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2004 4x4 Truck Of The Year Vehicles

Posted in Features on February 1, 2004 Comment (0)
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2004 4x4 Truck Of The Year Vehicles

Chevrolet Colorado Z71Highs*Strong engine*Limited slip that actually works*Aggressive looksLows*Tinny sheetmetal*Entry-level-looking interior*Overheated in the sand

VerdictVersatile off-roader that even we could afford

Typically, the least expensive 4x4 on the test becomes the penalty box of the trip, the one nobody wants to drive after being behind the wheel of the high-dollar competitors. Chevy's new Colorado dodged the turd title by coming to the test with a good power-to-weight ratio, aggressive exterior styling, and an interior that's roomier than you think it should be. Pop the hood on the potent 220hp five-cylinder engine (the middle child in the GM inline engine series and the largest engine available in the Colorado), and you're greeted by a very well laid out compartment with thoughtful routing of all lines and accessories. We know many of you were hoping for an optional V-8, but keep in mind that 10 years ago V-8s didn't even have this much power! When backed by the 4L60E auto, it's got more than enough grunt to turn the 265/75-15 tires. Mix in the Gov-Lock rear differential option, the spring and shock tuning of the Z71 package, and the XM satellite radio for long trips, and you have a giant-slayer 4x4 that even fullsize truck lovers can get excited about.

Just don't get too excited when you take a cold-blooded Colorado into the desert. Why? Because it seems GM didn't spend enough time with these trucks at the Arizona proving grounds, and after a couple hours of testing in the sand our truck's temp gauge was climbing into the danger zone when most of the group was as cool as cucumbers. We should have known something wasn't right when we saw that fresh air vent for the 12-volt battery that screams "high underhood temperatures." Perhaps a few strategically placed louvers in the hood and front sheetmetal would cure the problem? And speaking of sheetmetal, GM obviously saved some money by specing some pretty thin body panels. Don't go getting in any demolition derbies with one of these trucks.

Now that we're whining, the only other complaints we have are that the four-wheel-drive indicator lights are too dim and the interior has a "you get what you pay for" cheap feel to it. Besides all that, we really liked the little truck and felt it was a strong contender this year in all categories. It has certainly made us reevaluate our opinion of midsize trucks.

Specifications
General
Manufacturer Chevrolet
Model Colorado Z71
Base Price $19,855
Price as Tested $24,520
Options as Tested 3500 I-5 engine,
4L60E transmission, locking rear differential, XM Radio, Z71 equipment package
Engine
Type DOHC I-5
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 3.5/211
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.66x4.00
Compression Ratio 10.0:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel injection
Fuel Req. (octane)/Capacity (gal.) 87/19.6
SAE Peak Horsepower 220 @ 5,{{{600}}} rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 225 @ 2,800 rpm
Transmission
Type Four-speed automatic overdrive
Model 4L60E
Ratios First: 3.06:1; Second: 1.63:1; Third:1.00:1; Fourth: 0.70:1; Reverse: 2.29:1
Transfer Case
Type Two-speed electronically shifted
Model T150
Low-Range Ratio 2.48:1
Axles
Front Type IFS w/AAM 7.63- inch centersection
Rear Type Solid AAM 8-inch with Gov-Lock
Hubs N/A
Ratio 3.73:1
Suspension
Front Upper and lower A-arms/torsion bars
Rear Live axle, semi-eliptic leaf springs
Steering
Type Rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.20/19.1:1
Turning Radius (feet) 40.7
Wheels
Size (inches) 15x7
Material Cast-aluminum
Tires
Size P265/75-15
Brand General Ameritrac TR
Brake System
Front 11.0-inch discs with ABS
Rear 11.6-inch drums with ABS
Weight (pounds)
Curb Weight 3,537
Advertised GVWR 5,150
Mileage
EPA Estimate (city/hwy. mpg) 17/25
As Tested (mpg) 12.99
Acceleration
Standing 1¼4-mile (seconds @ mph) 17.40 @ 77.55
Braking
60-0 mph (feet) 156.21
Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 111.3
Overall Length 192.8
Overall Width {{{80}}}.75
Overall Height 68
Front/Rear Track 60.625/60.5
Front/Rear Overhang 35/46.625
Min. Front Ground Clearance 9.25

Dodge Durango SLTHighs *Hemi power*Very quiet inside*Huge brakesLows *Minivan DNA*No limited slip of any kind*Very little ground clearance

VerdictMore of a chase vehicle than an off-road competitor

We don't know about you, but we think one too many minivan owners were on the team that designed the new Durango. It's not that we think the engineering is flawed or weak; it's just that we get the sense there was too much family and not enough hot-rod emphasis put into this 4x4. On one hand, we dig the bold Power Wagon style. But on the other, we feel like it was crossbred with a Dodge Caravan to form a watered-down SUV with lots of power. The chassis seems manly enough with its fully boxed frame, huge brakes, and Hemi engine taken right from the 11/42-ton Ram. But the ride characteristics appear tuned for a weekend cruiser/trailer hauler rather than the canyon carver/prerunner we were hoping for. The Durango certainly has a unique look, but we're still trying to decide which angle it looks best from. The ride height is too low in the front, the front bumper has too much of a chin, and the afterburner taillights are a little too overdone for our tastes.

As a family SUV, the Durango is great. The steering is good. The cabin is extremely quiet and features an available DVD player and the best-sounding stereo of the group, thanks to the Infinity system that finds its home in the dash. The seats are comfy in a firm German kind of way, and there are enough cup holders for all your juice boxes.

But that's the stuff your family cares about. Underneath the Durango's skin is a new solid-axle rear suspension that uses a Watts linkage instead of the more common track bar. And while we can't honestly tell you that we can feel how much better the rear Watts linkage works, we like knowing it's back there. And yes, the Durango's got a Hemi. Not the 426 variety of the musclecar era, but a high-tech 5.7L version that has the most horsepower of any engine in the test. With that much engine we expected more from the Durango during the acceleration testing at the dragstrip, but when we factored in the SUV's curb weight and NV244 full-time four-wheel-drive system, we were again reminded that what we want to use a 4x4 for and what the design team had in mind are not always the same thing. Oh well, at least it comes with an 8,950-pound tow rating.

Specifications
General
Manufacturer Dodge
Model Durango SLT
Base Price $25,810
Price as Tested $33,280
Options as Tested Customer Preferred
Package 28G, console cargo nets, sunvisor, lamps,
AM/FM six-disc CD with eight speakers
with subwoofer and 384-watt amp, 17x8 cast-aluminum wheels,
skidplate group, tow hooks, trailer tow group,
traction control, third-row seat,
3.92 axle ratio, adjustable pedals, rear-seat video system
Engine
Type OHV V-8
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 5.7/345
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.92x3.58
Compression Ratio 9.6:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel injection
Fuel Req. (octane)/Capacity (gal.) 89/27
SAE Peak Horsepower 335 @ 5,400 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 370 @ 4,{{{200}}} rpm
Transmission
Type Five-speed automatic overdrive
Model 5-45 RFE
Ratios First: 3.00.1; Second: 1.67:1
(upshift) 1.50:1 (kick-down); Third: 1.00:1;
Fourth: 0.75:1; Fifth: 0.67:1; Reverse: 3.00:1
Transfer Case
Type Two-speed full-time
Model NV244 HD
Low-Range Ratio 2.72:1
Axles
Front Type IFS w/Dana 35 centersection
Rear Type {{{Chrysler}}} 91¼4
Hubs N/A
Ratio 3.92:1
Suspension
Front Upper and lower A-arms/torsion bars
Rear Live axle, four-link with Watt's Link
Steering
Type Rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.375/13.17
Turning Radius (feet) 37.5
Wheels
Size (inches) 17x8
Material Cast-aluminum
Tires
Size P245/70-17
Brand Goodyear {{{Wrangler}}} SR4
Brake System
Front 13.2-inch discs with ABS
Rear 13.9-inch discs with ABS
Weight (pounds)
Curb Weight 5,076
Advertised GVWR 6,{{{600}}}
Mileage
EPA Estimate (city/hwy. mpg) 13/18
As Tested (mpg) 10.69
Acceleration
Standing 1¼4-mile (seconds @ mph) 17.30 @ 79.03
Braking
60-0 mph (feet) 145.25
Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 119.2
Overall Length 200.8
Overall Width 76
Overall Height 74.3
Front/Rear Track 64.4/64.5
Front/Rear Overhang 38.375/44
Min. Front Ground Clearance 8.5

Ford F-150 SuperCab FX4Highs*Rear-side windows that roll down*Best Ford interior yet*Long-travel IFSLows*Stepside bed*Cramped rear seats*Doesn't feel like 300 hp

VerdictFord's put all its eggs in this F-150 basket

Sorry, Ford loyalists, but even with the new three-valves-per-cylinder 5.4L engine rated at 300 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque, you can still plan on losing every onramp race to a Nissan Titan. Granted the Nissan has the advantage of a five-speed automatic transmission where the Ford's only got a four-speed. But we wonder whether Ford is overrating the power of its engine or Nissan's underrating the Titan's.

But fear not-your ego will be redeemed the minute you open the door and sit inside because the all-new F-150 trounces the Nissan competition in the interior department. The new look, material choice, and layout of the FX4 package truck is simply Ford's best truck interior yet. Couple that with larger brakes, incredible feel and performance from the new rack-and-pinion steering, and a ride superior to any pickup Ford has built, and F-150 customers will be happy with this new truck. Just save some money for an aftermarket supercharger!

Our judges have always been fans of the F-150's uncanny ability to prerun with the best of them on the fast, bump-strewn washes that we test on every year. The new F-150 does not disappoint either. The substantial and fully boxed frame is a rigid foundation for the new coilover shocks and forms a great backbone for the pickup. We had some initial concerns about the cast-aluminum lower control arms' durability, but it turns out we were worrying about nothing. In the slow off-road section of our test the Ford was OK, but not a standout. It was hard for it to compete with the more aggressive Nissan-spec BFGoodrich tires and rear locker, but the suspension travel and well tuned rear leaf packs at least made crawling a smooth affair.

Sadly Ford's FX4 option group that has real substance on the Ranger is still mostly an appearance package on the F-150. The 18-inch wheels should tip you off to that. Along the same lines, we didn't pull the differential cover to check, but we have a hard time believing our test vehicle really had a limited-slip differential, even though the option sheet listed it. That's one option we'd skip when buying an F-150!

Specifications
General
Manufacturer Ford
Model F-150 SuperCab FX4
Base Price $22,010
Price as Tested $38,655
Options as Tested Trailer tow package, power driver seat, heated seats with memory, adjustable pedals, 18-inch wheels, P275/65-18 tires, 3.73 gears, rear power window, foglamps, reverse sensing system, adjustable pedals, six-disc CD player, power moonroof
Engine
Type SOHC, three-valve per cylinder V-8
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 5.4/330
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.55x4.17
Compression Ratio 9.8:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel injection
Fuel Req. (octane)/Capacity (gal.) 87/27
SAE Peak Horsepower 300 @ 5,000 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 365 @ 3,750 rpm
Transmission
Type Four-speed automatic overdrive
Model 4R75E
Ratios First: 2.84:1; Second: 1.55:1; Third: 1.00:1;
Fourth: 0.70:1; Reverse: 2.32:1
Transfer Case
Type Two-speed part-time, electronic shift
Model Borg-Warner 4406
Low-Range Ratio 2.64:1
Axles
Front Type IFS with Visteon 8.8-inch differential
Rear Type Visteon 93¼4-inch with limited slip
Hubs Vacuum
Ratio 3.73:1
Suspension
Front IFS with upper and lower A-arms/coilover shocks
Rear Live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs
Steering
Type Rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.375/17:1
Turning Radius (feet) 46.4
Wheels
Size (inches) 18x7.5
Material Cast-aluminum
Tires
Size P275/65-18
Brand BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A
Brake System
Front 13.0-inch discs with ABS
Rear 13.7-inch discs with ABS
Weight (pounds)
Curb Weight 5,244
Advertised GVWR 7,{{{200}}}
Mileage
EPA Estimate (city/hwy. mpg) 15/19
As Tested (mpg) 9.{{{80}}}
Acceleration
Standing 1¼4-mile (seconds @ mph) 18.52 @ 77.42
Braking
60-0 mph (feet) 152.01
Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 144.4
Overall Length 229.8
Overall Width 96.5
Overall Height 76
Front/Rear Track 67/67
Front/Rear Overhang 37/47.75
Min. Front Ground Clearance 8.625

Isuzu AscenderHighs *Fire-road tuned suspension*Fullsize engine, midsize truck*Gov-Lock rear differentialLows *Overheats in sand*Poor ground clearance*No tow hooks

VerdictGetaway 4x4 that no one will notice

The Isuzu Ascender is hardly a hero 4x4. Its cookie-cutter SUV styling and appliance-white exterior couldn't hide the rebadged Chevy Trailblazer origins from the judges and didn't give us much to be excited about on our test. When you sit in the Ascender you recognize the GM themes, but it's almost as if Isuzu has spent too much time trying to hide its roots instead of building on them.

As a family 4x4, the Ascender should be quite capable of taking three full rows of kids, cousins, and friends on mild off-road jaunts thanks to decent gearing and the Gov-Lock rear differential that kicks in to get you out of trouble. Too bad we don't bring a test family with us for our evaluations because when our judges drive, there aren't any screaming kids to distract them from such facts as: The Ascender has worst overall ground clearance of any vehicle in the test; its unusual length-to-width proportion makes it tricky to negotiate on trails; and it lacks front tow hooks-or any decent frame bracket in the front of the vehicle to attach a strap to, for that matter.

But enough bashing. The Ascender got decent marks for its highway ride, even though some judges picked on its heavy steering feel and the front suspension's tendency to wallow over bumps at highway speeds. The all-aluminum 5.3L Vortec engine is strong, but it's no Hemi-powered Durango, and the judges took note. This is another vehicle that could benefit from a GM-sourced five-speed automatic transmission. If there were two places the Ascender took honors in, it was the sand and the high-speed fire-road sections. Not that it has a lot of travel, but the suspension engineers have done a remarkable job of controlling the suspension movement and preventing the impact typical when the suspension bottoms out and hits metal to metal. We're not sure why the Ascender has this unique talent, but we have to assume it comes from the scaled-down GM four-link rear-suspension geometry that we like so much on the Tahoe, Avalanche, and H2.

Specifications
General
Manufacturer Isuzu
Model Ascender
Base Price $31,199
Price as Tested $38,805
Options as Tested 5.3L engine, {{{LS}}} 4WD equipment package, Limited equipment package, skidplates, adjustable pedals
Engine
Type OHV V-8
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 5.3/{{{323}}}
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.78x3.{{{62}}}
Compression Ratio 9.45:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel injection
Fuel Req. (octane)/Capacity (gal.) 87/25
SAE Peak Horsepower 290 @ 5,{{{200}}} rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 325 @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission
Type Four-speed automatic overdrive
Model 4L60E
Ratios First: 3.06:1; Second: 1.63:1; Third:1.00:1;
Fourth: 0.70:1; Reverse: 2.29:1
Transfer Case
Type Two-speed, electronically shifted with Autotrac
Model NVG226
Low-Range Ratio 2.05:1
Axles
Front Type IFS with AAM 8-inch
Rear Type Solid AAM 8.6-inch with Gov-Lock
Hubs N/A
Ratio 3.73:1
Suspension
Front Upper and lower A-arms/coilover shocks
Rear Live axle, four-link with track bar and coil springs
Steering
Type Rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.48/20.4:1
Turning Radius (feet) 41.3
Wheels
Size (inches) 17x7
Material Aluminum
Tires
Size P245/65-17
Brand {{{Continental}}} ContiTrac SUV TR
Brake System
Front 12.8-inch discs with ABS
Rear 12.8-inch discs with ABS
Weight (pounds)
Curb Weight 5,020
Advertised GVWR 6,400
Mileage
EPA Estimate (city/hwy. mpg) 14/18
As Tested (mpg) 11.64
Acceleration
Standing 1¼4-mile (seconds @ mph) 17.37 @ 75.51
Braking
60-0 mph (feet) 158.99
Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 129
Overall Length 207.6
Overall Width 76.1
Overall Height 75.5
Front/Rear Track 63.1/62.1
Front/Rear Overhang 36/43.5
Min. Front Ground Clearance 7.25

Isuzu Axiom XSHighs*Unique look*Responsive engine*Sanitary engine compartmentLows*Poor leg room*Limited suspension travel*Doesn't look like a 4x4

VerdictFamily ski wagon with low-range bonus

The Isuzu Axiom made a return appearance at this year's 4x4 of the Year thanks to a new 250hp direct injection (DI) 3.5 V-6. What makes this engine so unique is the location of the fuel injectors. Typically a modern gasoline engine injects fuel into the intake manifold upstream of the intake valve. That way the fuel rushes into the combustion chamber when the intake valve opens, and air floods the chamber. On the new Isuzu engine each fuel injector is moved from the intake manifold to the cylinder head so that it is actually spraying fuel into the combustion chamber. This technology has many advantages, but the most notable are increased power, less risk of detonation or knock, better fuel economy, and cooler combustion chambers. This technology is not new, but historically it has been extremely expensive and limited to use on automobiles costing more than $100,000. How did Isuzu get it into its entry-level SUV? We have to believe it has leveraged diesel technology (Isuzu did help design the Duramax engine) to develop and pay for the wicked little V-6 you see here.

But enough about the engine. Isuzu's Axiom still offers the very functional Borg-Warner torque on demand (TOD) transfer case that permits full-time four-wheel drive. It has the same Hella foglights that throw tons of useful light at night, and the same unique package that is reminiscent of the VehiCross but longer and sleeker.

Unfortunately the Axiom still has limited ground clearance. It's a bottom-dragger and got more underbody scars and scratches than anything in the test except the Ascender. That's why for the second time in three years we ended up liberating our test Axiom of its cowcatcher front end, which longs to be a road-grader. Perhaps the biggest surprise from the Axiom came from the rear suspension. It was hands-down the worst vehicle to drive across the fire roads on our test because the rear suspension would bottom and bounce till the driver got hit with an errant snack box or judging book. It's hard for a vehicle to win points when the judges get beat up just driving it.

Specifications
General
Manufacturer Isuzu
Model Axiom XS
Base Price $30,499
Price as Tested $32,399
Options as Tested XS Trim, six-disc CD changer, leather heated seats, four-way power passenger seat, power moonroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel, Homelink, auto-dimming rearview mirror, foglamps, roof spoiler, Bright Exhaust finish, bodyside moldings, color-keyed heated mirrors, retractable cargo cover
Engine
Type 24-valve DOHC V-6
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 3.5/213
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.68x3.35
Compression Ratio 10.3:1
Induction Type Direct injection
Fuel Req. (octane)/Capacity (gal.) 87/19.5
SAE Peak Horsepower 250 @ 5,{{{600}}} rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 246 @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission
Type Four-speed automatic overdrive
Model Isuzu
Ratios First: 2.85:1; Second: 1.61:1; Third:1.00:1;
Fourth: 0.72:1; Reverse: 2.00:1
Transfer Case
Type Two-speed, electronically shifted with TOD
Model Borg-Warner
Low-Range Ratio 2.48:1
Axles
Front Type IFS
Rear Type Solid Dana 44 with limited slip
Hubs N/A
Ratio 4.30:1
Suspension
Front Upper and lower A-arms/torsion bars
Rear Live axle, four-link with coil springs
Steering
Type Rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.64/21.1:1
Turning Radius (feet) 38.4
Wheels
Size (inches) 17x7
Material Cast-aluminum
Tires
Size P235/65-17
Brand Goodyear Integrity
Brake System
Front 11.4-inch discs with ABS
Rear 12.3-inch discs with ABS
Weight (pounds)
Curb Weight 4,{{{240}}}
Advertised GVWR 5,350
Mileage
EPA Estimate (city/hwy. mpg) 17/21
As Tested (mpg) 12.46
Acceleration
Standing 1¼4-mile (seconds @ mph) 16.88 @ 78.51
Braking
60-0 mph (feet) 157.55
Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 106.4
Overall Length 182.6
Overall Width 82.25
Overall Height 67
Front/Rear Track 59.5/60
Front/Rear Overhang 34.25/41.5
Min. Front Ground Clearance 7.5

Lexus GX 470Highs*Solid and nimble feel*Manually-shifted transfer case*Pw drives oneLows*Still looks ugly*The Lexus-owner stigma*High price

VerdictWhere high-brow and low-range meet

Last year we feared we had gone soft when we voted the luxo-cruiser GX 470 into the top spot. But after a year's worth of reflection and continuously driving the '03 version, we have been able to confirm that we haven't wussed out. Lexus has just stepped it up. In fact, with every off-road mile we put on this year's '04 GX 470 we felt better and better about declaring it the winner last year. The 4.7L engine is still silky-smooth and an acceleration monster at the same time. The steering retains a quick ratio, but never feels touchy on the road. Heck, we've even started to figure out the complex HVAC/stereo/GPS controls!

Though we prefer traditional mechanical off-road gear such as the lockers and low gearing of other competitors, the high-tech Lexus off-road equipment that you get with the GX 470 package does work. We can't deny the effectiveness of the Torsen differential-equipped, manually shifted full-time transfer case, the Active TRAC traction control system that applies the vehicle's brakes individually to modulate power to the tires with traction, and the ABS that also functions as a Downhill Assist Control (DAC) to squeeze the brakes for you during off-road descent without locking up a tire. Add to that the new Kinetic sway-bar suspension system, which uses hydraulic sway bar mounts and permits even more suspension travel at slow speed, and you have a vehicle that finished in the top three ranking of every off-road portion of the test. If only Lexus had given the GX 470 a more mainstream look-something fiercer and less soccer mom-or just added a selectable locker, this may have been our winner yet again. But Volkswagen's Touareg was a huge factor in preventing the back-to-back Lexus wins. In the categories that the Lexus dominated last year (ride, quality, interior appointments) the Touareg was able to match and often best the incumbent.

Specifications
General
Manufacturer Lexus
Model GX 470
Base Price $44,925
Price as Tested $54,360
Options as Tested Mark Levison
navigation system, third-row seat, rear air conditioning,
Lexus link, rear-seat DVD, KDSS sway-bar system
Engine
Type DOHC 32-valve V-8
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 4.7/284
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.70x3.31
Compression Ratio 9.6:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel injection
Fuel Req. (octane)/Capacity (gal.) 87/23
SAE Peak Horsepower 235 @ 4,800 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 320 @ 3,400 rpm
Transmission
Type Five-speed automatic overdrive
Model A750F
Ratios First: 3.52:1; Second: 2.04:1;
Third: 1.40:1; Fourth: 1.00:1;
Fifth: 0.71:1; Reverse: 3.22:1
Transfer Case
Type Two-speed, full-time , with manual locking Torsen center differential
Model {{{Toyota}}}
Low-Range Ratio 2.{{{57}}}:1
Axles
Front Type IFS
Rear Type Solid axle
Hubs N/A
Ratio 3.73:1
Suspension
Front IFS with upper and lower A-arms, coil springs
Rear Live axle, with four-link, track bar, and air springs
Steering
Type Power rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.125/15.7:1
Turning Radius (feet) 37.4
Wheels
Size (inches) 17x7.5
Material Aluminum
Tires
Size P265/65-17
Brand Bridgestone Dueler HT
Brake System
Front 13.3-inch discs with ABS
Rear 12.3-inch discs with ABS
Weight (pounds)
Curb Weight 4,{{{740}}}
Advertised GVWR 6,{{{100}}}
Mileage
EPA Estimate (city/hwy. mpg) 15/18
As Tested (mpg) 11.66
Acceleration
Standing 1¼4-mile (seconds @ mph) 18.03 @ 74.70
Braking
60-0 mph (feet) 140.46
Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 109.75
Overall Length 187.75
Overall Width 83.25
Overall Height 77.5
Front/Rear Track {{{62}}}.25/62.5
Front/Rear Overhang 34.5/41.75
Min. Front Ground Clearance 8.25

Nissan Pathfinder Armada LEHighs *A 10-foot ladder fits inside*Great engine/tranny combo*Power rear tailgateLows *Cheap interior feel*Terrible traction in loose terrain*Odd styling that will have to grow on us

VerdictRoadmobile with room for the extended family

In an unusual and in some ways risky move, Nissan entered both the fullsize pickup truck and SUV markets in the same model year. Evidently it wants to shake the mini-truck builder image that many of us think of when we hear the name Nissan. According to our judges, Nissan has been successful in doing just that.

The first thing you need to know about the Pathfinder Armada is that it borrows its engineering from the Titan and only its name from the smaller SUV. It is built on the boxed-frame architecture (are you noticing a trend this year?) of the Titan pickup and powered by the same 305hp 5.6L Endurance V-8, but the torque is up 6 points to 385 lb-ft. The Armada trades the bed space of the Titan for passenger space, while maintaining a 9,100-pound towing capacity. During our test we found the second row of seats had more legroom than an Excursion and the third row offered as much room as some competitors' second row. We could hold staff meetings in this thing! Compared to the Lexus and the VW, the Nissan's interior feels less than luxurious in some places and downright cheap in others. But something has to offset all the costs in an SUV this size that offers so much for the price.

Even though it's huge, it doesn't drive like a tank. The Armada gets a good grip on the road thanks to its stance and wide tires. Our judges never worried about keeping up with the pack-until we got in tight parking lots where the visibility limitations of this SUV came into play. That's why it's far better suited as a family escape pod to take to the park, the beach, or to the weekend cabin than it is as an urban commuter.

Off-road driving in the Armada was a whole different story. About the best thing the Armada has to offer is ground clearance from the tires. Suspension travel and usable traction are rare commodities in this 4x4. Without the locker (or even solid rear axle) of the Titan it was possible, and all too common, to lift tires in the air and get stuck where no other 4x4 in the test had any problems.

Specifications
General
Manufacturer Nissan
Model Pathfinder Armada LE
Base Price $40,{{{600}}}
Price as Tested $44,500
Options as Tested Sunroof package, tow package, D&H
Engine
Type 32-valve DOHC V-8
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 5.6/338
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.86x3.{{{62}}}
Compression Ratio 9.8:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel injection
Fuel Req. (octane)/Capacity (gal.) 87/28
SAE Peak Horsepower 305 @ 4,{{{900}}} rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 385 @ 3,600 rpm
Transmission
Type Five-speed automatic overdrive
Model Nissan
Ratios First: 3.827:1; Second: 2.368:1;
Third: 1.52:1; Fourth: 1.00:1;
Fifth: 0.86:1; Reverse: 3.39:1
Transfer Case
Type Two-speed part-time , electronic shift
Model Nissan
Low-Range Ratio 2.596:1
Axles
Front Type IFS with Dana 44 differential
Rear Type IRS with Dana 44 differential
Hubs N/A
Ratio 3.357:1
Suspension
Front IFS with upper and lower A-arms/coil springs
Rear IRS with upper and lower A-arms/coil springs
Steering
Type Rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.6 /20:1
Turning Radius (feet) 41
Wheels
Size (inches) 18x8
Material Cast-aluminum
Tires
Size P265/70-18
Brand Continetal ContiTrac SUV
Brake System
Front 12.6-inch discs with ABS
Rear 12.6-inch discs with ABS
Weight (pounds)
Curb Weight 5,327
Advertised GVWR 7,000
Mileage
EPA Estimate (city/hwy. mpg) 13/18
As Tested (mpg) 14.28
Acceleration
Standing 1¼4-mile(seconds @ mph) 17.31 @ 81.32
Braking
60-0 mph (feet) 136.24
Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 123.2
Overall Length 206.9
Overall Width 78.8
Overall Height 77
Front/Rear Track 68/68.125
Front/Rear Overhang 36 /47.75
Min. Front Ground Clearance 8.5

Nissan Titan Crew Cab XEHighs*Spacious interior*V-8 with lots of power*Good steering feel and handlingLows*5.5-foot bed*Door handles stick*Maybe a little ugly-we haven't decided yet

VerdictA truck guy's truck

The Titan is Nissan's first offering to the 11/42-ton truck market. With the new Endurance V-8 producing 305 hp and 379 lb-ft of torque, this Nissan is destined to give Toyota, Chevy, Ford, and Dodge a run for their money. The big news with this truck is the drivetrain. It used to be that we thought Japanese trucks were gutless. Not anymore. While we prefer the floor shifter in the Armada over the column-mounted version in the Titan, the new five-speed automatic transmission is well matched to the new 5.6L engine. So much so that after driving this truck it became clear that to compete in the truck market, OEMs need to offer a five- or six-speed auto transmissions. Look out, F-150.

The first time you slide into the four-door crew cab you'll see that this truck has more than enough room for adults to sit in the back seat comfortably, yet still provides enough legroom up front. A cavernous feel envelopes you when you enter the Titan's spartan interior, and the giant seats give you plenty of room to figure out exactly how you want to sit when driving this vehicle. We think the F-150's interior is nicer and quieter than the Titan, but both trucks have a similar feel behind the wheel. However, the Ford seems more solid than the Titan, and the feedback from the steering was judged to be more informative than in the Nissan.

Last but not least, the rear Dana 44 axle is a new heavy-duty version that uses a beefier centersection and a unique cover. Our test truck came with the optional electric locker that raises the traction bar for fullsize pickup trucks. With the dash-mounted switch, we could activate the rear locker in low range whenever we wanted. The rear locker made all the difference in the world when this truck went off-road, as nothing beats having both rear tires turning to push the Titan over obstacles. Screw traction control systems-just give us a locker!

Specifications
General
Manufacturer Nissan
Model Titan Crew Cab XE
Base Price $28,{{{200}}}
Price as Tested $30,{{{300}}}
Options as Tested Electric rear locker
Engine
Type 32-valve DOHC V-8
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 5.6/338
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.86x3.{{{62}}}
Compression Ratio 9.8:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel injection
Fuel Req. (octane)/Capacity (gal.) 87/28
SAE Peak Horsepower 305 @ 4,{{{900}}} rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 379 @ 3,{{{600}}} rpm
Transmission
Type Five-speed automatic overdrive
Model Jatco TorqKing
Ratios First: 3.827:1; Second: 2.368:1;
Third: 1.52:1; Fourth: 1.00:1;
Fifth: 0.86:1; Reverse: 3.39:1
Transfer Case
Type Two-speed part-time, electronic shift
Model Nissan
Low-Range Ratio 2.596:1
Axles
Front Type IFS with Dana 44 differential
Rear Type Solid Dana 44 with selectable locker
Hubs N/A
Ratio 3.357:1
Suspension
Front IFS with upper and lower A-arms/coilover shocks
Rear Live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs
Steering
Type Rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.6/19.5:1
Turning Radius (feet) 46
Wheels
Size (inches) 17x7.5
Material Cast-aluminum
Tires
Size P285/70-17
Brand BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A
Brake System
Front 12.6-inch discs with ABS
Rear 12.6-inch discs with ABS
Weight (pounds)
Curb Weight 5,341
Advertised GVWR 6,486
Mileage
EPA Estimate (city/hwy. mpg) 14/18
As Tested (mpg) 10.68
Acceleration
Standing 1¼4-mile(seconds @ mph) 17.02 @ {{{80}}}.92
Braking
60-0 mph (feet) 146.2
Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 139.8
Overall Length 224.2
Overall Width 92
Overall Height 76.25
Front/Rear Track 67.25/67.5
Front/Rear Overhang 35.5/48.375
Min. Front Ground Clearance 8.75

Toyota Tundra Double CabHighs*Toyota fit and finish*Power drop-down rear window*115-volt AC power outletLows *Mini truck engine*Huge turning radius*Small brakes

VerdictToyota's a drivetrain swap away from taking on the Big Three

Toyota has opened the door to the next level of passenger capacity with its new Double Cab Tundra pickup. It seems that all of the fullsize truck manufacturers need to build a four-door truck for those families or businesses that have to haul both supplies and laborers (farm kids), and Toyota is no different. With the same high-quality Toyota interior amenities and exterior fit and finish, as usual this was a clean looking, though very long (140.5-inch wheelbase, 230-inch overall) truck. Based on an entirely new ladder-frame chassis but using the same 4.7L I-force V-8, the Double cab was solid-riding but lacked power, even compared to the regular-cab Tundra. Except in smaller SUVs (4Runner, Lexus), we found that the iForce just doesn't cut the mustard, especially against the competing fullsize trucks. We have plenty of confidence in the build quality of Toyota, but feel that they missed something in the power-to-weight ratio on the Double Cab Tundra. That being said, we did enjoy the smooth shifts of the four-speed automatic; and the fact that the entire rear window can slide down was a major plus that none of the competition has matched.

The TRD Off-Road package we received supplied us with progressive-rate springs, Bilstein gas shocks, a suspension tuned for off-road use, and P265/70-16 BFGoodrich tires on 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels. Unfortunately, none of this could help the fact that something in our frontend stopped working, leaving us with only rear-wheel drive for half of the test, and since we lacked any locking rear differential, we were stuck. The rumors pointed toward the front axle disconnect, but a verdict was never reached. It was a letdown, since the truck had done so well on the early off-road trails and had finished average on the acceleration testing (it beat the F-150 but got hammered by the Titan). Maybe it was a fluke, or maybe the extra body and frame weight of the truck needs a little more strength from the drivetrain. Toyota, you have impressed us before so how about a big-block V-8 or maybe a diesel?

Specifications
General
Manufacturer Toyota
Model Tundra Double Cab
Base Price $28,975
Price as Tested $32,{{{600}}}
Options as Tested Limited equipment package
Engine
Type DOHC 32-valve V-8
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 4.7/284
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.70x3.31
Compression Ratio 9.6:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel injection
Fuel Req. (octane)/Capacity (gal.) 87/26.4
SAE Peak Horsepower {{{240}}} @ 4,800 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 315 @ 3,400 rpm
Transmission
Type Four-speed automatic overdrive
Model 4ECT
Ratios First: 2.804:1; Second: 1.531:1;
Third: 1.00:1; Fourth: 0.71:1;
Reverse: 2.293:1
Transfer Case
Type Two-speed, electronically shifted
Model Aisin-Seiki
Low-Range Ratio 2.{{{57}}}:1
Axles
Front Type IFS, 7.5-inch
Rear Type Solid, 8.25-inch
Hubs N/A
Ratio 4.30:1
Suspension
Front IFS with upper and lower A-arms, coilover shocks
Rear Live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs
Steering
Type Rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.4/18.6:1
Turning Radius (feet) 47
Wheels
Size (inches) 16x7
Material Aluminum
Tires
Size P265/70-16
Brand BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A
Brake System
Front 12.6-inch discs with ABS
Rear 11.6-inch drums with ABS
Weight (pounds)
Curb Weight 5,020
Advertised GVWR 6,600
Mileage
EPA Estimate (city/hwy. mpg) 14/16
As Tested (mpg) 11.03
Acceleration
Standing 1¼4-mile (seconds @ mph) 18.13 @ 78.36
Braking
60-0 mph (feet) 149.66
Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 140.5
Overall Length 230.5
Overall Width 88.25
Overall Height 74.625
Front/Rear Track 66/67.5
Front/Rear Overhang 38/51.75
Min. Front Ground Clearance 9.5

Volkswagen Touareg V-8Highs*Gorgeous interior*Adjustable ride-height suspension*Sports car handlingLows*How the hell do you saythat name?*Tires are wuss*Not enough low-end torque

VerdictWell-balanced SUV that proves you can have it all-for $50,000

As far as 4-Wheel & Off-Road is concerned, the Touareg is the first real SUV Volkswagen has ever built. It's a move some may think a bit risky for a carmaker best known for building Bugs and Golfs, but not nearly as risky as entering said SUV in our grueling 4x4 of the Year test-a test where you should know that we also invited the Touareg's 450hp step-brother, the Porsche Cayenne, to compete this year. Evidently those in charge at VW were a little more confident in their 4x4 than the Cayenne people, because Porsche didn't send us one.

A few testers greeted the VW with a sigh of relief that the Touareg "got all the looks that its ugly brother didn't." The sleek Touareg unibody came packed with a 310hp 40-valve V-8 engine that had the sweetest exhaust tone of the test. Though we would love to have had the V-10 diesel we hope to see in the Touareg next year, the V-8 packed plenty of get-up-and-go to keep it moving through the corners. A couple days at our mountaintop test site confirmed that this vehicle does in fact handle...even though it is loaded down with almost all the amenities a wheeler could ask for. Locking center and rear differentials and a height-adjustable suspension are just two of the components that made this a 4x4 of the Year top competitor.

Off-road there was not much flex in the suspension or unibody, but with all the traction devices it had, it didn't really matter as long as it was upright and had one wheel on the ground. We loved piloting the VW gunship over any terrain in the comfort of the saddle leather interior. Had we gotten lost we trust the onboard navigation and vehicle interface system would have helped us find the way home. As refined as it is, the Touareg had the guts to get out there and compete with the best of them. If money were no object and we didn't have a power steering failure on the fourth day of the test (possibly due to a collision with some rocks-we admit nothing!), the Touareg may have won by a landslide.

Specifications
General
Manufacturer Volkswagen
Model Touareg V-8
Base Price $40,700
Price as Tested $49,915
Options as Tested Premium plus package (Navigation system, HID headlights, 11-speaker stereo, four-corner air suspension, smooth leather seating surface, CD changer), Winter package, locking rear differential
Engine
Type 40-valve DOHC V-8
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 4.2/254
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.33x3.66
Compression Ratio 11.0:1
Induction Type Sequential, multiport fuel injection
Fuel Req. (octane)/Capacity (gal.) 92/26.4
SAE Peak Horsepower 310 @ 6,{{{200}}} rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 302 @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission
Type Six-speed automatic overdrive
Model 4XMotion
Ratios First: 4.15:1; Second: 2.37:1;
Third: 1.56:1; Fourth: 1.16:1; Fifth:
0.86:1; Sixth: 0.69:1 Reverse: 3.39:1
Transfer Case
Type Two-speed full-time
Model NVG235
Low-Range Ratio 2.66:1
Axles
Front Type IFS
Rear Type IRS with selectable locker
Hubs N/A
Ratio 4.56:1
Suspension
Front IFS with upper and lower A-arms/air springs
Rear IRS with upper and lower A-arms/air springs
Steering
Type Rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 2.9/14.7:1
Turning Radius (feet) 38.1
Wheels
Size (inches) 18x8
Material Aluminum
Tires
Size P255/55-18
Brand {{{Continental}}} 4x4 Contact
Brake System
Front 13-inch discs with ABS
Rear 13-inch discs with ABS
Weight (pounds)
Curb Weight 5,{{{300}}}
Advertised GVWR 6,400
Mileage
EPA Estimate (city/hwy. mpg) 14/18
As Tested (mpg) 8.89
Acceleration
Standing 1¼4-mile (seconds @ mph) 16.96 @ 82.02
Braking
60-0 mph (feet) 138.71
Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 112.4
Overall Length 188.25
Overall Width 87.5
Overall Height 72.375
Front/Rear Track 65/65
Front/Rear Overhang 36.75/40
Min. Front Ground Clearance 9

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