On the Road With...
Is it maximum performance, cleaner running fuels, more space, innovative technology, or just plain can-you-dig-it style that makes people ooh and ahh over concept vehicles? This month's installment of On the Road With... looks at the year's most off-road savvy dream 4x4s. Whether it's in the form of composite body materials or underhood aluminum, each concept has at least one cool feature that launches it into the realm of cool. Some concepts-like GM's H2-are pulled from dreamland to being Joe Citizen's daily driver. Let the drooling begin.
Reflective of the market's demand for more, more, more, GMC's Terra4 is a high-tech transformer truck. The Terra4 is a four-wheel-drive, four-wheel-steer truck with four doors and four ways to access the cargo area. The design is a totally integrated, closed body with a short, deep cargo area, which permits greater functionality and utility than a regular pickup truck. Doors on the rear quarter-panels allow easy access to the closed cargo area. The passenger cab, together with the cargo area, can be transformed to carry various combinations of passengers and cargo. Also, the rear seats can be folded flat into the floor at the same level as the box, making one continuous load floor to accommodate long items.
Terra4's powertrain is a 285hp, 5.3L Vortec V-8 and a not-so-conventional electric motor/generator. A 4.8-kilowatt motor/generator is integrated into the drivetrain between the gasoline engine and the transmission. This provides starting power and the ability to generate electricity during deceleration. It also saves weight and parts because a conventional starter and alternator are no longer needed. As an added benefit of the larger electrical system, the parallel hybrid also features a pair of 110-volt, 20-amp electrical outlets for powering anything with a standard three-prong household plug.
The Terra4 also features Quadrasteer (four-wheel steer) that provides carlike maneuverability in a fullsize truck. Quadrasteer is an electro-mechanical rear-steer system that turns the rear wheels to produce four-wheel steering. The rear wheels turn as a percentage of the front wheels up to a maximum 12-degree angle. The angle is based on vehicle speed and steering wheel turn. At high speeds, the four wheels turn in parallel to provide better control of the vehicle through lane changes and sharp curves. At low speeds the wheels turn in opposition to shorten turning radiuses and make towing and parking simpler.
The Dodge M80 is a small, affordable truck. Stand-out design elements include the satin-stainless-steel-look, signature Dodge crosshair grille and headlamp surrounds, classic round lamps, and the metallic slate-gray, molded-in-color PET-plastic fenders and bumpers with integrated towhooks.
The back of the cab features a full-width flipper glass. The center console doubles as a portable cooler, while the lightweight seats can be removed and used outdoors. Behind the fold-flat seats is a vehicle-wide bin for wet goods such as shoes, umbrellas, and a snowboard, or for driving through rivers. True? Everything but the river part.
The Ford EX's two-seat concept vehicle features high- quality, detailed composite body sections on a chrome-moly steel frame. The transfer case and dual-fanned aluminum radiator are moved rearward to achieve a 50/50 weight distribution, aiding in optimal traction in the rough stuff. The exo-skeletal design allows the components to be visible, and removable side body panels are secured to the frame by lightweight aluminum fasteners. The windshield folds down and clips to the top of the hood, giving the occupants the feeling of freedom that comes from open-air driving with the safety of a full rollcage. Four-point safety belts and dual airbags are located in the center of the wheel and the instrument panel.