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4 Wheel Off Road News - Drivelines

Posted in News on August 1, 2003
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Nissan Unveils Armada in New YorkNissan introduced the second vehicle based off its all-new fullsize truck platform-the Pathfinder Armada SUV-at the New York Auto Show in April. Nissan's initial fullsize offering, the Titan pickup, debuted earlier this year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

In a sea of "crossovers" and cute/utes, the Armada is a throwback to traditional truck-based sport/utilities, with body-on-frame construction, a V-8 engine, and a two-speed transfer case with low range. There's even an off-road package available with extra skidplates under the oil pan, gas tank, and transfer case; Rancho shocks; 3.36:1 axle gears; and P285/70R17 BFG All-Terrains on 711/42-inch-wide wheels.

The Armada shares its 5.6L, DOHC, 32-valve Endurance V-8 with the Titan. In an interesting public relations move, Nissan has been fairly forthcoming about the engine's power output in the Titan: "over 300 hp and more than 375 lb-ft of torque." When it comes to discussing what is ostensibly the same engine in the Armada, the press guys get tight-lipped, saying only that the engine offers "one of the highest standard horsepower/torque ratings in the fullsize, light-duty SUV class...." Our guess is that the engineers are still tinkering with tuning to optimize fuel economy, and so they're reluctant to give out firm power numbers until closer to the truck's fall launch. The factory reps did say that, properly equipped, the Armada will be able to tow up to 9,100 pounds.

The Armada's drivetrain consists of a five-speed automatic transmission (with tow/haul mode) mated to a two-speed transfer case with auto, full-time 4WD, and 4-Lo modes. The case's automatic control system was derived from Nissan's Japan-market Skyline GT-R sports coupe and is not a truck-based system. It can distribute up to 50 percent of the engine's power to the front wheels as needed.

Under the Armada is a fully independent suspension, with double wishbones front and rear. A rear air-leveling system is available with the Armada's tow package.

The Armada will come in SE and upscale LE trim levels, and several special equipment packages will be available along with the Off-Road package mentioned earlier. Prices haven't been announced, but Nissan says it will be priced like other fullsize SUVs.

Your Guide to Roughin' ItNeed help building a multipurpose vehicle? Think you know what you should wear when you're trapped on the trail? Before you hit the dirt again, first check out Your Guide to Roughin' It, which includes stories about which modifications your truck should have to what your own body should have (that would be tents, sleeping bags, and apparel). Our guide can help you with all the details for your next adventure, including new tips and event ideas from our sister magazines, such as Guns & Ammo (really-them guys is smart!)! Check it out at

This Just In...*Count on the folks at Advance Adapters to not leave well enough alone. They're introducing an Atlas transfer case with a 5.047:1 low-range ratio. Each will come standard with a 32-spline HD front output shaft. The transfer case will retail for a tick over $2,700 and will be available mid-Summer.

*Speaking of rocks, an agreement has been reached between the Rockcrawlers Association of America and Skyjacker to sanction the 2003 Skyjacker National Rock Crawling Championship for Women. The event will be held at the Avalanche Ranch near Durango, Colorado, Aug. 21-23.

*The war with Iraq seems to have had an effect on car, truck, and SUV sales. According to the folks at Automotive News, retail sales of new vehicles fell 8 percent following the start of the hostilities, compared with the same period a year ago. The silver lining: Many economic experts predicted it would be worse, and the drop in sales wasn't anywhere near the hit taken at the start of the first Gulf War's ground offensive or the days immediately after Sept. 11, 2001.

*Here's a taste of how the other half lives. Forbes magazine recently compiled a list of the most fuel-efficient vehicles by class. The closest thing to one of "our" rigs on the list was the Toyota RAV-4, with 25 mpg city, 31 highway. Top of the list went to the Honda Insight, a two-seat gas/electric hybrid that achieved 61 mpg city, 68 highway.

*Speaking of fuel economy, the NHTSA has finally nailed down the increases it's been looking for in corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for light trucks to take place between now and 2007. Current CAFE for light trucks is 20.7 mpg; that will rise to 21.0 mpg for 2005, 21.6 mpg for 2006, and 22.2 mpg for the 2007 model year. Proponents of the rules say the new CAFE numbers will save some 3.6 billion gallons of gasoline over the lifetime of the trucks. Opponents-like the automakers-are complaining about the difficulty they'll have reaching the new standard.

*More gas pains: The NHTSA just might totally revamp the way it classifies vehicles for CAFE to a weight-based system rather than the definitions it uses now to separate cars from trucks. If that happens look for quite a few minivans, cute/utes, and crossover SUVs to cross over from being trucks to cars and in doing so face stiffer fuel economy regs.

RecallsIf you own one of the following vehicles and haven't been notified by the maker that your vehicle is under recall, get yourself down to your local dealer to find out if the recall affects your 4x4.

*'02 Nissan Xterra: On certain Xterra sport/utility vehicles, the clock-spring electrical connector may not be secured to the driver airbag module squib-pin connector. If the connector comes loose, the driver airbag will not deploy in a crash, increasing the risk of injury. Dealers will install a retaining clip on the clock-spring electrical connector.

*'97 Chevrolet Blazer, GMC Jimmy, and Oldsmobile Bravada: On certain of these midsize SUVs, the energy-absorbing loop on the driver-side seat-belt buckle may fully deploy during severe rollover conditions, reducing driver restraint. Dealers will replace the driver seat-belt buckle assembly with a new buckle assembly.

*'03 Dodge Ram 2500/3500: Certain pickup trucks equipped with Cummins diesel engines and manual transmissions may experience an elevated idle speed after extended cruise control use. This can result in unintended acceleration and a reduction in braking effectiveness. Dealers will reprogram the software in the Cummins engine controller.

Environmental & Political Watch*According to the watchdogs at SEMA, there are no fewer than four bills making their way through Congress that would set aside millions of acres as protected "wilderness." The wilderness designation, of course, prohibits any motorized access within the areas in question. Two of the four-H.R. 1501 and S. 738-seek to convert 304,000 acres of northern California federal lands into wilderness. It gets better; the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (H.R. 1105) wants to turn huge tracts of land in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming into wilderness. And finally, America's Red Rock Wilderness Act (S. 639) wants to designate as wilderness 9 million acres of southern Utah. As usual, write your Congressman/woman. If you don't know who to contact, SEMA has a link on its Web site that'll point you in the right direction:

*As a twist on this theme, a newly introduced House bill, H.R. 652, would create a National Forest Ecosystem Protection Program that would treat primitive lands adjacent to wilderness areas just like the wilderness areas, effectively banning motorized travel from an even bigger area of the country.

*Connecticut wheelers with aftermarket exhaust systems should be aware of H.B. 5145, which would increase the fine for breaking the state's exhaust noise law to $150. The current law prohibits "excessive, unusual, or unnecessary exhaust noise," but fails to define these terms with any sort of objective measurement, like a decibel meter reading.

*California, on the other hand, has such a measurement-the sound from an aftermarket exhaust system must not exceed a 95-decibel limit. Unfortunately, a bill was introduced to repeal that standard. SEMA is in negotiations with state regulators about the bill.

Castrol Dream Engine ContestIf someone gave you $5,000 to build your dream engine, how would you use the money? Well, if you're creative enough, it could actually happen. Castrol Syntec is sponsoring a Build Your Dream Engine contest that will award two $5,000 first prizes, one each to a domestic-motor and import-motor enthusiast whose entry forms are deemed worthy by a panel of judges. Sitting on that panel as honorary judges are NHRA Funny Car driver Tony Pedregon and sport-compact drag race champion JoJo Callos.

The judges will critique the entries for automotive knowledge, accuracy, and originality. The winners will be chosen and the results announced later this year. Each winner will receive $5,000 to be used to purchase add-on engine parts of their choice.

The contest is open to anyone who buys 4 quarts or more of Castrol Syntec engine oil from any participating Castrol retailer. You can find the entry form online at Contest rules and information are also available at the site.

CalendarJuly 3-5 United Rockcrawling & Off-Road Challenge series finals, Farmington, NM. Information: UROC, 435/864-2415,

July 4-6 30th annual 4WD Rodeo by Susquehannocks Four Wheelers, Jersey Shore, PA. Information: 570/648-9573.

July 10-12 Goodyear Skyjacker Extreme Rock Crawling Nationals, Cedar City, UT. Information: 801/288-2574,

July 10-13 Pacific Northwest Trail Jamboree, Naches, WA. Information: 360/897-8284,

July 10-13 SCORE Henderson's Terrible 250, Henderson, NV. Information: SCORE International, 818/225-8402,

July 11 Event City 4x4 Expo, Cedar City, UT. Information: 714/579-3264, e-mail

July 11-13 Coal Mine Cruiser Classic 2003, Paragon Adventure Park, Hazleton, PA. Information: Gotham City Land Cruisers,

July 11-13 13th Lost Coast Jeep Jamboree, Fort Bragg, CA. Information: 530/333-4777,

July 11-13 16th annual Summer 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Bloomsburg, PA. Information: 317/236-6515,

July 12 Mud race by Firelands 4WD Club, Norwalk, OH. Information: 419/668-2464.

July 12-13 CORR Lucas Oil Series off-road race, Bark River, MI. Information: CORR, 317/272-2827,

July 12-13 Patriot Jeepers Campfest, Massachusetts. Information: 508/757-3134,

July 12-13 Mud bog/bracket race by Fayette County Four Wheelers, Somerset, PA. Information: 301/264-3718.

July 13 Off-Rodeo by the Erie County Mudmushers, Erie, PA. Information: 814/739-2945.

July 18-20 North American Regional Rock Crawling Association run, Flagstaff, AZ. Information: NARRCA, 530/622-0370, e-mail

July 18-20 2nd Poconos Big Boulder Jeep Jamboree, Blakeslee, PA. Information: 530/333-4777,

July 19-20 30th annual 4x4 Rodeo by the Tri-County Four Wheelers, Lisbon, OH. Information: 330/337-1872.

July 19-20 4x4 Jamboree Series, Weardale (northeast England). Information: e-mail

July 24-27 Divide Ride 2003, Montana 4x4 Association, Boulder, MT. Information: 406/ 628-8974,

July 25-27 Trail ride in Monteagle/Tracy City, TN, by the Off Road Sportsman Association. Information: 770/478-2587, or e-mail

July 26 Event City 4x4 Expo, Attica, IN. Information: 714/579-3264, e-mail

Aug. 2-3 9th annual Bond Auto Parts 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals, Essex Junction, VT. Information: 317/236-6515,

Aug. 7-10 Cal4Wheel Sierra Trek, Truckee, CA. Information: 916/991-5601, e-mail

Aug. 8-10 CoolRide '03, Paragon Park, Hazleton, PA. Information:, e-mail

Aug. 8-10 Rubicon Trail Jeep Jamboree, near Georgetown, CA. Information: 530/333-4777,

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