2018 Gold Hitch Awards: Truck and SUV of the Year Results

These are the best towing and off-road trucks and full-size SUVs for the 2018 model year. This listing includes the trucks we have tested on the Ike Gauntlet™ – world’s toughest towing test.

The 2017 Best Towing Trucks data.

The 2016 Best Towing Trucks data.

The 2015 Best Towing Trucks and previous Ike Gauntlet data.

Ike Gauntlet: Downhill Test

2020 ford super duty chevy gmc hd ram

The trucks must be safe and practical on the way down. This is a test of a truck’s stopping and load handling abilities. The ability to stop a heavy load on the way down is more important than pulling it up the mountain. Truck’s transmission and brakes are put to the ultimate test here.

The measurement is simple. The trucks must maintain a safe and practical speed at or below the 60 MPH on the way down. Going westbound on I-70, we exit the tunnel at 50 MPH. The trucks are set in Tow/Haul mode and exhaust brakes enabled (if so equipped).

The point is to remove the driver’s skill from the test. The driver is not shifting the transmission manually. (Note: all of the trucks we have tested over the last several years were equipped with an automatic transmission.) The driver allowed the truck to accelerate naturally down the hill. If the truck and trailer go over the speed limit of 60 MPH, the driver applies the brake firmly (not slamming on it) in order to bring the truck down to 50 MPH. If required, the brake application procedure is repeated until the eight miles of downhill are completed. Some trucks require one or a few brake applications. These are the trucks that have especially smart “grade shifting” algorithms in their transmissions, and all systems, including the brakes, work at their best. Some truck require ten or more brake applications. These systems require more work. The goal is to have the least number of brake applications as to overheat and wear them out. There are two runaway truck ramps on this stretch of I-70 that serve as a constant reminder of the downhill danger. We monitor transmission and engine temperatures on all runs. Some transmissions can heat up as they work hard on the way down.

Ike Gauntlet: The Way Up

2018 ford expedition platinum
2018 Ford Expedition Platinum

Truck’s engine and transmission will be stressed to the maximum gaining more than 2,000 feet of elevation over just eight miles. The maximum grade of the climb is 7%. The engine will be starving for oxygen and struggling to make power at the 11,158 ft finish line. The test is to use maximum throttle input on the way up in order to maintain the 60 MPH speed limit (or the maximum speed the truck is able to maintain). The driver makes best effort to not go over the 60 MPH speed limit. This is a serious test for the driver as very slow moving semi trucks and other vehicles are obstacles to maintaining momentum and staying at or near 60 MPH.

We reset each truck’s trip computer at the start of the test. We time each run up the mountain and record the trip MPG as reported by the trip computer.

At the end, each truck is scored on a scale of 100 points. The truck has a maximum score of 25 points for the downhill section. The truck loses one point for each brake application on the way down. The benchmark time up the hill is 8 minutes. Every 5 seconds over the benchmark time subtracts a point from the truck’s overall score. The truck cannot gain points for going under 8 minutes. The benchmark MPG number is 6.0 MPG. Every 0.2 MPG below that, and the truck loses a point. The truck can gain points for doing better than 6.0 MPG.

The Ike Gauntlet test is extreme and may seem unreasonable for some. It is a challenge that many truck owners and truckers/transporters must deal with on a regular basis. If a truck does well towing on the Ike Gauntlet, you know you have a solid towing machine, no matter where you live.

Full-size SUVs

2018 gmc yukon denali chevy tahoe rst

Towing a 7,000 lbs CM Trailers Cargo Mate trailer.

Year Make Model Down (Num. Brakes) Up (Time) Up (MPG)  Subjective (Avg) Ike Score
2018 Ford Expedition 4×4 1 07:58.26 3.8 23 86
2018 Dodge Durango SRT 7 08:00.89 4.7 18 79.5
2018 GMC Yukon 4×4 7 8:01 4.7 18.5 79.5
2018 Chevy Tahoe RST 9 7:54 4.3 20 77.5
2018 GMC Yukon XL 4×4 11 8:03 4.4 21.5 77
2018 Toyota Sequoia 4×4 7 08:17.96  4.0 14.5 69.5
2018 Infiniti QX80 7 08:29.96 3.7 16.5 67

Heavy Duty Trucks:

2018 ram 2500 hd gmc cummins duramax towing ike gold hitch diesel heavy
2018 Ram 2500 HD Cummins vs. GMC Sierra 2500 Duramax

Towing a 12,500 lbs CM Trailers Cargo Mate trailer.

Year Make Model Down (Num. Brakes) Up (Time) Up (MPG)  Subjective (Avg) Ike Score
2018 Ford F-250 1 8:03.02 4.1 22 86
2018 Ram 2500 1 8:05.21 4.4 19 84
2018 GMC 2500 5 8:07.68 4.5 16.5 76.5

Best Off-Road Truck

This award recognizes the best towing trucks and SUVs, but we also pick the best off-road pickup truck. We base our decision on how each truck does on our Cliffhanger 2.0 off-road trail in the Colorado Rockies.

The Cliffhanger 2.0 trail is a steep (over 20%) incline with many large loose rocks, a Truth or Dare split (the Dare side is a lot more rocky), and a large rock obstacle near the top we call Razor’s Bend. We take all of our contest competitors on the Dare side of this trail.

This year’s competitors are:

  • 2018 Chevy Colorado ZR2
  • 2018 Ford F150 Raptor
  • 2018 GMC Sierra 2500 HD All Terrain X
  • 2018 Ram Power Wagon.