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Rough Country News

    • 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. 

    • GM designer receives Lifetime Achievement Award

      For years, drivers have looked to Chevrolet vehicles for some of the most advanced and sophisticated designs on the market. Whether it was an old-school Silverado or the newest Corvette Stingray, these automobiles are among the most distinctive on the roads. Now, the brain behind these innovative creations is getting the acknowledgement it deserves. 

      An impressive career
      Tom Peters, one of the masterminds behind years of Chevrolet automobiles, is receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award for the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. The institution, which is Peters' alma mater, presented Peter with the award during the annual Car Classic, held each fall on the Art Center's campus. 

      Peters has been a part of the General Motors family for more than 30 years. He led the design team for full-size pickup trucks and SUVs for the automaker, and his designs can be seen on the upcoming 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, among others.

      "Through your efforts to promote the very best in automotive design, as seen in examples like the 2014 Corvette Stingray, you continue to represent Art Center in the best way possible and serve as an inspiration for our graduates following in your footsteps," said Stewart Reed, the chair of the college's Transportation Design Department.

      More about Peters
      Peters began working with GM in 1980, and after a brief stint at another company, he returned to the automaker in 1982. Since then, he has worked on some of the most popular vehicles produced by the company, ranging from sleek sports cars to large machines primed for off-roading. 

      "The list of Art Center alumni at GM is long, but Tom Peters is without a doubt the most visionary designer I have ever known or worked with in my more than 40 years at GM," said Ed Welburn, the vice president of global design for the auto brand. "The men and women who work for Tom share his desire and thirst for winning, and they create incredibly spirited designs."

      Although this Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes all of the valuable input Peters has shared over the years, he is still heavily involved with GM and should continue to impact auto designs. Anyone who gets behind the wheel of an off-road vehicle from Chevrolet or install a Chevy lift kit on one of the brand's trucks likely has Peters to thank for their ride. 

    • Nissan Titan undergoing mudding tests

      Automakers are always striving to make their offerings bigger and better. What is not as common is manufacturers searching for input from everyday drivers who use the vehicles in a variety of ways. Nissan is aiming to change that, however. The Japanese brand is striving to collect feedback from people all over the U.S. to figure out just what these drivers are looking for in pickup trucks. 

      To better understand what drivers want, Nissan took its trucks to Texas, where engineers observed as drivers took the trucks off-roading. Several motorists used the PRO-4X pickups to participate in some extreme mudding. According to, locals call the event, which is hosted by Sure-Shot Game Calls, the "gumbo mud" run. Founded by James Hernandez, the event takes drivers through wet and wild conditions, and Nissan likely wanted to see how its vehicles would hold up in the rough terrain. 

      The news source reported that Nissan was also eager to get feedback on its off-roading suspension, large tires and other intense features. In the past, many off-road vehicles have gotten stuck in the mud, but the Nissan rides used this year proved to be a bit stronger. 

      "We sure enough tried to bury these things. And I mean we tried. We just couldn't do it," said Hillary Dyer, editor of Waterfowl and Retriever, a guide for outdoor recreation, as quoted by "We got stuck for just a second, and we were able to rock ourselves right out." 

      Mudding in a Nissan Titan isn't a new pastime by any means. The full-size pickup is a solid choice for the pastime and has a number of truck mods that can be completed to make it better suited for the wet terrain. 

    • Chevy debuts new concept truck

      The famous SEMA Auto Show is set to take place Nov. 5-8 in Las Vegas, but word has already spread about some of the biggest reveals set for the festivities. One vehicle that is sure to attract its fair share of attention is the Chevrolet Silverado Cheyenne, which is the newest concept truck from the automaker. 

      Chevrolet's latest concept
      Based off the adage "less is more," the Chevrolet Silverado Cheyenne aims to offer drivers a pickup truck that prioritizes performance over everything else. With a goal of creating a vehicle that has superior braking and handling capabilities, Chevy revamped its standard Silverado design and outfitted it with a few amenities that make it unique. 

      "The Cheyenne concept explores the performance possibilities of the all-new Silverado, which is which built on a mass-efficient layout and delivers a greater balance of performance and efficiency than any other full-size truck in Chevrolet's history," said Chris Perry, vice president of marketing for the brand. 

      A bevy of new features
      All of the truck mods made to turn the traditional Silverado into this Cheyenne concept could make the truck a prime off-road vehicle. The weight alone was cut by nearly 200 pounds thanks to changes to the bumper, tailgate and cargo box, but the automaker didn't stop there. It also lowered the height and added a rear stabilizer bar for better maneuverability and performance.  

      Perhaps the most exciting change is the swapping of the standard engine for a new, high-powered motor. Those who get behind the wheel of the concept truck can enjoy a 6.2-liter V-8 engine with 420 horsepower and 460 foot-pounds of torque. According to the brand, that means motorists can see an increase of 65 horsepower and 77 foot-pounds compared to the standard option. 

      "Elements such as high-strength steel in the frame and body structure are found on all production models, while some also feature aluminum suspension components, contributing to the Silverado's everyday performance," Perry said. "With the Cheyenne concept, we've taken the low-mass concept to a new level - with exciting results. It's only a concept right now, but we are continually exploring new ways to give Silverado customers more." 

      Although this concept truck is just being introduced Nov. 4, fans of off-roading and unique vehicles can expect to hear more news about its potential arrival on the market in the coming weeks. 

    • Should you invest in tire chains for winter?

      Winter is the perfect time to upgrade your truck or SUV. The arrival of inclement weather brings about the prospect of driving in snowy or icy conditions, and that means it is time to complete a few truck modifications that could improve performance and handling in these instances. 

      The basics of tire chains
      A popular option for drivers getting ready for winter is tire chains. These devices increase traction in snowy conditions and can significantly improve the way an automobile performs in the winter, even if the vehicle has already been enhanced to offer intense capabilities. They are particularly good for those drivers who are in areas with unpredictable weather. If you only expect a light snowfall now and then, the chains - which can be easily stored in a vehicle until it's time to use them - could be a wise investment. 

      When purchasing tire chains, drivers should be sure they are buying gear that matches the size of their tires. You shouldn't have to let air out of the tires to get the chains to fit, and while this may lead to more time spent shopping around for the right set, the work pays off in the long run. You also need to make sure you are purchasing gear that is classified as SAE Class "S." These will work with the minimum clearance between tires and the vehicle frame, as well as with other parts of the automobile, ensuring you don't cause any damage. 

      Chains should be installed on the drive wheels of a vehicle. The sets mostly come in pairs, so anyone driving a four-wheel-drive machine will need to buy two to get the right coverage. Drivers should also keep in mind that these chains are designed for used specifically in snow - so there will likely be instances when they'll need to be removed before driving on pavement. However, if you have an off-road vehicle that is only used out in the wilderness, chains may be a good choice. 

      Other options
      Snow chains may be one of the more popular options for drivers looking to make some truck mods before winter, but they are certainly not the only choice. Some drivers might be drawn instead to snow tires, which provide increased elasticity for a better grip on the roads, while others may shelve off-roading entirely until better weather comes around.

      There are a few smaller details that can help you deal with winter driving. Mud flaps are designed to keep rocks, grit and road salt away from your car's paint job, while floor and cargo mats for the interior prevent mud and dirt from soaking into the carpet. Another good option is auxiliary lighting. Whether you want to incorporate top-of-the-line LED headlights or an extra light bar, adding tools that offer improved visibility could make it easier to drive in rough conditions. 

      Weighing the pros and cons of modifications
      Of course, tire chains may not be the best choice for everyone. Whether you want to make the move to this gear or a similar modification, it will come down to several different factors, and you will likely be forced to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each. Ultimately, your decision will hinge on your budget and competency, as well as the type of driving you expect to do during the colder months. If you're big into off-road driving and don't want low temperatures to slow you down, making these alterations may be worthwhile. For others, keeping up with regular maintenance and investing in smaller updates could be a better use of resources. 

    • Jeep emphasizes freedom with new ad campaign

      Off-road driving takes drivers to the far reaches of the world. With the ability to explore all kinds of land and terrain, off-roading is a favorite pastime of those who enjoy indulging their sense of freedom. That is exactly the emotion that Jeep tapped into with its latest campaign, which targets those who want to be free when behind the wheel. 

      A new ad campaign
      Titled "Built Free," the new ad campaign from Jeep focuses on welcoming the Cherokee back into its lineup. The commercials are meant to explore a driver's sense of adventure, showing all of the places in the world that an off-road vehicle like the Jeep can take you. 

      "The Jeep brand has a rich history steeped in the unrelenting pursuit of freedom," said Olivier Francois, the chief marketing officer of Chrysler Group LLC. "The return of Jeep Cherokee and the 'Built Free' campaign serves as a reminder that we can fulfill our daily responsibilities and still follow our innate desire to explore new and different experiences."

      Bob Dylan music acts as the soundtrack, with the iconic artist singing "Motherless Children," which was written in 1962, reported. While this represents a slightly darker tone for an automobile commercial than what some may be used to, it's a refreshing spin on a special pastime.

      This ad campaign kicked off Oct. 28 and should continue airing for several months after Nov. 11. You should see the campaign on television as well as in print, digital and social formats. 

      Highlighting the all-new Cherokee
      Of course, the whole purpose of this new ad campaign is to showcase the new Jeep Cherokee as it replaces the Liberty. It is returning for the 2014 model year and features a wide range of amenities and features that could prove to be great for off-roaders. As more information comes out about the Cherokee and motorists start taking it to the trails, fans of off-roading may pay attention to this model. 

      "The return of the Cherokee nameplate to the Jeep brand brings with it the opportunity for consumers to experience an exciting vehicle that move the midsize SUV segment forward," said Jeep CEO Mike Manley. "Whatever path consumers choose to follow, they can be assured that the all-new Jeep Cherokee will provide them with the craftsmanship, technology, safety, ride, and handling and efficiency that modern living requires."

    • Toyota praised for adopting towing standards

      For many truck owners, towing is a part of life. Whether it's for heavy-duty work or to haul around recreational equipment, it's incredibly common to see pickup trucks using their strength in this manner. Unfortunately, while manufacturers regularly release towing capacity, there are not any formal regulations or standards for testing. This can leave drivers wondering what a truck's real towing strength is or what a vehicle's limits are. 

      To remedy this problem, Toyota has implemented towing standards into its line of pickup trucks. The brand has started adhering to the Society of Automotive Engineers regulation, known as J2807, which provides guidelines for real-world testing of towing capacity. All trucks and SUVs from Toyota since 2011, including the newest 2014 Tundra, will work with these SAE standards. That makes the Japanese automaker the only manufacturer of full-size pickups to do so, although Ford has said it will adopt the system beginning with the 2015 F-150, reported. 

      "Toyota owners look to us to develop vehicles that meet the highest safety standards, and our voluntary adoption of J2807 helps us deliver on that promise," said Mike Sweers, chief engineer of the Toyota Tundra and Tacoma. "Tundra owners can tow confidently knowing that the published tow rating has been verified by the industry's foremost engineering authority. With Tundra, what you see is what you get." 

      The efforts from Toyota to streamline towing standards even led the Texas Auto Writers Association to present the automaker with its Distinguished Service Award. 

      "We appreciate the acknowledgement from TAWA, whose membership includes some of the industry's most truck-savvy automotive journalists," Sweers continued. "This recognition underscores the importance of this standard in helping keep truck owners safe." 

      While the Tundra may not be a traditional choice for off-road driving, those drivers who want a rugged off-road vehicle known to be capable of towing heavy loads may want to give the machine a second look. 

    • Chrysler's earnings grow thanks to pickups and SUVs

      Chrysler recently released its third-quarter earnings, and it had plenty of good news to share with fans. The automaker saw its profits rise 22 percent in the three-month time period - largely in part to a surge in popularity of its Ram Truck brand and Jeep SUVs. As 2014-year models from these lines enter the marketplace, Chrysler hopes to capitalize on their popularity and continue growing revenue while enhancing their reputation. 

      In total, revenue jumped 13.5 percent to $17.6 billion. That is significantly more than the $15.5 billion mark it hit at the same time last year, the Detroit Free Press reported. 

      "Chrysler Group's ninth consecutive quarter of positive net income highlights our commitment to producing award-winning vehicles for consumers, such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ram 1500," Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. "We also are pleased to introduce the already award-winning Jeep Cherokee to the lineup, as it launches into the largest SUV segment in the United States." 

      Although there were approximately two months worth of delays facing the Jeep Cherokee, the SUV was still able to be unveiled in the third quarter and immediately started attracting attention. The Cherokee is replacing the Jeep Liberty in the lineup - a move that should please those who are drawn to off-road driving, as the Cherokee has a strong reputation as a top-notch off-road vehicle. 

      As the Ram Truck continues to receive accolades, Chrysler's earnings will likely keep growing. Fans of off-roading will certainly want to take a look at the brand's options for both pickup trucks and Jeeps, as all of the vehicles present an option that is capable of handling rugged terrain and rough conditions. 

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