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