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August 2012 Drivelines Off-Road Truck News

Posted in Features on August 1, 2012
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Ram 1500 All-new for 2013
What was supposed to be a mere freshening became an overhaul when the Ram engineers were finally done with the ’13 version of the 1500 pickup. And we do mean major. It took Ram public relations 10 pages to draft the “overview” press release, something that’s usually done in a single page, maybe two.

The details are still being hammered out pending the truck’s launch in late 2012, but here are a few highlights. Chrysler is aiming for best-in-class fuel economy for its light-duty Ram, promising a 20 percent improvement from both the new 3.6L Pentastar V-6 and a revised 5.7L Hemi V-8. That new level of efficiency has not robbed power; in fact, at 305 hp and 269 lb-ft of torque, the V-6 will produce 42 percent more horsepower and 13 percent more torque than the previous 3.7L V-6. The Hemi’s output is up too, by 5 hp to 395 (peak torque remains 407 lb-ft).

Both engines will be available with an eight-speed automatic transmission, with enough steps in the gearbox to keep the motors in their driveability sweet spot. The transmissions have a whole new controller: a rotary dial on the instrument panel. P-R-N-D will be selected with the dial; forward gears will be chosen via buttons on the face of the steering wheel. The 4WD actuation is now relegated to buttons under the trans dial.

Speaking of which, two 4WD systems will be offered. One, the BorgWarner 44-45, is a traditional part-time system. The second, a BorgWarner 44-44 transfer case, has the traditional 2-Hi, 4-Hi, and 4-Lo ranges but also offers an “auto” mode with on-demand 4WD that engages depending on road conditions. Both cases have a 2.64:1 low-range ratio.

Other fuel efficiency tricks incorporated into the new Ram include a massage of the sheetmetal to improve the vehicle’s drag coefficient, an optional air suspension that lowers the truck at highway speeds (also improving drag), hybridlike stop/start technology, and low-rolling-resistance tires, though we doubt we’ll see those last two features on 4x4 models.

You’re probably way ahead of us on the suspension bit. Yes, an air suspension that lowers a truck can also raise it. The new Ram can be lifted by as much as 2 inches to increase ground clearance and approach and departure angles.

But wait, there’s more! Chrysler is using the new Ram to debut the next-generation Uconnect infotainment system, which offers wireless Internet, voice recognition to interact with your smartphone, and expanded satellite radio services. Rain-sensing windshield wipers are available, the powered rear window now has a defroster in it, and the key fob will control not only the door locks but also the tailgate lock and the optional RamBoxes.

We’ll bring you more as the truck gets closer to introduction.

Platinum Super Duty
Ford is bringing a new level of plush to its heavy-duty trucks with the introduction of the Super Duty Platinum. Available for ’13 F-250, F-350, and F-450 trucks (crew cab only), the trim level will feature lots of chrome on the outside and wood and leather appointments inside. Ford’s Sync system with MyFord Touch will be on board, as will a backup camera, navigation, power-adjustable pedals, and powered exterior mirrors. “Later this year” is all Ford will say about when these luxe trucks will be available. Check out “First Look” on page 52.

Heritage GMC
To commemorate its 100th anniversary, GMC is producing Heritage editions of the Sierra, Yukon, and Yukon XL. Exterior badges on the trucks feature the original, 100-year-old GMC logo, while the graphic will also appear inside the truck on headrests and floor mats. The pickup is outfitted with 20-inch wheels, a backup camera, rear park assist, and adjustable pedals. The pickup color seen here, Heritage Blue, is exclusive to the anniversary model, which will also be available in White Diamond or Onyx Black. The Heritage SUVs also receive equipment upgrades: 10-way leather-upholstered front seats, heated second-row seats, and a power liftgate. The 20-inch wheels are an option for the Yukons.

This Just In
• NHTSA is investigating reports of engine fires in ’10 Jeep Wranglers. According to the Associated Press, the government received eight reports of fires in Jeeps from that model year. Four of the Wranglers were destroyed in the fires; no injuries have been reported.

• When we heard Nissan was reviving the Datsun name we got all excited, hoping it meant somebody was finally going to build an affordable compact pickup, maybe with a retro ’70s vibe. Turns out we were dreaming; the Datsun nameplate will be used to sell affordable vehicles all right, but in other parts of the world. We’ll never see them.

• Rob MacCachren earned his third consecutive race win in San Felipe by taking the overall and Trophy Truck victories in SCORE’s San Felipe 250. MacCachren’s Rockstar Energy/MasterCraft Racing Ford F-150 started in first place, slipped behind a bit in the early going, but came back to cover the sandy, silty, rocky, and dusty 248.64-mile course in 4 hours 25 minutes 3 seconds, for an average speed of 56.29 mph. MacCachren is now tied with Ed and Tim Herbst with the most race wins (11) in the 18-plus year history of SCORE’s Trophy Truck class.

• In more racing news, Robby Gordon won the Best in the Desert Mint 400. But as he did in Parker, Arizona, Gordon won the Mint wheeling a Class 1500 buggy. We miss the Hummer …

• When the current Jeep Liberty is replaced by a Fiat-based SUV for the ’13 model year, it will be powered by a small-displacement version of the Pentastar V-6, according to a report in Automotive News. A member of the UAW, giving a TV interview in Toledo, said the engine will displace 3.2 liters. AN also reports it will be backed by a nine-speed automatic transmission, no doubt to squeeze as much mileage out of the powertrain as possible.

• The BlueRibbon Coalition reports that there’s a cool new online resource for finding places to go wheeling in Idaho. The Idaho OHV online map ( shows you trails and what kinds of motorized vehicles are allowed on them, and gives directions to the trailheads. You can export the trails to Google Earth or to GPS devices for quick reference when out on the trails, and you can share trail maps with your friends.

Earth Watch
• SEMA has worked for years to defeat legislation that would essentially ban aftermarket exhaust systems in Hawaii, including one that would have allowed law enforcement officers to seize and impound a vehicle upon making a subjective determination that the vehicle was in violation. This year SEMA-model legislation was introduced that would allow hobbyists to install and use aftermarket-modified exhaust systems that meet an objective noise limit. Vehicle owners would be issued a certificate of compliance if a test of the exhaust system demonstrated that the exhaust emitted no more than 95 dB.

• SEMA is addressing the same issue in Iowa. Legislation was introduced in the state senate that would allow Iowa’s vehicle hobbyists to install and use aftermarket-modified exhaust systems that meet a limit of 95 dB. The bill would remove subjective provisions in the law and force compliance with an objectively measured standard.

• The Santa Cruz (California) 4-Wheel Drive Club recently made a $1,100 donation to the BlueRibbon Coalition’s Legal Action Fund after raising the money during its annual Last One Standing four-wheeling competition. The club donated not only the event’s entry fees to the BRC but also held a raffle and donated those proceeds. Keep this in mind the next time your club is looking for a way to benefit one of our most effective lobbying groups.

Trailblazer Debuts
It’s not slated for U.S. sale—not yet, anyway—but Chevy’s new Trailblazer SUV made its debut at the Bangkok International Motor Show in Thailand. The Trailblazer is built on the new Colorado midsize pickup platform (which we will get) and will be sold around the world. Two four-cylinder Duramax diesels, 2.5L and 2.8L, will power the Trailblazer, hooked to a choice of manual or automatic transmissions and 2WD or 4WD. Though it looks like a crossover vehicle, the Trailblazer has traditional body-on-frame construction, but with fully independent suspension and coil springs.

Jeeps With Altitude
The blacked-out Grand Cherokee concept vehicle that was shown at the Houston Auto Show generated so much interest that Jeep decided to produce it, along with similar treatments for the Compass and Patriot. A “name my ride” contest for the package resulted in more than 100,000 entries, with Altitude emerging as the winning name.

The Grand Cherokee Altitude has a blacked-out grille treatment, 20-inch black aluminum wheels, and a number of interior upgrades, including leather upholstery, heated front seats, a backup camera, and a 506-watt audio system. Black isn’t the Altitude’s only exterior color; you can also get it in red, white, gray, bright silver, and steel metallic.

Mopar Goes to Moab
Mopar, Chrysler’s parts and accessories division, outfitted six Jeeps to take to the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab this year. We thought the Mighty FC Concept and J-12 Concept were the coolest.

To build a modern example of the old forward-control truck, Jeep started with a Rubicon, repositioned the cabin over and ahead of the front axle, lengthened the wheelbase, and added a custom-built drop-side cargo box with an 8-foot bed. What look like portal axles under the FC are just that: new portal axles offered by Mopar ($12,000 for the front, $11,000 for the rear). They’re suspended by King coilovers and Teraflex control arms. The 40-inch BFG Krawlers are mounted to custom Hutchinson 17-inch beadlock wheels. For more info on the Mighty FC check out the feature on page 48.

The other retro concept, the J-12, is an extended version of Mopar’s JK-8 pickup conversion recently introduced for the Wrangler. A custom hood and front fenders give the J-12 the look of the old Gladiator pickup, while a rear frame extension allows the spare tire to be moved under the bed floor so that there’s a 6-foot box behind the cab. Dynatrac D-44 and D-60 axles are fitted with ARB air lockers and suspended by a Mopar 3-inch kit.

Other Jeep concepts going to Moab include the Wrangler Apache, which will show off Mopar’s new Hemi engine conversion kit for the Jeep; the Traildozer concept, with an AEV Hemi conversion kit and a 31⁄2-inch lift; a Wrangler Rubicon with some prototype Mopar accessories, including a locking center console box, a rear cargo cubby cover, new windshield-mounted LED lamps, a new hardtop headliner, and an Add-A-Trunk secure storage space in the cargo area; and the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, with new 18-inch wheels and special paint.

New Tire, Sponsorship From Mickey T
Mickey Thompson Performance Tires has developed a new Baja Pro 35x12.50R17LT tire for the Pro 2 and Pro 4 Unlimited racing classes and has inked a deal with the Geiser Brothers Motorsports team to evaluate the tires during the 2012 season of the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series (LOORRS). Until now, the biggest Baja Pro tire available from Mickey Thompson was a 33.

• July 4: HDRA Fireworks 500 desert race, Reno, NV. Info:

• July 6-7: Dirt Riot Pacific 1, Medford, OR. Info:

• July 7: Rocks Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Johnson Valley, CA. Info: 310.374.8047,

• July 11-14: PNW4WDA Trail Jamboree, Naches, WA. Info: 509.698.3703,

• July 13-14: Dirt Riot Mountain 3, Cortez, CO. Info:

• July 13-15: Lucas Oil 4Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Bloomsburg County Fairgrounds, Bloomsburg, PA. Info:

• July 13-15: Cliff’s Insane Terrain Jeep Thing, Cliff’s Off-Road Park, Marseilles, IL. Info: 815.795.5200,, email

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

• July 14-15: 4Wheel Parts Truck & Jeep Fest, Denver Merchandise Mart, Denver, CO. Info:

• July 15: Advanced Beginner Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA. Info: 310.374.8047,

• July 20-21: W.E. Rock Eastern Pro Series Round 3, Dayton, TN. Info:

• July 19-21: Crawl for the Cure, Iron Range OHV Park near Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Info:

• July 19-21: Killington Jeep Jamboree, Killington, VT. Info:

• July 19-21: Northwoods–Mole Lake Jeep Jamboree, Crandon, WI. Info:

• July 21: Freedom 250 desert race, Barstow, CA. Info:

• July 21: Rocks Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Johnson Valley, CA. Info: 310.374.8047,

• July 21-25: UFWDA General Meeting, York, PA. Info:

• July 26-29: Northeast Takeover by Northeast Toyota Crawlers and Pennsylvania TTORA, Rausch Creek, PA. Info:

• July 26-30: Jeepers Jamboree, Rubicon Trail, CA. Info: 530.333.4771,

• July 27-30: Rocky Mountain IH Rendezvous, Fairplay, CO. Info:303.838.8505,

• July 28: Sand Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Oceano Dunes, Pismo, CA. Info: 310.374.8047,

• July 28-29: Iron Range Off-Road Driving School, Iron Range OHV Park near Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Info:

• July 28-Aug. 4: All-4-Fun Week by the Mile-Hi Jeep Club, Empire, CO. Info:

• July 29: Basic & Advanced Winching by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA. Info: 310.374.8047,

• 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 4wheel Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.

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