Buying Guide

What are Jeep's Trail Rated and Desert Rated designations? Is there a difference?

The Jeep Gladiator Mojave is the first model to wear the Desert Rated badge.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Jeeps often come Trail Rated. They wear a Jeep Brand Trail Rated badge that denotes a level of prowess and equipment to conquer terrain that the average SUV or truck does not have. Now, there's also Desert Rated, which debuted at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show on the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave. This new badging takes the mission of tried and tested off-roading even further.

www.youtube.com

What is Trail Rated?

Only four-wheel drive (4x4) Jeep models can earn the Trail Rated badge. But, it's only the first step. Models that earn that designation have based tests of traction, water fording, maneuvering, articulations, and ground clearance.

Harsh and unpredictable driving conditions including deep mud, loose gravel, and snow are part of the traction testing.

To assist with the water fording capability of the vehicle, Jeep seals electrical connections and body openings, and rearranges the air intake to a higher position, to protect the vehicle in several feet of water. How much water depends on the model.

The best off-roading vehicles are also agile. Jeep tests each Trail Rated model for the ability to deftly dodge obstacles. The Jeeps' wheelbases and steering are optimized for handling off-road terrain like tight switchbacks and emergency driving situation.

Trail Rated vehicles are capable of impressive articulation thanks to suspension flexibility. Achieving good articulation meal that wheels remain stable and engaged when one or more tires are off the ground.

2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk All of Jeep's vehicles are available with a Trail Rated badge.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Having Trail Rated ground clearance means that a vehicle has a good amount of room between the bottom of the vehicle and the harsh terrain it will conquer. This means that the Jeep can traverse rocks, water, and logs without damaging the underside of the vehicle. The rating also means that the SUV or truck has high approach, breakover, and departure angles.

To test all of these models, Jeep takes to the Rubicon Trail. Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, the trail is 22 miles of treacherous landscape that will put any vehicle to the ultimate test. The natural off-road adventure park where the trail is located features boulders, water, and well-worn landscape.

Jeep also develops and tests its vehicles at FCA US headquarters in Michigan and beyond, including the harsh winter conditions of Northern Michigan.

What is Desert Rated?

Like Trail Rated vehicles, Jeep's Desert Rated lineup has been developed and tested in harsh conditions. To earn the Desert Rated badge the 4x4s had to pass traction, desert prowess, ride control and stability, maneuverability, and ground clearance tests.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave The Jeep Gladiator Mojave is the automaker's first model to wear a Desert Rated badge.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Most of that testing is similar to Trail Rated testing, but takes place in a desert climate. Jeep's Desert Rated vehicles have been engineered to take on the intense heat, coarse sand, loose gravel, and pervasive dust that makes up desert landscape.

The first Desert Rated Jeep is the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave. More vehicles that sport the badging are planned.

Bikini, Hellayella, and Punk'n are all colors buyers can request on the exterior of their new Jeep Wrangler. The bursts of bright and daring paint job choices are different than any other vehicle in the Jeep lineup for good reason. It's because Wrangler owners aren't like any other vehicle owners according to Mark Allen, Head of Jeep Design.

To come up with the Wrangler's color palette, the exterior design team works hand in hand with other design studio personnel. It's an organic process that tries not to follow traditional corporate structure - something that works well for Allen and La Shirl Turner, Head of Advance Colors & Materials.

The process takes 12-18 months for the creation of a new paint color while the refresh of an old color shortens that timeline to three to six months.

2017 Jeep Wrangler Chief Edition

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

When developing a new color offering, the team looks at the balance of the paint job variety that Jeep offers after being sparked by inspiration. There are only so many blacks, whites, grays, and silvers - the "vinyl siding collection" Allen affectionately calls it - an automaker needs to have in their lineup.

They also check out what the current trends are, including the Pantone Color of the Year. For 2020, that shade is Classic Blue.

There are limits to what Jeep can do and most of it comes down to logistics. Plants only have the ability to execute so many colors at a time (about 10-12) and customers order colors in a variety of volumes (think less purple more gray). Jeep also likes to have the flexibility to rotate colors rapidly (every three to eight months), which keeps the offerings fresh for Wrangler customers and gives Jeep the ability to flex in and out special edition model colors, something they're keen on doing.

Jeep also takes into account the history of a color. In an interview, Allen said that Jeep receives "a lot of mail" about adding more greens to the Wrangler's color palette. The automaker has a long history with the color thanks to its origins as a military vehicle including Jungle, Forest, and Army Green variants, but traditionally, those colors do not sell well.

Turner says that Jeep also takes a look at colors that were popular in the past and tries to refresh them for modern buyers. Bikini was originally conceived in the 90s and is currently available on the 2020 Wrangler.

Do some of the colors look familiar? Jeep repurposes colors from other parts of the FCA lineup. However, the Jeep team renames the colors for no the reason than, "it's amusing to us" according to Allen. Simple enough.

The cost of the color development and deployment, which may have to be passed on to customers, is also part of the equation. Allen says that Jeep tries to offer, "Nieman Marcus colors at Costco prices." Currently, the pricing of most specialty Jeep paint jobs is under $200 per vehicle.

Other limitations lnclue the availability of the color choices for retractable roof materials (ordered well in advance from a third-party supplier) and whether or not the color works as a full body color.

These factors weren't always part of the equation. "There was a time in our not so distant past that Wrangler got the same colors as trucks," said Allen. New management came in and, with that, a new vision for Wrangler that allowed the design team to open up the color palette options.

Opening up color palette options is something Jeep Gladiator fans should get ready for. With initial Gladiator sales going well, Allen revealed that there are plans to expand the color palette offerings for the pickup truck, in the same vein as what is available on Wrangler.

Allen confirmed that there are currently no plans to offer the Wrangler or Gladiator with an unpainted steel exterior, something Tesla CEO Elon Musk is touting with the Cybertruck.

The Gladiator Mojave was developed specifically for tackling tough desert terrain.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Against a backdrop of wind and cold in Chicago, Jeep revealed the desert-ready 2020 Gladiator Mohave at the Chicago Auto Show. The special edition Mohave allows drivers to crank up the rpms by adding the bones to travel with alacrity across demanding desert landscapes. It carries forward Jeep's 4x4 Trail Rated capability blended with a new Desert Rated badge; it's the first Jeep to be tapped for this rating.

This midsized Jeep pickup came to market last year and has since won a trophy case filled with awards for its unique styling, functionality, tech-filled interior, and slow-speed competence; it now adds high-speed off-road expertise to its persona.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Jeep has given the Gladiator Mojave an added layer of off-road prowess.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Gladiator Mohave recipe starts with a robust platform and proven four-wheel drive stock. Added are new, specially tuned FOX 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks with external reservoirs, industry-exclusive FOX front hydraulic jounce bumpers, a reinforced frame, a 1-inch front suspension lift, a ½-inch increase in the track, and stronger axles with cast-iron steering knuckles. The Jeep rides on standard 33-inch Falken Wildpeak All-Terrain tires.

Gladiator Mohave's Command-Trac 4x4 system is set up with a two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio, heavy-duty third-generation Dana 44 front and rear axles with a 4.10:1 axle ratio, and standard electronic-locking rear differential. Command-Trac has been re-engineered to allow higher 4LO (low range) operating speeds for ascending sand dunes and traveling over other rugged desert terrain.

Jeep says the new model has a best-in-class approach angle of 44.7 degrees, breakover angle of 20.9 degrees, departure angle of 25.5 degrees and a best-in-class ground clearance of 11.6 inches, along with best-in-class articulation.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave The model has received a Jeep-first Desert Rated badge.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

An Off-Road Plus button allows drivers to take the Mojave to the next level of traction and performance. Adjustments change the throttle, transmission shift points, and traction control for top performance on higher speed passes on sand terrain, as well as during low-speed rock crawling. The Off-Road Plus drive mode also lets drivers lock their rear axle at high speeds while in "4H." This feature is a Jeep-first.

Mojave is adorned with a unique hood decal on its heavy-duty performance hood with center scoop, unique exterior badges, orange tow hooks, unique 17 x 7.5-inch wheels, plus Jeep Performance Parts step sand slider side rails, and a silver front skid plate.

Black and Steel Gray are interior color options; a competition-inspired leather-wrapped steering wheel with accent stitching and an aggressive rim section provides extra grip and better ergonomics. More aggressive seats with integrated upper bolsters bring comfort and safety. The seats are available in leather or cloth with orange accent stitching and embroidered Mojave logos. A forward-facing off-road camera can be added.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Jeep has equipped this new model with the right equipment to get the job done.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The 2020 Gladiator Mojave is powered by Jeep's 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine backed by a standard six-speed manual or optional eight-speed automatic transmission. With the manual, Gladiator Mojave boasts an impressive crawl ratio of 57.3:1, and 52.6:1 on models equipped with the eight-speed auto.

It has up to 1,200 pounds of payload and up to 6,000 pounds of towing capacity.

Why fast desert-running trucks? A decade ago, Ford brought a new play-book to the stock truck market with its 2010 F-150 Raptor; this full-sized desert runner can be driven to the office or the club, yet marries extreme slow-speed 4WD tech and proficiency to its fast-paced sand playfulness and racing aptitude.

Ram's 1500 Rebel-trimmed full-sizer and Ram's 2500 Power Wagon have garnered favor with their dual-personalities and authentic capability, while the midsized Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison moves the needle in a similar fashion. Other truck makers and builder/enthusiasts have followed suit since, although many new models are one-off upfits, rather than stock from the automaker.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave This edition was specially created for desert driving enthusiasts.Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Desert racing has picked up a quickly-growing fan base and has lured more buyers to participate in the thrill of technical off-roading, playing in backcountry sandboxes across the country, and trying out their rigs at desert races, such as the legendary SCORE Baja 1000 or the famed King of the Hammers.

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator Mohave will be in showrooms the second quarter of the year.

www.youtube.com