Automotive News

  • Hyundai creates a zombie survival machine

    Millions of people tune in every week to catch episodes of "The Walking Dead," and many fans of the show have noticed that certain cars continue to make an appearance in the series. Hyundai has been one of the show's sponsors for some time - which is why all of the vehicles on the program are made by the Japanese automaker - but the manufacturer decided to take its involvement up a notch. 

    Hyundai recently created a Zombie Survival Machine out of a remodeled Santa Fe. Although this model is not typically known for its ruggedness or propensity for off-roading, several rounds of modifications have turned it into a fine-tuned vehicle that is ready to battle the undead. 

    The car was designed by Anson Kuo, a fan of "The Walking Dead" who submitted his proposal for a zombie machine in a Hyundai contest. Officials liked his concept the best out of more than 82,000 fan submissions and chose to bring the design to life. The final product features alterations like aluminum armor, razor-wired windows, increased cargo space for supplies and passengers, and plenty of defensive weaponry. 

    "We love Anson Kuo's take on this Santa Fe Zombie Survival Machine - it's creative ... and deadly," said Steve Shannon, vice president of marketing for Hyundai Motor America. "With help from the popularity of 'The Walking Dead' franchise, Hyundai continues to expand the conversation around Hyundai vehicles with young and passionate audiences." 

    The Santa Fe Zombie Survival Machine will make its debut at New York Comic-Con Oct. 10. While it may not be the ideal off-road vehicle for some drivers, it's certainly an interesting take on an alternative ride, and fans will get a chance to see it up close at the Comic-Con event. 

  • New GMC Sierra may draw drivers with its cornerstep bumper

    Trucks have been getting bigger and better. This is great news for drivers who love off-roading or use the vehicles for heavy-duty work, but it can also pose a problem for some owners who don't fit the stereotypical mold. For example, shorter drivers or even those who make a point of installing a lift kit and raise the ground clearance of their vehicle may have problems easily accessing the truck bed.

    To remedy this problem, several up and coming models are evolving to allow drivers to get in and out of the truck bed without struggles. One of the new features comes from General Motors, which has started integrating steps into the corners of the rear bumper. In fact, this is one of the nicest features on the redesigned 2014 GMC Sierra and could even be one of the biggest reasons why drivers look at this pickup truck.

    The Wall Street Journal recently cited the Sierra's new cornerstep bumper as one of the top features included on the new model. Although they are not extremely noticeable and don't take away from the overall design of the Sierra, they certainly serve their purpose. At approximately 6.5 inches lower than the top of the bumper, the step is at a good height for entering the truck bed or loading cargo. It's also big enough to accommodate anything from clunky work boots to children climbing into the truck bed, making it a suitable amenity for workers or recreational drivers.

    Although almost all trucks have a step in the center of the bumper, this is often put out of use due to cargo loads, lift kits or other truck modifications. For those who use the truck bed frequently or need a little extra boost to reach the heights, this step could be a huge help, and because it is still at a relatively high height, it doesn't have to get in the way of off-road driving.

    The 2014 GMC Sierra offers plenty of top-of-the-line features that could make it an attractive option for drivers. Electronic safety features go above and beyond to ensure drivers can avoid a collision. Some of the new additions include lane-departure alerts, vibrating truck sensors and more. All of these qualities should help to make the Sierra a more competitive vehicle in the world of trucks. 

  • 2014 Ram 1500 named the Truck of Texas

    A lot of attention was paid to the State Fair of Texas Auto Show, and for good reason. The event showcased some of the newest creations throughout the auto industry, including a few of the newest models of pickup trucks. Now that the festival is drawing to a close, several of these automobiles are earning awards for their presentation as part of the show, including a few pickup trucks that will draw the attention of off-road drivers. 

    Ram 1500 brings home the grand prize
    More than 60 trucks and SUVs were competing for the top prize, which was awarded by the Texas Auto Writers Association. About 40 auto writers voted on the accolades, judging the vehicles based on their on- and off-road performance. Design, capability, value and technology are just a few of the areas that are considered in the evaluations. 

    After all was said and done, the 2014 Ram 1500 was named the Truck of Texas. The 2013 Ram 1500 also won the prestigious award last year. On top of the overall win, it was also tops in seven individual categories, including Best Powertrain, Best Technology for its new heavy-duty rear coil suspension and Best Commercial Vehicle for the 2-14 Ram Promaster. 

    The Ram 1500 beat out competitors like the Toyota Tundra, GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado - all of which were completely redesigned for the 2014 model year. Ram only received a few choice upgrades - a fact that makes the win even more impressive. 

    Chrysler rakes in the accolades
    The Auto Show included more than just pickup trucks. In fact, many other models duked it out in their respective segments, including a few that may interest fans of off-road driving. For example, the Jeep Grand Cherokee was named the top SUV of Texas for the fourth straight year, and the Dodge Durango claimed the title of best Full-size SUV of Texas for the second time in three years. 

    "The Ram, Jeep and Dodge brands from Chrysler Group clearly impressed our TAWA members at this year's event," said Michael Marrs, TAWA president. "There's no doubt that innovative powertrains, impressive designs and new technologies are paying off for these brands."

    This is just one of the first awards to be revealed for the 2014 model year, and if it's any indication of the future, Ram can expect to bring home some more prizes. 

  • Jeep Grand Cherokee named one of the most improved vehicles

    It's not uncommon for automobiles to undergo many rounds of changes and redesigns throughout their lives. As new technologies and amenities are introduced, the models have to be updated to remain competitive, and most of the time this results in a positive evolution of vehicles. 

    To track which of the changes were the most effective, Cars.com created a list of the Top 10 Most Improved Cars Over the Past 15 Years. Each of the models included has undergone significant improvements and redesigns, with the alterations enhancing the automobile. 

    "Sometimes changes to these cars were as simple as a fresh interior and new parts under the hood, and sometimes the outgoing model of a car was so poor that automakers gave the new version an all-new name," said Patrick Olsen, the editor-in-chief of Cars.com. "Regardless of why changes were made, all of these improved cars earn our seal of approval and should not be overlooked by shoppers." 

    While many of the automobiles on the list were sedans and sports cars, a few others may stand out to the off-roading community - specifically, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which landed in the No. 2 spot. 

    Although Cars.com praised the Grand Cherokee models from the years 2005 to 2010, the website claims the 2011 design upped the ante. Its high-quality ride and smart appearance can keep everyday drivers satisfied, while an array of extras provide plenty of amenities for more intense motorists. 

    The Jeep Grand Cherokee was also cited as one of the best vehicles for off-road driving, with its wide range of abilities allowing drivers to be very flexible when they get behind the wheel. All of the features can still be customized with Jeep modifications to make the most out of the automobile. 

  • Taking a look at GM's 2015 heavy-duty pickups

    All signs were pointing to the fact that General Motors was going to make a splash at the State Fair of Texas Auto Show, and the manufacturer certainly got things started with a bang. GM used the opening of the fair to debut its new heavy-duty versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. 

    GM has a big reveal
    GM used the Auto Show's spotlight to unveil its 2015 heavy-duty pickup trucks, and it certainly succeeded in attracting attention. Fans of the brand are already excited about the possibilities of these new trucks - and that's without knowing a lot of the details. Although these models look similar to the 2015 editions the automaker previously debuted, they are a bit smaller and feature some more rugged elements that make the vehicles primed for heavy-duty work. 

    Heavy-duty trucks account for about 25 percent of GM's pickup sales, and with the most recent round of alterations and upgrades, that number should remain consistent at the very least, The Dallas Morning Star reported. In fact, the latest truck modifications may make Silverado and Sierra two of the most sought-after vehicles on the market. 

    The pickups will be available to the public in the first quarter of 2014. While the manufacturer hasn't released the retail prices, interested drivers can expect to hear more news about the costs and special packages in the near future. 

    Under the hood
    When drivers take a look under the hood of the all-new Silverado or Sierra, they'll see an engine system that is quite similar to existing models. Each of the trucks will feature a standard six-liter V-8 engine with 360 horsepower and 380 foot-pounds of torque. Drivers will also have the option of upgrading to a diesel V-8 engine that is slated to boast 397 horsepower and 765 foot-pounds of torque. 

    "Our engineers felt we had the best engines and transmissions in the segment, so there was no reason to change them," Lloyd Biermann, marketing manager for Chevrolet trucks, told The Dallas Morning News. 

    GM may believe in its engines, but that didn't stop it from making a few alterations to the parts surrounding the motors to enhance efficiency. The air flow has been upgraded to offer consistent performance, and this change should also keep the system cool in even the toughest of conditions. 

    "It is one thing to generate big power numbers in cool weather and another to maintain power and torque when towing up a long grade on a blistering summer day," Jeff Luke, executive chief engineer at Chevrolet, explained to the news source. 

    A look at the interior and exterior
    Much like what's under the hood has remained relatively similar to previous models, the exterior of the GM's trucks is consistent with years past. However, changes have been made to the Chevy suspension found on each vehicle, as well as the boxed frames. A double-cab body increases the amount of room passengers have when driving. 

    "The passion we have for trucks is reflected in every line and powerfully sculpted machines surface of the HD Chevrolet," said Tom Peters, GM's design director, in a statement. "From the dramatic sculpture of the one-piece structural bumper to its muscular hood and side profile, the design reflects a function-driven solution."

    Improvements didn't stop at the exterior, however. Each of the trucks has received new seats and dashboards in addition to 2 more inches of legroom, creating a more comfortable environment for everything from intense work to recreational off-roading. These heavy-duty trucks are poised to leave their mark on the auto industry, especially among people looking for an off-road vehicle that balances power and pizzazz. 

  • Ram embraces diesel engines in light pickups

    Diesel-power vehicles have been making waves recently. With a lot of hype surrounded this fuel, which is more environmentally friendly than traditional gas, many manufacturers are considering the possibility of entering - or re-entering - the market.

    Although diesel pickup trucks were once a popular option, their availability has waned in recent years. That is expected to change with one introduction from a major manufacturer, which could kick-start a renaissance of these light-duty machines.

    Ram introduces a light diesel
    Ram is looking to bring diesel back to light-duty trucks, and it will begin with an upgraded Ram 1500 pickup featuring the diesel engine. This six-cylinder motor will be more fuel efficient for drivers, even with the more expensive cost of diesel taken into account, and machines with these engines generally offer better low-end torque and towing power than their competitors, USA Today reported.

    "The name of the game is making larger vehicles more relevant," Ram President Reid Bigland told the news source. "You make them more relevant by making them more fuel efficient."

    Ram isn't the only brand embracing diesel technologies. Nissan has already announced plans to offer a full-size Titan pickup truck with a Cummins diesel engine. This motor was originally supposed to be included in a Ram truck but expanded to the Japanese automaker when a special partnership was formed, Automobile magazine reported. Nissan is scheduled to release this model and its V-8 engine sometime in early 2014.

    Buyers beware
    Just because diesel engines present a solid option for some drivers doesn't mean they are a good selection for all motorists. They can be more expensive to maintain, and the sticker prices on trucks with these motors are often higher than traditional vehicles, which can put certain models out of the price range of some. In fact, those drivers who are planning on making several rounds of truck modifications or invest in other upgrades may find that it is not within their budget to purchase these vehicles.

    However, drivers looking for longevity should certainly take a look at diesel engines, as these motors may be better long-term investments.

    "The high compression ratio of diesel engines allows for better efficiency compared to gasoline engines," Robert Angner, department manager of advanced product planning for Mercedes-Benz, told Digital Trends. "But this high compression ratio also requires more robust parts, which in general are considered to add longevity to the life span of the engine."

    Off-roading advantages
    In addition to the improved torque and towing capacity - both of which are extremely important qualities for off-road driving - diesel engines offer a few other advantages that adventurers may appreciate. For example, saving money on long-term maintenance or replacement parts can leave more funds for truck mods and similar upgrades - something almost any driver can appreciate. 

    While some drivers may be hesitant about the noise or pollution stemming from a diesel engine, this concern is one that can be shrugged off. Over the years, these motors have evolved into fine-tuned systems that provide a driving experience that is almost identical to traditional gas-powered vehicles. That means motorists don't have to worry about harming the wilderness they are driving through in an off-road vehicle, and they won't scare too many critters with overbearing trucks. 

    "The stigma from diesels of the past being smelly or smoky is still a perception that needs to be overcome, but positive changes have been seen in consumer sentiment that will only continue to improve," Angner told Digital Trends. 

  • Looking ahead to the State Fair of Texas

    One of the most anticipated days on the automotive calendar is just around the corner. As automakers begin showcasing their 2014 models and slowly start revealing up-and-coming options, drivers are getting ready to take in these creations, and many of these products will be on display at the State Fair of Texas. 

    State Fair of Texas Auto Show
    Set against the backdrop of bustling Dallas, the State Fair of Texas is a throwback to all of the things that the state prizes: creativity, farming, larger-than-life entertainment and, of course, cars. In fact, a large portion of the fair revolves around an Auto Show, which features everything from a special Truck Zone, where big-name manufacturers show off their latest creations, to the Chevrolet Ride & Drive, where visitors can test drive one of seven new vehicles at high speeds on a specially designed track. 

    At the main stage of the State Fair Auto Show, visitors will be able to get an up-close look at concept vehicles, new models, vintage cars and much more. This is just the tip of the iceberg, however, as the fair packs in many other displays and activities for auto enthusiasts, following in a tradition set more than 100 years ago. 

    The State Fair of Texas has been debuting new vehicles since 1904, but the format that visitors have come to know and love has been set in stone since the early 1950s. Today, the Auto Show at the State Fair of Texas is spread out over 300,000 square feet - more than triple of what it was less than 25 years ago. It also features multiple buildings, an outdoor showroom and live entertainment. 

    This year, the Auto Show is scheduled to run from Friday, Sept. 27, to Sunday, Oct. 20. The facilities will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 

    What to expect
    There are a number of big events happening as part of the fair's Auto Show, and several of the biggest truck makers in the world are expected to make reveals. No official confirmation has been released, but there has been a lot of talk about major news coming from General Motors. This may be anything from significant off-roading upgrades to its heavy-duty trucks to new trim packages for its existing models, but drivers won't know for sure until the fair sets up shop. 

    PickupTrucks.com reported that there were rumors about a large Toyota display, which would tie into a major announcement from the brand. Although the news is being kept hush-hush, many are speculating that it could be an extreme-sports upgrade for some Toyota truck models that would prime the vehicle for off-road driving. Others think it could be improvements to the Baja Toyota. No matter what, the display is sure to be a must-see for motorists. 

    Ford is also expected to unveil updates for its 6.7-liter Power Stroke. A refreshed version of this super-duty truck may even be a preview of the much-anticipated 2015 model, Left Lane News reported. 

    The best of the rest
    Automobiles are only part of the exciting events on tap for the State Fair of Texas. Since 1886, the fair has been delighting visitors with college football games, concerts, livestock shows, agriculture competitions and much more. While the Auto Show is extremely popular, it is only one slice of the action, and guests who want to check out the car displays or truck announcement can fill their time with plenty of other fun activities.

  • Toyota reaches milestone as it churns out trucks

    Toyota trucks recently celebrated a major milestone in Texas. Toyota Texas, the brand's division in the Lone Star State, marked the production of its 1 millionth truck at the San Antonio plant - a major accomplishment for the automaker. 

    The millionth model was a 2014 Tundra 1794 Edition - a special model created in honor of the ranch that once stood where the Texas plant currently resides. That ranch was founded in 1794, and another homage to the area is present in the Sunset Bronze Mica paint, which was designed to mimic the sky at twilight in the location. 

    Toyota will soon be celebrating another milestone at the Texas plant. This fall marks the plant's 10th anniversary, and almost its entire decade of existence has been spent creating the light- and heavy-duty trucks for American consumers. 

    "We are grateful for our loyal customers across North America who tell us they love driving Texas-built Tacomas and Tundras," said Chris Nielsen, president of Toyota Texas. "It makes me incredibly proud of our team members and 21 on-site suppliers every time I see one of our trucks on the road knowing that safety and quality are built into every one of them." 

    Although brands like Ford, Ram and Chevrolet regularly produce thousands and even millions of pickups, slower demand has left Toyota a bit behind. As new redesigns and truck mods continue to make the Japanese automaker's vehicles better suited for off-road driving, however, the market for these automobiles could continue to grow. According to Bloomberg, the brand is content to slowly but surely grow its reputation and product offerings within the pickup truck segment as it moves from a provider of niche trucks to a more universally embraced option. 

  • Ram Rumble Bee truck may head to showrooms

    Ram made headlines at the 2013 Woodward Dream Cruise in suburban Detroit thanks to an eye-catching reveal. The automaker unveiled a bright yellow concept truck called the Ram 1500 Rumble Bee, and after the color and features of the pickup got people talking, Ram began to consider the feasibility of sending the automobile to showrooms around the U.S. 

    Although there are still many steps to be cleared before the truck can take its place on showroom floors, fans of unique truck modifications and attention-grabbing details will definitely be keeping an eye on the Rumble Bee. 

    Heading to showrooms? 
    Before the final decision is made on whether or not the Ram 1500 Rumble Bee will hit the open market, versions of the vehicle will head to dealer shows to gauge interest in the truck. If the feedback continues to be positive, Ram could begin taking steps to produce the truck on a wider level. 

    "We will take it to some dealer shows and talk to dealers," Dave Sowers, head of light- and heavy-duty marketing for Ram Truck, told Edmunds.com. "We try to listen to the dealers. They know their marketplace." 

    The truck mods that would be needed to turn the Rumble Bee into a prime on- or off-road vehicle are still unknown, but the possibilities for a one-of-a-kind automobile are endless. 

    Changes to the Rumble Bee
    The original version of the Ram 1500 Rumble Bee had a number of special features that make it attractive to drivers. With 24-inch black wheels, a two-inch suspension drop and matte yellow paint, it is hard to miss the truck, but these are only a few of the exterior details that may have to change for the Rumble Bee to be a viable option for the public. AutoBlog reported that the paint job would likely be altered to include a glossier, more subdued color, while the amber-encased bee on the shifter is likely to be left out of a mass-produced vehicle. 

    "Some of the things that we put on the truck weren't volume-production possible for us," Sowers told Edmunds.com. "That flat yellow paint would be a little bit of a challenge in the plant, and the actual bee in the shifter would be tough to execute."

    Despite these changes, all signs point to the final product including the eight-speed transmission, 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine and show-stopping details that drew so much attention in the first place. 

  • GM ready to build off-road SUV

    Savvy drivers know they can make truck and Jeep modifications to almost any vehicle that will cater the machine to off-roading. However, some motorists want to be able to buy automobiles that come equipped with features and design characteristics that are ideal for off-highway driving. This can be difficult, but a recent announcement from General Motors could change the way drivers go about looking for their next off-roading machine. 

    Rumblings of an off-road vehicle
    GM unveiled several redesigned models at the Frankfurt Auto Show early in September, and there are rumors that the manufacturer is already considering revamping these options to include an off-road model. The speculation reached a fever pitch when one GM executive confirmed that the automaker was looking into the possibilities, although no timeline or details have been confirmed. 

    "We are looking at, for this generation, a more off-road variant," Jeff Luke, the executive chief engineer for GM trucks, told Automotive News. "Owners just love off-roading with these vehicles. They look at this vehicle as more off-road capable." 

    Some of the potential improvements could include enhancing the range of GM's body-on-frame SUVs as well as a more powerful engine and rugged style. 

    GM's plans
    While much of the attention from fans of off-roading will likely be focused on the potential for specially designed off-road vehicles, any final plans are still far in the future. In the meantime, many drivers will have their eyes on some of the creations GM has in the pipeline. The 2015 versions of the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon are all slated to offer drivers a solid option in the near future, and they boast a few special features that may make off-roading easier. 

    In the past, GM has offered an off-road package known as the Z71 for these large SUVs. Although this option includes upgraded shocks, bigger wheels and wheel flares, all of which are designed to improve the off-road experience, it has not caught on with drivers. The manufacturer hopes that making a few key changes and enhancements will create a unique off-road vehicle that will attract more fans of the pastime. 

    "In the life cycle of this product, we're going to continually upgrade and add technologies, including in the powertrain area," Luke told the news source. "... Stay tuned." 

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