By Mark Williams | Photography by Evan Sears
It started after we published our Duel in the Desert. As you recall, that Shootout was unique in that it was a “one test, two trucks, best time” contest. We found a great course and a great driver to make the head-to-head competition one of our most popular — and controversial — to date. Sure, the Ram Runner was more like a custom-built creation from Mopar, and the SVT Raptor was more like a pro athlete, but they both had something to prove.
When we published the Duel in the Desert, Ram and Ford fans alike had very passionate opinions. One consistent opinion was that the Shootout was not a good all-around test of the each 4x4’s strengths and weaknesses. That point will be debated for millennia, but it did make us think about our next Shootout.
This time we wanted to offer truck makers a chance to prove their 4x4 credentials through one simple challenge: Give us your best 4x4 off-road package on whatever pickup you sell through a dealership, and let us test the snot out of them. This allows us to find out which factory off-road package is the best all-around off-road champion.
The four trucks we have for this contest are listed below, in alphabetical order by brand. Click on any of them to watch a video of the truck’s specs and features.
We should note that, with a new truck on the horizon, GM declined to participate. (To see how these combatants compare with one another in most the important spec categories, see the chart below or click here.)
To do this right, we knew we’d want to include the support of some of our four-wheeling experts, so we went to the team at Four Wheeler Magazine. Editor John Cappa and Technical Editor Sean Holman (now the editor of Diesel Power Magazine) joined us as judges for our Ultimate 4x4 Shootout, and they conducted their own extreme challenge test at the same time. In addition to providing their own pickup perspectives for us, they also had a few SUV off-road packages for their test. (You can read all about their winners in the January issue of Four Wheeler going on sale on Nov. 13.)
We did our objective testing at the Chrysler Proving Grounds just outside Chelsea, Mich. Before anyone cries foul and bias, we should let you know we made offers to both Chrysler and Ford to host the Shootout performance testing at their facilities, and after some back and forth with both companies, the most convenient (mutually agreed upon) site worked out to be the Proving Grounds.
Thankfully, we got full access to the wide-open vehicle dynamics area to conduct the acceleration and braking runs without any interference, as well as several off-road areas and challenges that were on site.
In addition, we invited a RaceLogic VBOX expert to join us for the track-testing day (based about an hour away in Clawson, Mich.) to provide us with technical support and serve as a neutral third-party observer. Subsequent truck tests, such as fuel economy, were conducted in and around Ann Arbor and just outside Flint, Mich. We used a private off-road park called The Mounds, where we conducted the remainder of our off-road tests.
In the end, our Ultimate 4x4 Shootout comes down to 10 separate scored events where we directly compared each truck with the other three contenders. In the quantitative tests, the winner received 100 points, and the runners-up were awarded points based on how close they came to the winner’s performance. For the remaining off-road events, qualitative scores were assessed separately by the three judges.
In the Off-Road Testing category, we evaluated each truck’s dedicated 4x4 engineering, and scoring was done by consensus. Of course, this is where we invite you to do your own assessment and come up with your own score if you so choose. Each score and test result will be in the appropriate section, with the comprehensive box scores in the Results section.
On to the Shootout!
Ultimate 4x4 Shootout