High-speed, emergency lane-change tests at the Toyota Desert Proving Grounds outside Phoen
Yet another emerging performance enhancement adds (or subtracts) suspension articulation. There are several kinds out already. Toyota calls its Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, or KDSS. KDSS appeared on the Lexus GX470 in 2004, which pretty much won Four Wheeler of the Year testing because of it. When our Ned Bacon built project TraiLex, he made a point to keep all KDSS functions intact, because it works. The system adds about 4 inches of articulation, an improvement of 22 percent versus the standard suspension. It also works with the electronic shock control system, continuously changing damping in response to road conditions and driver input.
Land Rover has a similar system on the Range Rover Sport, which they call Dynamic Response. It has different hardware, kind of like a sliding sleeve system in the middle of the axle, but the effect is to add articulation off-pavement and limit body roll on pavement. With Dynamic Response, we drove the new Range Rover Sport, a high-speed touring SUV with 40-series tires, up Wipe Out Hill at Moab.
Jeep has a system about to come out they call Dynamic Handling (DHS). It uses hydraulic-controlled stabilizer bars that can be decoupled, except when they are needed to improve cornering performance. The system checks steering angle and two lateral accelerometers that detect body roll. Then actuators pressurize the bar links as required.
Electronic descent control is not new, but it is getting better. It's hard to see how stee
In the future, we can expect to see these performance-enhancing systems on much lower-cost 4x4s. We could see it in the 2006 model year, when the new Toyota FJ Cruiser arrives, and probably the next Land Rover Defender. Eventually, Jeep is going to realize electronic traction control can even improve the Wrangler.
If these developments seem boggling, it's because they are. The entire analog world-TV, telephone, video, automotive-is moving toward digital systems. Since these systems are hard to see and understand, they initially threaten our sense of self-reliance. As with ABS and fuel injection, the temptation is to discount technologies we don't fully understand. But in the end, we will drive differently, and as with Project TraiLex, we will modify differently. Time will show that these systems bring clear performance, safety, and operating advantages. It won't take another 500 issues for that to become crystal-clear.
* In the wake of disappointing third quarter sales, Toyota General, the world's largest automaker, announces it will sell off its struggling Buick and Pontiac divisions to arch-rival Nissan-Benz for $124 billion. In other news, Toyota announces a joint venture with MitSuzuki Motors to produce engines for the Hummer H9, a 500hp ATV that debuted in concept form at Tokyo in 2045, as well as plans to expand production of its popular Chevrolet Huron/GMC Juneau/Isuzu Apex/Saab 24-7 midsize AWD hydrogen sport-wagon that debuted last year. No word is forthcoming on the future of the Buick Shasta following the Nissan-Benz acquisition.
* Ford Motor Company CEO Bill Ford VI announces final plans for rollout of the company's hydrogen-powered vehicle line. "We've had a few setbacks," Ford admits, "but we are now on target to be fully implemented by 2050 at the very latest. Our continued commitment to a greener world demands it." In related news, Ford officials announce plans to begin production of the Lincoln Leviathan Mark VII SUV, based off the popular Ford Colossus V-16 platform.
* HondaChrysler Corp. announces that the company will cease production of its flagship Jeep Liberty SUV after years of flagging sales. "The Liberty's had a great run," says outgoing Jeep division president Nick Cappa, "but nothing lasts forever, and it's time to take the Jeep brand in a new and innovative direction." Rumors circulate that the Liberty's replacement in the Jeep lineup will be a midsize hydrogen AWD sport-wagon currently code-named Choctaw.
* In other news, HondaChrysler announces the release of a limited-production "Robin Stover Signature Edition" Dodge Bighorn 2500 pickup to honor the legendary Baja racer and crew chief on his 70th birthday. The truck will be powered by a twin-turbocharged, diesel-propane 12-liter CumminSuzu I-6 that is said to produce 1,250 hp and deliver 50 mpg.
* Mahindra Motors announces plans to reintroduce its storied Land Rover brand to the U.S. market after a 10-year absence. The newest Land Rover, code-named Raj Sport, is rumored to be based off Mahindra's popular Ganesh midsize sport-wagon platform, and will be built at the company's 500,000-square-foot assembly plant in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
* Upstart Chinese automaker Great Wall Motors unveils its first-ever fullsize pickup truck, the biomass-powered Shaolin XT, to rave reviews at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Journalists marvel at the truck's unique four-wheel-drive system. "Driven by gears and engaged by a lever," Car & Driver editor Sean P. Holman writes, "the Shaolin's revolutionary transfer-case design marks the century's biggest breakthrough in truck technology."
* In Washington, President Jenna Bush issues an executive order directing the Bureau of Land Management to begin soliciting private bids for leases of agency-managed parcels in northeastern Utah. The directive comes on the heels of a geological survey by the Army Corps of Engineers that discovers "huge and substantial" petroleum deposits throughout the Moab Rim Shelf region in Grand County, Utah. Representatives of the Sierra Club announce their intent to file suit in federal court to halt the leases pending environmental impact reports; officials from the Blue Ribbon Coalition announce plans to file an amicus brief.
* Ken Brubaker, who left Four Wheeler in 2010 to become President of Cadillac's Truck & SUV division, becomes the first automotive executive inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame at a ceremony held in the Bronx, New York.