• Chicago LIVE: 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

    February 11, 2016

    Toyota has introduced a new off-road Tacoma package tuned by the company’s TRD division.

    The TRD Pro edition offers even more all-terrain features than the existing TRD Sport and TRD Off Road trim. The package centers around ruggedized suspension system with 2.5-inch FOX internal-bypass shocks, one-inch lifted front springs and progressive-rate rear leaf springs.

    Like the TRD Pro Tundra and 4Runner, the new Tacoma variant also brings a long list of exterior enhancements. The package is distinguished by black 16-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain Goodyear Wrangler tires and an aluminum front skidplate. Black elements further reinforce the look, along with a throwback TOYOTA logo on the front grille.

    The new Tacoma TRD Pro can be purchased with either a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual gearbox with a clutch start-cancel switch. Either drivetrain includes a 4WDemand part-time four-wheel-drive system with an electronically-actuated limited-slip differential, while the automatic transmission has been outfitted with an ATF cooler. A power-steering cooler, Class-IV hitch, upgraded alternator and trailer-sway controller are also standard.

    The Tacoma TRD Pro is slated to join the 2017 model year this fall. Pricing will likely be announced closer to market arrival.

    Live images by Brian Williams.

  • Chicago LIVE: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Extreme concept

    February 11, 2016

    Mercedes-Benz is having a little fun at the Chicago auto show with the introduction of its Sprinter Extreme concept truck. Mercedes’ Sprinter Extreme was co-developed with tuning firm RENNtech.

    The Extreme concept started out life as a standard-issue Sprinter 3500 Cab Chassis. The cab was treated to a new roof rack equipped with six forward-facing spotlights. Additional lights were added to the side of the rack. A brush guard and winch were also fitted to the Sprinter’s front end.

    Next, the Sprinter Extreme was given a suspension lift and six off-road tires with beadlock wheels inspired by the Mercedes G Wagon. A set of custom fender flares were fabricated to accommodate the Sprinter’s additional suspension travel. To finish off the look, the Sprinter Extreme was given exhaust stacks and a unique vinyl wrap.

    The rear end of the Sprinter Extreme features a Scattolini ScattoMaax “Tipper Bed” capable of dumping 5,200 pounds of payload to the side or the rear.

    The Sprinter’s standard 2.1L turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine hasn’t been modified for the Extreme treatment, but even in stock form the truck is capable of towing 7,500 pounds and carrying up to 6,200 pounds of payload.

    Although Mercedes has no plans to put the Sprinter Extreme into regular production, the company notes that the rig could be recreated through its MasterUpfitter program.

    “The Sprinter Cab Chassis is the most capable heavy-duty vehicle in its segment,” said Bernie Glaser, Vice President of Mercedes-Benz Vans in the USA. “The Sprinter Extreme concept has super-strength, unlimited hard-working capability and an aggressive design. Unlike most concepts, the foundation for the Sprinter Extreme can be ordered at a Mercedes or Freightliner dealership today with the help of our MasterUpfitter program.”

    Live images by Brian Williams.

  • Chicago LIVE: 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe, Santa Fe Sport facelift

    February 11, 2016

    Hyundai has updated its Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport, launching mid-cycle facelifts for the 2017 model year.

    Revealed at the Chicago Auto Show, the refreshed crossovers both feature a redesigned front fascia with a larger brushed-finish hexagonal grille. LED daytime running lights are available on certain packages, while the Santa Fe offers optional LED fog lights.

    Designers have also revamped the rear end, adding new taillights and dual-outlet exhaust tips. Other changes include silver rocker-panel accents and new designs for 17-, 18- and 19-inch alloy wheels.

    Base models will feature a five-inch infotainment system, while the three-row Santa Fe comes standard with a larger seven-inch system with Android Auto. Buyers can also opt for an eight-inch touchscreen, Infinity premium audio, or Blue Link system.

    The Santa Fe lineup now offers Hyundai’s latest safety technologies including a multi-view camera system, smart cruise control with start/stop, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and dynamic bending lights. The company also expects to earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating for both models.

    The 2017 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport are already on their way to showrooms across the country. It is unclear if the company has increased its respective MSRPs for either model.

    Live images by Brian Williams.

  • Chicago LIVE: 2017 Ram Power Wagon [Video]

    February 11, 2016

    Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Ram truck division has unveiled an updated version of its Power Wagon off-road pickup at the 2016 Chicago auto show.

    Still based on the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty 4×4 Crew Cab, the 2017 Power Wagon features a number of visual enhancements for the new model year. Up front the 2017 Power Wagon receives a new grille inspired by the Ram Rebel. Projector headlamps with LED marker lights are also part of the update.

    In a nod to the Power Wagons from the late 1970s, the 2017 Power Wagon gets a vertical stripe just aft of the cab with “Power Wagon” in rotated font. The stripe is available in gloss black or bright silver, depending on the truck’s exterior paint color.

    There is no mistaking the Ram Power Wagon for anything else when viewing the truck from behind thanks to badging that takes up most of the rear tailgate. The back of the truck also features a black powder-coated bumper and taillights with black bezels.

    The Power Wagon rides on new-look 17-inch wheels for 2017, complete with 33-inch off-road rubber. The Power Wagon rides two-inches higher than the standard version of the truck.

    The Power Wagon’s interior design hasn’t changed much from last year, but Ram says the truck’s cabin has been upgraded with better materials. The Power Wagon’s standard cloth seats feature a tire pattern that perfectly matches the truck’s standard Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires. Leather seats remain an option. A black headliner is also new for 2017.

    The 2017 Power Wagon is powered by Ram’s 410 horsepower, 429 lb-ft of torque 6.4L HEMI V8. A six-speed automatic transmission is the only gearbox available. Ram says the Power Wagon can tow up to 10,030 pounds and is capable of hauling a payload up to 1,510 pounds.

    Of course the Power Wagon is all about off-road use and continues to shine in that area thanks to a beefed up suspension with a disconnecting sway bar that helps with articulation. The Power Wagon also employs front and rear electronic-locking differentials. However, if you do manage to get stuck in the muck, the Power Wagon comes standard with a 12,000 pound winch.

    “The Ram Power Wagon is an off-road, all-access pass, removing the limitations, instilling confidence and allowing owners to reach areas of recreation and lifestyle not attainable with any other pickup,” said Mike Manley, Head of Jeep Brand and Ram Brand, FCA – Global. “The 2017 Ram Power Wagon delivers to those who travel into extreme terrain, while providing the towing and payload capability required in a heavy-duty truck.”

    The 2017 Ram Power Wagon is scheduled to go into production during the fourth quarter of 2016. Pricing will be announced closer to the truck’s market launch.

    Live images by Brian Williams. Video courtesy of Ram.

  • Chicago LIVE: 2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE

    February 11, 2016

    Chevrolet’s heritage-laced 1LE package is returning to the Camaro lineup for the 2017 model year.

    Offered on both V8- and V6-powered cars for the first time, the optional 1LE package is designed primarily for buyers who occasionally want to hit the track. V6-powered cars benefit from a sportier ride thanks to a firmer suspension, four-piston Brembo brakes, a mechanical limited-slip differential, and 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped by Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. Chevrolet has also added a dual exhaust system and a fuel system borrowed from the SS.

    The list of options includes Recaro bucket seats for the front passengers, and the Performance Data Recorder that’s already available on the Chevrolet Corvette and Cadillac’s hot-rodded ATS-V and CTS-V models.

    When ordered with a V8, the 1LE package also brings Magnetic Ride Control, an electronic limited-slip differential, and six-piston Brembo brakes. V8-powered cars come standard with Recaro buckets, but the Performance Data Recorder remains on the list of extra-cost options.

    The package doesn’t bring any major mechanical modifications, and it can’t be ordered with the 2.0-liter four-banger. The Camaro is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 335 horsepower, while the Camaro SS ups the ante with a 6.2-liter V8 tuned to generate 455 horsepower. Visually, cars ordered with the 1LE package are distinguishable by a racing-inspired satin black hood that reduces glare, a front splitter, and a specific three-piece spoiler out back.

    The 1LE package will be available on all V6- and V8-powered 2017 Camaros fitted with a manual transmission starting this fall. Chevrolet will publish pricing and performance information in the weeks leading up to the package’s on-sale date.

    Live images by Brian Williams.