Land Rover Freelander Comes StatesideHaving been a Land Rover offering in Europe since 1997, the company launched its all-wheel-drive Freelander in the U.S. in early 2002. The Freelander is the first Land Rover vehicle to be offered with unitized body construction, similar to that of some of the Jeep vehicles. Land Rover took this approach to meet standards of strength and durability without the addition of excess weight. Incorporated into the body are substantial, longitudinal box-section rails running the length of the underbody and tied together with integral crossmembers.
Another first for Land Rover is Freelander's permanent all-wheel-drive system. With no Low-range transfer case, the Freelander relies upon its Viscous Coupling Unit (VCU) plus four-wheel Electronic Traction Control (4ETC) to conquer trails and questionable terrain. In the power department, the Freelander uses a 2.5L, 24-valve, double overhead cam (DOHC) engine offering 174 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. This is mated to a Jatco five-speed automatic with sport shifting, another first for Land Rover. Rounding out the vehicle are four-wheel antilock disc brakes and a four-wheel independent suspension arrangement using MacPherson struts. It offers 9 inches of wheel travel in the rear and 7 inches up front.
Taking design cues from earlier-model Land Rovers, the Freelander features a horizontal clamshell hood with a low cowl and waistline, reflective of its Range Rover heritage. The Discovery and Defender heritage is also apparent with its grille treatment, upswept roof profile, and taillamp treatment. The Freelander is now available from your local dealer with standard power windows and air conditioning, nine exterior colors, and three trim levels, starting at $26,000.
Recalls from ChryslerCiting separate potential safety issues, DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler unit has recalled roughly 585,000 Jeeps and pickups. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Chrysler recalled 316,148 Jeep Wranglers made between June 1989 and December 1995 to fix parking brakes that have been found to release on their own without warning. Eleven complaints had been received regarding the parking brakes, four of which resulted in injury. Additionally, 268,740 Dodge Ram pickups were also recalled to correct an alternator wire that can potentially come loose and create a fire hazard. Two such incidents have been reported with neither resulting in injury. Chrysler plans to have dealers install a stiffer spring in the parking brake to remedy the problem in Jeeps and check the wires and tighten connections to fix the Rams.
As if these weren't enough to swallow, the Chrysler Group announced yet another recall, this time for '93-'98 Jeep Grand Cherokees. Seems that some owners are having issues with getting their vehicles into Park. Chrysler plans to resolve the problem by installing a secondary detent system on the floor shifter mechanism to help ensure drivers fully engage their vehicles in Park. Customers can contact their local dealer for more information or call (800) 853-1403.
4x4 Evolution 2The video game craze will stop at nothing. Having run the gamut in realistic adventure games, leading video game-developer Terminal Reality is stepping up to the plate with a sequel to its successful 4x4 Evolution video game. The company's 4x4 Evolution 2 combines real-world aftermarket accessories, factory-correct OEM vehicles, and realistic virtual four-wheeling. The game not only allows you to purchase vehicles and build them to perform using aftermarket parts from ARB, Old Man Emu, and IPF, but with enough race wins you can eventually purchase an ARB monster truck to conquer all other vehicles in the game. ARB USA worked closely with Terminal Reality in the development of the 4x4 Evo 2, ensuring that it would be as accurate as possible. The game is available for many gaming systems, including PC, Mac, Nintendo Gamecube, Sony PlayStation 2, and Microsoft Xbox. For more information, visit www.4x4evolution.com or www.terminalreality.com.
Ford to Build CrossoverFollowing one of the auto industry's fastest-growing segments, Ford plans to produce a new midsized vehicle dubbed the Ford CrossTrainer in 2004. The company is somewhat of a late-comer to the trend of crossover or car-based sport utility vehicles, which grew by nearly 90 percent in the United States last year. Japanese automakers already command a 55 percent market share of the segment with offerings from Toyota and Honda's Pilot, which is a lower-budget version of its popular, midsized Acura MDX. General Motors currently has three crossover-type vehicles available with more on the way. DaimlerChrysler will also join the trend with the launch of its Pacifica next year.
Though Ford has existed as a major player in the SUV segment for many years, it has seen its dominance slip away recently amid mounting competition. The company's only model that fits within the assigned definition of a crossover vehicle is the Ford Escape. The rest of its SUV offerings are built on a truck-like chassis, whereas the CrossTrainer will be built upon a car-type frame. Production of the seven-passenger, all-wheel-drive, V-6-powered CrossTrainer will begin in 2004 at Ford's Chicago assembly plant.
Jeep Wrangler Reaches an ApexWith the success of the Jeep Wrangler X model, Jeep is upping the ante once again with another limited-edition Jeep Wrangler package. Based upon the Wrangler X, the new Apex Special Edition incorporates a unique strobe hood graphic and chromed steel wheels, along with a seven-speaker stereo system, to further attract younger buyers in search of affordability and power. Being offered in Bright Silver Metallic, Patriotic Blue, and Black, the Apex model features the 4.0L engine and is mated to a manual transmission. Using its eye-catching exterior and unique features, Jeep hopes that the Apex will stand apart from other Jeep models and capture the interest of those who seek to be different. Jeep began offering the new model in late February at a base price of $20,285.
U.S. SUVs Meanest of AllBad, bad, Leroy Brown. Baddest man in the whole damn town." Just like Croce's old Leroy, American auto manufacturers are the meanest of the mean, particularly when it comes down to their effects upon the environment. Based upon a number of factors, including poor fuel efficiency, size, and exact makeup of a vehicle's smog-forming tailpipe emissions, and its impact on public health and the environment, 12 vehicles have been designated as the Meanest Vehicles for the Environment by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Nine of the vehicles are produced in the U.S. The Washington-based environmental watchdog group began compiling the list in 1998, naming 12 cars and trucks that are considered the biggest offenders to the environment in their model-year.
Of those included in the list, General Motors produces three of the five vehicles called most unfriendly to the environment in the 2002 model-year. All of the GMs are fullsize SUVs with automatic transmissions and four-wheel or all-wheel drive. Ford and Chrysler also appear in the Top Five, rounding out the total of environmentally offensive U.S.-made vehicles at nine. Others on the list include Lamborghini's L-147 Murcielago sports car, Mercedes-Benz' G500 SUV, and Toyota's Land Cruiser and Lexus LX470. Interestingly, Japanese automakers produce all but one of the 12 cars and trucks appearing on the ACEEE's list of Greenest Vehicles of 2002.