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.

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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.

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Custom SUVs

Ford Bronco to rule SEMA this year

The Bronco RTR features a fun livery and several off-road upgrades.

Ford

The annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show is an opportunity for the aftermarket and manufacturers to come together on wildly customized vehicles and to show off the latest parts and tech in the space. Now that the Ford Bronco has finally made its way to the public, it's not surprising to see several wild SEMA takes on the hottest SUV to hit the market in some time.

2021 Bronco by Tucci Hot Rods The tracks are said to improve the Bronco's abilities in deep snow and ice.Ford

2021 Bronco by Tucci Hot Rods

The new Bronco is capable and rugged on its own, but Tucci Hot Rods felt it needed more. The shop gave it that boost with a set of tracks in place of wheels, which are said to be great for deep snow and ice. This Bronco features a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and a seven-speed manual transmission to go with its Mattracks 88-Series quad tracks.

2021 Bronco RTR Fun-Runner by RTR Vehicles

Vaghn Gittin Jr's RTR Vehicles imagined a Bronco package that could be installed at the dealer. The result is the Fun-Runner, which features several Ford Performance and Ford Licensed Accessories parts. It's based on a 2021 two-door Bronco Badlands, and comes with an eye-catching wrap, an Ultimate Dana 44 front axle, Ultimate Dana 60 semi-float rear axle, RCV Performance CV axles, and a performance intake for its four-cylinder engine.

2021 Bronco by BDS Supensions SEMA presents an excellent opportunity for shops to show off their skill and imagination.Ford

2021 Bronco by BDS Supensions

BDS is a subsidiary of Fox Shocks and has worked with Ford for quite some time. The results of that long-running relationship are on display with the BDS Bronco, which features Fox 2.5 PES coilovers, BDS rear adjustable control arms and track bar, swaybar disconnect, and 37-inch BFGoodrich KM3 tires. The Bronco's bumpers have been replaced with CrawlTek Revolution units that feature a recessed winch mount, recovery hooks and more.

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The Grand Cherokee gets a plug-in powertrain for the first time.

Jeep

Jeep just announced the all-new fifth-generation 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, featuring a new exterior and interior, updated tech, and class-leading capabilities from its optional engines. However, the big headline here is the new Grand Cherokee 4xe, a plug-in hybrid SUV that follows the Jeep Wrangler into electrified off-roading.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe The 4xe makes all-electric off-roading possible.Jeep

As it did with the Wrangler, Jeep electrified the Grand Cherokee for the new model year. The new 4xe powertrain is available in the Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve trims. It uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder engine and features an all-electric driving range of 25 miles, fuel economy of 57 MPGe, and a total combined driving range of 440 miles. The powertrain also produces 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe All Grand Cherokee models get a more upscale interior for the 2022 model year.Jeep

With the water and terrain involved in off-roading, an electric motor and plug-in components could be a recipe for disaster, but Jeep took steps to protect sensitive parts of the drivetrain and vehicle. All high-voltage electronics are seats and are waterproof, and Jeep says that the Grand Cherokee 4xe can ford water of up to 24 inches in depth. The battery also comes with its own heating and cooling system to hold it in the ideal temperature range for optimum performance. The powertrain delivers impressive capability, as Jeep says a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe was able to tackle the Rubicon Trail on electric power only.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe The 2022 Grand Cherokee gets updated tech and safety features.Jeep

The 4xe's charging port is located on the front fender to allow easier charging in tight spots. LED indicators show the charging status and there's an LED battery monitor inside the vehicle on the instrument panel. Three driving modes allow the driver to select the right vehicle and powertrain behavior for the situation. Hybrid mode combines both the electric motor and gas engine, and balances the two for the best fuel efficiency and performance. Electric mode operates on electric power only until the battery's power is depleted. eSave prioritizes the gas engine to preserve battery power. As with all PHEVs, the Grand Cherokee 4xe functions like a traditional hybrid once the battery's power is mostly depleted.


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