By Cars.com EditorsJanuary 19, 2017
About the video
Our 2017 Monster Factory Off-Road Challenge panel of judges had the chance to take each of the off-road competitors through the nasty terrain of the Arizona desert. How did they perform on the rocks? Watch the video to see what we found.
(upbeat music) We're here in some of the nastiest parts of the Arizona desert with six of the baddest full-size pickup truck Off-Road packages, as part of our 2017 Monster Factory Off-Road Challenge.
Our competitors are the Ford F-150 Raptor, the Nissan TITAN PRO-4X, the Nissan TITAN XD PRO-4X, the Mopar Ram Rebel, the Ram Power Wagon, and a Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. We've also assembled a crack team of judges to take these pickup trucks on some extreme four by four trails where we've done some dawn until dusk testing. How did each of our competitors perform on the rocks? Here's what we had to say. First up the Raptor, which for the most part blew away our judges. So the Raptor, it's got like, what's not to like about the Raptor. I mean, if we're trying to find something to dislike about the Raptor, really just splitting hairs, right? I think if I had to pull something out though that 10 speed automatic transmission, it's just, that's like next level stuff. I mean, what you can do on the hill here, decelerating, there's a gear for everything. This might sound a little bit silly is that there are so many things to like about it. Great ground clearance, big wheels and tires, a great powertrain and a multi terrain system that allows you to do an incredible number of different type of off-road terrains. And that's exactly what we did here today. Put it in rock crawl mode, which locked up the rear end and gave us an incredible crawl ratio that allowed us to crawl up and over steep rocks. That a lot of us were thinking we couldn't even walk up. I was actually worried that the Raptor would be out of its element because when you think of a rocker, you think of it running fast through a desert somewhere. But today we were crawling, it was very technical. It was very slow and it still been really well. You have very good articulation with both the front and rear axle in the engine. You're afraid that it's because it's a turbocharged engine, it's got all that horsepower and all that torque is not going be able to apply it evenly, but it did. It was the truck I felt most confident in. My favorite thing about the Raptor is that it's balanced. It'll go slow. It'll go fast. It'll ride comfortably without beating you up. And it's got plenty of power for a week to go with it. Next up the Titan, which our judges were a little mixed about. The Nissan TITAN PRO-4X with a gas engine had the bare minimum of what we would consider an awkward package. Had an electronic locking rear differential, which was nice, but really it was fairly unsubstantial, the approach angle for the front end was just all wrong too. Anytime you heard a crunch, bam, it was the Nissan. You have to be honest, I don't think there's really much you like or dislike about the Nissan. It was kind of okay at everything. Like it wasn't quite as comfortable as some of the others. It also wasn't quite as capable of coming together. And the one thing that did bother me was again, the steering. It shows that with the panic. I like the Titan because it's a balanced package. It doesn't go too far into the off-road mode. It doesn't go too far into becoming a limo. And it's reasonably priced. Second only to the Tundra in this group. Now to the TITAN XD, the only diesel in our competition. What stood out most of the Nissan TITAN XD is of course that diesel engine, it could climb a hill practically without even touching the throttle. The nice thing about the XD that does have a lot of low-end torque engine. So when you're pulling yourself up obstacles, or when you're crawling downhill, especially with it in low range with the gear set, it will pretty much do all the work for you. You don't need to do too much with the pedals. I liked the effortlessness with which it is going along the road to our final touch with big diesel and a tight transmission, makes child spoiled little rocks. I liked that the tow hooks are the point of approach. So they're easily replaceable instead of something expensive like a bumper. And I like that, you can still use it as a truck. You can tow stuff and carry stuff with it. What I liked about the TITAN XD is, might sound odd, but it's out of its element here. Obviously this is a big, heavy truck on tight rugged terrain. So that usually doesn't happen. People don't take their big expensive heavy trucks out on trails like this, but the fact that it was heavy, especially having all that weight from the Cummins diesel in the front of that vehicle. I think actually helped navigate some of the steep hill plans we had. What I didn't like about the XD is almost obvious by just looking at it. It's got a big nose, it's got a big front skid plate for a reason, and a lot of places where we needed a good approach angle. This vehicle struggled quite a bit. Now for the Rebel, here's what we thought. The only thing I don't really like about the Rebel is that it came with sidesteps, which seems counterintuitive here because you're lowering a truck that you've just gone to all this trouble with. What I like most about the Rebel is the transmission, but I have kind of a love-hate relationship with this transmission. It's fantastic for low range crawling because it's got a great first gear ratio, but when you're in drive, coming downhill in low range, and that transmission isn't being put in a specific gear, it just wants to run away. The Rebel has a lot of things going for it, but those sideboards continue to trip me up all day. You're just worried about them constantly. Like, are they going to escape on this? Are they gonna scrape on that? Because they dropped down so far off the size of the truck that they effectively lower your ground clearance. And they lower the amount of obstacles that you can climb a word, because you're afraid that you're going to bend them or break them off at some point. When you lift the air suspension all the way up, it makes it really uncomfortable. You don't get the same amount of travel. It feels like with the shocks. So every time you go over a bump, you really feel the bond. And now the Power Wagon we're none of our judges mentioned the fact that there was a factory winch, maybe that's because nobody had to use it. Power Wagon is really comfortable that actually drive off road. And the amount of things that you can do to change the suspension for the conditions are really impressive. Having a front and rear lockers and or sway bar disconnect are features that you would likely find on a Wrangler than on a big HD pickup. So to have them here, it's not only surprise, It's really welcome on tight technical stuff. What is not to love about this Power Wagon on tight technical off-road trails. This is an amazing vehicle. You take off the table, the locking differentials in the sway bar disconnect, but live axles front and rear. And not only that, but on the front suspension, Ram is incorporated in an Accu-Flex, a lower control arm that allows that thing to twist and flex better than anything that we've had out here today. Probably the only thing I don't like about the Power Wagon is it reminds me how short I am. There's no side steps on this vehicle. So getting into it is a chore, no matter where we're parked. I liked that it's an HD truck and it feels indestructible, but it's got soft suspension and articulation, which makes it ride just plush along the slow speed stuff. I don't dislike the Hemi, but you put a big Hemi and a big truck fuel mileage is going to suffer. I'd be very happy to haul their Cummins Inc and combo out of an XD and stick it in here. The Power Wagon, when you're looking at the specs and the features, it's just kind of an all-round bad-ass truck. I mean, it has an electronic disconnecting sway bar. And that today out on the trail proved extremely useful with it connected the truck is stiff and rigid, but as soon as you hit the button to disconnect that everything's kind of free and it feels connected to the trail. Like every rock is being hit by the tire, and everything's just in perfect contact. And it gives you a lot more confidence. I wasn't that sure that the feature would make that much of a difference, but out here it absolutely did. And now for Tundra's most rugged Off-Road Package, here's what we think. The TRD Pro was the one truck that struggled today. And it clearly struggled. It was fighting traction issues. A lot of that was because the tyre choices a very street oriented tyre. You go out and buy this truck. The first thing you need to do is put a real tyre on it, but it also doesn't have a locking rear differential. It just has a regular limited-slip. And that also gave a trouble out here today. It's probably the least technologically advanced. It doesn't have the same amount of four wheel drive technology that the others did. That being said, it did pretty much everything that everything else did. And it was on more, a less aggressive tyre setup too. What I like about the Tundra is a simplicity. There's not a lot of buttons you have to press, there's no modes to select the shifters is easy you stick in dry plant foot, listen to the nice exhaust pipe and take off. I think what I like least about the Tundra TRD Pro package is that it needs to be updated. Tundra is a nice pickup truck all by itself. But when you're sitting in that interior all day long, especially when you're getting in and out of a Power Wagon or the new Nissans, that interior is really old, it needs to be updated quickly. (upbeat music)