Knobs, you turn them and with any luck, they do stuff. This year, as in every Four Wheeler of the Year since 1974, there has come a time in the test when we, the judges, have engaged four-wheel-drive in the brand-new test vehicles for the first time. In years past that usually meant grabbing a lever and moving it around to lock in the front axle and or engage a low range ratio. As you may know, in the past 20 years the 4WD shift lever has gone the way of the dodo bird and sadly we are left with knobs or dials that electronically select 4WD and the gear ranges. Alright, we get it, knobs are easy to deal with (sometimes), but really, are levers all that hard to deal with? Call us old-fashioned, but we like mechanical linkage 4WD shifters because generally they are stupid simple and do what we want when we want them to do it. New vehicle manufacturers tell us that their customers (apparently customers other than us) want vehicles that are easy to shift into four-wheel-drive, and that means a knob. So to all you knob lovers, rejoice as we show you the six
4WD selector knobs of Four Wheeler of the Year.
By the way, this test is actually two tests. One where we test all new or significantly changed 4x4 SUVs and one test where we test all new or significantly changed 4x4 pickup trucks. These tests are known respectively as Four Wheeler’s SUV of the Year and Four Wheeler’s Pickup Truck of the Year test. The entire fleet of test vehicles for 2018 includes three trucks, and three SUVs. The trucks are the 2018 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2, the Ram 1500 Harvest Edition, and the Ram 3500 with 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel.
Starting off our gallery of six knobs is the range select knob from the 2018 Ram 3500 Longhorn Mega Cab 4x4 with the potent 6.7L Cummins turbodiesel. This knob is becoming familiar to us and exists in some iteration in other trucks we’ve tested in the past. It controls the Ram’s two-speed shift-on-the-fly transfer case. This truck is big and comfortable, but still goes down the trails on our test with the smaller trucks and SUVs. That’s doing a lot when it can also tow with the best of them
The Ram 1500 Harvest Edition Crew Cab 4x4 is aimed at farmers and the specifics (including paint color and exterior details) came from their feedback to Ram. Controlling the two speed transfer case in this “old farm truck” is pretty straightforward. Nothing too fancy about that…don’t farmers like levers?
It was with the giddy excitement of a schoolgirl that many of the Four Wheeler of the Year judges first got to drive Chevrolet’s ZR2 Colorado. This thing is legit with the peppy Duramax 2.8L turbodiesel, aggressive tires, great approach angle, wide track, Chevy’s Multimatic DSSV shock absorbers, and selectable locking differentials in either end, this is the kind of vehicle truck journalists dream of. Unfortunately the ZR2 lacks a real shift lever…sad face. Worse still, the knob to select 2-Hi, Auto, 4-Hi, or 4-Lo is hidden under the steering wheel and disguised as a headlight dimmer switch. Chevy, we love this truck, but this knob leaves a lot to be desired, not in terms of function, because the truck works off-road, but the knob and location don’t fit the truck. Oh, and if you’re listening, we’d love a 4WD lever.
This is the transfer case range and suspension selector of the 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Si6. In this year’s test we have two similar Land Rover Discoveries, and this is the gas-powered version with a 3.0L supercharged V-6. These knobs control the Discovery’s Electronic Air Suspension and the two-speed transfer case with active locking center differential. Both of these SUVs also have an active rear locking differential. While we could complain about these controls they are pretty intuitive to use, fit the vehicle, and while these Land Rovers look soft and cushy, they flat out work off-road. They work way better than they have a right to, and are arguably some of the most capable SUVs available today. That’s not fluff or lip service, Land Rover has the 4WD system on these rigs figured out.
Two of a kind. This is the control center for the 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Td6 Diesel. That’s Land Rovers 3.0L Turbocharged six-cylinder. Both Landies share an eight-speed transmission, two-speed transfer case with center locking differential, and rear active locking differential. This one works equally as well off-road thus far in the test. Again these things are incredible.
Last but not least is the Selec-Terrain System control area on the 2018 Jeep Compass Trailhawk 4x4. It controls the terrain modes, “low range” gearing that boasts a 20:1 crawl ratio, and Hill Descent Control for the little Jeep SUV.