Archive for February, 2015|Monthly archive page

How We’d Spec It: Yes, Basic Jeep Wranglers Still Exist in 2015

In light of Jeep’s recent forays into crossover-dom—see the Renegade and Cherokee, please—we’ve been hit hard with nostalgia for the brand’s good ol’ days. You know, the ones filled with solid axles, real four-wheel drive with low-range gearing, and manly stick-shift transmissions. So we moseyed over to Jeep’s online configurator to start building out a Wrangler, only to remember that, holy crap, the things are expensive. (Oh, and they’re huge.) That’s okay, our ideal Wrangler isn’t some gussied-up, $40,000 toy—it’s a beastly, featureless stripper model, and thanks to Jeep’s addition of a sweet new off-road tire option to the base Sport for 2015, that fantasy can once again be had for relatively little money. This is how we’d spec a Wrangler:

MODEL:

Jeep Sport Two-Door Manual 4×4 (base price: $23,790)

There are no fewer than 9 different Wrangler trim levels, two body styles, and—on most models—the choice of a manual or an automatic transmission. With the top-level, four-door Unlimited Rubicon Hard Rock pushing $40,990, and even milder versions like the sweet-looking Willys Wheeler running between $27,790 and $31,590, we needed to stay toward the bottom of the pile to satiate our base-model fetish. It doesn’t get more basic than the Sport, which starts at $23,790 and comes with steel wheels, crank windows, manual door locks, manual door mirrors, manual seats, a heater, Dana axles, four-wheel drive, four-wheel disc brakes, a six-speed manual transmission, fog lights, and a folding soft top.

Air conditioning is optional, as is Bluetooth, a hardtop, and satellite radio. The interior is washable—there are drain plugs in the floor for evacuating water—and although there are wisps of decadence in the standard cruise control, steering-wheel audio controls, eight-speaker audio system, and the 284-hp Pentastar V-6, this is as stripped as Jeeps come.

OPTIONS:

Sunset Orange Pearl paint ($0)

Air conditioning bypass ($0)

Half metal doors with manual locks ($0)

Black Steel and 31-inch Dueler Tire Package ($995) (regular rims get 225/75R16 on/off road; black package brings 245/75R16)

Connectivity Group ($570)

As you might have noticed, our first three selected options are all no-cost. Free stuff is always good, but in the case of our dream Wrangler, it’s less a case of free stuff and more of a case of not paying money for things. For example, the paint is free, so we picked the brightest color we could find: Sunset Orange Pearl. Next, we chose not to add air conditioning for $1295; gotta love Jeep, the company actually has an option box for “air conditioning bypass,” which is really just a fancy way of saying “summer’s gonna be hot.” (Take off the roof and cruise, we say!) Finally, we shelled out zero smackers for half-metal doors with removable plastic side windows (not pictured above), which replace the standard full-metal doors and make top-down excursions feel even more open and more fun.

Now for the stuff we actually had to pay for. We’re fans of steel wheels, but the Wrangler’s standard steel-wheel/tire combo is a bit weak-looking. The tires are street-oriented and skinny, while the steelies are a boring shade of silver. Thankfully, Jeep introduced the $995 Black Steel and 31-inch Dueler Tire Package for 2015, which includes meatier, 31-inch Bridgestone Dueler white-letter tires and the base Wrangler’s same steel wheels—only they’re painted black. Sweet. Vanity and enhanced off-road capability taken care of, the only option left (to us—Jeep offers many more, including different axle ratios, hardtops, a towing package, and even an automatic transmission) was the $570 Connectivity Group that brings functional upgrades such as a tire-pressure-monitor display, Uconnect voice recognition, Bluetooth, and what Jeep calls an “electronic vehicle information center.”

Would we consider $25,550 “cheap?” Not exactly, but in today’s Jeep Wrangler landscape, it’s a steal. And besides, to most folks, a Jeep looks like, well, a Jeep—no matter if it is a back-to-basics Luddite like our Wrangler Sport or a fully loaded Rubicon. We almost don’t want a nice Wrangler, because then we’d have reservations about scratching its body-color fender flares on brush or soiling its leather interior with mud or snow. A Sport, on the other hand, is ready to be grabbed by the scruff of its neck—or its padded roll bar—and tossed down the nearest off-road trail without stress. Yep, basic Jeeps still exist, but they’re getting harder to find; we hope Jeep can keep some of that stripper spirit alive in the next Wrangler coming out in 2017.

As read on: http://blog.caranddriver.com/how-wed-spec-it-yes-basic-jeep-wranglers-still-exist-in-2015/

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Black is the new black

Some Web sages noticed that the only interior color available for the Ram Rebel and Laramie Limited was black (this has been true for both generations of Laramie Limited).  With the 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited, even the headliner and pillars are black.

We asked Ram lead interior designer whether this was due to customer choice or cost, and he said it was partly a matter of being appropriate to the vehicle.

There’s just something about wearing a black suit, just a nice black suit, that your details pop.  I think that’s the thing that we’ve learned over the years, that it’s okay to have a very calming black, very consistent, and then accent it with colors. That’s what we’ve chosen for like you mentioned the Limited; we’ve chosen it for the Rebel that we’re sitting in. It’s appropriate.

Mr. Nagode also mentioned the dirt resistance (to fingerprints) in truck use, as well as customer choice if presented with different options at a lot. However, he also noted that for other vehicles, different colors were more appropriate, particularly in cars such as Charger, Challenger, and Viper. The Laramie Longhorn, he pointed out, comes in either black with brown seats, or in “a frost color” with a warmer brown.

It’s just sometimes the extremes, we tend to kind of limit the choices. Like our Express and Tradesman really only comes in a black environment. And again, that’s perfect for someone that’s going to get it dirty.  …  At the core of our market, we tend to offer more colors, more variations.

As read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2015/02/black-is-the-new-black

Siberian-style cold for Ram tests

Houghton Michigan, not a place many of us might be familiar with, but the Ram cold weather group is rather freezingly acquainted with the town.

Houghton is where Ram conducts some of its severe duty cold weather testing, and they just released a video showing what some of the cold weather testing entails. Houghton sees an average of 260 inches of snow each year, and combined with the bitter cold of this winter, has allowed Ram to put its trucks through even more rigorous than normal testing.

The company does have simulated cold weather facilities, including both “chill rooms” and a snowblower/wind tunnel to see if driving through thick snow will clog the air intakes or completely block visibility.

As read on: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2015/02/siberian-style-cold-for-ram-tests

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Problems

Quick Facts…

Hundreds of Americans die every year from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Carbon monoxide in the home can come from many sources.

If you experience CO poisoning symptoms, get fresh air immediately and go to an emergency room.

Prevention is the key to protecting you and your family.

Make sure your CO alarm meets the requirements of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or International Approval Service (IAS).

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon Monoxide detector

You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide (CO), but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes. It is the leading cause of poisoning death, with over 500 victims in the United States each year.

Carbon monoxide is produced whenever a fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned. The amount of CO produced depends mainly on the quality or efficiency of combustion. A properly functioning burner, whether natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), has efficient combustion and produces little CO. However, an out-of-adjustment burner can produce life-threatening amounts of CO without any visible warning signs.

When appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced usually is not hazardous. But if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can collect in an enclosed space. Hundreds of Americans die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Many more people are harmed to some degree each year.

Common Sources of CO in Homes

Accumulation of combustion gases can occur when a blocked chimney, rusted heat exchanger or broken chimney connector pipe (flue) prevents combustion gases from being exhausted from the home. CO also can enter the home from an idling car or from a lawnmower or generator engine operating in the garage.

Another source for CO is backdrafting. When ventilation equipment, such as a range-top vent fan, is used in a tightly sealed home, reverse air flow can occur in chimneys and flues. An operating fireplace also can interact with the flue dynamics of other heating appliances. Again, backdrafting may result.

Other common sources of CO include unvented, fuel-burning space heaters (especially if malfunctioning) and indoor use of a charcoal barbeque grill. CO is produced by gas stoves and ranges and can become a problem with prolonged, improper operation — for example, if these appliances are used to heat the home. Flame color does not necessarily indicate CO production. However, a change in the gas flame’s color can indicate a CO problem. If a blue flame becomes yellow, CO often is increased.

While larger combustion appliances are designed to be connected to a flue or chimney to exhaust combustion byproducts, some smaller appliances are designed to be operated indoors without a flue. Appliances designed as supplemental or decorative heaters (including most unvented gas fireplaces) are not designed for continuous use. To avoid excessive exposure to pollutants, never use these appliances for more than four hours at a time.

When operating unvented combustion appliances, such as portable space heaters and stoves, follow safe practices. Besides observing fire safety rules, make sure the burner is properly adjusted and there is good ventilation. Never use these items in a closed room. Keep doors open throughout the house, and open a window for fresh air. Never use outdoor appliances such as barbeque grills or construction heaters indoors. Do not use appliances such as ovens and clothes dryers to heat the house.

Inspect heating equipment. To reduce the chances of backdrafting in furnaces, fireplaces and similar equipment, make sure flues and chimneys are not blocked. Inspect metal flues for rust. In furnaces, check the heat exchanger for rust and cracks. Soot also is a sign of combustion leakage. When using exhaust fans, open a nearby window or door to provide replacement air.

carbon monixide diagram

Figure 1: Sources of and clues to a possible carbon monoxide problem.

CO clues you can see:

a. Rusting or water streaking on vent/chimney.

b. Loose or missing furnace panel.

c. Sooting.

d. Loose or disconnected vent/chimney connections.

e. Debris or soot falling from chimney, fireplace or appliance.

f. Loose masonry on chimney.

g. Moisture inside of windows.

CO clues you cannot see:

h. Internal appliance damage or malfunctioning components.

i. Improper burner adjustment.

j. Hidden blockage or damage in chimney.

Only a trained service technician can detect hidden problems and correct these conditions!

Warnings:

* Never leave a car running in a garage, even with the garage door open.

* Never burn charcoal in houses, tents, vehicles or garages.

* Never install or service combustion appliances without proper knowledge, skills and tools.

* Never use a gas range, oven or dryer for heating.

* Never operate unvented gas-burning appliances in a closed room or in a room in which you are sleeping.

Adapted from “The Senseless Killer,” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C.

CO Poisoning Symptoms

The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu but without the fever. They include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, disorientation, and loss of consciousness.

In more technical terms, CO bonds tightly to the hemoglobin in red blood cells, preventing them from carrying oxygen throughout the body. If you have any of these symptoms and if you feel better when you go outside your home and the symptoms reappear when you go back inside, you may have CO poisoning.

If you experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances, and leave the house. Go to an emergency room and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning.

If CO poisoning has occurred, it often can be diagnosed by a blood test done soon after exposure. Be prepared to answer the following questions for the doctor:

Do your symptoms occur only in the house?

Is anyone else in your household complaining of similar symptoms?

Did everyone’s symptoms appear about the same time?

Are you using any fuel-burning appliances in the home?

Has anyone inspected your appliances lately?

Are you certain these appliances are properly working?

Because CO is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas that is quickly absorbed by the body and the symptoms often resemble other illnesses, it is often known as the “silent killer.”

Prevention Is the Key

At the beginning of every heating season, have a trained professional check all your fuel-burning appliances: oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves. Make certain that the flues and chimneys are connected, in good condition and not blocked.

Whenever possible, choose appliances that vent fumes to the outside. Have them properly installed, and maintain them according to manufacturers’ instructions. Read and follow all instructions that accompany any fuel-burning device. If you cannot avoid using an unvented gas or kerosene space heater, carefully follow the cautions that come with the device. Use the proper fuel and keep doors to the rest of the house open. Crack a window to ensure enough air for ventilation and proper fuel burning.

These problems could indicate improper appliance operation:

Decreasing hot water supply.

Furnace unable to heat house or runs constantly.

Sooting, especially on appliances and vents.

Unfamiliar or burning odor.

Increased condensation inside windows.

Proper installation, operation and maintenance of combustion appliances in the home are most important in reducing the risk of CO poisoning. Some rules are:

Never idle the car in a garage, even if the garage door is open. Fumes can build up very quickly in the garage and living area of your home.

Never use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.

Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even in a fireplace.

Never sleep in a room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.

Never use any gasoline-powered engines (mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines or generators) in enclosed spaces.

Never ignore symptoms, particularly if more than one person is feeling them. You could lose consciousness and die if you do nothing.

Install Carbon Monoxide Alarms

In recent years, CO alarms have become widely available. When selecting a CO alarm, make sure it meets the stringent requirements of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or International Approval Service (IAS). Modern CO alarms can provide warnings for even nonlethal levels of this dangerous pollutant. However, do not think of the alarm as the “be all, end all” to alert you to dangerous CO levels. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends having at least one CO alarm in every home, placed outside of the sleeping area. Homes with several sleeping areas require multiple alarms.

Look for an alarm with a long-term warranty and one that easily can be self-tested and reset to ensure proper functioning. Consumer organizations such as Consumer Reports occasionally evaluate these devices. Some general points to consider before buying a CO alarm:

Some inexpensive alarms consist of a card with a spot (spot detectors) that changes color in the presence of CO. The absence of an audible signal does not meet UL or IAS requirements for alarms, so these devices do not provide adequate warning of CO.

Some CO alarms have a sensor that must be replaced every year or so. The expense of this part should be a factor in purchase decisions.

Battery-operated alarms are portable and will function during a power failure, which is when emergency heating might be used. Batteries must be replaced, although some alarms have long-life batteries that will last up to five years.

Line-powered alarms (110 volt) require electrical outlets but do not need batteries. They will not function during a power failure. Some line-powered alarms have battery backups.

Some alarms have digital readouts indicating CO levels. Alarms with memories can help document and correct CO problems.

If the CO detector alarm sounds:

Make sure it is your CO detector and not your smoke detector.

Check to see if any member of the household is experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning. If you suspect poisoning, get everyone out of the house immediately and seek medical attention. Tell the doctor that you suspect CO poisoning.

If no one is feeling symptoms, ventilate the home with fresh air. Turn off all potential sources of CO: your oil or gas furnace, gas water heater, gas range and oven, gas dryer, gas or kerosene space heater, and any vehicle or small engine.

Have a qualified technician inspect your chimneys and fuel-burning appliances to make sure they are operating correctly and that nothing is blocking the fumes from being vented out of the house.

Web Sites

American Lung Association: http://www.stateoftheair.org

Consumer Product Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.gov

Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/iaq

Healthy Indoor Air for America’s Homes: http://www.montana.edu/wwwcxair

Homesafe.com: http://www.homesafe.com/coalert

References

American Lung Association. (2000). Fact sheet: Carbon Monoxide. New York, NY: ALA.

Penney, D. (Ed.) (2000). Carbon monoxide toxicity. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Ponessa, J.T. (1999). Carbon monoxide in the home. In Healthy indoor air for America’s homes. Bozeman, Mont.: Montana State University Extension Service.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. (1997). “The Senseless Killer.” Washington, D.C.: CPSC.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. (1998). What you should know about combustion appliances and indoor air pollution. Washington, D.C.: CPSC.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (1996). Protect your family and yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning. Washington, D.C.: EPA.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (1996). The inside story: A guide to indoor air quality. Washington, D.C.: EPA.

As read on: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/consumer/09939.html

Driving the 2015 Ram Promaster, the city van with a plan

A new breed of vehicle is appearing on American roads, and, well, it’s surprisingly straightforward: it’s a minivan that’s an actual mini van. Not the Honda Odyssey or the Toyota Sienna or any of those other bloated family-haulers that may technically be “vans” but are hardly mini, but rather old-fashioned boxes on wheels—low on amenities, high on utility. And as we’ve come to find out, they’re not that bad to drive either.

That’s certainly the case with the 2015 Ram Promaster City, which joins the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200/Chevrolet City Express twins in the Tiny Van Tousle of 2015. Essentially a slightly warmed over Fiat Doblo utility van that’s sold overseas, the Promaster City arrives in Ram dealerships now, both in cargo and five-passenger form, and we recently got our first chance to drive it on a media program in Austin, Texas.

2015 Ram ProMaster City Wagon SLT

Texas is a curious place to launch a “city” van, since practically nowhere in this great Union of ours do trucks and vans have as much room to grow to full size, like goldfish in an Olympic-size carp pool. The congested avenues and narrow alleys of New York City might have been a more obvious place to launch the Promaster City, but the appeal of small utility vans is not just about being the right size for their environment; it’s about possessing the right qualities. And the Promaster City has a lot of right qualities.

It starts with being eminently easy to drive. From behind the wheel, the Promaster City’s car-like driving position and surprisingly stylish, ergonomically sound dashboard are more like those of a tall station wagon than a cargo van. Particular helpful if the van is to be piloted by many different drivers is its uncomplicated Uconnect infotainment system with available touchscreen and wifi, which requires little or no learning curve to master, unlike the fussy Sync system in the Transit Connect. Large glass back windows on models so equipped (including all five-passenger versions, which also come with windows in the sliding door) dwarf the tiny airplane-size back windows in the NV200/City Express, blessing the Promaster City with a great view out back when it’s not loaded with stuff. And highly recommended on models with paneled windows is are bumper-saving rear backup camera and parking sensors.

The Promaster City’s front seats seem comfortable enough for long-distance drives and are covered in fabric that could handle a plumber’s wrath after Taco Tuesday. The 60/40 split fold-and-tumble rear seats in passenger models, however, are about as cushy as a park bench and have no armrests to speak of (those are highly underappreciated, as it turns out) and hence should be used infrequently and for short trips only.

2015 Ram ProMaster City Tradesman SLT

As a compact van weighing about 3,600 lbs., the Promaster City is also is fully competent with just four cylinders underhood, even on Austin’s hilly roads. The 2.4-liter “Tigershark” inline-four’s 178 hp and 174 lb-ft of torque make it the most powerful mill in the segment, while a nine-speed automatic with manual shift control manages the shifting. Thus endowed, the Promaster City is no speed demon at full tilt, but nor should drivers be allowed to blame any late deliveries on their van being too slow. And just as important to the boss is the Promaster City’s impressive 21/29 mpg city/highway fuel economy, which exactly matches the long-wheelbase Transit Connect.

The Promaster City is also spectacularly maneuverable, boasting a turning circle that, at just 32 feet, is three feet tighter than a Mini Cooper’s. The steering wheel turns 2.9 times lock-to-lock, which may not seem too remarkable compared to regular cars, but if you’ve piloted a full-size van before, it’s a revelation. Even better, there’s no perceptible on-center dead spot at speed, just crisp, linear response. Ride quality, meanwhile, is downright heroic thanks to a fully independent rear suspension (the NV200/City Express have bumpy rear leaf springs and the Transit Connect has a twist beam rear axle), so if you’re in the business of transporting delicate items like wedding cakes or antiques, this should top your shopping list.

2015 Ram ProMaster City SLT interior

However small it drives, the Promaster City can carry a lot. Size wise, it’s very close to the NV200/City Express and the long-wheelbase Transit Connect, yet it manages to squeak more cubic feet into the cargo area: 131.7 cubes on cargo models versus 128.6 for the Ford and 122.7 for the Nissan/Chevy twins. The roof height is a tall 51.8 inches, and as with its competitors, the Promaster City’s rear doors open on double hinges for nearly 180 degrees of total swing, which makes loading wide and bulky items a cinch.

The Promaster City cargo model comes with a fully lined floor that is flat and expansive, measuring 87.2 inches from the seatbacks to the rear doors, 60.4 inches between the walls and 48.4 inches between the wheelwells, allowing a forklift to drop in a conventional pallet full of cargo. Up to 1883 pounds of payload can be loaded inside, then secured with its six standard D-rings (four on passenger models). So you don’t have to look it up, that’s 173 pounds more than the Transit Connect and 383 pounds more than the NV200/City Express. Max towing is 2,000 pounds, exactly matching the Ford.

Of course, most Promaster City buyers won’t leave their vans just as they came, so Mopar and other upfitters are at the ready to supply partitions, shelving units, and roof racks. The Promaster City also has a huge shelf above the front seats as well as a large open shelf in the passenger-side dash.

Prices for the Promaster City cargo model start at $24,125 and $25,125 for the passenger version. The SLT trim adds power mirrors, body-color bumpers, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, touchscreen infotainment, and cruise control to both, for an additional $1,525.

For many van customers, having a reasonable amount of well-organized space is more appealing than sheer immensity, and the Promaster City will fit that bill, especially if they plan to put their van in a garage or have limited operating budgets. The fact that it drives so well is icing on the cake.

Read more at: https://autos.yahoo.com/blogs/motoramic/driving-the-2015-ram-promaster–the-city-van-with-a-plan-171532833.html

Ram Jam: Ram Trucks CEO Talks Hellcat, Compact Trucks, and More

Last August, longtime Chrysler executive (he’s been with the company since 1988) Robert Hegbloom took the position of CEO of Ram Trucks. Now that he’s had time to get comfortable with the reins, we sat down to talk sales numbers, EcoDiesel, mid-size trucks, and more—much more.

Car and Driver: Ram sold 395,567 trucks in 2014, placing it in fourth place in the bestselling-vehicle derby behind the Toyota Camry (396,988), the Chevrolet Silverado (471,918), and the Ford F-series (679,496). Safe to call it a big year?

Robert Hegbloom: We were up 28 percent year over year, and three points overall in the market. Basically, we look at our customers and see that they play in a number of areas: work, outdoor [recreation], motorsports, and even [just using the truck] as a family vehicle. And in those spaces, customers are looking for something unique. But the first thing with a light-duty truck is fuel economy, which is so different from where it was a few years ago. We want to deliver on fuel economy first, and then, depending on what their particular needs are, make sure we have the right package.

Might the product lineup get diluted by the staggering amount of available trims and packages and submodels? Do you see consumers being overwhelmed by the number of choices?

You know, it varies when regionalism comes into play. For instance, when you go down to Texas, the Laramie Longhorn is very popular, and there are some urban areas like Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Austin, too, and they like chrome. Now when you go to California, they like the monochromatic look. You go to another part of the country and they have preferences, too. So you’ll have regional differences among the package preferences, and the dealers aren’t going to stock all of them.

We know this is sensitive subject, but now that the F-150 has come out and the numbers have posted, where is Ram on the use of aluminum? Last time we talked, [Ram vehicle line executive] Mike Cairns said “aluminum is for beer cans.”

Well, we are delivering fuel economy using technology, like the EcoDiesel and the Pentastar V-6 mated to the eight-speed transmission. Then you add the enablers we put in place such as active grille shutters and aerodynamics. We still have the best aero in the segment, and we want to stay consistent there while looking for new opportunities in efficiency.

Are the guys who buy diesel Ram trucks concerned with being green, or is it just about torque and fuel efficiency?

Ultimately, it’s about delivering on fuel economy without sacrificing any capability. You get 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque and 29 mpg on the highway [with the EcoDiesel]. And to put that in perspective, consider that when we launched the 5.9-liter Cummins [in 1989], it had twice the displacement, yet made less horsepower and less torque. The 3.0-liter diesel delivers all the capability a light-duty buyer demands. Typically, consumers see a label and think they aren’t going to achieve the quoted mileage; what we’re seeing is customers writing [to us] about their EcoDiesel truck and saying they are getting 29 mpg or even better.

Gas prices are currently at the lowest they’ve been in years. Is that slowing the sales of the EcoDiesel?

Back in December, when gas prices were at their lowest, we had the highest-selling month YTD that we’ve had since the introduction of the EcoDiesel. We are at 26 days on lot with the EcoDiesel, even being a full year into the model’s availability and while we are increasing our volume. Typically we see much more fluctuation with gasoline prices than with diesel prices, so it doesn’t affect sales as much.

Is there a cap on the number of EcoDiesels you can produce?

We are trying to add 20 percent to our production. We received enough orders on this thing right out of the gate that took us almost to the model year [to have enough available units for sale]. You expect to get a big lift when you come out with something like that, but to sustain it for a year, that’s really something.

Now the big question: Hellcat Ram?

You know, we did an SRT a number of years ago, and it was something that at the time worked for a little bit. We get a few people who think a Hellcat truck would be fun, we could take it to Woodward Avenue and have some fun, but there’s not really a big appetite for that type of performance vehicle right now. Plus [Dodge chief] Tim Kuniskis wants all the Hellcat motors he can get.

ProMaster City—what’s the early feedback?

We need to get them out there. We started shipping in the end of December, and the people that have driven them have been pleased. The 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder with the nine-speed transmission surprised a lot of people, as did the independent suspension, which we were very focused on, because we wanted the driving characteristics right. All three of those are major changes compared to what is in Europe. We took a great platform and optimized it for our market. I’m pretty excited to get them here.

Is a diesel option for the ProMaster City in the cards?

They have it in Europe, and the first time I ever drove one it was a diesel with the manual. But time will tell. We have the technology, but you start getting into the cost of ownership, which is a major driver in a commercial-oriented package. Acquisition price plays a big role in that, and I’m just not sure the appetite is there for that.

What’s the possibility that a mini/mid-size truck based on the Fiat Strada will make it to the U.S.?

No plans. It’s a nice package, but to meet all the homologation requirements, you would essentially have to start over. We looked at it, it’s a 200,000–300,000 unit a year segment with a number of players in it, so unless you see some major changes there’s just not a big opportunity. [A new generation is due next year. Hmm . . . —Ed.]

As read on: http://blog.caranddriver.com/ram-jam-ram-trucks-ceo-talks-hellcat-compact-trucks-and-more/

Next Jeep Wrangler Keeps Solid Axles, Loses Folding Windshield

Among the key design features of the Jeep Wrangler, we’d say the solid-axle suspension is several orders of magnitude more important than the cool-but-perhaps-not-critical folding windshield. To that end, a recent Automotive News report should be mostly good news for the Jeep faithful.

The report states that the Wrangler will keep its solid front and rear axles when the vehicle is redesigned for the 2017 model year. That will have true believers breathing a sigh of relief, as Jeep had already ditched the solid axles in its other models.

The Grand Cherokee switched to an independent front suspension with the 2005 redesign, and lost its solid rear axle with the arrival of the current generation, for 2011. Meanwhile, Jeep dropped the solid front axle in the transition from the XJ Cherokee to the Liberty, and then went to a four-wheel independent setup when the Liberty was replaced with the new Cherokee.

Although the solid axles stay on, weight savings and improved fuel economy are major goals for the next-generation Wrangler—not a bad idea, given the current model’s 17/21 mpg EPA ratings. To that end, the new Jeep will get an aluminum body; a smaller, turbocharged engine in place of the current 3.7-liter V-6; and will upgrade to an eight-speed automatic.

The good news on the axle front is tempered, however, by word that the Wrangler will lose its upright, folding windshield in favor of a fixed unit with greater rake. While it’s true that many Jeep owners probably don’t even how that their windshield can be folded down—or wouldn’t know how to do it—the folded-windshield driving experience is one of the things that makes the Wrangler unique. It’s up there with the removable doors and convertible top—both of which had better stick around.

Read more at: http://blog.caranddriver.com/report-next-jeep-wrangler-keeps-solid-axles-loses-folding-windshield/

Hail to the Indian Chief Motorcycle

There’s a good chance, many years from now, that history will judge this particular red-and-white 1948 Indian Chief as one of the most important Indian motorcycles on the planet. No, it wasn’t owned by Steve McQueen or any other celebrity; it’s not a special VIN, not the only or the first or the last of anything; it certainly didn’t win any races or set any speed records either. It’s unremarkable except for one fact: This is the motorcycle that spent two years parked in the Polaris design studio, where it served as the visual inspiration and literal touchstone for the design team that reinterpreted the vintage Indian style for the modern era.

This bike isn’t a static showpiece. It’s fully operational, and Indian Product Director Gary Gray offered us the unique opportunity to ride this vintage classic side by side with the modern Chief that carries so much of its DNA in its lines and design. Gray is the person who actually located this bike for Polaris, negotiating the purchase from a Minnesota collector shortly after Polaris acquired the Indian brand in 2011. It’s a 1948 Chief with the mid-level Sportsman trim package, distinguished by the chromed crashbars, handlebar, headlight and spotlights, and “De Luxe” solo saddle. Riding this bike alongside the 2014 Chief Vintage reveals how far bikes have come in 66 years—it feels like light-years—but it’s surprising how similar the two bikes feel in certain ways. That’s a testament to the fine job Gray and company did translating the old glory to a new generation.

The first difference you notice is scale. Wheelbase and seat height are roughly similar, but the vintage bike, weighing just 550 pounds, is almost 250 pounds lighter than the modern machine. This makes the older bike easier to maneuver, especially pushing it around a parking lot, and it handles well at speed too. Sixteen-inch wheels are concealed under those deep fender skirts, and the ride is surprisingly smooth thanks to the coil-sprung, hydraulically damped girder fork and “Double Action” plunger-sprung rear frame (each shock carries two springs: a top spring for cushioning and a bottom spring for damping) that was a cut above Harley’s then-current rigid frame/sprung saddle combination.

The 74ci (1,200cc), 42-degree flathead V-twin, with roots reaching back to 1920, was already obsolete in 1948 ( Harley-Davidson released its overhead-valve Panhead that same year), but with roughly 50 hp and a broad spread of torque it’s adequate for back-road cruising. Top speed is said to be near 100 mph, but it’s happier nearer the double nickel where it doesn’t feel (and sound) like it’s going to shake itself apart. Besides, the drum brakes—the front all but useless and the back not much better—can’t compete with more velocity than that.

The control layout is utterly unlike the modern bike. Both grips rotate. The right grip “controls” the Linkert carburetor; the left rotates the automotive-type distributor to manually retard or advance the spark for easier starting. “Controls” is in quotes because any grip input to the crude, poorly atomizing Linkert is a mere suggestion. Engine response lags behind grip input by a few seconds, and the lack of a throttle return spring and a solid throttle wire—not a cable—makes rev-matching during shifting all but impossible. Speaking of shifting, there’s no clutch lever. Instead there’s a foot clutch on the left floorboard (a rocker clutch you have to manually engage and disengage, not a spring-loaded “suicide” clutch) and a hand-shifter on the left side of the fuel tank.

Temporarily rewiring your brain to smoothly manipulate that rocker clutch with your foot and fluidly change the cantankerous, non-synchronized, three-speed gearbox with your left hand is the biggest challenge, but once you get the vintage Chief up to speed it’s a delightful back-road ride, with a perfectly upright riding position that’s more natural and less slouchy than the clamshelled hunch the newer bike demands. It’s a classic American motorcycle experience, and Gray and his team have done an excellent job of transposing this vintage vibe onto the new machine. Starting with such sound genetic material as this, though, how could they go wrong?

As read on: http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/hail-to-indian-chief-motorcycle

2015 Ram 1500 Review

The 2015 Ram 1500 ranks 1 out of 5 Full Size Pickup Trucks. This ranking is based on our analysis of published reviews and test drives of the Ram 1500, as well as reliability and safety data.

The 2015 Ram 1500 impresses reviewers with its best-in-class ride, excellent cabin materials, responsive transmission and class-exclusive diesel engine option.

Because it has the best combination of positive reviews and long-term ownership costs in its class, the Ram 1500 is the 2015 U.S. News Best Full Size Truck for the Money.

The Ram 1500 has a base V6 that auto critics say has sufficient power. The optional V8 and turbodiesel V6 both earn praise for their ample power, and reviewers say either engine is a good choice for towing and hauling heavy loads. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, which reviewers praise for its responsiveness and smooth shifts. Fuel economy for a base Ram 1500 is an EPA-estimated 17/25 mpg city/highway, which is comparable with rivals’ estimates. The diesel model returns 20/28 mpg, which is excellent for the class. Test drivers say the 2015 Ram 1500 sets the standard for ride comfort in the segment, and they add that its optional air-adjustable suspension is helpful for keeping the truck level when towing or hauling heavy loads.

Auto journalists are impressed with the soft-touch materials and build quality of the 2015 Ram 1500’s cabin. They say the interior is quiet at speed and note that the front seats are comfortable and supportive. In either Quad or Crew Cab configuration, both of which seat up to six, reviewers report that there is plenty of legroom. The Ram 1500 offers an abundance of storage spaces in the cabin, reviewers write, and they like its available lockable RamBox storage compartments for storing smaller cargo in sides of the bed. A USB port and auxiliary input jack are standard. Optional features include navigation, satellite radio, a rearview camera and a Uconnect infotainment system with Bluetooth and voice control capability. Test drivers write that Uconnect is very user-friendly and they appreciate that there are redundant physical buttons for most major climate and audio adjustments.

“The Ram 1500 also offers a wide choice of trim levels, from workhorse, to street cruiser, to luxury liner. Even if you’re a die-hard loyalist to another brand, you still owe it to yourself to check out these outstanding trucks.” — Consumer Guide

“Available with all the required cab and bed configurations, in either 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive, the Ram 1500 goes above and beyond with its stylish exterior and well-appointed cabin.” — Kelley Blue Book

“The Ram 1500 has the nicest interior of any full-size pickup. Its upgraded touchscreen interface is impressively easy to use and offers substantial technology capabilities. We’re also fond of the Ram as it offers a composed and smooth ride whether you’re driving it on- or off-road.” — Edmunds (2014)

“Already gifted with capable handling and handsome interiors, the Ram 1500 lineup is now even more unique and appealing with the addition of the EcoDiesel option. It isn’t the motor for everyone – the cheaper, punchier and more characterful Hemi is still a stellar choice – but its combination of low-end torque and efficiency will undoubtedly win over many hearts and wallets. We expect Ram will have little problem achieving its goal of a 15 percent take rate for the EcoDiesel.” — Left Lane News (2014)

Read more at: http://usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/cars-trucks/Ram_1500/

Meet the 2015 Ram Laramie Limited

With high sales of luxury trucks, an upgraded top-end Ram pickup is not surprising — unlike its 1968-Plymouth-Barracuda-like grille (actually based on an interesting piece of furniture, according to Ram’s chief exterior designer).

Meet the new 2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Limited and 2016 Ram 2500 and 3500 Laramie Limited.

Pricing has not been announced, but the outgoing models start at $49,320 (Ram 1500), $53,195 (Ram 2500), and $54,440 (Ram 3500). That is for the 5.7 liter Hemi V8, driving the rear wheels, with a crew cab, and a 5’7” box on the 1500 and eight-foot box on the heavy duties. 4×4 is extra; a VM diesel is available on the 1500, a Cummins diesel or 6.4 V8 on the 2500 and 3500. We expect the new models to have the same powertrain options and similar pricing despite interior and exterior upgrades.

The chrome bumpers shown here are standard on some 2500 and 3500 trucks, optional on the full line. We believe the Ram 1500 will have a standard eight speed automatic while the 2500 and 3500 will keep the current six speeds (66RFE on 2500, with optional 68RFE; and 68RFE on 3500, with optional Aisin).

The company has not announced any equipment upgrades, but the vehicles shown have sensors in the front bumper (including one in the side) which may be used for forward parking sensors (forward cross path detection would be an interesting addition).

These are the second recent Ram trucks to break from the crosshair theme which started in the 1930s and have stuck with Dodge and Ram pickups off and on (mostly on) since then.

For many more photos and more information, click here.

Read more at: http://www.allpar.com/news/index.php/2015/02/meet-the-2015-ram-laramie-limited