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Which Is The Best Way To Engage Low Range For Off-Road: Lever, Knob, Or Button?

More than one way to shift gears in the 2020 SUV and Pickup Truck of the Year vehicles

Shifting your transfer case into low range for off-road probably isn't something that you spend much time thinking about. There are actually several different ways to accomplish this, as we saw during the 2020 Four Wheeler of the Year and Pickup Truck of the Year testing. The simplest is a mechanical lever that passes through the floor and connects directly to the 4x4 transfer case. This isn't always possible though due to packaging constraints, and the hole in the transmission tunnel creates added road noise. As a result, electric actuators controlled by buttons or knobs are in many modern vehicles to operate the 4x4 transfer case to shift into low range off-road. No matter how they are controlled, as long as vehicles come with low range, we will be grateful when we are on the trail!

The upscale Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ 3.0L Duramax, Silverado 2500 HD LTZ 6.6L Duramax, GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 3.0L Duramax, Sierra 2500 HD AT4 6.6L Duramax, and Sierra 3500 HD Denali Dually 6.6L Duramax use GM's Autotrac system that includes an "auto" mode that will engage when wheel slippage is detected. 2-Hi, 4-Hi, and 4-Lo are also available through this push-button system on the left side of the steering wheel.
The Chevy Silverado 2500 HD Custom with the 6.6L gas engine has the standard transfer case with your normal 2-Hi, 4-Hi, 4-Lo, and Neutral options. This isn't where we naturally look for the transfer-case controls, but it does eliminate any possibility of shifting into low when you are trying to adjust the air conditioning.
Like the GM trucks, the Ram Rebel uses buttons to select the transfer-case mode, but they are on the right side of the steering wheel instead of on the left side.
This is about as good as it gets. The Wrangler and Gladiator were the only vehicles with lever-operated transfer-case shifters. On these Jeeps, the transfer-case shifter is between the driver and transmission shifter, where it is easy to reach to engage and disengage as needed.
The Range Rover is equipped with full-time 4WD and uses a button to engage the low-range reduction in the transfer case. It is located with all the controls for the air suspension and hill descent, around the Terrain Response dial in the center console.