Experts Unpack Off-Roading Need-to-Know Info; List Top Recommendations for 12 Best New, 5 Best Used 4x4s
Whether a vacationer’s road trip to an exciting destination featuring extreme terrain, or a weekend warrior’s hobby experienced among the local landscape, off-roading is an adventurous pastime enjoyed by many Americans. A brand new list from Kelley Blue Book helps off-road enthusiasts pick the right truck.
“Summer is the perfect time to enjoy off-road adventures with a capable truck,” said Brian Moody, executive editor for Kelley Blue Book. “To make traveling off-pavement safer and smarter – and to have the most fun – you need a truck with the right features to power through even the worst terrain. Kelley Blue Book’s experts have unpacked everything drivers need to know about off-roading, from detailing the basics to lists of must-have features and technology, along with their recommendations for the best new and used off-road trucks for car shoppers to consider.”
Off-Roading 101 – Understanding the Basics
Before getting started, it is important to understand some off-roading basics. For detailed definitions and descriptions of things like how all-wheel drive (AWD) differs from 4-wheel drive (4WD), off-road tires vs. aftermarket tires, information about all-wheel-drive capability, part-time 4-wheel drive, low range and more, check out Kelley Blue Book’s Next-Level Off-Roading story.
Must-Have Off-Road Features
Several helpful off-road equipment and technology features, which can be ordered individually or bundled into an off-road-specific package, are valuable when you venture off the pavement:
- Larger Tires – Selecting a larger and more aggressive tire from the factory will increase ground clearance and help make the most of your 4WD truck’s performance on the trail. However, shoppers also should keep wheel size in mind to maximize sidewall availability for conforming to obstacles.
- Skid Plates – Skid plates are thick, protective sheets of steel or aluminum mounted to the frame on the undercarriage of the truck to protect vulnerable components from taking on damage while off-roading.
- Off-Road Suspension – Most manufacturers offer upgraded dampers (shock absorbers) as part of an off-road package, and the best ones allow for a smoother ride at much higher speeds over rough terrain.
- Locking Differentials – To make sure your 4×4 has all four wheels pulling when the trail gets tough, opt for selectable locking differentials in the axles. This feature often is integrated into off-road packages.
- Disconnecting Front Swaybar – Swaybar disconnect systems unlock additional suspension movement creating more traction, improved ride comfort, and the ability to tackle harder trails.
- Electric Winch – A winch mounted to the front of the truck can help pull you out of trouble if you get stuck with no one else around to offer a yank from a tow strap. If you buy one from the factory or through a dealer, oftentimes they have been crash-tested to ensure the winch system conforms to stringent safety regulations.
Kelley Blue Book’s Best New Off-Road Trucks for 2022 – The Dirty Dozen
For off-roading shoppers in the market for a new 4×4, Kelley Blue Book’s editors recommend the following 12 trucks:
1. 2022 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
In the world of midsize pickups, the Chevy Colorado ZR2 is one of the most capable and versatile – the ZR2 package features a two-inch taller suspension with increased wheel travel thanks to a wider track.
2. 2022 Ram 2500 Power Wagon
The Power Wagon nameplate is the granddaddy of off-road pickups with a long history as a heavy-duty workhorse, and the current model is an ideal truck for owners who need a pickup that can handle work and play.
3. 2022 Ford Raptor
As the original extreme off-roader, the Raptor is a full-size light-duty pickup truck that excels at higher-speed off-roading, designed to swallow up big bumps at speed and take a lot of abuse yet ride smoothly on pavement.
4. 2022 Ram TRX
Unleashed two years ago in direct competition to the Ford Raptor, the TRX is a high-speed off-roader with a supercharged V8 that offers incredible acceleration on road or off thanks to the full-time 4WD system.
5. 2022 Ford Ranger Tremor
The midsize truck segment is heating up when it comes to off-road performance, and Ford’s new Tremor package for the Ranger adds a lot of great off-road equipment at a fairly economical price.
6. 2022 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon
Even the lowest-priced Gladiator has off-road capabilities that exceed most midsize pickups – it basically uses a stretched Wrangler chassis with a durable solid axle suspension at each end that flexes well across difficult terrain.
7. 2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
Toyota pickups are known for their reliability and off-road capabilities – the TRD Pro model was improved for 2022 to offer even more capability, performing equally well for high-speed off-roading and slow-speed technical challenges.
8. 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X
GMC has introduced an even more capable version of its Sierra 1500 AT4 off-road package in the AT4X – the new X includes even more hardcore off-road equipment, including new electronic locking front and rear differentials.
9. 2022 Ford F-250 Super Duty Tremor
The Super Duty is America’s most popular heavy-duty pickup, and the Tremor off-road package complements the truck’s rugged personality to produce a capable off-roader that can haul a serious load.
10. 2022 Ram 1500 Rebel
Think of the Ram Rebel as the more sedate and sensible older brother of the TRX – it is a great deal because even though it lacks many of the extreme features of the TRX, the Rebel still is an excellent performer off-road.
11. 2022 GMC Hummer EV Pickup
The GMC Hummer EV is the most capable electric pickup you can buy at this point – it is a completely new vehicle, sharing nothing with any gasoline-powered GMC truck yet offering up some serious off-road DNA with major capability.
12. 2022 Chevrolet Silverado ZR2
Occupying a space that’s one notch down from the Raptor or TRX, the keys to the Silverado ZR2’s capabilities are the front and rear locking differentials (neither Raptor nor TRX offer a front locker), which allow this Chevy to hold its own in terms of slow-speed climbing.
Kelley Blue Book’s 5 Great Used 4x4s for 2022
For shoppers in the market for a used 4×4, Kelley Blue Book’s editors recommend checking out the following trucks:
- 2016 – 2020 Toyota Tacoma TRD
- 2015 – 2020 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X
- 2015 – 2018 Ram Rebel
- 2010 – 2014 Ford F-150 Raptor
- 2013 – 2018 Ram/Dodge Power Wagon
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