Wheel Travel Index
To complement our offroad test, we also measured rear-wheel travel. Wheel travel contributes to offroad traction by allowing a truck’s wheels and suspension to articulate over an obstacle while helping keep all four tires in contact with a surface.
The test was simple. We used a single 20-degree, 36.5-percent-grade steel ramp at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds that was designed to measure wheel travel. First we measured the static distance between the bottom of the right rear fender and the top of the right rear tire when the truck was on level ground. Then we backed each truck up the ramp on the driver’s side to the point where the right rear tire started to lose contact with the ground. We then measured the now-extended difference between the bottom of the right rear fender and the top of the right rear tire.
Backing each truck up the single ramp until the tire still on the ground lost traction was the best option we had for measuring wheel travel without dismantling each truck’s suspension and drooping on the bump stops. You’ll see in the pictures how compressed the rear driver-side tire was on the ramp side and how far the dropped passenger-side rear tire traveled, giving us a fair evaluation of wheel travel.
We thought the Dodge Ram might win this contest, with its new coil-spring rear suspension, but the Ford F-150 had the most wheel travel -- an amazing 7.75 inches -- beating the second-place Chevrolet Silverado by more than an inch. The GMC Sierra took third. The Ram wound up in fourth, but it was also the only pickup with a rear anti-sway bar. We didn’t disconnect the sway bar to see if that would have provided more play in the rear axle. Some 4x4 trucks, like the heavy-duty Dodge Ram Power Wagon, come with sway-bar disconnect systems that allow you to gain extra articulation on demand, then hook the sway bar back up for the best ride and handling on the road.
Another interesting observation about the Ram: The sleek, dual-pipe rear bumper exhaust system just missed touching the steel ramp at the truck’s highest point up the ramp. If you’re going to go off-road with the Ram, you’re best off with a Ram SLT or TRX4, which have standard single-pipe exhausts that exit below the right side of the bed. The Laramie only comes with the dual, straight rear pipes.
The Toyota Tundra finished just a sixteenth of an inch behind the Dodge, and the offroad-optimized Nissan Titan took sixth place with just 5.75 inches of wheel travel. Two inches separated the first-place F-150 and the sixth-place Titan.
Next: Offroad Test