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April 2005 4x4 News - RPM

Posted in Project Vehicles on April 1, 2005
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Photographers: Courtesy of Brenda Priddy & Company

We have been teased by sketches of the Jeep Gladiator for months, but we finally got a good look at it in person, at the 2005 North American International Auto Show. The 138-inch-wheelbase, five-seater pickup, which Jeep refers to as a "flexible utility truck," features an open-air canvass top, a 5x8-foot bed that expands to a full 6 feet via a midgate, and a side-mounted spare tire.

The Gladiator concept, which is said to be built on its own dedicated chassis (i.e., no Dodge Dakota sourcing) uses the 2.8L turbodiesel six currently found in the '05 Jeep Liberty, coupled to a five-speed manual trans and part-time two-speed transfer case. Solid axles front and rear (!) are located by a five-link/coil suspension in front and a five-link/dual coilover setup in the rear. The setup is said to result in 13.7 inches of ground clearance, which if true, would be better than any personal-use four-by on the market. Stout-looking 265/75R18 tires run on 18x8-inch rims. Overall length is 205 inches; base curb weight is a claimed (and seemingly svelte) 4,150 pounds.

Alright already, you're saying-when do we get the chance to buy one? The folks at DaimlerChrysler are staying mum for the time being, but our best guess (based on what we've learned about future Jeep products under development) is 2007 at the soonest, if then. We'll let you know as soon as we hear anything more.

After a brief stay of execution, Ford once again announced the demise of its king-size Excursion SUV. The Excursion will be replaced in late 2006 by a stretched version of the Expedition, seen here undergoing testing. The new SUV is about 16 inches longer than the standard Expedition and might carry the name Everest. Powertrains are believed to be either an upcoming 4.2L turbodiesel V-6 or a new 6.2L gas V-8, known internally as the Hurricane. Ford says the death of the Super Duty-based Excursion will allow it to expand production capacity for its strong-selling F-250 and F-350 pickups and will give it a better competitor against the General's Suburban and Yukon XL.

As part of the marketing campaign for the Toyota Tundra Double-Cab fullsize pickup truck, images of the truck have been painted on the sides of two Amtrak locomotives, one running the "Texas Eagle" route segment from Chicago to San Antonio, and the other running the "Silver Service" route segment from Washington, D.C. to Miami. Toyota worked with Amtrak to choose routes that had high exposure and travel through key markets for the automaker. Toyota is currently building a Tundra plant in San Antonio, Texas, so the "Texas Eagle" route was a natural choice. The segment of the "Silver Service" route chosen will give the truck good exposure on the east coast and through the southern states. Amazingly enough, Toyota is the first automaker, and only the second company, to use Amtrak locomotives for advertising in this manner.

One of the most luxurious SUVs in the world gets even better for 2006. Here is the first official photo of Land Rover's flagship Range Rover, which is freshened up with more contemporary styling that includes new front fascias, power vents, lamps, and wheels. The most notable upgrade is found under the hood where an optional 4.2L supercharged V-8, making 400 hp, can be found. The standard 4.4L, normally aspirated V-8 also gets a power bump to 305 hp. Land Rover says that even with the increased performance, both engines should deliver better fuel economy than the outgoing model. The '06 Range Rover also sports a quieter cabin, better handling, and a host of technological upgrades. A chauffeur will still cost extra.

With the failed Blackwood behind it, Lincoln is soldiering on with its pickup truck desires. The new '06 Mark LT, which is a Town Car-ized F-150, will start at $39,995 for a 2WD model and $43,495 for a 4WD model.

Diesel Power is the first consumer magazine just for diesel enthusiasts. This quarterly newsstand publication primarily shows Ford Powerstroke, Dodge Cummins, and GM Duramax owners what's on the market to improve their trucks' engine, transmission, and driveline. Diesel Power also shows prospective new-truck buyers the newest light trucks with diesel engines and catalogs their performance. Diesel engine technology, motorhome engine, "diesel drags," "dyno days," and towing are all part of the package as well. Diesel Power will debut on newsstands in mid-March 2005.

Off-Roader Driving by Tom Sheppard now in its second edition is one of the most comprehensive collections of 4x4 information we've ever seen packed in one place. Everything from the basic driving techniques to advanced winching is covered in the elegantly laid-out hardback. Beautifully scenic color artwork and 3D illustrations simplify concepts and effectively communicate the ideas and theories of four wheeling. Packed with technical information, we recommend this as required reading for anyone interested in 4x4s.

Off-Roader Driving by Tom Sheppard
Published by Desert Winds Publishing
44 Salisbury Lane
Hertfordshire SG5 3EG, England
ISBN 0-9532324-2-5
phone 44 1462 76879

The SEMA Action Network (SAN) has submitted comments on a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) proposal to manage off-highway vehicle (OHV) use within National Forest System lands. The rule would establish a system of roads, trails, and areas designated for motor vehicle use and prohibit such use outside of the designated system. SAN expressed support for broad national guidelines combined with local management decision-making and urged strong public involvement and flexible timetables in the process of designating roads, trails, and areas for motor vehicle use.

* Ford was number one in auto sales in America again for the 18th straight year now.

* Truck-based SUV sales were down by nearly 3.5 percent in 2004, this according to the Automotive News Data Center.

* The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating '03 and '04 Hummer H2s because four drivers have reported a break in their vehicle's steering knuckle, leading to a loss of control and, in some cases, the loss of a wheel. Approximately 60,000 H2s are in use.

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