Dodge Ram Power Wagon
Every year Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine tests the factory-fresh 4x4 offerings in a no-holds-barred throwdown, with the winner being crowned 4x4 of the Year. We've tested trucks, SUVs, SUTs, and many a variation in the same test, as we feel whatever the rig is, it should excel at everything to be the winner. This year we were presented with only four rigs, but they are all extremely capable. In fact, this was the first time in 26 years of testing that all the contestants had a selectable rear locker, making this the most competent bunch of new 4x4s ever.
To participate in our thrashfest, a few requirements must be met to eliminate ringers and one-offs. We specify that each vehicle must be available to the general public by January 15 of the model year, and at least 2,500 must be planned for availability in the U.S. market. Also, we test in the real world on real trails, so vehicles must have true low-range transfer case gearing to be eligible. The ground clearance rule is important too: We must be able to crawl under the vehicle from side to side. These rules keep the All Wheel Drive crossovers from blocking the trail-and let's face it, if a vehicle can't clear a body or a parking block, how is it going to fare off road?
Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
Also, we only test all-new or significantly changed vehicles, or models we haven't tested previously. Putting some lights on a rack doesn't qualify an old rig to compete, but beefing the horsepower rating significantly or adding lockers front and rear makes a difference, or should. Likewise, we'll even take the same model from last year's offerings if we weren't able to test it in its first eligible year.
Many manufacturers we ask simply can't participate, either because they didn't have a vehicle available to us on time or they declined for some other reason.
We grade hard on price, as the lowest-priced rig gets three times the available points in that class. Furthermore, if pricing isn't available during the test, we can't let the rig compete. We also let the OEs know that all the fancy options that don't help off road will be counted off on that price, so running-board-laden luxo-utes are usually not the best rig to send.
Toyota 4Runner Trail
Regardless of what we had to work with in other years, this year was a hard-core tester's dream. The mighty Dodge Power Wagon is new with a more powerful engine, lockers front and rear in 3/4-ton solid axles with 4.56 gears, a sway bar disconnect, and our favorite item: the Warn 12,000-pound winch.
The Toyota 4Runner Trail competes with the techno-wizardry of crawl control, MTSS, A-TRAC HDC, a V-6 engine more powerful than the previous V-8, and a selectable rear locker.
Hummer H3T Alpha
The Hummer H3T is one we haven't tested in this configuration: the Alpha model with a V-8, lockers front and rear with 4:10 gears, and a 4:1 transfer case.
Rounding out the bunch is the new Ford SVT Raptor, a desert-bred high-performance factory prerunner with an off-road-tuned suspension. It also has 4.10 gears and a selectable rear locker powering 35-inch SVT Spec BFGoodrich A-T tires, the largest ever offered.
This group is truly the best of the best. Whatever rig captures this prize did so against tough competition. Let the winner take the crown!