Occasionally, some people might come across the phrase “trail rated,” often associated with trucks, SUVs and components designed for off-road duties. It’s partially a marketing gimmick, but there is some concrete meaning behind it.
Anything can technically be trail rated
Some people may have noticed that Jeep has been calling some of its vehicles “Trail Rated.” The company introduced the term in 2003, according to MotorTrend, and has been affixing it to various Jeep vehicles, usually the ones more apt to be taken off-road, since then. Some also might notice the phrase attached to components, such as in a recent AutoGuide review of the Toyota FJ Cruiser, which mentions “trail rated” components.
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In and of itself, the phrase implies something is “rated” for a “trail” which doesn’t really mean anything. Since bread crumbs could easily be “rated” to make a trail if laid down as one, Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs could be assumed as “trail rated.” Trail mix can be bought at convenience stores. Since it’s trail mix, and it’s “rated” to stay fresh in it’s pouch, it can be taken on a trail. Ergo, it is trail rated.
Trail Rated is to Jeep as SkyActiv is to Mazda
The Jeep “Trail Rated” badge on its vehicles is partially a marketing gimmick, as it’s a brand name attached to a design process. Mazda, similarly, is calling certain engines and drive trains “SkyActiv,” which is just a name Mazda made up for subtracting weight where possible and engineering engines and transmissions for getting the most power while using the least amount of fuel.
Jeep’s “trail rating,” just like Mazda SkyActiv, however, both have real-world benefits. Mazda SkyActiv vehicles do get decent mileage and Jeep Trail Rating involves component engineering and a series of tests, according to MotorTrend, in order to make a vehicle that can go off-road with aplomb. The badge can be taken seriously, as the Wrangler is one of the best off-road vehicles one can buy and has been so for decades with good reason.
Nevada Automotive Test Center
Jeep’s Trail Rating system also has the blessing of the Nevada Automotive Test Center, a testing company that puts commercial and military vehicles through their paces. The NATC also happens to be the group that helps establish the criteria military vehicles have to meet to serve in the field, so they don’t mess about.
Aftermarket components, if they’ve been rated by the NATC and it’s Vehicle Trail Rating Classification System or V-TRCS, according to the NATC’s website, have been tested and are likely good to go.