Rough Country News

  • All-new Jeep Cherokee makes waves on the market

    When the 2014 Jeep Cherokee was first introduced to the public, many fans of the brand were left wondering if the vehicle could possibly live up to the expectations set by its predecessors. Now, after a few months on the market, the automobile is proving that it certainly can. Everything from expert reviews to sales figures show that the new Cherokee is a force to be reckoned with, and it is definitely an SUV that is making waves in the world of off-roading. 

    Expert reviews
    Reviews from experts around the auto industry all point to the 2014 Jeep Cherokee being a rousing success. The Detroit Free Press claimed that the vehicle quickly ascended to the top of the ranks of off-road vehicles, largely thanks to its ability to get through everything from mudding courses to steep slopes.

    According to the news source, the Cherokee has capabilities that set it apart from similar SUVs. That could be a major boon for the brand, as few vehicles from any automaker offer a combination of fuel efficiency and everyday driving abilities with off-road power. However, the Jeep Cherokee is definitely one that can compete with peers like the Chevrolet Equinox and Toyota RAV4 - and it is proving that in the sales charts as well as on the trails. 

    Current sales
    All of the excellent reviews for the Jeep seem to be having quite an impact, as the sales figures for the 2014 Jeep Cherokees are already quite impressive. According to Reuters, sales of the new vehicle reached 45,415 vehicles in the month of November, which was significantly higher than what was predicted before the month. Chrysler, Jeep's parent company, stated that the 2013 month was the best November since 2007, before the recession hit. In fact, the great numbers posted by the model helped propel Jeep brand sales to a 30 percent growth from month to month, the news source reported. 

    A large part of the Jeep's success has to do with its impressive new design. Although it is a bit different than Jeeps of the past, the new look was something that intrigued many drivers. To top it off, there is still plenty of room to make Jeep modifications, which ensures that even the most extreme drivers are not left out of the loop. 

    "Jeep took a chance by stepping outside of its comfort zone with the aggressive design of the new Cherokee, and so far, the SUV appears to be strongly resonating with buyers," said Brian Duval, general manager of one Jeep dealership. "Not only do Cherokee owners get Jeep's most modern design yet, but they also receive excellent fuel economy without the losing the brand's signature capability." 

    Room to grow
    Although much of the look of the Jeep has changed, the goal of the vehicles has not: Jeep continues to offer some of the best off-roading automobiles on the market. Multiple reviews of the new SUV have mentioned the Cherokee's ability to conquer all kinds of off-road driving, including rock crawling, which makes the car particularly attractive to drivers.

    Added to that is the fact that the 2014 Jeep Cherokee can be had for a relatively low price. The Automobile Journalist Association of Canada named the vehicle as the Best New SUV Under $35,000. That manageable sticker price leaves plenty of room for investments in a Jeep lift kit or making changes to the Jeep suspension - both of which are popular alterations that many drivers want to take care of before they take a vehicle out into the environment.

  • Congress considers implementing a federal gas tax increase

    One of the only disadvantages of owning a pickup truck or Jeep is that, on average, these vehicles don't have fuel efficiency that is as good as smaller automobiles. While the numerous benefits typically outweigh that hiccup in the mind's of owners, and large vehicles are seeing efficiency improve, it can still be aggravating to have to make frequent trips to the gas station. Unfortunately, those visits may soon have to become more costly, as there could be an increase in the average fuel price beginning in 2014. 

    According to The Washington Post, Congress is planning on handling a drop in transportation funding by raising the federal gas tax. A bill was introduced in the House of Representatives Dec. 4, and it aimed to raise the tax by 15 cents per gallon. That price hike would help make up for the budget cuts, but it may leave come drivers reconsidering their road trips or off-roading adventures. 

    The increase would bring the total amount of federal tax up to 33.4 cents per gallon on gas and 42.8 cents per gallon for diesel fuel, the news source reported. Officials believe the jump is necessary, as the improving rates of efficiency mean drivers are making fewer stops at a gas station. That has left a hole in the budget that could be used to improve roads and similar infrastructure. 

    "Congress hasn't dealt seriously with the funding issue for 20 years," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) told The Washington Post. "With inflation and increased fuel efficiency, especially for some types of vehicles, there is no longer a good relationship between what road users pay and how much they benefit. The average motorist is paying about half as much per mile as they did in 1993." 

    It remains to be seen if the tax hike will be approved, but the idea is something drivers will want to keep an eye on regardless. 

  • Pickups do big business in the fall

    In the past several months, the auto industry has welcomed several high-profile pickup trucks to the scene. From brand new models to completely redesigned editions, these rugged vehicles are giving drivers plenty of choices to consider as they shop around for a new ride. Fans of off-roading who are looking for a potential off-road vehicle may want to take a serious look at some of the most popular additions to the marketplace. 

    November sales
    Detroit News reported that vehicle sales in November reached approximately 1.2 million. That success could mean record sales for the entire year, as the total number of new cars sold is expected to exceed 15.5 million units - about 1 million more than 2012. 

    The month of November saw impressive sales figures for all vehicles, but especially with regard to pickup trucks. While the entire year has boasted mostly positive numbers for automakers, pickup trucks continue to be one of the most sought-after vehicle types in the U.S. 

    "Certainly sales have come in far beyond our expectations," said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, as quoted by Detroit News. "... The level of sales volume in that last weekend was just very, very strong." 

    Some brands stand apart
    Although the entire segment of pickup trucks experienced success, a few brands have more reasons to celebrate than others. Ford was at the front of the pack, selling more than 65,000 models of the F-Series. That is about 16 percent more than in November 2012, and the yearly sales are also posting big increases. Ford has sold approximately 688,000 versions of the F-Series so far in 2013, which is far and away the most of any automaker, PickupTrucks.com reported. 

    "November was fairly typical, producing a strong sales lift toward the end of the month around the Thanksgiving holiday weekend," Erich Merkle, an analyst for Ford, told Detroit News. "It should be noted the month continued to show a market that is experiencing a good deal of resilience, particularly as we compare to October." 

    In a distant second place was the Chevrolet Silverado. November sales for this vehicle jumped more than 12 percent to approximately 34,000 vehicles in the month compared to last year, and it has moved about 437,000 pickups in 2013. Shortly behind that was Ram Truck. Although the brand had a more than 20 percent increase in monthly sales from 2012, it still ended up in third place with 322,268 trucks sold in the year. 

  • The best habits for savvy off-road drivers

    Being a good off-road driver is about more than successfully navigating a vehicle in and out of tough spots. The best and most respected drivers practice a variety of positive habits that set a good example for everyone in the wilderness and help to improve the experience for all. 

    Here are four simple ways you can practice good off-roading habits. Although these are just a few of the many potential methods, they are among the easiest, and drivers of any experience level can take advantage of these tips: 

    Be punctual and prepared
    Whether you're participating in formal races or just heading out into the wilderness for recreational purposes, you should take steps to be prepared. Complying with local or state laws and respecting the environment are incredibly important. Not only could you face steep fines - or worse - by failing to follow these rules, but you also may put yourself or others at risk. Be respectful of your surroundings and don't leave any evidence of your visit beyond some tire tracks. 

    If you are attending a formal event, make sure to be punctual. The same can be said of visiting public parks or off-roading facilities. You may have to fill out permit forms, pay entry fees or comply with other time limits, so it's probably worthwhile to do some research ahead of time. Even just a few minutes of effort can allow you to select the right time to show up for off-roading and inform you as to all of the information and gear you'll need. 

    Help others
    There will undoubtedly come a time when you find yourself - and your vehicle - stuck in a precarious situation. When that moment arises, you'll probably need some assistance, and it's always a good idea to offer to help fellow drivers when you encounter them in similar scenarios. 

    An easy way to be able to help others is to have a tool kit and emergency gear stored somewhere in your vehicle. Recovery straps and jumper cables are good basics to have, and the rest of your chosen equipment will likely depend on the type of off-road driving you are doing. Some factors will also depend on the geography of the region and the time of year. For example, in the winter, it is a good idea to have some type of sand or gravel in the winter, as it can improve traction. 

    Put safety first
    No matter what situation you are in, safety should come first. While most drivers know they should be driving the speed limit and obeying the general rules of the road, anyone participating in off-roading needs to make sure all truck or Jeep modifications are safely installed. This usually requires testing out new additions to a vehicle before you get out in the wilderness to ensure everything is functioning properly. 

    Always keep tinkering
    You may have successfully modified your truck or Jeep to create the off-road vehicle of your dreams, but that doesn't mean you're done. Lift kits and other vehicle enhancements are constantly evolving, so that means your automobile should be as well. You also have to be dedicated to providing consistent maintenance for a vehicle. After a round of intense off-road driving, some of your alterations or equipment may have been damaged, so it is important to check all of your gear before and after an experience. As technology advances and tools get safer, you may also want to consider making some new investments so you are always at the forefront.  

  • Chevy Silverado helps GM sweep end-of-year awards

    After years of being in the shadows of the best-selling Ford F-Series and critically acclaimed Ram Truck lineup, Chevrolet pickups are finally taking their turn in the spotlight. The 2014 Chevrolet Silverado is the latest creation to take home some major accolades, building on the momentum it gained after being named the Pickup Truck of the Year by Four Wheeler magazine. 

    General Motors performs well
    When the winners were announced, it was immediately apparent that General Motors came out on top. The automaker swept the awards for North American Car and Truck of the Year, which were announced in the early hours of Jan. 13 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. 

    GM took home the top prize for 2014 North American Car of the Year, which went to the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, as well as Truck of the Year, which was the Chevrolet Silverado. Experts rated these two vehicles as the best among their peers after testing with regards to innovation, comfort, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and overall financial value. 

    A panel of 49 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada selected the winners. This is the 21st year the recognition has been given out, but just the second time the Chevy Silverado has earned the prize. The truck previously won in 2007. 

    The Silverado came in first place by a significant margin over the second-place Jeep Cherokee. Judges voted the Acura MDX 97 into third place. 

    Considering the Chevy Silverado
    One of the benefits of the 2014 Chevy Silverado is that it can be used in a variety of situations. Whether drivers want to go off-roading, complete intense construction work or simply get from place to place on the roads, the Silverado is more than ready to handle the load. Add in its ability to be adapted into any scenario with truck mods and you have a hardcore pickup that - perhaps most importantly - won't break the bank. 

    GM hopes that the recent success of the Silverado, along with other vehicles, will cause some drivers to give the models a longer look. 

    "I hope that people look and if they haven't considered General Motors or Chevrolet, they'll get into the showroom, because I'm confident if they get into the showrooms they'll see a lot of vehicles they like," incoming GM chief executive Mary Barra told The Philadelphia Inquirer. 

  • Ram 1500 Mossy Oak Edition brings some flair to the trails

    The upcoming Detroit Auto Show promises to be an exciting one, thanks in large part to a lineup of huge reveals that will draw attention from drivers and news sources alike. While the debut of some much-hyped new trucks will likely dominate the headlines, fans of off-roading shouldn't overlook the introduction of a few special edition pickups.

    One unveiling that is already garnering attention is that of the 2014 Ram 1500 Mossy Oak Edition. Building off of the award-winning structure of the standard Ram 1500, this limited edition truck looks to provide those motorists who love the outdoors with a vehicle that can meet all of their needs and more. 

    Partnering with Mossy Oak
    This exciting new model came about as a result of the partnership Ram has with Mossy Oak, a lifestyle brand that places an emphasis on enjoying the great outdoors. Fans of Mossy Oak are usually fans of certain recreational activities as well. The company creates camouflage apparel and gear for hunting, fishing and similar pastimes, and many of the individuals use pickup trucks to fully enjoy these hobbies. 

    "The Ram Truck brand has been a great partner to Mossy Oak," said Ronnie Strickland, the executive vice president of Mossy Oak. "The people there love trucks, but they're also into hunting and fishing and understand that their customers are, too. To have Ram take that relationship to the next level by offering a special Mossy Oak Edition speaks volumes about their commitment to hunters and outdoorsmen and women, and we are extremely proud to partner with them." 

    There have been similar editions in years past, but after a brief hiatus, the Ram Mossy Oak has returned. 

    About the model
    Off-road driving is made easy with the many features of the 2014 Ram 1500 Mossy Oak. The partnership is on full display across the bedcaps and tailgate of the truck, as they are covered in a Mossy Oak camouflage pattern. Its logo is also included on the rear quarter panels. 

    Drivers will also appreciate the sleek appearance and design of the interior. Camouflage covers the instrument panel, as well as the door panel inserts. That complements the leather seats, which can be customized with a natural color scheme. Similarly, the exterior color of the truck can be carefully selected, with buyers having an option of choosing from black, black gold pearl and prairie pearl. 

    This model will come with the RamBox cargo management system, which makes storing equipment and gear easy. Drivers can choose from beds measuring in at 6 foot 4 inches or 5 foot 7 inches in length, providing ample space for hunting, fishing or camping gear, as well as tool kits or emergency equipment needed for an off-road vehicle. 

    Dedicated to evolution
    Producing unique, special edition vehicles is nothing new, but this Mossy Oak version underscores how in tune Ram is with its customers. 

    "Ram Truck is focused on the needs and wants of truck buyers," said Reid Bigland, president and CEO of the brand. "Our Ram Truck owners are passionate about hunting and fishing. The Ram Mossy Oak Edition gives hunting enthusiasts a way to proudly proclaim their love for the outdoors."

    When you have a brand that wins big-name awards and sells so many models, it can be tough to find ways to improve. However, Ram has managed to do just that by looking to customized trucks like the 2014 Mossy Oak Edition. Fans of both of these brands, as well as recreational savants who love the great outdoors, are all likely to be thrilled by the steps made with this model. 

  • Understanding how an off-road vehicle stays valuable

    No matter what kind of car you drive - or where you drive it - you want to be able to get the most out of the vehicle. This may refer to its capabilities or its value, but either way, motorists will have to be on the lookout for ways to keep the value high. 

    Depreciation dips in November
    Many drivers take note of rates of depreciation, as they can have an impact on the worth of their own vehicles as well as the price of used cars. One resource that can help track this statistic is the NADA Used Car Guide, which provides insight into the automotive industry.

    A recent report from this publication focused on the average rate of depreciation, and found that it skewed to drivers' favor in November. Throughout the month, the average rate of used vehicle depreciation slowed to 1.5 percent, down from 3.5 percent in October. That is good news for drivers who want to make sure their vehicle retains value, and if the economy holds steady, this rate may as well. 

    "November's decline in the rate of depreciation can be credit to favorable market conditions, lower unemployment, moderating gas prices and advantageous credit conditions, including the end of the federal government shutdown in October" said Jonathan Banks, an automotive analyst with the NADA Used Car Guide. 

    Finding the best value
    There's no surefire way of determining which vehicles are going to maintain high value for an extended period of time. While qualities like fuel economy and safety features will certainly tip the scales in one way or the other, other elements or important factors are not as easy to predict. Ultimately, searching for a vehicle with a solid reputation and reliable qualities, and keeping up with regular maintenance throughout ownership, is the most effective way of making sure it retains value. 

    Even the truck modifications you make affect depreciation. For example, if you customize an automobile with updates like new shocks or armor, you could be increasing its value. Not only are these alternations relatively common for off-road drivers, making them desirable, but they also work to protect the vehicle and improve the driving experience. Both of these aspects are extremely important, and they may cause some drivers to think twice about their plans. 

    Trucks and SUVs that stand out
    Kelley Blue Book recently analyzed some of the most popular trucks and SUVs on the market to see which vehicles retained the most value. The Jeep Wrangler was ranked as the best crossover or compact SUV, as it kept about 58 percent of its initial value five years after purchasing. Similar options like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 are also solid choices, but they don't offer the same off-roading tradition as the Wrangler. 

    When it came to midsize and large SUVs, Toyota took the crown. The Toyota FJ Cruiser and Toyota Sequoia were rated as the top models in these segments, respectively. According to KBB, the Sequoia retained just under half of its original value after five years, while the FJ Cruiser kept an impressive 70 percent of its value. 

    The brand didn't stop there. Both the Toyota Tacoma and the Toyota Tundra earned praise among pickup trucks. These editions retained approximately 62 percent and 52 percent of their original value, respectively. Of course, it should be noted that the Tacoma's only competition was the Nissan Frontier, as many manufacturers have bowed out from the midsize pickup truck segment in recent years. The Tundra, on the other hand, competed against many top-selling trucks and still managed to hold onto the No. 1 spot, even ranking sixth overall among all vehicle values in 2014. 

  • How to keep up with vehicle maintenance this winter

    Frequent off-roading in the spring, summer and fall likely results in you spending lots of time in the garage, taking care of any damage done to your vehicle and working to prevent any breakdowns from happening in the future. Despite the fact that you'll probably be doing less recreational driving in the winter, this is the ideal season to make some changes and upgrades to your vehicle. 

    Here are three things you should keep in mind as you consider what to do with your off-road vehicle this winter: 

    Upgrade headlights
    The colder months are a prime time to make truck mods regarding the automobile's lighting. After all, with inclement weather on the forecast and the hours of daylight shrinking, increasing visibility becomes incredibly important. That is where details like LED light bars or round halogen lights can come into play. By increasing the wattage of your automobile's lights, you can more accurately see what lies in front of you, which makes driving safer for you and others on the road. 

    Clean and wax the surface
    If you're searching for some way to keep busy during the winter, take the time to clean and wax your vehicle. The main reason this is a good idea is because it can have several benefits for the winter. A solid waxing coat can deflect snow and ice, making it easier for you to clear off a vehicle. It also adds a layer of protection from road salt, which can be incredibly harmful to the exterior of a car if left untouched. 

    Similarly, cleaning your windows can make life easier for you in the long run. When you wash the glass sections of your car, use a water repellent. This can prevent water - whether in rain or snow form - from sticking to the surface and freezing over. You'll thank yourself when you don't have to waste precious time scraping ice off a vehicle. 

    Last-minute enhancements
    Your winter modifications may consist of alterations that will be immediately helpful. For example, off-road or winter tires may make a big difference on the snow and ice that coats many roads. With improved grip, you'll be able to take advantage of safer practices while also making your vehicle better suited for the off-road driving you'll be doing throughout the season. Other possibilities include armor, which can act as a shield from road obstacles that are hidden by snow. 

    Keep safety a priority
    No matter what types of truck modifications you make this winter, remember to prioritize safety above all else. When working in a garage, be sure the ventilation system is working properly. If you are exposing yourself to fumes or have to run the car periodically, you could be putting your health at risk. Always open a window or the garage door when completing these tasks - no matter what the weather outside is - to ensure you are getting your fill of fresh air. 

    The safe practices should continue long after an enhancement has been made or installed. Any change should be tested in a safe area before being used on the busy, snowy roads or in the wilderness. For example, if you use the season to make changes to a truck suspension, test it out in a quiet area before heading out to more populated spaces. Breaking down in a secluded area or when surrounded by wintry conditions is the worst-case scenario, so taking steps to make sure your modifications are working properly is incredibly important. 

  • Deal struck to save off-road sites in California

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Examining 2 new Ford F-150 editions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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