Best-in-Class is goal for new Ram HD Trucks
Bragging rights are a big deal in the heavy-duty (2500 and 3500) pickup segment. These are working trucks, after all, not a lifestyle choice. So when Ram executives say they’re gunning for best-in-class performance from their new ’13 HD pickups, they are putting Ford and Chevy on notice as well as generating some high expectations among potential buyers.
Expectations that, for now at least, will remain just that. So far the Ram folks are holding back on releasing towing and payload capacities, waiting until closer to the trucks’ on-sale date before tipping their hand. Here is what we do know.
• Most of the changes to the new trucks take place under the skin, though some styling details—grille treatments, wheels, outside mirrors—will be different for the ’13 models.
• The trucks ride on all-new ladder frames, with eight separate crossmembers, hydroformed main rails, and fully boxed rear rails. A factory-installed rear axle crossmember has provisions for fifth wheel and gooseneck hitches that are accessed through holes in the bed floor. For conventional trailers the hitch system gets an upgrade to Class 5, with a 17,000-pound load capacity.
• Ram 3500s are equipped with a new three-link (radius arm) front suspension to improve roll stiffness and support a higher front axle weight rating. The 2500 models retain their five-link front suspensions for better articulation. The rear leaf-spring suspensions are beefed up as well to handle the truck’s higher tow and payload capacities.
• A new front-axle disconnect is designed to improve fuel economy.
• The 6.7L Cummins diesel will be available in three states of tune, depending on transmission choice. Manual-trans versions put out 350 hp and 660 lb-ft of torque, up from last year’s 600 lb-ft. With the standard 68RFE six-speed automatic, output grows to 370 hp and 800 lb-ft. And with the brand-new Aisin six-speed automatic, the Cummins tops out at 385 hp and 850 lb-ft.
• All of the diesels get a more robust cooling system with dual radiators, dual transmission coolers, and a charge-air cooler for the turbocharger. A new Active Air intake with a solenoid-operated flap can switch the incoming air source from the front fenderwell to the truck’s nose when it senses high operating temperatures or thin air in high altitudes. The diesel’s emissions system now uses diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) to meet emissions regulations, and the DEF filler is conveniently located right next to the fuel cap.
• A new Smart System brings two-mode operation to the exhaust brake in diesel models. Push the brake button once and you get the engine’s full braking power. Push it twice and it will work with the cruise control and vary its braking force to maintain the set speed.
• The gas 5.7L Hemi is unchanged for 2013 but will be available in 3500 models for the first time.
• Many of the new interior amenities found on the light-duty trucks will carry over into the HD models, including new climate and audio controls, Chrysler’s next-generation Uconnect “infotainment” system (with available navigation and Wi-Fi hot spot), and a vehicle information display that’s standard on all models.
• The low-content Tradesman trim level will now be available on HD trucks.
• Production on the ’13 Ram HD models begins January, and they will go on sale in the first quarter of 2013. Pricing will be set closer to launch.
“Ram is putting Ford and Chevy on notice”
SEMA Show Sneak Peek
As of this writing we are just days away from heading to Las Vegas for the annual aftermarket parts bonanza that is the SEMA Show. Several of the manufacturers building special vehicles for the show are leaking photos and illustrations of their projects. The Jeep is called the Sand Trooper, with Hemi power and 42-inch Swampers mounted on beadlock wheels. The Tundra (or what’s left of it) is being built by NHRA drag racer Alexis DeJoria and Racer Engineering as part of a Dream Build Challenge put on by Toyota. DeJoria’s plans for the prerunner include a TRD supercharged engine, a full rollcage, and a long-travel (20-25 inches) suspension. We will bring you photos of both—and much, much more—when we get back from Sin City next month.
This Just In
• The Toyota Tacoma carries over into the ’13 model year largely unchanged except for a new Limited package with 18-inch chrome wheels, chrome exterior trim, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a backup camera.
• In an unusual collabo- ration for the crosstown rivals, Ford and GM are developing a new generation of automatic transmissions together to boost fuel economy. According to Automotive News, GM’s contribution is a nine-speed transmission for front-wheel-drive cars, while Ford is working on a 10-speed tranny for rear-drive applications, including trucks and SUVs. Still in the design stages, they probably won’t be ready for production before 2015.
• Italian exotic car maker Maserati is getting into the SUV business with an upcoming vehicle called Levante, says Automotive News. It will be based on the Grand Cherokee. Why? Because, as you might have guessed, Maserati, like Chrysler, is owned by Fiat.
Veterans Conquer the Rubicon Trail
Crossing the Rubicon is something many of us enjoy, but for some the experience is life-changing. Wheelers for the Wounded takes combat veterans four-wheeling and camping as a way to thank them for their service. They purposely seek veterans from all eras of service; sometimes those from the Vietnam era hear the words “thank you” for the first time at WFTW.
“We knew that everyone who came would have fun. You can’t go to the Rubicon and not have fun,” event co-coordinator Dan Hiney explains. “What we didn’t count on was that men and women would come and experience a beginning to the healing process for PTSD.”
Do you know a veteran who would benefit from being involved in this program? Contact Dan Hiney at 530.518.2101.
• We heard through Daystar, a member of the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA), that the association is making a concerted effort to “rally support for the lobbying of state and federal representatives for the identification, protection, preservation, and further utilization of America’s historic off-road trails,” says ORBA. ORBA, like SEMA and other organizations, advocates common-sense preservation of our lands, protecting those sensitive areas that would be harmed by OHV travel but leaving open existing roads and trails for responsible use. “Many of these natural trails, such as the Rubicon, whose travel history and significance predates the invention of the automobile, have yet to be identified and offered protection and enhancement under the law,” says ORBA. “These historic monuments are a key part of our environment, and our future economy, and deserve to be protected and utilized properly for the enjoyment of all.”
• BFGoodrich has opened nominations for the 2013 Outstanding Trails program, which awards grants to trails in the U.S. and Canada that are deserving of funds for maintenance and preservation. Now in its eighth year, the program—done in collaboration with Tread Lightly! and the United Four Wheel Drive Associations—has awarded more than $100,000 in grants to 30 off-road trails. Nominations can be submitted through January 31 to BFGoodrich’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bfgoodrichtires) or Twitter handle @bfgoodrichtires. Winners will be announced at the Easter Jeep Safari.
• Our favorite press release title this month: “New California Study Finds More Particulate Emissions from Charbroiled Burgers Than Diesel Trucks.” Sorry, I’ll give up a lot of things for the common good, but not burgers.
New King Ranch F-150
Ford has freshened the upscale King Ranch version of the F-150 for 2013 with a new three-bar grille, new 20-inch wheels, the availability of an all-black interior (Adobe is still the standard interior color), and standard MyFord Touch system, which has been “optimized for truck owners,” says Ford, with bigger buttons you can press while wearing gloves.
Baja 1000 Start Order Drawn at Off-Road Expo
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the granddaddy of all desert races, the Baja 1000. To mark the occasion the race will travel the full length of the Baja peninsula, from Ensenada to La Paz.
Some 210 two- and four-wheeled vehicles are entered this year.
At the recent Lucas Oil Off-Road Expo in Southern California, SCORE held a drawing to determine the starting order. Pete Sohren’s F-150 will be the first Trophy Truck off the line, giving him a dust-free ride as long as he can stay in front. Nipping at his heels will be Chris Kemp and Rob MacCachren, sure to be serious challengers over the 1,121-mile course.
The drawing took place in SCOREville, a display area set up at the Expo that included vintage and current race vehicles and SCORE merchandise for sale. Among the old-time trucks in the room were the F-100 that Scoop Vessels drove to win Class 8 in the 1977 Baja 500 and 1000 (seen here), and a ’66 Bronco that won the 1969 1000 overall with Rod Hall and Larry Minor as pilots. Hall is the only man to have driven in every Baja 1000, and he was entered this year, too, running his Hummer H3 in the Stock Mini class with co-driver Emily Miller.
More Silverado News Leaks
Chevrolet has issued another “spy” photo of the upcoming ’14 Silverado pickup, this time undergoing validation testing at GM’s Milford, Michigan, proving grounds. The truck goes into production sometime in 2013, and those are all the details we’re getting from Chevy.
Unofficially, though, we’ve learned via Automotive News that a premium model, dubbed High Country, will compete with Ford’s various upscale F-truck trim levels—King Ranch, Platinum, Premium—and Ram’s Laramie Longhorn. Chevy dealers who have seen the new truck say it offers a “bolder” look and will be 3-4 inches taller than the current model. There will be more rear seat room in the crew cab models, and extended cabs will get rear doors to improve access. Crew cabs will also get 61⁄2-foot beds, longer than the 53⁄4-foot beds currently offered.
Colorado/Canyon News & Rumors
In addition to readying its next generation of fullsize pickups for 2014, GM is also planning to reenter the compact truck market with all-new versions of the Chevy Colorado and—as was just announced—GMC Canyon. Seen here is a concept version of the Colorado that made the rounds of overseas auto shows last year. We know almost nothing about how the trucks will be equipped, but we did hear that a diesel engine will likely be an option. That squares with what’s available overseas: 2WD and 4WD regular, extended-cab and crew cab variants with new 2.5L gas and 2.8L turbodiesel engines.
• Jan. 5: Tread Lightly! Tread Trainer Certification, Hungry Valley OHV Area, Gorman, CA. Info: www.treadlightly.org
• Jan. 6: Winching Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, El Paso Mountains near Mojave, CA. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• Jan. 11-13: Winter Fun Festival, Nevada County Fairgrounds, Grass Valley, CA, by the California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs. Info: 800.4x4.FUNN, cal4wheel.com
• Jan. 12: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• Jan. 13: Advanced Beginner Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, El Paso Mountains near Mojave, CA. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• Jan. 18-20: Bradshaw Trail ride by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, near Salton Sea, CA. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• Jan. 26: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Borrego Springs, CA. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• Jan. 26-27: Truckhaven Challenge, Ocotillo Wells SVRA near Salton Sea, CA, by CORVA. Info: www.corva.org
• Jan. 27: Sand Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Borrego Springs, CA. Info: 310.374.8047, www.4x4training.com
• 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 email@example.com. Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.