Is it irony or cruelty when the world is trying to lock up access to places to wheel, yet the auto manufacturers are creating some of the most compelling and capable vehicles ever built? Real rigs are built-not bought-goes the famous wheeling cliché, but these days there are plenty of great rigs that can be bought and wheeled right off of the showroom floor. And because of the robust components made for the trail, they also happen to be really great foundations to build off of as well. Sounds like a win-win for everybody. Unlike the objective criteria of our Truck of The Year testing, our 10 Best Buys in Four-Wheel Drive is a subjective assessment by the Four Wheeler staff of every 4x4 on the market. We pick the best 4x4s available today, ones that have comprehensive off-road packages, solid aftermarket support, and more than 1,000 units produced.
Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
Base Price: $38,995
Consecutive Years On List: 1
Under $40,000 for a truck that takes on desert terrain at freeway speeds? And it comes with a full warranty? Sign us up. The Raptor might just be the most extreme truck to ever come from the factory, and will no doubt join the ranks of the Bill Stroppe Bronco and the like in wheeling immortality at the end of it's production run. It is to desert whompers what the Lamborghini Countach was to a generation of adolescent boys-an aspirational vehicle worthy of display on bedroom walls. Except this one is affordable. Not only does the Raptor have schoolyard-arresting styling, but the list of standard equipment rivals the 4 Wheel Parts catalog: Fox internal bypass shocks, 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires, 4.10:1 gearing, any-speed rear locker, Off-Road Mode, auxiliary switches, full skidplating, and a foot of suspension travel are just the beginning of the list of goodies. Four-wheel drive, a low center of gravity, and a 45.1:1 crawl ratio make sure it isn't just a one-trick pony, either.
Jeep Wrangler/Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
Base Price: $29,525 (Wrangler)/ $32,800 (Unlimited)
Consecutive Years On List: 6
The Wrangler is arguably the best factory 4x4 ever built. And we only say "arguably" because we all have that one friend who likes to debate hot when we say cold, chocolate when we like vanilla, and Coke when we crave Dr. Pepper-even when he is wrong. How do you dispute solid axles, flexy coil-sprung suspension, 4.0:1 transfer case and front and rear lockers? Don't forget that the Rubicon also upgrades the treads to special 32-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/As and monotube shocks. The electronic disconnecting sway bar is no gimmick either; disconnect it when crawling through the boulder field, then lock it up for better stability on a side slope-or the ride home. Today's Wrangler comes in two body styles, with your choice of removable hard or soft top, removable doors and a fold-down windshield. Does anyone really need a fold-down windshield? Probably not, but it just goes to show the lengths that Jeep engineers were willing to go to make sure that the Wrangler stays true to its roots. There is retro and there is authentic, and after nearly 70 years of production, today's Wrangler is as Jeep-authentic as ever.
Ram Power Wagon
Base Price: $45,780
Consecutive Years On List: 6
This is a real truck. A man's, man's truck. A corn-fed, blue-collar, hearty-work-ethic kind of a truck. It is the kind of truck you climb up into and the kind of truck you want to drive when you have 1,940 pounds in the bed, five close friends and a boulder-strewn route between points A and B. At the heart of the Power Wagon are front and rear lockers stuffed into massive solid axles with 4.56:1 gearing. Front electronic disconnecting sway bar used in conjunction with front coil springs makes it an RTI ramp champ, and when the going gets really rough, you have Bilstein monotube dampers and 33-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires mounted on 17-inch forged wheels to rely on. And just in case you find yourself just a little bit too far on the road less traveled, the standard factory-installed 12,000-pound Warn winch is there for the assist. For 2010, the Power Wagon inherits the latest in Dodge styling and crew cab comfort, making long trips a pleasure for everyone who is along for the adventure. Just be careful, though-the Power Wagon is so darn capable, you might have to hide the keys from the neighbors.