Welcome to the Hooniverse News! As always, this is a weekly recap of the biggest stories in the automotive industry without the fluff or bull. This week: Jeep blasts into NY with an updated Wrangler, Kia debuts their first 3-row electric SUV, Subaru brings the Wilderness to the Crosstrek, Ram promises some wild specs for the 1500 REV, and Toyota disappoints with the new Tacoma that we STILL have to wait for.
2024 Jeep Wrangler
In the face of its first real competition in decades, Jeep has upgraded the Wrangler about as much as they can without introducing a totally new generation platform. And while Ford can’t build Broncos quickly enough to keep up with demand and getting one at MSRP is about as rare as finding an open gas station in France after 5 PM, the Wrangler is still leading the segment in sales. In an effort to keep it that way, they’ve greatly expanded its capabilities in some higher trim models, improved safety, introduced a cheaper way to get a 4xe hybrid, and given it refreshed looks and tech.
Starting with the updated looks, the iconic seven-slot grille now has black textured slots, neutral gray metallic bezels, and body-color surround (though that can change slightly depending on the trim). The new grille allows for better cooling and for the fitment of a factory-installed Warn winch, available on Rubicon models (more on that later). There’s also a new stealth antenna integrated into the front windshield to replace the previous steel mast antenna. That not only streamlines its look but eliminates brush or tree snags on the trail. Wheel options are also new – all ten of them – ranging from 17″-20″.
The interior is another place that sees some major design changes. There’s the usual materials upgrade and new AMPS bracket provisions on top of the dash for easier device mounting, similar to what the Bronco introduced. The biggest difference is a new 12.3″ touchscreen that runs on Uconnect 5 and does all the infotainment stuff you’d expect. A feature unique to Uconnect 5 in the Wrangler that’s worth mentioning is Trails Offroad, a comprehensive trail guide system that comes loaded with 62 “Jeep Badge of Honor” trails as standard, which includes the Rubicon Trail, Hell’s Revenge, and Jericho Mountain. A premium subscription for this will unlock a catalog of over 3,000 trails. For each trail you get detailed navigation, difficulty ratings provided by real-world evaluation from experts, a general route description, and specific waypoints for obstacles and points of interest. So you can find a trail you’re interested in, get directions to the trailhead, and then track your progress on the trail itself without ever having to use your phone.
Some of the new safety features include standard first and second-row side curtain airbags (something that has never been doable before with its removable roof), second-row outboard seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters, and structural improvements for side impact performance. You also get forward collision warning and advanced cruise control with stop (but probably not go, based on the wording) on all Wrangler trims from Sport S and above.
The engine offerings haven’t received any updates that I can find, but despite that it’s still the most diverse range of engines in any off roader. From the 3.6-liter N/A V6 and the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder to the PHEV 4xe and the 6.4-liter V8 with 470 horsepower, you can get your Wrangler as sensible or as wild as you want. An eight-speed automatic is standard on all powertrains, but a six-speed manual is still available with the V6.
While many Wrangler trims receive some new offroad goodies, such as the Willys with new 33″ tires as standard, none of them are as upgraded as the Rubicon. The aforementioned 8,000-pound capacity Warn winch is an option on the Rubicon for the first time. Additional features include a Dana 44 HD full-float solid rear axle, Rock-Trac part-time transfer case with a 4:1 4LO ratio, electronic front sway-bar disconnect (which works wonders on the Bronco), Tru-Lok front and rear-axle lockers (the first time a Wrangler has had locking fronts, as far as I can tell), and 33″ BFG all-terrain tires on 17″ aluminum wheels – all standard. Upgrade to the Rubicon X package and that adds a Rock-Trac full-time transfer case, integrated off-road camera, steel bumpers, and 35″ BFG tires with beadlock-capable wheels.
We’ll have to wait till later this year for the 2024 Wrangler to start appearing in showrooms. But we definitely won’t need to wait to see how well it’ll do off road… we just know it’ll push the limits even further and do exactly what’s advertised. Numerous advantages that the Bronco had on trails, such as sway bar disconnect and locking front axles, are now available on the Wrangler. This will make direct comparisons that much more interesting. This is the first time the Wrangler has faced real competition in decades and this is how they’ve responded. So far so good.
2024 Kia EV9
Kia is expanding their EV lineup with one that’s sure to capture attention from America’s suburban families. The EV9 is their first all-electric three-row SUV and it’s got space and plenty of accommodations that they say rivals that of ultra-luxury SUVs. They see this as more than another electric SUV to fill dealers with – they’re treating this as a flagship, and it shows.
For the styling, Kia went with a mix of futuristic and aerodynamic as well as rugged and sophisticated. Some comparisons could be drawn to the Telluride, but the EV9 is a totally separate thing built on a different (E-GMP) platform that’s specific to electric vehicles. It’s comparable to Telluride in size, though it is slightly longer.
The cabin takes full advantage of the SUV’s dimensions to offer up a spacious and airy cabin. There’s not a whole lot that stands out except the now typical wide ass screen that comprises the gauge cluster and central infotainment screen with only a handful of physical controls remaining. There’s also ambient lighting, which is cool. But the cabin is packed with features such as full-color HUD, digital rearview mirror that can be projected over the standard mirror, 14-speaker, 708-watt Meridian sound system, and some bomb ass seats for the first and second rows. There’s a “relaxation mode” with power operated leg rests and eight-way power adjustments for the second row.
Powertrain wise, it’s running on an 800-volt architecture, Kia’s E-GMP platform, and a new “fourth-generation” of company battery technology. The benefits of whatever they call the 4th-gen are improved energy density, which they’ll use to target a 300-mile driving range on a full charge with an optional 99.8 kWh battery and a single electric motor on the rear axle. With that battery you can also opt for a dual-motor, 283 kw (379 hp) setup with torque vectoring AWD. A 76.1 kWh battery with a 160 kW (215 hp) electric motor on the rear axle is standard equipment. With high-speed DC charging speeds of up to 230 kW, it can charge from 10% to 80% in under 25 minutes.
The EV9 debuts in the US in Q4 2023. They expect production to take place at their West Point, GA plant from 2024, which would make it the first Kia EV to be assembled stateside. Pricing is not available yet.
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
Subaru’s Wilderness trim is being added to the Crosstrek for the first time. Like all other Wilderness models, it adds upgraded suspension, all-terrain tires, and black plastic body cladding with some copper accents. The goal is to unlock some extra offroad potential for those who want to go that much further into the wilderness.
At a high level, the Crosstrek Wilderness benefits from 9.3″ of ground clearance, longer coil springs and shock absorbers with special tuning, a 20.0-degree approach angle (+2.0 over stock), 33.0-degree departure angle (+2.0 over stock), and a breakover angle of 21.1 degrees (+1.4 over stock). For roof top campers, a ladder-type roof rack system with a 176-lb. dynamic load capacity and a 700-lb. static load limit is standard. Yokohama Geolandar all-terrain tires over 17″ wheels are standard. A Wilderness-exclusive X-MODE driving mode is included for advanced trail control and safety. It can sense when the vehicle is on a steep incline at low speed and shift the CVT into its lowest ratio possible (4.066:1).
The interior is appropriately decked out for adventure too. The seats are upholstered in water-resistant Subaru StarTex material. All-weather floormats and a removable water-resistant cargo mat are standard as well.
A 2.5-liter Boxer 4cyl engine with 182 horsepower and 178 lb.-ft. of torque is standard equipment. The mandatory CVT is beefed up slightly with a revised differential gear ratio and retuned performance. A transmission oil cooler helps achieve a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 lbs., which for a little car like the Crosstrek is pretty damn good.
Pricing for the Crosstrek Wilderness starts at $31,995 and it’ll arrive in showrooms this fall.
Ram drops new details on Ram 1500 REV
Dodge/RAM/FCA/Stellantis/Jesus may be a bit late to the EV party, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still capable of making a statement. The Ram 1500 REV, their first electric pickup, is set to be the new benchmark in its class when it comes to battery capacity and range. Thanks to some new details Ram dropped at the New York International Auto Show, we have a better idea of what to expect from the truck when it goes on sale most likely next year.
Two battery packs will be available – a standard 168 kWh pack and an optional 229 kWh pack. Both are larger than most other pickup batteries by some margin. The larger battery pack on the Ram is even slightly larger than the one in the GMC Hummer EV. And they’ll be using this to their advantage with what will surely be class-leading driving range. The standard pack is targeting 350 miles of range while the big ass battery pack is expected to allow up to 500 miles per charge. That’s not just longer than any other electric pickup, it’s longer than just about every other EV in production except the top-of-the-line Lucid Air. And that’s coming from a big ass truck.
Besides the insane driving range, it’ll deliver exceptional towing and payload of up to 14,000 pounds and 2,700 pounds, respectively. With 800-volt DC fast charging at up to 350 kW, you can recharge up to 110 miles of range in approximately 10 minutes. So even if its towing range is severely reduced (as it probably will), it won’t take long to get back on the road. When unladen, its performance will also be nothing short of stellar. It’ll have 654 horsepower and 620 lb.-ft. of torque, a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds, and up to 24″ of water fording.
Whenever the Ram 1500 REV arrives in showrooms, it’ll be making a very big statement. They may be late to the party, but they didn’t miss.
Toyota pulled a fast one on us
So… this awkward. Last week, Toyota revealed a cheeky teaser image that sure made it look like the new Tacoma would be revealed this Tuesday. It was notable because it clearly showed a blurred next-gen Tacoma, a date of 4/4/23 (the day before press days at the NYIAS began), and a few other easter eggs that any reasonable person would interpret as “oh shit, we’re finally seeing the new Tacoma next week”.
Nope. This teaser was simply teasing the announcement of a future announcement about the Toyota Tacoma. On Tuesday, all they gave us was a close up shot of its ass. From that we’re able to see it’s a TRD Pro model with an iForce MAX powertrain. That’s the name given to the hybrid powertrain in the Tundra, a V6 twin-turbo hybrid no less. iForce MAX could be used more generally to signify a hybrid powertrain with or without the TTV6, or it could mean that exact engine is coming to the Tacoma… though that seems unlikely.
So Toyota misled us. They got us excited for just about nothing. And it wasn’t just me, but every other far more professional news outlet fell for it too. So you know what? Last week I said that it wasn’t worth speculating because we’d know all in just a few days and that I didn’t have any insider info to provide. Well, I lied too. I actually do have some exclusive info Toyota doesn’t want me to share yet. But they got the whole truck community hyped over an announcement of an announcement, so screw them.
The next-gen Tacoma will in fact have a hybrid powertrain, but it won’t include the Tundra’s TTV6 or even the four-cylinder turbo that’s been rumored. It’ll continue to use the same archaic 3.5-liter V6 that’s been around since the Clinton administration but with hybrid power to keep it modern. Toyota got so annoyed with everyone who thought their pride and joy V6 was a gutless piece of shit with the power of a 4cyl yet the fuel economy of a V8 that’s been completely outclassed by every engine designed by the competition within the last 15 years that they decided to stick with it. Despite its many plainly obvious drawbacks, they just couldn’t part ways with it yet and hope that a hybrid element will help it remain competitive with used Ford Rangers and Chevy Colorados. Toyota also resisted the calls for a more modern 8-speed (or more) transmission like the entirety of their competition is using now. In a rare miscalculation, Toyota accidentally ordered too many 5-speed automatics for the redesigned 2028 4Runner, so the new Tacoma will help find a home for them. Hope you don’t mind having to kick down into 3rd to make it up a slight incline on the highway.
Toyota is also ignoring widespread, overwhelming criticism of subscription models that they and other brands have explored. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are now locked behind a subscription (putting free features behind a paywall worked for Ferrari), as is all but one cupholder that’s slightly too small for anything but a small water bottle. “We want our drivers to live healthier lives, so incentivizing them to cut back on sugary sodas and coffees is our goal”, said Michelle Michaels, Toyota’s Chief Nanny Officer.
Toyota also addressed another huge concern – the Tacoma’s uncomfortable driving position. They also care about the environment and recycling wherever they can, so they’re accomplishing both by repurposing old coach cabin chairs from Frontier Airline planes they found in the aircraft boneyard in Tucson. While it may not be up to par with some other mid-size trucks, it’ll still be better than what Tacoma owners must endure now. The suspension has also been made stiffer to address numerous complaints about ride quality regardless of payload. When interviewed during the press conference, Brud Brudley, age 32 from Salt Lake City, Utah, had this to say: “I’ve really loved my Tacoma despite what everyone else thinks about it. I’d be even happier though if instead of getting beat around senseless on 2-year-old pavement that most other cars would glide over, I’d just be put into a full-blown coma instead. I want to live in fear of ruts, expansion joints, and acorns in the road. And I want to be launched into fucking orbit if I fail to avoid a pothole. So I’m really glad Toyota reached out and included me in the design process”. As the 2024 Tacoma slowly drove onto the stage in New York, careful to avoid the 4cm gap between the ramp and the turntable, Brud continued, “and that’s why the all-new Toyota Tacoma is truly the best one yet. I can’t wait to try out the new built-in Life Alert feature the next time I hit one of those little reflectors in the middle of the road.”
And that, readers, is how you know Hooniverse hasn’t resorted to AI for articles.
Jokes aside though, we’ll be eagerly awaiting the new Tacoma… whenever Toyota decides it’s time to finally show the damn thing. But if they announce another announcement, I’m giving up.
What’s your news for the week?
So that’s all I’ve got for you this week, so now it’s your turn. If you saw anything, fixed something, broke everything, or otherwise did anything even remotely car related that you want to share with your fellow hoon, sound off in the comments.
Have a good weekend.
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