Ram’s Suburban Fighter, Manual vs Automatic Off-road and What to Buy for 5K? [Ask Nathan]

nathan adlen motor mountain usa nevada andre smirnov
Motor Mountain USA at Wheeler Peak, Nevada

In this edition of Ask Nathan:

  • A Ram that competes with the Chevy Suburban?
  • Manual vs Auto in a Jeep?
  • What would the TFL team buy for $5,000?

Today’s first question comes from a viewer who misses his Ford Excursion diesel and wants to know if FCA is building something similar.

Hello Nathan and Crew:

You guys do an incredible job and look like you’re having fun doing.

I have a question regarding the rumors and reports I have seen more recently regarding a Suburban/Tahoe version of a Ram/Dodge suv. Would you be able to investigate these rumors on how likely and a time frame for this rumor becoming a reality??

I would like to know if they have any intention of making a Suburban size suv built on a Ram 2500 framework with a Cummins diesel engine. Reason is, I miss our Excursion (with the Powerstroke) and would love to be first in line to buy something like that again, but with the great touches that Ram put into their interiors.


Ray J

Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Trail Warrior Concept

A: Interesting question.

Here’s what I know: FCA should be in the final stages of development of a Jeep that will compete with other three-row SUVs (like the Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer). It may be called the, “Grand Wagoneer” and it may be based on the Dodge Durango platform, which is a stretched Grand Cherokee platform. IF they consider a diesel version, I suspect it would be the same 3.0-liter EcoDiesel that’s in other FCA products, I doubt it would be anything bigger.

As for a heavy-duty Chevrolet Suburban fighter? I have yet to hear anything. I think the market for such a rig is small and may not be profitable.

With that being said, there is another rumor that I have heard regarding a burly diesel in an SUV. The skuttlebutt has it that the Nissan Titan XD’s platform and powertrain may find its way into the next generation of Nissan Armada. Mind you: these are just rumors, but it could be something worth hoping for.

Either way, I will keep my ears open and report if I hear anything.



By the way, there are some companies out there who build a modern-day Excursion. The 2015/16 Hennessey VelociRaptor SUV might be worth a peek?.

This next question is from a viewer who’s curious as to which transmission would I choose for a Jeep Wrangler.

Q:Good Afternoon TFL,
I wanted to reach out to you because your videos helped me make a decision to purchase a Jeep Wrangler (thank you).One of the things I have found difficult to come across is..choosing either a Manual transmission or, an automatic for off-road purpose. What are the advantages and disadvantages of both, with of course a Jeep Wrangler.

Thank you guys for all your knowledge.

Very Respectfully
Patrick H

A: That’s a terrific question Patric!

I have lived on both sides of the debate as there are pros and cons for both transmissions.

This story encapsulates my feelings regarding off-road driving with automatic transmissions. I was testing a Jeep Wrangler prototype back in 2012 in Moab, Utah during the Easter Jeep Safari. A Jeep representative sat next to me as I complained about how awesome the vehicle would be if it were a manual (it was an automatic).

He smiled ans said, “Do me a favor, go up THAT rock.” He motioned to a steep incline that looked challenging and I leaped at the chance. Just as I was about to crest the top he yelled, “Stop!”

I simply placed my left foot on the brake pedal and waited. He smiled and said, “Now continue.” I added a little right foot power and easily cleared the obstacle. Once we finished he said, “Now try that exact maneuver again with a manually equipped Jeep.” I did. It was harder and I had to use the parking brake at the same time to prevent the clutch from baking.

From that time forward, I fully comprehend and endorse automatic transmissions for serious off-road use.

Still, I like manual transmissions. They tend to be lighter, durable (especially with mechanical clutches) and, in the right hands, fantastic for all sorts of performance driving – including off road. I like the feel of a manual tranny and, for me, they are more enjoyable to work with.

I know you wanted a definitive answer, but it all comes down to your desires, not mine.

Best of luck!



The last question comes from a long time viewer who wants to know what each member of the TFL team would buy for $5,000.

Q: Nathan, I have watched all of you grow and change over five years! I feel like I know you guys and I love your reviews. I was wondering if you could humor me? I wanted your guess what each member of the TFL team (including Emme!) would buy for fun for $5,000. It has to be a car and it has to be your perspective.

You make me smile and that’s a special thing.


A: Thanks for your great email and patronage Becca!

Roman: First Generation Mazda RX-7 (red) or maybe another Eastern European rattle-trap (like a Skoda) to remind him of happier days.

Andre: First or second generation Golf GTi fixer-upper. He’s rumored to have a VW GTI tramp stamp.

Cameraman Ian: Something that mixes Batman with punk-rock…. maybe a Saturn SC2 with a Batman logo and spinners.

Emme: No doubt in my mind, she would get a Volkswagen Thing rust-bucket.

Brian “The new guy:” Something built by Toyota, perhaps something used in a Japanese Manga.

Mr. Truck: Maybe a first generation Ford Ranchero or an old fire-engine.

Me: Either a late 60’s – early 70s Fiat 124 Coupe, Late 70s Chevy Suburban with a manual tranny (massive rock-buggy build), Subaru Brat, 1st gen Mitsubishi Montero, Jeep Cherokee Chief, Suzuki Swift GTi… stuff like that.

Thanks again for the email. I enjoyed imagining what my peeps would buy!


Nathan and The Fast Lane Car team are here to answer your (reasonable) questions. Interesting and/or entertaining emails will be posted to this column. If it’s relevant in the automotive universe, there’s a chance we may know something about it. The author’s email address and name will be omitted – leaving your initials or nickname, your preference.

From day one, The Fast Lane Car has made it our policy to answer as many questions and comments as we can. We get thousands of emails and comments and feel that, as part of a tight-knit automotive community, having an open dialogue with you keeps things fresh and exciting.

Got a question for Nathan? Drop him a line at: asknathan@tflcar.com

nathan adlen Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism – Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. His words, good humor and videos are enjoyed worldwide.