First Drive: 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor can turn almost anyone into an off-road hero

Full Car Details More Reviews Let me be frank with you, dear reader: I am a convert to the church of the body-on-frame. For the longest time, I fancied myself a “car guy” through and through. Low slung, sleek body styles, lots of horsepower, and rear-wheel drive were what got my gears really going. Dreams of twists and turns on the world’s greatest racetracks filled my head on a daily basis. The only use I ever thought I’d have for a truck would be to haul my (admittedly non-existent) racecar around. That was before I met the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor. And like the silver screen dino-stars from which it takes its name, one blast through the desert and scurry up a ravine changed my mind real quick, in an all-out attack on the senses before I knew what hit me. Drag strip runs are a riot. Bombing through the curves of Laguna Seca is a once-in-a-lifetime thrill. But the most fun I’ve ever had on four wheels is approaching triple-digit speeds over the Southern California desert in a deep blue pickup. As pleasant a truck as there ever was on the road Before Ford would let us bash some dunes, however, we had to get there, and dozens of miles of twisty mountain roads stood between us in the outskirts of San Diego and Borrego Springs. Great, a pickup so wide it needs indicator lights on tight canyon roads with thousand-foot cliffs and flimsy-looking guardrails. Can we take a Mustang instead? Oh, how wrong I was. Right off the bat, the Raptor impressed my co-driver and I, but not for the reasons you may think. This was as quiet a pickup I’d ever ridden in, with minimal road noise from wind or the excessively knobby BF Goodrich tires. There was no shimmying, no shaking and absolutely no rattling to speak of, and the engine note was almost silent, until you really got on it, of course. Better yet, Continue Reading

‘Open the f–king door’: Connecticut woman drives through estranged husband’s house in off-road rage, cops say (VIDEO)

A Connecticut woman with a history of domestic violence crashed her car into the living room of her estranged husband's house Tuesday night after he refused to open the door, police said. Jennifer Luisi, 31, who has 10 prior domestic violence convictions, was arrested after ramming her car into the Southington, Conn. home of Michael Luisi in an apparent case of off-road rage, My Record Journal reported. "Open the f--king door or I'm going to drive through your f--king house," Luisi allegedly told her husband, according to a prosecutor in Bristol Superior Court on Wednesday. The couple, married 12 years, has a "no contact" protective order in place. So when Jennifer Luisi showed up at the home around 9 p.m., Michael Luisi called 911, WTNH reported. Officers pulled up to find the woman's car rammed through the front of the house. She smashed the front window and front door. "I'm really at a loss for words at this point," Michael Luisi told WTNH. "It never entered my mind that a woman in her 30s would do something like this." Jennifer Luisi was charged with criminal violation of a protective order, first-degree reckless endangerment, first-degree criminal mischief, second-degree breach of peace and driving under the influence. She is being held on $250,000 bond. Luisi, who faces up to five years in prison, has been placed on suicide watch, My Record Journal reported. A tow truck hauled the car away. Turns out it was a crash-miss miracle: The town building inspector did not condemn the home. Follow on Twitter @jmolinet ON A MOBILE DEVICE? CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

2014 Nissan Frontier brings the daily driver to the off-road wilderness

From the highway to...well, just about anywhere. The 2014 Nissan Frontier will satisfy commuters and weekend adventurers simultaneously in has a solution for weekend warriors alike. From the daily commute to unkempt wilderness, the Frontier PRO-4X is up to the test. A refresher on the Frontier PRO-4X's trailblazing prowess came recently at the rugged Knibbe Ranch near San Antonio. The 4x4 performed well on the challenging test route, which included steep rocky hills and descents. The test Frontier PRO-4X is a Crew Cab, which has a base price at $30,800. In King Cab form, the starting price is $29,840. Powering the Frontier PRO-4X is a 4.0-liter V-6 engine delivering 261 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 281 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Towing capacity (Crew Cab/King Cab) is 6,100/6,300 pounds and the payload rating with a 6-foot-1-inch cargo box (manual transmission) is 1,098/1,235 pounds. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual, and a five-speed automatic comes with a $1,050 (Crew Cab) or $1,200 (King Cab) price tag. Fuel economy with the manual transmission is 21 miles per gallon highway and 16 mpg city. Along with the Frontier PRO-4X's V-6 grunt, a list of heavy-duty features enable it to handle the ranch-course's challenges. Four-wheel-drive traction is provided by a shift-on-the-fly 4x4 system with an electronically controlled part-time transfer case. Complementing the 4x4 system is a switch-activated electronic locking rear differential, which increases tire grip by delivering equal traction to both rear wheels. Nissan's Frontier PRO-4X is fitted with Bilstein high-pressure off-road performance shocks that provide a compliant on-road ride and efficiently soak up off-road rough stuff. Tires are P265/75R-15 BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/As with white-outlined lettering, which wrap 16-inch six-spoke machine-finished aluminum-alloy wheels. Splash guards, which are contoured to fit the wheel Continue Reading

Meet the extreme off-road Chevrolet Colorado fuel cell electric truck made for U.S. Army

The U.S. Army has begun testing an extreme off-road version of the Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.The military and General Motors collaborated to develop the Chevrolet Colorado ZH2 fuel cell electric truck, which could pave the way for a stealthy new mode of military transportation.Although its tricked-out design is conceptual and would likely not grace the final product, the Colorado ZH2 boasts a silent hydrogen fuel cell powertrain that could give American soldiers an edge in war zones.The Army is testing the vehicle for noise, detectability, torque, fuel economy and water vapor discharge.It was developed, assembled and tested at GM sites in Michigan in cooperation with the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC).The hydrogen fuel cell on board powers an electric motor that drives the vehicle, building on fuel-cell expertise GM has cultivated for years.“The Colorado ZH2 is a terrific example of GM’s engineering and design skill in creating an off-road vehicle relevant to a range of potential users,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM's Global Fuel Cell Activities, in a statement.Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.  Continue Reading

Driven: Land Rover LR4 is packed with luxury and off-road prowess

The 2013 Land Rover LR4 is a great big slobbering Labrador of an SUV. It absolutely loves to play outside and, for all intents and purposes, the LR4 is about as uncomplicated as any vehicle can be. Personally, I even love the way this boxy SUV looks. The blocky lines make this posh off-roader stand out amongst a sea of competitors. While it’s one of the older offerings in the Land Rover/Range Rover lineup, I’d argue that it remains one of the best looking examples – or maybe I’m taking too long to get used to the slimmer headlights of the newest models. The price is awfully steep, though you could levy the same complaint at rivals like the Porsche Cayenne, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, and countless other luxury-biased SUVs and crossovers. An entry-level LR4 starts at roughly $50,000, and comes powered by a 375-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain provides the LR4 with solid performance, though it’s a far cry from the Bentley-like levels of thrust you’ll find in something like the new Range Rover Sport. New for the 2014 model year, the LR4 comes standard with an 8-speed automatic gearbox. As you’d expect from the Lego-block exterior design, the LR4’s blend of ride and handling falls more on the truck side of the SUV equation. Compared to vehicles like the new Acura MDX or Infiniti QX60, the LR4 feels much larger and slightly ponderous during crowded city driving. There is no arguing the view outside is fantastic, however. The upright lines and expansive windows give the LR4 an incredibly airy feel, especially in an era when so many vehicles have turret-sized greenhouses. The LR4 also feels capable of traversing just about anything this side of Mount Everest. That’s because off-roading capability is at the core of this truck, and the Land Rover brand itself. The cabin is covered in fine leather and wood trim, Continue Reading

Chevrolet Colorado boosts off-road appeal with ZR2

LOS ANGELES — Chevrolet unveiled a rugged off-road edition of its popular Colorado midsize pickup Tuesday at an event before the auto show here.The Colorado ZR2 features 31-inch wheels, a 3.5-inch wider track and 2.0-inch greater ride height, along with advanced running gear to tackle demanding off-road trails and compete with profitable off-road versions of the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier.► Related: Motor Trend gives Chevy Bolt, Ford Super Duty top honorsRelated: 2017 North American Car, Truck, Utility Vehicle of Year finalists revealedThe ZR2 goes on sale in spring 2017 as a 2017 model. It features front and rear locking differentials and dampers rooted in the advanced technology of Formula 1 race cars.The truck even conquered the grueling Rubicon trail in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, said Colorado chief engineer Anita Burke. Full-size pickups like the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F-150 and Toyota Tundra struggle with the most severe off-road courses, because their greater width and length make it hard to negotiate the tightest turns and steepest grades.The Colorado is about a foot narrower — including mirrors — than Ford’s off-road champion, the F-150 Raptor. The slim midsize can squeeze between rocks and trees that would stop a larger truck cold.► Related: Ford EcoSport SUV to be imported from IndiaRelated: SUVs to dominate LA auto showRelated: Ford to reveal small EcoSport SUV for U.S.Chevy built a 30-degree ramp out of steel bars and spinning rollers outside a Los Angeles warehouse to demonstrate the ZR2’s prowess. The truck paused as various wheels lost traction on the spinners, before continuing to the top of the tricky obstacle.The Colorado ZR2 will be available with a 3.6L gasoline V6 and eight-speed automatic transmission or 2.8L four-cylinder diesel and six-speed automatic transmission. The truck can tow up to 5,000 pounds.The Multimatic dampers use the same Continue Reading

Crossovers beware! Redesigned 2013 Nissan Xterra as great for off-roading as ever

The current Xterra is only the second generation version, last redone in 2005. Eight long years, with only two updates, is, depending upon how you look at it, either the sign of an evergreen model, or an automotive dead end. The current Xterra is a bit of both. It is one of the last medium sized body on frame SUV survivors. There only a few of this type left, rigs such as the Jeep Wrangler, Toyota's 4Runner and FJ Cruiser, and...nothing else. The good news is that like the 4Runner, the Xterra is based upon a compact pick-up truck that is still in fairly decent demand, the Nissan Frontier. Since pick-ups of all types sell well in the wide open expanses of the United States, the Xterra will have a donor platform for continued glacial evolution. If you are willing to pay at the pump for a true 4WD SUV that is decidedly overkill for the kid hauling crossover buyers, the Xterra will, according to Nissan, remain available. To some buyers out there, that commitment has to be gratifying because the Xterra has won many accolades over its model run and has held the line on both price and growing too big, heavy, or expensive to take off road. There are benefits to the design being long in the tooth too. Foremost, is that the annual refinements to what undoubtedly works are smaller and the vehicle becomes stronger evolutionally from customer feedback. Additionally, a strong aftermarket develops because the suppliers know that their products don't have to be radically redesigned every few years. Lastly, what issues there are with the vehicle become widely known in online enthusiast forums. To match the off road prowess of the current $23,000-30,000 V6 261 BHP Xterra, you have to either buy the quirky by comparison Jeep Wrangler or Toyota FJ Cruiser, sacrificing cargo volume, or you have to move up to more expensive rides like the 4Runner, or GM full size SUV family, not to mention even more pedigreed models such as the Toyota LandCruiser or Mercedes G-Class. Continue Reading

2nd racing champion dies: Rick Huseman, off-road truck racer, dies in California plane crash

LOS ANGELES - Professional racing lost a second champion Sunday when off-road truck driver Rick Huseman was among three killed in a small plane crash in California's Mojave Desert. The single-engine propeller plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza, was traveling from Las Vegas to Corona, Calif., when it called for help and attempted to make an emergency landing, cops said. The crash followed less than hour after the fiery IndyCar pile-up that killed reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon in Las Vegas. Huseman, 38, was killed alongside his brother Jeffrey Huseman, 26, his website said.INDY CAR RACER DAN WHELDON KILLED IN CRASH "They did declare they had an emergency and stated they were going to attempt to land at Daggett," Jodi Miller, spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff, said. "The wreckage was down in a ravine where people had to be guided in," she said. The county coroner identified the plane's pilot as 35-year-old Daniel Hicks. All three victims were from Riverside County, officials said. Federal aviation authorities are investigating the accident. "Tragically, Rick and his brother, Jeff, passed away October 16th in a plane crash," Huseman's website said. "Rick was an enthusiastic and extremely talented member of Toyota's off-road racing program," Les Unger, Toyota's National Motorsports Manager, said in a statement. "He was a true champion both on and off the track." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Driver, victims identified in California off-road race crash: Cops say driver will not be arrested

The California Highway Patrol has identified the driver whose truck killed eight people and injured a dozen others in an off-road race on Saturday night. 28-year-old Brett M. Sloppy was behind the wheel, The Associated Press reports, when his souped-up Ford Ranger went over a jump and he lost control. His vehicle plowed into the crowd, causing hundreds of fans to run for their lives. "People didn't have much of a chance... to get out of the way," California Highway Patrol officer Joaquin Zubieta said of the crash. In the aftermath of the horrific accident, Sloppy had to be escorted away from the scene, as onlookers “started to get rowdy,” Zubieta said. "People were upset." Alcohol was not a factor in the incident, according to the officer, and there are no plans to arrest Sloppy. State vehicle codes don't apply, said Zubieta, because the California 200 race was a sanctioned event, ok-ed by the federal Bureau of Land Management which owns the land where it was held. The San Bernardino County coroner's office released the identities of seven of the victims on Sunday: Brian Wolfin, 27, of Escondido; Anthony Sanchez, 23, of Escondido; Aaron Farkas, 25, of Escondido; Andrew Therrin, 22, of Riverside; Zachary Freeman, 24, of Fillmore; Dustin C. Malson, 24, of Ventura; and Danica Frantzich, 20, of Las Vegas. Jeff Musgrave, 43, an off-roader from Orange County who was on the sidelines during the race, said the scene was “brutal” but defended the driver. "The problem is the crowd was just too close,” Musgrave told the Los Angeles Times. “I don't think the [racer] did anything stupid. He just hit it way too hard." With News Wire Services Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Young Florida mom, infant dead in off-roading wreck after Jeep gets stuck in mud pit near Disney World: officials

A young Florida mom and her baby died after their Jeep sank in a mud pit during an off-roading expedition late Saturday in a swampy patch of woods near Disney World in Orlando, the Florida Highway Patrol said. Hallie Lewis, 22, and little Brason Brown, 1, likely died from carbon monoxide poisoning after clumps of mud clogged up the vehicle’s exhaust system, Sgt. Kim Montes, an FHP spokeswoman in Orlando, told the Daily News. The two were passengers when the truck got stuck off World Center Drive near S. International Drive around 10:45 p.m. Saturday. Taylor Brown, the 21-year-old driver, went off to get a second car to pluck the Jeep from the muck and realized after a time that his girlfriend and child were unresponsive inside the vehicle. Mud was up to the door handles on the Jeep and Brown had to leave the truck through a back window, which flips up, Montes said. He went in the same way once he realized his girlfriend was unresponsive, she said. The evening was cool and Brown left the Jeep running, with the windows rolled up and the exhaust pipe unknowingly covered, to heat the car. “He thought (Lewis) was sleeping but realized she was unresponsive when he called out to her and she didn’t respond,” Montes said. “He’s been totally cooperative. Obviously, he’s distraught, but we’re working on a timeline to figure out how long they were inside the car.” Once Brown got his girlfriend and infant from the vehicle, he and a friend drove them the five miles back to a main road to a fire department, which took the two sickened passengers to the hospital. Lewis was pronounced dead, while little Brason was taken in critical condition to Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital where he died later Sunday afternoon. Police are still investigating the fatal wreck, which happened just east of a Disney World entrance. Montes said carbon monoxide poisoning is a Continue Reading