2017 Monster Factory Off-Road Challenge: Results

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By Joe Bruzek

Flogging these pickup trucks off-road wasn't our only consideration when picking the 2017 Monster Factory Off-Road Challenge winner. Each truck racked up points through rigorous evaluations in a number of subjective categories that included judges' scores in interior quality, versatility, value and more. Points also were awarded for measured testing of acceleration and braking and various truck-centric capabilities, including payload and gross vehicle weight ratings.

The winner was perhaps a bit lopsided in off-road chops and leaned so far in that direction that its shortcomings in other areas weren't serious enough to keep it off the top of the podium. Here's how they finished:

No. 6: 2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon, 1,879 points

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Equipped with the heaviest duty of heavy-duty parts, we were a bit surprised to see the 2500 Power Wagon come up last. It wasn't due to a lack of enthusiasm from the judges; we scored the Power Wagon our second favorite in subjective categories.

"If any vehicle looked and felt at home on the trail, it was the Power Wagon. There's so much to love here: live axles, softened coil springs, dual-pivot lower control arms, a sway-bar disconnect, front and rear locking differentials, and gobs of ground clearance," said PickupTrucks.com Editor Mark Williams.

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No, it was the fuel economy of the heavy-duty gasser, pokey acceleration numbers and mid-pack payload that bit away at the Power Wagon's chances of placing better among lighter, more fuel-efficient and quicker, yet mostly less off-road-capable, trucks.

No. 5: 2017 Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X, 1,899 points

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The Titan XD Pro-4X diesel may be a partial-heavy-duty pickup, but it's more similar to the Power Wagon than the other trucks and the two battled head-to-head for the best of the heaviest. Test judge and automotive freelance journalist Greg Whale commented that the XD is "a very good truck for working at, or towing things to, off-highway locations," and that's how the XD beat the Power Wagon, by eking 20 more points from categories including gross vehicle weight rating, payload and towing.

The XD's diesel engine also returned better fuel economy than the gas Power Wagon and ranked second on our fuel-economy loop. For some judges, the diesel engine was notable on the trail for low-end torque that was able to impressively pull the 7,400-pound truck through ruts and over rocks.

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Not all judges were thrilled with the diesel engine, however, on- or off-road.

"I haven't liked this engine," said Cars.com Los Angeles Bureau Chief Brian Wong. "It's not responsive in either environment and it has a weird exhaust note I didn't enjoy."

No. 4: 2016 Toyota Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, 1,915 points

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The Tundra TRD Pro elicited the most "What if?" comments. What if it had more aggressive tires? What if it had a locking differential? What if it had fewer miles? The Tundra, with 15,000 miles on its odometer, was a rattle trap compared with the other trucks. It was also the least expensive of the group with few convenience options (the TRD Pro has no optional equipment). But to some, the Tundra's basicness was a plus.

"Simplicity is always a bonus — see the shifter and climate controls — but it feels a generation old, maybe because, for most intents and purposes, it is," Whale said.

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The Tundra TRD Pro overcame the same trail obstacles as the other trucks, but it always seemed to struggle just a little bit more, needing awareness in throttle application and patience to tackle similar obstacles. Throttle control helped the Tundra in these tough situations. "I still really enjoy the engine/throttle combination. On the street it makes the Toyota feel a bit spritelier, and off-road it's the one I preferred for crawling obstacles," Wong said.

The TRD Pro's standard Michelin tires were far less aggressive than other trucks' rubber, though they had a deceiving amount of grip on the rocky trail. The factory tires are nothing like the aggressive optional BFGoodrich tires we've previously tested on a Tundra TRD Pro, however.

No. 3: 2017 Nissan Titan Pro-4X, 1,949 points

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Mid-pack was an appropriate finish for the half-ton Titan Pro-4X with the gas V-8. It was the truck judges proclaimed did everything acceptably but didn't stand out in any particular way. It struck a balance between street driving, hauling ability and off-road capability. The Titan struggled off-road with a weak approach angle and a front skid plate that seemingly had a death wish. Williams explained:

"It doesn't take too long on a rough-and-tumble trail to find the limits of the suspension, finding out how soft the front end, with its long nose, can be. It's not right when you have to get used to hearing your front skid plate work so hard with off-roading."

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The Titan's street ride quality was superb and very much like other modern half-ton trucks, though clearly more street oriented than off-road focused, but still capable of light-duty off-road work. "A worthy choice for a second car that pulls quads, snowmobiles or a moderate camping trailer occasionally," Whale said.

No. 2: 2016 Ram 1500 Mopar Rebel, 1,952 points

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Ram didn't need to throw much at the Ram 1500 Rebel for it to be a capable off-road package. The air suspension and eight-speed automatic transmission are such big strengths of other Ram 1500s and are aided by grippy 32-inch-tall (as measured by PickupTrucks.com) all-terrain tires and a 3.92 axle ratio for a package that's surprisingly balanced. The air suspension proved a popular feature among judges.

"What's not to like about a suspension that allows the driver to decided how high or low they want to go when driving different terrain?" Williams asked. "The airbags clearly help with on-road comfort and driver feel, but it's odd that when in 'Off-Road' mode it delivers the stiffest, most punishing ride."

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The whole package was tied together with supple ride quality, smart engine and transmission tuning, and creature comforts including remote start, a heated steering wheel and a Mopar special edition package on this particular truck. One feature we'd ditch are the tubular side steps, which took a beating on the trail.

"I get that Mopar offers quite a few customizing choices to their buyers, but the side steps took considerable work to protect. I would not recommend it for anyone thinking about venturing off-road, especially with a truck that can lower you to the ground with an air suspension," Williams said.

No. 1: 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor, 2,087 points

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To put it simply, the F-150 Raptor dominated. Sure, its trailering capabilities are a class below the other trucks in this Challenge, but this menacing pickup is the sports car of off-roading. It dominated low-speed trails and higher-speed loose dirt roads, plus it exhibited surprising civility on the road and had a long list of creature comforts.

"This is the new kind of sports truck," Williams remarked. "One that can do many things in several types of environments. My only complaint is that when it comes to being a bed-cargo-carrying pickup, it falters."

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Williams wasn't alone in his criticism of the Raptor's truck capabilities. "As a desert speedster or mountain goat, it's state of the art; as a second car, it's space inefficient and not particularly economical, and as a pickup, it barely edges out the average garden tractor or side-by-side," Whale said.

The Raptor didn't just perform well off-road. Its zero-to-60-mph and quarter-mile acceleration were more Mustang-like than trucklike and absolutely embarrassed the other trucks. Being well-rounded and a blast to drive on- and off-road echoed in the minds of the judges.

"I did not think it was possible to engineer such a specialized truck to be good at so many things," Wong said, "but it was."

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Overview | Track Testing | Off-Road Performance | Daily Driving | Dynamometer Testing | Results

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears

 

 

 

PUTCChallenge_results

 

 

Comments

Great Test, I really like the XD. I'd take the Raptor any day of the week.

And over at THQ there's an article where they claim the TRD Pro is better than the Raptor...Well, the above test definitively state otherwise...

Power Wagon won, exactly like I predicted.
Congrats RAM.

I figured the Raptor would win. The Rebel is hindered by the air suspension. I like it but on our GC it rides super stiff when in off-road mode. I would buy the regular Titan and put a soft riding lift on it and save $15k over the Raptor.

I am waiting to test drive the ZR2, probably my next truck...

I figured the Raptor would win. The Rebel is hindered by the air suspension. I like it but on our GC it rides super stiff when in off-road mode. I would buy the regular Titan and put a soft riding lift on it and save $15k over the Raptor.

I am waiting to test drive the ZR2, probably my next truck...

Is the Raptor the only pickup with an Auto setting in the transfer case?

Raptor
Payload 740 lbs.
Towing 6000 lbs

Wow. Someone is going to overload this truck on everyday basis, even when buying just groceries.


The fact that the Raptor was 3rd in fuel economy and was only 3% lower than first place is shocking for something that dominates so severely in power

The fact that the Raptor was 3rd in fuel economy and was only 3% lower than first place is shocking for something that dominates so severely in power

Posted by: Toycrusher | Jan 23, 2017 10:49:18 AM

The Raptor is the lightest and has no payload capacity, it was running empty all the time, so it didn't use the full power. Load it with anything, pull uphill heavy trailer and you will see a different results in the chart. Wait, you can't , because no payload and no towing capacity.

Power Wagon won, exactly like I predicted.
Congrats RAM.

Posted by: RAM | Jan 23, 2017 10:25:35 AM


No. 1: 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor, 2,087 points. It seems like your PC crashed or froze before you were able to scroll to the #1 spot.

LOL!

"It dominated low-speed trails and higher-speed loose dirt roads, plus it exhibited surprising civility on the road and had a long list of creature comforts." - PUTC on the Raptor

See, I told you guys. Raptor is not just for high-speed. That is a misnomer. Raptor is good all around off-road.

I also predicted the Power Wagon would come in at near the bottom just like 4 years ago.

Good job, PUTC!

Frank, I was talking Off-road chalange, like this test suppose to be headlined.
Power Wagon won offroad. If the test headline says Lowest payload and lowest towing capacity , than raptor won for sure, I give you that.

Ford won off-road.

On off-road ability:
""There's no factory truck that can keep up; a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro would be the most likely second-place finisher, but with roughly half the power it would literally be left in the Raptor's dust. All that travel also lets the wheels drop gently at slow speeds for easy crawling over rocks or through divots."

Yep, Ford first. None of the other trucks can keep up to the Raptor. Taco would actually come in second. Yes, even the Taco would beat the Ram and Power Wagon, again.

I am waiting to test drive the ZR2, probably my next truck...
Posted by: Dave | Jan 23, 2017 10:33:37 AM

Yeah, right.

Not me, I am not driving a tiny truck.

@PUTC: Your "What if questions" are legit. It makes one wonder why Toyota is no longer wholly committed to the 1/2 ton market like they were in 2007.

Maybe you can ask Toyota that question? That would make for a good article as interest in the Tundra is waning...

The the pick-up with the lowest towing and carrying capacity wins. That's why I love PUTC with all their subjective testing. No wonder the company that builds professional grade trucks wasn't wasting their time sending a truck.

Ridgeline has double the payload of Raptor. Raptor - 335kg.
3 US man. That's it.
Wow.

The the pick-up with the lowest towing and carrying capacity wins. That's why I love PUTC with all their subjective testing. No wonder the company that builds professional grade trucks wasn't wasting their time sending a truck.


Posted by: GMSRGREAT | Jan 23, 2017 11:33:43 AM

Only GM owners are worried about loading a 10K LB Trailers and going off-roading in it.

Looks like GMS just cant catch a break, and Papa must have left, as he too hates that Ford always wins

Great job Ford, and even better, great job Nissan!

"The the pick-up with the lowest towing and carrying capacity wins. That's why I love PUTC with all their subjective testing. No wonder the company that builds professional grade trucks wasn't wasting their time sending a truck."

I see your point but how much do you actually expect to tow or haul off road? This is an OFF-ROAD challenge. Few people outside of the army really tow a lot off road without running a bulldozer out front. The good part is that they gave you all of the data and you can re-score the trucks based on what is important to you. I expect a heavy truck challenge soon, maybe they will include some off-road testing in it for people that do need a more truck like off-road experience. Let's tell Mark what we want to see in that challenge.

Ram needs to do something with the Hemi, it really isn't in the game anymore.

I will admit, I came in here and saw the PW at 6th and was prepared to draft up a "hahahahahahaha told you so!" to all the Ram fanboys, but then I read this line:

"No, it was the fuel economy of the heavy-duty gasser, pokey acceleration numbers and mid-pack payload that bit away at the Power Wagon's chances of placing better among lighter, more fuel-efficient and quicker, yet mostly less off-road-capable, trucks."

So let me get this straight... you ran an "ultimate offroad" shootout, and then the categories that knocked one of the top contenders out are not off road related. Ummm... whats going on here guys?

Also, way to go Raptor! Beats 2nd place contender by almost 2x the spread between 2nd-6th, thats um, impressive.

Raptor: 2087

2nd Place: 1952

1st-2nd Gap = 135

6th Place: 1879

2nd-6th Gap = 73

Wow, just wow, thats all I have to say.

The Raptor is the lightest and has no payload capacity, it was running empty all the time, so it didn't use the full power. Load it with anything, pull uphill heavy trailer and you will see a different results in the chart. Wait, you can't , because no payload and no towing capacity.

Posted by: RAM | Jan 23, 2017 10:57:20 AM

Not really, in this case, payload is limited by the suspension most likely, the powertrain is more than capable of pulling at least the 12k or whatever the standard F150 is rated for, and in all likelihood could go higher given it has more power and more advantageous gearing vs the standard F150.

PUTC usually runs economy tests in the same config for every truck, so it is unlikely that the difference in MPG shown above was down to one truck running a heavier load (beyond curb weight) than another.

If a Raptor owner overloads this truck the only adverse side effect is going to be a lot of rear squat and staring up at the sky from the super soft rear suspension. 750lbs could become an issue for the average Raptor owner who likes to put a pair of fullsize dirtbikes in the bed though. Heck a few fully stocked Yeti coolers wouldnt leave you much remaining capacity once you get all your buddies in the cab.

Unbelievable, This site has lost all credibility. Thank God their are other options in truck news and reviews. What a joke of a site. And what a joke of an off road test.

Figured the Craptor would have the worst braking capability , and that's only when they work LOL

Not surprised that the testing could be stacked so favorably for the Raptor.

Why was fuel economy even a consideration? What is this, Consumer Reports? Where is the yoga room?

And why would anyone put an heavy duty diesel in a comparison like this? Diesel in a drag race? Z to 60? Z to quarter mile times?

Its pretty funny that in an off road challenge the power wagon comes in last.

The Craptor has more tow hooks, that's a important feature. what a joke.

"Unbelievable, This site has lost all credibility. Thank God their are other options in truck news and reviews. What a joke of a site. And what a joke of an off road test."

I am sure that if you choose to spend all of your time on those other sites not very many people here will miss your inputs.

"Unbelievable, This site has lost all credibility. Thank God their are other options in truck news and reviews. What a joke of a site. And what a joke of an off road test."

That is a good comment. I would bet that every truck in the test has a trailer hitch and if you can't hook to the ball you can at least hook up where the safety chains attach.

Unbelievable, This site has lost all credibility. Thank God their are other options in truck news and reviews. What a joke of a site. And what a joke of an off road test.


Posted by: HEMI V8 | Jan 23, 2017 12:36:23 PM

We're deeply sorry your Favorite Truck didn't win.

The Craptor has more tow hooks, that's a important feature. what a joke. Posted by: IMHO | Jan 23, 2017 12:45:31 PM

Yeah need to be able to drag that wussy fem car joke of a offroad truck home when it breaks.

The Craptor has more tow hooks, that's a important feature. what a joke. Posted by: IMHO | Jan 23, 2017 12:45:31 PM

Yeah need to be able to drag that wussy fem car joke of a offroad truck home when it breaks.


Posted by: johnny doe | Jan 23, 2017 1:04:27 PM

We're deeply sorry you have no friends and you just reply to your own comments.

Power Wagon won, exactly like I predicted.
Congrats RAM.
Posted by: RAM | Jan 23, 2017 10:25:35 AM

GUTS
GL
ORY
RAM!

Power Wagon won, exactly like I predicted.
Congrats RAM.
Posted by: RAM | Jan 23, 2017 10:25:35 AM

GUTS
GL
ORY
RAM!

73 point spread between 6th and 2nd. 135 between 2nd and 1st. This wasn't just a win, it was annihilation.

That's right Raptor DOMINATED!
Jonny Duh, GMnotsogreat, wished it were and pops
Go get your self a big box of tissues, a blankie, ask Mom to heat up some spaghettios and have yourselves a good cry. You have permission to speak when General Malaise brings some tin to the game. Until then hush.

I thought this was going to be an "off road" comparo... The fact that 0-60, and 1/4 mile times were taken with braking tests makes no sense in an "off road" comparo. When you had the Ram Rebel finish ahead of the Ram Power Wagon it shows how much off roading you really did. You should have named this comparo "Best truck to drive mostly on road with a little off roading on the side." I mean really guys? A truck with front and rear lockers that has a front sway bar disconnect and a factory winch finishes last? I cannot believe you guys did that....

Raptor can't legally go off-road with full family inside, because it would exceed the maximum payload. No water and food with you for desert high speed offroading legally either. You can't leave the city limits, because of no payload for food and water.

Ford should make it a 3 seater without a bed. You can't accommodate more people and payload anyway. It would be even faster from 0 to 60 and humiliate Power Wagon even more.

What a joke Ford web site. LOL.


Ram, the ram is in the exact same boat as low payload. Hahaha.


Posted by: Bradley | Jan 23, 2017 2:28:35 PM

Yep, look at the Ecodiesel, and that truck was suppose to be meant for work, yeaheffenright

Bradley, no. Raptors payload and towing numbeare pathetic.
There is no truck on the market with less payload and towing capacity. I think, that even Prius can handle more.

Number of tow hooks? Tire sizes? If they performed well what do those numbers even matter. Power wagon is the only one with a winch...... Where is the scoring for that? What about 0-60 in loose dirt. Or mud........ this is off-road......... not track...This test is a joke. Il wait til someone does a real test. We know the raptor is a cool idea. If u want to go fast over dunes and get horrible milage.... But Jesus people get over it.

Exactly.No points for the sway bar disconnect, no points for the winch.
What's next? An extra points for the Ford sign on the front and back ?

another joke of a test..... subjective scoring from opinionated journalists.... LOL.... raw data shows the scoring otherwise. If not for the ONE TEST of 100 freaking points for 4 tow hooks and everyone else getting 50 the RAW TESTING DATA shows the Tundra Beating the Raptor..... what a joke. look at the off road measurements..... BTW the Tundra has a running ground clearance of 10.4 not 8.75..... Bias I tell ya.

Favorite test category was amount of town hooks. Really!?

Missing 2 tow hooks was a 50 point penalty?

Missing 2 tow hooks was a 50 point penalty?


Posted by: Mike | Jan 23, 2017 3:48:23 PM

They are paramount when off-roading.

So is a winch and that wasn't even a scored category

I need to remove my factory winch to increase the 0-60 times. Make it even more off road worthy. lol

CARS.com =JOKE!!!

I need to remove my factory winch to increase the 0-60 times. Make it even more off road worthy. lol

CARS.com =JOKE!!!



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