SEMA360

Jeep Gladiator Top Dog Concept is designed for off-roading, mountain biking enthusiasts

The new Jeep Gladiator Top Dog Concept is made for mountain bikers.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Just in time for SEMA360, Mopar has transformed a 2020 Jeep Gladiator into a custom off-roading beast for serious mountain bikers. The Gladiator has been equipped with Jeep Performance Parts and custom accessories.

"Loaded with nearly 20 Jeep Performance Parts, we built this go-anywhere Jeep Gladiator Top Dog Concept for passionate mountain bike enthusiasts," said Mark Bosanac, Head of Mopar Service, Parts and Customer Care, FCA – North America. "Across the entire Jeep lineup, we offer more than 500 quality-tested, factory-backed parts and accessories."

The Gladiator concept is painted K-9 Blue and takes the moniker of Top Dog Concept from the recent Jeep contest to find the Jeep Top Canine. The winner of that contest was Bear, a melting pot of a pup that has black lab, collie, chow chow, and standard poodle ancestors.

Jeep Gladiator Top Dog Concept

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

At the front of the truck is a JPP Rubicon bumper that holds a 2-inch steel grille guard that is inspired by the Jeep J6 concept. A JPP 8,000-pound-capacity Rubicon Warn winch sits on the face with 100 feet of Spydura synthetic rope.

The truck's hood is latched with custom black Mopar hood latches that feature the Jeep Willys logo. A JPP snorkel and JPP 5-inch, off-road LED lights are installed up front as well.

Gladiator's sides are protectedly JPP rock rails that have been customized with welded two-inch steel tubes, similar to the front grille guard design. Custom black door sill guards have a raised Gladiator logo on them

Mopar has altered the bed of the Gladiator, removing the traditional cargo box and replacing it with a custom PCOR flatbed storage system. On the passenger side of the storage system, pull-out drawers securely store tools and supplies that mountain bikers need when out on the trails. Interior storage shelves, exterior lighting switches, and extra power supplies are within reach. On the driver's side of the storage system, a battery-powered refrigerator and electric hot-dog roller grill stand ready for post-riding activities.

A second JPP Warn winch is installed at the rear truck. Just above the rear-facing winch, a roll-out storage drawer carries a foldable ladder used for access to the dual bike rack.

Above the cab, two rack structures allow for additional storage space for tools and equipment. A set of dual concept exterior task lights are mounted on each side of the vehicle and vehicle recovery traction mats are located at the top. On top of the rack structure, a dual bike rack is the home of Trek mountain bikes.

"Built to handle the demands of an active lifestyle and offering one-of-a-kind open-air freedom, Jeep Gladiator is the perfect canvas for Mopar to push the envelope even further with the addition of an array of Jeep Performance Parts," said Jim Morrison, Head of Jeep Brand – FCA North America. "Mopar's new Top Dog Concept results in even more clever functionality and versatility for Jeep Gladiator."

The Jeep Top Dog Concept features a JPP 2-inch lift kit with FOX shocks, 17-inch JPP beadlock-capable aluminum wheels, and 37-inch BF Goodrich KM3 mud-terrain tires. Steel "high-top" fender flares provide additional clearance at all four corners.

The concept is driven by FCA's 3.6-liter V6 engine that delivers 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Mopar has carried the exterior color of the Jeep into the interior with a blue and black instrument panel that lives alongside black Katzkin leather seats, armrests, shifter boots, steering wheel, and the parking brake handle accented with blue stitching.

Mopar stainless-steel pedal covers with black rubber pads are fitted to the accelerator and brake pedals. The company's all-weather floor mats installed throughout the cabin area.

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BMW is adding new racing experiences to the roster at is Performance Center West.

Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW Performance Center Driving Schools have added to their curriculum offerings with the BMW M and M4 GT4 Experience, the M4 GT4 Private Coaching with Data and Video Session, and the Race Licensing School. All courses are offered at their driving school in Thermal, California.

BMW M and M4 GT4 Experience

M4 GT4 Experiences and Race Licensing School

Photo courtesy of BMW

This full day program carries a $2,795 price tag and includes driving various BMW M cars and the M4 GT4 race car. Attendees start their day with a classroom session that reviews proper driving technique then they receive an overview of the car and are outfitted with a racing suit and helmet. Next, they head to the Thermal Club track and get in some guided laps behind a BMW instructor, experiencing speeds up to 140 mph I the M4 GT4 race car.

The M4 GT4 model driven is the exact same as the race car driven in series around the world. It's powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that produces more than 430 horsepower while the rear wing, front splitter, and Continental racing tires make this car stick to the track through the corners.

Each session includes:

  • VBOX data and video system in the M4 GT4 to record the session.
  • Access to professional instructors, trackside crew and support.
  • All driving gear for the duration of the class – racing suit, helmet, gloves and shoes.
  • Lunch at the BMW Performance Center café.
  • Insurance, with a $2,500 deductible for vehicle or property damage

BMW M4 GT4 Private Coaching with Data & Video (Half Day)

M4 GT4 Experiences and Race Licensing School

Photo courtesy of BMW

This half-day, $4,995 program includes 125 miles of track driving in the M4 GT4 race car. Students start with a classroom session that reviews proper driving technique before being outfitted for their M4 GT4 driving session. The class includes:

  • VBOX data and video system in the M4 GT4 to record the session.
  • Time in the BMW M4 GT4 race car, one professional instructor and trackside support.
  • All driving gear for the duration of the class – racing suit, helmet, gloves and shoes.
  • Lunch at the BMW Performance Center café.
  • Insurance, with a $2,500 deductible for vehicle or property damage.
  • More miles can be purchased on the day of training. The program is designed for one driver. However, two drivers sharing a car can be arranged upon request.
  • The schedule is flexible. Please call 888-345-2269, and one of the BMW Performance Center driving instructors will reply to answer any questions and schedule the coaching session. Discounts are not allowed for this program

BMW M4 GT4 Private Coaching with Data & Video (Full Day)

M4 GT4 Experiences and Race Licensing School

Photo courtesy of BMW

For $9,995, students get a full-day private program that includes 250 miles of track driving in the M4 GT4 race car. The days starts with a classroom session that reviews proper driving technique before being fitted out for their M4 GT4. The class includes:

  • VBOX data and video system in the M4 GT4 to record the session.
  • Time in the BMW M4 GT4 race car, one professional instructor and trackside support.
  • All driving gear for the duration of the class – racing suit, helmet, gloves and shoes.
  • Lunch at our BMW Performance Center café.
  • Insurance, with a $2,500 deductible for vehicle or property damage.
  • More miles can be purchased on the day of training. The program is designed for one driver. However, two drivers sharing a car can be arranged upon request.

Race License School: The Path to Professional

M4 GT4 Experiences and Race Licensing School

Photo courtesy of BMW

After you've been through BMW's Advanced M School or the Two-Day M School, BMW Performance offers a SCCA-certified school to take your skills to the next level on your way to becoming a pro driver. Students can add the one-day school to an Advanced M School or Two-Day M School session and get qualified all at once.What will be learned:

  • Learn the colors. Green. Yellow. Red - No there aren't any traffic lights on the track. But there are flags, and you'll learn what each represents while you're out there to maintain safety.
  • Passing. Don't let off. - Start off with you in a BMW, behind your instructor in theirs. They will coach you through the art of passing under both braking and acceleration. Then, we'll bring on a classmate and coach you both as you battle for first place.
  • Keep Rollin'. Practice race starts - In racing, how you start can impact how you finish, and we'll show you how to get started right in a grid set up, as well as rolling starts. Learn how to navigate with other cars on track while setting up for that first turn.

Additional information be found at https://bmwperformancecenter.com. Courses can be booked online or by calling 1-888-345-4BMW.

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Chrysler introduced the Pacifica Pinnacle to its lineup for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Minivans are usually relegated to mommy duty. They get used and abused by children of all ages, and they can take the beating. In the U.S. there are no luxury minivans. The segment is dominated by comfortable but rather utilitarian vehicles that deliver exactly what the average customer is expecting - and there's nothing wrong with that.

But then someone (maybe two someones, or three) at Chrysler had an idea. What if they pushed the Pacifica further into premium territory, offering a near-luxury version of a minivan? Would people buy it? The answer, after one solid day behind the wheel is, "they should."

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle The Pacifica received a new front end for 2021.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is a facelifted version of the van that debuted for the 2017 model year. It continues to be an attractive model, as far as minivans go. This version of the Pacifica has a more muscular aesthetic, shying away from the elegance of the previous three years. The sides and back are great but I honestly can't decide if I like the front or not, but it does remind me more of the Chrysler 300 than the previous iteration did.

New for 2021, all-wheel drive (AWD) is offered, bringing the Pacifica to the table that's been occupied solely by the Toyota Sienna for a long while. It's the first AWD minivan Chrysler has sold since 2004 and something buyers have been asking for since the Pacifica debuted, according to company insiders.

The Chrysler Pacifica itself is already in a position to go luxury. It's certainly already gained premium model status based solely on the Voyager-Pacifica split which saw Pacifica's lower cost grades become Voyager models, which were then modified for fleet and commercial use. The Voyager also effectively replaced the Dodge Grand Caravan in FCA's lineup as a cost-effective minivan solution.

This left room for the Pacifica Pinnacle, a new top-tier trim level that really shows up for the premium buyer. Not only is the Pacifica Pinnacle's design just as practical as the other models in the lineup, it goes the extra mile with comfort, soft-touch materials, and classy finishes.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle Pacifica Pinnacle models are the top of the heap for minivans buyers.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Like the revised 2022 Kia Sedona, the Pacifica has a flat dashboard. In the Pacifica, it's anchored by a largest-in-class 10.1-inch touchscreen (the same size as the screens in the rear entertainment system but higher resolution). The lower half of the center stack is tilted toward the console and houses the shifter and climate controls. As tested in the Pinnacle trim, there was an abundance of Piano Black plastic trim with wood accents and real metal surrounds that easily make it the poshest new minivan on sale right now. Quilted leather seats, sueded center row pillows, and Beber floor mats complete the upscale look.

Unlike others in its class, the Pacifica doesn't appear lightweighted for efficiency to the point of cheapness. The doors have a well-weighted feel and close with a commanding thud. The thuds of road travel, surrounding vehicles' music choices, and engine noise are kept at bay thanks to new windows, seals, and insulation.

The minivans seats are comfortable and spacious. Unlike in other minivans, the center console and surrounding storage does not make the front row seats feel isolated from each other.

As tested, the Pacifica Pinnacle was powered by Chrysler's 3.6-liter V6 engine, that is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and delivers 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It was equipped with AWD, which is standard for the trim level, unless you opt for the hybrid.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle The new infotainment system in the Pacifica Pinnacle runs smoothly and is a pleasure to use.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

As it does with other vehicle's the Pacifica's AWD automatically acts when a set of conditions are met. With the Pacifica this means it works when it senses a temperature slip, when the electronic stability control is activated, while driving on a rough road, when a grade is steep, if conditions are slippery, when the steering wheel movement sways back and forth, or when there's a full throttle request on the powertrain.

If the AWD system senses that you're driving on a highway, or in conditions that don't require its use, it will deactivate automatically to improve the vehicle's fuel efficiency. This activation and deactivation process is so smooth you probably won't even notice it happening. However, you can feel the wheels engage and demonstrate the system's engineering when the conditions require it.

Having the AWD system doesn't mean that you have to forego Chrysler's Stow 'n Go storage system. Power-sliding rear doors, three-zone climate control (which still blows to circulate air even in the off setting), power first- and second-row windows, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, Stow 'n Go bucket seats with in-floor storage bins, driver's side Stow 'n Assist, and a Stow 'n Go third-row bench seat are all standard equipment. The Pacifica's seats don't have the extensive forward and aft travel the Toyota Sienna does, but the Stow 'n Go seats tumble into the floor to allow for flat loading. The Pacifica Pinnacle offers best-in-class total storage of 227.6 liters.

FCA's new Uconnect 5 infotainment operating system runs in the background of the Pacifica's screens. The system is graphically appealing, is quickly responsive, and features clean design. Though the system could stand to have a head-up display paired with it (Chrysler does not offer one in the Pacifica), the navigation is easy to use and read on the fly, and reroutes rapidly, even in urban settings with tall buildings surrounding the van.

2020 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle The Pacifica Pinnacle's seats are finely upholstered and come with two pillows.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Chrysler has given its Pinnacle model FamCam, an interior monitoring camera similar to what is in the Honda Odyssey, that takes in-cabin camera tech a step further offering the segment-exclusive rear-facing child seat view split-view display, and zoom-to-seat feature, among traditional camera functionality.

The Chrysler Pacifica comes standard with 97 safety features, and in the Pinnacle trim level that number swells to 100.

At over $53,000, the Pacifica Pinnacle is well into premium territory on price tag alone. However, it tops out in similar territory to its rivals, but is far more luxurious. Plus, it has AWD.

Look, it's not an SUV, but if you get around the "I'm not a minivan mom" mindset, the reality you might find is that the Pacifica Pinnacle is just as nice as a luxury three-row SUV, but with more and better functionality for everyday family life. Plus, it drives just as well.

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