TAWA Weathers the Storm to Name Truck Rodeo Winners

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Nov 192018
 

Photo by Kevin McCauley/@capturingthemachine.

Truck of Texas-2019 Ram 1500. Photos by Valerie Menard.

Sixty-nine members of the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA), including Latino Traffic Report, recently set out on a dark and stormy morning for the Long Horn Ranch in Dripping Springs, TX to attend the twenty-fifth annual Texas Truck Rodeo. While the 57 vehicles set for off- and on-road test drives were up for the challenge, the event was eventually relocated to the Sonesta Hotel in Bee Caves, TX out of concern for the ranch and the damage that soggy off-road courses would inflict. After two days of on-road testing, the all-new 2019 Ram 1500, 2019 Maserati Levante GTS, and 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio were named the 2018 Truck, SUV, and CUV of Texas, respectively, as well as winners in 18 categories.

CUV of Texas: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.

CUV of Texas–2019 Maserati Levante GTS.

“It’s clear that TAWA journalists know their trucks, and they picked the new 2019 Ram as the clear winner,” said Fabian Campos, TAWA vice president and events chair. “The overwhelming feedback from our members was that the truck performed well during some of the most challenging weather conditions during the historic Hill Country floods.”

New products tend to excel at the Truck Rodeo but there were noticeable absences, including the all-new 2019 Chevrolet Silverado and 2019 Ford Ranger as well as the Ford F-150 that won the title of Truck of Texas last year. Both manufacturers offered budget concerns for opting out of the event.

Still, the completely redesigned Ram bears a radical transformation. Gone is the crosshair grille, the last vestige of its connection to the Dodge brand. Powered by a V6 or V8 engine, it also offers increased fuel efficiency on both with the new eTorque mild hybrid system, and new capability with a maximum towing of 12,750 lbs. and payload capacity of 2,300 lbs. On the inside, the test model featured the available 12-inch UConnect touch screen (left), a first in its class and winner of the Best Technology award at the rodeo.

“Being named the Texas Auto Writers Association’s Truck of Texas is the highest honor in the world’s largest pickup market,” said Reid Bigland, head of Ram brand and U.S. Sales, chairman, president and CEO, FCA Canada Inc. “Winning this award is a challenge, but the Ram 1500 is well suited to the hard-working needs of Texas truck buyers.”

2019 Volvo XC40/

Volvo brought the all-new 2019 Volvo XC40 to defend Volvo’s three-year reign of winning top honors at the rodeo. While the XC40 did win its category, Compact Luxury SUV, it was supplanted by the Maserati Levante GTS as SUV of Texas. The six-figure Levante offered exceptional exterior styling and performance with a 550 peak horsepower and 538 lb.–ft. of torque, but the interior, with its carbon fiber accents, was lackluster, particularly considering the price tag. Of all the competitors, only the Alfa Romeo successfully defended its title of CUV of Texas.

2019 Toyota Rav4.

Toyota also made an extra effort to bring the all-new 2019 RAV4, including the hybrid version, to the rodeo. With a sportier exterior and new technology like the camera in the rearview mirror, it also won its category, becoming the Compact SUV of Texas. For a full list of winners, go to https://www.texasautowriters.org/news.

“As a whole, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) swept all the overall awards at this year’s competition, a very noteworthy accomplishment for their multi-brand lineup,” said Campos.

The LTR Second Annual Truck Guide

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Apr 032018
 

Nissan Titan XD Single Cab

Based in the Lone Star State, home to the top truck market in the country, the Latino Traffic Report (LTR) team appreciates a nice pickup. A voting member of the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA), LTR’s editor also helps choose the Truck of Texas each year—the Ford F-150 is the current winner. Each year we offer an overview of the trucks we test. Here’s the list for 2018.

GMC Canyon Denali

Denali doesn’t just refer to a mountain in Alaska. It’s also the name of GMC’s top-of-the-line trim and as such, expectations can be high.

GMC returned to the midsize truck market with the 2015 Canyon. It added a diesel engine in 2016 and the Denali trim for 2017. LTR recently tested the 2018 Canyon Denali Crew Cab.

On the outside, a unique chrome grille and 20-inch aluminum wheels distinguish the Canyon Denali. Though they were a nice idea, the standard chrome running boards were unnecessary considering that the Canyon sits lower than a half-ton. All Canyon’s include convenience features like a sidestep in the bumper and a locking tailgate.

Fancy features inside the test model included leather seating with heated and cooled front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a Bose stereo system, a 4G LTE WiFi hotspot, the GMC Intellilink infotainment system with navigation, and an eight-inch touchscreen.

Capability on the truck came from the 2.8-liter Duramax turbo diesel engine with 181 horsepower and 369 lb.–ft. of torque, matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain has a maximum tow rating of 7,700 lbs. and during the test; the 5.2-foot bed proved to be the right size to carry a lawnmower that needed repair. A 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder is the base engine and a 3.6-liter V6 and six-speed manual transmission are also available.

Few trucks can claim bragging rights for fuel economy but the Canyon’s diesel powertrain helps enhance its performance. The two-wheel-drive (2WD) model offers a segment best fuel economy of 31 miles per gallon (mpg) on the highway, while the four-wheel-drive (4WD) has an EPA estimated city/highway rating of 20/29 mpg. The 4WD test model achieved a city/highway average fuel economy of 21/25.5 mpg.

GM safety features included signature tech like the rear seat reminder—it chimes when the ignition’s turned off to remind the driver to check the rear seat—Onstar, and Teen Driver. But the lack of a blind spot warning system was a noticeable exclusion, particularly on a Denali.

Pricing for the 2018 Canyon starts at $22,095. The as-tested price of $48,190 included options like the engine and transmission that cost more than $4,000.

Toyota Tundra TRD Pro*

Hecho en San Antonio, Texas, the Toyota Tundra comes in more than four-dozen possible configurations. LTR tested the Tundra Limited with the TRD Pro 4×4 package built for the off-road enthusiast. For 2018, the TRD Sport Package gets new distinctive exterior design cues including a body-color surround for the honeycomb-style grille, 20-inch silver-painted aluminum alloy wheels with black accents, and the TRD Pro bedside graphic.

When it comes to functionality, the test Tundra had a towing capacity of up to 9,800 pounds and payload capacity of up to 1,560 pounds. During the weeklong test, the TRD Pro exhibited that capacity by helping out Cine Las Americas during the nonprofit’s annual film festival, and delivering a truckload of donated Dos Equis. Maximum towing and payload on the Tundra when properly equipped can reach 10,200 and 1,730 pounds, respectively.

All Tundra’s are powered by either of two V8 engines. The test model came with the 5.7-liter i-Force V8 engine, with 381 horsepower and 401 lb.–ft. of torque matched to a six speed automatic transmission. It had an EPA estimated fuel rating of 13 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway. It averaged 14.7 mpg during the weeklong test.

While most Tundras come with three cab styles and three bed sizes, the TRD Pro is available only in Double Cab and Crew Max models. LTR tested the latter matched to the shorter 5.5-foot bed.

The test drive remained on road, but the TRD Pro did demonstrate its off-road capability at last year’s TAWA Truck Rodeo. Tundra 4X4 models use the electronically controlled 4WDemand part-time 4WD system with 4×2, 4×4 Hi, and 4×4 Lo ranges.

For added climbing ability, the TRD Pro sits two-inches higher than its siblings and lacks running boards. While that enhances ground clearance, it can be hard to climb onboard, especially for the vertically challenged.

All Tundra models come standard with a backup camera, essential equipment on a truck, and Toyota Star Safety is now standard for 2018. The test model added a blind spot monitor and parking sensor as part of the Entune Premium package ($785).

Pricing for the 2018 Tundra starts at $35,395. The as-tested pricing came to $51,589.

 

RAM 1500 Lone Star

Recognizing the top position that Texas holds in national truck sales, Ram created the Lone Star package in 2002, specifically for the Texas market. Not surprisingly, it’s become the top-selling Ram model in Texas and the Ram 1500 earned the Truck of Texas title for 2013 and 2014 from TAWA.

With eleven possible models, the Lone Star sits in the middle of the lineup along with the Big Horn, so that it includes additional features beyond its distinctive badging, like dual-zone climate control, a front and rear parking sensor, a 60/40-split folding rear bench seat with underseat storage, and fold-flat load floor storage.

The test model, Ram 1500 SLT 4×2, also included welcome features like a rearview camera (standard on all 2018 Rams), and Uconnect infotainment and GPS navigation with an 8.4-inch touchscreen ($795).

Powered by the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine, with 395 horsepower and 410 lb.–ft. of torque, the Ram has an estimated EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 15/22 mpg. It achieved an average fuel economy of 20.3 mpg during the weeklong test drive. The Hemi and eight-speed transmission on the test model added around $2,000 to the price. A 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 and 3.6-liter V6 are also available.

Some folks prefer an open bed on a truck, others like a lid. The test model came with the latter, specifically a three-fold tonneau cover ($595) to shield the 5.7-foot bed. It proved useful while moving my nephew to San Antonio for the summer. The load included cargo that presented a flight risk, even if strapped down, so while the tonneau may limit cargo height, it was perfect for our needs and easy to maneuver. The bed also included the innovative Ram Box Cargo Management System ($1,295).

Towing and payload capacity for the test model topped out at 10,330 and 1,700 lbs., respectively.

While leather seats may reflect a premium status, cloth seats can make more sense on a truck, plus the standard cloth seats on the Lone Star showed some attention to detail.

With a Ram redesign on the horizon for 2019, there’s still time to grab a Ram with the current look, particularly for fans of the crosshair grille.

Pricing for the 2018 Ram starts at $27,990. The as-tested pricing came to $45,760.

 

Nissan Titan XD Single Cab**

Blazing a new trail in the truck market, Nissan positioned its Titan XD (all-new for 2016) between a half-ton and super duty. It did so by giving it more capability by virtue of its 5.0-liter V8 Cummins turbo diesel engine that produces 310 horsepower and 555 lb.-ft. of torque. The move so impressed TAWA members that it named it the 2016 Truck of Texas. For 2018, a factory-authorized suspension lift kit will be offered on select models of the TITAN and TITAN XD.

The Cummins is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission but a seven-speed automatic is available on the 5.6-liter V8. The unique position the XD holds also excludes it from fuel economy ratings by the EPA but on the test drive, it averaged 14.3 mpg.

Available in three cab configurations, Single, Crew, or King, the Single is the newest and was featured on the test model, as well as an eight-foot bed, one of two available bed sizes on the Titan. Built to appeal to entrepreneurs, the Single Cab earned the TAWA 2017 Commercial Truck of Texas title in 2016. It has a payload capacity of 2,910 lbs., a maximum towing capacity of 12,640 lbs. (when properly equipped), and a super dampened tailgate that practically lifts with one finger.

The understated interior on the test model included cloth seats, a tiny display for the AM/FM/CD stereo. As a single cab, interior storage was limited but there was seat back and underseat storage in the rear.

The test model, Titan XD SV, was also equipped with 4WD, remote keyless entry with push button start, plus the SV Comfort and Convenience Package ($1,360) that added a rear view monitor and parking sensors, dual air conditioning, a blind spot warning system with rear cross traffic alert, running boards, and 20-inch alloy wheels.

All Titan XDs are covered by Nissan’s “America’s Best Truck Warranty” featuring bumper-to-bumper coverage for five-years/100,000-miles, whichever comes first.

Pricing for the 2018 Titan XD Single Cab starts at $33,335. The as-tested pricing came to $46,625.

With redesigns on the way for the Ram, Chevrolet Silverado, and GMC Sierra, 2019 will be a model year for trucks. A new Truck of Texas could be in the mix.

Note: All prices include destination fees.
*Toyota recently announced separate safety recalls in the United States of approximately 8,800 Model Year 2017 Tundra and approximately 65,000 Model Year 2018 Sequoia and Tundra vehicles. For more information, go to toyota.com/recall and enter the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).  Safety Recall inquiry by individual VIN is also available at the NHTSA site: nhtsa.gov/recalls.

**Nissan North America, Inc. (Nissan) is recalling certain 2016-2018 Nissan Titan, 2016 and 2018 Nissan Titan XD vehicles. The recall is expected to begin on June 16, 2018. Owners may contact Nissan customer service at 1-800-867-7669 or NHTSA at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Click here to find past recall notices posted by LTR.

Expect More Trucks and Green Vehicles in 2016

 Noticias  Comments Off on Expect More Trucks and Green Vehicles in 2016
Feb 232016
 

CHICAGO (Feb. 11, 2016) – Nissan TITAN will be available in 4x2 or 4x4 drive configurations with three cabin configurations – Crew Cab, King Cab and Single cab – and three bed lengths – 5.5, 6.5 and 8 feet. Similar to TITAN XD, TITAN will be available in five trim levels – S, SV, PRO-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve. The TITAN will be powered by Nissan’s 5.6-liter Endurance® V8 gasoline engine capable of 390 horsepower and 401 lb.-ft. of torque. This engine will be mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. A V6 gasoline engine will also be available (details to be announced at a later date).

What brings journalists en masse to Chicago in the middle of winter? The largest auto show in the country, the Chicago Auto Show, that’s what, and this year’s reveals reflected a truck and big SUV resurgence, while at the same time, new green car initiatives.

Gasoline prices remain at an all-time low and that’s good news for truck and SUV buyers. Nissan brought forth two big bruisers, the all-new Titan half-ton and the 2017 Armada.

Last year Nissan introduced the award-winning 2016 Titan XD, powered by an all-new 5.0-liter V8 Cummins turbo diesel engine. This year the gasoline-powered version of the Titan (above) took center stage in Chicago. Powered by a 5.6-liter V8 engine and built on a separate chassis from the TITAN XD, it’s also 14.7 inches shorter.

2017 Nissan Armada

2017 Nissan Armada

Similarly, the all-new Armada will be powered by the new 5.6-liter V8 engine and matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission for better fuel economy.

The handsome full-size SUV will come with an extensive list of available safety and convenience features, like Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Backup Collision Intervention, Blind Spot Intervention and Blind Spot Warning, among other features. An eight-inch display, navigation, and heated front seats will be standard. Both the Titan half-ton and Armada will go on sale this summer.

The 2017 Ram Power Wagon.

The 2017 Ram Power Wagon.

Ram followed suit with its off-road monster, the Power Wagon. Based on the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty 4×4 Crew Cab, the 2017 Power Wagon receives all-new exterior and interior design elements. Seeking its own design statement, Ram abandons the crosshatch grille on the new Power Wagon for the one featured on its half-ton off-road sibling, the Ram Rebel.

2016-02-11 14.37.38

Pacifica Hybrid.

FCA also showed the hybrid version of its all-new Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Revealed last month in Detroit, the Pacifica replaces the Town & Country. A segment first, the hybrid will deliver an estimated range of 30 miles solely on zero-emissions electric power. New available technology will also include a Stow ‘n Vac integrated vacuum cleaner.

While the Pacifica goes on sale this spring, the hybrid version should go on sale in the second half of 2016.

Available in dealerships now, the 2017 Hyundai Tucson receives a fresh exterior design and LED lighting signatures, plus additional infotainment, convenience and safety technologies, including Drive Mode selection with Sport, Eco and Normal settings. Brandon Ramirez, senior product manager, unveiled the refreshed versions of the 2017 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport.

Kia Niro.

Kia Niro.

Expanding its green vehicle line-up, Kia introduced the 2017 Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle. The all-new Niro hopes to find a niche between the hybrid-electric vehicle and CUV segments, achieving a combined fuel efficiency rating of 50 mpg. It joins Kia’s green car line-up that includes the Soul EV, Optima Hybrid and 2017 Optima Plug-in Hybrid that also made its global debut in Chicago.

2016-02-11 15.32.57

Volvo XC90.

Finally, Volvo’s all-new XC90 continues to collect accolades winning MotorWeek’s 2016 Drivers’ Choice Best of the Year award. It’s the first utility vehicle to win the top honor in the 34-year history of the awards. To date, the XC90 has been named the 2016 North American Truck of the Year, the CUV of Texas by the Texas Auto Writers Association, and the Family Car of the Year by the Midwest Automotive Media Association.

“The XC90 brings Volvo firmly into the luxury space and fully represents the company’s new direction,” said Dean Shaw, vice president, Corporate Communications, Volvo Car USA.

Protecting Your FCA Vehicle from Hackers

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Sep 022015
 
2014 Jeep Cherokee

2014 Jeep Cherokee

By Gualberto Ranieri

 

We read about “hacks” every day. All industries are potential targets of a hacker and the automotive industry has been no exception.

Well-known hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek recently teamed-up with a WIRED reporter to publish a story that you may have read about or seen on the news. The story highlights how Miller and Valasek hacked into Miller’s 2014 Jeep Cherokee and remotely controlled some functions. Miller and Valasek have been working on intentionally hacking into Miller’s vehicle over the past year as part of their on-going research in the area of automotive cybersecurity and have communicated with FCA about some aspects of their work.

To FCA’s knowledge, there has not been a single real world incident of an unlawful or unauthorized remote hack into any FCA vehicle.

JP015_039CH-1024x683After becoming aware of the vulnerabilities in some 2013 and 2014 vehicles equipped with the 8.4-inch touchscreen systems, FCA US and several suppliers worked to fix the vulnerabilities in model year 2015 vehicles. FCA also created a software update that eliminates the vulnerabilities uncovered by Miller and Valasek in their laboratory tests. This software update is available to customers right now and can be downloaded to a USB drive from http://www.driveuconnect.com/software-update/ and installed in a vehicle.

FCA will be contacting potentially affected customers with these details and has provided the software update to the FCA US dealer network for immediate customer installation.

Customers can enter a vehicle identification number (VIN) and find out if their vehicle needs the software update. If your vehicle needs the update, you can download the software update to a USB drive and install it yourself. Another option is to make an appointment with your FCA US dealership and have

2014 Dodge Durango

2014 Dodge Durango

them install it for you at no charge. The update, if installed DIY, will take 30-45 minutes, and your vehicle needs to be parked throughout the software update/installation process.

In addition, FCA US has been working with its suppliers to implement additional protocols to block remote access. These changes will not require any action by our customers.

The vehicles listed below that have a 8.4 inch touchscreen radio system need this software update:

  • 2013-2014 Ram 1500 Pickup
  • 2013-2014 Ram 3500 Cab Chassis
  • 2013-2014 Ram 2500 Pickup
  • 2013-2014 Ram 4500/5500 Cab Chassis
  • 2013-2014 Ram 3500 Pickup
  • 2014 Grand Cherokee
  • 2014 Durango
  • 2013-2014 Viper
  • 2014 Cherokee
  • Some 2015 Chrysler 200s

For any questions regarding how to complete the software update please call our Customer Care Center at 1-877-855-8400.

July 24, 2015 update: Click to read about the additional measures that FCA US has taken to ensure the security of the vehicles with particular 8.4-inch touchscreen systems.

Updated to clarify: Due to market access to cellular connectivity, the 8.4 touchscreen issue noted in the blog post is for vehicles sold only in the U.S.

Ram Joins the Compact Commercial Van Segment

 Launches  Comments Off on Ram Joins the Compact Commercial Van Segment
Jun 252015
 
Ram ProMaster City next to "Chingon" from the movie, Machete.

Ram ProMaster City next to “Chingon” from the movie, Machete.

Austin, TX – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) came to town to launch the all-new, 2015 Ram ProMaster City. It’s always nice to attend vehicle launches in Austin. As a local, chances are I won’t get lost on the ride-and-drive.

While it took a while to catch up to Ford, which introduced the Transit Connect in 2009, the compact commercial van market has taken off, gaining three new competitors in the past two years, including the ProMaster City.

New to the United States, it’s based on a tried and true platform for Fiat, the Doblò, which is sold worldwide. Considered one of the largest producers of commercial vehicles, Fiat Professional has more than 110 years of experience.

2015 ProMaster CityThe ProMaster City reflects this history with innovations like 60/40 split rear doors. Rather than block the path to the curbside of the van, the larger door swings open toward the traffic (driver) side of the van, for easier access to larger cargo items. A low step-in height helps too.

Additionally, the ProMaster City includes a sliding door on each side that securely latches in the open position to prevent an accidental closure if the vehicle is parked on a slope.

The front-wheel-drive van handled nicely at the launch, on a course at the Troublemaker Studios lot owned by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and producer Elizabeth Avellan. I didn’t get a celebrity sighting but it was nice to eat lunch on the set of the TV series, From Dusk Till Dawn, and to check out the actual muscle car driven by actor Danny Trejo (the new spokesman for Dodge) in the movie, Machete, directed by Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis.

The Ram ProMaster City on the course at Troublemaker Studio.

The Ram ProMaster City Tradesman on the course at Troublemaker Studios.

The van’s unibody design and bi-link rear suspension also improve the ride and handling.

Powered by a 2.4-liter Tigershark I-4 engine and matched to an exclusive nine-speed automatic transmission, the van achieves an EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 21/29 miles per gallon.

Ram ProMaster Wagon.

Ram ProMaster Wagon.

It has a payload of 1,883 pounds and the cargo volume adds up to 131.7 cubic feet of space. The cargo width and length of 60.4 inches and 87.2 inches, respectively, allow for good flexibility and configurability. The vertical side panels are upfitter-friendly and simplify the attachment of shelves or storage racks for specialized commercial use. Both cargo volume and payload are best in class.

If needed, a tow package is available giving the van a 2,000-lb. towing capability.

Seating on Ram ProMaster Wagon.

Seating on Ram ProMaster Wagon.

Like its competitors, the ProMaster City also comes in a version for families—a five-seat passenger wagon—as well as the two-seat Tradesman cargo van. Both include two trim levels, Tradesman and Tradesman SLT Cargo Van and Wagon and Wagon SLT, as well as eight different configurations.

On the wagon model, the three-passenger, second-row seating is split 60/40, with each section capable of folding and tumbling forward to expand cargo room.

2015 Ram ProMaster City SLT interiorStandard creature comforts include air conditioning, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power windows, and Uconnect AM/FM with media hub with USB and auxiliary input.

Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, electronic roll mitigation, Hill-start Assist, trailer-sway damping, brake assist, all-speed traction control,  remote keyless entry, a tire pressure monitor, and side curtain airbags makeup some of the standard safety features.

Families and entrepreneurs will enjoy tooling around town in the Ram ProMaster City.

Pricing for the 2015 ProMaster City Tradesman starts at$24,125. Pricing for the wagon starts at $25,125.