You already know about the new Grand going diesel--a 3.0L V-6, to be exact--but the gas side is making news, too. Standard on the Limited will be a brand-new 4.7L V-8 that will bump up the ponies 30 percent (to 305 hp) and the torque by 10 percent (334 lb-ft); it'll be flex-fuel-capable like the previous version. Also changing will be the interior and exterior. The grille has been lengthened, the lights have been tweaked, and the front fascia becomes a two-piece so you can yank off the bottom half before going off-road. The interior is basically a touch-up.The Liberty is a bigger deal. It's all-new and super square, which gives the powers that be yet another opportunity to cram the "it will appeal to Cherokee buyers" speech down our throats (and how'd that work out with the Commander?). If you think it looks like the Dodge Nitro, you're not as dumb as everyone thinks you are. The Liberty will share the same platform as the Nitro, although the Nitro has a longer wheelbase. The Liberty gets the Sky Slider, an open canvas roof/convertible feeling. The independent front and five-link rear suspension are completely new. The diesel has been dumped (the company says that was always the long-term plan--the Grand was scheduled to move in on that territory), so the available engine is a 210hp, 3.7L V-6 that makes 235 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual and four-speed automatic make up the transmission options.
* Hankook is now the world's seventh-largest tire manufacturer, according to number crunching done by Modern Tire Dealer.
* Chrysler Group and Richard Petty Driving Experience have decided to expand SRT Track Experience beyond SRT models. It's now open to all lovers of auto, regardless of their allegiance.
* BFGoodrich's Outstanding Trails program has grown beyond the five located in the United States. Lucky number six is the Whipsaw Trail in British Columbia, Canada.
* Is General Tire going after the big dogs? The company wants to build a serious off-road tire--three-ply sidewalls and the whole bit. A new logo has been step one. Baby steps, people, those are really big dogs.
* Robert E. Petersen, founder of Petersen Publishing, which gave birth to our sister publications Hot Rod and Motor Trend, and is the Petersen's part of 4-Wheel & Off-Road's full title, has died at the age of 80.
* Is DaimlerChrysler considering changing its name to Daimler-Benz so that no one remembers the tanking Chrysler part? Won't matter when that arm is sold off anyway.
* Speaking of, the phrase Big Three is being rapidly replaced by Detroit Three as industry lingo. Thanks, Toyota!
* New from Car Tech Books is High-Performance Jeep Wrangler TJ Builder's Guide 1997-2006. Visit www.cartechbooks.com for more details.
* A lady in Michigan is claiming a dealership took advantage of her being bipolar to get her to upgrade to a new vehicle when she came in for an oil change. Oh, yeah, she's suing. Naturally!
* A guy who has had merlot as his personalized license plate in Utah for 10 years has been told it'll no longer fly because it's one of the "words of intoxicant," according to The Associated Press. Making things scarier is that the state figured this out only after being tipped off that merlot is alcohol. Wow.
* Sanjaya! (Although by the time this issue comes out ,we won't remember what this meant.)
* "At this very moment, Pete is teaching the IT guy how to improve storage capacity on our computers. Perhaps later he'll take apart his new cell phone to increase reception in rural areas. Don't laugh--I caught him doing exactly that a few months ago to his brand-new $250 phone."
* Did anyone keep track of how many hours Hazel spent online shopping for a crew-cab diesel pickup? We've seen his paychecks. He can't afford one anyway.
* What about the hours spent fantasizing about ownership of an M38A1? That wasn't Hazel.
* The movie 300--"The killin' was sweet!"
* The best e-mails we've been getting have been from troops deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq who say reading our escapades reminds them of home and makes their time there go by more quickly.
* Installation stump of the month: "The winch I decided to run on my J-20 is perhaps the widest in the industry, and it wouldn't fit in the bumper I picked. I had to make a custom bolt-on plate for it."
* Overheard after the claim of shifting dust storms on Mars are creating global warming on that planet: "There are polar aliens trying to rest on the last piece of martian ice caps."
* Libertys are flamers! Some '06-'07s are being recalled after issues with a blower motor in the A/C system and supposed complaints of resulting fire.
* We should find this endearing, but it seems kind of icky. At every concert they hold on their current tour, singers Tim McGraw and wife Faith Hill will display their red '78 CJ-6. Cute, right? It's named Date Jeep. Purell, right?
* A Jeep with reliability issues? Who knew? Consumer Reports' latest new-car, owner-satisfaction survey put the V-6 Grand Cherokee in the least-satisfying category of midsize SUVs. At least it has company--the two-by Liberty scored least-satisfying small SUV.
* Sirius backseat television will end up in some '08 Jeeps.
As if! We're actually talking about vegetable oil, which is what MJKL, owner of 52 Carl's Jr. franchises in Arizona, is converting its corporate fleet vehicles to run on in the future (that being 2010). Part of the lineup, including Jeeps, actually has already made the switch to a mix of diesel and waste vegetable oil from the restaurants (first put through a filtration and treatment process).