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July 2005 4x4 News - RPM

Posted in Project Vehicles on July 1, 2005
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Suzuki calls the Concept-X2 a customer-focused SUV for adventure-seekers unwilling to sacrifice capability, power, performance, safety, or style in a right-sized sport-utility package. Whatever. We call it a possible replacement for the Vitara, and yes, it even has a ladder frame and low-range to go with that peppy V-6. If it is half as good as our long term XL-7 was, it will be a great little machine.

Stylin' Concepts, in partnership with Pro Comp Suspension, is giving away a 2005 Ford F-150 to one lucky reader of Four Wheeler, 4-Wheel & Off Road, or Off Road magazines. The Ford sports a mind-boggling array of aftermarket performance and style modifications, including:

* 6-inch Pro Comp suspension lift with billet front coilovers and rear traction bars
* 35x12.50-17 Pro Comp X-terrain tires on 17x9-inch 1079 Xtreme alloy rims
* Roush supercharger kit, stainless exhaust, and interior leather kit
* Auto Meter gauges
* KC lightbar
* Bushwacker fender flares
* Baer Big Brake kit
* T-Max 10,000-pound winch
* Hidden Hitch front hitch kit
* Owens diamond-plate floor mats
* And much, much more.

To find out how to enter, and whether you're eligible, look for the sweepstakes rules on page 106, and for the official entry form in this magazine. The contest begins after midnight Eastern time, May 31, 2005,and all entries must be postmarked by 5:00 p.m. Eastern time, August 22, 2005. Good luck!


This seven-passenger Jeep SUV, called the Jeep Commander, will go on sale this fall. The Commander will be built at the same plant that now builds the Grand Cherokee, and will offer the same selection of 4x4 systems, suspension, and powertrains as in the current Grand Cherokee. The two vehicles share the same platform and 109.5-inch wheelbase, but the Commander is 2 inches longer than the Grand overall to accommodate a third row of seats.

The Commander is the first Jeep with three rows of seats. The seats are arranged stadium-style, with the third row seats highest. The back two rows of seats fold flat to create a cargo platform that can hold up to 68.7 cubic feet. While the third-row seating is not as roomy as it might be in a larger vehicle, it was considered crucial to keep the wheelbase as short as possible to preserve the maneuverability of the Commander. Ground clearance is given at 8.6 inches. There will be two models, the standard Commander and an upscale Limited, and it will be available in 2WD, in addition to 4WD.

It might not look much different, but it is. Working with DaimlerChrysler's Street and Racing Technology (SRT) team, Jeep has developed "the ultimate performance sports utility vehicle," the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.

Equipped with a 6.1L HEMI engine and specially developed full-time, all-wheel-drive system, the SRT8 seems intended to compete with the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and BMW X5 when it becomes available in the fall as a 2006 model. The 6.1L V-8 makes 415 hp at 6,200 rpm, and 410 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm, and because of a 10.3:1 compression ratio, runs on Premium gas. The transmission is a W5A580 five-speed automatic. There is a single-speed transfer case (MD146 SRT) that distributes torque front-to-rear via an electronically controlled clutch pack. Axle ratios are 3.73:1, with a 7.9-inch ring gear up front and an 8.9-inch ring gear at the rear. Brakes are discs with four-piston Brembo calipers. The SRT8 runs on high-performance, Z-rated 255/45 Goodyear Eagle run-flat tires.

The new Isuzu I-350, a five-cylinder 4x4 pickup truck, is the latest continuation of Isuzu's partnership with General Motors. The I-350 will be built in the USA at GM's Shreveport, Louisiana, plant starting in June 2005.

Isuzu collaborated with GM in developing the replacement for the S-10 pickup, with the result being the Chevy Colorado. Isuzu markets an Asian version of the pickup in Thailand, where it is called the D-Max.

In the U.S., the I-350, and its 2WD Extended Cab stable mate, the I-280, will differ from the familiar GM products only in trim level details and in warranty. Isuzu offers a 7-year/75,000-mile powertrain warranty and 7-year/75,000-mile roadside assistance program, which is more than twice as long as GM's 3-year/36,000-mile warranty. Pricing was not announced, but an Isuzu spokesman said, "I can assure you that the I-280 and I-350 will be priced attractively and competitively."
-John Stewart

The Donahoe suspension company recently signed a deal with both Ford Motor Company and the Best in the Desert racing series. As the official suspension system for Best in the Desert Off-Road Racing Series, Donahoe will offer attractive discounts for Best in the Desert teams. Donahoe is now an official Ford-sponsored team as well. As such, Donahoe will race a brand-new '05 Ford F-350 4WD Diesel Super Duty, complete with Donahoe Racing's new '05 Ford Super Duty suspension system. This new '05 Super Duty will compete in the Best in the Desert 8100 Class beginning with the Nevada 1000 in July 2005. Ford Motor Company's official sponsorship of Team Donahoe stipulates that Team Donahoe, as an official "equipment testing team" for Ford engineers, provides Ford feedback on the durability of Ford parts in the grueling Nevada desert.


Go to Europe and you'll see darn few SUVs and practically zero pickup trucks. Nevertheless, our dedicated search of the 2005 Geneva Motor Salon (yep, that's Switzerland) did yield a few interesting tidbits.

The star of Nissan's display in Europe was, of all things, an SUV. SUVs are a curiosity on The Continent, a land of AWD station wagons and medium-duty trucks. The Zaroot-the name is supposed to play on "root" and "route," linking Nissan's heritage with the path ahead-is equipped with Nissan's All-Mode four-wheel-drive system. The system uses electronic traction control to enhance grip in low-traction situations. Ground clearance is generous, and overhangs are short, not unlike the current Xterra. Tire size on this concept vehicle is given at 245/55R20.

The Zaroot is a compact SUV measuring 177 inches overall length, and 70 inches wide-just a tad smaller than the Xterra. Two huge doors dominate the profile, opening gull-wing style, with the rocker panel unfolding downward to act as a step. These would be impossible to open in a tight parking space, but for an auto show, they are dramatic. The third door is a rear hatch. A roof-mounted spotlight package is integrated into the roof-rack rails. Instead of taillights, a U-shaped band of lights wraps the rear window.

The main aim of the interior design is to create maximum space for people and gear. Seats are thin, but exactly anatomically correct, so as to provide comfortable support. The Zaroot is a concept SUV intended to illustrate what Nissan might do in the future, but we wouldn't hold our breath.

The JAVX, a kind of European vision of the Meyers Manx, stands for "Journey Adventure Vehicle X." This prototype is a product of the Mazel Group, a Spanish design and development studio located in Barcelona. It was a husky set of 295/70R16 rear tires, Z-rated, that caught our eye.

The JAVX is powered by a 4.0L, eight-cylinder, aluminum-block engine, which sounds a lot like a Range Rover motor to us. Built on a 100-inch wheelbase, the JAVX is 69.5 inches wide and just 61 inches tall. The track is an inch wider in the rear than the front, and the rear tires are substantially larger than the front 265/70R16s. The tires are mounted on alloy wheels; brakes are Brembo discs.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of suspension travel available here, just short coilovers on all four corners. The press kit doesn't say much, either, other than "Designed for Brave People." Considering the suspension, we agree.

We couldn't resist snapping this shot of what is probably the most rugged vehicle in the whole Geneva show. Like the front plate says, this would be a Daihatsu Taft, circa 1982. We don't know much about it, other than we heard they are popular in Indonesia. They'd be popular in the States, too, with straight axles and leaf springs, front and rear. In size, it's about halfway between an FJ40 and Suzuki Samurai.

We were told that power comes from a 2.8L diesel coupled to a low-geared manual box that tops out at about 65 mph in 5th gear. However, we saw one on the Internet for sale in Germany that had a 48hp, 1.6L four. Hey, at least it's got character!
-John Stewart

Closing Oregon
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued a draft plan to close more than 90,000 acres to off-road-vehicle users in central Oregon, including a section called the Badlands that is subject to wilderness designation. The closure would prohibit all motorized vehicles on the last 10 miles of routes currently still open within the 32,000-acre Badlands. Another 40 miles of roads and trails are already closed. The off-highway-vehicle ban is part of the Upper Deschutes Resource Management Plan, which will guide the long-term management of 400,000 acres of public land in central Oregon.

Government Agencies Join Forces in Colorado
In an unprecedented move, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service will work together to revise land management plans for the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Management decisions for these 2.5 million acres of public land (1.8 million acres of national forest surrounded by 600,000 acres of BLM lands) will be in effect for the next 10 to 15 years. The agencies will address several major issues including off-road vehicle use, mineral rights, grazing, and timber harvesting. SEMA supports dialog between the government agencies but endorses strong local involvement in the decision-making process. Since some of the trails used by OHV enthusiasts are not officially inventoried, the government agencies should carefully consider the views of the local OHV community as they revise the travel management plans. The agencies want to issue a draft plan later this year and a final plan in 2006.

* Hummer has extended the warranty on all '06-and-newer models to 4 years/50,000 miles.

* Mitsubishi will begin offering SIRIUS Satellite Radio on the '06 Mitsubishi Raider.

* Nissan is now in an elite club of only six automakers to sell over a million vehicles in a year.

* According to The Car Connection, Land Rover is looking into adding an Aston Martin-based V-12 to power a range-topping Range Rover.

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