Jeep Trail Rated vs Non-Trail Rated

Maybe you have heard someone saying their Jeep is trail rated. You may have seen a trail rating badge on a Jeep and wondered what this means. Does trail rating make the vehicle more expensive? Is trail rating another trim level of the Jeep series?

To resolve the confusion about trail rating badges and what they mean to you we talked to our sources at the Jeep manufacturing center and got all of the details and particulars concerning this rating. The manufacturer wants each of their customers to purchase a vehicle that is capable of handling the driving conditions it will be most subjected to.

People living in Galveston, Texas do not need a vehicle that can travel across snow and ice well. They do need a Jeep that can cover sand with ease. Jeep understands that each customer is unique and the conditions that each vehicle will be subjected to are just as unique.

Purpose of Trail and Non-Trail Rated 

The trail rating established by Jeep for their vehicles tells the consumer that the vehicle they are purchasing has passed strenuous tests that prove it is capable of handling the harsh conditions of off-road and adventure driving.

What Are The Trail Rating Specifics?

black Suv on dirt road near snow covered mountains

Trail rating is given to the vehicle that can pass the off-road challenges they are put through. The vehicles are taken to areas like the Rubicon Trail and Northern Michigan for these tests. In the Northern Michigan area, the vehicles are exposed to icy conditions and rocky trails that are very difficult to pass over. The Rubicon Trail offers larger boulders and different terrain challenges. 

All possible hazardous driving conditions are created to test the vehicles.

The manufacturer has established areas to test the vehicles that will be similar to areas someone driving in Turkey, Israel, and the Middle East might see so they can assure drivers that the dessert conditions in the United States will be no problem. 

All of the trail rating tests are performed by the Nevada Automotive test center. The test center was founded back in 1957. It was intended to give car manufacturers secure locations to test vehicles and equipment.

Jeep began to do trail rating in 1994. Although the consumer did not start to see the trail rating badges appear on the different makes and models until 2004. They intended the badges to give off-road drivers and adventure drivers the confidence of knowing which vehicles were more adept at crossing those types of terrain. Since they began that badge program people can now quickly ascertain which Jeep vehicle they need according to the type of driving they do.

The Challenges the Automobiles Go Through are in Categories Like

Water Fording

A jeep is passing away through deep water

Water fording is the ability to cross a depth of water like a stream or creek without flooding or being stopped by the water. To make water fording possible the electronics of the vehicle must have sealed connections so the moisture does not short out the connections.

To be able to ford water and not damage the vehicle the sills of the doors have to be advanced. The sills must be able to create water-tight closures so you can cross the stream without getting your feet wet. This is an added feature that is only performed on vehicles that are going to be trail-rated.

The trail-rated Jeep is capable of fording water up to 19” deep. If you do decide to attempt to ford water deeper than the 19” you may be taking a chance of voiding your vehicle warranty if damages occur.

Maneuverability in Tough Situations

a jeep is driving across the desert

Driving down a flat road that is covered in the smooth pavement is a lot different from driving across the snow, sand, rocks, mud, ice, and grassy areas. To have increased maneuverability for the vehicles Jeep takes them to the roughest areas and makes sure that the driver can easily control the car. The responsiveness of the steering is calculated, and the amount of traction applied to the rear tires is deduced.

The biggest problems that face adventure drivers are the slick conditions created by snow, mud, and ice. Increased traction to all of the four wheels is needed so the vehicle can cross terrains covered with slick toppings. The vehicle also must have a gear ratio that is appropriate for driving across these types of surface conditions. During trail rating testing the vehicle must be able to drive over the slickest and most slippery surfaces available so Jeep feels confident telling consumers to go ahead and hit the creek, climb the mountain, or ford the stream.

Ground Clearance Height

A driver is driving a Grey Jeep Wrangler Across Rocks

The ground clearance height of the vehicle determines whether the vehicle can drive across deeper water, across rocks, and over small trees and logs that might be in the way. The increased ground clearance allows the vehicle to travel over these things better, and it also allows the vehicle to be protected from damages that may occur when you are traveling over rough terrain.

Which Jeep Models are Trail Rated?

Currently, the only models of Jeep that are able to have a trail rating badge are:

  • Jeep Cherokee
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Compass
  • Jeep Renegade

Does Trail Rated Mean Not for City Driving?

A lot of people assume that a vehicle with a trail rating is not meant to be driven down paved streets. They assume the vehicle will be louder than normal or that the gas mileage will be so poor that you cannot afford to drive it down city streets.

Jeep has come up with some new 4×4 system technology that allows all of your fears to be put to rest. The new 4×4’s can be as quiet when traveling down the highway as the average pickup truck is. They can also have seating that is as comfortable as the average pickup truck.

The new 4×4 systems have used advanced technology to reduce fuel consumption when the vehicle is being driven under normal circumstances. You can have the ability to have your fuel consumption be about the same as an average pickup truck when you are driving over on-road situations. Then you can choose to change that fuel consumption when you increase the power and strength by changing over to an off-road driving mode.

Final Thoughts

Not every Jeep gets a Trail Rating Badge, those badges are reserved for the toughest and most off-road prepared vehicles. Every Jeep is tough and capable to handle the majority of road surfaces and weather conditions, but only the ones given a Trail Badge are considered to be the most extreme off-road capable vehicles.

About Brendan Burnett

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