Truck of the Year, Unless It Isn’t
I have to say I am against including all-wheel drive vehicles in your Four Wheeler of the Year and Pickup Truck of the Year evaluations (“Firing Order,” Sept. ’11). While there are many fine vehicles out there that may surprise your readers, I feel your cardinal rule of a two-speed transfer case should stand. I would not mind the feature articles about them, but not in the FWOTY or PTOTY testing. I think it would dilute the magazine’s original intent. If there are no contenders, just ignore it for that year. If there is only one, run it up against the previous year’s winner to see who is on top. Just don’t change your principles.
It surprised me that Douglas McColloch claims that your Truck of the Year tests have always generated a lot of reader interest and industry buzz. I have subscribed to several four-wheel-drive magazines since 1983 when I purchased my CJ-7. I have never really cared for the test results for any of the Pickup or 4x4 of The Year articles. They just don’t make any sense to me. I mean, should I go out and spend $65,000 on a VW Touareg because it won 4x4 of the year when what I really need is a ¾-ton to pull my travel trailer to the dunes or the ski slopes? Or would I purchase a $50,000 dually because you guys picked it when what I really want is a small 4x4 to use on the off-road trails in our local Sierras? Of course not!
I’d like to see you spread the testing out over several issues and compare all SUVs against each other, making sure you give extra points for value. The next month, you could do ¾-tons, then ½-tons, and of course pit the unique Jeep Wrangler against a Land Rover and anyone else that may have something in their class.
If you do decide to stick with the format of using only vehicles that have substantially changed for the next model year, I think you should always include the previous year’s winner so we have some sort of baseline. I’m sure there are times when the winner of the current year may not actually be as good as the winner from the previous year. Thanks for asking for our input.
Steve “Kal Kan” Roones
Instead of watering down the test for lesser 4x4s (the all-wheel-drive street cars), what about having a “Best Of” test where you review the Pickup Trucks or SUVs that won over the last five or six years. Just a thought.
The dilemma with your Truck of the Year test is one that I am surprised hasn’t happened earlier. I personally like the concept of only testing “new metal,” but how often does a truck get redesigned? So the rules virtually guarantee a different manufacturer will get the nod every couple of years or so. The problem I see is that just because a truck is new, it doesn’t mean it will beat last year’s winner. And so I propose that the top three finishers from last year’s event get invited back in their current form to see if they can hold their spot against the new contenders. Who knows—maybe the “upgrades” to the previous winner somehow help it lose its edge, and it falls to the new blood or its rival from the previous year.
The way I look at it, the competition is to see which truck currently offered is the best of the lot for what we wheelers are looking to buy. Let Sport Truck cover those that don’t meet the 4-Lo requirement. They are obviously built for a different market segment.
How about taking the past five winners and putting them up against one another for a “Best of The Best” contest? Whatever you decide, I’m sure it will be great.
What makes a 4x4? There is a section of Imogene Pass from Ouray to Telluride that requires a low gear. Any stock SUV can make it to the top of Imogene Pass as long as it has that low gear. Otherwise, one has to turn around and reach Telluride by paved road. That trail is the definition of what at minimum makes a 4x4. Love the magazine!
In all the years I’ve been reading Four Wheeler, I’ve always enjoyed the shoot-outs, be it “Best Taco” or “Best Truck.” Whether or not I agree with the outcome, it doesn’t diminish the entertainment value. And after all, isn’t that what a magazine is for?
As to your question: Most state Departments of Motor Vehicles have a strict definition of what constitutes a truck, a station wagon, a sedan, etc. Why not use their definition (which is right on the registration slip)? Then it is just a matter of four-wheel drive or not. You’ve already answered that one in previous tests.
As far as the two-speed transfer case goes, let me ask this: If Jeep were to come out with a pickup based on the Wrangler Unlimited platform, and shock the world with an all new electronically controlled variable-ratio constant-mesh transfer case, would you discount it because it doesn’t have “two speeds” in the transfer case? I would hope not.
There was a time when a “real” four-wheel drive had a manual transmission and manual locking hubs. Progress is good. And this magazine has always embraced progress. When it’s forward progress, you sing its praises, and when it’s backwards progress, you light the lanterns in warning.
So I’d say, write the shootout with whatever you deem newsworthy. I’ll enjoy reading it, even if it’s Holman in a Barbie car versus Brubaker on a skateboard, battling through the Hammers. Because you guys always put on a good show. And that is what a great magazine is about.
A CVT transfer case? The horror!!!
You’re right, though. If a vehicle like that showed up at our offices, and the transfer case, when engaged, could mimic a reasonably low crawl gear—we’re thinking 30:1 or better—we’d probably include it in our test. And yes, we’ve always welcomed new technology, but not necessarily if “newer” doesn’t equal “better.”
As it turned out, we were premature in our worries about Pickup Truck of the Year. Our friends at the OE manufacturers reminded us that the 2012 Ram heavy-duty will sport the re-tuned Cummins 6.7L, now said to produce 800 lb-ft of torque; the 2012 Power Wagon will be offered with a new six-speed automatic; and Ford will sell a four-door version of the 6.2L SVT Raptor Super Crew, which rides on a longer wheelbase than the two-door version. All three qualify for our test given our current standards, and we’ll be whomping them in the dirt in a couple of months.
Of all the suggestions we received from you (and they were nearly all good), the one we’d thought of already, and which we’ll likely incorporate in future years, will be to invite the previous year’s Truck of the Year winners to defend their titles against a new batch of 4x4s. There could be some downside to this, though. For instance, if we’d done this already, we could easily imagine the Jeep Wrangler JK having won the last five Four Wheeler of the Year awards in a row. This would be great for Jeep guys, of course, but we fear it might start to bore the readers. (Kinda like what happens when the Yankees win the World Series every year—great for New Yorkers, not so much for everyone else.)
Finally: Holman in a Barbie car? Brubaker on a skateboard? Be careful what you wish for, friend . . . and thanks to all who wrote in.
Wants More Gen-X Coverage
I just got through thumbing through my September issue. Imagine my surprise to finally see some discussion regarding a Nissan product (other than the Titan), in “10 Best Buys in Four-Wheel Drive.” I quote, “We still think this robust little pickup [Frontier] is the best midsize truck on the market today.” So where are all the articles on the Nissan Xterra? Same rig, shorter wheelbase, and even more off-road-capable.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the magazine. And I can appreciate a Jeep, Ford, Dodge, Jimmy, or Toyota as well as the next guy, but how come you keep skipping over the Xterra!? I drive a second-gen X, and I’m starved for articles about this great 4x4. I read the online forums, so I know there are plenty of fans out there, but I wonder what magazines they’re reading? Please make it point to include a couple of Xterra articles in future issues. Us X-folks would appreciate it.
Klamath Falls, OR
Well, we just wrapped up our year-plus, 20,000-mile evaluation of an ’09 Xterra in last month’s issue, and you can find our other reports online at fourwheeler.com. Otherwise, we haven’t had much to say about either the Xterra or Frontier lately because the vehicles haven’t been revised for several years. We understand that new versions of both vehicles are coming down the pike for 2013, so stay tuned.
More Overlanding, Please
I was recently advised to pick up the Aug. ’11 issue. I hadn’t bought an issue in about eight years. There have been a couple other 4x4 mags that have covered my interests more: 4 Wheel Drive & Sport-Utility, Overland Journal and 4WD Toyota Owner. I have always been into four wheeling but just not the radical rockcrawlers or wannabe monster trucks. What I’m looking for is a simple vehicle built more for adventure and camping than anything else. It’s what I do.
After I got a chance to look through the August issue I was quite surprised to see featured vehicles I really liked. Then, to top it off, there was equipment featured that I would use. In my eyes, you guys hit a home run with that issue. Keep it up, and you may have a subscriber.
Bay City, MI
The response to our August issue was overwhelmingly positive—in fact, we still haven’t received any letters from folks who didn’t like it—so rest assured, we’ll be returning to this subject on a much more regular basis.
Bring Back the Ranger!
I loved your article, “So Long, Ranger” (Sept. ’11). It literally almost brought tears to my eyes. I was wondering if you could do a budget build on an older Ranger, like a first- or second-gen—something that will be good at off-roading and as a daily driver. It would be appreciated by Ford and Ranger fans nationwide, please.
A few years ago, we built a later-model (2002) Ranger that was capable of fast desert prerunning, slow-speed rockcrawling, and street-legal commuting, all in one package. We called it “Project RangeRunner,” and you can find all of the episodes online at fourwheeler.com.
Over The Top, or Back to Basics?
I would love to see Four Wheeler build a Dodge Ram Runner as your next project vehicle. Not only could you build it as intended and do the obligatory comparison test against the Raptor, but then maybe you all could take it a step further and build something wild? Like a Baja-ready race vehicle? Or how about installing a 6.4L Hemi? A manual transmission? Regardless of what you all do to it, I think it would be an interesting project. I miss the over-the-top, big-budget builds, but I still enjoy the magazine nonetheless.
Las Cruces, NM
A buddy of mine recently gave me a box of old back issues from the ’80s. He found them while cleaning out his attic. The issues were from around 1982 up until around 1989. I took them home and spent a couple of weeks reading through them. One of the things that really stood out to me is that back then, almost all of your articles were about trucks and SUVs that the average man could actually have in his own driveway. There were very few $100,000 project rigs in the mags—just a bunch of daily-driven rigs that anyone with a job could own themselves, and that made reading the articles really interesting. I think with the new direction your magazine is taking recently, we’re starting to see a little more of that coming back and I really like it. Please keep doing more articles on stuff that we middle-class folks could actually own. Nobody gives a flip about what the guy with millions had built to display at car shows. I want to see more about the rigs that the common man actually owns and wheels—just like you did in the ’80s.
Where To Write
Address your correspondence to: Four Wheeler, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245. All letters become the property of Four Wheeler, and we reserve the right to edit them for length, accuracy, and clarity. The editorial department can also be reached through the website at www.fourwheeler.com. Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.