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  • Modern SUVs ready for off-roading adventures

    Sport utility vehicles were originally designed for off-roading, but over the years many models have transformed to be best suited for daily driving. However, there are still a number of SUVs that can handle dune bashing, mud bogging and other off-road adventures. You may need to install a few truck mods to these SUVs to make sure they can handle everything you throw at them, but it's a small price to pay to protect the vehicles when you veer off the beaten path.

    Jeep Wrangler
    The Wrangler is perhaps the No. 1 SUV that comes to people's minds when they think about off-road driving. The core of this machine is rugged, with standard four-wheel drive on all trim levels, and heavy duty parts like front and rear axles that are designed to take a beating in the wilderness thanks to a unique axle ratio. According to AutoTrader.com, the Wrangler is also a favorite among off-road enthusiasts because of the sheer multitude of Jeep modifications that can be made to the vehicle, so drivers can fine-tune their rides to their exact liking.

    Jeep Grand Cherokee
    Unlike the Wrangler, the Grand Cherokee has become moreand more civilized over the years, with numerous features that provide luxury and creature comforts rather than focusing on off-roading truck mods. However, it hasn't lost its edge entirely, even if it has gotten a bit soft, which is why U.S News and World Report ranked it No. 1. While they don't come standard on every model, the available off-roading features, like the Quadra-Trac II AWD that makes it easy to traverse any terrain, give Jeep lovers plenty of reasons to consider the Grand Cherokee.

    Toyota FJ Cruiser
    Tying with the Toyota Land Cruiser and Land Rover Range Rover Sport for fourth place on U.S. News' ranking, the FJ Cruiser is a great choice for drivers who want to pick up an SUV made for the wilderness without breaking the bank. The FJ, which has a starting MSRP of about $27,000, was made for the wild. Consumer Reports indicates that even though it leaves plenty to be desired on the road, the FJ Cruiser shines as soon as it leaves the pavement. It can traverse waters up to 28 inches deep, and its undercarriage is built to protect the SUV from damage caused by boulders, tree roots and anything else that lies in its path.

    Land Rover Range Rover
    Most people think of the Range Rover as a luxury SUV, but they are forgetting that this behemoth is built to get dirty. Second only to the Grand Cherokee, according to U.S. News, the Range Rover packs a punch. Its brethren, the Range Rover Evoque and Sport models, came in third and fourth, respectively, highlighting just how versatile the luxury SUVs can be. Largely due to the sophisticated technology, the Range Rover is more than ready to splash through the mud. The only problem is that after spending upwards of $80,000, drivers might be less than thrilled by the prospect of potentially damaging the ride.

    Plenty of other SUVs are capable of holding their own in the wild as well. The Land Rover LR4, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Toyota 4Runner and other models have plenty of available options to turn them into off-roading champions. Plus, there are countless aftermarket truck mods that you can install on virtually any SUV to enhance the off-roading experience no matter what you're driving. Many truck modifications, like adding a Toyota lift kit or modifying a Jeep suspension, can take your ride to a whole new level the next time you head to your favorite off-road spots.

  • Chevy strives to match Ford's pickups

    When it comes to the auto industry, there's nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. That is especially true in the case of pickup trucks, as this segment has been dominated in the past several years by the F-series from Ford. However, things have started to change. Slowly but surely, other manufacturers are creating vehicles that can compete with Ford, and the reigning king of pickups may have some challengers for the top spot in the near future. 

    Ford still leads the way
    For now, Ford is still No. 1 in the world of pickup trucks. The F-series sold more than 60,000 vehicles in July alone, which is a growth of 22.6 percent compared to July 2012. Much of this growth comes from the re-energized construction industry, which needs trucks to carry out heavy-duty work, as well as fans of off-roading who want a top vehicle that they can make truck mods to. 

    The outlook from Chevy
    Although Ford remains the top seller, its lead is shrinking. Not only has Chevrolet introduced vehicles like the Ram 1500, which many rated as the best pickup of the past model year, but the brand is also seeing its total sales increase. In the month of July, Chevy moved more than 42,000 pickups in the U.S. alone. This is lower than Ford's total, but it is also an increase of 45.2 percent compared to last year - which is a significantly larger increase than its rival. 

    "Clearly there's a lot of customers coming in right now being driven in by our great new pickup trucks, so I think we're probably just getting a lot more traffic than our competitors in the last month or so," Don Johnson, vice president of U.S. sales and service, told Bloomberg Businessweek

    Could Toyota be next? 
    While Chevrolet has made major strides to put itself on the same level as Ford, other automakers have begun turning their attention to the world of heavy-duty pickup trucks. One such brand is Toyota, which is currently revamping its trucks to compete with the American-made options. 

    Toyota recently introduced the redesigned Tundra to challenge Ford and Chevrolet. The 2014 version of the truck boasts several special features that help to make the vehicle a more serious threat to the top sellers, including a towing capacity that surpasses 10,000 pounds, improved fuel efficiency and a more powerful engine, Investor Place reports. 

  • Ford turns to eco-friendly practices for its truck production

    When you think of pickup trucks, sustainability doesn't usually come to the forefront of your mind. That may be all about to change, however, as Ford is incorporating some eco-friendly materials into its upcoming lineup of F-Series pickup trucks. 

    Ford's new processes
    Ford recently announced that it would adopt a new practice as part of the production of its F-Series pickup trucks. Instead of the talc material once used in the electrical harnesses of its trucks, the automaker will be employing rice hulls to do the job. These hulls, which are a byproduct of rice grain, will be used to reinforce plastic used throughout the trucks. 

    At least 45,000 pounds of rice hulls will be used in the first year of production alone. All of the natural products will be sourced from farms in Arkansas and are part of a process created by RheTech, an automotive supplier. The end goal was to create a product that would be safer for the environment without sacrificing the toughness and rugged qualities that Ford drivers have come to expect. 

    "We developed this resin specifically for Ford over the last three years, working with the automaker closely, including in all phases of material qualification," said David Preston, director of business development for RheTech. "The whole process has been a rewarding success for both Ford and RheTech, which can add yet another natural-fiber based product to our RheVision line."

    In addition to the rice hulls, Ford will be using recycled cotton, soybeans, recycled tires and recycled plastic bottles for other sections of the trucks. In fact, Ford claims that just one 2014 F-150 truck will have the equivalent of 10 pairs of jeans or 31 T-shirts integrated into its body. These products will be used in seat cushions, carpets and plastic liners throughout the truck, and none of the changes will impact the way in which drivers make truck modifications down the line. 

    Making a difference
    Most of the efforts surrounding eco-friendly vehicles go toward improving fuel economy. While that is certainly a focus for Ford, these new manufacturing processes will allow the automaker to start making a difference before the trucks even leave the production facility.

    As the most popular truck in the U.S., the F-Series sells more than 600,000 models each year - leaving a lot of room for environmentally sound practices to make a positive impact. If this round of green processes is successful, Ford will likely expand the use of rice hulls and other products for future trucks. 

    "The 2014 F-Series exemplifies our continued efforts to use recycled content in our vehicles," said John Viera, Ford's global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters. "We can have a greater impact in this case because of the size and sales volume of this product."

    Don't let up when off-roading
    These positive sustainable practices center around upcoming Ford F-Series trucks, but even drivers who frequently get behind the wheel of older models can do their part to help the environment - without sacrificing the fun that goes along with off-road driving.

    An easy way to embrace eco-friendly practices with your off-road vehicle is by taking care of the nature and trails that you drive through in your experiences. Don't litter while driving and do your best to avoid harming the land surrounding the trails. This includes taking care when you pull over so as not to damage the wilderness and cleaning up any synthetic materials that may spill into nature in the event of an issue. 

  • Chrysler announces plans to unveil new Ram truck

    When the 19th Annual Woodward Dream Cruise kicks off in mid-August, truck aficionados will have more to honor than just the regular celebration of the auto industry. In addition to the classic car show, this year's event will include the reveal of Ram's latest pickup truck - one that is rumored to be an updated version of the Power Wagon. 

    Unveiling the new Ram
    Chrysler will be present at the Woodward Dream Cruise to show off more than 70 of its latest vehicles, but the one that may have everyone talking is shrouded in mystery. The manufacturer's Ram truck brand will introduce its newest design as part of the event, showing off the concept in what is being hailed as the very first vehicle debut in the history of the Dream Cruise. 

    The actual unveiling will take place Aug. 17 at 10 a.m. on a lot Chrysler has rented out for the event. AutoWeek reported that Bob Hegbloom and Joe Dohner, two of the heads of the Ram truck brand, will be on hand for the big reveal, along with Ryan Freidlinghaus, who is the owner and host of "West Coast Customs." 

    According to Automotive News, although Chrysler hasn't revealed a lot of information about the new truck, some clues can be pulled from the event itself. Because the rally is catered toward fans of muscle cars and high-performance vehicles, it's likely the Chrysler offering will be similar in style. If this holds true, it will be the first high-performance pickup from the automaker since it ended production of the Ram SRT in 2006, the news source reported.

    The Dream Cruise
    Billed as the world's largest one-day auto event, The Dream Cruise is a special occurrence that features more than 40,000 vintage cars. It takes place on suburban Detroit's Woodward Avenue along a 16-mile stretch, giving the thousands of attendees plenty of room to drive. Many restored pickups and impressive truck modifications are sure to be on display, and they can provide a worthy primer for the big Ram reveal. 

    The Ram won't be the only new truck on display at The Dream Cruise. Ford has plans to show off a new specialty version of the F-150 called the Tremor, as well as the SVT Raptor, which aims to be a top off-roading option. 

  • 2014 F-150 can run on natural gas

    Many drivers are on the lookout for ways they can improve their truck's performance without emptying their wallet. While certain truck mods are ideal for these kinds of improvements, there are other instances where you need to go straight to the source. That's why many manufacturers are doing their part to make trucks and SUVs eco-friendly, including the latest announcement from Ford, which detailed how 2014 models of the F-150 will have the ability to run on compressed natural gas (CNG). 

    About CNG
    The 2014 Ford F-150 will have all of the capabilities drivers have come to expect from the manufacturer, including a gas tank that can handle traditional fuel. However, the truck will also run on CNG - the only half-ton pickup to be able to do so. CNG-ready trucks can stretch one tank of gas into as many as 750 miles of driving, Ford claims. 

    "Businesses and fleet customers have been asking Ford to make F-150 available with CNG capability to take advantage of the fuel's low price and clean emissions," said Jon Coleman, manager of Ford fleet sustainability and technology. "With the money saved using CNG, customers start to see payback on their investment in as little as 24 to 36 months." 

    Ford embraces sustainability
    This move to CNG-friendly vehicles is just the latest in a series of sustainability efforts for Ford. While using CNG as fuel is a first in the world of trucks, it is the eighth such model from the American automaker. The brand also has a variety of hybrids and other alternative-fuel vehicles that are viable options for many drivers in the U.S. 

    "We're almost halfway to our company-wide goal of deploying 15,000 alternative-fuel vehicles by the end of year 2018," said Jerome Webber, vice president of Ford's global fleet operations. "Vehicles such as the CNG F-350s from Ford have helped us avoid purchasing 7.7 million gallons of gasoline over the past five years while reducing our fleet's emissions." 

    Fans of off-road driving may not be convinced that these alternative fuels will provide the power they need to beat any off-roading obstacle. However, they may be happily surprised to learn the initial judgments surrounding these new F-150s are that they are the same high-quality automobiles Ford drivers have come to expect, and the type of fuel used won't impact the type of truck mods motorists can make. 

  • GM pickups break barriers with latest safety ratings

    Safety is of paramount importance to all drivers, especially if you make it point to take a vehicle off-roading whenever possible. The combination of potentially dangerous terrain, heavy-duty equipment and unpredictable situations makes it essential to have top-of-the-line safety features. Whether these amenities are extras that you tack on as part of truck modifications or come included on the automobile, they certainly require some additional consideration as you go about shopping for a vehicle or updating one. 

    Drivers who are particularly concerned about safety may want to look into some of the new pickup trucks from General Motors. The 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Chevrolet Silverado High Country 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 and GMC Sierra Denali 1500 all received a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All of these vehicles share the same general components, which explains the similar high scores across the board. 

    Five-star ratings for GM
    These four pickups are the first trucks to achieve the top five-star rating from the NHTSA since the organization changed its testing program in 2011. All vehicles now undergo extensive crash testing that continues to evaluate how they perform in front, side and rear crashes, as well as in rollover accidents. They are also judged based on the safety features and preventative technologies that come included in each model. 

    "Safety is as important to truck buyers as it is to car buyers," said Gay Kent, general director of Vehicle Safety and Crashworthiness for GM. "Silverado and Sierra set a benchmark for pickup truck safety by offering a full array of advanced features designed to protect occupants before, during and after a collision." 

    Features included
    A few of the features included on the upcoming GM models should make fans of pickup trucks take notice. At the center of the protection efforts are the high-steel boxed frames used on each of the models, which creates a strong and secure cab for drivers. Other elements, such as improved seat belts and air bags, also contribute to a safer interior. 

    In addition, a number of advanced amenities have helped to enhance these GM trucks. As part of crash avoidance systems, a new Safety Alert Seat uses vibrations to warn drivers of potential dangers in traffic. Similarly, the vehicle will warn passengers when it is approaching an obstacle, such as another car, too quickly, while a Lane Departure Warning notifies the driver when the truck goes over a lane line at high speeds. 

    Those who plan on doing some off-road driving in the truck will appreciate the four-wheel drive with antilock brakes, stability control designed to kick in when towing heavy loads, and OnStar technology, which can be accessed even when lost on a trail. 

  • Protect against the growing trend of truck theft

    It may not be pleasant to think about, but sometimes drivers have to face their worst car nightmares. This could involve anything from getting mired in the mud when off-roading to, in an even worse case, finding out that you have been the victim of a car theft. Unfortunately, a number of owners of off-road vehicles have found themselves in this exact situation. 

    Thieves favoring pickups
    As full-size trucks have become more popular with drivers on the roads, they have had popularity boosts in other areas - and some of these are not as positive. A recent study shows that full-size trucks are the most common target of thieves, both with actual vehicle theft and taking items from the truck itself. 

    According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, the Ford F-250 crew cab is now the most popular target for car thieves. The truck had a claim frequency of seven per 1,000 insured vehicle years, which is almost six times the average rate for other automobiles. The average loss payment for thefts involving this truck comes in at $7,060. While this may seem like a significant sum, it is also indicative of the heavy losses that some drivers experience when they are the victims of theft. 

    This Ford truck is in the No. 1 position, but the rest of the top five are full-size trucks as well. Those selections include the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 crew, Chevrolet Avalanche 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 crew and Ford F-350 crew.

    Many drivers are also finding that their tailgates are being stolen. The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that incidences of stolen tailgates have risen each year since 2009, and they are expected to keep growing. 

    Some good news
    Despite the fact that pickups are increasingly becoming the target of thieves, there is some good news for motorists. The overall number of vehicle thefts is declining, partially thanks to a few features that are becoming standard in new models. Ignition immobilizers, for example, were installed in 89 percent of all 2012 models, GEICO reports. That number should only increase in the future, although it's not as common in trucks and large SUVs. 

    Several more recent model years have hit the market with extra security features that can help keep the vehicles safe. These additions may have had something to do with the fact that the Cadillac Escalade dropped from the most popular target for thieves to only the sixth-most popular. 

    "General Motors has put a lot of effort into new antitheft technology, so that may help explain the decline in the Escalade's theft rate," said Matt Moore, the vice president at HDLI. "On the other hand, sales of the Escalade have fallen in recent years, so there may be less of a market for stolen Escalades or Escalade parts." 

    What to do
    You aren't helpless when it comes to defending your truck or SUV. In fact, there are a number of truck and Jeep modifications you can make that will protect you and your ride against theft. For example, to avoid tailgate theft, drivers should invest in an integrated tailgate lock and even have the vehicle identification number etched into the section, Yahoo Autos reports. 

    Many thefts result from the perpetrator seeing goods in the truck bed, so you shouldn't leave your vehicle unattended for too long if you have possessions in the truck bed. Investing in thorough security systems to protect your automobile is also a must, especially for those drivers who put a lot of money into truck mods and special features. Those simple steps, along with always parking in lighted, public areas, can help you stave off theft. 

  • Diesel fuel looks like the next big thing in the world of trucks

    Most of the money that gets investing in an off-road vehicle probably goes toward regular maintenance and truck mods. But what if drivers could down on standard costs and focus solely on the enhancements they want to make to their automobiles? With diesel engines, it may be possible. That's why so many manufacturers are turning their attention to alternative sources of fuel, especially when it comes to pickup trucks and other large SUVs. 

    Why diesel? 
    Diesel is an attractive alternative to gasoline because of the improved efficiency it offers. Many diesel engines can deliver up to 30 percent better fuel economy, even matching hybrid vehicles in some cases, which makes it a cost-effective way to power an automobile. Fans of off-road driving will appreciate the fact that these engines provide more torque than traditional gasoline-powered cars, allowing motorists to tow heavier loads and reach greater speeds without expending as much effort. 

    Another benefit of diesel engines is that they don't use the same system as traditional vehicles. There are no spark plugs or distributors, and eliminating the need for these parts also reduces the amount of vehicle maintenance drivers have to provide. In fact, diesel-powered machines can typically go longer without upkeep than their standard counterparts and usually don't need as many large repairs. 

    What brands are doing
    General Motors is one manufacturer making waves with its anticipated diesel offerings. Chevrolet already has a light-duty diesel truck, the Cruze Diesel, but the company plans on creating even more options for drivers everywhere. Rumors indicate the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon will both boast diesel options and could be sold in the U.S. within the next two years. 

    Similarly, the Ram is planning on debuting the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, a light-duty truck that would use a turbodiesel V6 engine. Not only is this motor going to come to one of the nation's most popular trucks, but there are also plans to install it in future editions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Although this is not as powerful as the Nissan engine, it is still powerful enough to handle basic off-roading. 

    GM's focus on diesel engines signals a change that is taking over many members of the truck and SUV communities. If the models are a success, more brands could follow suit and introduce a wider selection of trucks with alternative fuel sources. 

    "It would show that they're serious about competing on fuel economy in their truck lineup and that they're trying to leverage their global resources," Michael Omotoso, a senior manager of global powertrain forecasting told Automotive News. "But we don't know what the demand for a diesel in a mid-sized pickup will be." 

    Nissan is also jumping on board with diesel trucks. The 2015 Titan will be a Cummins-powered truck that is capable of reaching impressive levels of fuel efficiency while also offering enough power to meet the needs of drivers - something that would be a boon for Nissan, which has generally been less popular than brands like Ford or GM. 

    What off-roaders can expect
    The benefits of diesel fuel within the world of off-roading is obvious. Drivers can get more power and better fuel economy out of their vehicles without putting as much time and energy into maintenance. As more state and federal regulations begin addressing the fuel economy of vehicles, drivers may find themselves forced to make a change. While truck modifications and similar updates may help to reduce the impact these laws have on off-roading or heavy-duty work, turning to advancements like diesel engines may soon become a more popular option. 

  • Ram Truck named 'Most Ideal Brand' by AutoPacific

    Each year, AutoPacific gives out awards to various vehicles and brands that have earned "most ideal" ratings, and the Ram Truck brand took the top accolade for 2013. With a title like "Most Ideal Popular Brand," it's easy to see why Ram is so beloved among people who love off-road driving or have heavy-duty jobs to do.

    Drivers love their Ram trucks
    The AutoPacific Awards are decided by drivers who fill out surveys that aim to find out how likely the participants are to change vehicles based on 15 different categories. More than 52,000 car and truck owners revealed how they feel about their current rides in terms of power, acceleration, storage and more. Ram owners were the least likely to want to change vehicles, which indicates they're the most content with their current rides.

    "The Ideal Vehicle Awards show that marketers, product planners, researchers and engineers have developed and launched a vehicle executed best for their target market," said Dan Hall, vice president of AutoPacific.

    Jeep saw some success too
    In addition to Ram, the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee was recognized for its high quality and driver satisfaction. The off-road vehicle received the award for "Most Ideal Mid-Size SUV," marking the third consecutive year the model has won this accolade. Since Jeep and Ram are both sub-brands of Chrysler Group, their respective wins - coupled with the Chrysler Town & Country's "Most Ideal Minivan" award - highlight the top quality that the auto manufacturer is offering drivers. Whether consumers want pickup trucks or SUVs built for off-roading or they need minivans to cart their families around, Chrysler is a brand worth checking out.

    What's next for Ram?
    Ram recently unveiled its next big thing - the 1500 Rumble Bee concept pickup - at the 2013 Woodward Dream Cruise in metropolitan Detroit. This vehicle was modeled after the 1960s Super Bee, and Ram engineers started out with a 2013 Ram 1500 R/T. They added truck modifications such as "Drone Yellow" paint and a glossy black stripe that fades into honeycomb. The "bee" theme is echoed inside the passenger cab as well, with black and drone yellow leather seats and an amber-encased bee on the shifter knob. Not all the truck mods were about appearance either - they gave the pickup larger tires and dropped the suspension 2 inches to improve handling and performance.

  • Guinness World Record for pickup truck parade on the line in Indianapolis

    Who doesn't like seeing big groups of trucks together? You may enjoy checking out truck mods that fellow drivers have implemented or seeing how certain models that could be perfect for your next off-road vehicle run. No matter what you appreciate at these gatherings, there's a good chance you get a thrill from seeing so many top-notch trucks together in one place. If that's the case, then the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the place to be at the beginning of August, as organizers are trying to break the Guinness World Record for the World's Largest Parade of Pickup Trucks. 

    To honor the launch of a new SiriusXM channel called Rural Radio, promoters are attempting to rally pickup truck owners in the Midwest to participate in the parade. All vehicles must circle a minimum of 2 miles at less than 5 miles per hour, with all participating rides completing the full length of the route to qualify for the world record. 

    The current world record for the Largest Parade of Pickup Trucks is 273. It was set Aug. 25, 2013 at the Dresden Raceway in Ontario, Canada, but if all goes according to plan, this upcoming event should surpass that mark.

    Aside from the procession, visitors will be able to check out the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, examine some of the coolest truck modifications on display and enjoy the live entertainment offered at the event. Additionally, about 20 classic tractors will be showcased to go along with the Antique Tractor Parade, PickupTrucks.com reports.  

    All are invited to head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to take part in this event, and drivers are encouraging to decorate their pickups in whatever manner they see fit. Of course, some will likely want to keep it simple so their truck mods are the highlight. 

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