was best of all. Huh? With all the great Chevy trucks in this company’s history—Suburban, K5 Blazer, Cameo, El Camino— the Camaro is as good as it gets? We wuz robbed.

• Jan. 7: Northern Exposure Run, by the Northeast Xterra Club, in two locations: Sturbridge, MA, and Rausch Creek, Tremont, PA. Info:

• Jan. 13-15: Winter Fun Festival, Nevada County Fairgrounds, Grass Valley, CA, by the California Association of 4WD Clubs. Info:

• Jan. 14: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

• Jan. 15: Advanced Beginner 4WD Clinic, Mojave, CA, by Badlands Off-Road Adventures. Info: 310.374.8047,

• Jan. 20-22: Truckhaven Challenge, Ocotillo Wells SVRA near Salton Sea, CA, by CORVA. Info:

• Jan. 21: New Year’s 200 desert race, Barstow, CA, by Mojave Off Road Racing Enthusiast. Info:

• Note: If you have a 4WD event you want us to publicize, please send the date, location, a 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.

Another Defender Concept
Last month we showed you the DC100, a concept vehicle unveiled at the Frankfurt auto show that represents what the company calls “a modern interpretation of the iconic Land Rover Defender.” A second concept, the DC100 Sport, was also displayed in Germany. This one Land Rover says is “an active expression of freedom and leisure” thanks to its open top and fold-down windshield. Both show vehicles are loaded with electronic features, including Wade Aid, a sonar-based system that judges water depth prior to fording, and Terrain-i mapper, which uses a headlamp-mounted scanner to assess the trail and warn the driver of obstacles that may be too large to be safely negotiated.

Land Rover says neither concept is production ready but both represent first steps in determining what the future Defender will be. The next-generation Defender is scheduled to debut as a ’15 model, but there’s no word as to whether it will come to the U.S.

New Upgrades for F-150
What you’re looking at is the new FX appearance package for the ’12 F-150, which consists of matte-black accents, black badges with red lettering, and new 20-inch, six-spoke wheels. What you can’t see are some of the engineering upgrades incorporated into the new F-Series, including Hill Start Assist and the expanded availability of electronic locking rear differentials on trucks with 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 and 5.0L V-8 engines. Top-line F-150 models—the Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum versions—get a new 4WD system with a 4x4 Auto mode that transfers torque to the front wheels without any driver input when it senses a loss of traction.

Coolest Reading Places: Wedding Edition
“This is from my wedding in 2004,” says Clarence Gilbert of Marysville, Washington. “All of the groomsmen wheel. I knew on such a special occasion that I needed to get a picture of us reading 4-Wheel & Off-Road.” The wedding party, from the left, is Brandon Del Priore, Clarence, Chris Pattenaude, and Jason Kitzman. Belated congratulations, Clarence! We sure hope you dug out the photo in preparation for an anniversary and not a divorce.

Hey, we haven’t received a cool reading place in, like, years, people. This has to be the easiest way to get your photo in the magazine. The next time you go on vacation, get married, or do something else spectacular (or even remotely interesting), take an issue of 4WOR with you, have someone get a high-resolution photo of you with the mag, and send it to us at We’d especially like to hear from our troops overseas.

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