As we started our test runs at the Chrysler Proving Grounds, temperatures were heading to 90 degrees, and humidity was about 70 percent. We took at least three runs with each truck, giving them a chance to cool down with an extended coast-down and casual drive back to the start line after each run.
Our long half-mile straightaway gave us plenty of room to capture our zero-to-60-mph data. Each truck was tested with two adult males inside — one driver and one passenger recording the VBOX data through a laptop. For the sake of full disclosure, our driver added about 190 pounds and the passenger added about 175 pounds. We took the best (lowest) time for each truck.
We weren’t looking to set the fastest time ever recorded for each truck; we’ll leave that to the professional hot-shoes at the major magazines. Instead, our main objective on every run was to be as consistent as possible with our technique and process to minimize any extraneous variables. That meant making sure the windows were always rolled up, the air conditioning always off and the vehicle in Drive with the Overdrive off. At each launch, we brake-torqued the automatic transmissions to 2,000 rpm before takeoff.
How did the trucks do? As you might have guessed, the fastest truck was the one with the best power-to-weight ratio: The SVT Raptor, with its 411-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8. It ran the fastest test time at 7.71 seconds, which is more than a full second faster than the heaviest contender, the Ram Power Wagon, at 8.73 seconds. The two smaller players, the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma Baja (each with very similar power-to-weight ratios), ran very close, at 8.46 and 8.40 seconds, respectively.
For event scoring, we indexed the Raptor at 100, Tacoma Baja 92, Frontier 91 and Power Wagon 88.
For old-school enthusiasts who have to know the quarter-mile times, we have that, too. It might surprise you to see how close they all are:
- SVT Raptor, 16.07 seconds at 88.96 mph
- Tacoma Baja, 16.60 seconds at 83.87 mph
- Frontier, 16.69 seconds at 84.86 mph
- Power Wagon, 16.89 seconds at 83.85 mph
For our brake tests, we drove the same stretch of road we used for our acceleration tests. The procedure was simple: get to 60 mph as comfortably as possible, and then slam our foot into the brake pedal once our digital readout from our VBOX computer hit the designated speed.
We ran each truck through four separate trials, each time getting as close to 60 mph as possible. To score the test, we threw out the high and low times and averaged the remaining two. This allows us, again, to eliminate as many variables as possible and keep the playing field even. All our competitors had BFGoodrich tires, with the Frontier being the only one with Rugged Trail T/As; the rest were shod with All Terrain T/As.
The results were a little surprising. The Frontier bested the rest of the group by a pretty good margin, stopping from 60 mph at an average of 141.1 feet. The Tacoma Baja came in second at 149.7 feet; the Raptor came in third at 151.6 feet; and the heaviest of the group, the Ram Power Wagon, stopped in a respectable 157.5 feet.
For event scoring, we indexed the Frontier at 100, Tacoma Baja at 94, Raptor at 93 and Power Wagon at 90.
For the fuel-economy test, we started the day by checking all the vehicles’ factory-listed tire pressures before filling each fuel tank to full followed by two clicks, just to make sure.
The Ram 2500 Power Wagon came with a dual tire-pressure-setting selector that allowed us to change the parameters for the tire pressure warning light by 20 pounds of inflation pressure. This option gives Ram owners a better “bandwidth” of abilities for a truck that is running around town with an empty payload or a truck at or near maximum payload. Since we were not doing any payload runs for our mileage loop, we chose to use the lighter of the two settings and were able to lower the rear tire pressures to 60 pounds instead of 80. This would make for a much more comfortable ride, and it better duplicates how most owners would likely drive their truck around town.
Our driving loop took us in and around the Ann Arbor area, getting us as far east as Romulus, as far north as Holly and as far west as Howell. We asked all the drivers to keep the air-conditioning fan and temperature level consistent and try to stay within visual range of each other, adhering to all speed limits. The total loop, including fill-ups at our start and finish fuel station (we even filled up before and after the run at the same pump), took about six hours.
Winning the mileage competition was the Tacoma Baja, with 20.7 mpg. The Frontier PRO-4X was right behind with 20.2 mpg, and the big-motored SVT Raptor delivered 16.4 mpg. As you might have guessed, the heaviest pickup (6,660 pounds) with the tallest rear-end gears (4.56:1) had the worst fuel economy at 11.9 mpg.
For event scoring, we indexed the Tacoma Baja at 100, Frontier at 98, Raptor at 79 and Power Wagon at 58.
Ultimate 4x4 Shootout