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Rough Country News

  • Land Rover introduces unique Range Rover Autobiography Black

    Land Rover has a tradition of creating luxury vehicles, including several that are regularly used to shuttle around the rich and famous. While these automobiles are typically restricted to city streets, soon you could see a unique Range Rover trekking to the top of mountains. The automaker recently introduced the Range Rover Long-Wheelbase Autobiography Black at the 2013 L.A. Auto Show, and the amped-up vehicle is capable of even some extreme off-road driving. 

    There are several new amenities that come along with the Autobiography Black, and the upgrades are not restricted to the driving capabilities. For additional comfort, the legroom in the backseat has increased by 7.3 inches, and the incline of the seats has been altered to allow more flexibility. Power sunshades and a panoramic sunroof are also included to give owners the perfect driving environment. 

    To match these new features, the Autobiography Black also has a long-wheelbase body that translates well to off-roading. That is the major difference between this special edition and the standard, short-wheelbase Range Rover. It also has a new grille and specially made wheels, which help enhance the appearance and functionality of the vehicle. 

    "The Range Rover Long-Wheelbase Autobiography Black is the latest step in our transformational journey that moves luxury to another level. This vehicle is an intensely design focused response to our customers' desire for more choice and exclusivity," said Gerry McGovern, the design direction and chief creative officer for Land Rover. "... Autobiography Black represents the pinnacle of desirability in the world of luxury inhabited by our Range Rover customers."

    Of course, all of these extra features will cost you. The Range Rover Autobiography Black comes with a starting price of $185,000 - approximately $100,000 higher than the standard Range Rover. Only 100 of the models will be produced. 

  • Exposure is one obstacle blocking diesel engines

    The benefits of diesel engines are relatively well-known. They produce more power than traditional gas engines and are more efficient than their counterparts as well. Although most would think that this combination of more power and less spending would cause drivers to look toward diesel machines more frequently, a lack of exposure to the motors is keeping motorists away. 

    According to a recent poll from Honeywell Turbo Technologies, more than 70 percent of American drivers have never driven a diesel-powered vehicle. Additionally, nearly three-fourths of drivers between the ages of 18 and 30 had never gotten behind the wheel of one of these machines. 

    Despite the fact that many are not driving these alternatively-powered cars and trucks, Americans are still aware of the advantages offered by diesel engines. About 65 percent of survey respondents recognized that diesel could lead to more power, and more than half said that running on diesel was more efficient than gasoline. 

    "Turbocharged diesel engines have an opportunity to make an impact with today's younger car buyers, who understand and even prioritize the fuel economy advantages of the technology, but have not yet been able to drive one," said Terrence Hahn, the president of Honeywell Transportation Systems. "Turbodiesels and downsized turbocharged gasoline engines provide both automakers and consumers a no-compromise solution of greater fuel economy and performance with the added benefit of being more environmentally friendly." 

    While some drivers may be hesitant to test out diesel engines in their off-road vehicle, there are many who may want to consider making the switch. More power and lower expenses could leave more room for truck modifications and other alterations, helping owners create their ideal automobile. 

  • Ram 1500 named the 2014 Truck of the Year

    Being named Truck of the Year is a tremendous honor, especially when it comes from a well-respected source like Motor Trend. That makes the publication's annual end-of-the-year awards highly anticipated, and the latest accolades are no different. The magazine recently began releasing its top vehicles of the 2014 model year, and one familiar automobile landed on top of the rankings in the truck category. 

    A prestigious honor
    Motor Trend named the 2014 Ram 1500 as its Truck of the Year. This is the first time a truck as repeated as the winner of the award. The publication evaluated several new or remodeled trucks as part of this year's contest. The Ram 1500 beat out models like the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Ram Heavy Duty, Toyota Tundra and several others on its way to its second consecutive win.

    "For 2014 we had a large and highly competitive field for contenders for Motor Trend's Truck of the Year," said Edward Loh, editor-in-chief of Motor Trend. "At the end of the day, though, the Ram 1500 quickly rose to the top. Not only did it withstand our rigorous testing, it thoroughly impressed our judges with its vast array of standard and optimal equipment and, most notable, its fuel-efficient, segment-exclusive EcoDiesel V-6. With 420 foot-pounds of torque up to 28 'real mpg' highway, the EcoDiesel is a true game-changer."

    Testing these vehicles consisted of several rounds of rigorous driving on a professional course in Uvalde, Texas. Judges evaluated the trucks based on standard testing, which included acceleration, braking and grip, as well as handling, cornering and other aspects of driving performance. Towing and payload testing was also a factor, as was real-world road tests. Some elements of the experimenting even involved off-road driving. The trucks were driven over different types of terrain to see just how well they could handle the rigors of the wilderness. From those situations, judges were asked to evaluate the trucks based on the performance, efficiency, safety, design advancement, engineering excellence and value. 

    All in the details
    The Ram 1500 managed to set itself apart from its competitors thanks to several of its unique details and features. Motor Trend cited the performance of the EcoDiesel engine as one of the biggest factors in the truck's win. Not only does the diesel fuel increase the efficiency of the truck, but it also ups the power output while keeping the rpm low. Getting a revamped engine may be nothing new in the world of truck modifications, but Motor Trend stressed that the use of this diesel engine could go far beyond just improving the efficiency of this individual model: It has the potential to change the entire segment. 

    "Half-ton truck customers have been asking for a diesel engine, and Ram is the only truck manufacturer to answer the bell and deliver not only best-in-class fuel economy, but also 9,200 pounds of towing capability," said Reid Bigland, president of Ram Truck. "In a brutally competitive truck industry, the Ram 1500 is the only vehicle to ever win the Motor Trend Truck of the Year award two years in a row, reaffirming the fact that we have the best truck on the road." 

    Ram also made waves with its attractive exterior. It is loaded with luxury features from the Laramie Longhorn line, including real wood trim throughout the interior. Add in a sleek shape, excellent safety features and plenty of room to make truck mods, and drivers have a 2014 truck that is capable of turning heads. 

  • Off-road championship speeds into Sturgis

    For years, Sturgis Buffalo Chip has been the site of some of the world's most impressive motorcycle rallies and music festivals. Although the bulk of the action throughout the past 30 years has centered on two-wheeled machines, the 2014 edition of the event will feature some four-wheeled action that is sure to get fans of off-road driving interested. 

    Sturgis Buffalo Chip recently announced that its next running will feature The Off-Road Championship Racing (TORC). The multiyear agreement will make off-roading one of the staples of the event. Sturgis is even building a new race track as part of The Buffalo Chip Powersports Complex.

    This course will provide all of the space needed for trucks with as much as 900 horsepower to show off their capabilities and truck mods. Although few details about the course has been released, the track will likely be a large one - the trucks involved with TORC frequently reach speeds of more than 100 mph and can jump as far as 200 feet in the midst of a race. Natural elevation changes and rugged elements in the land should make for an exciting environment as well. 

    "TORC's vision and approach to the sport of off-road racing is of the highest caliber," said Rod Woodruff, president of Sturgis Buffalo Chip. "For over 30 years, the Sturgis Buffalo Chip has been committed to providing our fans with the best entertainment, and we are thrilled to add TORC Racing into our schedule of events." 

    Commonly referred to as "The Chip," the annual Sturgis Rally brings more than 500,000 people to the small South Dakota town for 10 days of rides, concerts, contests, showcases and more. 

  • Tailgate thefts becoming more common

    Truck owners want to do everything in their power to keep vehicles safe and secure. While much of this will revolve around good off-road driving habits, owners will also want to be aware of steps they can take to avoid becoming the victim of theft. 

    Tailgate thefts are on the rise
    According to data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the theft of truck tailgates in the U.S. is hitting record levels. The Detroit News stated that more than 500 thefts of the truck bed gear were reported in 2012, and the instances have been steadily increasing since 2008, when only three thefts were claimed. Those numbers put it as the most popular target for thieves, both because it is relatively easy to take, and it easily broken. 

    "It's the No. 1 theft item on a pickup," Bob Hegbloom, of Ram Truck, told The Detroit News. "Typically, the thing that's damaged first on a pickup is the tailgate. People are always replacing those things." 

    Tailgates are a popular target because it doesn't require any fancy tools to steal them - all a criminal needs is the opportunity. Full-size Fords, such as the F-250, are frequently eyed by criminals, with the bulk of thefts taking place in Texas, according to The Car Connection. Vehicles like the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado also see a significant number of tailgate thefts. 

    How to prevent thefts 
    There are several ways truck owners can protect themselves from theft. The best way is to invest in some kind of a tailgate lock. Although these features are becoming more common on new models, owners of slightly older editions will want to purchase a separate system that can be installed as one of the smaller truck modifications. These devices should be locked every time a driver leaves a vehicle. 

    Simple actions like parking close to an object or structure to block access to a tailgate can also be helpful. When you back up to a building, there is no room to open the tailgate, which can prevent theft. Another easy undertaking is etching the vehicle identification number onto the tailgate itself, according to The Car Connection. All owners have to do is carve the VIN into the tailgate - it doesn't have to be large or visible, but it should be present. This can speed up the process of reclaiming a stolen item. 

  • How to winterize an off-road vehicle

    Getting a vehicle ready for winter involves everything from investing in snow chains or special tires to brushing up on knowledge of cold-weather driving. An important part of preparing for these frigid months is winterizing the vehicle. This goes beyond strapping on new tires or throwing an ice scraper in the back - drivers must be able to complete a variety of tasks that ensure any type of automobile is ready to handle the cold weather. 

    Here are a few steps that you should strike off your to-do list as you winterize a vehicle: 

    Inspect the battery
    A vehicle's battery should be inspected at all times of the year, but it becomes particularly important during the winter. Battery capacity is reduced by colder temperatures, and this freezing environment may also be more harmful to the cables and gear associated with the device. To avoid being stranded in the cold - undoubtedly the worst-case scenario for many drivers - take the time to read the level of the battery and decide if it's time to invest in another one. It is also helpful to check and refill the fluid within the device. 

    Treat the windshield
    Visibility is key throughout the winter, so you should take steps to make sure your windshield is ready to handle the snow and ice. Dealing with mud, snow and other obstacles means you get plenty of work from windshield wipers, but it could be a good idea to replace these tools with new ones before winter arrives. Drivers should also choose an antifreeze that will keep their windshield clear. Certain washer fluids come with antifreeze mixed in, and that option could be a wise choice for drivers. 

    Prepare the doors
    A common problem drivers encounter in the winter occurs when doors and windows freeze, causing door locks to resist keys and many of the openings to clamp shut. Many auto owners head inside to grab some warm water to loosen the ice, but this isn't feasible - or advised - for all drivers. Instead of taking any risks, consider investing in glycerine. This liquid is ideal for de-icing a section of your car. The only thing you need to be aware of is storage: Leaving a stash of glycerine in a glove compartment is useless, so an outside storage container may be a better option. 

    Switch the engine oil
    Depending on the type of vehicle you drive, you may also want to switch your engine oil. Many automakers recommend drivers change their engine oil to one with a lower viscosity, meaning that it is thinner. Cold weather usually thickens the oil naturally, so having a thinner product ensures that there will be no clogging within the engine, and it will continue operating a high level. An owner's manual will likely have more information about making a switch and the type of oil that is preferred for a given vehicle. 

    Check the HVAC system
    Inspecting the heating and ventilation of a car may seem secondary - after all, the system is more about personal comfort than anything else. However, having a functioning HVAC system is essential for the winter. For one, you need to be comfortable to focus on your off-road driving without any distractions.  Secondly, the HVAC is also responsible for defrosting windows and the windshield, and that task must be done effectively for safe winter driving. If you notice something is wrong with the HVAC system, it could also be a sign of related problems under the hood, so it should be checked out before you head to the trails.

  • Pickups are popular across the US

    Anyone involved with off-road driving knows that different vehicles are better suited to separate tasks. While that may leave some drivers choosing between various pickup trucks and Jeeps based on their off-roading needs, it is also a trend that exists for all motorists across the U.S. 

    Business Insider recently teamed up with Kelley Blue Book to collect data about the best-selling cars in each state. The final results don't show anything too unexpected, but the trends revealed by the data may be interesting for a few drivers. 

    One of the biggest takeaways from the research was the sheer popularity of the Ford F-Series. The line of pickup trucks was the No. 1 selection in more than 30 states, with most concentrated across the middle of the country. The popularity of the truck probably has a lot to do with its attractive exterior and alluring amenities, but there are also a few other advantages. For example, it's easy to make truck mods to the Ford F-Series thanks to the availability of tools and equipment, which may make the pickup a viable choice for many drivers. 

    There were a few outliers, however. For one, Oklahoma was the only state to have the Toyota Tacoma as its best-selling vehicle. Indiana and Maine also bucked the trend, instead boasting the Chevy Silverado as the most popular automobile. Surprisingly, Vermont was the only state where the GMC Sierra was the No. 1 vehicle. Although the state is filled with wide open spaces that may be ideal for off-roading, it also has a reputation for being more environmentally conscious than others

    The remaining states - much of which are concentrated in the Northeast - saw sedans and compact cars as the most popular options. States such as Michigan, Florida and California also had smaller vehicles atop the popularity ranking. 

  • Tips for winter off-road driving

    Just because the weather has cooled down doesn't mean your passion for off-roading has. In fact, the difficult conditions found throughout this season are some of the most challenging and interesting a driver can try, which makes winter driving an attractive option for many. Despite the fun and adventure involved in this activity, there are some dangers that need to be considered. 

    Here are a few tips you can take advantage of when considering off-roading in the winter: 

    Tools for tires
    The benefits of snow tires and chains have been discussed, but there are other considerations that should be made regarding this equipment. For example, carrying a spare is a must, but you should also pack an air compressor. These devices convert power into pressurized air, which can then be used to fill tires. Having one of these tools on hand allows you to air down tires for better traction and ride quality depending on the terrain. 

    Watch out for weak points 
    Investing in items like Jeep JK armor can help you protect weak points on a vehicle, but there are other sections that will always remain exposed to the elements. U-joints are particularly at risk, as they are the weakest point in the drivetrain. Harm to these parts can affect the yoke - and in turn four-wheel drive and similar handling - and they usually cannot be fixed while out on the trails. Make sure you have the proper tools to patch one of these issues up well enough to get home. 

    Brush up on vehicle features
    Trucks and Jeeps come with a variety of features that are essential to have in an off-road vehicle. Four-wheel drive is one amenity that will be used at any time of year, but you should test it out before departing on a winter trek. Additionally, you should practice steering to test the controls of a vehicle and get used to handling the machine in the snow. Battling ditches or slippery slopes can be challenging, especially if you're following in areas where plows or other large vehicles have already been, so it is important to practice dealing with these obstacles. 

    Pack a survival kit
    Off-road driving at any time of year requires an array of tools and safety equipment, and that emergency kit should be a bit more specifically catered to winter conditions when the season approaches. Food and water are a must, and it may also be beneficial to have extra layers of clothing and blankets. 

    Add in tools like antifreeze, recovery straps, winches and snow chains, and you may be ready to face winter off-roading. You should also be sure to have a small supply of gravel or sand, or road salt, which can help you get out of a rough situation when on snowy or icy surfaces. 

    Never go alone
    Perhaps the most important thing you should keep in mind as winter arrives is that you should not be driving alone, especially on a remote trail. Stick to set courses or organized trail events to ensure you are always close to safety. At the very least, you should bring a partner along to have someone who can help with sudden repairs, and each of you should have a fully charged cellphone as well as other emergency gear. 

    If you do decide to drive alone, make sure you have a backup plan. You shouldn't stray from a distinct trail, and you should always make sure you are within walking distance of shelter and help. 

  • Chevrolet Colorado makes its debut

    When it was first announced that the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado would be making its debut at the L.A. Auto Show, many drivers may have been on the fence regarding their feelings on its arrival. After all, while it was sure to be an impressive model - especially in light of all of the hype that surrounded it - it was still a midsize truck. Without the appeal of heavy-duty capabilities or full-size features, it was tough to predict just how successful the truck would be. 

    However, all of that has changed now that the Chevy Colorado has entered the public spotlight. The vehicle comes with a variety of features and accents that many motorists and off-road enthusiasts will like, and it could convince more than a few people to make the switch to a midsize vehicle. 

    "Our strategy is simple: meet the needs of the broadest possible customer base, and let them choose precisely the right truck to meet their needs," said Mark Reuss, president of GM North America. "The all-new Colorado benefits from the solid foundation established by the Silverado, and it reinvents the midsize truck, while reinvigorating the segment at the same time." 

    The basics of the design
    Chevrolet set out to create a rugged midsize truck that still had all of the qualities drivers have come to expect. Like other models from the automaker, this vehicle boasts a CornerStep bumper design - similar to the Silverado - as well as an EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate, 13 tie-down locations, tailgate protectors and a pre-installed bed liner. 

    "The new Colorado's design brings a youthful breath of fresh air to the midsize truck segment and puts a progressive spin on Chevrolet's true-truck styling," said Ken Parkinson, executive director of Chevrolet Design. "It's like the younger, more eager brother of the Silverado - a Chevy truck through and through, with great zeal and a spirit of adventure."

    Drivers will also appreciate the exterior of the truck. It definitely has a sporty edge, and drivers can choose from options like an extended cab or longer bed depending on their desires. Triple-sealed doors offer better ergonomics and a quieter interior, while additional storage has been added all around the truck for extra space. They can also select from different trims to customize the look. 

    Ready for off-roading
    With so many qualities and characteristics that were inspired by full-size trucks, the Colorado is more than ready to head to the great outdoors and explore the environment during off-road driving treks. The Z71 version of the truck is likely the one most catered to off-roading, with a gunmetal grille, projector headlamps and 17-inch aluminum wheels. 

    The Colorado's payload capacity is said to be the best in its class, while the trailering capacity is in excess of 6,700 pounds. Add in an option for a diesel engine, which is just one of the ways the powertrain has been amped up, and the truck is capable of handling your demands and equipment while out in nature. 

    "We designed the Colorado to be the most versatile and most capable in its segment, bar none," said Jeff Luke, the executive engineer of GM Trucks. "Not everyone needs full-size capability, but they still deserve the strength and true-truck attributes that come in larger models. The Colorado delivers capability with confidence - and a fun-to-drive spirit that complements active lifestyles." 

    The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado will come to showrooms around the U.S. in 2014. With improved technology and comfort on the inside, as well as sporty functionality on the outside, this midsize truck is poised to make an impact on the auto industry. 

  • Jeep Wrangler shows off Willys Wheeler Edition

    The Jeep Wrangler hasn't changed much over time, simply because it hasn't needed to. Its classic style and off-roading capabilities have helped make it one of the most desirable vehicles of its kind. Its basic frame has served as the canvas for many unique models and Jeep modifications, and that is part of the reason why the Wrangler spawns tons of special, limited edition vehicles. 

    Any driver who is a fan of the Jeep - and its many special editions - will likely be enthralled by the Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition. This vehicle comes with an array of special features that sets it apart from the standard Wrangler while also making it a viable option for an off-road vehicle. 

    A look back
    One of the most appealing aspects of the Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition is its throwback style. It was created as a way to honor the very first civilian Jeep, the Willys-Overland CJ-2A, which came onto the scene in 1945. When it first entered the public view, it was renowned for its functional amenities and off-road ability - two characteristics that have been mimicked for the 2014 Willys edition. 

    "The new Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition is a Jeep purist's dream, delivering a Jeep vehicle that harkens back to the original, classic CJs of the 1940s," said Mike Manley, president and CEO of Jeep brand. "This new Jeep vehicle delivers pure functionality and rugged capability in a unique package that recognizes the origins of the brand." 

    The total package
    At the heart of the Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition is the focus on functionality that was a hallmark of the earliest civilian Jeeps. Drawing inspiration from the Wrangler Sport, the Willys Wheeler Edition boasts rock rails, mud terrain tires and the new Jeep Trail Rated Kit, which includes a tow strap and D-Ring. Its exterior includes a glossy black grille with matching front and rear bumpers. Willys hood decals and high-gloss 17-inch black wheels set off the all-black paint.

    Powering the Jeep is a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine. That motor can reach 285 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of torque. Drivers can choose from a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Off-road driving is easier with the low-range gear ratio and the Jeep Command-Trac 4x4 part-time, two-speed transfer case. 

    The Jeep Wrangler Willys Wheeler Edition is set to go on sale in early 2014, but it will make its public debut at the 2013 LA Auto Show. 

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