Cool Physics From Ford In 1834, a French physicist named Jean Peltier found an unexpected reaction when he added a section of bismuth wire to a copper circuit. As the current passed from the copper to bismuth, the temperature of the wire increased, but where the current passed from bismuth to copper, there was a cooling effect. Fast-forward to late 2004, when new Mercury Monterey owners harness this "Peltier Effect" to keep their leather seats cool and comfortable, a segment-exclusive feature. The secret is a tiny thermo-electric, or Peltier device, mounted to the seat frame. It has no moving parts, but its temperature changes when supplied with an electrical current. A small electric fan inside the seat directs air over the device and channels it through perforated leather on the seat cushion and backrest - how cool! We think that it'd be cooler still if this tech was applied to the '04 F-150 as well.

'04Dodge Durango HemiWe don't usually cover SUVs in Sport Truck, but the new Durango with available Hemi is such a trick truck that we had to show it to you. The spanking-new '04 Dodge Durango sport utility, available in three trim levels - ST, SLT, and Limited - delivers more cargo room and more capability than last year's model. With a standard V-6, available 4.7L V-8, and the 5.7L Hemi Magnum V-8 backed by the 5-45RFE five-speed automatic, you can order a Durango that'll fit right into your lifestyle.

It comes with an all-new, torsionally stiff, fully hydroformed frame and independent front suspension with rack-and-pinion steering. A new traction control system and available fulltime four-wheel drive are available. The rear suspension is also new; it's a coil spring, solid rear axle Watt's linkage system that enables a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 6,600 pounds and a towing capacity of 8,900 pounds.

The new Durango gets a split-folding third-row seat, and for '04, second-row rear-seat passengers get their own climate controls and a DVD entertainment system. Also for '04, the UConnect hands-free communications system with Bluetooth technology is available. The system can recognize as many as seven different Bluetooth-equipped cellular phones, and it responds to voice commands using a microphone in the rearview mirror and the stereo system's speakers for hands-free conversations. A new nine-speaker, 384-watt Infinity sound system with Ceramic Metal Matrix speakers and a subwoofer that delivers booming sound for CDs and DVDs is optional, as is Sirius satellite digital radio.

The second- and third-row rear seats feature more leg, shoulder, and hip room than the current-generation Durango, and the flat load floor provides 101 cubic feet of cargo room, a 15 percent improvement compared with the current-generation Durango. The second-row seats also have a new recline feature. In addition, the all-new '04 Durango is available with a sunroof for the first time.

Driving ImpressionThe '04 Dodge Durango is one of the best-handling SUVs on the market. Its ride and handling are near the levels of a good independent rear suspension, and in fact, on a smoother section of road, may even be superior.

The Watt's linkage rear suspension is so well done and such an appropriate use of technology that it shows the genius of Dodge's build team. There's no reason to take away payload and towing capacity when you can get 99.9 percent of the ride quality of an IRS with a Watt's linkage-like rear suspension, without the issues of camber and toe change with cargo loads and towing - good stuff.

Select the new 5.7L Hemi option for your Durango and you've got yourself a hot rod of an SUV that handles like a sports sedan. This is a truly nimble truck that handles transitions effortlessly; produces confident, even braking with plenty of power in reserve; and pulls off corners like, well, a Hemi.

The styling is unique and crosses somewhere between an SUV and a minivan. If all this speaks to you, you should hustle down to your dealer and order your own Hemi-powered '04 Durango.

'04ToyotaTundra Double CabIt's no secret that the crew cab light-truck market segment is hot. So it makes perfect sense for Toyota to follow truck buyers' preferences and produce the new Tundra Double Cab. The Tundra Double Cab is available in V-8 two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models in SR5 and Limited grades. It's powered by the 4.7L iForce V-8 backed with a four-speed automatic. The new Toyota fullsize pickup features one of the longest beds and most comfortable rear seats of any fullsize four-door 1/2-ton pickup on the market.

The Double Cab features 37.5 inches of rear legroom and a rear seatback angle of 24 degrees. Rear-seat passengers get their own heating and air-conditioning ducts, and the Tundra Double Cab also offers an optional rear-seat audio and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones. Each rear-seating position also includes a headrest and three-point seatbelts. The 60/40 split-fold-and-tumble seats offer an extra measure of cargo utility for carrying items the owner would prefer not to put in the bed. But one of the best new features is the truck's limo-like, vertical, power-sliding full rear window.

Driving ImpressionThe dash layout is neat; not exactly Sequoia but you can tell the influence. Toyota says it's not lifted from the Sequoia because the dimensions are different. Acceleration is more than adequate from the 4.7L multivalve V-8. As we always expect of Toyota, the powertrain delivers smooth, solid shifts that aren't harsh. The brake feels good, even though it has drums on the rear.

The new Tundra Double Cab's ride is very well damped and surprised us by not exhibiting the expansion chamber resonant frequency chop; it seemed to be able to manage those forces well. The damping and spring rates seem to be very nicely tuned; not harsh but firm enough to control the body for a comfortable ride. While mountain driving, there's not a lot of body roll and brake dive is not excessive. The handles are good, with lots of corner grip. Hitting some "washboard" at 60 mph didn't upset the chassis; it handled it comfortably, though, it had a little aftershake. Overall, the truck is really good in the corners. The suspension sucks up the rough and crumbly surfaces, with not a lot of steering correction required to hold turns since the rear's not dancing around even though we're unloaded.

At 80-mph cruise, the cabin is very quiet. The power rear window retracts fully into the back of the cab; the side rear windows also retract fully. The effect is a very spacious-feeling cabin. The extensions on the visors are much appreciated and should be required for all trucks in California and other sun-belt states. The back seat is very roomy; tumble forward for space. The rear seatback angle is very comfortable.

Toyota's new Tundra Double Cab has all the refined features and capabilities we love in the Tundra. The back-seat area is well designed to allow comfortable transport of people and convenient transport of cargo. Though perhaps the exterior styling is not as sporting as we'd like, it's still a worthy competitor and worth your time to testdrive.

We Drove It. It's The 21st Century's First Supertruck, But We Can't Tell You About It Until Next Month Spec to spec, Dodge's new 500hp Viper V-10-powered SRT-10 supertruck puts Ford's Lightning on the trailer. But that's all we can tell you for now. Check with us next month for the Sport Truck of The Year to get the inside dope and a head-to-head comparison of all the trick trucks rolling into the showroom this fall. But for now, we'll have to let this picture tell the story. The February issue of Sport Truck magazine featuring the Sport Truck of The Year competition will hit your newsstand December 12, 2003.

Nissan's New Fullsize Pickup/SUV V-8 Built in TennesseeNissan's entrance into the fullsize truck market took a big step as the first Nissan Endurance V-8 engine was produced at the automaker's newly expanded engine plant in Decherd, Tennessee, this past August.

Nissan's all-new 5.6L 32-valve DOHC V-8 will power the fullsize Nissan Pathfinder Armada sport utility vehicle as well as the Titan King Cab and Crew Cab fullsize pickup trucks. Both vehicles will be built at Nissan's Canton, Mississippi, facility. The new engine offers one of the highest standard horsepower/ torque ratings in the fullsize, light-duty SUV class.

Built on a new state-of-the-art line at the engine assembly plant, the design of the Endurance V-8 features an aluminum engine block with cast-iron cylinder liners, chain-driven dual overhead camshafts with silent single-stage timing chain, microfinished forged-steel crankshaft and camshaft, molybdenum-coated pistons, and electronic drive-by-wire throttle for precise control. The engine is rated at 305 hp at 4,900 rpm and 385 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Toyota Tundra Race Truck's First Test SessionThe NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Toyota Tundra race truck, which will make its racing debut in February 2004 at Daytona, ran its initial test yesterday at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, North Carolina. The historic session was the first for the manufacturer since it officially submitted the truck to NASCAR in July. Veteran racer Joe Ruttman handled the driving duties at the 0.455-mile oval. The test was conducted to learn the Tundra race truck's basic characteristics, evaluate systems, and gain first impressions on downforce and balance. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Toyota Tundra, powered by an NASCAR-legal pushrod V-8 built on a specially cast block from Toyota in Japan, will continue testing throughout the fall in preparation for the 2004 season.

Welding With Sound: And You Thought Your Sound System Was the ShizzyAluminum vehicle bodies will soon be welded with a new technology that uses ultrasonic vibration instead of heat. The advantage is energy savings. About eight times less energy is consumed using ultrasonic metal welding versus resistance spot welding. The technology is so promising that Ford and its suppliers received a grant of $4.4 million from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Advanced Technology Program to develop the technology for automotive applications. Ultrasonic welding produces a weld through the simultaneous application of localized high-frequency vibration and moderate clamping forces. This technology will be a major factor in reducing the cost of producing aluminum vehicles. Ford plans on developing the welding method and using it first in the production of a low-volume product. After that, it's expected to see wider manufacturing applications.

GM Recalls '97 Blazer, Jimmy, and Bravada SUVs To Replace Seatbelt Buckle Assembly General Motors says it is recalling about 341,000 '97 Chevrolet Blazer, GMC Jimmy, and Oldsmobile Bravada midsize SUVs in order to replace a driver seatbelt buckle assembly with a new buckle assembly. GM will notify owners of the affected vehicles beginning in July. Owners will be instructed to bring their vehicles to their Chevrolet, GMC, and Oldsmobile dealers to retrofit a new seatbelt buckle assembly that does not contain an energy-absorbing loop. GM says the repairs will be made at no cost to the owner.

The driver-side seatbelt design in the '97 midsize SUVs used an energy-absorbing system that relied on stitching and belt webbing that extends in response to a frontal impact. This energy-absorbing feature enabled the occupant restraint system for the driver to meet or exceed GM and federal head injury criteria (HIC) values measured in lab testing.

GM is recalling these vehicles because there may be reduced driver restraint if the energy-absorbing loop fully deploys during severe rollover conditions. Rollovers comprise a small percentage of the total crash events that occur in the field; however, GM says it is taking this action in the interest of the safety of its customers. Overall, the driver's seatbelt is a safe belt and helps provide protection in many types of crash events. Additionally, GM says, "Energy-absorbing loops are widely used in the industry and help provide effective restraint."

GM claims the Blazer, Jimmy, and Bravada models can meet GM and federal government standards with the new seatbelt buckle assembly that does not contain an energy-absorbing loop. For more information, log on to www.gm.com

Driving And Dialing: Teens Vs. Adults Compete In Recent Ford StudyA Driver distraction study finds teenagers to be as much as 56 percent more distracted than adults when operating a cellular phone while driving. The retrieval of voice mail using hands-free technology does not significantly distract drivers, says the Ford study.

Regardless of hands-free operation, cellular phones pose a distraction while driving, according to the results of a recent driver distraction study conducted by Ford's Scientific Research Laboratory. However, using Ford's Virtual Test Track Experiment (VIRTTEX), the study also proved when operating a cellular phone with hands-free technology, the driver was noticeably less distracted. "Some research has suggested that hands-free technology doesn't really reduce distraction," said Jeff Greenberg, staff technical specialist of Safety Research. "For short conversations where the driver is trying to work with simple information, we found that hands-free really does make a big improvement."

The 48 adults and 15 teenagers who participated in the study were asked to combine an everyday simulated driving experience with performing various tasks, including phone dialing, voice mail retrieval, manual radio tuning, and climate-control adjustment.

While the participants were trying to complete a given task, they were asked to respond to sudden movements in surrounding traffic, such as a swerving vehicle. Vehicle control was measured by lane violations and heading error. For the adult drivers, the most distracting tasks to perform were hand-held voice mail retrieval and hand-held phone dialing, while hands-free voice mail retrieval did not significantly distract participants.

Results studying teenage drivers show that they are more susceptible to in-car distractions than adults. Due greatly to their driving inexperience, teenage participants were found to choose small following distances, leaving less room for error. They performed the same tasks as the adults with a greater occurrence of error; some to a drastic extent. The lane violation rate for the hand-held voice mail task was 56 percent higher for teens than adults. Similarly, teens missed 53.8 percent of the events occurring in front of them when dialing a hand-held phone.

With such overwhelming results, it appears that many teens give the dialing task equal or higher priority than scanning the driving scene. The results indicate a serious cause for concern, according to Greenberg. "Cellular phones, pagers, and other devices are popular among teens. The results of the study, at a minimum, indicate that driver education curricula should be revised to address the use of communication technology while driving."

While driver's education may become more advanced, Greenberg also believes vehicles will become more intelligent. "There's never a good time to answer your cellular phone while driving. I see a future with vehicle systems intelligent enough to gauge traffic and manage your workload. Incoming calls could be sent directly to voice mail if the vehicle sensed high-stress surroundings. Deferring to voice mail might get around the distraction problem."

Ford's VIRTTEX is one of the most advanced laboratories of its kind in the world. Since 2000, Ford Motor Company has used the controlled laboratory setting to study everyday driving tasks and how they affect driver performance during a variety of simulated driving experiences.

'05 Ford F-150 To Be Built At New Dearborn Truck PlantFord Motor Company announced that beginning in 2004, the Ford F-150 pickup truck will be built at the new Dearborn truck plant now under construction at the legendary Ford Rouge Center in Dearborn, Michigan. The F-150 will also continue to be built at the Norfolk and Kansas City assembly plants. Construction of the new assembly plant is scheduled for completion by late 2003, with assembly operations beginning in 2004.

Lincoln Mercury To Relocate World HQ Ford Motor Company announced that Lincoln Mercury is relocating its world headquarters from Irvine, California, to Dearborn, Michigan, in summer 2003.

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