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US monsters are way ahead.

Byline: By David Alan

The popularity of big four-wheel-drive vehicles and pick-ups continues to grow in the UK ( but for the real McCoy you have to look across the pond. In the good old US of A the 4x4s we are used to in Britain fall into the compact category. Out in America they have monster SUVs with huge powerplants to match.

No self-respecting American car maker's line-up can be complete without a dirt track daredevil and they range from massive muscle trucks to spectacular SUVs.

Among the latest of the king-sized variety are a trio of mighty machines from the big-three of American car making ( the Dodge Ram SRT-10 from Chrysler, the H2 SUT from General Motors-owned Hummer and the giant V10 Ford Excursion.

So rugged are their designs that they look as if they have been cut out of a single block of metal.

This is what Americans crave and the latest generation of SUVs has taken on the appearance of being capable of taking you on a back road-trip the likes of which would normally only be found in a Hollywood blockbuster.

The Dodge Ram SRT-10 Quad Cab is arguably the ultimate Good Ol' Boys pick-up truck.

The two-door version has found its way into the Guinness Book of Records with a recorded top speed of 154.587mph while the Quad Cab is billed as the fastest, most powerful four-door production pick-up on the planet.

Powered by the 500-horespower 8.3-litre Dodge Viper V-10 engine and boasting towing capability of up to 7,500 pounds, the SRT-10 Quad Cab is targeted directly at the truck enthusiast who wants SRT performance in a pick-up with room for the family and towing capacity.

It has a top speed of more than 150 mph and it goes from zero to 60 in just over five seconds.

Developed by Chrysler Group's Street and Racing Technology (SRT) organisation, the Ram SRT-10 was created by the same engineers who developed the Dodge Ram race truck that competes in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

The Ram Quad Cab is a staggering 19 feet long from its bulbous nose to its spoiler-bedecked stern; it's well over 6ft wide and sits on 22-inch polished alloys. It comes equipped with a luxuriously equipped sports interior complete with a 508 watt hi-fi system for those who want to make an ever bigger impression.

Not far behind it is the Hummer which is almost 17 feet long and towers 6ft 7ins off the ground. Under the bonnet is a six-litre V8 and that gives this muscle machine plenty of clout.

It develops some 325bhp but more importantly pumps out 365lb/ft of torque at just 3,600 revs.

Nothing is conservative about the Hummer H2 SUT Sport Utility but it is a cunning design intended to give maximum practicality.

Not only can the cab seat the entire family in air-conditioned comfort, the back of the vehicle is a traditional pick-up with all the associated benefits.

There's nothing short on creature comforts either. The Hummer comes with an eight-speaker BOSE sound system that includes CD player and the benefit of speed sensitive volume control.

In other words as the roar from the V8 gets louder ( so does your sound system.

However the Hummer makes the Ford Excursion look like a relative bargain ( and it is even bigger.

The Excursion 4x2 XS could be described as the ultimate estate car. It is not as high as the Hummer ( a mere 6ft 5ins ( or as long as the Dodge, but it is almost 18 feet long and packs a mighty punch.

Ford is using a 6.8-litre V10 engine in the Excursion, which like the Hummer and Dodge is mated to a four-speed automatic gearbox as standard.

The engine pumps out 310bhp but the torque curve is almost off the scale with the Excursion delivering 425lb/ft torque at 3,250 revs. To put that into perspective that is about a third as much power again as you would get from a 4.2-litre V8 Range Rover. This is a two-wheel drive version although a full-blown four-wheel drive Excursion is available for about pounds 1,000 more.

Despite its size the Excursion is said to be capable of averaging around 20 miles per gallon on a run and with a 44-gallon tank that gives near 1,000 mile range ( but that's par for the course in America and so necessary when out in the big open spaces.
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 18, 2005
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