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Reader: Just a couple of comments. First, on your long-term test of the '04 Dodge 2500 (May '05): Doesn't that gosh-awful hand hold on the driver side bother you at all?
About the International CXT: I drive one of these every day. They're much better with the seven-speed (or "6 + 1," as it's sometimes called), and the steps on the fuel tank need three steps-there is a rather long climb between the first and second step. Oh, and you should have gotten the dual 50-gallon fuel tanks. Keep up the great work.
Reader: I read the article on the International CXT. One thing I did not see mentioned is the fact that you need at least an air-brake endorsement-if not a Class B license (in California)-to drive one of these. Also, ABS on an air-braked vehicle operates differently than hydraulic ABS systems. Basically, they sense a difference in wheel speed from left to right without any input from the speedometer. One could lock up both rear wheels and the ABS would still be functioning correctly. It would just think it is sitting still.
Editor: Ken Brubaker replies: No, the Dodge hand hold doesn't bother us, and it hasn't ripped out of the A-pillar the way so many of them do.
According to the press information provided by International Truck and Engine, only Illinois and Virginia require a Class C Commercial Drivers License (CDL) to operate the CXT. They don't mention the air-brake endorsement, but I know that here in Illinois, an air-brake endorsement is mandatory. They do recommend that you check with the Department of Transportation in your state regarding licensing requirements. I think that's an extremely good idea because laws vary from state to state, and often change.
You are correct that ABS on an air-brake-equipped vehicle doesn't receive any data from the speedometer. The CXT has an ABS sensor on each wheel. These sensors monitor each wheel independently. Vehicle speed data is sent to the ABS control module, which uses an algorithm to modulate the air pressure from the brake chamber during an ABS event. However, it is not normal for a properly functioning ABS system to lock up both rear wheels. Federal motor vehicle safety standards dictate that a normally functioning ABS system must not lock up the wheels more than one second when tested.
Reader: I've been an avid reader for more than a decade, and I am researching the newest offerings from Jeep. Specifically, I'm interested in the Unlimited Rubicon, but the engine choices leave much to be desired. Is there any way that you guys can apply a little pressure to Jeep to offer its other premium engines (the 2.8 CRD and 5.7 Hemi) for the original icon? There are numerous reasons besides horsepower and torque-even the Hemi gets better mileage than the 4.0L.
Since I can't even find a 2.8L on eBay, I'm considering spending an additional $15K for an AEV Hemi conversion-on a brand-new vehicle. Acckkkkk!!! Maybe I'll just get a used H1.
If you are aware of any hopeful changes to the Jeep lineup, please share them with us.
Editor: From what we've heard about future Jeep product ... well, we've got good news and bad news. The good news is, there is a new engine for Jeeps on the horizon that'll get better mileage than either the 4.0 or the Hemi. The bad news is, it's a four-banger. That's all we'll say for now.
On the other hand, if you don't really care about mileage, wait 'til you get a load of the new 6.1L Hemi that Jeep plans to offer this fall in the Grand Cherokee SRT8. The new motor is rated at 415 hp, 410 lb-ft of torque, and will supposedly propel the GC to a top speed of "over 150 mph," according to DaimlerChrysler.
Regarding the Wrangler, we're starting to see 5.7L Hemi swap kits popping up via the aftermarket. We profiled one in last month's issue ("Project Teal J"). The 2.8 diesel would seem a terrific alternative to the 4.0, and we love it in the Liberty. But as it stands, the current price of diesel fuel-not to mention the cost of the engine, which typically adds several thousand dollars to the sticker-figures to put a damper on sales (at least for the short term), and for this reason, most of the OEMs we've spoken with are understandably reluctant to expand production of diesel vehicles much beyond their current numbers. But a year or two from now, who knows?
Reader: I was just rereading your Pickup Truck of the Year (Jan. '05) and have to say it was a pretty worthless article. I, for one, would have never come to the same conclusions as you guys, but some good points were brought up. It gave me the idea that you should run a "Contractors' PTOTY." Give the guys who beat their trucks, day in and day out, an idea of what they can expect from a real-world thrashing. Load the trucks to the max, throw blocks, lumber, and anything else you can think of in the box, and head down a rutted dirt road and see how they fare.
And don't just spend a day! Beat those things for a couple of months, and let everybody know what kind of maintenance each truck needed and your honest opinion as to which truck you would rely on day after day to get you, and you equipment, to work and back. I still am a fan of your magazine and I'm not condemning you for one article-just thought I'd give you guys some feedback from someone who knows what a truck has to put up with every day.
Editor: If these were our own trucks, we might-might-consider this. Unfortunately, though, we have to return the trucks to the manufacturers in reasonable condition. (There are other journalists at other publications who want to test these vehicles too.) We do, however, put our long-term test trucks through some pretty rigorous paces over the course of a year, and we do all the things you mention-put them to work hauling and towing, run them hard in some rough conditions (the weather at the Midwest Bureau gets heinous in winter!), and we report the costs of ownership over the test period.
Reader: Alright, I have sat by long enough. I am sick of people saying, "Why didn't my favorite rig win Four Wheeler of the Year?" or "How could you choose a Volkswagen, Lexus, or whatever when it costs so much?" Simple-if any one of the readers could be given a bunch of vehicles to try out for awhile without having to buy them, I am pretty sure it would be hard to say no. I have read many past Four Wheeler magazines lately, and I can't count how many times you've had to tell readers that the reason some rig wasn't in the test was because the company didn't send you one. So in short, maybe the Volkswagen did actually kick all the other trucks' butts-and maybe that kind of capability comes at a price. Honestly, how many of us wouldn't sink $50K to own rigs if we had the means, just to make them more capable? To the editors, maybe a "Best Bang for the Buck" award and a "Judges' Pick" award might be nice for future comparo tests. I think it would be a good idea. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest-it has been eating at me for awhile.
Editor: Glad we can help keep your blood pressure down. Actually, we've met plenty of fellas over the years who've easily sunk $30K, $40K, $50K or more into their rigs. Of course, they don't do it all at once, and when they're done-if a truck buildup is ever really "done"-they've usually got a Top Truck Challenge trail monster, not some bone-stock OE rig. On the other hand, many so-called "stockers" nowadays can be incredibly competent trail machines, and the most sophisticated of them-like the Touareg, the GX470, and the LR3-have a price tag to match their abilities. We're still not inclined to discriminate in our testing against a truck based on its sticker-but a "Best Bargain" award sounds like a plan for the future.
Reader: I just got my May '05 issue, and I've got to say it's the best ever! That M-920 is awesome, as is the CXT. While I'm just 14 and haven't ever been 'wheeling, when I'm old enough, I'll have a pretty good idea, thanks to you guys. And as a tenderfoot in 'wheeling, I agree with your Four Wheeler of the Year results. I wish there was a "Bargain Award" too. Finally, do you raffle off all your project vehicles?
Editor: Actually, we don't raffle off any of our project vehicles. Most of them are returned to the vehicle manufacturer after a year, maybe two, after which they're typically crushed due to reasons of liability. There are a few project vehicles we actually do get to keep-such as our Project Teal J, which we've had in our stable since 1997-but we will usually hold on to these as long as possible, as testbeds for all the new products that become available for them over time.
Reader: I think your magazine rocks. It is the one piece of mail I look forward to (besides my income tax return). I read your magazine from cover to back-everything, including the advertisements (feel free to send that last part to prospective clients). No offense, but I may even be one of the few readers who actually reads the Editor's Note; not that it is bad, but a picture is much easier to absorb than the 1,000 words it represents. My wife has a Jeep, I have a Jeep, my parents have a Jeep, and my boys (10 months and 30 months) have a single and a tandem Jeep stroller. I want my boys to grow up knowing how important it is to get out and four-wheel.
My background is as a chemist with a master's degree (my wife tells me that I've mastered my B.S.) and I drive a '01 TJ with heated seats-yes, heated seats from the dealer (please stop laughing now). I'm told by the dealer that my heated seats are the only pair known to exist in a TJ. If I am selected to participate in your Critics' Corner ("Limited Articulation," May '05), I will be honest and reliable to give feedback. For example, in that May issue, the new International truck was cool, but the new concept Hurricane was a bad mutha'. That would have made a cover to turn heads, especially if it was thrashing over that boxy piece of crap Mercedes had at the auto show. I will tell you what I like and do not like.
Hope this helps. In summary, you rock, I rock-let me help with the cover.
Editor: Hey, we like heated seats, too-even our grizzled veteran Willie Worthy likes 'em. And we'll overlook that little remark about a certain Editor's column that everyone loves to read (right?). But bottom line: When it comes to the Critics' Corner, honesty pays, and for that reason, you're hereby inducted. And as a Letter of the Month winner, you also get a FW license plate-heck, for good measure, we'll throw in a couple more for your boys' strollers. When you can win goodies like these by just writing a letter, who needs to buy lottery tickets?
Finally, thanks to all who wrote in to volunteer for the Critics' Corner focus group. Even if we didn't pick you, we read all your e-mails and took careful note of your comments. Thanks again for all your advice!
Reader: My husband and I just purchased an '04 Chevy Colorado 4x4 and wonder why there are no articles in your magazine about this truck. Have any issues had any articles on the Colorado?
Editor: We conducted an extensive road test of the Colorado in our March '04 issue. We haven't revisited the truck since then as (a) it hasn't been substantially revised in design, and (b) until very recently, there hadn't been much in the way of aftermarket support for it. For a while, in fact, we were seeing more lowering kits than lift kits for it. Things, however, are starting to change in this regard, and we expect to see a flood of new product for this truck in the near future, particularly after the Colorado-based Hummer H3 goes on sale later in the year.
Reader: Hey guys, the Web URL you listed for Lincoln Electric in "What's New" (May '05) is incorrect. It should be www.lincolnelectric.com ... unless you're shopping around for Brubaker's next road-test vehicle.
Editor: A Navigator test? Don't tempt us! But yeah, you're right, we goofed. Sorry for any inconveniences.