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April 2013 Drivelines - 4x4 News

Mercedes G Force Concept
Drew Hardin
| Contributor
Posted April 1, 2013

Off-Road News & Rumors

Trucks at the L.A. Auto Show!
Yep, we’re as shocked as you are. For years the Los Angeles Auto Show has been the place for manufacturers to showcase their new hybrid, electric, fuel-cell, and other “green” vehicles. Trucks or 4x4s of any kind have been few and far between. Yet at the 2012 show we actually found a couple of trucks worth talking about—even if one is just a dream truck and another will be pricey enough that it may as well be a dream truck.

Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force Concept
Each year the L.A. show challenges automakers to develop vehicle concepts around a particular theme. This year’s theme was “Highway Patrol Vehicle 2025.” Mercedes-Benz’s entry in the challenge was a futuristic off-roader, based on the notion of what a Mercedes G-Wagen would look like a dozen years from now.

The sketches for the police vehicle inspired the designers at Mercedes’ Advanced Design Studio in Carlsbad, California, to create a full-scale model of a civilian version of the police vehicle. The concept truck would be powered by a fuel cell, with hydrogen to fuel the cells coming from recycled water stored in tanks on the roof. Motors in each wheel hub drive the vehicle, while a “Terra-Scan” 360-degree scanner on the roof reads the surrounding terrain and adjusts spring and damping rates to maximize traction.

Land Rover Range Rover
Land Rover chose the L.A. show for the U.S. debut of the ’13 Range Rover, largely because Southern California is such a huge Range Rover market, the company said. And it does seem true that you can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting some up-and-coming (or downward spiraling) starlet in her Rover being hounded by the paparazzi. Not that young Hollywood cares, but the new Range Rover is the most capable ever, so our readers should care, says the company. Stay tuned for Fred Williams’ First Drive in an upcoming issue.

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New Ram Commercial Truck Division
Industrial-strength trucks and vans are now available from Ram Truck, which is kicking off the Ram Commercial side of things (and coincidentally strikes at the same time as the arrival of the new Ram ProMaster large van). The division will focus on truck development, sales, and support. The Tradesman trim level on all models is sort of the spokesperson for the line, which includes the Ram HD, C/V, and Chassis Cabs. The division puts together Ram BusinessLink dealers with commercial customers and what they need/want.

Among the powertrain choices for HD Rams is a 5.7L Hemi configured to run on either compressed natural gas (CNG) or gasoline. These trucks are fitted with gas tanks and CNG storage tanks, and the bi-fuel Hemi features redesigned cylinder heads with CNG-compatible valves and valve seats, and a second fuel rail and injectors for the CNG. Editor Péwé spent some seat time in a Ram 2500HD with the bi-fuel Hemi, and reports the transition between fuels was automatic and seamless. Except for an extra gauge for the CNG and less room in the bed (due to the massive CNG tank), the truck was 100 percent Ram heavy duty. Péwé said that he expects commercial and consumer interest in the CNG concept will increase dramatically in the next few years.

Jeep Special Editions: Wrangler Rubicon 10th Anniversary/Patriot Freedom
That Rubicon “package” that nearly no one at Chrysler thought would last is now celebrating its 10th birthday and is a full-fledged member of the Jeep family. To commemorate the occasion, it is getting a special edition as seen last month (Apr. ’13). In case you missed it, the unique model is based on the Rubicon but will gain stuff like a half-inch in ride height over the regular Rubi, an “icon” logo on the rims, black steel bumpers (the front has removable end caps and is winch-ready), a dual-intake power dome hood, and Mopar rock rails. Anniversary badging is inside and out as expected, including a red silhouette Rubicon decal on the sides of the hood. Speaking of red, the birthday Rubicon is fitted with red towhooks similar to those on the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. Look for the Anniversary Rubicon this spring.

Joining the existing Wrangler Freedom Edition is the Patriot Freedom Edition. Similarly, it’s an ode to members of the U.S. military. Jeep will even give $250 to charities that benefit U.S. military members for each vehicle sold. Based on the Latitude model, it has a star on the hood, an “Oscar White” badge, and a unique fascia and wheels. No shocker here: Available colors are red, white, and blue. It’s at dealers now.

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This Just In
• By the numbers: Ford has produced the 500,000th vehicle with an EcoBoost engine. Toyota has made its 25-millionth vehicle in North America. Omix-ADA is now 20 years old.

• One more number: As we mentioned last month, the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 turned 45 in 2012. Celebrate with a shot of SCORE Baja 1000 Sal Fish Signature Edition tequila, available through baja1000tequila.com.

• Chrysler is adding another shift to its Warren Truck Plant because there’s already so much demand for the ’13 Ram.

• The Raptor is being sold via the gray market in China, with prices as high as $160,000, according to The Detroit News. A used one isn’t a bargain either; the ’10s are more than $100,000. Ford doesn’t sell the truck there. The Hummer went through this same thing before GM gave in and sold them there.

• The fourth annual Collector Car Appreciation Day is July 12, 2013. It’s a day that celebrates vehicles, but especially restoration and collection. Cruises, club gatherings, and more will take place across the country. The day is catching on outside the U.S.—Canada and Australia will also have events.

• The annual Automotive Misery Index is from Carinsurance.com, and it determines the most miserable places for car ownership based on how each state’s household income stacks up against the price of fuel, miles driven, and insurance coverage. Therefore, the most miserable place to live is…Mississippi. Oklahoma took the two spot, and Louisiana, West Virginia, and Montana round out the top (bottom?) five. Places where fuel and insurance weren’t as miserable? New Hampshire, Alaska, Connecticut, Colorado, and Washington.

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