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2019 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

With the JL being out now for almost a year we finally got out hand son the Gladiator pick up. Looks like a JL with a box, right? Well despite the “all new” moniker – which, really is not a total fib, I would say its pretty much a JL with a box. That is both good and bad as they are pitting (price wise and size wise) at the Tacoma and Ranger and almost to the ½ ton truck class as the Gladiator is 12 inches longer than a Tacoma double cab long box – that’s a lot. This Jeep is bigger than both of those – yet narrower and when it comes to cargo far less capable than the 1500 series truck segment. I think its awesome that Jeep brand owners Fiat stepped up with this Jeep, its been a long time since Jeep was in this segment with the last truck being a Unibody Comanche with a last production run of 1992 – that’s 27 years ago folks!

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2019 Ram Rebel

From 2012-2017 a Ram 1500 was my daily driver. The Hemi Ram was a solid truck with few trips to the dealer. One recall and a broken exhaust manifold stud… So why did I not replace it with another Ram? Despite its great ride with the coil spring suspension it was not a great tow rig, and in all that time the inside was identical those 5 years later when I was shopping and I wanted to look at something else for the next 5 years. So it was time for a new Ram to emerge – and it sure has! 

Over the last few generations of trucks I have found the Ram to have a really solid interior, easy to use gauges, good flow and pleasant look despite typical stiff seats from any Chrysler product. 

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2016 Toyota TRD Pro line up

In recent years we have come to relate the Toyota TRD program to trucks and 4x4s on the car lot but TRD stands for Toyota Racing and Development, a branding that grew out of the TOSCO program started in the 50s and changed names in 1979 and covers everything that goes fast with special performance programs from Toyota. Backed by Ivan Stewart in the early 90s Toyota was a force to be reckoned with in Baja racing taking many Baja 1000, Baja 500 and Nevada 400 wins along with Pikes Peak and (CORR) Championship off road racing titles and that continues with many racing programs today including paved tracks, rally racing and short course off-road racing.

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Tacoma does Easter Jeep Safari Moab Utah

The plan for this spring was to have my new Jeep CJK8 project completed for a trip to Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari. As the dates were getting close it was very apparent this wasn’t going to happen, actually I’m still working on it now here in July! It was pretty clear in January that April just wasn’t a realistic completion time so I gave Toyota a call. The previous October, journalists were invited to Ontario to test drive the new TRD truck line up. I was pretty impressed with the new truck with a rear locker, and the front crawl control function, great shocks (Fox internal bypass) etc., I asked if it was possible to take a TRD to Moab this year. The reply was – well you won’t bang it up “to much” will you? I said I’ll be nice, I know how to drive and it will be great publicity to take a totally stock, off the lot Tacoma to the Jeep Jamboree. They said yes! I remember one email with my buddy Andy from Warn saying only you would bring a Toyota to the Jeep Jamboree. I said its ok I’m bringing a guy in a Suzuki with a winch! 

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2017 Grand Cherokee Trail Hawk

I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to test-drive every version of the Grand Cherokee back to 1998 (ZJ). Back then 4 engines were optional with the big engine being a 5.9L Magnum engine with a whopping 230hp and 330 lb-ft – something that’s low for a performance 4 cyl these days. In 1999 a redesign came along dubbed the WJ, and the Magnum engines were dropped and the best performance HO 4.7 V8 didn’t fair much better – actually it got worse with a meager 235HP and 295ft lbs. Now that said, I really didn’t think these were bad cars at the time, actually I have found each generation Grand Cherokee fitting for its time and a good performing vehicle with good road manners.

In 2005, a major revamp aimed at the general buyer of the Grand Cherokee saw the introduction of independent front suspension and dropping the 4.7 engine and in place a 5.7 Hemi, a 3.0L diesel and a base 3.7L V6. The first SRT-8 came from this program pushing the Great Grand to 420HP. 

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2016 Toyota Tacoma & GMC Canyon

Battle of the “mini” trucks. The compact truck segment has undergone a lot of changes in the past 5 years. Ford stepped out of the segment completely in 2012 (though the Nissan Frontier, long a rebadged Ranger, continues as does the Ranger in other markets). GM stopped production of the Colorado/Canyon platform after an 8 year run in 2012 (still produced for Brazil) though its predecessor the S-10 pick-up had a healthy run from 1982-2005. Also Dodge stepped away from the mid sized truck segment in 2011 after a 24 year production run of the Dakota. What we have now is a model market ? what it was just a few years ago in North America however I can’t say that about the size of the trucks – they have all gotten larger. The Tacoma badge in some shape or form has not stopped production since the 60s though for many years it had no name. It started as the Stout in the 60s, then the Hi-lux in the 70s then in the 80s they could not come up with anything witty it seems so it had no name – and finally in 1995 the badge Tacoma came about. Click picture to continue...

2016 Nissan Titan 5.0L Cummins

This issue we get to pit the two full size truck offerings in North America against each other – the Nissan Titan and the Toyota Tundra. Both have come a long way in their development over the years. The Titan came straight into the market in 2003 with a standard 5.6 V8 with 317hp. The truck has remained relatively unchanged until the 2016 model year where along side the standard 5.6L V8 engine, a Cummins 5.0L turbo diesel was added producing 310hp and 555 ft. lbs. of torque. Along with the new engine came a host of upgrades, transmission rear axle size, towing ability and a      redesign both inside and out. The Toyota on the other hand started back in 1993-1998 as the T-100. This was prior to Toyota giving their trucks real names. The T-100 design wasn’t a very large truck – in reality the new Tacoma is much closer in size to the       T-100 than the Tundra platform is today and it has generally gotten larger as well over its production run. 

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2016 Ford 2.7L Ecoboost

Ford has been touting their Ecoboost turbo charged line for a few years now. The engine range starts at a little 1.5L in the Fusion up to the 3.7L in the F-150. Our tester came with the new-for-2015 2.7L V6 rated at a whopping 325 hp and 375 lb·ft of torque and is a $1300.00 option over the base engine. These are full size V8 numbers from just a few years ago. My last tester was in 2011 with the 3.5L Ecoboost, which produced 365 hp @5000 rpm, 420 lb·ft @2250 rpm. At the time I was very un-impressed with the fuel consumption numbers, which were above the 2012 Hemi for highway cruising and the same if not higher when I towed an empty 3500lb enclosed trailer over a couple mountain passes. This 2.7L version performed better. The V6 configuration features twin turbos run through an intercooler, dual overhead cams with variable valve timing mated to a 6 speed automatic. Ford fuel numbers: 13.3 city/10.4 hwy/12.0 combined (L/100km). 

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