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4-Wheel & Off-Road
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What Is A Sleeper On The UA?
Reader: Congratulations on another enjoyable trip for the Ultimate Adventure (Nov. and Dec. '09), this time through the nation's heart. However, can you explain why you keep referring to the Z71 as a "sleeper"? Maybe the definition of "sleeper" is different on the west coast. Here on the east side, we use "sleeper" to refer to a vehicle that is more capable than it looks. In other words, you'd never know what it could do until you saw it happen. A Toyota Corolla with a hidden fire-breathing V-8 squeezed under the hood somehow would be a sleeper. If I pulled up next to your Z71 at a stoplight, it would not be a sleeper. With huge axles clearly not native to a GM 1/2-ton, massive tires with beadlocks, half the bumpers missing, the bed bobbed, the fenders cut, suspension add-ons in clear view, a full steel rollcage inside, and decals all over a truck, what classifies it as a sleeper? There is absolutely nothing about The Sleeper UA Z71 that lives up to its name. The only thing I can say for it is that at least it's not as wild and crazy as putting a JK body on a Dodge 3500 frame and calling it a Jeep. Anyway, keep up the good work. And how about a little mud once in a while? There are a few people wheelin' east of the Mississippi too.
Editor: Good point. We figured it was more a sleeper than some of our other rigs. Slapping on 40-inch tires while still having less than a 6-inch IFS lift means that it's less noticeable, and all the other work such as bobbed bumpers and a shortened bed means more people will think it's just a lifted truck. You can obviously see what was done, but the general public isn't nearly as astute, and the low-key approach without the flashy paint means it's more of a sleeper than not.
4x4 of the Year Pot Shots and Thoughts
Reader: I'm a little confused about your 4x4 of the Year article (Feb. '09). I'm glad to see a midsize truck (not to mention the lowest-priced vehicle in the test) came away as the winner. I owned an '05 Frontier 4x4 (six-speed, of course) and it was hands-down the best truck I've ever had. What has me confused is the new Ram. You have the transmission listed as a 545RFE manual. How sweet would that be? I did a build and price on Dodge's website and found no manual transmission available for the new Ram. Stick-shifts (and people like me who would rather drive them) seem to be going the way of the dodo bird. You also mentioned that the H3T was the only vehicle in the test with a stick. Did your editors get their sources crossed, or did you guys somehow manage to get your paws on the only new Ram with a stick?
Editor: We wish we could get a Dodge with a stick! Sorry, it was a mistake that we listed a manual, or we were needling Dodge to produce one.
Why didn't Dodge win?
Reader: Are you guys sure you didn't make a mistake in the 4x4 of the Year award? I know that this is probably one of about a zillion letters you will receive in regard to this, but here goes.
I noticed that the Dodge Ram won both Urban/Highway and High-Speed Dirt and Gravel portions, and the Equator only won the Sand portion of the Ride and Drive segment. I suppose you have some numbers relating to how that works? Of course, you don't really have to prove anything to me or the rest of the readers, but seriously...how does that work?
Since the ending numerical difference is so minute it probably isn't that big of a deal, but I for one will go with Dodge for my next truck. I live in Missouri and have relatives and friends who help build those trucks in the Wentzville Assembly Plant. Dodge is still American-built, and I know where my money is going when I buy one of their trucks. (We are still a little mad about the Van Plant closing, but that's a whole other issue.)
Suzuki trucks are made here in the U.S., but I know most of the money goes elsewhere, and in these troubled economic times I am doing all I can to help the economy by buying local and buying American.
I will be surprised if you actually print this letter, but I just wanted to voice my opinion. Thank you for the opportunity to do so.
Editor: Actually, yours is one of the best letters we received on the topic, so here goes. You are correct that the Suzuki didn't win many sections; however, it ranked near the top in every section. That makes for a better score overall. Say that in many tests judged on a scale of 1 to 10 your entry always gets 8s and 9s. That is a better overall score than the guy who gets 10 once or twice but much lower scores everywhere else.
We also factor in the relative value of a point. For instance, a fancy-schmancy stereo system and heated seats aren't worth as much as tow hooks and a locker.
Finally, a good price ranks three times as important as other factors. This is to make sure that the most opulent ride doesn't win on doodads and luxury alone-its high price counts against it.
Our final point standings show an incredibly small difference between the Dodge and Suzuki. In fact, just a few small differences could have made the Ram win. If the Ram's rocker panels hadn't been lowered under the framerail for aesthetic reasons, it might have won. We like form to follow function, and that didn't happen there.
Oh, and by the way, you're right. The Dodge Ram is built in America, in Saltillo, Mexico.