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Four Wheeler of the Year 2018: Day 2 Switchbacks and Sidewalls #FWOTY18

Posted in Features on December 5, 2017
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Photographers: Ken Brubaker

We were up dark and early on the second day of our 2018 Four Wheeler of the Year test, topping off the coffee tanks and circling up for a rousing drivers meeting. We stopped along the trail as the rising sun painted a background of pastel colors on the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so we could capture our three pickups in their Tuesday morning best—before we got a chance to cover them in dust. The Chevy Colorado ZR2, Ram 1500 Harvest Edition, and Ram 3500 Mega Cab all wore their colors proudly and looked sharp for the sunrise. Enough though about how stately these rigs look, because we all know they look far better getting flexy on the trails.

We joined up with our Jeep Compass Trailhawk and the diesel and gas Land Rover Discoverys and paraded deeper into the hills to continue testing, because as fun as our job might seem, this is still a test. (Don’t worry, we studied!) We made sure to twist every off-road-themed knob and dial, inflate all air suspension bags, and kick every transfer case into low range as we climbed into the mountains. Some of us, who were born and raised commanding a transfer case shift lever, were puzzled with glowing dials asking us to select between “Rock,” “Sand,” and “Low-Range” options, but we persevered.

The trail jostled our spines as it wound though a narrow canyon and presented a challenge—a mandatory V-notch and ledge climb. Yesterday’s RTI ramp exercise was only a warmup for the stuffing and tucking that went down in the canyon. The pickups led the pack, scaling the obstacles with help from locking differentials, spotters, and long wheelbases. The ZR2 crawled up without a complaint, then stretched its arms and yawned in boredom. Both Rams completed the challenge, but though the side steps make getting in and out a breeze; they had quite an affinity for the rocks. The Discoverys came equipped with air suspension, adding a couple valuable inches of ground clearance, which made all the difference between an easy ascent and a nasty rendezvous between rocker panel and the local geology. The Compass resorted to momentum and wheel speed, but still impressed the Jeep die-hards with its off-road prowess.

The rest of the day tested the ability of our fleet to withstand a prolonged mountain climb, and also the fortitude of our tires. Disclaimer—sidewalls were (unintentionally) harmed in the making of Four Wheeler of the Year Day 2. We did come prepared with spare tires, repair kits, and a highly-paid pit crew.

We finished off the day with a sunset cruise down the mountain, making notes on how each vehicle handled the spleen-rattling washboards as well as how toasty all the features kept our butts and fingertips (the onboard sensors recorded low temps of 28 degrees!)

Follow us on the Four Wheeler Network website and social media outlets as we continue on the week of testing where we trade rocks and racetracks for sand and snow!

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