Here is the first real good look at the 2009 Dodge Ram. The new Ram will have all-new sheetmetal featuring a forward-slanting grille and a thoroughly revised Hemi, with a displacement bump up to 6.1 liters, which will partner such fuel-saving technologies as the current Multi-Displacement System and variable valve timing. The flex-fuel 4.7L will continue on as the base engine until Chrysler's new Phoenix family of V-6s bow in 2010. Also expect a new family of Cummins light-duty diesels and six-speed transmissions.
Ford wants you to know how reliable its new 6.4L Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8 is, so much so that in December 2006, it sent a team of 12 customers to complete the longest nonstop test ever recorded, a 150,000-mile adventure throughout North America. The historic journey, part of a massive marketing launch, adds to the 10 million miles of testing Ford has already completed on the redesigned Super Duty. The team of drivers led the effort in a 2008 Ford Super Duty F-450 across 49 states, including Alaska and the District of Columbia, and seven Canadian provinces, all while towing a massive trailer. The F-450 truck can tow up to 24,500 pounds, 8,000 pounds more than the nearest competitor. The team drove cross-country averaging 1,145 miles a day in all types of terrains and conditions, including temperatures ranging between minus 18 F and more than 100 F. The team recorded many impressive feats, including:
* Continually towed a 40-foot triple-axle trailer loaded with up to 18,000 pounds for 150,000 miles
* Towed at least 12,000 pounds at all times and towed an 18,000-pound trailer 100,579 miles (88 days)
* Drove in elevations ranging from 100 feet below sea level to 9,000 feet above sea level
* Drove an average of 1,145 miles per day, including at least 1,000 miles in a 24-hour period 84 times and an amazing 1,537 miles in one 24-hour period
The truck was driven for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, only stopping for routine maintenance. As of this writing, the truck has over 160,000 miles on it and will continue to tour the country as part of Ford's marketing efforts. Consumers can learn more about the Bold Endures trip and the 2008 Super Duty at www.insidesuperduty.com.
Hospitals across the United States have begun receiving child-sized Hummer vehicles for their pediatric units. The vehicles are being donated by Hummer dealerships under a program called "Courageous Kids," where young patients can drive themselves into surgery. The goal of Courageous Kids is to help reduce the anxiety that frightened children often experience when undergoing medical treatment. Last year, the General Motors plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, where the Hummer H3 is built, came up with the idea and made the first donation of two ride-on Hummers to the local Sutton Children's Hospital. The results have been overwhelmingly positive. According to the Sutton hospital's medical staff, even the most anxious children forgot about their fear of surgery thanks to the excitement of driving a Hummer to their procedure. Some medical workers and parents have found a ride in the Hummer toy is a great motivator during recovery as well. We think a ride in a Hummer beats a ride in a gurney any day.
Last July, the all-new 2008 Jeep Liberty entered production at Chrysler's Toledo North Assembly Plant in Toledo, Ohio. The Liberty will be built alongside the Dodge Nitro and will employ Chrysler's Flexible Manufacturing Strategy, which was made possible by multiple plant upgrades, improved quality control, and enhanced worker ergonomics.
The separation of the controversial German-American hybrid is complete and Chrysler is once again under private American ownership, now in the hands of Cerebus Capital. The Pentastar has returned as Chrysler's logo, and many projects killed under the thumb of DaimlerChrysler have been resurrected. With the German corporate culture and infighting out of the way, this should make for a bright future for Chrysler.
It appears that Hummer is serious about the 2010 Hummer H4, serious about it competing with the legendary Jeep Wrangler. Sometimes rumored to be a "soft-roader," it appears that a concept vehicle dubbed the HX will appear at the North American International Auto Show this January in Detroit, and will provide us with a clearer picture of the direction of the 2010 H4. Internet reports, and a little conjecture from multiple sources on our part, tells us that the H4 will be about the size of a Wrangler, but with a purely Hummer look that will retain the family body-to-glass ratio. The H4 is said to look like an enclosed dune buggy with an optional slant-back roof that mimics military Humvees, as well as removable roof panels, doors, and fenders. Educated guesses tell us that you can expect 33-inch tires, front and rear lockers, and a 4:1 transfer case. We still don't know what platform the H4 will be built on, or what suspension it'll be running, but the engine could be the same V-6 slated to replace the I-5 in the H3 at the end of the decade. Stay tuned.
Bill to Restrict Land Use Goes Downhill in MinnesotaWorking with state ORV enthusiasts, SEMA helped defeat a bill that sought to restrict modified 4x4 trucks to minimally maintained roads and to the area specifically designated for their use. The legislation defined 4x4 trucks as four-wheeled motor vehicles manufactured to operate on public roads and subsequently modified with special tires, suspension, or other equipment.
* Isuzu and Toyota are teaming up to produce new diesel engine technology.
* Suzuki will sell a rebadged version of Nissan's popular Frontier in the U.S., starting in 2009.
* Four Wheeler's former parent company, Primedia, has sold it and the Enthusiast Media Group to Source Interlink Companies of Bonita Springs, Florida.
* Nissan's trail-oriented 2008 Titan PRO-4X model will be priced from $31,980.