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  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • Michelin recalls more than 1 million tires

    Michelin has long been one of the most trusted names in tires, but a recent recall may have some drivers double-checking their wheels. The tire manufacturer enacted a safety recall Dec. 13, announcing that nearly 1.2 million tires in North America may be subject to the concerns. 

    According to Michelin, some tires have shown rapid tread or air loss. Although only a small percentage of the products are experiencing damage, the manufacturer is offering to replace the gear at no charge at retail locations around the U.S. 

    While mostly concentrated in the U.S., the recall does also extend to Mexico and Canada. The affected tires are primarily found on light trucks, full-sized vans and some large pickup trucks, according to Michelin. All were produced between January 2010 and June 2012, and drivers concerned about their tires should check the date range on each to determine if they need to be checked. 

    No injuries have been reported as a result of the faulty tires, which were sold as both the original tires on some vehicles and as replacements. 

    This recall may be just a bump in the road for some, but it does shine a light on a possibility that many drivers may want to consider: special off-road driving tires. Tire damage may arise for a number of reasons, including incorrect use, and that can be remedied by investing in a heavy-duty option that is primed for all kinds of conditions. The right tires can improve efficiency while also expanding off-roading capabilities.

    Drivers who want to make sure their vehicle is ready to handle whatever dune bashing or rock crawling is on the schedule should consider upgrading tires for improved safety and rugged abilities. Being open to new tires also allows owners to add alterations such as a lift kit, which further improves the function of an automobile. 

  • More drivers looking to all-wheel drive

    If there's one feature almost all fans of off-road driving can agree is worthwhile, it's four- or all-wheel drive. While these features are quite different, they both ultimately offer motorists greater control over their vehicles, allowing everyone to take advantage of improved safety and intense capabilities. 

    All-wheel drive, in particular, has risen in popularity in recent years. According to The Detroit News, almost one-third of all vehicles sold in the first nine months of 2013 had all-wheel drive. That is a 5 percent increase over the same time period five years ago, and doesn't include the significant number of drivers investing in vehicles with four-wheel drive instead. 

    "It brings this complete bundle of safety, driving performance and capability," Jeremy Acevedo, the supervisor of pricing and industry analysis for Edmunds.com. "It's a really big add for consumers." 

    Although off-roading enthusiasts will likely be sticking to their traditional four-wheel drive, knowing what is going on in the rest of the auto industry is important. Many SUVs and crossovers are beginning to offer this feature, including models like the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, and it could soon spread to other popular models. In fact, Jeep is planning to offer a crossover in the near future with this amenity, while all Land Rovers sold in the U.S. also include four- or all-wheel drive, the news source reported. 

    Of course, one key consideration for many will be how Jeep or truck mods will work with these capabilities. It's a well-known fact that installing a lift kit can make steering more difficult, but dealing with tire upgrades or other changes in addition may have an impact on the car's performance. However, with a few precautions and add-ons, drivers can make sure they are retaining the quality of their automobile while also making it a prime off-road vehicle. 

  • Jeep hybrids are on the horizon

    For years, drivers of all kinds have appreciated the power and capabilities that a Jeep can bring. The classic SUV has long been a favorite for everything from off-roading to family travel, thanks in large part to its excellent blend of safety, fuel economy and ability. While tradition has helped propel this vehicle to the forefront of the off-road driving industry, a few changes on the horizon may make the vehicle a bit more eco- and user-friendly. 

    Jeeps are getting more eco-friendly
    According to Drive, the introduction of a hybrid Jeep is inevitable - at least according to some of the brand's officials. Although Jeep has already added an EcoDiesel option, the inclusion of a hybrid is still in the distant future. 

    "We are absolutely looking at different things in that field, and we are very active behind the scenes in the development of these systems and how it fits into our profile," Steve Bartoli, one of Chrysler's planning managers, told the news source. 

    The move would do more than provide drivers with improved fuel economy and efficiency. It would also offer additional instant torque, which could come in handy in off-road locations. However, there is a long way to go before this is a reality, largely because Jeep is committed to its recreational use. The brand does not want to make any major changes without exploring all possible results and ensuring that the move will not hinder off-road driving. 

    Benefits of a hybrid
    Hybrids can offer a variety of advantages to drivers, chief among them improved fuel economy. Because they operate with both an electric motor and a gas-powered motor, drivers can use less gas at low speeds and reduce vehicle emissions. The inclusion of both types of engines also allows drivers to take advantage of the efficiency of a gas motor at higher speeds. 

    "These are very complex and expensive systems, not just for us to develop, but also for the consumers," Bartoli told Drive. "Not only that, but range is a very important issue, and we need to make sure how we can fit that into our systems, because you don't want to be stuck in a creek in an electric Jeep that is going nowhere. It is a big problem in that regard, so we need to understand it a bit more." 

  • GMC Canyon to debut at Detroit Auto Show

    When news about the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado first came out, many fans of pickup trucks were excited but hesitant. After all, General Motors hadn't created a midsize pickup for several years, and the market for the style of vehicle has dwindled significantly in the past decade. However, some early reviews seem to point to the fact that the Colorado will be a success, and GM hopes it can carry that momentum through to the new 2015 GMC Canyon as well. 

    A big unveiling
    Recently, GM revealed that the 2015 GMC Canyon will be debuting at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, which is taking place this upcoming January. This will be just one of the dozens of unveilings that are expected to take place during the auto show. While none of the other scheduled debuts will have much of an impact on the off-roading community, the Canyon should make a splash. 

    What to expect
    So what can drivers expect from the 2015 GMC Canyon? Unfortunately, not much is known about the truck, but some early sightings of the test models were reported earlier in the year. Those confirmed that the truck would be available with both regular and crew cab options, and its exterior design will largely consist of straight edges with rounded corners and a rounded roof, Automobile magazine reported. A teaser image released by the brand simply showed the front grille of the truck, and there is nothing especially noteworthy there. 

    The Canyon is also expected to be similar in style to the 2014 GMC Sierra in many respects. Qualities like excellent payload capacity and trailering are likely to be included, which will allow the truck to immediately compete with models like the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, according to Auto Evolution. 

    Off-roading capabilities
    Auto Evolution reported that the GMC Canyon will have several major differences from the 2015 Colorado. However, those contrasts may be particularly appealing to fans of off-roading, as the Canyon is poised to be more in the line with the needs of off-road driving. 

    "GMC will be more about conquest," GM president Mark Ruess said, as quoted by the news source. "The Chevy will be about value." 

    However, drivers who are interested in the GMC Canyon may have to be flexible, as it could take time for model-specific gear, such as lift kits, to hit the market. 

  • New Ford F-150 debuts at Detroit Auto Show

    With the Detroit Auto Show in full swing, many automakers are unveiling their latest designs in an effort to drum up interest for future models. Many of these creations are soaking up the spotlight thanks to their new features and revamped styles, and there are a few that should definitely be given a second look by drivers. 

    The Ford F-Series has been the most popular vehicle in the U.S. for years, and the upcoming 2015 F-150 is poised to shake up the segment. After being revealed to the world at the Detroit Auto Show, this full-size pickup is poised to make quite the splash. 

    The debut
    The automaker unveiled the latest model near its Michigan headquarters, but many of the specifics about the creation were kept under wraps. Instead of pushing out statistics about towing capacity or similar factors, Ford chose to emphasize a few of the new features, as well as its upgraded EcoBoost engine. 

    All of the amenities came together to result in a vehicle that is certainly capable of off-roading​.

    "F-150 is well-known for being Built Ford Tough," said Mark Fields, the COO of Ford. "The all-new F-140 redefines the future of trucks, and it is yet another example of our One Ford plan producing vehicles that serve customers with a commitment to the very best quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value." 

    New additions
    To better accommodate the needs of its drivers, Ford set out to include a slew of special features that upgrade the overall driving experience. The latest amenities created by the brand span a variety of areas of the truck and its usage.

    Drivers can benefit from technological accessories, such as 360-degree cameras, 400-watt power outlets on the interior and sideview mirror spotlights, as well as more practical aspects such as LED headlights, remote tailgate release and integrated loading ramps for the bed of the truck. There is also a smart trailer tow module and a trailer hitch assist feature, which should make it easier to tow. 

    These truck mods are just the tip of the iceberg, and there is still plenty of room to make your own alterations. Ford knows that many fans of the brand want to go off-roading or use the truck in heavy-duty situations, and it had a goal of making sure the new F-150 could work in those scenarios better than ever before - while also offering plenty of advantages for on-road driving. 

    "We have a unique connection with our customers," said Ford executive Joe Hinrichs. "Time and again, F-150 has delivered the tougher, smarter features they want along with the capabilities they need for work or play. We build our trucks to their high standards." 

    Tougher for off-roading 
    This new F-150 was created with some off-road driving capabilities in mind. At the heart of that effort is the high-strength aluminum frame. Although the major benefit of the aluminum is that it dramatically cuts down on weight, it also should be more resistant to dents in the event of collisions. 

    "More than ever before, customers want a truck that is a dependable partner, mobile office and a go-anywhere workshop," said Raj Nair, vice president of global product development for Ford. "To meet the needs of our truck customers, we created smart new features and a whole new approach to using advanced materials and engines to improve capability and efficiency." 

    A combination of the new frame, a more powerful engine and plenty of other special features has resulted in a worthy model that is sure to command praise and attention when it becomes available to the public. 

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

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