Rough Country News

  • Ram celebrates 25 years with Cummins with engine milestone

    Ram continuously finds itself on the top of the heap when it comes to truck ratings and reviews. While the bulk of the credit for this accomplishment has to go to the brand itself, who knows if it would have gone that far without the partnership of Cummins. The two companies have been working together for a quarter of a century, and along the way they have created some of the coolest and most innovative technology in the auto industry. 

    25 years of partnership with Cummins
    When the duo initially teamed up 25 years ago, no one knew what the end result would bring. Yet, at this point in the relationship, they have achieved more best-in-class titles than any other pickup truck and continuously rank ahead of competitors in categories like quality and value. 

    "Ram and Cummins are names synonymous with power, quality and durability," said Reid Bigland, the president of Ram Truck. "We've enjoyed a successful relationship and remained leaders in the diesel pickup market for 25 years. The numbers don't lie." 

    Staying ahead of the game on quality
    Debuting in 1989, the Dodge Ram 3500 with a 5.9-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine boasted 160 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque. Both companies have improved since then, and today's models of the Ram 2500 and Ram 3500, along with a few versions of the Chassis Cab trucks, feature up to 385 horsepower and 850 foot-pounds of torque. That is good enough to keep Ram near the forefront of the truck market, providing fans of off-roading with the vehicles they want. 

    "The Cummins and Ram Truck partnership has created a legendary package over the last 25 years, and we appreciate their continued loyalty to Cummins," said Dave Crompton, a Cummins vice president. "This commitment to our partnership allows us to focus on delivering best-in-class performance, reliability, and durability for the heavy-duty pickup market." 

    Much of this success can be attributed to Cummins. The company notes that it is the only engine also found in heavy-duty equipment, and it boasts an 85 percent take rate on Ram Heavy-Duty vehicles. To top it all off, the 6.7-liter engine installed in many Ram trucks has as much as 40 percent fewer moving components as its competitors - a factor that can lead to increased value and decreased maintenance. 

    Look to the future
    In light of a recent movement that has emphasized fuel economy and eco-friendly practices, Ram and Cummins created the EcoDiesel engine. As a more green option than traditional vehicles, these trucks manage to blend increased power and range with the same rugged style off-road driving fans have come to expect. 

    One of the latest examples of this effort is the 2014 Ram 1500. With the help of its EcoDiesel engine, this Ram is capable of reaching 28 mpg, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That is the best highway-cycle test ever for a full-size pickup and even outpaces the ratings for small pickups. This catapults the truck to the top of the EPA's rankings - and it should entice drivers who want to get behind the wheel of a pickup but don't want to break the bank. 

    "The new Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is truly in a class of it's own with 28 mpg and the ability to tow 9,200 pounds," Bigland said. "To put the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel in context, it gets 6 mpg better fuel economy than the best F-150 EcoBoost. Overall, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel has outstanding pick-up truck capability with compact car-like fuel economy." 

  • Brand perception makes a difference for automakers

    If you're looking around for your next off-road vehicle or mulling over potential truck modifications, there's a good chance you might use your own personal opinions to influence your decision. Peer reviews, past experiences, media stories - all of these qualities may come together to impact what you think about a certain automaker. That perception has a major effect on the industry, so it is only logical that organizations would want to study it further. 

    Perception matters
    Consumer Reports recently conducted a study on perception of auto brands. The publication asked the general public for opinions on different carmakers and then used the results to determine which companies stand out from the pack when it comes to perception. 

    "The key word is 'perception.' Consumers are influenced by word of mouth, marketing and hands-on experience," said Jeff Bartlett, deputy automotive editor of Consumer Reports. "Often, perception can be a trailing indicator, reflecting years of good or bad performance in a category, and it can also be influenced by headlines in the media." 

    People could have their opinions affected by major recalls, controversies, much-hyped new models or other events. Similarly, if there were big breakthroughs in technology or safety, it could have had a positive impact on how a brand was perceived. Ultimately, the opinion will largely be based on past driving experiences. 

    What drivers want
    To complete the study, Consumer Reports focused on a few key areas that drivers deemed to be the most significant. At the top of the heap was quality, with 90 percent of respondents claiming it was in their top three most important factors. That narrowly edged out safety, which had 88 percent of the vote, and then performance, value and vehicle economy. Design and style, along with technology, were also key aspects, but didn't rank as highly as the others. 

    After all the votes were tallied, Consumer Reports found that Toyota took the No. 1 spot for most positive perception. It was considerably ahead of second-place Ford. Rounding out the top five were Honda, Chevrolet and Tesla. 

    While the results represent how people feel about cars in a wide variety of segments, it could extend to trucks and SUVs that are commonly used for off-roading. Ford has always been a favorite among adventurers, for example, which could be why its perception is so positive. On the other hand, Toyota has historically lagged behind its competitors with regard to truck sales, so some positive publicity could drum up interest in the vehicles. 

  • Start the off-road season right

    While we are already more than a month into 2014, the true off-road driving season has yet to begin. Although you may be eagerly anticipating its arrival, there is some value in waiting around for better weather: it leaves plenty of time plan and prepare for future adventures. 

    According to Off-Road.com, there are a few things that any driver can do to make sure they get to enjoy tons of off-road driving excursions in the coming months. Here are three of the simplest ideas to keep in mind as you lay out your schedule for the year: 

    Start planning now
    It may be early in the year, but it's never too soon to begin organizing your trips for the spring, summer or fall. There are a number of sites that require campgrounds to be booked in advance, so it is smart to make these plans ahead of time to ensure you have space to sleep during overnight trips. Even something as simple as blocking off certain weekends or holidays can be beneficial. If you know you want to get behind the wheel of your off-road vehicle on a certain date, you'll be able to plan the rest of your life - appointments, parties and the like - around that commitment. 

    Additionally, now may be the perfect time to figure out which off-roading events you want to attend. For example, some drivers might find that 2014 is the year to finally register for a Jeep Jamboree, while others could be eager to check out the competition at a mudding event. Regardless of what you choose, there's a good chance you'll be able to check out some of the latest accessories on the market, as well as gain inspiration for future auto alterations. These gatherings are also a great opportunity to expose yourself to far-off locations or different brands of driving that you may not have considered otherwise. 

    Try something new
    Everyone has a few trails or locations that are their absolute favorites, and it's only natural to want to return to those spots year after year. However, you would be remiss to ignore new destinations. Choosing an off-road event is a good way to expose yourself to unexplored places, but even getting insight from friends or fellow drivers can be a big help. Another option is to switch up the type of driving you'll be doing. For example, if you love mudding and normally devote most of your time to it, you may want to organize at least one outing in 2014 where you test your skills at dune bashing. 

    Finish truck modifications early
    Deciding where you want to go and what you want to do has another benefit - you'll know what changes should be made to a vehicle. If you choose to go rock crawling for the first time, for instance, you may want to invest in skid plates and body armor that will prevent harm from coming to your automobile. 

    Tinkering around in your garage now also gives you something to do during the long winter months - and opens up more time for pure driving once the weather warms up. You'll also have the added advantage of extra time to fiddle with and perfect your upgrades. Anyone making major changes, such as installing a lift kit, may need to adjust to a slightly different way of driving, and it's best to get that done before you head out on a long expedition in the wilderness. 

  • Jeep Altitude models bring style to the trails

    Most car fanatics are aware of special packages that can be purchased to ensure a new vehicle has everything needed to complete a stellar driving experience. Jeep is the latest brand to get on board with these options, and the automaker recently released information about its future packages - something that should have fans of Jeep salivating. 

    About the Altitude 
    Last year, Jeep gave drivers a voice by letting the masses choose the name for its newest trim package. Fans picked "Altitude," and as a reward, the automaker decided to launch a few customized models that fully take advantage of all that Altitude has to offer. 

    Altitude boasts a few features that should be especially appealing to drivers. The latest models were recently introduced at the Houston Auto Show, and these versions of the Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and Wrangler give motorists the option of investing in an off-road vehicle that has attitude and style as well as strong capabilities. 

    "The unique 'blacked-out' theme of the Jeep Altitude models resonated so well with consumers two years ago that it makes perfect sense to bring them back now, particularly since we have new versions of the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee," said Mike Manley, president and CEO of Jeep. "What began as a production-intent concept and naming contest generated significant buzz and evolved into a lineup of special-edition Jeep vehicles that appeal to many consumers - especially those wanting a very distinct, aggressive and edgy look." 

    Although most of the perks associated with the Altitude consist of qualities in the interior of the vehicle, there are a few advantages for off-roading as well. A variety of special features can improve off-road driving, but motorists will have to do some comparing to determine which of the models comes with the amenities that are primed for a specific type of adventures. 

    Going inside upcoming models 
    The new Altitude models will only be available in four colors: black, white, silver and granite. However, those neutral colors set off the many perks of the trim package. These upgraded models come with advanced engines, sleek fixtures and plenty of additional power that can certainly make a difference on the trails. 

    Drivers who invest in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude will be able to reap the benefits of features such as fog-lamp bezels, a rear-step pad, 20-inch aluminum wheels, a platinum chrome grille, wheel flares and more. That is all in addition to the 260 foot-pounds of torque and 290 horsepower. The interior is loaded with amenities like a power liftgate, heated black leather seats, an infotainment touchscreen and even a power sunroof that enables drivers to enjoy all kinds of off-roading weather. 

    The Jeep Cherokee Altitude is also worth a second look. Available with 4x4 capabilities, this SUV can tow up to 4,500 pounds. It has many of the attractive features that drivers have come to expect from the brand, but it pairs these style cues with traditional capabilities for a well-rounded machine. 

    Jeep modifications will be made easy with the Wrangler Altitude. Set off with a matte black grille, head-lamp rings, glossy bumper appliques, an optional soft top and 18-inch, seven-spoke wheels, this Wrangler is sleek enough to attract attention on the roads while also being rugged enough to handle the demands of off-road driving. Much like the standard Jeep Wrangler, the Altitude version is primed for exploring the wilderness, and as a bonus for drivers, even comes in a Hydro Blue hue in addition to the neutral tones. 

  • Can your off-road vehicle handle ice?

    As an off-road driver, you probably think you and your vehicle are ready for any kind of inclement weather. After all, when you've equipped your ride with truck modifications ranging from lift kits to specialty tires, those features can make a big difference when snow and ice are coating the ground. However, even those drivers with the most advanced winter amenities should be sure their vehicles are prepared to handle seasonal surprises. 

    "When unforeseen events occur, like severe weather or a major accident, your car could become your home for hours," said Rich White, the executive director of the Car Care Council. "By reviewing a quick checklist, you'll be better prepared to handle unpredictable winter weather conditions that can leave you stranded." 

    Check the lighting
    The days may be getting longer, but there's still months to go before sunshine fills the majority of your waking hours. To prepare for darkness, be sure to periodically inspect the headlights and taillights. Not only should they be working well, but they need to be aimed correctly, and adjusting them to improve your visibility is key. A good option is to invest in LED lights, which have a longer life span than traditional options, or lighting racks, which sit on top of the vehicle to light the way. 

    Don't put off maintenance
    If you're a big fan of off-road driving, there is a good chance you are keeping up with the right vehicle maintenance throughout the year. However, it can't hurt to add in a few extra examinations in the winter. 

    "It's never a good time to gamble with safety when it comes to your vehicle, so if you haven't had your vehicle checked recently, now is the time to be car care aware and get a thorough vehicle inspection including a brake inspection, battery check and tune up," White said. 

    Examine the HVAC system
    If you do find yourself stuck in heavy traffic or sidelined due to winter weather, you'll be thankful for a functional heater and defroster. These are essential to have throughout the cold-weather months regardless of whether you're off-roading or cruising on the pavement. Not only are they key for preventing portions of the vehicle from freezing, which impacts functionality, but they keep you comfortable and alert behind the wheel. 

  • See the latest creations at the annual Work Truck Show

    There are many reasons why pickup trucks have been at the top of the heap when it comes to U.S. sales, and chief among them is their use as a heavy-duty work vehicle. Whether these trucks are being used for farming, construction or any other type of intense tasks, they often prove their mettle with superior towing, high cargo limits and off-road driving capabilities. 

    Each driver may have their own purpose in mind when purchasing these vehicles, but many of these owners come together each year for The Work Truck Show. This year's event is being held March. 5-7 in Indianapolis, Ind., and several highly anticipated new products are going to be introduced to the masses during the gathering. 

    "The work truck industry is evolving rapidly, and we are seeing significant increase in new product and technology introductions this year," said Steve Carey, the executive director of the National Truck Equipment Association. "The abundance of new products reflects positively on the work truck industry as our exhibitors and attendees look to the future." 

    So what can you expect from this year's event? There are dozens of hot items spread out over 500,000 square feet of space, all of which is dedicated to showing off cool trucks and equipment. Everything from LED lights and stabilization systems to interior technologies and towing accessories will be on display for attendees to see, providing a glimpse as to the future of the industry. 

    Those drivers who want to continue to think outside the box when it comes to their future investments and truck modifications can take advantage of the events going on in conjunction with the standard show. The Green Truck Summit is taking place March 4-5, while more than 60 educational sessions will be ongoing from March 4-6. 

  • New study says pickup trucks are the most attractive rides

    There are many reasons why a driver may be eager to get behind the wheel of a pickup truck. From their incredible capabilities to the ability to go off-road driving, pickups are among the most popular choices for motorists in the U.S. However, there may be other reasons why these vehicles are a common choice among drivers, and it goes beyond what is happening under the hood. 

    Finding rides that attract others 
    A new study from Insure.com found that women tend to be more attracted to pickup trucks than any other type of car. Approximately 32 percent of respondents said that these trucks were the best option for men to drive, beating out sports cars and SUVs, which ended up in second and third, respectively. 

    The study didn't stop there. It also asked those women about the brands and colors that they found to be the most appealing. Ford ranked as the No. 1 choice among any type of automobile, garnering 16 percent of the vote. Chevrolet was second with 13 percent and Porsche was third with 11 percent. As for colors, basic black looks to be the way to go, as more than half of women said that was their top choice. Silver and red also got a fair number of votes. 

    On the flip side, the study found that men were most likely to be attracted to those who drove red BMW sports cars. 

    Why pickup trucks? 
    So what makes pickups stand out from the pack? For many experts, the answer may lie in the heavy-duty handling and intense capabilities offered by the automobiles. 

    "The findings strike me as accurate. Among the general public, a black pickup truck is a reflection of a masculine owner," said Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of Cars.com, to Insure.com. "A woman walks up to a black pickup truck and says to herself, 'Here's a guy who can help me move, bring me large gifts from Crate & Barrel and do repairs around my condo.'"

    While that may not be exactly what some of the respondents had in mind, no one can deny that pickup trucks tend to have an air of ruggedness that is hard to match. 

    Other factors
    Pickup trucks may be the best choice for those who want to catch the eye of that special someone, but there are a number of other characteristics that could impact how others view a car. For example, the study noted that having a clean automobile - regardless of its type - is extremely important. About half of all respondents said that the car being clean was the most important quality it could have. Reliable vehicles also received a strong response from both men and women, although not as many were concerned about how new the vehicle was or the price tag. 

    Color can also be a factor. According to the study, red cars tend to be popular among drivers who want attention. With more red cars sold in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world, it seems that many motorists want to be able to take their spin in the spotlight, making the hue one of the most attractive options on the market. 

    "Red has a visceral effect on the human body and psyche," Alexandra McGill, one of the lead color designers for BMW Group Designwork USA, told Insure.com. "Not only does red quickly catch the eye, it makes the pulse quicken, blood flow faster and increases adrenalin. Red is associated with athletics, energetic activities and fast speed." 

  • Off-road driving heads to outer space

    Have you ever wondered how space vessels handle off-road driving on other planets? It's probably not something that comes to the front of your mind very often, but it is actually an important aspect of off-roading. Although procedures on planets such as Mars are undoubtedly different than those on Earth, there are a number of similarities between how vehicles drive on both planets. 

    For scientists to create and prepare rovers and other machines for life on Mars, they had to first test them in similar conditions on Earth. This may seem like a tall order, but it was made easy when researchers found a similar environment to the one in space - in Utah. 

    Mimicking Mars
    The first thing experts had to do to was find a property that could act as Mars' rough surface during testing. They found the perfect stand-in at Utah's Mars Desert Research Station, located in Hanksville, which is just southeast of the state's center. 

    At the facility, scientists, engineers, volunteers and plenty of curious minds get the chance to see what it's like to drive on Mars, Space.com reported. Much the land surrounding the research station is filled with dust and rocks, so driving on the land is reminiscent of dune bashing. In some areas however, it can be more similar to mudding, especially during damp seasons when the ground becomes a sprawling segment of mud in all directions. 

    Teams who utilize the facility have preplanned "missions" they can take part in, getting as close to an outer space experience as they're likely to find.

    "The idea was a small crew on these kind of preplanned set of missions that would allow astronauts to get there and have a functioning habitat in place," MDRS Director Shannon Rupert told Space.com. "We approached it from the idea that it's there and ready to go, and they [the crew] just have to land." 

    While many real-life astronauts and NASA workers get to spend time at the center, it is also open to those who simply have a curiosity for what outer space may be like.

    About the Mars Rover
    Curiosity, the Mars Rover, is currently exploring the Red Planet, and it is doing so with the help of a number of features that allow the vessel to handle the difficult terrain. With the head rising 6.9 feet above the ground and an arm extending another 7 feet outward, in addition to an array of technological features that can accomplish a number of scientific feats, Curiosity is certain capable of completing tasks on Mars. However, the only way it could successfully reach its locations is with the right off-roading tools. 

    According to NASA, the rover has six wheels stemming off its legs, and its tires are able to get through the sand, dirt and rocks present on Mars. The rocker-bogie design enables the machine to keep all of its wheels on the ground at all times, no matter how rocky the terrain is, which is a huge advantage. Its technology has been optimized to have tilt limits, so the rover can smartly avoid any inclines that may cause it to tip over or harm one of its exterior features. 

    With four-wheel steering, the ability to swerve and curve, and the potential to go over obstacles or across holes, Curiosity is able to handle many types of terrain it encounters on Mars. Add in cleats installed on the wheels, which provide added grip for going through sand and across rocks, and the end result is a tremendous machine that draws from many standard off-road vehicles. 

  • Ford F-150 RaptorTrax is ready for snow

    Driving on snow can be tough enough when you're sticking to paved roads and highways. With poor visibility, slushy surfaces and plenty of hidden dangers, any type of driving taking place in the cold-weather months can be hazardous, but even those obstacles don't stop avid off-road drivers from heading out into the wilderness. Before they can truly have a fun experience behind the wheel of an off-road vehicle, however, these drivers have to make sure their rides are equipped to handle whatever comes their way. 

    A number of truck modifications may help accomplish this, but there are also a few concept trucks that could meet all of your winter off-roading needs. The latest to join the fray is the Ford F-150 RaptorTrax. Already billed as the "world's fastest snowcat," according to AutoBlog, this upgraded truck could be just what you need to handle off-road driving in any kind of conditions. 

    The inspiration
    This custom truck is the brainchild of Ken Block, an experienced driver who has honed his skills as part of Global RallyCross events and as a part of the Hoonigan Racing family. He wanted a vehicle that could satisfy his love of racing as well as his desire to spend time in the great outdoors, particularly to participate in a few winter sports. 

    "This project is something I've had in my head for awhile now," said Block. "I absolutely love my daily driver Ford Raptor, especially since I live out here in the mountains of Park City, so to build out this mountain assault vehicle with a Raptor as the base platform made sense to me." 

    Ready for snow
    To handle the snow, the base Ford F-150 was outfitted with several truck mods to adapt it to winter weather. It's powered by a 6.2-liter supercharged engine and features a full roll cage, rear-mounted winch and more. Extra exterior lighting was included to help the vehicle see through the wilderness, even in the short days of winter. 

    One of the biggest helps in the snow will be the tires. Instead of traditional off-road wheels, this Ford boasts four Mattracks, which are sure to come in handy when crossing through deep snow drifts or climbing up slippery mountains. That change obviously isn't an easy one to make for everyday drivers, but then again, not everyone will need to battle the excessive snow that Block expects in Utah. 

    Block had snowboarding on the brain when he gave input regarding some of the alterations. Snowboard racks were added, as well as a roof basket for additional storage. Interior compartments have been primed to hold snacks and drinks, while an exterior stereo system is perfectly capable of blasting tunes across a mountain. 

    The next step
    Fans of off-road driving who are curious about the Ford F-150 RaptorTrax will be able to get a glimpse of the design and capabilities in a video, which unfortunately isn't due out until after the start of next winter. However, the concept truck will be on hand at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., which are set to take place in the coming weeks. 

    Of course, Block will also need some time to test out the vehicle and make sure it meets the needs of sportsmen and women everywhere. 

    "It's an absolute beast of a machine, and I'm stoked with how it's turned out," Block said. "Next up is for me to take it deep into the backcountry ASAP to help me and some friends slay some powder on our snowboards for a video project due out later this year." 

  • Midsize trucks ready to square off

    Pickup trucks have been among the most popular vehicle types in the U.S. for years. However, for the most part, consumers have to choose from a range of full-size, heavy-duty automobiles. That is the perfect match for some, but the prospect of a smaller model pickup is often intriguing for a select group of drivers. These trucks can still be used for off-road driving or work-related tasks, but they also offer a number of benefits ranging from better fuel economy to different off-roading capabilities. 

    According to CBS Local News, the compact pickup truck market hit its peak in the mid-1980s, when as many as 1.4 million models were sold. That number dwindled to roughly 250,000 in recent years, as the majority of buyers gravitated toward full-size vehicles. Luckily for interested parties, that all could be changing soon. 

    More manufacturers taking notice
    A number of automakers have begun turning their attention to the midsize truck segment. While models such as the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier have been on the market for some time, other manufacturers are returning to the stage after a prolonged absence. General Motors came onto the scene with a bang, showcasing models like the 2015 GMC Canyon and 2015 Chevrolet Colorado. Both of those pickups hope to allow drivers to complete whatever tasks they have in mind, whether it's hauling or camping. 

    GMC Vice President Tony DiSalle hopes that the added details included by the brand, which increase the overall comfort and driving experience, will be enough to set the trucks apart. 

    "Things like refinement. Things like materials, comfort, roominess, fuel economy. All of those elements have basically been dissatisfiers for years amongst consumers in midsize pickups," DiSalle told CBS Local News. "We see that as a real opportunity." 

    Focusing on fuel economy
    While many factors influence what truck a driver will buy, regardless of its size or segment, fuel economy is one quality that will not be overlooked. This quality is one that has increased in importance in recent years, and today, the fuel economy of a vehicle is an aspect that can drastically sway a driver's opinion. 

    Automotive News reported that Ram and Ford may be ahead of the pack in this regard, as they frequently employ turbocharged technology, which can improve fuel economy. The rise of diesel engines has also increased the efficiency of trucks, making certain models more attractive than others. 

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