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

I agree the tow hooks are ridiculous. You take that away and give the Power Wagon 100 for lockers, 100 for a winch and 100 for electronic sway bar disconnect when the rest get 0 than the Power Wagon wins this by a long shot which is more with the normal opinions out there. I agree there should be some kind of drag race in the sand.

Titan XD all the way with Gas engine

"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."

Wow, a truck editor who doesn't understand how compressed gasses work.

Raptor is the truck to have if you want to look cool, drive real fast at the dunes, or street race unsuspecting sedans.
It's like a Ferrari of the truck world. Pointless, rarely used for its "intent", and instead of attracting women, it only seems to garner attention for teen boys.
In practice all of these trucks are too long and too wide for most serious trails.
Which is why payload and trailering are important.
Who tows a heavy trailer off-road? The question asked by folks who have never-been to a remote hunt area, been to a dune off-road park, been west of the Mississipp to the square shaped states, and like the majority of GM Engineers are clueless about what ACTUALLY happens.
Just like with the Hummers, the Raptor is the cool thing to have, but on the trails you'll still get pulled out by a guy who has been wheeling the same cornbinder since the Carter administration.

Wow an off road comparison test, that gives 100 point to the heaviest truck? What gives? weight is the biggest penalty in any situation! especially off road! If this was a towing test then maybe the weight could be considered a stability advantage! The only category the PW did bad in as far as of roading goes is the ground clearance, and that is only under the differentials! There is an argument to be made that a Ram 2500, with just the Off Road Package, with the weight capacity as given, would have been awarded 100 point for the most capability!

Didn't even have to read it to know who won. How can it dominate the slow speed stuff when the Power Wagon has more articulation, more traction and better tires? It will always be the raptor in any comparison test, if it is a towing test and they pull in to a dirt parking lot most of the magazine editors will give the raptor huge points for its off road ability and give it the win. All these editors and testers just blow their load hearing the word raptor and test. It is a great truck don't get me wrong but it is very 1 dimensional (well the on road ride is a benefit of that dimension though). I kind of wonder if it is the KO2 tires that everyone also blows their load over is what keeps giving it the win? It is the super team of off road credibility, raptor and BFG KO2 tires. Hmm...


Lol where's the actual winner? The ZR2 w/Duramax?

So in order for the ford to get 499 rwtq, factoring in a 20% driveline loss you need to start with 625. Same for rwhp. Needs to be 490. Those are some serious hp/tq numbers

"as a pickup, it barely edges out the average garden tractor or side-by-side," Whale said.

And this is PICKUPTRUCKS dot com?

This is a website for people who use pickups, not over-priced SAND BUGGIES designed to swindle money from stupid people who think they are buying a pickup truck that looks cool.



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