Lets face it folks, stock new 4WD vehicles are becoming less and less capable off-road. There was a day when your dads F-150 could get you into plenty of low-range trouble with no modifications at all. Trucks like that seemed unstoppable for a stock rig. Yep, they just dont build them like they used too.
Nowadays, magazines that used to test primarily cars (or even worse, appliances) are testing 4x4s. And of course all they do is bitch about how these things aint cars. Well, duh! Unfortunately, vehicle manufacturers seem to be listening to these complaints, and to consumers who want 4x4 rigs that feel and drive like cars. Theyre worried about such hideous things as step-in height, and theyre equipping their vehicles with single-speed transfer cases. As a result, the off-road capability of new vehicles is near an all-time low. Well, we arent going to take it anymore. We decided that one way to fight back was to come up with a test that takes into account only the off-road performance of completely stock vehicles. If a rig has an interior consisting of angel-hair carpeting and a sofa (actually that might be cool), handled like a school bus with flat tires on the highway, and was powered by squirrelshey, we could care less. Hows it work on the trail? Thats what counts and thats what we want to know.
So how did we pick the vehicles? Simple: With lots of time testing new vehicles, weve gotten a pretty good handle on which ones work off-road and which ones dont. So after a quick meeting that featured some creative shouting and yelling (you dont think that we all agree on everything, do you?), we narrowed down our list to four: the Jeep TJ, the Land Rover Discovery Series II, the Hummer, and the Toyota Tacoma TRD. You can start writing your letters now, screaming, What about the Kia Sportage (or whatever your favorite 4x4 is), but whatever it is, if we havent already called its name, it isnt in here. So we suggest you deal with it.
What does the winner get? Well, maybe well send them a case of beer, some pretzels, and a cheesy plaque. Or maybe not. Most importantly, what they do get is major bragging rights. The winner can now drive by the other manufacturers playing Queens rock-and-roll anthem, We Are the Champions, as loudly as possible. They also get lots of respect from us for still caring about a 4x4s off-road performance, even when it doesnt seem to be cool anymorewell, at least to those car guys.
So heres how it all turned out.