Plastered on the side of Jeep Wranglers, along with certain models of the Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, Compass, and Renegade, is Jeep’s famous Trail Rated badge. While the Trail Rated system first began in 2004, Jeep remains committed to building extremely capable four-wheel-drive vehicles. But what does Trail Rated mean, exactly? Superficially, it means that those vehicles have been approved and rated for off-road use. However, the significance is much deeper than that. Jeep doesn’t take the words “Trail Rated” lightly.
What Does Trail Rated Mean?
The loose definition of Jeep’s Trail Rated badge is described by the company in the following words:
“Trail Rated goes beyond a badge. Trail Rated represents the confidence to take on most any challenge. It’s our commitment to creating endless opportunities for you to discover your limits, and push right past them. When you drive a Trail Rated vehicle, the road less traveled is wherever you want it to be.”
I’m sure that’s a bit more meaningful than you expected, right? That’s because the Trail Rated badge for Jeep isn’t just some pointless emblem, although many probably don’t even give it a second glance. It symbolizes a certain free-spirit lifestyle, one that is fueled by the ability to go anywhere and do anything. Jeep is dedicated to creating vehicles that thrive in the great outdoors. Every single Jeep that wears the Trail Rated badge has passed a series of challenging tests, which are separated out into five categories:
- Ground Clearance
- Water Fording
In a basic sense, articulation is all about keeping your tires planted on the ground, even when crossing rough or rocky terrain. The greater articulation a vehicle has, the more flexible it will be. A flexible suspension system comes in handy when off-roading or even just avoiding obstacles on the street by allowing the vehicle to have a high level of vertical wheel travel. So even when one of your tires gets stuck in mud or hits a pothole, the other three can remain engaged. Jeep makes sure that each of its 4x4 Trail Rated vehicles can handle almost any terrain, no matter how difficult.
When it comes to off-roading and crossing rough terrain, ground clearance is important. If your vehicle doesn’t have enough clearance, driving over rocks is dangerous and could potentially damage the undercarriage of your vehicle. Jeep doesn’t focus just on the importance of ground clearance, but also on the approach, breakover, and departure angles. These angles also play into how well a vehicle can perform in various off-roading scenarios. A vehicle with a high ground clearance might be able to drive over rocks or fallen branches easily but crawling over a massive rock or fallen tree is going to be where those approach and breakover angles really come into play.
This may seem like an obvious point, but maneuverability is an important measurement of a vehicle’s capability on the trail or elsewhere. While similar to articulation, maneuverability is how well a vehicle can make sharp turns or how it can steer around trees on the trail. Wheelbase is a critical piece of how maneuverable a vehicle is, which is why it plays an important role in the Wrangler vs Wrangler Unlimited debate. Along with wheelbase, precise and responsive steering is important when it comes to handling and easily avoiding any hurdles on the trail. Articulation and maneuverability go hand-in-hand when it comes to off-road performance.
What would a good off-road vehicle be without traction? Jeep’s Trail Rated vehicles are built to combat all types of terrain — whether that be snow, sand, or slippery mud. Mother Nature is unpredictable, so when you’re driving on the trail, your vehicle needs to be able to handle whatever comes its way. Traction will enable your four-wheel-drive rig to maintain grip and control even in the harshest conditions. Mud-terrain tires can increase traction even more and prevent mud from caking up in the tread.
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of off-roading is the ability to traverse streams, creeks, and other shallow bodies of water. Trail Rated Jeeps feature water fording capabilities, with sealed body openings and electrical connections to prevent any water damage. A higher air intake also reduces the potential for water to be sucked up into the filter. There is a limit to the depth of water that can be crossed, ranging from 19-30 inches depending on the model. Crossing water deeper than your vehicle’s limits can void the warranty, so checking the depth before water fording is always a good idea, if possible.
Trail Rated Testing Locations
Jeep begins the series of tests at the Fiat Chrysler headquarters in Michigan. While the winters in Michigan can be pretty unforgiving, Jeep doesn’t stop the testing there. Potential Trail Rated vehicles venture out to the Rubicon Trail in California and the rocky terrain in Moab, Utah, where the climate and driving conditions are a bit more extreme. Jeep makes sure that the vehicles proudly wearing the Trail Rated badge are truly ready for anything and everything.
While many choose to make aftermarket modifications to increase the off-roading performance even more, Jeep has made it possible to go straight from the factory to the trail with their line of Trail Rated vehicles. So next time you take a gander at the Trail Rated badge on your four-wheel-drive rig, keep in mind the rigorous testing that has helped establish the legendary off-road performance of the Jeep brand.
Sources & Image Credit: Jeep, FCA