Rough Country News

  • Ram hints at future models

    The Ram 1500 has been among the top pickup trucks throughout the past several years. Its most recent accolade was for the 2014 Motor Trend Truck of the Year, which was won thanks to the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel's excellent features.

    While many of these award-winning qualities will likely be present on future models, not much else is known about what the next generation of Ram trucks may look like. That is, until now, as a new commercial may be providing some insight as to the direction of this coveted off-road vehicle. The preview was shown in a recent television commercial that was made to honor the truck's Motor Trend victory. 

    According to Automotive News, the 30-second commercial showed a pickup truck in a Ram testing lab. There is then a shot of the Ram logo centered on the grille of a pickup - but it's not a design we have seen in the past. This new style is a bit more streamlined than the current design, and it was attached to a model that had a few other differences from the existing automobiles as well. The mystery vehicle boasts a prominent bump on its front hood, a more slanted windscreen and a cab with a pinched greenhouse, the news source reported. 

    A Ram spokesman denied that this truck is indeed the next generation of the 1500 pickup truck, but did reveal the commercial was "intended to show what's behind designing, engineering and building great trucks," according to Automotive News. So although it is not the exact model fans of truck mods can expect in the near future, it could have some features that will soon be spotted on the roads. 

  • Toyota trucks gaining in popularity

    Much has been made of the big-name pickup trucks like the Ford F-Series and the Ram 1500. Both of these options are among the best-selling vehicles in the U.S., and they also regularly earn major accolades from some of the most trusted names in the auto industry. However, they are certainly not the only options for off-roading enthusiasts. 

    Automotive News recently reported that Toyota was seeing outstanding success with both its Tundra and Tacoma pickup trucks. Although the manufacturer's trucks struggled from 2009 to 2011, when many larger vehicles were being overlooked for more fuel efficient models, sales have since rebounded. While it is not close to the pre-recession numbers in 2007 and 2008, there have been solid increases, and interest is only growing. 

    In fact, many Toyota dealers across the nation have been reaching out to the automaker to stock up on more Tacomas and Tundras. 

    "Dealers are telling us they could sell more Tacomas and Tundras," Bill Fay, the general manager of Toyota Division, told Automotive News. "We are evaluating our footprint and capacity." 

    To accommodate for this uptick, Toyota is considering an expansion of its operations in San Antonio. That plant, combined with another in Mexico, creates most of the pickups for North America. If the interest continues to grow and dealers demand more trucks, these facilities would have to add to their output by a considerable amount. 

    Despite the recent and predicted success of these Toyota vehicles, Fay said the automaker was not looking too far ahead of themselves. Officials within the organization remember the shift that occurred from 2008 to 2009, when the sale of pickup trucks was halved, and they want to remain prepared in the event of a surprise. 

  • Chevy Colorado preps for the beach

    The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado was only recently revealed, but that hasn't stopped the automaker from producing some interesting concept designs with the vehicle. While many of these special editions are catered to off-road driving, this latest creation from Chevy shows off a few other uses that are better catered to various recreational activities. 

    One of the unique designs, which was also revealed at the L.A. Auto Show, is dubbed the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Lifeguard. Like the name implies, this pickup truck is ready to patrol the beaches along the Pacific Ocean - or any other sandy course you may encounter. The off-road vehicle is primed for driving on sand, and it is fast enough to satisfy the needs of any lifeguard or rescue worker. 

    "Designed with adventure in mind, the Colorado is easily equipped for the mountains or the beach," the manufacturer said in a statement. "Inspired by the West Coast, this show truck demonstrates one of the many ways the new Colorado can be accessorized." 

    It also has a variety of extra features that are capable of storing all of the gear lifeguards need to do their duty. Extra racks have been installed in the bed to hold equipment, and a bright yellow exterior, emblazoned with the words "Lifeguard Beach Patrol," ensures that the truck will draw attention when it's on the beach. 

    While the Lifeguard version was showcased with an extended cab, a crew cab option will also be available. 

    The midsize pickup is scheduled to go on sale in 2014, so off-roading enthusiasts won't have to wait too long to start making truck mods. While the civilian version of the Colorado will likely come in more subdued colors, there is also an all-black edition that has side steps, a bike rack, and a few other enhancements. 

  • Land Rover introduces unique Range Rover Autobiography Black

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

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

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

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

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

  • Exposure is one obstacle blocking diesel engines

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

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

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

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

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

  • Ram 1500 named the 2014 Truck of the Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Off-road championship speeds into Sturgis

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

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

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

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

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

  • Tailgate thefts becoming more common

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • How to winterize an off-road vehicle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Pickups are popular across the US

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

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

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

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

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

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