When the name K5 Blazer was unceremoniously dropped from GM's popular fullsize SUV and replaced with the moniker Tahoe, something was lost. Generations of off-road enthusiasts had owned - or wanted to own - one of the General's pop-top, straight-axle 'wheelers, although by the late '80s, the K5 was void of both the solid front axle as well as the removable roof.
When Chevrolet designers took pen to paper and redesigned an all-new K5, they did so by using a two-door Tahoe as a starting point. It's anyone's guess as to whether or not the K5 concept could be manufactured today, given the fact that the two-door Tahoe has been discontinued.
Still, the K5 concept is an interesting, umm, concept. The Sport Utility Truck design, used with apparent success on the Avalanche, is taken to its zenith with the K5, including such features as an open-air rear cargo bed with a removable carbon-fiber top, reverse-opening "suicide" rear doors that swing rearward a full 180 degrees, external rearview mirrors with integral turn signals, and a modified front fascia with re-positioned foglamps, exposed tow hooks, and a special nickel-plated grille.
The K5's interior is a mix of gray and graphite leather, carbon-fiber trim, and a dash layout that's similar to the one used in the Avalanche. As you would expect, GM's OnStar electronic communications/security/information system is part of the K5's interior package.
When the guys charged with building an engine for the new SUT caught a glimpse of the K5 concept's radically styled body, they knew that no ordinary powerplant could live in the engine bay. So they pulled out all the stops, assembling a heavily modified Vortec 6.0L V-8 with such go-fast parts as CNC-ported, LS1 high-airflow cylinder heads with way-large combustion chambers and 2.02-inch intake and 1.57-inch exhaust valves; titanium valvespring retainers with Comp Cams' valvesprings; forged flat-top pistons with a compression ratio of 10.5:1; Crower con rods (6.125 inches long); and a Corvette windage tray. A healthy bumpstick is at the center of the Mouse engine: Lunati's dual-pattern hydraulic roller cam with an 0.539-inch intake lift at 209 degrees duration and an 0.558-inch exhaust lift at 216 degrees duration. It should be no surprise that the hot-rodded bent eight would produce gobs of power, and that it does: 440 hp at 5,700 rpm and 450 lb-ft of torque at 4,700 rpm.
The GM team given the assignment of reviving the K5 certainly did their job well. If only the General had seen fit to keep two-door Tahoes in production, the K5 could have been an excellent stablemate to the Avalanche, giving Chevrolet two radically styled, strong-performing SUTs - kind of an automotive one-two knockout punch. Sadly, there are no plans to revive the two-door Tahoe; hence it's likely the K5 Blazer Concept will become just another footnote in history.
XV8 Power: Another Intriguing Concept Engine From The General
As reported in the Dec. '01 issue of Insider, General Motors has an innovative concept engine - the XV12 - that boasts 12 cylinders and overall dimensions that make it shorter in length than a Vortec big-block and narrower in width than a small-block. Designed with the same focus on a compact overall size is GM's new XV8, which will see initial duty in Opel's Signum2 V2 concept car. As with the XV12, the XV8 boasts exterior dimensions closer to a V-6 than comparable V-8s; in fact, the XV8 will fit into an engine bay designed for the width of a V-6 and the length of a four-cylinder.
The all-aluminum V-8 is 4.3L in displacement, uses two intake valves and a single exhaust valve per cylinder, and boasts a trick, air-pressurized direct fuel-injection system that places an injector in the center of each combustion chamber's roof. Fritz Indria, Director of Advanced Engineering for GM Powertrain, stated: "It was our goal to create a compact, fuel-efficient V-8 that would showcase many advanced technologies all working together...many of the [XV8's] technologies are under development for future engine programs."
Much of what's neat about the XV8 is a direct result of the engine's clean-sheet design, which meant that the new technology and components used didn't have to be adapted to an engine of previous design - every segment of the XV8 was optimized specifically for the new engine. To achieve the XV8's output - more than 300 horsepower - GM engineers integrated multiple advanced technologies.
The XV8 was designed around a narrow cylinder bank angle. Where the General's traditional V-8 and V-6 engines used 90-degree spacing between the cylinders, the XV8 uses 75-degree spacing, which helps reduce the overall exterior dimensions. The XV8 also uses unique positioning of its camshafts to ensure optimum performance and efficiency. There are two cams: one for the exhaust valves, and one that operates the intake valves. These cams are in-block, parallel to, and just above the crankshaft. They are also stacked; that is, the exhaust cam is above the intake cam. The cam in-block design minimizes the XV8's overall exterior size, but there are important technical benefits as well. With a traditional OHC/DOHC layout, the cam chains or belts actually change in length depending on engine speed and differing heat levels. In-block cams with pushrods are not prone to drastic changes in valve timing due to rpm or heat. Additionally, the intake cam can be phased (temporarily advanced) to boost bottom-end power.
Although it's unlikely that future GM trucks will be powered by the XV8, its many unique design elements will almost certainly trickle down to future 4x4s. Just think what a terrific package an S-10 or TrailBlazer would be if powered by a light, compact, 300hp V-8 engine. It just may happen one of these days.
Go Long: Chevy's Trailblazer Adds Third-Row Seating For '02
Chevrolet will add to its successful all-new-for-2001 TrailBlazer lineup in 2002 with the introduction of the TrailBlazer EXT, a compact SUV that the General claims "will seat seven people comfortably with room for cargo."
The TrailBlazer's third seat, which is designed to accommodate passengers as tall as 6 feet, 2 inches has a full foot well and is equipped with three-point seatbelts. Behind the third seat, there's 22 cubic feet of storage space; with the second and third seats folded flat, the EXT boasts an impressive 100.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Lengthwise, the five-passenger TrailBlazer rides on a 113-inch wheelbase; the stretched EXT model is built on a chassis with a wheelbase of 129 inches.
The TrailBlazer EXT will be initially offered in mid-level LT trim and is available with two- or four-wheel drive. As with the five-passenger TrailBlazer, GM's smooth and powerful Vortec 4200 I-6 provides 270 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque and is backed by the latest version of GM's 4L60 four-speed Overdrive transmission. Thanks to its stout drivetrain, the TrailBlazer EXT (2WD) can tow as much as 6,000 pounds.
Initial production on the EXT is underway at GM's Oklahoma City plant; production will start at the General's Moraine, Ohio, facility during the summer of 2002.
What? Another Customized Xterra?
For some reason, Nissan's completely capable Xterra SUV seems to have been largely ignored by the aftermarket. Sure, there are a couple of suspension systems and some body parts and, of course, performance wheels and tires available for the X, but we've seen few Nissans that combined a fully array of aftermarket goodies into a functional package. That's why we were happy to receive a press release from our pals at Automotive Customizers in Pompano Beach, Florida, touting the company's Project Xterra.
Here's the lowdown:
3-inch AC custom suspension lift
3-inch body lift
Rear Revolver shackles
ARB Air Lockers (front and rear)
5.14 differential gears
TJM front Bull Bar
HH receiver hitch
MileMarker 10,500-pound capacity winch
Custom roof rack with integral lightbar, Hi-Lift jack mounts and jerrycan mount
Six 100-watt off-road lights33x12.50R15-inch Pro Comp mud-terrain tires on 15x10-inch Pro Comp wheels.
It's a neat truck, and one of the more capable Xterras we've seen. AC's Xterra will be on display at shows and events around the country if you'd like to have a look. For more information, contact: Automotive Customizers, (954) 785-4223.
Avalanche: Big-Block Power For '02
As you're reading this, Chevrolet is in production on a more powerful Avalanche, set to make its debut in model-year '02. While the current 5.3L-powered 'Lanche has enough torque for its intended use, owners will never forget that they're driving a 7,000-pound vehicle powered by a 285hp engine.
To give the Avalanche more guts, Chevrolet has made the 8.1L V-8 optional. The Vortec L18 makes considerably more power than the 5.3L LM7; while the small-block pumps out 285 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, the Rat makes 340 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque.
Land Rover Freelander: Legendary Rover Performance In A New, Compact Package
Ford Motor Company-owned Land Rover is well known for building some of the world's most capable off-road machines. In 2002, Land Rover will enhance its presence in North America with the introduction of the Freelander, an all-wheel-drive SUV aimed at buyers with a taste for a unique, premium-equipped, Euro-style 4x4.
Although the Freelander has been available in Europe since 1997, we're not getting a leftover - the Freelander built for North America uses more than 70 percent new content, including a completely new drivetrain and extensive chassis improvements. The new engine is a high-tech, double overhead cam, four-valve-per-cylinder V-6 that pumps out 174 horsepower and is backed by a slick-shifting, five-speed automatic transmission.
Land Rover lists the starting price for the Freelander S to be less than $26,000, and that's equipped with permanent all-wheel-drive, four-wheel independent suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, all-terrain antilock brakes, Hill Descent Control, power windows, and air conditioning. More expensive will be the luxurious SE and HSE variants. Additional information on the Freelander can be found at: www.landrover.com.
Truck Makers Use More Aluminum
The aluminum content in new trucks will reach its highest level during model-year 2002, according to the Aluminum Association, a Washington-based aluminum trade organization. The association states that 2002-model vehicles will use an average of 268 pounds of aluminum per vehicle, up from last year's average of 255 pounds.
The increased use of aluminum on new vehicles comes as automakers work to reduce emissions, increase fuel economy, and enhance overall performance and handling. Aluminum's light weight - compared to steel - helps the OEMs build more efficient, less-polluting vehicles.
The downside is that aluminum is more expensive to produce than steel because aluminum production uses huge amounts of electrical energy.
Some new trucks that use a notable amount of aluminum in their construction: Ford's '02 Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer are equipped with aluminum hoods and front fenders; Toyota's '02 Highlander SUV will use aluminum front and rear bumper supports; GM's Avalanche is equipped with an outer radiator shroud, as well as a front differential case made out of aluminum; the '02 Jeep Liberty's 3.7L V-6 engine features aluminum cylinder heads, front timing covers, water pumps, and an alternator case.