5 July 2004

DaimlerChrysler took the covers off two new military vehicles at the Defense Vehicle Dynamic show at the Millbrook proving ground in Bedfordshire last week - a purpose-built Jeep Wrangler, and a hybrid-powered Dodge Ram. In its paired-down, regulation green garb, the Jeep Wrangler TJL is reminiscent of the 1941 Willys MB, or the 'Jeep' - shorthand for a vehicle that was originally designed for 'general purpose'. It has been modified to accommodate bigger payloads and more passengers than its softer civvie cousin. Strengthened by a heavy-duty rear axle, cargo bay and upgraded suspension, and with a wheelbase lengthened by some 22 inches, it's got room for eight people. Power comes from either a 4.0-litre petrol six or a 2.8-litre diesel four, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.

By comparison, the Dodge Ram COMBATT 2 Hybrid is more technologically advanced defence vehicle. Standing for Commercially Based Tactical Truck, the COMBATT 2 prototype is based on the standard Ram 2500 pickup, and features DaimlerChrysler's PowerGen hybrid powertrain in its latest incarnation. In tandem with a 5.9-litre Cummins turbodiesel, the hybrid system is intended to supply up to 10kW of 120/240-volt power for military equipment during combat-conditions, when mains power is unavailable. Equipped with hydro-pneumatic suspension offering wheel articulation of up to three feet, the COMBATT 2 also has excellent off-road ability, enabling it to take independently generated power wherever it's needed most.

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