• JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler

2009 10 Best Buys In 4x4 Trucks

Posted in Project Vehicles on September 1, 2009 Comment (0)
Share this
Photographers: The Four Wheeler Staff

Back in 2005, we revived our 10 Best Buys in Four Wheel Drive list to bring you what we consider the best new four-wheel drive rigs you can get from the factory. And by "best," we mean the ones that can get you out on the trail right off of the showroom floor. We also take into consideration which vehicles have a strong aftermarket following and offer a solid foundation to build off of. This year, we have altered the format slightly, and rather than struggle with picking the best vehicle in a number of categories, we decided to bring you what we consider the 10 best four-wheel drives you can buy in 2009, period. It doesn't hurt that incredible deals can be had right now, so if you are in the market for a new four-wheel drive, any pick from this list will be a solid one.

Hummer H3/H3T Adventure Package
Base Price: $36,740 (H3) / $34,065 (H3T)
Consecutive Years On List: 5
The Hummer H3 line, including the H3T model and Alpha trim levels, are nearly unstoppable in the dirt when equipped with the Adventure Package. These rigs are so capable in stock trim that the H3 Alpha won our 2008 Four Wheeler of the Year competition, while the H3T took home the 2009 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year award. When the Adventure package is selected from the option box, the H3 is equipped with a 4.03:1 transfer case, front and rear lockers, 33-inch tires, upgraded suspension, and the ability to ford 24 inches of water. Of course all H3s come with the best recovery points in the business, full skidplating, and approach and departure angles that would make a dirt bike jealous. If you stay with the 3.7L I-5 and the manual transmission, you'll get a 68.9:1 crawl ratio, and of course, the Alpha model will get you the nicely balanced V-8.

Hummer H2/H2 SUT
Base Price: $64,040 (H2) / $62,535 (H2 SUT)
Consecutive Years On List: 5
It is hard to think of many fullsize, luxury SUVs or SUTs that are available with 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires and a rear locker standard from the factory. That is probably because the H2 is the only game in town that meets the criteria. It is unmatched in its balance of comfort and capability, and the H2 has carved out its own niche for people who need a big vehicle that has real-world towing and wheeling qualifications. Beyond the basics of stout recovery points and full underbody protection, the H2 comes standard with a 393hp 6.2L flex-fuel V-8 and is rated to tow a 8,200-pound trailer. Don't forget to order up the air suspension for one of the smoothest rides in the segment and better approach and departure angles, which are already incomparable to its peers. And like its little brother, the H3, the H2 can ford 24 inches of water and climb up a vertical wall up to 16 inches high.

Dodge Power Wagon
Base Price: $45,640
Consecutive Years On List: 5
Our 2005 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck of the Year winner could very well be our favorite pickup of all time. It blends -ton capability and Jeep-like wheeling prowess. It is the only fullsize pickup on the market that comes with electronically activated lockers stuffed in its front and rear differentials, and if that isn't enough, the front swaybar can be disengaged at the push of a button to really let the front coil sprung suspension flex. Other Power Wagon pluses are 4.56:1 gearing, 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires on polished, forged wheels, Bilstein shocks, steering stabilizer, and a 12,000-pound Warn winch, standard. While some might choose to wait it out for the 2010 Power Wagon with the new body style, we say there is no reason to wait with the deals going on now. The Power Wagon is one helluva truck and is as close to pickup perfection as we've ever seen.

Jeep Wrangler/Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
Base Price: $29,565 (Wrangler) / $32,840 (Wrangler Unlimited)
Consecutive Years On List: 5
It is considered by many to be the premiere four wheeler in existence. This American icon's storied past includes roles as war hero, civilian work truck, and as an instrument of fun and adventure. Amazingly enough, the years have not watered down the Wrangler, and we would in fact argue that the current JK iteration is the finest example of the breed to be produced to date. Who can argue when you have two body styles, solid axles, and a plush, all-coil suspension? Make yours a Rubicon and add front and rear lockers, 4:1 transfer case, 32-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A tires, monotube shocks, and full underbody protection. The Wrangler is also a convertible, and with removable doors and a fold-down windshield has excellent visibility. You also have to consider that it is one of the most widely modified and aftermarket-supported vehicles out there. Bottom line: You can't go wrong with a Wrangler.

Toyota FJ Cruiser All-Terrain Package
Base Price: $25,500 (approximate)
Consecutive Years On List: 1
Toyota's FJ Cruiser was designed to be a competitor to the Wrangler, with a more modern and refined take on the theme. The steel-roofed Cruiser, sporting IFS, instantly gained cult status within the Toyota community, and with an affordable starting price and trail-targeted equipment, became popular with wheelers. A potent V-6, rubber flooring, and weather-resistant seats are standard. Checking off the All-Terrain Package on the option box nets you a rear locker, 31-inch BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires, Bilstein shocks, alloy wheels, Cyclone air pre-cleaner, A-TRAC Active Traction Control and a multi-information display that includes an inclinometer, compass, and exterior temperature readout. Manual models come with a full-time four-wheel drive system, while automatics get a part-time system. We hear there might not be a next-generation version of the FJ, so this might be the perfect time to pick one up if you are on the fence.

Nissan Xterra Off Road
Base Price: $28,340
Consecutive Years On List: 1
Our 2009 Four Wheeler Of The Year Winner shares its F-Alpha platform with the Nissan Frontier, and many of the same traits, such as an excellent drivetrain and a fun-to-drive nature. The Off Road trim level includes 32-inch BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires, electronic rear locker, Bilstein shocks and full skidplating. It also comes standard with roof-mounted auxiliary lights and tons of storage space. It is the quintessential platform for those who drive to work during the week and like to hit the trail for a little adventure on the weekends.

Nissan Frontier PRO-4X
Base Price: $27,360
Consecutive Years On List: 5
The Frontier has been a perennial favorite ever since we started this list. It has a willing chassis that is both fun to drive on the road and the trail, with a well-damped suspension and quick steering. The 4.0L V-6, when matched to the six-speed manual, will even bark the tires into Third if you try. The PRO-4X (formerly NISMO) package is available in either King Cab or Crew Cab flavors and adds 32-inch BFGoodrich Rugged Trail T/A tires, Bilstein shocks, and a rear locker. Standard standouts include full skidplating, a factory spray-on bedliner, and the excellent Utili-trak bed rail system. An upgraded interior for 2009 also make the rugged interior a little bit more inviting.

Ford F-150 FX4
Base Price: $34,100
Consecutive Years On List: 1
For 2009, Ford has redesigned the F-150, making it one of the top considerations for any -ton truck buyer. What Ford also did was to make the FX4 model less of a sticker-and-badge option and more of a real wheeler. The most important change with the FX4 is an electronically-activated rear locker that can be used in 4-Hi at speeds up to 20 mph, but the upgrades don't stop there. The FX4 features a more robust skidplate assembly, unique shock absorbers, 3.73:1 gearing, and optional aggressive 32-inch Goodyear A/T Extreme tires on 17-inch wheels. The FX4 also has an impressive 41:1 crawl ratio and an air dam that doesn't impede upon the approach angle. Engineers were also able to increase the suspension flexibility, giving the FX4 model an 8-percent improvement on the RTI ramp. With these improvements and a best-in-class interior, the Ford F-150 is solidly in the hunt.

Dodge Ram 1500 TRX4
Base Price: $30,895
Consecutive Years On List: 1
The redesigned 2009 Dodge Ram is an all-out assault by Dodge to shake things up in the 1/2-ton pickup market. With stunning good looks and a tight chassis, the Dodge Ram really begins to shine when its flexy, coil-sprung rear suspension is put to work in rough terrain. Despite only having a limited-slip rear axle (albeit a very good one), the rear coil springs make up for it by keeping a rear wheel in contact with the ground in all but the most varied terrain. Another benefit of the link-coil rear suspension is the absence of any wheel hop in soft or sandy terrain, long the bane of traditionally leaf-sprung pickups. In addition to the rear limited-slip differential, the TRX4 trim adds 32-inch Goodyear Wrangler AT/S tires, a 3.92:1 axle ratio, tow hooks, front differential and transfer case skidplates, and a unique two-tone paint scheme. We also love the best-in-class ride, a major selling point to anyone considering a Ram.

Ford Super Duty FX4
Base Price: $36,945
Consecutive Years On List: 5
While this last one might not be geared specifically for the trail ride, it performed well enough in past testing to win our 2008 Four Wheeler Pickup Truck Of The Year competition. Besides, the aftermarket possibilities for the Super Duty are endless, and everyone needs a good tow rig to deliver the project to the trailhead and get it home after something grenades. The Super Duty offers three different cab styles, two beds, three engines, manual or automatic transmissions, and single or dual rear wheels. It is ultra-comfortable and can haul anything you can cram in the bed, or tow virtually anything you can hitch up to it. The capable FX4 trim level includes Rancho shocks, 33-inch tires, a rear limited-slip and skidplates to seal the deal for the Super Duty to remain on our list for the fifth year in a row.

Comments

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Sponsored Links