All the competitors easily passed the off-road tests. They all came equipped with a low-range transfer case and an adequate amount of torque for climbing.
Even with the standard tires, these utes managed to perform extremely well in wet and muddy conditions, and we didn’t get close to the limit of their abilities.
The only problem we encountered in our relatively modest off-road driving dealt with the brakes on the Toyota Hilux. Presumably an older system, the antilock brakes tended to grab and ungrab when braking down steeper sections. This used to happen with most systems long ago, but not in the current crop of utes.
Engaging four-wheel drive and low range in the Hilux was a bit more difficult than in the others. You must use a manual secondary gear lever (which we know some prefer) to connect the front wheels and engage the low-range gearing. In the other models, this is all easily done with a dial on the center console. This made switching to low range or four-wheel-drive lock pretty easy. But we appreciate not having to get out and lock the front hubs anymore, as was the case with the old-school Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series pickups.
We should note the Volkswagen Amarok can be tricky to operate in slow-go and challenging terrain, given the engine calibration and clutch take-up. Essentially, the truck is easy to stall — not a good characteristic when navigating a rugged, uphill climb. In our vehicle, as equipped, it seemed like we had to carry more speed wherever we went — and the worry that goes along with that. It would have been great to have the automatic with, possibly, a lower axle or low-range gear.
Each ute managed the several water crossings we encountered without a problem, and the Ford Ranger’s higher wading depth of 31.5 inches was reassuring. That said, if we were going to do more backcountry exploring with any of these rigs, especially during the rainy season, we’d make sure to have a snorkel with us, like the one on our Colorado.
2012 Global Pickup Shootout