The Latest Off-Road News
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.
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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.