Our vigilant spies are at it again, this time training their lenses on the all-new, Tundra-based Sequoia fullsize SUV. It appears that the Sequoia will have two trim levels: SR5 and Limited. Code-named 200L, the all-new Sequoia will continue to compete with Tahoe-sized family SUVs and will mirror Tundra driveline offerings with the same 4.7L and 5.7L V-8 engines, backed by Toyota's six-speed automatic transmission. The first unveiling should be at next year's Chicago Auto Show.
It appears that the light-duty diesel market continues to heat up and we have more information than ever about upcoming engines. As we have mentioned before, Ford is preparing an in-house 4.4L turbodiesel V-6 for the 2009 F-150, and General Motors has the 4.5L 32-valve turbodiesel V-8 coming to a 2010 Silverado or Hummer H2 near you. But we have also confirmed that Dodge will be using a 4.2L Cummins V-6 turbodiesel in the 2010 1500 Ram. Initial testing has pegged the output of this engine at 190 hp and 570 lb-ft of torque. Toyota is said to still be in talks with Isuzu over an engine partnership, while Nissan will pick up where Ford left off, using either an International-sourced V-6 or V-8 in the 2010 Titan.
Toyo Tire Corporation has announced that it has extended the contract of Robby Gordon through 2010. Gordon will continue to compete on Toyo's Open Country M/T tires in SCORE-International off-road racing events such as the Baja 1000 and Baja 500 as well as the international Dakar rally. Driving his Chevy Silverado trophy truck, Gordon delivered Toyo's first overall win in the legendary Baja 1000 in 2006 and has won races as a Team Toyo driver including the Las Vegas Terrible's Cup II and the Best in the Desert Blue Water Resort and Casino Parker 425. At this year's Baja 500, Gordon charged from a starting position of 22nd to finish a remarkable second overall in the event. During Dakar 2007, Gordon piloted his Team Dakar USA Hummer H3 racer to an eighth place overall finish. In addition, the team won Stage 6 of the event, making it the first-ever Dakar stage victory for an American-made vehicle. For more on Team Toyo's Robby Gordon and the Open Country M/T, log on to www.toyo.com.
The Crushers Trail, located in the Coast Range mountains of northwest Oregon, in the Tillamook State Forest, was recently honored by BFGoodrich Tires as one of its 2007 Outstanding Trails. Club members and four-wheeling enthusiasts were in attendance as BFGoodrich presented a grant to the Raven Off-Road OHV club, which will be used to preserve the trail and continue conservation efforts for one of America's best areas for 'wheeling. BFGoodrich, working in conjunction with Tread Lightly! and United Four Wheel Drive Associations (UFWDA), chose the Crushers Trail as one of the 2007 Outstanding Trails because of its particularly rocky, steep, and rugged terrain. It is a naturally formed boulder field and is the only trail in the Tillamook State Forest where four-wheelers will experience nothing but rock terrain. The trail is perfectly suited for the 4x4 enthusiast who is always up for a challenge. To learn more about these trails, visit the Outstanding Trails Web site at www.bfgoodrichtires.com/outstandingtrails. And we'll have full coverage of this event in our January 2008 issue.
Toyota is taking its Official Vehicle Manufacturer designation at the 2007 SEMA show seriously. Rumor has it that Toyota will show an FJ Cruiser concept, thought to be a thinly disguised future production variant, that sports a removable top to better compete with the hot-selling Jeep Wrangler. Also on tap for the SEMA show is an HD Tundra turbodiesel dualie concept, despite news that the HD Tundra vehicle program has been indefinitely postponed. Toyota wants to gauge industry and enthusiast reaction to the concept before making an ultimate decision on the HD Tundra's fate.
We are big fans of the Hummer H3 and recently had a chance to drive the new-for-2008 Hummer H3 Alpha for a day over highways and trails in and around Durango, Colorado. We came back impressed with the upgrades to the smallest Hummer.
At the heart of the Alpha package is an all-aluminum 5.3L V-8, making 300 hp and 320 lb-ft or torque and backed by GM's venerable four-speed automatic. To fit the V-8, Hummer had to modify the framerails, motor mounts, and firewall, as well as make some changes in suspension tuning, which is still remarkably supple, considering the added mass of the V-8 over the front axle. Tow rating is up 1,500 pounds to 6,000 pounds, despite the higher 4.10:1 axle gears.
Both on and off the trail, the V-8 feels just right in the H3, no longer requiring drivers to plan for the incline ahead or strategize how to pass on a two-lane road. To handle the added torque, the front diff housing has been upgraded to cast iron, and yes, it will swap into older H3s in case you were wondering. Alpha models also come with the same rear diff-lock, 4:1 transfer case, and 33-inch tires as the I-5-powered Adventure package, so trailability off the showroom floor continues to be as good as it gets without being in a Wrangler.
Many of our previous complaints centered around lack of power, lack of visibility, and seat and window switches that were difficult to access. To these points Hummer added the new engine, made a backup camera available, and redesigned the door panels.
It is hard to find fault in the H3, especially after Hummer addressed nearly every one of our original complaints about the first generation. If there still are any nitpicks to be had, it is that the H3 still relies on Brake Traction Control instead of a front locker, the V-8 is not available with a manual transmission, and the automatic should be a five-speed. Lastly, there should be an audio jack for our iPods.
The H3 Alpha might be the best Hummer to date, and we'll test it out thoroughly in our 2008 Four Wheeler of the Year competition in the February '08 issue.
-Sean P. Holman