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Toyota prices TRD Pro Tacoma, 4Runner

08/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: SUVs, Trucks/Pickups, Toyota, Off-Road

Toyota TRD Pro Series Family

Toyota is finally all set to drop more details about the upcoming off-road ready TRD Pro Series models of the 4Runner, Tacoma and Tundra after first revealing them in February. These trucks and SUV might not get the big engine and other mods that desert-stormers like the Ford F-150 Raptor have, but they are still a nice step up over the stock versions. All of the TRD Pro vehicles come as 4x4 models with Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs in the rear, TRD front springs, skid plates, black wheels, retro-inspired "TOYOTA" badging and TRD-branded floor mats and shift knobs on the inside. They're available in three colors: Inferno, Attitude Black Metallic and Super White.

The Tacoma hits the market first in early August with prices starting at $35,525, plus $885 for delivery, processing, and handling, for an Access Cab V6 with a six-speed manual. Opting for a five-speed automatic brings things up to $37,390 after the destination fee. A Double Cab with a manual goes for $37,320, or $38,300 for the automatic, after the delivery charges. The 4Runner follows in September with just a single trim priced at $41,110 - $41,995 after the charge - for the V6 and five-speed auto.

Toyota is holding off on revealing more about the Tundra for now. It's coming in the fall, but the company isn't announcing prices yet. We don't have to wait long, though. "Within the next month we'll reveal that," said Toyota spokesperson Sam Butto to Autoblog about the TRD Pro Tundra's price.

Each model gets its own individual upgrades, as well. The Tacoma gets a 1.75-inches of additional wheel travel up front with softer springs, 16-inch wheels and a TRD exhaust with polished tips. The 4Runner gets 17-inch wheels and an inch of additional wheel travel in the front. Finally, the Tundra has two more inches of travel up front and 1.25 inches in the rear thanks in part to different Bilstein Zone Control three-stage shocks from the other models, plus a TRD dual exhaust. Scroll down to read even more details about these off-roaders.

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Toyota GT86 CS-R3 rally car presages for-sale customer racecar

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Motorsports, Coupes, Toyota, Off-Road, Racing

Toyota GT86 CS-R3 rally car

Rallying may enjoy a very strong association with all-wheel drive, but it wasn't so long ago that the World Rally Championship was populated by cars that slipped and slid across gravel and tarmac using rear-wheel drive. One of those was the Toyota Celica. While the little Celica eventually joined the gravel-spewing masses with an all-wheel-drive rally car, Toyota is returning to its rear-drive rally roots with a modified version of the critically acclaimed GT86.

Called the CS-R3, the new model boasts all the necessary changes to turn the diminutive twin of the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ into a car capable of tackling the tough, twisting paths that are so routinely conquered by the world's rally cars. That means, of course, the CS-R3 has gotten a power bump.

Expected output sits between 240 and 250 horsepower, thanks to a new racing exhaust and manifold, as well as other changes. The ECU has been replaced with an item a bit more suited to racing, while the compression ratio has also been adjusted to boost the output.

Power continues to travel to the rear wheels, although a six-speed sequential racing box, complete with a racing clutch and a lightweight flywheel, has replaced the GT86's six-speed manual. The brakes, meanwhile, are 13-inchers in front and 11.8 inches in back on tarmac stages, while gravel stages demand 11.8-inch rotors at all four corners. Regardless of brake disc size, four-piston front calipers and two-piston rears are standard.

While Toyota is debuting this car at the 2014 Rallye Deutschland, it's not going to be racing there. Instead, the event will serve as the "pathfinder" car for the rally, and will tackle each course with an eye on safety, ahead of the actual WRC cars.

Toyota has already committed to offering the CS-R3 as a customer option, promising that it will be a "cost-effective option."

"It's important to say that the GT86 CS-R3 which Isolde [that's Isolde Holderied, a two-time women's WRC champ] will drive is not the finished article; we need the data from Rallye Deutschland to finalize our development program," Nico Ehlert, Toyota Motorsport's principal engineer for customer motorsports. "But it does represent a significant step in the GT86 CS-R3 story and gives a clear indication to our future customers that this project is progressing quickly."

Scroll down for the full press release from Toyota.

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Land Rover previews new seven-seat Discovery Sport

07/31/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: SUVs, Land Rover, Luxury, Off-Road

2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport

Every automaker has its own way of revealing its new models. Some just pull the veil off the thing when it's ready, while others release hints and teasers leading up to the full reveal. Jaguar Land Rover seems to be taking a different approach, purposely releasing images of its new products wearing camouflaging body wraps before taking those wraps off at long last. That's the tactic it seems to be taking with the new XE sports sedan, as it is with the Range Rover Sport SVR, and now it's following a similar path with the upcoming new Discovery Sport.

Previewed by the Discovery Vision concept at the New York Auto Show a few months ago, the new Discovery Sport is slated to join the Discovery (known in North America as the LR4) in the Land Rover lineup next year, and appears to carry over the concept's styling: compared to the boxier existing model, the Discovery Sport (like the Discovery Vision) has a higher beltline, more swept-back greenhouse and forward-swept C-pillar, but a roofline that appears to taper off where the concept's was straight.

Land Rover has confirmed that the Discovery Sport will - like the LR4, Discovery Vision and Range Rover Sport - offer a third row of seats for seven-passenger capacity, as revealed by the "peeled-back" camo. The Discovery Sport will be manufactured at the Halewood plant where the Freelander and Evoque are made. Scroll down below for official details from the automaker.

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2014 Nissan Frontier Diesel Mule [w/poll]

07/30/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Trucks/Pickups, Nissan, Diesel, Off-Road, Quick Spin

2014 Nissan Frontier mule with Cummins diesel engine - front three-quarter view

Last August, Nissan shook the truck world when it officially announced plans to source a diesel option from Cummins for its long-overdue Titan replacement, its full-size pickup that's slated to drop this January at the Detroit Auto Show. The 5.0-liter V8 turbodiesel is expected to make somewhere around 300 horsepower and north of 500 pound-feet of torque. This combination of an all-new truck with this new powerplant promises to dramatically change the competitive landscape, splitting the difference between the heavy-duty goliaths from the Detroit Three and the Ram 1500 Ecodiesel. And the intrigue moved a step further when the Frontier Diesel Runner Concept showed up at February's Chicago Auto Show, as it displayed a growing relationship between Nissan and Cummins in a very interesting potential future product.

That concept would melt its clear acrylic hood if the engine ran too long, but this month, we got a chance to test drive a production mule, an otherwise normal Frontier with a Cummins 2.8-liter diesel four-pot under the hood and a ZF eight-speed automatic changing gears. The powertrain figures to be a direct competitor to the 2.8-liter Duramax promised for General Motors' Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon twins, but will Nissan build it? All signs point to probably. Officially, Nissan is taking no position on the future of this program, but a concept followed by putting journalists into a test mule suggests the company is considering the option very seriously. Here's what we gleaned from a brief drive around the posh suburbs of Nashville:

  • Before we get too deep into this Quick Spin, realize this Frontier is absolutely a mule, not a prototype. More or less cobbled together with duct tape and baling wire, it's not meant to be representative of a finished product, or even a started product. The transmission and shifter is straight out of a Chrysler 300 and the shifter surround is cut out of a panel of plastic. The "Low Sulfur Diesel Only" sticker is, well, just stuck on. We're looking at a "What if?" mockup.
  • The engine is essentially a tweaked version of a Chinese-built, gray-iron 2.8-liter four cylinder. With 16 valves, the obligatory turbocharger and common-rail injection, this Cummins engine is already used for on- and off-highway applications. In things like generators, small earth-moving machines and large turf-management equipment (giant lawnmowers) it carries the "QSF" label, and for cabover trucks in Asia and other on-road applications, it's dubbed ISF. Some tunes offer as few as 49 hp, but it'll run until the sun explodes.
  • This truck gets an intercooler up front wedged behind the grille, and combined with the base software, it develops 200 horses and a stout 350 lb-ft of torque, but this is not yet the smooth, quiet modern diesel we've come to expect. She's a rough character, albeit with a caveat: There has been zero software tuning done for the Frontier mule. Smoothness in a diesel comes from precisely controlling combustion, and while the engine is capable of eight fuel-injection events per cycle, there are only two with this software. Clatter, clatter, clatter, clatter.
  • It may be loud at idle and under acceleration, but this dog offers bite to match its bark. Tons of torque and eager throttle response at times overwhelms the ZF gearbox (which also hasn't really been tuned) and a "ka-chunk!" shift squawks the rear tires. Midway through full-throttle acceleration, the turbo's wastegate locks closed and the engine really takes off, revving ahead quicker than the bottom of the range.
  • At cruising speed, though, this is a surprisingly smooth and easygoing engine, almost quiet even. That shouldn't really be a surprise since tugging the weight of a truck and passengers is akin to a quarter horse pulling a little red wagon.
  • Although nobody ever confirmed the product plan before Nissan's PR team put the clamps on its engineering staff, we were able to gather a few juicy tidbits about the program. One unnamed official let slip that engineers are targeting 2019 diesel emissions and particulate requirements for the rig, which may indicate potential production timing. Another interesting item is Cummins would consider shifting to a compacted graphite iron block with an aluminum head to cut down on weight and improve performance. Finally, Cummins prefers to build where it sells, so US domestic production for the engine would be seriously considered if a Frontier Diesel gets a green light.
Keep an eye on this space. A modernized Cummins ISF in the next-gen Frontier would offer buyers good power and fuel economy without needing a step stool to reach the seats. It all comes down to price.

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V6 engines will outpace V8s for the 2015 Ford F-150

07/24/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Car Buying, Trucks/Pickups, Tech, Commercial Trucks, Ford, Off-Road

2015 Ford F-150

How times have changed. Even five years ago, who would have thought the mighty V8 would be just another engine choice for buyers of the 2015 Ford F-150?

Ford is projecting about 28 percent of the next-generation trucks will have the 5.0-liter V8. That's nothing to sneeze at, but consider this: Ford figures its two EcoBoost truck engines - the new 2.7-liter V6 and the existing 3.5-liter V6 - will also each account for about 28 percent of the F-150's sales (56 percent total). That leaves only 15 percent of the pie for the 3.5-liter (non-EcoBoost) V6. The new F-150 goes on sale late this year.

Ford figures its two EcoBoost truck engines will each account for about 28 percent of the F-150's sales.

"In the truck business, it's historically been about the most horsepower, the most towing power and the most torque," Ford trucks marketing manager Doug Scott said.

Obviously those still matter, but Ford has significantly diversified the F-150's engine lineup in a bid to attract new customers and hedge against spikes in fuel prices. The move away from V8s began in earnest in the 2011 F-150, which received the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost with 365 hp and 420-lb-ft of torque to complement the traditional V8 model.

Adding the turbocharged EcoBoost three years ago was fraught with risks, as truck buyers are among the most loyal and resistant to change in the market. But it's paid off for Ford, and the EcoBoost model now makes up about 45 percent of the current F-150's sales.

With that in mind, Ford is adding another EcoBoost V6, the 2.7-liter engine, which will push out 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque, numbers that sound more akin to a traditional V8. With this engine, the truck can tow up to 8,500 pounds and will have a payload of 2,250 pounds. Ford envisions this model will be attractive to buyers who don't haul regularly, but still require some of the practical capabilities of a pickup.

"This is an engine that's really designed for that core customer," Scott said.

Ford's expansion of the F-150's lineup comes amid renewed competition from its traditional Detroit truck rivals. This year, Ram added an EcoDiesel model with 240 hp and 420 lb-ft, while General Motors will round out its 2015 truck portfolio with the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon, which are slightly smaller than their fullsize, Silverado and Sierra brethren. The moves come as federal fuel economy rules are set to tighten, and consumers continue to be wary of gas-guzzling vehicles.

Ford's new engine lineup will be enhanced by the use of aluminum for the F-150's body, which will reduce weight and improve fuel economy. Depending on the engine and cab size, the F-150 will be anywhere from 625 pounds to more than 732 pounds lighter, compared with 2014 models.

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What you missed on 7.22.14

07/23/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Sports/GTs, SUVs, Trucks/Pickups, Off-Road

Daily U-Turn

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat - front three-quarter view, greenFirst Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat

Dodge's 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat has singlehandedly powered the internet since earlier this month, when it was announced that the updated pony car would feature a gobsmacking 707 horsepower and hit 199 mph. Senior Editor Seyth Miersma journeyed to Oregon to drive the beast. He passes judgment on whether all that power can be put to good use or whether this Mopar is just a straight-line, one-trick pony.

Gazelles RallyRallye Aïcha des Gazelles: Part 2

The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles, now in its 24th running, is an all-female off-road rally through Morocco. It's one of the most grueling, challenging motorsports events in the world, and our man Jonathon Ramsey rode along with this year's competitors to see what it's all about. Check out the second part of our two-installment epic story.

2015 Ford F-150 - Red three-quarter front view2015 Ford F-150 specs revealed

Ford's 2015 F-150 promises to be a watershed vehicle for the industry, if only because of its aluminum-intensive production. We've been eagerly awaiting official powertrain specifications and further details, and now Ford has released a slew of details, including power figures for the F-150's new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6.

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2014 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles: Part 2 [w/video]

07/23/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Motorsports, SUVs, Trucks/Pickups, Videos, Crossovers/CUVs, Motorcycles, Off-Road, Racing

Ping Land Rover Range Rover - 2014 Gazelles rally participant

There were six days left and the hardest of them were yet to come.

In case you missed it, be sure to read Part 1, here.

We stood in the north Saharan desert in Mech Irdane, Morocco under a high sun at 7:00 AM. The all-women's navigation challenge known as the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles was only two days old, and in spite of a cool morning, it was already clear we'd need to make peace with a grueling desert captivity. The desert has no friends.

Part 1 tells the unintentionally intense story of our arrival in Mech Irdane and how we ended up in a broiling nowhere, with 320 women engaged in a colossal game of Capture the Flag. The abstract is that for eight days in March, the 24-year-old rally puts 160 teams of two women apiece in four classes of vehicles, charged with finding 60 flags hidden somewhere in 10,000 square miles of desert, navigating with 55-year-old maps using nothing more complex than a compass and a plotter. It's not a race for time but one for distance - the winner is the team that finds the most flags having driving the shortest distance possible over those eight days. Each team has paid $18,540 to enter. The winning team gets a medal. There are no other official prizes.

There were six days left and the hardest of them were yet to come. Today, we had to get through the dunes of Erg Chebbi.

Continue reading 2014 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles: Part 2 [w/video]

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2015 Ford F-150 specs revealed, EcoBoost 2.7L to make 325 hp and 375 lb-ft [w/video]

07/22/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Trucks/Pickups, Videos, Commercial Trucks, Ford, Off-Road

Our new man Greg Migliore is in attendance at a Ford media event at the Blue Oval's Dearborn, MI headquarters today, and he's reported in with a handful of the 2015 F-150 stats that we've been dying to know. Ford is slow-playing the news release here, but we can still offer up some interesting output and performance figures after half-year of waiting.

We have all be quite aware that Ford's shift to aluminum construction would save a lot of weight for F-150 models, and the results we're hearing now are duly impressive. For instance: in Super Crew trim, a 2015 F-150 is a whopping 732-pounds lighter than was its closest 2014-model-year equivalent. That's like hauling three middle-aged dudes to your bowling alley's league night for free. Polish your balls, guys.

Ford isn't willing to offer up any actual curb weights just yet, but if we take that 732-pound loss and extrapolate with the 5,128-pound curb weight of the 2014 F-150 Super Crew with the 3.7-liter V6, we can guesstimate that 2015 models will measure out in the 4,400-pound range. That's impressive.

We also learned just a bit about the new additions to the engine range. The base engine in the F-150 comes in the form of a naturally aspirated, 3.5-liter V6. That mill may be the little brother of the crew, but it still makes 283 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, giving the 4x2 pickup the a maximum payload of 1,910 pounds and a tow rating of 7,600 pounds.

Stepping up one rung on the ladder is the hotly anticipated 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, turbocharged to the tune of 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. In 4x2 guise, that blown mill allows for maximum payload and towing ratings of 2,250 and 8,500 pounds, respectively.

We're obviously still excited to learn actual miles-per-gallon ratings and curb weights for the Ford haulers, but in the meantime, you can scroll below to check out the official press release and an official video of the Blue Oval boys putting the EcoBoost F-150 through its towing paces at the Davis Dam in Arizona.

Continue reading 2015 Ford F-150 specs revealed, EcoBoost 2.7L to make 325 hp and 375 lb-ft [w/video]

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US Marines testing GUSS automated vehicle that could save lives

07/22/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Government/Legal, Tech, Videos, Military, Special/Limited Editions, Off-Road

The machine you see in the video up above is the Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate. Called GUSS for short - because who doesn't like a handy-dandy nickname - this vehicle, as it's proper name suggests, is capable of operating without a driver.

It's possible to get in and drive, as you'll see in the video below, but the novel part of GUSS is that it uses a series of sensors and on-board computer programming to navigate itself over all kinds of terrain, day or night, no matter the weather. The machine above is undergoing testing by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab during Rim of the Pacific 2014 at Kahuku Training Area on Oahu, Hawaii, according to the video's description.

Based on a military machine that's more like an armored ATV than a Jeep, GUSS is only capable of moving at speeds up to five miles per hour, which makes it a bit less useful than, say, an automated HMMWV, but it's still just a prototype, and we're sure the technology will spread.

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2014 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles: Part 1 [w/video]

07/22/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Motorsports, SUVs, Trucks/Pickups, Crossovers/CUVs, Motorcycles, Off-Road, Racing

2014 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles

For if the truth be told there is little more than a single path to all the goals that the undisguised European may reach.

- Morocco (1904), Samuel Levy Bensusan

Smiling Rallye Aicha Des Gazelles competitors in their truckCounting competitors, staff, press, guests and strangers, we were about 350 people bunched up in a conference room in the Xaluca Hotel in Erfoud, Morocco. We'd arrived there via a flight to Paris, another to Casablanca, a mythic ten-hour drive through Rabat and Meknes and stupefyingly emerald-green-grass valleys in the plains of the Middle Atlas Mountains, cracking the spine of the High Atlas to descend into the grueling void edged by jagged, prehistoric cliffs that Edith Wharton called "the savagery of the south." This is where it would begin.

"It" was the 24th running of the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles, an off-road rally for women only. There were 320 competitors in the room - 160 teams of two women apiece from 24 countries, some of them ex-Olympians, professional rally drivers and celebrities, 243 of them first-timers, somewhere around the same number of them French.

Automakers had come, too: Volkswagen sent ten teams in Amarok pickups, Women@Renault and La Poste put 13 teams in Dacia Duster utilities, Mercedes-Benz had three teams driving Sprinter vans, BMW Azzuro sponsored a motorcycle team. The rest was run-what-you-brung as long as it fit into the three categories: 4x4, Crossover - where the Dusters and Sprinters lived, and Quad - where the ATVs, side-by-sides and the sole motorcycle duo lived.

Rally organizer Dominque Serra told the crowd, "You are all amazing to embark on this great adventure without really knowing what to expect for the next ten days!" When I read that line after the event, I lost my half-swallowed drink to involuntary laughter. I didn't know it then, but Serra's cheer was like a Roman empress telling Christians at the Coliseum "I know you're all going to be fantastic!" as the lions clandestinely waited in the nearby dark.

At the time, I was too busy laughing at another line, delivered twice because the organizers took it so seriously. It's the kind of directive you'd only hear when 320 women go on a mission through the North Sahara with a large contingent of male support staff: "No sex with the competitors!"

Continue reading 2014 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles: Part 1 [w/video]

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