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Four Wheeler of the Year 2017 4WD Engagement Systems

Posted in Features on January 25, 2017
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In order to be eligible for our annual Four Wheeler of the Year competition, entries must have a true 4WD system with low range capabilities. How they achieve that is fair game. The days of the mechanical shift lever are numbered, as only one of the competitors this year used a legit shift lever. All of the rest of the vehicles used knobs, either on the dash or on the center console, to electronically activate the transfer case. Modes vary from vehicle to vehicle, with some offering full-time 4WD and others offering a true 2WD option for the pavement.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee uses a button on the center console to lock the Quadra-Drive II transfer case into low range. The Trailhawk model also benefits from Selec-Terrain, with various settings specific to different terrain.
The Nissan Armada has a simple knob on the center console to shift the transfer case into low range. The Armada does not offer a 2WD option, instead operating in Auto mode that allows power to be transferred to both the front and rear axles at all times.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner! The Ram Power Wagon is the only vehicle in the test this year to use a mechanical shift lever on the floor of the truck. That freed up space on the dash for the front and rear selectable lockers and disconnecting sway bar.
The Ram 2500 has a shift lever on the dash. This is where the gear selector is on Ram 1500 trucks, but the 2500 still uses a traditional stalk for the shifter.
We appreciate that Ford not only offers a selectable rear locking differential on the Super Duty but also that the engagement for the locker is integrated into the shift knob for the 4WD system. This keeps all of the controls in one convenient place.
The Ford Raptor has the ability to run in 2WD or in full-time 4WD, which is perfect for loose surfaces traveled at higher speeds. The Raptor also has the ability to lock the transfer case in both high range and low range.
The knob of the Toyota Tacoma can be a bit confusing. The outer dial rotates, while the inner section with the indicator is stationary. So you turn the knob clockwise to engage 4WD and low range, even though that might not be obvious from the knob.
The Nissan Titan and Titan XD both have a straightforward transfer case knob that engages quickly. Controls for the locking rear differential offered on the PRO-4X models are found on a pushbutton on the left-hand side of the steering wheel.

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