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Auburn Hills — The Gladiator Jeep pickup's next battle is tackling the desert's extreme heat and slippery dunes.

A new "Desert Rated" designation for Jeeps is being introduced by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles at the Chicago Auto Show on Tuesday. Following on Jeep's "Trail Rated" editions that were introduced in 2004, the new designation seeks to provide the stability, traction, suspension and handling to conquer sandy terrain.

"They are monitored by our engineers," said Jim Morrison, head of the Jeep brand in North America. "It's the way that we prove our capability for our Jeep brand."

The designation makes its debut on the Gladiator Mojave mid-size pickup that hits showrooms in the second quarter. Fox 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks and Fox front hydraulic jounce bumpers seek to create a predictable, comfortable  ride over off-road conditions. Additionally, the vehicle comes with a reinforced frame, a one-inch front suspension lift for greater ground clearance, a silver front skid plate and stronger axles.

All-terrain 33-inch Falken Wildpeak tires come standard, and the Mojave carries Desert Rated badging.

The vehicles that receive the designation are tested in five categories: ride control and stability, traction, ground clearance, maneuverability and desert prowess for the hot, coarse environment.

Such designations help Jeep to stand out in an increasingly competitive segment, said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at auto information website Edmunds.com Inc.

"There's so many different models, you have to do something different," Caldwell said. "They revitalize the vehicles, especially if it has been on the market for one or two years. They're willing to take the stance that these vehicles are certified to take on these types of abilities."

The automaker also introduced premium "High Altitude" versions of the Jeep Wrangler SUV and Gladiator. They have 20-inch wheels, leather interiors, LED exterior lights and other features. There a six available colors, including the new "Snazzberry," a deep red.

bnoble@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble

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