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April 2013 Drivelines - 4x4 News

Posted in Features on April 1, 2013
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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

• 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, 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.

Earth Watch
• Want to become a Stay the Trail Ambassador in Colorado? The gig is part of the Colorado Trail Patrol and the Stay the Trail outreach campaign from the Responsible Recreation Foundation. Ambassadors are active in the OHV world and answer questions and educate OHV users about trails and trail etiquette. Learn more at

• SEMA has joined with the Off Road Business Association (ORBA), Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), and a number of other motorized recreation groups to oppose designating 1.4 million acres of land in Utah as a National Monument. The area surrounds Canyonlands National Park and is referred to as “Greater Canyonlands.” There is no widespread local or Congressional support for the designation, which could threaten to close OHV use and shared access. A number of conservation groups are now pressuring President Obama to designate the 1.4 million acres in Utah as a National Monument, which would close 1,050 miles of OHV routes and monitor 1,450 miles for possible future closure. SEMA and its coalition partners urged the President to abandon the idea in a letter sent to him late last year, citing the positive economic impact of motorized recreation activities, which accounts for more than $257 billion in annual economic impact nationwide. The Coalition also called for a more collaborative approach to land-use decisions, including input from local citizens, elected leaders, and other stakeholders. SEMA and the coalition also contend that the designation would undermine current protections for the land. The BLM manages the land surrounding Canyonlands National Park. It has recently completed a new Resource Management Plan that restricts motorized and nonmotorized activities to routes that have been subject to environmental analysis and public involvement, making a Monument Designation unnecessary and threatening to the existing process.

World’s First-Ever Electric Monster Truck
Last month we showed you the new electric Bigfoot as it sat at the SEMA Show in Vegas. Since then Bob Chandler and company have done some testing with the new model, asking longtime Bigfoot pilot Jim Kramer to drive the battery-powered monster over some junk cars. The truck drove around the parking lot and over the cars for more than 20 minutes without losing power, all while remaining eerily quiet. Best quote from an onlooker: “I’ve been going to monster truck shows for years, and I’ve never actually heard the cars get crushed under the tires.”

In case you missed last month’s mention, Bigfoot 20 is the first-ever battery-powered monster truck. It runs off 36 Odyssey car batteries and a DC electric motor, making 360 volts of power; there’s 800 lb-ft of twist. Custom-built driveshafts, a ProFab transfer case, and ZF planetary axles with internal wet disc brakes are among the beef. Familiar standard monster truck features are still there: 66-inch Firestone floations on custom 25-inch steel wheels, eight nitrogen-charged Knight Stalker racing shocks, and custom limiting straps. That’s an all-fiberglass Super Duty body, in case you wondered.

Your Steering Wheel Is Repulsive
You might not spend time thinking about microorganisms that cause odor and discoloration on vehicle surfaces, but engineers from the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn do. Ford and the University of Michigan are studying interiors to learn where microbes grow and how antimicrobial additives for coating can help stop that. The highest concentrations of nasties are found on the steering wheel and around the cupholders, according to the research.

Who Is Jason Scherer?
If Jason Scherer’s name isn’t familiar to you, it should be. He’s the winner of the PSC Brawl in Blackwell Nitto Tire National Championship race. The final race in Blackwell was four laps of 44 miles, complete with rocks, whoops, cliffs, fire roads, and more (by “more” we mean 100 jumps per lap), and Jason snagged the win by a mere 5 seconds.

GM Researching How to Reinvent the Tire
GM isn’t exactly trying out square and triangle tires, but it is looking to change tire technology through the new National Tire Research Center in Virginia. (GM invested $5 million into it, so you can see the connection.) The facility uses state-of-the-art machinery and technology to replicate real-world driving. The goal is to understand how a tire performs in every situation, from daily driving to emergency scenarios, in an effort to improve fuel economy and tire performance. A key component is the Flat-Trac LTRe, which can run a tire up to 200 mph and replicate all driving maneuvers of a car or light truck, then give feedback on handling, torque, and braking abilities on all sorts of surfaces. GM helped set the machine’s testing specifications.

Titan Pricing
Pricing for the ’13 Nissan Titan is in: The MSRP starts at $31,670 for the S King Cab 4x4 and $34,220 for the S Crew Cab 4x4. If you’re eyeballing a PRO-4X, it starts at $37,040 in King Cab skin.

Chevy/Disney Ride
Chevy and Disney are teaming up for a special virtual ride at EPCOT in Orlando. You get to design a virtual concept vehicle of your own. The coolest part is that it can then be driven on a virtual track—and your score is evaluated. You can also produce and share a TV commercial starring your vehicle. The dorky kid next to you wearing the Mickey Mouse ears might just be designing the truck you’ll be driving in 20 years.

• Mar. 1-3: Desert Safari, Truckhaven Hills area of the North Ocotillo Wells SVRA, Borrego Springs, CA, by Tierra Del Sol. Info:

• Mar. 8-10: MasterCraft Safety Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250, San Felipe, Baja Mexico. Info: 818.225.8402,

• Mar. 9: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA. Info: 310.374.8047,

• Mar. 10: Advanced Beginner Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Mojave, CA. Info: 310.374.8047,

• Mar. 14-18: National JK Jamboree by, Superlift ORV Park, Hot Springs, AR. Info: 501.625.3600,

• Mar. 16: Dog Party 2, Twisted Trails Off-Road Park, Copemish, MI. Info:

• Mar. 16: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Borrego Springs, CA. Info: 310.374.8047,

• Mar. 17: Starting Rock Crawling Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Lucerne Valley, CA. Info: 310.374.8047,

• Mar. 21-23: General Tire Mint 400 desert race, Las Vegas, NV. Info:

• Mar. 21-23: Texas Spur Jeep Jamboree, Llano, TX. Info:

• Mar. 21-23: Pine Barrens Jeep Jamboree, Hammonton, NJ. Info:

• Mar. 25-29: Easter Jeep Safari for First Timers by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Moab, UT. Info: 310.374.8047,

• Mar. 23-31: Easter Jeep Safari, Moab, UT. 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 Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.

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