The Factory-Backed Vehicles at the 2023 Rebelle Rally
Manufacturers tested the mettle of more than 20 trucks and SUVs during the grueling seven-day off-road rally.
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When it comes to putting a vehicle through its paces, nothing beats a motorsports event. At this year's Rebelle Rally, no fewer than 10 manufacturers fielded vehicles to compete alongside scores of privateer teams, all with the hope of getting their vehicles to a podium finish.
Open only to female competitors, the Rebelle Rally isn't a race for speed; it's a contest of navigational prowess. It takes place each autumn in the deserts of California and Nevada. Although all driving is done off-pavement, the vehicles do not need roll cages or five-point harnesses. They can compete instead in mostly stock form, with a few modifications to protect the undercarriage and a more appropriate wheel and tire combination to withstand the rigors of off-road driving.
There are two vehicle classes in the Rebelle Rally. The 4x4 class is for vehicles with a two-speed transfer case. This includes models such as the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco. The Rivian R1T is also included in the class as it can perform at the same level, even though it doesn't have a low range.
The 2,500-kilometer off-road route changes each year and is navigated without GPS. Teams use old-school topographical maps and a compass to find more than 20 checkpoints each day. Over the course of seven days, the rally traverses rocks, sand, dunes, and gravel roads from just outside Mammoth, California, to the largest dune area in North America: Glamis, California.
Rivian's R1T Truck Becomes the First EV to Earn a Top Spot
Rivian sent two of its R1T all-electric pickup trucks to the event. While one came in mid-pack at 20th place in the 4x4 category, the other ended up with the win. Driver Lilly Macaruso and navigator Alex Anderson earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2022 and came back with a vengeance in 2023.
Rivian has been competing in the Rebelle since 2020, helping to pioneer the rally's EV program and testing rally partner Renewable Innovations' hydrogen fuel cell charging setup. The company's tenacity finally paid off, earning it the distinction of having the first EV to win a class at the Rebelle.
Toyota Puts Its New i-Force Max Hybrid Powerplant to the Test
Toyota fielded the most vehicles in the Rebelle Rally this year with six teams: a 2019 Tacoma TRD Off Road, 2020 4Runner TRD Off Road, two 2022 Tundra TRD Pro trucks, and two 2023 Sequoia TRD Pro SUVs. The Tundras and Sequoias featured Toyota's new i-Force Max hybrid powerplant, qualifying them to wear the Electrified designation badge. The combination of a 3.4-liter twin-turbo V6 and an electric motor between the engine and the transmission produces a strong 437 horsepower and 583 pound-feet of torque.
When the dust cleared, the 4Runner earned a fourth-place finish, while the Tacoma finished 44th, the Tundras secured 27th and 54th places, and the Sequoias ended 14th and 15th.
Ford's Bronco Sport Takes the Win in the X-Cross Class
Ford fielded a wide array of vehicles in this year's rally, sending two 2023 Bronco Raptors, a 2023 Bronco Wildtrak, a 2022 Bronco Sport, and an all-electric Mustang Mach-E Rally. The Raptors, with their 418 horsepower and 13 inches of front wheel travel, are excellent go-fast vehicles, but teams were out for navigational accuracy, not speed.
Still, Laura Wanlass and Maria Guitar managed to secure a third-place position in the crowded 4x4 class. The other Broncos came in fifth and sixth.
The Bronco Sport driven by Melissa Clark with navigator Jessica Moore finished first in the X-Cross class, while the Mach-E Rally ended up fifth in X-Cross, despite struggling with its low ground clearance of about 6 inches.
Honda Puts Three Crossovers to the Test with Modest Results
Honda was in the game as well with two 2023 Honda Pilots and a 2023 Honda Passport. Both are considered midsize crossovers, but the Pilot is about 10 inches longer overall and has a third row. The Pilot also has Trail Torque Logic, which senses when a front or rear wheel has left the ground and directs more power to the wheel that still has grip.
In the X-Cross class, the Pilots ended in fourth and eighth place, while the Passport nabbed a sixth-place finish.
Jeep's Plug-In Hybrid Wrangler Is Towed to a Second-Place Finish
A longtime supporter of the Rebelle Rally, Jeep sent two 2024 Wrangler Rubicon 4xe vehicles this year. The plug-in hybrid has a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and boasts an all-electric range of 22 miles.
After a tough final day in the dunes, with temperatures over 100 degrees, the Wrangler piloted by Nena Barlow and navigated by Teralin Petereit had some powertrain mishaps. The team ran out of gas, and the rig wouldn't run on electric power alone. They ultimately took second place as they were towed over the finish line by privateers Carey Lando and Dorothy Lake in a 2014 Subaru Outback. Jeep's other entry finished in 37th place.
Despite Setbacks, BMW's First Entry Into the Rally Earns a Podium Spot
The surprise entry this year was the 2024 BMW X2. The crossover was outfitted with upgraded wheels and tires as well as skid plates to protect the underbody. The xDrive M35i X2 sports a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 312 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.
Although the team struggled with an occasionally overheating all-wheel-drive system, driver Rebecca Donaghe and navigator Sedona Blinson took home second place in the X-Cross class.
A Modified Kia Telluride X-Pro Takes Third Place in the X-Cross Class
Kia returned for the fourth consecutive year, this time entering a 2024 Telluride X-Pro. For the rally, the Telluride received a 1.5-inch lift for a total of 10 inches of ground clearance, as well as modified front and rear bumpers courtesy of Baja Forged.
Skid plates, KMC wheels, BFGoodrich KO2 tires, good driving by Verena Mei, and excellent navigating by Susie Saxten brought the Telluride to a third-place finish in the X-Cross class.
Hyundai Open-Bed Santa Cruz Goes Rallying With Slight Modifications
Kia's sister company Hyundai gave a similar treatment to its entry, the 2022 Santa Cruz. The open-bed utility vehicle got a 1.5-inch lift in the front and a revised front bumper for better approach angle. The rear was lifted 1 inch, and a set of Falken Wildpeak AT3 tires was swapped in for the stock road rubber.
The team of Jill Ciminillo and Kristin Shaw ended the rally in ninth place in the X-Cross class.
A First-Time Factory Entry for Land Rover Takes Eighth Place
Land Rover got into the mix for the first time this year, sending a 2023 Land Rover Defender 130. This big beast of an SUV is the most off-roady of the Land Rover lineup, with an air suspension that gives the three-row rig 11.4 inches of ground clearance.
Although the rear is extended by more than 13 inches to accommodate the third row, it maintains a good departure angle of 28.5 degrees, while the front has an approach angle of 37.5 degrees.
After seven days of competition, the Defender 130 ended up in eighth place in the 4x4 class.