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January 2011 RPM: Off-Road Truck News

Posted in News on January 1, 2011
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Gladiator Won't Die
Was a repainted Gladiator concept truck recently shown at a Chrysler dealer meeting? We have conflicting reports of whether it was the Gladiator in a new color, or a new concept altogether, but we have confirmed that a Wrangler-based pickup was recently shown to dealers as a teaser. Jeep CEO Mike Manly briefly revealed the truck, which was shown to gauge dealer reaction, before walking offstage. We have been asking for a truck like this for years and are extremely excited that Jeep is still mulling over such a vehicle. We contacted Jeep, but they offered no comment, saying that they don't discuss anything that may or may not have been on the agenda at an internal business meeting. Production could start as soon as late next year, with an on-sale date target of January or February 2012-if the project is green-lighted. Fingers crossed.

Graphic Story
Ford says that 47 percent of Raptor buyers have opted for the $1,075 "digital mud" side graphic that was inspired by the extreme sports industry. With the graphic trend seemingly catching on, Ford is now offering a hood graphic for the '11 Raptor. The latest Raptor add-on can be ordered independent of the digital mud and is intended as a throwback to Ford's desert racing heritage, especially the Broncos of the '70s which ran a flat black hood to reduce glare.

Drummond Island Recognized
Located in the far northeastern tip of Michigan's upper peninsula, Drummond Island was recently honored by BFGoodrich Tires as one of the 2010 Outstanding Trails. Wheeling enthusiasts and members of the Drummond Island Off-Road club were in attendance as BFGoodrich Tires presented a grant of $4,000 to the club's president. The grant will be used to preserve the scenic off-highway trail system and continue conservation efforts for one of America's most beautiful areas for wheeling. BFGoodrich Tires, working in conjunction with Tread Lightly! and United Four Wheel Drive Associations, chose the Drummond Island trail system because of its beauty and challenge that it presents to off-road enthusiasts. The Drummond Island trail system offers more than 115 miles of trails laid out in a closed loop system and provides a wide range of riding opportunities. Many of the trails on the island run along stone ridges that were carved out by Lake Huron and the last ice age. The Drummond Island Off-Road club is a not-for-profit organization that works to create a legal, safe and unique OHV trail system in the middle of Lake Huron for the riding public to experience and enjoy.

Patriot Facelift
Jeep's little soft roader that can is getting a mild refresh for 2011. Benefitting from a new dashboard in 2009, the interior is further refined with Jeep's new corporate steering wheel, soft-touch door panels and new features. The exterior design has been tweaked for a more upscale and aggressive look. The Jeep Patriot also boasts a retuned suspension with higher spring and damping rates, added rebound springs, and an increased diameter of the rear sway bar. The all-wheel-drive model also gets a one-inch increase in ride height. The Trail Rated Jeep Patriot meets Jeep off-road capability requirements for traction, water fording, articulation, maneuverability and ground clearance, including 9 inches of ground clearance, a 29-degree approach angle, a 33-degree departure angle and a 23-degree breakover angle. This version of the Patriot also has additional body sealing and high-mounted drivetrain vents to support 19-inch water fording capability.

HD Ram Boxes Are Coming
Ram will be expanding the excellent Ram Box option to other bed lengths for the 2012 model year. This means that heavy-duty truck buyers will be able to select the Ram Box option for the first time. We absolutely loved the option on out '09 Ram 1500 long termer and miss it on our '10 Power Wagon.

Legislative Notes
EPA to Streamline Process for Approving Vehicle Fuel Conversions
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a streamlined process for manufacturers for approving fuel conversion systems. The conversion systems allow light- and heavy-duty vehicles to run on alternative fuels (natural gas, propane, alcohol, electricity, etc.) while complying with Clean Air Act emissions standards. The EPA would establish a three-tiered compliance process based on the age of the vehicle. Under the current one-size-fits-all approach, a certificate of conformity demonstrating emissions compliance must cover the vehicle and engine conversion system. The proposed rule would require a certificate only for newer vehicles (less than two years old). Conversion system manufacturers would need to perform certification tests to demonstrate the vehicle complies with exhaust and evaporative emissions standards as well as with on-board diagnostic requirements, but manufacturers could then apply a single set of test data to more vehicle and engine conversions than is currently allowed.

To certify alternative-fuel conversions for intermediate-age engines (more than two years old but still within their useful life), manufacturers would need to perform exhaust and evaporative emissions tests to demonstrate compliance with EPA standards and then forward that test data to the EPA with a statement that the OBD system will continue to operate properly after the conversion. For vehicles that have outlived their useful life, the EPA intends to pick one of the following three options: (1) require conversion manufacturers to submit a detailed description of the conversion technology to demonstrate that it is well-engineered and should work, (2) conduct the same emissions testing as for the intermediate age vehicles or (3) submit the option one description along with an OBD diagnostic scan report.

Break With Bad Habit
The Bad Habit/ReadyLift Racing monster truck and driver Joe Sylvester recently broke the world long jump record with a jump of 208 feet, besting the previous record of 202-feet that was owned by Bigfoot. The record came after a series of problems, from a blown engine to a hard crash-landing that ripped a front wheel from the truck after flipping five times. Kudos to Joe and his team for sticking with it!

Quick Hits
Power numbers for the '11 Ford F-150's EcoBoost V-6 have come in at 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, slotting nicely between the 5.0L V-8 (360hp/380tq) and the Premium 6.2L V-8 (411hp/434tq).

The Mahindra saga continues, with importer Global Vehicles alleging that Mahindra delayed EPA certification of its much-anticipated Pik-Up to void their distribution contract.

Nissan has announced that pricing for the '11 Pathfinder will start at $27,840, the Xterra at $23,850, and a base Frontier at $17,750.

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