Spied!! Toyota's Biggest SUV Gets Bigger
(pick up the Sept/Oct Issue to see the photos!)
Caught on the city streets with a Toyota Tundra chase vehicle, this heavily clad full-size SUV is no doubt the next Sequoia. With the new Tundra fully developed and the Princeton, Indiana, plant ready for the changeover to the new pickup trucks, the new Sequoia will bump up in size to more readily compete with the likes of the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition. We'd expect the 4.7- and 5.7-liter V-8s to be offered as well as the possibility of some new fuel-saving technology. (We're hearing that it's more than cylinder deactivation and much less complicated.) Look for new Land Cruiser and Lexus siblings to be out by the beginning of next year--the Sequoia will follow later, in summer or fall 2008. We may even see something from Toyota at next year's Chicago auto show.

Hemi Hybrids
The 2008 Dodge Durango/Chrysler Aspen will be offered with a drivetrain that might be viewed as oxymoronic: a hybrid Hemi.They'll employ the two-mode hybrid system put together in conjunction with GM and BMW at the Joint Development Center in Troy, Michigan. It combines electric motors (for power and regeneration) and a fixed-gear transmission in the same housing, joined to the 5.7 Hemi with MDS cylinder cutoff. The SUVs can be powered by electric motor, gas engine, or both, to deliver more than a 25-percent increase in fuel economy overall, 40 percent in the city. With new fuel-economy standards used on 2008 models, don't expect window stickers to show a huge increase over 2007 models.

Nissan Diesel in the Works?
Although Nissan's plan to have a heavy-duty Titan in the next year or two has been put on the shelf indefinitely, it's been reported by a trade paper in Japan that Nissan recently signed a deal with Navistar (the makers of the Power Stroke turbodiesel for the current Super Duty) to produce a small (presumably V-6) turbodiesel for an upcoming Titan half-ton. Nissan is sticking to the story it's just investigating the feasibility of a diesel in the half-ton segment, but it's our guess this could happen as soon as 2010, the same year the company announced the production of a Nissan Altima diesel.

If Six Wheels Aren't Enough
Freightliner's Cascadia is the newest "full-size" truck around. Highlights include a three-percent increase in fuel efficiency brought about by 2500 hours of wind-tunnel development and other tweaks (which could easily translate to more than $1500 per year in fuel savings), the cooling stack mounted to the engine, hydraulic clutch actuation, three engine choices (14.0-liter Detroit Diesel Series 60: 515 horsepower/1650 pound-feet; 12.8-liter Mercedes-Benz MBE4000: 450/1650; 15.2-liter Caterpillar C15: 550/1850), available rack-and-pinion steering with 50-degree wheel cut, a multifunction steering wheel right out of a Benz, roll stability control, side airbags, and a seat that fires downward (for more headroom) if the Cascadia gets knocked over.

Feds Watching Lights and Limitations
After an investigation showed some conversions produced more than eight times the prescribed illumination intensity and that excessive glare could be a risk to public safety, NHTSA ruled it's not possible to make an HID conversion kit that's compliant with the federal lighting standard. Essentially, any replaceable light source must match the original design connector and filament size and placement, among other details. Seeking more enforcement, NHTSA also determined the "for off-road use only" disclaimer found on many such products has no legal meaning and isn't recognized by NHTSA, since neither the builder nor anyone in the sales chain is in a position to control the product once it reaches the end user.

Congressional Closures
SEMA reports that U.S. Congress Democrats have introduced legislation called "America's Red Rock Wilderness Act" to limit access to more than nine million acres of BLM land in Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and other areas. Legislative intent is wide-ranging, but passage could close 700 miles of legally designated off-road trails. Utah's representatives are against it--New York and Illinois legislators introduced it. For Washington state, the House of Representatives has approved a bill to create a 100,000-plus-acre wilderness area in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that would close existing roads and byways.

Pennsylvania's Rock Run
The Rock Run Recreation Area has opened outside Patton, Pennsylvania, east of Pittsburgh and south of groundhog Punxsutawney Phil's home. With 6000 acres and more than 50 miles of trails, the park caters to ATVs, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, and horses. Currently, 4WD trucks aren't allowed, but may be included in future phases as the park expands.


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