Ford's Ex Concept: A Factory-Bred Extreme Dirt MachineWe don't know about you, but the never-ending introduction of factory concept vehicles drives us crazy; we want 'em and we want 'em now. Case in point: Ford's EX concept, a wild-looking buggy-like ride that, according to J Mays, Ford Motor Company vice-president of design, promises "a unique, no-compromise driving experience for the off-road enthusiast and extreme sports authority." That's us; no-compromise off-road enthusiasts.
This is certainly one machine we'd like to thrash, but it's a teaser - not currently in production, just a collection of high-performance off-road components with a focus on a race-replica styling.
The EX is a two-seater, with composite body panels held in place by quick-release fasteners, a chrome-moly chassis, and an external tubular structure, which allows the major mechanical components to be visible. For handling, the EX's designers gave its 2,600-pound curb weight a 50/50 weight distribution by moving the T-case and radiators to an area behind the passengers. The front-mounted engine is a supercharged SOHC V-6 and pumps out 375 hp at 4,600 rpm with 410 lb-ft of torque available at 3,800 rpm, thanks in part to a side-exit stainless steel exhaust system.
The EX is outfitted with a suspension worthy of its no-nonsense appearance: four-wheel independent with upper and lower control arms and twin coilover dampers at each wheel. The four-wheel disc brake setup features rotors 13 inches in diameter squeezed by four-piston calipers. Special 33x12.50R17 BFGoodrich tires are mounted to what are perhaps the only standard components used on the EX: five-spoke cast-alloy wheels.
We think the EX is cool; the staff of OFF-ROAD magazine has left several phone messages with Ford officials. We've gladly volunteered to road - and off-road - test the Ford EX for an extended period of time, just to help out the Blue Oval. So far, there's been no response
Dodge Supports Efforts to Modify TrucksFor decades, America's big-three truckmakers have seemingly discouraged the use of aftermarket performance and styling accessories on their vehicles,giving us the "that modification will void the factory warranty" line or the "our trucks don't require modifications for off-road use" jive. However, during the past few years, Dodge, Ford, and GM have reversed their stance on many aftermarket products, finally acknowledging the fact that properly engineered and fabricated aftermarket components can indeed enhance the performance and appearance of a truck without compromising the vehicle's safety, handling, or reliability.
DaimlerChrysler has announced that detailed technical information will be made available to aftermarket manufacturers from the DaimlerChrysler Modified Vehicles Engineering Team. After an aftermarket manufacturer has signed an agreement with DaimlerChrysler regarding the use and distribution of its classified Computer-Assisted-Design information, every design aspect of new Dodge trucks, including the fresh '02 Ram, will be made available, such as suspension and chassis specs, engine details, body dimensions, and just about everything an aftermarket manufacturer would need to know when designing an accessory for a new Dodge truck. OFF-ROAD's art director - the talented Mr. Brad Crowder - worked some of his computer trickery and out came this image of an '02 Rammer with a 4-inch lift just to whet your appetite for an aftermarket-modified Dodge.
New Tech, Meet Old Tech We frequently print photos of ultra-secret trucks and SUVs undergoing pre-production testing, but our spy photographer, Brenda Priddy, recently captured an image of a prototype vehicle that says a lot about state-of-the-art off-road machines and the way they're tested. The heavily disguised Porsche Cayenne, which is based on Volkswagen's new Transporter chassis, was photographed while being comparison-tested against a Mercedes ML320 SUV, which will be an obvious competitor with the new Cayenne. What's odd is the other vehicle in the photo, which is also being tested against the Porsche. It seems that the German automaker has decided to test the Cayenne's mettle against the most beloved old-tech American truck of all time: a late-'70s, solid-axle, K-Series Chevy 4x4. Maybe Porsche understands that the old ways are - many times - still the best ways. The second photo shows the Cayenne stripped - by computer - of its disguise.
Isuzu's GBX:Truck Technology to the Max
Just in case you haven't noticed, Isuzu Motors is a company focused on innovation, technology, and style. To bring this point into sharper focus, witness Isuzu's latest collection of vehicular trickery: the GBX, a 4x4 sport utility vehicle that's loaded with advanced technology and clever design features.
The engine isn't what you'd expect: It's a V-6 oil-burner. That's right. Isuzu has decades of experience building diesel engines for all manner of trucks, including heavy-duty applications, and is the engine supplier for GM's new diesel-powered HD-series trucks. That diesel engine knowledge was incorporated into the GBX's 3.0L, DOHC, 24-valve, direct-injection engine. The transmission is a four-speed Overdrive automatic, and there's an electronically controlled 4WD system - Torque On Demand - that features driver-selectable full-time operation and a true Low range.
The suspension is refined and off-road functional: A front upper and lower control arm design with torsion springs is paired with a rear solid axle located by a five-link and fitted with coil springs. The GBX's Intelligent Suspension Control - a quartet of electronically tuned dampers - keeps the suspension action controlled.
Most interesting is the GBX's rolling stock and brake system. The wheels are huge: 21 inches in diameter and crafted out of billet aluminum alloy. The stoppers are stout: a Brembo four-wheel disc brake system, which boasts cross-drilled rotors squeezed by four-piston calipers.
There's a lot more to like about the GBX, including the exoskeletal frame encircling the passenger cabin, its use of center-split doors, which provide easy access to the interior, and trick external-frame seats that are suspended from the center console - a design that provides for maximum under-seat storage
Currently, the Isuzu GBX is a concept SUV, built to gauge public acceptance and response to its radical design and advanced features. If the GBX is well received by the motoring public, we may see it in production as early as 2003
More Juice, Please
The Coming Age of 42-Volt Electrical Systems
The Commercial Service in Toronto is looking toward the future of automotive electrical systems. Responding to the ever-increasing electrical needs of new vehicles, the Canadian market research company foresees lucrative opportunities in 42-volt automotive electrical systems. It's said that the current 14-volt system won't be able to supply the electrical needs of future cars and trucks due to the use of an increasing number of electrical accessories. Commercial Service states that global automakers are currently in the process of adopting the 42-volt system; it's projected that 13 million cars and trucks will be equipped with the new level of power by the year 2010.
When you think about it, 42-volt power systems make sense. The use of electronically actuated engine control valves - engines designed to shut off at idle (to conserve fuel) and immediately start again when the accelerator is pressed - electric brakes, electrically operated fly-by-wire steering systems, electrically heated catalytic converters, electric water and oil pumps, and sophisticated heating/ventilation/air-conditioning systems place incredibly high demands on a traditional 12-volt system. For our use, think of the tremendous electrical loads placed on a 12-volt system by high-torque winches and scorch-the-night lighting systems. Certainly, a 42-volt system seems ideal for use on off-road trucks.
It's likely that high-end vehicles will be the first to use the new 42-volt system - once all of the new high-volt wiring, switches, transformers, and batteries have been incorporated into an automaker's design and production cycles.