Toyota '05 Tacoma Double Cab
Our sources caught the new Tacoma Double Cab in an unguarded moment. The new truck is reported to have an increase in wheelbase by 5 inches and almost 4 inches in width compared with today's Tacoma. It looks to us to be influenced by the X-Runner's styling, though it's hard to tell under the camouflage. We're told that buyers can expect to find the new Tacoma at dealerships as early as next fall.

Will Hot V-8s And Horsepowerremain Popular With Gas Price Hike?
According to SEMA, eight-cylinder engines were offered in 29.1 percent of light vehicles built in North America for the U.S. market last year, the highest rate since 1985 - a trend that has shown increases every year since 2000. At the same time, four-cylinder engines fell from nearly 27 percent to 25.3 percent. The organization cites a variety of reasons from analysts for the rise in V-8s, such as strong demand for trucks and SUVs; relatively inexpensive gas prices; and improved fuel efficiency, even in bigger engines. The popularity of Chrysler's 345hp Hemi points to how fashionable high performance has become. With fuel prices soaring, and rumors of oil stocks at all-time lows, we maybe seeing the high point of this trend. We hope not.

Cooper Tire To Launch Avon Tyres In The U.S. And Canada
Cooper Tire & Rubber Company plans to launch AVON Tyres USA, a new collection of performance passenger, light truck, sport truck, and motorsport tires. Completely new to the U.S. and Canadian markets, the AVON Tyres USA line is the first ever to have been designed and engineered from consumer feedback data. All data was collected and analyzed by The Tire Rack, the country's largest independent tire tester, through its Web site, www.tirerack.com

Beginning late this spring, AVON Tyres USA will introduce AVON Tech, a lineup of Ultra High Performance (UHP) tires led by the Tech M500, a Z-rated (with a W-rated cap) asymmetrical summer tire; the Tech M550, a Z-rated (with a W-rated cap) all-season directional tire; and the Tech R, a high-traction DOT-approved tire for motorsport use such as SCCA Solo and road racing. The Tech ST, which addresses the growing high-performance sport truck market, will launch in the fall of 2004.

'04 Ford F-150 Regular Cab, Supercab, Supercrew, Receive Government's Highest Rating For Frontal Impact
The '04 Ford F-150 Regular Cab, SuperCab, and SuperCrew have each earned the top safety score in the federal government's frontal impact crash test - five stars for the driver and five stars for the front-seat passenger. The Ford F-150 is the only '04 pickup to earn the government's top safety rating of five stars for both the driver and right-front passenger in the frontal impact mode.

Nine Of Ten Vehicles Tested By BAR Are In Compliance Withcalifornia Exhaust Noise Law
The California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) reports that approximately 90 percent of the nearly 600 vehicles that have undergone the state's new exhaust-noise test have been certified to be in compliance with California law. BAR began operation of the motor vehicle exhaust-noise testing program in late summer 2003. The program, the product of a SEMA-sponsored law, allows California hobbyists to prove their vehicles comply with state noise standards.

The law also allows courts to dismiss citations for exhaust systems that have been tested and for which a certificate of compliance has been issued. The 40 smog check stations that provide referee functions are performing the test. These referee stations are issuing certificates of compliance for vehicles when tests of their exhaust systems demonstrate that they emit no more than 95 decibels under SAE test procedure J1169. However, only those vehicles that have received a citation for an exhaust-noise violation are permitted to submit their vehicle for the test.

BAR has yet to issue a regulation to provide for the cost to consumers for performing the test. Tests are currently being performed at no cost to consumers. BAR has established a toll-free number [(800) 622-7733] to accept phone calls from motorists who have received citations for excessive exhaust noise and wish to have the test performed. BAR officials have asked that cited motorists have the citation and vehicle registration information available when calling.

Could this be the H3?
The Colorado-based Hummer H3, due to make an introduction in 2005 as an '06 model, is shown here in a photo-illustration based on the H3T Concept, as well as numerous spy photos.

STS Remote-Mount Turbo on Track For California EO
Preliminary emissions testing of the STS remote turbocharged Toyota Tacoma V-6 kit at Automotive Testing and Development Services Inc. indicates the system will pass California emission tests. This opens the door for an "Executive Order" number, allowing the unit to be sold for use on public roads in California.

In our May issue, we published a feature on the Mecham LSS Silverado that used an STS remote-mount turbocharger system. Because the turbo is mounted so far away from the engine, we were very skeptical about the driveability of this system. We were sure it'd have severe turbo lag. STS owner Rick Squires told us the system drives great and invited us out to his shop in Orem, Utah, a suburb to Salt Lake City, to testdrive a few turbocharged sport trucks.

We drove a turbocharged Tahoe and a V-6 Tacoma, and both drove and performed flawlessly. The trucks had minimal turbo lag, even at the 4,330-foot altitude of the Salt Lake area. The Tahoe produced good power and throttle response, even on a quick test trip up to 7,000 feet, and posted mid-7-second 0-60 mph times, which are comparable to what you'd expect of the truck at sea level.

But a quick burst of speed is easy compared to the punishment an engine endures towing a heavy load up a long grade. So we strapped on approximately 5,000 pounds of ski boat to a V-6 Tacoma and pulled a long grade out of Salt Lake City up into the Wasatch mountains. After about 60 seconds of full-throttle running, the intake air temperature stabilized at 80 degrees above ambient. That's not bad for a turbo system without an intercooler.

We think STS is on to something. We're planning an installation and a long-term test on one of these units to verify the claims of improved fuel efficiency and increased power output. For more information, contact: (866) WE-TURBO (938-8726), www.ststurbo.com

New Truck Review:
Cadillac '04 SRX V-8
Performance Is The Ultimate Luxury

Cadillac's new SRX is one of the best machines we've driven in the evolving category of what is loosely termed crossover vehicle: half car, half truck, built on a passenger car chassis. Historically, vehicles designed to perform in both roles compromised performance in all areas to such an extent that the end result was satisfying to no one. The Cadillac SRX avoided that evolutionary dead end. GM's engineers rightly chose to tune this sport utility for the road; you know, the surface on which even the most burly-man SUVs spend 90 percent of their service life.

That choice allows the SRX's ride height to come back to earth, giving not only supremely confident handling and cornering power but also car-like ease of entry. It also narrowed the range of use, which in turn allowed more precise suspension tuning, bestowing the SRX with a taught, sensitive ride without the harsh edge associated with sport-tuned suspensions.

Credit the SRX's ride quality to the Magnetic Ride Control (MRC). MRC uses magneto-rheological fluid in the dampers instead of traditional mechanical valves. Sensors read the road surface changes every inch at 60 mph and respond by commanding constant changes in damping force at all four corners. This system does a magnificent job of maintaining tire contact with the road surface as well as keeping the body flat, with smooth, well-controlled body motions even during aggressive maneuvers or on uneven road surfaces. It's eerie how well it works, especially with the four-channel StabiliTrak and AWD. Loaded, unloaded, rough, and crumbling road surface, or clean and smooth, the SRX just handles and rides great.

The choices in materials for the interior surfaces are in keeping with the character of the vehicle. The cowl, relative to seating position, is a little higher than we're used to in pickups, but is not at all unusual in performance cars. The cockpit is as thoughtfully designed and styled as any we've experienced, allowing easy use and monitoring of all the controls and instruments. In fact, the interior quickly becomes as comfortable and familiar as your own workspace, a quality that we found allowed us to more fully appreciate the fine-tuned howl of the small-bore DOHC V-8 as it got up on the cams with its high-revving snarl. Even though peak thrust comes in late, when it hits, it confirms the saying that "performance is truly the ultimate luxury."

Likes: Highest-quality ride, astonishingly comfortable seating, brilliant entertainment system, elegant stability control, magnificent handling, crisp styling, discerning ergonomics and interior materials choices, large sunroof, screaming-high rpm, DOHC aluminum V-8 power.
Dislikes: Can't afford one - yet.

Vehicle Specs:
Year/Make/Model:
'04 Cadillac SRX V-8 AWD
Base Price: $46,300 (not including DFC of $695)
Price as Tested: $58,140
Vehicle Type: midsize, four-door luxury sport utility; front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, and all-wheel-drive versions
Construction: body frame integral
Engine: Northstar V-8 VVT (LH2); aluminum block and heads; DOHC with four valves per cylinder with variable valve timing (VVT)
Horsepower: 320 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 315 @ 4,400 rpm
Fuel: premium
Transmission: Hydra-Matic 5L50-E five-speed electronic automatic
Suspension: F: independent short/long arm with aluminum upper and lower control arms; hydraulic control arm front bushings, solid-mounted front frame, MR shocks, 36mm stabilizer bar. R: fully independent multilink design with fully isolated subframe; aluminum upper control arms, knuckles, and rear differential; MR air life shocks and electronic auto-leveling compressor, 22mm stabilizer bar
Wheel: F&R: 18x8-inch cast aluminum
Tire: F: Michelin all-season P235/60R18 R: Michelin all-season radial P255/55R18
Brakes: power four-wheel vented disc with standard four-wheel antilock, dynamic rear proportioning, Panic Brake Assist
Wheelbase (in): 116
Length/Width/Height (in): 195/72.6 /67.8
Track (in): F: 61.9; R: 62.2
Turning Circle (curb to curb): 39.7 ft
Curb Weight: 4,442 lbs (Wt. Dist: 52/48)
Tow Rating: 1,000 lbs; optional: 3,500 lbs (avail. mid-year)
EPA City/Hwy/Combined Mpg: 15/20/N/A
Fuel-Tank Capacity/Range: 20 gal/400 mi (est.)
Acceleration 0-60: 7 sec

GM's Powertrain Performance Build Center To Produce Performance Engines
GM Powertrain plans to produce performance engines at a new manufacturing site located in Wixom, Michigan, to be called the GM Powertrain Performance Build Center.

Ed Koerner, vice president of engineering operations, in announcing plans for the build center said, "I am very pleased that GM will have a facility dedicated to building high-performance engines. A small but very passionate group of customers wants and demands vehicles with uncompromising levels of performance. The new Performance Build Center is dedicated to satisfying these customers."

GM is investing approximately $10 million in the facility. UAW Pontiac Local 653 will represent Wixom facility hourly employees, who will come from other GM locations. Site preparations began in spring 2003, with the start of production planned for summer 2005.

Teutonic Tahoe
Our spies and sources have provided camouflaged images of the Mercedes-Benz stretched M-class SUV, but this illustration, while speculative, is much more informative. Referred to as the MLV, this long-wheelbase version of the next-generation M-class measures in more than 204 inches long and sports three rows of seating. The MLV will have unique sheetmetal and air suspension as standard, with a pair of sunroofs offered as an option. But will it tuck 22s?

Urgent Legislative Alert:
Legislation To Repeal Old-Car Emissions Exemption Reintroduced In California State Assembly Here we go again! As predicted, legislation has been reintroduced in the California Assembly to repeal the state's current rolling emissions-test exemption for vehicles 30 years old and older. A.B. 2683 repeals the current pro-hobbyist exemption and replaces it with a provision requiring the permanent testing of all pre-1976 vehicles. This year, the bill was introduced by California assemblywoman Sally Lieber (D-District 22).

We join with SEMA in urging you to contact assemblywoman Lieber and your own state assembly member immediately to oppose A.B. 2683. Existing law in California exempts all vehicles 30 years old and older from emissions testing. California's current emissions-testing exemption recognizes the minimal impact of vehicles 30 years old and older on vehicle emissions and air quality. Those vehicles constitute a small portion of the overall vehicle population and are a poor source from which to look for emissions reduction. Antique and classic vehicles are overwhelmingly well maintained and infrequently driven (about one-third the miles each year as a new vehicle).

Legislators and regulators are feeling the heat from a failed effort to meet air quality goals and are looking for a convenient scapegoat. The old-car hobby should not carry the burden of their mistakes.

Contact your state assembly member to oppose A.B. 2683. Assemblywoman Lieber can be reached by e-mail at assemblywoman.lieber@assembly.ca.gov To find out who your own state assembly member is, contact the California Assembly's general information line at (916) 445-4311. This information can also be accessed via the Internet at www.enjoythedrive.com/legislative/contact_legislator.asp or by calling the SEMA Washington, D.C., office at (202) 783-6007, ext. 38. Please send a copy of your letters to us by e-mail to stevem@sema.org, by fax to (202) 783-6024, or by mail to: SEMA Washington Office, 1317 F St. NW., Ste. 500, Washington, DC 20004; Attn: Steve McDonald.

Ford Still World's Second-Largest Automaker
Toyota's president, Fujio Cho, said in a press briefing in San Francisco that Toyota Motor Corporation did not pass Ford Motor Co. in global unit sales in 2003 as sales statistics released by Toyota in January at first indicated. When sales are counted on the same basis, Ford is still the second-largest automaker. The difference was made in the wholesale market stats. Toyota's wholesale figures of 6.49 million vehicles in 2003 compared to Ford's wholesale of 6.72 million vehicles in 2003 allowed Ford to edge Toyota out of the Number Two slot.

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