André and Tommy head to TFL’s signature off-road test, the Ironclad high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, to determine which midsize pickup truck handles snow, rock, icy hill climbing, and mud best. All trucks were run with their tires fully inflated, by the way.
The contenders: the 2020 Honda Ridgeline, the 2020 Ford Ranger FX4, and the 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon. And why put off the obvious? The Gladiator dominates as expected. The Ford Ranger did okay—the snowy terrain found the Ford’s off-road weakness, a lack of a front locker. The Ridgeline was undone by its road-oriented/crossover DNA. Its AWD system, however was by far the most pleasant surprise. Read on to learn more about each truck.
#3 – Honda Ridgeline
The Good: A sophisticated AWD system with torque vectoring; ‘Off-Road’ mode; unibody, four-wheel independent suspension.
The Bad: No underbody protection, road tires, lowest ground clearance, no low range transfer case.
The Results: The icy approach to the Razor Rocks and lack of protection prevented us from even trying. The sliding tires and risk of underbody damage was too great. However, if those things were addressed, there’s a legit chance the Ridgeline coulda made it. The AWD system is that good. Another takeaway: Independent suspension does wonders to smooth out the bumps on a dirt road, but its inherent lack of articulation prevents the Ridgeline from keeping all four tires on the ground in gnarly terrain.
#2 – Ford Ranger FX4
The Good: Body-on-frame platform, solid rear axle, low range transfer case, semi-burly all-terrain tires, locking rear diff, terrain management system, crawl control, underbody skid plates, and the best torque (310 ft-lbs.) of the three.
The Bad: No front locker (see below)
The Results: On the Razor Rocks obstacle, the Ford’s crawl control was activated, yet it got stuck with the rear wheels spinning in ice, while the front, left wheel spun in air. There was no power going to the one wheel buried in dry earth, the right front. The situation demonstrated the desirability of a front locker on a 4×4 to deliver power to both front wheels. However, a second run with a bit of momentum carried the Ranger over the rocks.
The Good: Everything you could ever want in an off-road truck. Front- and rear-lockers, two solid axles for better articulation, disconnecting front sway bar, dedicated off-road tires, low-range transfer case, crawl control, terrain management, rock rails, underbody armour, and Fox shocks, to name the highlights.
The Bad: N/A
The Results: Piece of cake, as expected.
I Declare a Tailgate War
Because, why not?
#3 – Ford Ranger FX4. The tailgate just flops down and does nothing.
#2 – Jeep Gladiator Rubicon. Tailgate flops down, but can be adjusted to open halfway, a feature that allows users to slide in a piece of plywood that would lie even on top of the wheel wells and the gate. Nifty.
#1 – Honda Ridgeline. Only one of the most glorious tailgates ever. Opens down and door-style, power outlet available near the gate, lights, speaker system embedded, and a massive cargo trunk under the bed that can contain Tommy’s 6’1″ frame.
Check out the video below to see the Gladiator set the standard and Honda’s AWD system shine.