Everything 4x4 Related
Spied! Refreshed F-150
In the latest picture sent in from our spies, we can clearly see a lightly camouflaged ’13 F-150. This configuration is built for work with an 8-foot bed and the Heavy-Duty Payload package that comes with seven-lug wheels. The mirrors also indicate it is equipped with Ford’s Max Trailer Tow package, which already puts the current 1⁄2-ton F-150 in 3⁄4-ton territory, but with better fuel economy. This preproduction example is sporting a new headlight treatment and a grille that more closely matches the current Super Duty and redesigned Ford Flex. On the side, this test mule appears to be wearing an EcoBoost badge and the exhaust looks to be standard fare, so we can’t speculate on any drivetrain changes at this point, but it wouldn’t surprise us if something interesting were lurking under the hood. With an all-new, and significantly lighter, F-150 due by 2016, this will be the last refresh of the current generation truck.
Baja Fresh Taco
After a successful showing at SEMA, Toyota has announced that a limited number of production Toyota Tacoma TRD T|X (Tacoma Extreme) Baja Series pickup trucks will make it to dealers. The T|X Baja Series will be available on both the Tacoma Access and Double Cab 4x4 models equipped with the TRD Off-Road Package. The Tacoma T|X Baja Series is equipped with a 4.0-liter V-6 engine with either a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission. In addition to an electronically-controlled locking rear differential, Active Traction Control (A-TRAC), Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC) currently equipped on the TRD Off-Road package, the limited edition T|X Baja Series adds LT265/70R16 BFGoodrich T/A KO tires and beadlock-style off-road wheels with an exclusive Gun-Metal Gray finish, TRD exhaust, increased front ride height of nearly two inches and unique Baja Series graphics. The front suspension has been upgraded to include 60mm Bilstein race shocks with TRD coil springs that feature a protective zinc-plated body and a one-inch increase in wheel travel. The rear suspension is equipped with 50mm Bilstein race shocks with remote reservoirs to increase shock oil capacity for greater heat dissipation and damping sensitivity. The rear shocks also include a zinc-plated body and a 1.5-inch increase in wheel travel. Additional information about the Baja Series, including pricing and ordering information, will be available in early 2012.
It’s a Dusy
BFGoodrich Tires recently honored the Dusy-Ershim OHV Trail in Sanger, California, as one of the 2011 Outstanding Trails. For the first time ever, fans in the wheeling community were given the power to vote for their favorite trail and Dusy-Ershim came out on top. Enthusiasts and members of the Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno, California, were in attendance as BFGoodrich Tires presented a grant of $4,000 to the club. The grant will be used to preserve the scenic trail and continue conservation efforts for one of America’s most beautiful areas. The Dusy-Ershim OHV Trail in the Sierra National Forest offers 33 miles of high mountain meadows, creeks, six natural lakes, unique granite mountains, cliffs and panoramic views from 10,200 feet. The trail, often considered one of California’s best-kept secrets, is a major challenge for drivers, and having advanced driving skills is highly recommended. Dusy-Ershim offers the perfect escape, because it does not cross any roads or other OHV trails. It also has many foot trails, lakes, and creeks that are accessible to hikers. The Four Wheel Drive Club of Fresno was founded in 1954 and has built 10 trails, six of which the club currently maintains. The club coordinates with the Forest Service to perform various work projects that maintain and preserve the trails throughout the year. Some of the work projects include building and maintaining toilets, maintaining campgrounds, trail cleanups, and upkeep of trail signage.
Questioning The Top:
In a periodic series, we’ll be interviewing automotive executives and asking questions you care about most. First in our installment is this recent interview with Fred Diaz, President and CEO of the Ram Truck brand.
FW: With Chevy recently confirming the next-generation Colorado for the U.S. market, does it open the possibility of Ram re-entering the midsize segment with a proper body-on-frame truck?
Diaz: The brand is exploring a lot of options for that particular segment. So many that they would be literally impossible for me to talk about, if I could talk about them. But we’ve got so many things in the hopper now that we are looking at and making serious considerations for what we want to do in that segment and what our next version, if you want to call it that, of a Dakota replacement would be—if it were to happen.
FW: With Ram being the truck brand in North America, would Ram ever consider sharing a platform with Jeep to reduce costs, something that might be beneficial to both brands in order to bring something to that segment?
Diaz: As a company we are open-minded to any and all things. The great thing about our company is that we are not the type of company that is into turf protectionism. We are all on the team together; we all want to do what’s best for the company, whether it is sharing something like that, or not. Those are discussions that we have as well, but there are no definitive answers or direction as to what could or could not come from that, but we do talk about it.
FW: What technologies and features do you see as important to the Ram brand’s success moving forward?
Diaz: Unique selling propositions, such as the fact that we have the only link-coil suspension system on the market. Coming up with other unique selling propositions like the RamBox, which we’ve now expanded from (the) 5 feet 7 inches (bed) to (the) 6 feet 4 inches (bed), so that’s huge and we’ve been incredibly successful with that. Going forward, the corporation is not resting on its laurels. We know that we have some good things … we are going to be bringing the Pentastar engine to the Ram. That, along with the emphasis and investment we are putting into the Ram Truck brand, is going to bring some USPs to the market that you’ll be happy with.
FW: Will we ever see the light-duty diesel engine, such as the stillborn 5.0L Cummins V-8, come to the Ram?
Diaz: All I am going to say is that we are exploring, many, many things for the future of the Ram Truck brand. I can’t comment specifically on that. Wish I could.
FW: With the niche success of Raptor, and Mopar now offering the RamRunner kit, is there still space for a production version of the truck from Ram to go head-to-head with Ford?
Diaz: I’m not going to say that there is or is not an opportunity for us to make that a production vehicle, although I really like the space we are playing in right now with that Mopar kit. Would we consider it as a production vehicle? Who knows?
FW: With tougher regulations looming do you foresee a time when Ram, or the truck industry as a whole, will have to shrink size and potentially lose capability in order to meet the new standards?
Diaz: I think companies and corporations now have many ways to meet the regulations (without losing capability). No doubt, I think what the cafe fed regs are doing to us is going to make us look at what we are doing, what we are bringing to market, and be a lot smarter about it going forward. And of course, mpg is always at the top of our minds at the Ram Brand.
FW: Will Power Wagon always be a Heavy-Duty-based truck, or is it possible that it could become a sub-brand that would also include a 1⁄2-ton Power Wagon for an enthusiast who wants it all in an off-road package, but doesn’t need the ¾-ton capability?
Diaz: Interesting idea.