The editors of Four Wheeler magazine, one of the world's biggest authorities on four-wheel drive, recently published an article listing the most significant 4x4 pickup trucks produced in the last decade. The parameters were fairly wide open and included some interesting choices. We thought our readers might find this noteworthy, so we're sharing it — along with our own comments and suggestions.
The only glaring omission in Four Wheeler's original list (incorporated below) was the Toyota Tacoma Baja Package that included an entirely unique suspension (with remote-reservior Bilstein rear shock absorbers), big tires and cool graphics.
Although Four Wheeler's story named the pickups in no particular order, we thought we'd list them in order of importance.
1. 2011 Ford SVT Raptor
From the day it was discussed, then introduced, this entry from Ford's Special Vehicle Team is like no other pickup in the four-wheel-drive universe. The truck exploded onto the pickup scene in 2010 with a price tag less than $40,000 and has steadily climbed in total sales numbers every year. The truck was offered with the powerful 6.2-liter V-8 and is likely to get the EcoBoost engine if Ford announces its continued production beyond 2014 (which it hasn't done yet).
2. 2005 Dodge (Ram) Power Wagon
When this truck debuted, there was absolutely nothing else like it on the market. Some had tried to make a bullet-proof rock crawler, but Ram engineers deserve a lot of credit for fighting for this one. It doesn't sell in huge numbers, but the execution and capability of the truck (based on a 2500 chassis with front and rear locking differentials and sway bar disconnects) is without equal.
3. 2009, 2013, 2014 Ram 1500
No one can accuse the Ram 1500 of not taking some big risks. With the rear-coil-spring debut in 2009 that sent shockwaves through the half-ton segment and the hugely improved 2013 model that is a big reason for Ram's growing success, this newly envisioned half-ton is a home run by almost any standard. Toss in the attention-getting 2014 EcoDiesel on top of it all, and this is a strong top-three player.
4. 2013 Toyota Tacoma Baja T/X
Although it missed the Four Wheeler list, this was Toyota's first step into serious off-road territory. It made honest efforts with the Toyota Racing Development and Rock Warrior packages but the Baja setup is by far Toyota's best to date. We're told it will get better with the new Pro Series packages that debuted at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show on the 2015 Tacoma, Tundra and 4Runner SUV.
5. 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500/GMC Sierra 1500 Z71
Much of the thinking here is centered on the engine improvements in which GM found a way to stick with the traditional overhead valve system but squeeze out more power and fuel efficiency than ever before, from the entry-level V-6 to both V-8 options. All have cylinder deactivation, direct injection and variable valve timing. And we're guessing stop-start technology, weight reduction, hybrid options and even a light-duty diesel could be on the way.
6. 2011 Ford F-150 EcoBoost
Although it was seen as a big risk for Ford at the time, the EcoBoost reputation is now sky high. With more than 40 percent of all F-150 sales using the smaller twin-turbo V-6 under the hood, the powertrain has pushed both GM and Ram to take powertrain risks with their new pickups as well. Another new, smaller EcoBoost V-6 will debut in the 2015 Ford F-150.
7. 2005 Nissan Frontier NISMO
The NISMO Package was Nissan's first legitimate attempt at offering a solid off-road package where nothing had seriously existed before. The package became popular enough to get its own dedicated Pro-4X branding and is now quite popular with serious off-roaders. Since its introduction, sales have steadily climbed to its highest levels ever.
8. 2005 Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra With QuadraSteer
A quirky piece of technology, the QuadraSteer essentially used a Dana 60 steering axle in the rear of a half-ton chassis that was supposed to make it the ultimate safety tow vehicle, basically eliminating nasty trailer sway from cornering and lane changing. Unfortunately, the option was too pricey and the benefits too difficult to explain to tow-centric buyers.
9. 2006 Dodge Ram Mega Cab
This was the first of the behemoth cab experiments (Toyota still offers the CrewMax), which effectively used the crew cab with an 8-foot-bed wheelbase but installed a 6.25-foot bed to create room for a larger cab. Specifically, this meant you could load a large-screen TV inside the cab and offer rear-seat passengers yards of legroom. Even today, about 15 percent of Ram HDs are Mega Cabs.
10. 2009 H3T Hummer
A nice, little truck but the market was not ready for a parts-bin heavy-duty midsize pickup with a premium price tag. The entire Hummer lineup was eventually killed because no one in the global marketplace thought it was worth buying. A year after this V-8-equipped H3T debuted, GM killed the brand and with it an H2T full-size pickup truck and Wrangler-sized HX. This truck went extinct.
Images from the manufacturers