Ram, 4Run­ner vari­ants han­dle tough­est of off-road ad­ven­tures

The Amherst News - - WHEELS - By Jim Kerr Jim Kerr is a mas­ter me­chanic and re­cently re­tired teach of au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy. jk­err@her­ald.ca

Not all 4x4 ve­hi­cles are cre­ated equal. For those that want to do some se­ri­ous off-road ex­cur­sions, it helps to have some spe­cial equip­ment.

You can spend thou­sands of dol­lars on af­ter-mar­ket gear to help you con­quer the tough­est trails, but it is eas­ier and usu­ally works bet­ter if the equip­ment is de­signed by the auto man­u­fac­turer to work with their own spe­cific ve­hi­cle.

Re­cently, I ex­pe­ri­enced the ca­pa­bil­ity of two ve­hi­cles that are equally com­fort­able on the road or on the tough­est of off-road ad­ven­tures.

They were the 2017 Ram 2500HD Power Wagon and the 2017 Toy­ota 4Run­ner TRD PRO. Both these ve­hi­cles come with in­te­grated equip­ment specif­i­cally de­signed to help you cover the rough­est ter­rain.

Let’s look at the Ram Power Wagon equip­ment first. As a heavy duty pickup, it has the stiffer springs and higher sus­pen­sion with more than two inches of ad­di­tional lift that pro­vides 14.3 inches of ground clear­ance over large ob­sta­cles.

The coil spring and multi-link sus­pen­sion al­lows more ar­tic­u­la­tion so the sus­pen­sion can keep the tires on the ground when the ter­rain is un­even. Ram mea­sures the sus­pen­sion ar­tic­u­la­tion at 26 inches of travel.

An­other fea­ture of the Power Wagon sus­pen­sion is a dri­vers­e­lectable ‘Smart Bar’ front sway bar. When the Power Wagon is in four wheel drive and op­er­at­ing be­low 18 miles per hour, the Smart Bar dis­en­gages the front sway bar op­er­a­tion so the front sus­pen­sion can ar­tic­u­late even more.

When the ve­hi­cle speeds ex­ceed 18 mph the sway bar au­to­mat­i­cally re-en­gages as a safety fea­ture.

Be­sides the torquey, 6.4-litre Hemi V8 en­gine, the Power Wagon driv­e­train in­cludes a sixspeed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and man­u­ally shifted trans­fer case with 2wd and 4hi and 4lo ranges. Heavy duty 9.25 front axle and 11.5 rear axle have 4:11 gear ra­tios.

With the trans­mis­sion and trans­fer case shifted to low range, the over­all gear ra­tio is 35 to 1, which en­ables the truck to crawl over rough ter­rain.

Off-road ex­plor­ing is about get­ting there safely, not about how fast one can go.

Both front and rear dif­fer­en­tials have an elec­tric lock­ing fea­ture that pro­vides equal drive to both sides of the ve­hi­cle when the 33-inch Goodyear Wran­gler Du­raTrac tires can’t pro­vide enough trac­tion by them­selves.

If you get into a sit­u­a­tion where there is sim­ply no trac­tion left, the stan­dard equip­ment 12,000 pound Warn winch with 90 feet of ca­ble mounted be­hind the front bumper is there to help get you un­stuck, or pull an­other ve­hi­cle out that isn’t as well equipped as the Power Wagon.

Fi­nally, hill de­scent con­trol elec­tron­i­cally con­trols down­hill speeds so the driver doesn’t have to in­ter­vene by us­ing the brakes or gear­ing.

The Power Wagon was first in­tro­duced as a tough 4x4 work­horse pickup in 1945 and the lat­est Power Wagon con­tin­ues the tra­di­tion.

Toy­ota 4Run­ner TRD Pro Off-Road

Toy­ota’s 4Run­ner TRD Pro Off-Road edi­tion takes a slightly dif­fer­ent but equally ef­fec­tive ap­proach to off-road ad­ven­ture. The Toy­ota uses more elec­tronic driver as­sist fea­tures to help with off-road ter­rain.

When se­lected, the Crawl Con­trol fea­ture au­to­mat­i­cally mod­u­lates the throt­tle and brakes on five low-speed set­tings so the driver can con­cen­trate on steer­ing across dif­fi­cult ter­rain.

An­other elec­tronic fea­ture is Toy­ota’s Multi-ter­rain Se­lect Sys­tem. The driver can se­lect one of five op­er­at­ing modes such as mud/sand, loose rock, mogul, rock or dirt/rock.

Each mode will au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just the en­gine throt­tle and in­di­vid­ual brake pres­sures through the trac­tion con­trol sys­tem to help reg­u­late wheel spin for the best trac­tion.

For ex­am­ple, in mud/sand mode the tires are al­lowed to spin more so they can “dig” through the loose sur­face, while in Rock mode, the wheel spin is lim­ited so there is more trac­tion.

Like the Ram, Toy­ota’s 4Run­ner off road pack­age in­cludes man­u­ally shifted trans­fer case, lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial and a sys­tem that can dis­con­nect the sway bars for more wheel ar­tic­u­la­tion on rough sur­faces. Toy­ota calls this Ki­netic Dy­namic Sus­pen­sion.

The off road pack­age also in­cludes Bil­stein shock ab­sorbers with re­mote oil reser­voirs for the best sus­pen­sion damp­ing and Nitto Terra Grap­pler All Ter­rain tires for max­i­mum grip.

Hill start as­sist is an­other great fea­ture, which keeps the brakes en­gaged on a hill while you move your foot from the brake pedal to the ac­cel­er­a­tor.

This fea­ture works equally well on city streets as on a steep off road climb.

Off-road ad­ven­tures can be a lot of fun, es­pe­cially if you have the right equip­ment.

The 2017 Ram 2500HD Power Wagon is a good part­ner for se­ri­ous off-road treks.

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