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Rough Country News

  • Falling gas prices open up opportunities for pickup trucks

    The sale of pickup trucks has been up and down over the course of the past few years. Troubling economic times and sky-high gas prices caused many to stay away from larger vehicles, but as more people regain their disposable income they are turning back to full-size trucks. 

    According to AAA, the average price for gasoline during the first week of November was $3.25 per gallon. That is the lowest average since December 2012 and several cents cheaper than it was one week ago, continuing the trend of decreasing costs of fuel. That has encouraged many drivers to begin looking at a pickup truck when searching for their next vehicle. 

    In fact, four of the major manufacturers - Ford, Chevy, Ram and GMC - have seen double-digit growth in the pickup segment in the past year, reported. With lower fuel prices expected to continue throughout 2014 and potentially even beyond, the time is right for many to make the leap to a pickup. 

    "It is almost a perfect storm right now for truck sales to be strong," Jessica Caldwell of told The Detroit Free Press. "And there is pent-up demand in that market as well." 

    Although fuel economy is still an important factor for many drivers, trucks have made major strides in this category and no longer lag significantly behind other options. 

    While falling gas prices may encourage many to buy pickups, it also is good news for those who have long been fans of off-roading. More disposable income means many will have the freedom to make truck modifications or go on off-road driving adventures. Installing a lift kit, adding armor or upgrading other systems could all be wise investments of time and money that can further enhance a pickup. 

  • Inside the new Jeep Cherokee lineup

    The off-roading tradition of the Jeep Cherokee is truly unique. Although designs have changed its look and capabilities over the years, it remains one of the most beloved off-road vehicles available. The latest alterations made to the line of automobiles shouldn't change much about this reputation, but they are certainly worth a second look.

    Blending old and new
    When news about the Cherokee's return to the market was initially made, many off-roading enthusiasts were pleased. After all, the iconic brand hadn't been given a makeover in more than a decade, and a resurrection of the brand meant that a lot of attention was going to be paid to the model. To capitalize on this spotlight, Jeep designers wanted to give the new Cherokee a fitting new style. 

    "We wanted a design that has throwbacks to Jeep, but looks forward to the future," Mike Manley, head of the Jeep division of Chrysler Group, told USA Today.

    Some characteristics of the new style include a seven-slot grille, lifted lights and trapezoidal wheel arches, which were inspired by some of the first military Jeeps, according to MLive. 

    Although the style may look different than past Jeeps, it still offers plenty of the abilities that the brand is known for. Additionally, the vehicle includes several "Easter eggs," such as the small outline of a military Jeep from the 1940s fitted on the windshield. Details such as these have only been around since 2010, but many drivers have come to expect them and view the touches as something that shows Jeep is connected to its roots. 

    Not without controversy
    There has been some criticism directed at the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Many have said that its new exterior design, which places an emphasis on sleek curves and front-end styling, strays too far from the original Jeep.

    "[We had] to pay homage to Jeep's heritage and visually convey that this is an all-new Jeep, while still communicating legendary best-in-class capability," said Mark Allen, Jeep's chief designer, as quoted by Car and Driver magazine. "... We couldn't make it like a box."

    The Trailhawk 
    While the pros and cons of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee line have been voiced, much of the success of each vehicle will depend on the individual drivers. Fans of off-road driving, for example, will particularly like the 2014 Trailhawk. It's smaller than some of its predecessors, but as one of the four versions of the Jeep Cherokee - along with Sport, Latitude and Limited - it offers plenty of off-road appeal. 

    2014 Cherokee models were tested in the American West, so drivers can be sure that the vehicles are ready to handle whatever gets thrown their way. That capability is only furthered by the four-wheel drive system, which Jeep claims to be one of its best. 

    "To be true to its roots, we needed to make sure it is the best four-wheel drive in its class by far," Jim Morrison, director of Jeep product marketing, told MLive. "I think we're being fair and loyal to the customers, but more important [is the fact that] we're being fair to the nameplate, because if we'd done nothing with that nameplate it would just die over time."

    A Jeep lift kit has been installed to raise the vehicle by 1 inch, adding some additional ground clearance and room for tires. It also comes with three tow hooks: two in the front and one in the rear. Each of those is capable of handling loads of up to 8,250 pounds, according to Car and Driver magazine. Add in wheel flares, skid plates and a few other Jeep modifications, and you have an off-road vehicle that is primed for rock crawling or other forms of recreational driving. 

  • 2015 Chevy Colorado to debut at LA Auto Show

    The headlines within the auto industry have been dominated by concept trucks and other news from the 2013 SEMA Auto Show, but there is another showcase right around the corner that promises to bring its own big announcements. As the Los Angeles Auto Show gets into full swing Nov. 20, Chevrolet will be unveiling its 2015 Colorado pickup truck. 

    Although most fans of Chevy pickup trucks turn to the Silverado for their off-road driving needs, this new Colorado could make a big splash in the market. The brand claims that the model's slightly smaller size should make it a more capable and versatile automobile than other available trucks. It will also offer state-of-the-art technology that should please drivers as well, reported. 

    According to World Car Fans, Chevy promises that this truck will "reinvent what a mid-sized pickup should be." The automaker even went as far as to say that the vehicle would be the "most capable, most versatile and technologically advanced mid-sized truck in the market." 

    There is still about a year before the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado goes into production, but that won't stop the brand from raising its profile ahead of time. As one of the first of the all-new, redesigned mid-sized trucks to come around in a long time, the Colorado is likely going to be an important vehicle, and it will attract its fair share of attention at the L.A. Auto Show. 

    While the final product hasn't been shown to the public as of yet, some details have been released. The news source reported that the Colorado could come equipped with a 2.5- or 2.8-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. Those rumors also have the truck capable of achieving 150 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque with the smaller motor, and 179 horsepower and 347 foot-pounds of torque with the larger engine, respectively. 

  • Redesigned Jeeps debut at SEMA

    Jeep has a reputation for being ready to handle any type of off-roading environment, but that doesn't mean all of the brand's vehicles are equal. It's only natural to think that a few of the creations from the automaker are better suited to certain types of driving than others, and that train of thought was underscored at the SEMA Show. There, Jeep unveiled a few new customized concepts that are catered to certain types of off-roading, and the prospect of owning one of these rugged automobiles could be particularly intriguing for fans of intense off-road driving. 

    Jeep Cherokee Trail Carver
    Many drivers may not be familiar with Jeep modifications made to the Cherokee, but if the Trail Carver is any indication, the possibilities are endless - and impressive. Designed for motorists who need to head to the wilderness to get their fill of the great outdoors, this Jeep vehicle is equipped with all of the customized tools adventurous drivers need to attack the trails without sacrificing a sophisticated look on the highway. 

    The Trail Carver started with a Trailhawk 4x4 and a 3.2-liter V-6 engine. It has been outfitted with cold-air intake and a new exhaust system to improve performance out in nature. Off-road tires are also included, ensuring a smoother driving experience, while rock rails protect the shiny outside from too much damage. Drivers will also find a new roof basket, front wind deflector and tow hooks. 

    An exterior covered in "Auburn Pearl" paint ties the whole look together. It's accentuated with a few touches of orange and glossy black to give the vehicle a truly unique vibe, and that style is mirrored on the inside, where Amaretto leather seats have colored leather in the center. Leather wrapping is continued on the dashboard and center console, even touching the wireless smartphone charger Jeep included. 

    Jeep Wrangler Copper Crawler
    If you love to go rock crawling, then the Jeep Wrangler Copper Crawler is for you. While this off-road vehicle is a bit more subdued than the Trail Carver, it still packs in plenty of Jeep modifications that make it a viable option for off-roaders. 

    Based on the two-door 2014 Jeep Wrangler, the Copper Crawler boasts a front and rear bumper, lightweight rock rails and low-weight 17-inch wheels. The Rubicon bumper also has a winch and aero end caps on the front, while the section on the back comes complete with a rocker panel and taillight guards for additional protection from the terrain. Off-roading is easy with the help of the Jeep lift kit, which raises the vehicle 2 inches, as well as a transfer case that is ideal for low-speed rock crawling and a cold-air intake. 

    Like its name suggests, the Copper Crawler comes in an orange-yellow color that is accented by a black front grille and black beadlock tires. The tires even come equipped with copper rings to carry the unique style throughout the entirety of the automobile. Drivers will also notice a black hood decal, black leather seats, grab handles and black door-sill guards, all of which come together to create a look that is both attractive and functional. 

    Mopar accessories
    Both of the aforementioned automobiles utilized Mopar parts to create a unique off-road vehicle. That brand provides auto parts for all Chrysler vehicles, but it is certainly not the only option for drivers. Plenty of car owners who want to make their own modifications can take the project on themselves, purchasing any number of parts and accessories that can help them create the personalized Jeep JK they've always wanted. 

  • Range Rover Sport sets off-roading record in Arabian desert

    Many automakers claim their vehicles can handle all types of off-roading, but few back up those reports with record-breaking adventures quite like Range Rover. For its latest feat, the brand decided to show off the capabilities of its new Range Rover Sport by taking it on a trip through Arabia's Empty Quarter. Widely acknowledged as one of the most rugged locations on the planet, this desert posed the perfect challenge for the off-road vehicle - and the automobile passed with flying colors. 

    An impressive feat from Range Rover
    A Range Rover Sport was able to complete the 527-mile journey in 10 hours and 22 minutes, which was a new world record. That pace was set in a standard vehicle with no major upgrades to the engine or tires. In fact, the only modification was made to the underbody, which received an additional layer of armor to prevent sand from interfering with the systems. 

    Even though the Range Rover had to be outfitted with just a few key features to make it across the desert, it didn't take much for the automobile to keep up with driver Moi Torrallardona. At 47 years old, Torrallardona has competed in the last 10 runnings of the Dakar Rally, as well as a number of other off-road driving races, and is accustomed to traversing some undesirable terrain. 

    "This unique way of driving requires a vehicle which has the same skillset - it must be both incredibly fast but also agile, responsive and well planted," Torrallardona said. "The Range Rover Sport is exactly that. It is massively capable and is truly the best tool for conquering the desert."

    Arabia's Empty Quarter 
    Also known as Rub' al Khali, the Empty Quarter is a section of the Arabian Peninsula consisting of some of the world's most hostile terrain. The region boasts a few expanses that are among the hottest and driest on Earth. Although there are groups that call the desert home, it is largely unpopulated - except for a few sections that literally struck it rich with the discovery of oil. 

    In total, the Empty Quarter takes up about one-fifth of the Arabian Peninsula and covers an area of more than 225,000 square miles, according to National Geographic. Most of it is located in Saudi Arabia, but sections spread into Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. Perhaps most telling is the fact that it holds half as much sand as the Sahara Desert despite the latter being about 15 times the size. That means anyone trying to get through the Empty Quarter has to contend with an insane amount of sand, which poses a problem for visibility and maneuverability, as well as the intense heat. 

    Crossing the desert
    Getting through harsh terrain like the desert is no easy feat. As anyone who has gone dune bashing can attest, sand is one of the most fickle types of land out there, so going over it requires intense focus, a capable vehicle and a driver who is up for anything. 

    "The challenge of the desert is like nothing else, it is a brutal, unforgiving and sometimes deadly environment," said Torrallardona. "Desert driving requires a unique combination of speed, finesse and technical skill. It is crucial that you tackle the dunes with precision. Knowing the right time to go full throttle and the right time to slow down takes experience and clear judgment." 

    Now that the Range Rover Sport has proven it can handle the desert, and showed it could excel at the punishing climb it took up Pikes Peak several months ago, it should move to the top of the wish-list for many off-road drivers. 

  • Ford unveils a classic custom truck

    The 2013 SEMA Show is still in its beginning stages, but already many big reveals have struck a chord with audiences. Perhaps the vehicle that will leave the biggest impression with truck lovers is the custom 1956 Ford F100, which has been dubbed the "Snakebit." 

    While the Snakebit probably won't be able to handle any extreme off-roading any time soon, it is certainly a bold look at the possibilities of truck mods, and its reveal was fit for any high-end vehicle. 

    Unveiling the Snakebit F100
    Ford pulled out all the stops to show off the Snakebit F100 - including outfitting the debut with some big names. The automaker recruited KISS bassist Gene Simmons and his wife, actress Shannon Tweed, to do the honor of revealing the final product. 

    The Snakebit was the idea of Tom Foster, a car builder is Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He designed the truck with the classic Shelby Mustangs in mind, and you can see a few sporty touches present on the finished vehicle. For example, the interior of the truck, including its leather bench seat, has been contoured to match the Mustang. Even the wheels, which measure in at 18 inches in the front and 20 inches in the rear, were inspired by the sports car. 

    Extensive truck mods
    Updating a 1956 pickup truck wasn't simple by any means. The vehicle went through some intense rounds of truck modifications to get it up to par. To start, the wheelbase was extended by 5 inches and the box was widened to look proportional. It was capped off with a billet machined floor, which was designed to look like natural wood. That style is mimicked in the rest of the interior with touches like handmade panels, two-tone leather and a wrapped dashboard. 

    Powering it all is a 5.4-liter V-8 engine with a revamped exhaust system. It is capable of putting out up to 550 horsepower, which is controlled by the five-speed manual transmission. Custom-built headlights and taillights stand out from the metallic gray paint job to provide plenty of visibility and a clean, streamlined appearance. 

    All for charity
    Simmons may not have been wearing his iconic KISS facial makeup, but that is likely because he wasn't present to promote his own music. Rather, he was there to be a part of a good cause. The Snakebit F100 is set to be auctioned off by Barrett-Jackson early next year, with all of the proceeds from the vehicle going to fund a children's hospital in Saskatchewan. That Canadian region is one of only two provinces without a dedicated children's hospital and also happens to be the location of Tweed's hometown, bringing the whole event full circle. 

    "The Wheels of Dreams project symbolizes how people can come together and meet the needs of our children and families by raising much-needed funds for the new Children's Hospital of Saskatchewan," said Brynn Boback-Lane, president of the Children's Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan. "Just like the hospital, this concept car project started as an idea and a desire to do something better for our community. What began as a grassroots idea the volunteers and supporters of Wheels of Dreams have turned into a major international fundraiser opportunity that will ultimately benefit our foundation." 

    Although the Snakebit F100 was just one of about 50 vehicles Ford brought to the show, it is almost definitely the one people will remember best - and if all goes well, the one that will bring in the most money for a good cause. Simmons himself said that he hopes the truck will sell for more than $1,000,000 at the Barrett-Jackson auction. 

  • Ford launches new parts guarantee

    Anyone who considers themselves part of the world of off-roading has likely pushed their vehicle to the limit. While this is mostly an enjoyable experience, encountering obstacles in the midst of your off-road driving could lead to damage to your car. There also may be instances when you notice something is wrong with a vital part of your vehicle, and if the problem didn't arise during one of your adventures, the car itself may be at fault.

    If you're driving a newer automobile, you'll want to take advantage of a warranty to replace these parts. Luckily for many new truck owners, Ford has enhanced its warranty system to provide more comprehensive coverage to all drivers. With the new protection plan, parts and labor costs of Ford vehicles are covered for 24 months from the time of purchase and installation with no restrictions on mileage. That is certainly good news for fans of off-roading who often take their automobiles across long distances in a short amount of time. 

    "Ford is dedicated to constant improvement in all we do," said Fredereik Toney, president of Ford Customer Service. "Ford Genuine and Motorcraft replacement parts are approved by Ford engineering. In the unlikely even a part fails, our new warranty demonstrates our commitment to quality, our customers and our intent to provide greater peace of mind and in improved ownership experience." 

    While a warranty may not help complete the truck mods you've been considering, it could provide the peace of mind you need to tinker with a vehicle. Ford claims that its new warranty service will cover the cost of a part when an owner chooses to finish the installation themselves, and beginners who feel the need to take the car into a dealership for repairs can have the cost of parts and labor reimbursed. 

  • Ram debuts off-roading concept truck at SEMA

    As the 2013 SEMA Show continues on, more automakers are making waves with special editions and concept trucks. Chevy went out and unveiled its new idea on the first day, turning its focus toward a smaller, lighter model that favors performance over anything else. Although the design may not have been for everyone, it was an interesting idea to explore and may have piqued the interest of drivers. 

    Ram was the latest to jump on board with special trucks, as the manufacturer teamed up with American Expedition Vehicles to form a special Ram Concept that entered the public eye at the SEMA Show. 

    The latest Ram
    Based on the 2014 Ram 2500 Crew Cab, the newest Ram concept is designed to be an all-encompassing off-road vehicle. Boasting a new modular style, the vehicle comes equipped with heavy-duty winches, a diesel engine, custom shocks and a high-steer kit for better performance. 

    It also already comes outfitted with a Dodge lift kit, which bumps up the ground clearance by 3 inches while still using factory coils. That helps to make room for 40-inch tires, which operate seamlessly with custom-made fender flares. These create a completely unique look for the truck, furthering its reputation as a rugged off-road truck that is capable of anything. 

    Primed for off-road driving
    This AEV Ram Concept is outfitted with plenty of features that make it a great option for off-roading. As it was designed specifically for the consummate outdoorsman and off-road driver, that's certainly no surprise, but enthusiasts may have to wait to get behind the wheel. Although it appears to be ready for production, there is no official word on when a release will take place, according to AutoBlog. 

    This isn't the first time American Expedition Vehicles has set out to create a unique off-road vehicle. The Michigan-based company has been modifying SUVs and trucks for more than 15 years, the news source reported. However, this concept is the first it ever collaborated on with Dodge. The company typically makes Jeep modifications that result in automobiles capable of extreme off-roading, although they tend to lack the ability to haul heavy loads. That is one of the major qualities of this Ram, so perhaps AEV is changing its tune and striving to make more well-rounded off-road vehicles. 

  • Make off-roading adventures safe for kids

    Off-roading with your family can be a ton of fun. After all, what's better than passing on a love of trucks, Jeeps and exploration to your kids? Unfortunately, you usually can't just pile little ones into the backseat and hit the trails. Off-road driving with a family requires some planning and investments, but once you know what needs to be done, it can be easily accomplished. 

    Educate them first
    The first thing you should do before taking your kids off-roading is educate them about the activity. Younger children can learn about the basics of off-road driving, including how to treat the environment, ways to stay safe and similar concepts. As they get older, you can start branching out into the intricacies of being behind the wheel.

    A good way to make sure your kids are informed is to educate them on the different types of environments you explore - a method that is easy if you take part in a number of different pastimes. Whether you're mudding, rock crawling or dune bashing, you can take the opportunity to tell your kids more about the unique setting you're in, as well as the different qualities a vehicle needs to handle it. Teaching them these concepts at a young age helps increase the odds they are safer later on. 

    Plan for breaks
    You may be used to driving through the wilderness for hours on end, but all of that will likely change when you bring your kids along. Young children may need frequent breaks to expend their energy or stretch their legs, and you will likely be forced to make more stops than you are used to. Plan for these in your schedule so you have enough time to safely complete a course or trail and make it back home. It could also be beneficial for you to bring along toys for kids to play with during this downtime. Although they may want to explore their surroundings, in the event something goes wrong and you have to tinker with the truck, you will be glad you have some distractions for them. 

    Invest in the right safety gear
    Before you take your kids out off-roading, you should make sure your off-road vehicle has all of the right safety gear. For example, investing in something like a safety harness can provide your kids with additional security - and you with some peace of mind. These harnesses are capable of restraining children and other passengers even as you cross over extremely rugged terrain, and they may be exactly what you're looking for as you explore the wilderness. All of your truck modifications should also be checked to ensure they are secure and ready to handle the rigors of nature. 

    Have a first aid kit
    You should be driving with a first aid kit anyway, but having one when off-roading with kids is especially important. There is no telling when anything from a scrape to a bee sting could derail your adventures. While many of these occurrences may be unavoidable, the least you can do is have the right resources on hand. Make sure your kit is stocked with all of the essentials, plus tweezers to take care of splinters, child-sized bandages and kid-appropriate pain reliever. 

    Wait for the right age
    When you're out on the trails, surrounded by nature with not a soul in sight, it may be tempting to let adolescents take a turn behind the wheel. However, under no circumstances should you let your kids drive until they have the proper license. Similarly, there may be certain off-road courses or competitions that have age or even height requirements. It is important to stick to these rules to ensure the safety of your family and other drivers. 

  • Toyota releases the Ultimate Edition FJ Cruiser

    Amidst all of the updates about the newest concept trucks debuting at the SEMA Show, Toyota leaked out some bad news: The 2014 edition of the FJ Cruiser will be the last of its line. However, the SUV is going out with a bang. Toyota unveiled the 2014 FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Ultimate Edition, which is poised to make a dent in the world of off-roading thanks to an array of impressive new features. 

    As the most rugged FJ Cruiser ever made, this 2014 model was inspired by some of its predecessors, such as the Land Cruisers from the 1960s. Much of that retro style is still evident in the exterior of the vehicle, as a paint job using the color "Heritage Blue" is matched with a white-painted front grille and black accents. 

    The truck suspension is catered toward off-road driving and includes race shocks with better stability at all speeds. There is also a new front skid plate, which has been designed to provide extra protection for the front of the vehicle regardless of the terrain on which it is driving. More input from Toyota Racing Development has helped to revamp similar features, as well as the skid plate, to offer uniform protection to the underside of the automobile. It also outfitted the vehicle with 16-inch bead lock wheels, rock rails and a roof rack, all of which complete the rugged look while also offering plenty of additional amenities that drivers will enjoy. 

    Only 2,500 models of the Trail Teams Ultimate Edition will be produced. Between its limited availability and its range of impressive features, there should be quite a demand - and a price tag - for these vehicles. The off-road vehicle will come to showrooms beginning in February 2014. 

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