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Rough Country News

    • Deal struck to save off-road sites in California

      Fans of off-road driving can occasionally struggle to find a space suitable for their needs. Not only do they need expansive stretches of open land with a few challenging obstacles mixed in, but they also must make sure that the desired space is available for driving. 

      An unfortunate clash
      Recently, groups located around Johnson Valley, Calif., which is northeast of Los Angeles, clashed over the use of land. The land, which encompasses approximately 188,000 acres, has long been used for off-road driving by champions of the sport. Known for boasting a blend of trails ideal for rock crawling with large expanses of desert, this region regularly welcomes tens of thousands of off-road vehicles each year. 

      Unfortunately, the space is also utilized by the U.S. Marine Corps for live training exercises. The threat of live ammunition is a serious one, and it was impossible for the two groups to coexist - and neither was willing to budge. The Corps was also planning on expanding its control over the land, reserving more than 100,000 acres for training. After several years of conflict, the two groups finally reached a compromise, and it's one that should keep everyone involved satisfied and safe. 

      "We feel this course of action is the best balance for military and recreational use of the land," Marine spokeswoman Capt. Maureen Krebs told The Desert Sun. "Safety is a high priority for the Marine Corps and we want to ensure that both Marines and recreational users stay safe throughout the year." 

      The solution
      Luckily, the groups were able to come to an agreement on the issue. The Marine Corps will reserve more than 56,000 acres for "shared use," and it will be open for off-roading for 10 months out of the year. In total, off-roaders will be able to use about 100,000 acres of land, including this shared area, and they will still be able to host the annual events that take place in Johnson Valley. 

      "After years in which off-roaders have lived in fear of the closure of Johnson Valley, this permanently ends the threat of base expansion into off-road areas," said Rep. Paul Cook, of Yucca Valley, as quoted by The Press-Enterprise. 

      Part of the reason the Marine Corps relented was because of the enormous support for the off-roading community. Organizations such as the Specialty Equipment Market Association, along with several state government officials in California, worked together to show the importance of off-roading to the area. 

      "SEMA joined with a number of other organizations representing the off-road community to support this provision that addresses the nation's military training needs while providing access for recreational activities," said Chris Kersting, president of SEMA. "We consider this ground-breaking provision a positive result for both the OHV community and the United States Marine Corps." 

      About Johnson Valley
      Now that Johnson Valley is able to welcome off-roaders for years to come, many interested parties may want to consider trekking to this adventurous locale. With dry lake beds, massive rock trails and other challenging obstacles, there is more than enough room for avid drivers to head out into the wild and try their best to conquer the terrain. 

      One of the biggest events to take place in Johnson Valley each year is King of the Hammers. Attracting thousands of people each year, this event focuses on rock crawling across trails with huge boulders and other imposing obstacles. The new compromise shouldn't affect this celebration, and the 2014 edition of King of the Hammers should go on as planned Jan. 31 through Feb. 8. 

    • Examining 2 new Ford F-150 editions

      Many drivers consider the Ford F-150 to be a worthy off-road vehicle in its own right. As the best-selling pickup truck on the market, the model frequently earns rave reviews for its style, capabilities and extra features. Despite the overwhelming approval for the F-Series, there are still plenty of ways the automaker can improve to cater to the needs of drivers everywhere, and one of the most interesting is by producing special editions. 

      Here is a closer look at two of the latest editions released by Ford: 

      The Ford F-150 Limited
      The first thing drivers will likely notice about the Ford F-150 Limited is its attractive exterior. Built from a 2014 F-150, the Limited offers many of the appealing features of the traditional F-Series, but with a twist. It's not as large as fellow Ford models like the Tremor or Raptor, but it is certainly large enough to handle off-road driving. Powered by an EcoBoost Turbocharged engine and capable of reaching 365 horsepower, the truck is ready to handle all kinds of driving. You can even select from a number of modes, including two- and four-wheel drive, which allows you to use the vehicle for both street driving and off-roading. 

      Another element of note is the interior, which is available with a new Marina Blue specialty leather. The rest of the cabin is loaded with all of the comfortable features drivers have come to expect from Ford, including easy-to-read displays, a revere sensing system and a rear-view camera. With additional amenities like trailer sway control, roll stability control and more, you can also be sure you're always putting safety first, even when engaging in intense off-road driving practices. 

      Impressive towing capabilities are also a noteworthy feature on this Ford F-150 Limited. Chrome accents, high-intensity headlights, 22-inch all-season tires and tons of cargo space round out the notable extras on this model. 

      The Ford King Ranch
      A western-trim package highlights the Ford F-150 King Ranch. Although it's similar in many ways to the standard Ford F-150, it also boasts a few add-ons that stand out from the crowd. Named after its place of production, the King Ranch comes equipped with a distinct outlaw style. The interior is loaded with Chaparral leather on the seats and steering wheel, which provides a Western flair. All of the seats can be heated and cooled individually, and the spacious layout leaves plenty of room for storage.

      There's even an optional off-roading package, and drivers can easily pair those extras with features like a tailgate step, stowable bed extender, box side steps, skid plates, front tow hooks and multiple bed liners. Additionally ,the display and gauge layout has been revamped to be more intuitive, all while including touches of leather and metal throughout. This combination of extreme function and high-quality comfort places the King Ranch near the top of Ford's models, and it is certainly not one that drivers will want to skip over as they search for a worthy investment. 

      Embracing luxury
      While some drivers may be hesitant about looking at a vehicle that is labeled "luxury," these Fords may be a good place to start. They provide exceptional interiors and attractive exteriors, all the while offering a truck suspension that can be easily used in off-road locations. Both models have an impressive list of amenities that can be adapted for off-road use, but even those who primarily use the trucks for street driving will be thrilled with the comfortable interiors and helpful features that round out these pickups. 

    • New details emerge about the Range Rover Sport's record drive

      In the beginning of November, Land Rover made a splash in the world of off-roading following the announcement that one of its models would undergo an intense challenge. The 2014 Range Rover Sport, one of the newest introductions from the manufacturer, was poised to conquer Arabia's Empty Quarter. 

      Land Rover's video
      To mark the occasion, the automaker released a video chronicling some of the most impressive feats from the Range Rover Sport. Documenting the entirety of the trip across the Empty Quarter, the film focuses on the incredibly demanding landscape crossed by the vehicle. 

      The nearly six-minute video details the vast size of the Empty Quarter, as well as the dangerous terrain. Massive sand dunes dotted much of the horizon, and sand was everywhere. Although there were a few relatively flat stretches of land, the drivers had to look out for rocks, remains and other obstacles that could have potentially damaged the off-road vehicle. All of this was done at high speeds - an average of more than 51 mph - leaving little reaction time in the event things went south. 

      Security and safety reasons meant that no journalists were present during the high-speed drive. However, fans of off-roading can get a glimpse of the intense terrain conquered quite easily thanks to this video. 

      Dominate off-road driving
      Temperatures regularly surpassed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with some of the hottest days inching closer to 120 degrees. There were also no reliable water sources and hostile terrain all around, which meant both the vehicle and the driver had to be prepared for anything. Professional off-road racer Moi Torrallardona did his part, and the Range Rover Sport picked up the rest. 

      One of the most dangerous parts was going down sand dunes. These steep hills provided very little traction, especially with the loose sand making up the entire ground, but the Range Rover Sport was able to hold its own. The team also encountered a hiccup at the three-fourths mark of the journey, as they ran into a sand storm and had to slow progress. The giant drifts of sand buried the tires of the vehicle for a short time, forcing Torrallardona and his partner to dig the Range Rover out of the trap. 

      Even with these obstacles, the Range Rover Sport was able to successfully complete the journey - and all with limited enhancements. 

    • Michelin recalls more than 1 million tires

      Michelin has long been one of the most trusted names in tires, but a recent recall may have some drivers double-checking their wheels. The tire manufacturer enacted a safety recall Dec. 13, announcing that nearly 1.2 million tires in North America may be subject to the concerns. 

      According to Michelin, some tires have shown rapid tread or air loss. Although only a small percentage of the products are experiencing damage, the manufacturer is offering to replace the gear at no charge at retail locations around the U.S. 

      While mostly concentrated in the U.S., the recall does also extend to Mexico and Canada. The affected tires are primarily found on light trucks, full-sized vans and some large pickup trucks, according to Michelin. All were produced between January 2010 and June 2012, and drivers concerned about their tires should check the date range on each to determine if they need to be checked. 

      No injuries have been reported as a result of the faulty tires, which were sold as both the original tires on some vehicles and as replacements. 

      This recall may be just a bump in the road for some, but it does shine a light on a possibility that many drivers may want to consider: special off-road driving tires. Tire damage may arise for a number of reasons, including incorrect use, and that can be remedied by investing in a heavy-duty option that is primed for all kinds of conditions. The right tires can improve efficiency while also expanding off-roading capabilities.

      Drivers who want to make sure their vehicle is ready to handle whatever dune bashing or rock crawling is on the schedule should consider upgrading tires for improved safety and rugged abilities. Being open to new tires also allows owners to add alterations such as a lift kit, which further improves the function of an automobile. 

    • More drivers looking to all-wheel drive

      If there's one feature almost all fans of off-road driving can agree is worthwhile, it's four- or all-wheel drive. While these features are quite different, they both ultimately offer motorists greater control over their vehicles, allowing everyone to take advantage of improved safety and intense capabilities. 

      All-wheel drive, in particular, has risen in popularity in recent years. According to The Detroit News, almost one-third of all vehicles sold in the first nine months of 2013 had all-wheel drive. That is a 5 percent increase over the same time period five years ago, and doesn't include the significant number of drivers investing in vehicles with four-wheel drive instead. 

      "It brings this complete bundle of safety, driving performance and capability," Jeremy Acevedo, the supervisor of pricing and industry analysis for "It's a really big add for consumers." 

      Although off-roading enthusiasts will likely be sticking to their traditional four-wheel drive, knowing what is going on in the rest of the auto industry is important. Many SUVs and crossovers are beginning to offer this feature, including models like the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, and it could soon spread to other popular models. In fact, Jeep is planning to offer a crossover in the near future with this amenity, while all Land Rovers sold in the U.S. also include four- or all-wheel drive, the news source reported. 

      Of course, one key consideration for many will be how Jeep or truck mods will work with these capabilities. It's a well-known fact that installing a lift kit can make steering more difficult, but dealing with tire upgrades or other changes in addition may have an impact on the car's performance. However, with a few precautions and add-ons, drivers can make sure they are retaining the quality of their automobile while also making it a prime off-road vehicle. 

    • Jeep hybrids are on the horizon

      For years, drivers of all kinds have appreciated the power and capabilities that a Jeep can bring. The classic SUV has long been a favorite for everything from off-roading to family travel, thanks in large part to its excellent blend of safety, fuel economy and ability. While tradition has helped propel this vehicle to the forefront of the off-road driving industry, a few changes on the horizon may make the vehicle a bit more eco- and user-friendly. 

      Jeeps are getting more eco-friendly
      According to Drive, the introduction of a hybrid Jeep is inevitable - at least according to some of the brand's officials. Although Jeep has already added an EcoDiesel option, the inclusion of a hybrid is still in the distant future. 

      "We are absolutely looking at different things in that field, and we are very active behind the scenes in the development of these systems and how it fits into our profile," Steve Bartoli, one of Chrysler's planning managers, told the news source. 

      The move would do more than provide drivers with improved fuel economy and efficiency. It would also offer additional instant torque, which could come in handy in off-road locations. However, there is a long way to go before this is a reality, largely because Jeep is committed to its recreational use. The brand does not want to make any major changes without exploring all possible results and ensuring that the move will not hinder off-road driving. 

      Benefits of a hybrid
      Hybrids can offer a variety of advantages to drivers, chief among them improved fuel economy. Because they operate with both an electric motor and a gas-powered motor, drivers can use less gas at low speeds and reduce vehicle emissions. The inclusion of both types of engines also allows drivers to take advantage of the efficiency of a gas motor at higher speeds. 

      "These are very complex and expensive systems, not just for us to develop, but also for the consumers," Bartoli told Drive. "Not only that, but range is a very important issue, and we need to make sure how we can fit that into our systems, because you don't want to be stuck in a creek in an electric Jeep that is going nowhere. It is a big problem in that regard, so we need to understand it a bit more." 

    • How to handle a winter driving accident

      Much has been made of the best practices for winter driving. The right maintenance and safe driving techniques can go a long way toward avoiding collisions or breakdowns, but sometimes accidents are unavoidable. 

      Document the situation
      Whenever you find yourself embroiled in an accident, one of the first things you should do is thoroughly examine the situation. Get out of the vehicle and check out the damage - as long as you are not in a dangerous or heavily trafficked area. If you are still in the middle of a road or trail, pull over to the side if possible and stay in the vehicle.

      However, if you are in a setting clear of traffic and with good visibility, get out and take a look at your automobile. Be sure to take pictures of the scene as well as any damage to your vehicle or equipment. These may be important to show later on, especially if you're off-roading and need to move the car to a safer area before it can be checked by a professional. 

      To properly document an accident, you'll need to have a functioning cellphone, camera or similar mobile device. Having a car charger can go a long way toward ensuring you are able to snap photos or even take video of the damage. It may also be a good idea to brush up on your insurance coverage before getting behind the wheel. This can give you a better idea of what to look at when you're on the scene, as well as what steps to take. 

      Don't jump to conclusions 
      Accidents, breakdowns and collisions can be intensely stressful. While it may be easy to lose control, it is important to try to keep a level head and remain calm. Any accident that involves another driver needs to be handled carefully, and it does no good to discuss blame or point fingers before the arrival of the police or insurance inspector. Be sure to exchange contact information and basic insurance info with the owner of the other vehicle, and alert all of the proper authorities as soon as possible. Getting a police report filed, if necessary, will need to be done quickly, and the sooner you can file an insurance claim the better. 

      Take preventative measures
      As previously stated, staying on top of vehicle maintenance and driving safely are two of the best ways to steer clear of problems on the roads or trails. However, there won't always be a clear-cut solution that can help you avoid problems, and if that's the case, you'll want to have the right gear that will keep a situation manageable. 

      To start, you should make sure you have the right equipment for a temporary fix of a vehicle. This includes a spare tire, tool kit, recovery straps and any other items you may find necessary for your given type of off-road driving. It is also a good idea to have some kind of reflective vest or tape, as this can make you and your automobile more visible in any space, alerting other drivers to your location. 

      Because it is the winter season, you may also want to ensure you have some accessories that are equipped to handle the cold or possible inclement weather. Gravel or salt is a good idea if you're concerned about traction, especially in situations where you may be rock crawling or handling steep inclines. Here's a tip: If you're crunched for time or money, consider pet litter instead. It has the same consistency as road gravel and can typically be found at more convenient locations. 

    • GMC Canyon to debut at Detroit Auto Show

      When news about the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado first came out, many fans of pickup trucks were excited but hesitant. After all, General Motors hadn't created a midsize pickup for several years, and the market for the style of vehicle has dwindled significantly in the past decade. However, some early reviews seem to point to the fact that the Colorado will be a success, and GM hopes it can carry that momentum through to the new 2015 GMC Canyon as well. 

      A big unveiling
      Recently, GM revealed that the 2015 GMC Canyon will be debuting at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, which is taking place this upcoming January. This will be just one of the dozens of unveilings that are expected to take place during the auto show. While none of the other scheduled debuts will have much of an impact on the off-roading community, the Canyon should make a splash. 

      What to expect
      So what can drivers expect from the 2015 GMC Canyon? Unfortunately, not much is known about the truck, but some early sightings of the test models were reported earlier in the year. Those confirmed that the truck would be available with both regular and crew cab options, and its exterior design will largely consist of straight edges with rounded corners and a rounded roof, Automobile magazine reported. A teaser image released by the brand simply showed the front grille of the truck, and there is nothing especially noteworthy there. 

      The Canyon is also expected to be similar in style to the 2014 GMC Sierra in many respects. Qualities like excellent payload capacity and trailering are likely to be included, which will allow the truck to immediately compete with models like the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, according to Auto Evolution. 

      Off-roading capabilities
      Auto Evolution reported that the GMC Canyon will have several major differences from the 2015 Colorado. However, those contrasts may be particularly appealing to fans of off-roading, as the Canyon is poised to be more in the line with the needs of off-road driving. 

      "GMC will be more about conquest," GM president Mark Ruess said, as quoted by the news source. "The Chevy will be about value." 

      However, drivers who are interested in the GMC Canyon may have to be flexible, as it could take time for model-specific gear, such as lift kits, to hit the market. 

    • Ford to launch driver training program

      Off-roading can be a beloved pastime, but before you become dedicated to the cause, you have to put in the effort to learn the ropes. While much of this knowledge will come from experience, as well as tinkering with truck mods, there are a few ways to speed up the process.

      Ford recently got on board with this idea, and it will be taking it one step further in 2014. 

      Learning the basics of off-road driving
      Automobile magazine reported that Ford is planning to land an off-road driving course at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. This lesson will give drivers an immersive experience, enabling them to learn the basics of off-roading from professional drivers. They will also be exposed to different types of terrain and truck mods, so as to see what best fits their style.

      All of the driving will be done in the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. While this automobile may lack some of the modifications you've made to your own off-road vehicle, it's still more than capable of handling the demanding course at Miller Motorsports Park. Ford has designated this as their prime off-road truck, so participants may even find some inspiration for future alterations with the state-of-the-art vehicle. Some of the changes made to make the Raptor more adept at the course include off-road wheels and tires, a locking rear differential, HID headlights, four-wheel drive and more. 

      Drivers who want to take advantage of this opportunity can choose from several training packages. The smallest is simply hot laps with Ford drivers, while the next level is a three-hour experience that adds rock-crawling and another form of off-roading to the agenda. The most comprehensive class is a day-long experience that focuses on hot laps as well as time on all three of the park's off-road areas, according to the news source.

      Take in the action at Miller Motorsports Park
      If you have to condense the beginning stages of off-roading into one crash course, there are few locations better than Miller Motorsports Park. There are many different surfaces on which to learn, including eight acres dedicated to rock crawling, 22 acres for high-speed off-road driving and more than 900 acres set aside for desert racing.

      The facility is frequently used for recreational purposes as well as for formal motorsports racing. The Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series returns to the park June 21, using the high-speed off-road short course as the home for the action. That event opens up the flood of happenings for the rest of the summer and fall, including motocross and motorcycle road races and even NASCAR events.

      It will also continue to host the Boss Track Attack program. Much like the off-road training course, this experience lets drivers learn the ropes of handling the Ford Mustang Boss 302 sports car in a professional setting, Automobile magazine reported. 

      "We are very excited about our 2014 schedule," said John Larson, general manager of Miller Performance. "We offer something for just about everyone with an interest in racing, from off-road trucks to motocross, road racing cars and motorcycles, and karting. We're coming off a great season in 2013, and we're looking forward to more of the same next year."

      One of the promotions that will likely catch the eyes of off-road drivers is the Wide Open Wednesday program. Between the months of April and October, certain Wednesdays will be designated as public days. This is a unique opportunity for drivers to test out their truck modifications on a professional-level road racing course at a low price. 

    • New Ford F-150 debuts at Detroit Auto Show

      With the Detroit Auto Show in full swing, many automakers are unveiling their latest designs in an effort to drum up interest for future models. Many of these creations are soaking up the spotlight thanks to their new features and revamped styles, and there are a few that should definitely be given a second look by drivers. 

      The Ford F-Series has been the most popular vehicle in the U.S. for years, and the upcoming 2015 F-150 is poised to shake up the segment. After being revealed to the world at the Detroit Auto Show, this full-size pickup is poised to make quite the splash. 

      The debut
      The automaker unveiled the latest model near its Michigan headquarters, but many of the specifics about the creation were kept under wraps. Instead of pushing out statistics about towing capacity or similar factors, Ford chose to emphasize a few of the new features, as well as its upgraded EcoBoost engine. 

      All of the amenities came together to result in a vehicle that is certainly capable of off-roading​.

      "F-150 is well-known for being Built Ford Tough," said Mark Fields, the COO of Ford. "The all-new F-140 redefines the future of trucks, and it is yet another example of our One Ford plan producing vehicles that serve customers with a commitment to the very best quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value." 

      New additions
      To better accommodate the needs of its drivers, Ford set out to include a slew of special features that upgrade the overall driving experience. The latest amenities created by the brand span a variety of areas of the truck and its usage.

      Drivers can benefit from technological accessories, such as 360-degree cameras, 400-watt power outlets on the interior and sideview mirror spotlights, as well as more practical aspects such as LED headlights, remote tailgate release and integrated loading ramps for the bed of the truck. There is also a smart trailer tow module and a trailer hitch assist feature, which should make it easier to tow. 

      These truck mods are just the tip of the iceberg, and there is still plenty of room to make your own alterations. Ford knows that many fans of the brand want to go off-roading or use the truck in heavy-duty situations, and it had a goal of making sure the new F-150 could work in those scenarios better than ever before - while also offering plenty of advantages for on-road driving. 

      "We have a unique connection with our customers," said Ford executive Joe Hinrichs. "Time and again, F-150 has delivered the tougher, smarter features they want along with the capabilities they need for work or play. We build our trucks to their high standards." 

      Tougher for off-roading 
      This new F-150 was created with some off-road driving capabilities in mind. At the heart of that effort is the high-strength aluminum frame. Although the major benefit of the aluminum is that it dramatically cuts down on weight, it also should be more resistant to dents in the event of collisions. 

      "More than ever before, customers want a truck that is a dependable partner, mobile office and a go-anywhere workshop," said Raj Nair, vice president of global product development for Ford. "To meet the needs of our truck customers, we created smart new features and a whole new approach to using advanced materials and engines to improve capability and efficiency." 

      A combination of the new frame, a more powerful engine and plenty of other special features has resulted in a worthy model that is sure to command praise and attention when it becomes available to the public. 

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