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December 2005 4x4 News - RPM

Passenger Side Cover
Posted December 1, 2005

Best Look Yet: Four-Door Wrangler

A few issues ago, we brought you a picture of the 2007 two-door Wrangler out testing and told you about a possible four-door variant. Rumor no more-our spies snapped the best pictures yet of the upcoming JK (or TK, depending on who you ask) four-door Wrangler. Looking more like a Mega Cab with its extra-long wheelbase, the Mega Wrangler is expected to trump the outgoing model in ride quality, but some purists wonder if the Wrangler hasn't gotten just a little too big. The base model will get the 2.4L I-4, and the 3.7L V-6 out of the Liberty will be an option. One would also expect a V-8 option, considering this plus-sized addition to the lineup.

With the diesel wars in full effect, it seems like the Big Three are revising their offerings on a yearly basis, and the Duramax/Allison combination found in GM's '06-model HD trucks is no exception. Thanks to many key changes, such as a stronger block, lower compression (16.8:1 from 17.5:1), revised turbo design, higher fuel-injection pressure, and a 32-bit E35 controller, the 6.6L Duramax (LBZ) now makes 360 hp at 3,200 rpm and 650 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm. These changes also help the Duramax LBZ to run smoother, quieter, and cleaner than the engine it replaces. The Allison 1000 automatic transmission wasn't forgotten in the overhaul and has added a second overdrive for a total of six cogs, instead of five, which lowers engine rpm at 60 mph by 250 rpm, giving both better range and fuel economy. This new transmission also offers tap-shift, allowing the driver greater control over gear selection.

Here is an artist's look at two upcoming Jeeps. We recently brought you spy shots of the soon-to-be-released Jeep Compass soft-roader (upper right). With front-wheel drive (AWD is an option) and a CVT transmission, the Compass will be the first Jeep in a series of street-biased vehicles to carry the legendary seven-bar grille. Accompanying the Compass will be the five-passenger Patriot, which we think pulls off modern XJ better than the Commander, and will slot below the Liberty and compete with the Ford Escapes and Honda CR-Vs of the world. Rumor has it that the Patriot will have some sort of unspecified technology that will make it much more capable in the dirt than the competition. With that being said, perhaps there is hope yet that Jeep won't trade its integrity for a few more vehicle sales.


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Ford has chosen Pioneer as the exclusive supplier of its next generation in-vehicle navigation and entertainment system that will bow in seven select 2006 models, including the Explorer and Explorer Sport Trac. The new components will use DVD-based software, a 6.5-inch TFT touch screen display, turn-by-turn guidance, AM/FM tuner, Sirius capability, integrated six-disc changer with MP3 capability and audiophile-grade sound.

The Baja 1000 has long been a rite of passage for truck makers looking to prove that their products have what it takes to survive even the harshest conditions. The latest manufacturer to step up to the challenge is Honda, which hopes to show its Ridgeline pickup is a "real" truck by entering-and finishing-the grueling endurance race.

A team of desert-racing experts, led by Gavin Skilton (son of JeepSpeed founder Clive Skilton) is prepping a Ridgeline for this year's 1000. Don't expect a Honda Trophy Truck; that would defeat the purpose of the exercise. Instead, the Ridgeline will run in the restrictive Stock Mini class, proving that it has the goods right out of the box.

Modifications to the truck will be relatively minor, at least in desert racing terms. The 3.5L, 255hp V-6 and the rest of the Ridgeline's driveline remain virtually stock, as does the truck's sheetmetal, though the wheelwells will be radiused to clear 32-inch BFGs. The stripped cockpit gets a chromoly rollcage and racing seats, while the chassis and suspension will be beefed to withstand the Mexican desert's punishment.

Skilton's California Race & Rally team has enlisted major sponsors BFGoodrich, American Racing Wheels, and Valvoline for the Honda project. Other parts and expertise are coming from ATL, Lowrance, Baja Designs, Optima, Crow Safety Equipment, King Shock Technology, PWR Race Radiators, Howe Performance Steering, Power Tank, and Advanced Flow Engineering. As of this writing in late summer, Jason LaFortune and the fabricators at his Temper-Mental Racing shop had blown the truck apart and started on the upgrades. We'll follow the buildup and the truck's trip to Baja for a future Four Wheeler feature. Stay tuned.
-Drew Hardin

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