2015 4x4 Challenge: What the Judges Said


For this Challenge we had three judges drive and test our two competitors, the 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel and the 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. All three judges are automotive journalists with strong driving skills. Two of our judges have a great deal of off-road experience and have spent time behind the wheel of many Ram and Toyota 4x4 pickup trucks. The third is no less skilled in his observational abilities, but does not have the off-road experience; with that said, he brought an open mind and learner's attitude to the tests.

The Judges

Mark Williams has been the editor of PickupTrucks.com for almost five years and spent the early part of his 30-plus-year professional career at Four Wheeler Magazine, punishing anything and everything with a transfer case. He has spent a good portion of his pickup driving life devising devious tests to expose their weaknesses.

Greg R. Whale has been breaking car and truck parts for more than 40 years and getting paid for it for more than 35 years. His work has appeared in more than 35 magazines and websites. In the name of full disclosure, Whale owns a pickup designed in the 1970s and all things being equal, he'd rather be sailing or cooking than anything else.

Brian Wong is a test driver and editor for Cars.com, working out of the website's Santa Monica, Calif., office. He spends much of his time enjoying the beach and covering new-model launches. Although he's a sponge when learning how to drive new terrain or learning the ins and outs of a new race track, Wong has a soft spot for convertibles with manual transmissions.

What They Said: Ram Rebel

"I know there's a lot of skepticism about the new look the Ram Rebel is showing the world, but I'm a fan. Add to that all the big tires, adjustable suspension and a Hemi, and it has a look, sound and ability that few can match." — MW

"I see what the Ram guys are trying to do here, but I see some inconsistencies; the truck has a load-leveling adjustable suspension but only the Toyota has adjustable headlight leveling, and how come they couldn't get a true dual exhaust to work under the truck?" — GRW

"I knew I would like the Ram Rebel's Uconnect setup, but what surprised me was how nice the interior felt. … I assumed an off-road package had to be spartan, but it felt more solid and was quieter in just about every circumstance. And, after everything is added up, the Ram is only $4,000 more? There's a value factor there." — BW


What They Said: Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

"Although it doesn't look much different, this new TRD Pro package is light-years ahead of the old TRD package, and the gained off-road performance is amazing. Great starting price but would have loved to see Toyota put some extra money into some added interior quality." — MW

"Toyota needs to figure out how to give the driver better lighting inside the cabin and through the headlights. Credit is due to the integration engineer who created the package to give the TRD Pro transmission a quick-shifting feel with an impressive throttle response." — GRW

"I'm now a huge fan of the old-school Toyota lettering on the grille — I like the more classic, black-out look but I couldn't help but think the Toyota needed a better interior and some kind of special bed feature. Loved all the passenger room with CrewMax, but I spent most of my time in the front seat." — BW

How the Judges Scored the Challenge

The judges scored the trucks in five categories, four of which were broken into two subcategories. Each judge awarded points to each truck for interior (layout and features), exterior (looks and features), mechanical (engine and suspension), four-wheel-drive capability (going slow and going fast) and overall value.

The judges' points accounted for about a quarter of the total points awarded to each truck. The remaining points came from the trucks' performances in 15 different tests.

After the judges scored the competitors, we added their combined category scores in each grouping below. You'll notice, as a group, our judges liked the Tundra quite a bit in four out of the five categories.


Cars.com photos by Evan Sears


Overview | Fuel Economy | Test Measurements | Going Slow | Going Fast | What the Judges Said | Results







So the Toyota clearly won the challenge against the Dodge, but you have three massive pictures of the Dodge at the end of the article. We know how mow much love the Tundra get on this website.

As everyone knows, I'm not a fan of full-sized pickups. To me, the numbers above really aren't all that far apart and I think they are all subjective. Not exactly a comparison.

My choice for interior and exterior is the Ram. The mechanical and 4x4 capabilities I can't comment as to be quite blunt I don't know either truck from first-hand experience. However, those people who own older Tundras that I talk to, swear by their reliability. For all that it's almost a no-show in the monthly sales charts, one reason for that may simply be due to the fact that their owners don't replace them as often as they do Fords and GMs.

Tundra has been a slow build for Toy. With a few miss steps and definitely 0 sense of urgency. Their method and motivation are unique and foreign to the full size truck world most of us know and operation in. It can be summed up in a single Ford, Fiat, GM, SHATTERING sentence... Toyota doesn't NEED to sell full sized trucks. Doesn't even need to make a profit on the ones it does sell. Doesn't need a bit chunk of the market. Doesn't cower in fear when full size trucks rise or fall 1/4 of a point or the price of gas rises or someone whispers the word recession. They wouldn't need a government bail out or domestically foreign take over if they didn't sell another Tundra ever. They can afford to go slow, Methodically, make mistakes, regroup, let is mature, refine and grow. Its impressive if you think about it. What an amazingly awesome position to be in. So why do they do it? They build the truck here, for years the Tundra wasn't even profitable. Honda doesn't even bother to make a truck (no the ridgeline doesn't count) and Nissan is about to make another go of it after having by all accounts failed the first time mainly due to neglect. What would happen if Ford Fiat or GM didn't invest in their full size half tons for 5 or 6 years? I have heard stories that Toy does it just to hurt the big 2-1. Every Tundra sold used to be a Ford Fiat or GM product. I have heard that Toy was looking long term at the CAFE which its in better shape to meet with its massive sales of quality small and mid sized cars that unlike the big 2-1 do hold up and are sold at a profit thus keeping Toy in the black while the Tundra lags in the market. I have heard that Toy is furious about billions in loans/joint projects with GM that were effectively stolen/lost/dismissed due to the bankruptcy. The truth is its all 3 and more... And here we have the Tundra beating the Fiat in every way but interior (an easy fix in the mid model refresh). The coming Titan could also be a game changer both in XD and regular format. Everyone of them sold is also probably not one of the big 2-1. In the 70s the big 3 laughed at those little toy cars that had 0 market share... Hubris can be a fatal flaw.

The rebel is just a looker at best. I am sure for most of the people that will buy the rebel merely on its looks its fine. For someone that actually wants an offroad performer the tundra is the way to go all day. Ram should not have bothered with there cheesy air suspension for the rebel. Had Ram equipped it with some Fox, Bilstein or similar shock it would be sooooo much better. A fixed ride high will always perform best especially offroad. The only real advantage to air suspension is load leveling, Aero (fuel economy), and ease of access. By raising the truck you loose droop which in turn makes the suspension perform worse. I would imagine that the rebel performs better in a normal suspension mode vs the raised off road modes.

I have a 08 Tundra and towing heavy loads, running to the mtns during ski season, driving to the local markets, and drag racing other trucks for 7 years has been nothing but a trouble free experience. I will not replace this truck because it is so reliable and maintence free.

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