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February 2006 4x4 News - RPM

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 1, 2006
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Last month we showed you pictures of the all-new-for-'07 Chevy Tahoe. GMC followed up Chevy's announcement by finally releasing information on its version of the GMT 900 platform, the Yukon and Yukon Denali. Sharing most major components and drivetrain choices with its Chevrolet sibling, the Yukon does have its own front end treatment and trim levels, which GMC hopes will appeal to a more upscale customer. Denali versions offer an exclusive 380hp, OHV 6.2L all-aluminum small-block V-8 with variable valve timing, backed by a six-speed automatic transmission.

With spy photos readily circulating in the media, we have known for a long time what Dodge has officially announced: The midsize Dodge Nitro is a go for 2007. Looking almost exactly like the concept enthusiastically berated by Senior Editor Brubaker for oddball styling during last year's Chicago auto show, the Nitro, based on the Jeep Liberty platform, will come to market with the same unique look and, most likely, the 210hp SOHC 3.7L V-6 found in the Liberty. CRD version, anyone?

When Toyota first released pictures of the awesome '07 FJ Cruiser, the interior hadn't been finalized yet. So, after many reader requests for us to show what the interior will look like, here is the first good photo we've seen. Each FJ will have an old-school-inspired, color-matched interior, but will feature all of the things you would expect from a modern SUV. The FJ Cruiser, built off of the 4Runner chassis, will be initially powered by the familiar 240hp SOHC 4.0L V-6, but hopefully the 4.7L V-8 will become an option down the road. If you are as excited about the new FJ as we are, you'll be happy to know that we'll have more information on it very soon.

The American Red Cross and Hummer have announced a partnership which will provide the American Red Cross with vehicles and cash totaling $4 million, through a donation from the GM Foundation. Through 2010, a total of 72 Hummer vehicles, which will include a combination of H1, H2, and H3 models, will be donated. This past fall, a total of six trucks were delivered to Red Cross chapters in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Biloxi, Mississippi; Houston, Texas; and the Red Cross national headquarters in Washington, D.C. In addition to the vehicles, the GM Foundation will contribute $100,000 annually for six years to strengthen communities' abilities to be prepared and respond to emergencies.

The Explorer Sport Trac has been completely redesigned for the '07 model year and rides on the new Ford Explorer platform, which has a frame that is an incredible 444-percent stiffer than the frame on the outgoing model. With simpler lines than before, a clean-burning 292hp SOHC 4.6L V-8 being offered for the first time, and coilover-shock-equipped independent rear suspension, the Sport Trac should be one heck of a highway ride. We'll let you know about its four-wheelability when we get a chance to test one out in the dirt.

The newest "member" of Team Hummer is this all-new '06 Hummer H3. With the arrival of the H3, all three models in the Hummer lineup, the H1, H2, and H3, will compete in the Best-in-the-Desert Race Series for the first time. The H2 made its off-road racing debut in the 2003 Vegas to Reno race and battled for a Fourth Place finish. The H2 race team learned quickly, and in the 2004 race, Driver Josh Hall, son of Rod Hall, shaved nearly 10 hours off his previous year's finish time to take the checkered flag. Team Hummer competes in the Full Stock class, which features production-based vehicles with stock frames, stock suspension designs, and production-based engines. Specialized racing shock absorbers, tires, and other minor modifications are allowed, along with a litany of supporting components and mandatory safety equipment. The close-to-stock configuration of the race vehicle provides engineers an additional method of observing the H2 and H3 in extreme driving situations. Evaluations of the vehicles' performance provide valuable feedback that can be used in the continual refinement of current products and the development of future Hummers.

* Land Rover says the new Range Rover Sport is helping to boost its sales across the entire brand.
* Dodge is equipping '06 Hemi-powered Durangos with its fuel-saving MDS technology.
* Dodge has also announced a dualie option for the Ram Mega Cab.

Wilderness Bills
For the third time in three years, the Senate voted to create the 106,000-acre Wild Sky Wilderness in Washington's Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The Senate also passed legislation to designate as wilderness 300,000 acres in Northern California's Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, and Napa counties. Off-highway vehicles (OHVs) would be banned from the areas since wilderness is by definition "roadless." The SAN opposes the legislation since it would close existing, legal OHV roads and trails. Alternatively, the SAN supports a "backcountry designation" that would generally protect the lands as wilderness but also designate areas for motorized recreation where appropriate. It is unclear when or if the House will take up the two Senate bills.

OHV Use Will Thrive in SoCal Forests
Following recommendations made by SEMA, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced new land management plans for four Southern California national forests that will open up more backcountry trails to off-highway vehicles (OHVs). The management plans for the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino national forests allocate an additional 87,000 acres of land that the agency will recommend for wilderness protection-which is less than the 96,000 acres originally proposed. If approved by Congress, that would increase the total wilderness area within the four forests to nearly 1.2 million acres, more than one-third of the parks' combined 3.5 million acres. The new plans provide OHVs with greater access to roadless areas-allowing motorized recreation on approximately 25 percent of these inventoried areas, but only on designated roads and trails. In its comments to USFS, SEMA noted that most of this acreage already had some form of OHV use. The new plans also address so-called "user-created" trails and, where appropriate, add these routes to the system. USFS officials noted that details regarding specific trail systems will come at a later date.

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