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Best 4x4 Pickup Trucks New vs Old: Four Wheeler Network Staff Picks

What’s the best new pickup you can buy today and the best pickup ever?

There are many elements that combine to define what's best in a 4x4 pickup truck. After all, what good are front and rear lockers and a suspension that can soak up washboard whoops and jumps if it's packaged in a vehicle that can't tow a 7,000-pound trailer? Or that has very little cargo area? Or that can only seat two or three people?

From their lineage tracing back to horse-drawn wagons, pickup trucks are by their very nature platforms for doing work. It's all about the bed, the utility, the overall capability, and the functionality. Those are the building blocks that lie at the core of a pickup truck's DNA. Layer on top of that decades of evolution resulting in smoothness, comfort, amenities, and other cushy niceties we've come to expect in our modern vehicles, and you can see the color palette isn't as monochromatic as "how utilitarian is this pickup." So, with all that in mind, we polled some of the Four Wheeler Network's longest serving truck experts to see what their picks for the best NEW pickup truck you can walk into a dealership to buy today, and their pick for the best EVER pickup truck. Here's what they had to say.

Ken Brubaker Best NEW 4x4 Pickup Truck: Ram 2500 Power Wagon

 

There are some pretty impressive pickup trucks on the market for 2020, but I think the Ram Power Wagon is the best 4x4 truck. Why? Well, it has a laundry list of off-road-oriented features including electronic locking differentials, 4.10 gears, a manual shift T-case, specially tuned Bilstein shocks, an array of skidplates, a 12,000-pound winch, and front disconnecting stabilizer bar. But wait, there's more. Another thing I like about the Power Wagon is that it's based on the Ram 2500 3/4-ton truck, not a 1/2-ton. This translates to impressive tow and haul numbers. Wait, not done yet. Under the front end of the Power Wagon is a good ol' solid axle. No IFS stuff going on here. What's not to like about the Power Wagon? Quite simply, it's good at everything.

Ken Brubaker Best NEW 4x4 Pickup Truck: 2005 Dodge Power Wagon

 

What is the best 4x4 pickup truck of all time? Heck, that's easy: the 2005 Dodge Power Wagon. I was at the press long-lead in late 2004 and was one of the first journalists to drive the truck. I was excited about it then, and I'm still excited about it. Arguably, the 2005 Power Wagon singlehandedly changed the fullsize pickup truck world with its legit list of off-road-centric upgrades. The 2005 Power Wagon had features like lockers, front disconnecting sway bar, 12,000-pound winch, and so on. Compared to a standard 2005 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup it had larger-diameter rear axleshafts, added material in the front and rear differential housings, 33-inch tires, forged aluminum wheels with a modified bead seat, a 1.8-inch front lift, 1.4-inch rear lift, significant skidplating, and rocker protection. It's clear even today that Dodge was darn serious when it put the storied nameplate on the truck.

Jason Gonderman Best NEW 4x4 Pickup Truck: Ford F-250 Tremor

Choosing the best four-wheel-drive pickup truck is a tough ask. Particularly because all trucks currently on the market are available with four-wheel drive (or all-wheel drive in the case of Honda's Ridgeline). So, then, naming the best four-wheel-drive truck amounts to naming the best pickup of the 2020 class. For my money, that accolade goes to the 2020 Ford F-250 Tremor. Tremor is an off-road package that can be added to almost any trim level of four-wheel-drive Super Duty pickup. It comes with a small lift, locking rear differential, limited-slip front, and 35-inch tires. Since the package can be added to most trim levels, you can buy any amount of luxury desired, up to Platinum (sorry, no Limited for Tremor). The 2020 Super Duty comes loaded with technology and creature comforts. Its two engine choices (the 7.3L gasoline V-8 and 6.7L Power Stroke diesel) are phenomenal, and they are just as happy commuting to work as they are towing a house. You can get into a nice crew-cab XLT Tremor for about $53,000, which you'd be hard-pressed to get a similarly equipped Jeep Gladiator for.

Jason Gonderman Best EVER 4x4 Pickup Truck: 2015 Ford F-150

Again, a very difficult choice, as naming the best four-wheel-drive pickup ever amounts to naming the best pickup of all time. Assuming price is no object, I'd name the 2015 Ford F-150 as the best four-wheel-drive pickup. Why, you ask? The biggest reason is sales volume. Ford sells more F-150 pickups than any other vehicle in the United States, period. And of a million people a year can't be wrong. For 2015 Ford swapped to an all-aluminum cab, which was and still is unheard of in the pickup space. The truck can be had with loads of technology, a quiet and comfortable cab, and great powertrain choices. Between the 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 and 5.0L V-8 there's truly something for everyone. Off-roaders will enjoy the available locking rear differential and FX4 off-road package, while those wanting more luxury can have it with either the Platinum or King Ranch trims. These trucks are readily available for under $20,000, in great shape with low miles.

Christian Hazel Best NEW 4x4 Pickup Truck: Ram 2500 Power Wagon

I'll start with a caveat: I haven't driven the new Ford Tremor package or Ford's new 7.3L gas V-8 yet, and while I love the luxury you find inside any new Ford pickup truck, I can't make an informed decision on that particular platform at this time. And small pickups like Tacoma, Colorado, Ranger, and JT Gladiator don't fulfill the role of what I envision a pickup truck to be. To me, those are more like a car or SUV with a bed stuck on the back. I need some more beef and capability in a true 4x4 pickup. So what to select? I really love the gooey power and smoothness of the GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 with the 6.2L and 10-speed transmission. Or how about a GMC or Chevy with GM's inline-six Duramax or a Ram 1500 with a 3.0L EcoDiesel? I mean, what's not to love about a near-30-mpg 4x4? But I can only pick one that does everything. And for me, if I want to head down an unimproved dirt road, tow a 10,000-pound trailer, transport the wife and four kids to Moab or Havasu, haul a load of dirt, or just commute every day in a comfortable interior with every conceivable amenity, I'm gonna pick a 2020 Ram 2500 Power Wagon crew cab with a 40/20/40 front bench seat and a 6-foot, 4-inch bed with Ram's optional RamBox cargo management system. That's nearly the perfect pickup truck in my estimation.

Christian Hazel Best EVER 4x4 Pickup Truck: 2014 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

Oh boy, here's where by bent for vintage 4x4s collides with my need to remain an impartial automotive journalist. Personally, I skew toward bare-bones weirdo stuff like maybe a '67-'69 Kaiser M-715, a bumpside Ford F-350 crew-cab, a Dodge W350 crew cab, or most definitely a '45-'56 Power Wagon. But while those are all most definitely COOL trucks, they're not necessarily the BEST. For example, the M-715 rides like a cement truck with no suspension, and the 230 OHV engine doesn't like to rev past 3,000 rpm, which, given the truck's factory 5.87 gearing and lack of overdrive, make freeway driving all but impossible. And the Ford or the Dodge don't have anything that makes that particularly stand out from the sea of all pickups ever manufactured. Invariably things like a mid-'80s 1-ton Chevy K30 with a Dana 60 front, 14-bolt rear, four-barrel 454, TH400, and NP205 come to mind, but other than the super-burly drivetrain, the rest of the truck was a clattery pile that rode like crap. Close the hood too forcefully, and it bent at the hinges, and so forth. So, what pickup in the history of all pickups is super reliable, super utilitarian, moderately comfortable, and relatively affordable? I really, really tried to pick a Ford or GM or even an older Jeep here, but for me I'd have to say that honor goes to the 2014 Ram Power Wagon. It's got a cushy four-coil suspension, comfy interior, and it's the first year for the made-for-towing-and-heavy-use 6.4L Hemi, which replaced the 5.7L Hemi. It's late enough in the platform's design where the company had most of the major bugs worked out of the chassis and engine management and new enough that it features all the nice little modern conveniences we've come to expect. Ugh, I feel dirty saying it. Sorry, vintage Power Wagon.

Jeremy Cook Best NEW 4x4 Pickup Truck: Ford F-150 EcoBoost

Hey, why not. I like to say I'm not a fan of all the recent engine downsizing and factory turbos/superchargers. But it turns out I drive an EcoBoost F-150 that makes almost the same numbers as the Raptor package thanks to plenty of bolt-ons and tuning from Banks power. And I really like driving it, so it turns out I'm not such a naysayer after all! All of the aftermarket remarks from above apply here as well.

Jeremy Cook Best EVER 4x4 Pickup Truck:

It may seem a little lazy, but to me a Raptor seems like a great choice for a "do everything" 4x4. And I'm a truck guy, by the way. They come pretty well equipped right out of the box, suspension wise and feature a good ol V-8 with plenty of horsepower, but when you're ready to upgrade, there is a ton of aftermarket support. It'll run circles around all the slightly more interesting rigs my cohorts will undoubtedly pick.

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