The 10 best factory-built mud boggers, rock crawlers, and trail dogs in showrooms now

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It wasn’t all that long ago that if you wanted to go off-road—as in, really off the beaten path—you first had to go to the aftermarket and plunk down your credit card. You’d have to modify your truck with a lifted suspension, chunky tires, stronger axles, locking differentials, maybe a sway bar disconnection kit, and a winch. Don’t forget a set of rock sliders and steel bumpers to protect its body, and beefy skidplates to armor its underbelly.

You can still do that of course, but you don’t have to. Not since 2003, anyway. That year the team at Jeep changed the off-roading landscape forever by introducing the Wrangler Rubicon. It was the most mud bogging-est, rock crawling-est, trail terrorizing-est Jeep ever, and it became an instant icon. Sure, there had been off-road packages before that point, and many of them were quite successful. Few would dispute that the late 1990s-to-early-2000s Tacomas with the TRD Off-Road Package and its electronic locking rear diff wasn’t a solid , trusty compact 4×4. But the Rubicon took the concept to another level.

“To legions of hardcore 4-wheeling enthusiasts, the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is the ultimate,” wrote Ben Stewart in Popular Mechanics. “Named after the famous 22-mile 4×4 trail in Southern California, the Rubicon is a package of carefully selected off-road hardware that is so hardcore it makes the new H2 Hummer look like a station wagon.”

Today manufacturers are offering more hardcore factory off-roaders than ever before. From Rubicons and Raptors to Tremors and TRD Pros, there’s never been a better time to buy a serious off-road pickup or SUV with a factory warranty. Still, some of these offerings remain more hardcore than others. Here are the 10 best factory-built trail dogs in alphabetical order. These trucks will get you there, but more importantly, they’re the rigs that will get you home.

Chevy Colorado ZR2/ZR2 Bison

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison front three-quarter articulation off-road
GM

This is perhaps the best off-road machine General Motors has ever produced. A considerable notch up from the already capable Colorado Z71, the ZR2 is one of the few factory produced truck out there with front and rear electronic locking differentials, which give it impressive climbing capability.

The midsize pickup’s true strength, though, is its suspension, which is 3.5 inches wider and sits two inches taller for more ground clearance. It’s also equipped with Multimatic shocks supplied by the same company that developed similar dampers for the 2014 Camaro Z/28. They allow the ZR2 to soak up washboard track better than most trucks on this list.

Darren Bohne, the Colorado’s chief engineer, was the assistant engineering manager on the track-terror Z/28. “Everyone thought I was crazy when I first suggested bringing the Multimatic shock technology to the off-road truck project,” he says.

For more clearance Chevy also fitted a new front bumper. Its 31-inch diameter Goodyears aren’t huge, but 33-inchers fit if you trim its fender flares a bit. Skid plates and rock sliders protect its mechanical bits and body from rocks, while the Bison Package, engineered with the help of American Expedition Vehicles, adds steel bumpers and even more underside protection. According to Dave Harriton, the founder of AEV, he equipped the Bison as if he was going to take a ZR2 to Russia and tackle the Road of Bones.

With prices starting at $42,890 for the extended cab model, the ZR2 is a heck of a value. A crew cab is also available, and Chevy offers the ZR2 with a 3.6-liter gas V-6 or a 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel four-cylinder.

2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison rear three-quarter articulation off-road
GM

Pros

Strong all-around performance on all terrains

Front and rear locking differentials

Available diesel for additional range

Cons

No disconnecting sway bar option

Not as much power as the big dogs

Ford F-150 Raptor

2019 Ford F-150 Raptor front three-quarter articulation off-road
Ford

Now deep into its second generation, Ford’s F-150 Raptor is an off road icon. With an industry-leading 13 inches of front and 13.9-inches of rear suspension travel, it’s basically a desert pre-runner you can drive to work every day.

Underneath its aluminum body is a fully boxed steel frame and 3-inch diameter shocks supplied by the legendary off-road suspension company Fox Racing Shox. They’re the largest diameter dampers on any factory truck. According to Ford Performance, which helped engineer the shocks, they feature “nine-stage bypass damping for improved suspension control, plus integrated hydraulic bump stops minimize bottoming-out over rough terrain and improved overall heat dissipation.”

Other hardware includes massive BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A K02 tires measuring 315/70R17, an electronic-locking rear differential, and a terrain management system with six drive modes, which modify its 4-wheel drive system as well as its traction and stability controls. “Raptor’s transfer case provides the best of both worlds,” says Tony Greco, Ford F-150 Raptor program manager. “It delivers the natural benefits from all-wheel-drive, such as increased traction in rain and snow, as well as extreme off-road capability that comes with a mechanically locked system.”

Every Raptor is powered by a twin-turbocharged V-6 making 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque, so it’s also one of the most powerful trucks on this list. (And the quickest, hitting 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds.) The 3.5-liter is backed by a 10-speed automatic transmission. Prices start at $50,020, which makes the Raptor an incredible value. Super Cab and Crew Cab models are offered.

2019 Ford F-150 Raptor rear three-quarter sand road action
Ford

Pros

Best in the desert

Most power of the bunch

Smooth ride on the road

Cons

Minimal body protection

Too big for some trails

No locking front differential

Ford Super Duty Tremor

2020 F-Series Super Duty Tremor Package front three-quarter off-road
Ford

Ford is taking on the Ram Power Wagon with its new Tremor off-road Package. It’s available on the F-250 and F-350 Super Duty and the company is quick to point out that it can tow and haul considerably more weight than its main rival. Unlike the Ram, Ford also offers the Tremor with diesel power.

The $3975 Tremor package is available on all 4×4 single-rear-wheel SuperCrews with a 6.75-foot bed. XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum trim levels are available, and the package is offered with Ford’s all-new 7.3-liter gas V-8 or the third-generation of its 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel.

The 7.3-liter is the largest engine on this list. It makes 430 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque, which is considerably more than you get in the Power Wagon. The Power Stroke is the torque king of factory trucks as well, making 1050 pound-feet and 475 horsepower. Like the Raptor, all Tremors get a 10-speed automatic.

According to Ford, the Tremor’s 1.7-inch-piston twin-tube shocks feature increased oil volume to ward off heat. Progressive rate springs and a retuned rear anti-roll bar also improve its ride, which is superior to its rivals from Chevy and GMC. Despite 10.8 inches of ground clearance and increased approach and departure angles, this is a huge truck, so it’s easy to damage its bumpers over large obstacles.

Ford has also fitted a locking rear differential with shift-on-the-fly engagement and a beefy Dana limited-slip front differential. Selectable drive modes, including one for deep snow and sand and a rock-crawl mode, allow you to choose the setting best suited to the terrain and conditions. With the 7.3-liter gas engine Tremors have a 53:1 crawl ratio while those equipped with the 6.7-liter diesel engine have a 44:1 crawl ratio. Prices start just under $45,000, which is considerably less than the Ram Power Wagon.

2020 F-Series Super Duty Tremor Package front three-quarter articulation off-road
Ford

Pros

Most available torque on this list

Impressive wheel travel

Tows the most

Cons

No locking front differential

Much too big for some trails

Light on body protection

Jeep Gladiator Mojave

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave front three-quarter on desert sand action
FCA

Think of the Gladiator Mojave as a Gladiator Rubicon but for the desert. More Baja 1000 than King of the Hammers. “With the addition of the new Mojave model, we are delivering our most passionate customers a new level of capability with the ability to master high-speed desert and sand terrains,” says Jim Morrison, Head of Jeep Brand.

Like the Gladiator Rubicon, the Mojave features heavy-duty Dana 44 front and rear axles and a standard electronic-locking rear differential, which can be activated at high speeds in “4H” for the first time. It also boasts best-in-class approach angle, breakover angle, and departure angle, and its 11.6 inches of ground clearance is more than any other midsize truck.

To earn Jeep’s first-ever Desert Rated badge, the Gladiator Mojave is equipped with specially-tuned 2.5-inch diameter shocks from Fox. They contain internal passages that allow fluid to bypass the piston through regulated ports as it moves through the suspension travel. External shock reservoirs also keep the shock fluid from overheating when you hammer down through the hot desert.

Fox also supplied the Mojave’s front hydraulic jounce bumpers, which are an industry-first. “They act as a secondary pair of shocks,” says a Jeep spokesman. “They provide additional damping force as the suspension reaches maximum compression, in order to soften impacts and prevent bottoming out in harsh off-road situations at speed.”

A half-inch wider track provides additional stability and Jeep has reinforced both the frame and axles. A one-inch front suspension lift increases jounce travel and 33-inch tires are standard. With the standard six-speed manual, the Mojave has a crawl ratio of 57.3:1 and 52.6:1 with the optional eight-speed automatic. Every Gladiator is powered by Jeep’s 3.6-liter V-6 delivering 285 horsepower. Prices should start under $50,000.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave rear three-quarter on desert sand action
FCA

Pros

Most wheel travel and ground clearance in a midsize pickup

Offered as a convertible

Available with a manual transmission

Cons

Not quite as capable as the smaller Wrangler Rubicon

No diesel option

No locking front differential

Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon front three-quarter articulation on rubicon trail action
FCA

Basically a Wrangler Rubicon with a pickup bed, Jeep’s Gladiator Rubicon is the most capable off-road pickup available. It isn’t quite as nimble as the Wrangler Rubicon due to its longer wheelbase and extended rear overhang, but it’s close. And it’s one of the reasons the Gladiator was named the 2020 North American Truck of the Year.

The Gladiator Rubicon is also similar to the Gladiator Mojave. Both pickups are fitted with the same strong Dana 44 front and rear axles, a shorter 4.10 rear axle gear, and Jeep’s Rock-Trac 4×4 System with a lower 4:1 4LO gear ratio. But the Rubicon has front and rear locking differentials, while the Mojave does not. The Rubicon also gets the larger 33-Inch tires, steel rock sliders, skid plates, and an electronic disconnect for the front sway bar to increase its suspension articulation.

A 3.6-liter V-6 making 285 horsepower is standard. Jeep has promised its turbocharged EcoDiesel V-6, but it hasn’t seen production yet in the midsize pickup. Models with the available manual transmission pack an 84.1:1 Crawl Ratio, which is the best in class. With the available 8-speed automatic its crawl ratio is 77.2:1, which is still considerably better than the Chevy Colorado ZR2.

Jeep also offers a forward-facing off-road camera that sits behind the middle slot of Gladiator’s seven-slot grille. It allows you to better see obstructions ahead on the trail. With its base price of $45,370, the Gladiator Rubicon does cost about $2000 more than the Chevy ZR2, but it’s far more capable.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon rear three-quarter articulation on rubicon trail action
FCA

Pros

Most wheel travel in a midsize pickup

Only convertible pickup available

Offered with a manual transmission

Cons

Not quite as capable as Wrangler Rubicon

No diesel option

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel front three-quarter articulation off-road
FCA

This is undoubtedly the most capable factory-fresh off-roader money can buy. The Wrangler Rubicon’s abilities are so extreme, over so many different terrains, it allows the novice off-roader to tackle almost anything without hurting the vehicle or putting its passengers at risk. It isn’t exactly idiotproof, but it’s close.

Every Wrangler is impressively capable off-road, but the Rubicon takes the SUV’s abilities to a whole other level. Rubicons get larger 33-Inch tires, locking front and rear Dana axles, steel rock sliders, skid plates, and an electronic disconnect for the front sway bar that radically increases its suspension articulation.

Its front suspension design, which is shared with the Gladiators, features a panhard bar and four control arms. It’s basically same design as the previous Wrangler, just beefed up. “The design’s full-width track bars are made of forged steel to better control lateral movement of the axle with minimal angle change during suspension travel,” said a Jeep spokesperson.

Although the four-door model is far more popular, the shorter two-door model is more maneuverable, offering an industry-leading approach angle of 44 degrees, a 27.8-degree breakover angle, and 37 degrees of departure angle. A Wrangler Rubicon has 10.9 inches of ground clearance and Jeeps says it can be driven through 30 inches of water.

For ultimate torque multiplication, the Rubicon also features a shorter 4.10 rear axle gear and Jeep’s Rock-Trac 4×4 System with a lower 4:1 4LO gear ratio. Models with the available manual transmission pack an 84.1:1 Crawl Ratio, which basically makes the Jeep unstoppable on severe trails. With the available eight-speed automatic its crawl ratio is 77.2:1. Prices start at $40,120 for the two-door Wrangler Rubicon with a 3.6-liter V-6. A turbocharged four-cylinder and turbodiesel V-6 are also available.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel rear three-quarter off-road climb action
FCA

Pros

Most wheel travel and ground clearance in an SUV

Only convertible SUV available

Offered with a manual transmission

Cons

Gets expensive with options

Diesel costs $6000

Ram 2500HD Power Wagon

2020 Ram Power Wagon Crew Cab front three-quarter articulation off-road
FCA

With Ford’s new Tremor, the 2020 Power Wagon has some new competition, but it remains the only heavy-duty pickup with front and rear solid axles each with an electric locking differential. Also unique is the Power Wagon’s rear coil spring rear suspension, electronically disconnecting front stabilizer bar, and its additional joint at the upper axle mount. Ram calls it Articulink, and all together the Power Wagon’s tricks help provide the most wheel travel in this class.

Taller springs and 33-inch tires add about two inches of additional ground clearance for 9 inches in front and 8.75 in the rear. Ram says it can drive through 30 inches of water, which is three inches less than the new Ford F-250 Tremor.

Bilstein shocks are standard, and every Power Wagon is powered by a 6.4-liter V-8 cranking out 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque, which also allows it to tow nearly 10,000 pounds. The Hemi works with an eight-speed automatic and a transfer case with a 2.64:1 low range for crawling and steep grades. With its 4.10 differential, it has a 35:1 crawl ratio. Its rear axle has as been beefed up with a larger ring and pinion and more robust 38-mm axles for greater durability.

Every Power Wagon also gets skidplates, powder-coated bumpers, and a standard 12,000-pound Warn winch mounted behind its front bumper, which not only adds capability, but gives the truck a hardcore vibe. Overall, the Power Wagon can climb hills the Tremor can’t, but its $55,000 starting price is $10,000 above the Ford, which has more power and a higher tow rating.

2020 Ram Power Wagon Crew Cab rear three-quarter action on dirt road
FCA

Pros

Only Heavy duty with a front locker and swaybar disconnect

Second-largest gas engine on the list

Smooth ride on and off-road

Cons

Minimal body protection

Way too big for some trails

Dismal fuel economy and range

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2020 Tacoma TRD Off Road front three-quarter off-road
Toyota

Toyota Racing Development is well known for its off-road-ready suspensions on the Tacoma pickup. Several TRD versions are available, including the TRD Sport, and TRD Off Road trim levels. By far the most capable, however, as well as the most expensive, is the Tacoma TRD Pro.

The hardware upgrade gets you internal bypass shocks from Fox Racing Shox, a legendary company in the off-road community. They feature 2.5-inch diameter aluminum housings for additional strength and the rear units have remote reservoirs to better control their fluid temperature. For more suspension travel, one-inch-taller front springs and progressive-rate off-road leaf springs are also part of the package, as are an aluminum front skid plate and a locking rear differential.

This year the TRD Pro rolls on a new set of lighter 16-inch wheels. “Each wheel is 4.188 lbs lighter than the wheels on the 2019 model,” according to Toyota. “That adds up to a significant weight reduction where it really counts to enhance off-road capability. TRD engineers also tweaked the shock and spring tuning to complement the lighter new wheels to improve off-road ride and handling.”

Toyota’s 278 horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 is standard, along with its Multi-terrain Select system that features Crawl Control, which is basically off-road cruise control. Like Chevy, which offers an optional snorkel on the Colorado ZR2, you can also order one on your Tacoma TRD Pro. It not only moves the engine’s air intake high above the roof so it can breathe cleaner air during dusty off-road driving, it looks cool. TRD Pro prices start at $45,055, which is more than the ZR2, which is more capable.

2020 Tacoma TRD Off Road rear three-quarter articulation off-road
Toyota

Pros

Strong all-around performance on all terrains

Can tow more than its main rival

Comfortable highway ride

Cons

No locking front differential

No disconnecting swaybar option

No diesel option for increased range

Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition front three-quarter in mud action
Toyota

Serious off-road enthusiasts looking for a family-friendly SUV that’s more civilized than the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon should check out the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro. It isn’t as off-road capable as the Jeep, but it’s more refined, offers more cargo space, and it’s just more comfortable to drive every day.

Although its off-road hardware and performance is similar to the Tacoma TRD Pro, including its 2.5-inch diameter aluminum Fox shocks, there are some key differences beyond their body styles. Both have body-on-frame construction and a solid rear axle, but the 4Runner uses rear coil springs instead of leaf springs, which give it a better ride both on and off-road. It’s also powered by a larger engine, a 270 horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 that makes 13 more pound-feet of torque than the Tacoma’s 3.5-liter.

For additional articulation over the standard 4Runner, it features softer front springs and dampers with more droop. The TRD Pro also sits about an inch taller for additional ground clearance. Compared to the standard 4Runner, front wheel travel is increased about an inch and rear travel is up about 1.5-inches for a total of 10.

As it does on the Tacoma version, Toyota also includes a thick aluminum front skid plate, a locking rear differential, and its Multi-terrain Select and Crawl Control systems. But the 4Runner wears different rubber. It’s fitted with Nitto Terra Grappler A/T tires sized 265/70R17, while the Tacoma TRD Pro rolls on Goodyear Wrangler Kevlar All-Terrains sized 265/70R16.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture Edition rear three-quarter off-road action
Toyota

Pros

Strong all-around performance on all terrains

Comfortable highway ride

More civilized than a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Cons

No locking front differential

No disconnecting swaybar option

No diesel option for increased range

Future Off-Road Trucks

New Land Rover Defender front three-quarter off-road river crossing action
Land Rover

These types of hardcore off-road pickups and SUVs have proven so popular more are on the way. Ford will soon launch its long-promised 2021 Bronco. Based on the Ranger pickup, the SUV will take on the Jeep Wrangler head-on. It also promises extreme off-road readiness and a removable roof. Like the Jeep, it will also be available with two or four doors, which will also be removable. Under the hood will be the Ranger’s turbocharged 270 horsepower 2.3-liter four-cylinder and the F-150’s twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6 will also be offered.

Ram is hard at work on a true Raptor rival based on the TRX concept it showed a few years ago. It will be based on the Ram 1500 and feature a more capable suspension with more travel and articulation than the current Ram Rebel. But the big get will be under the hood. It should be powered by the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 from the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats with over 700 horsepower. Ram will not admit this truck exists, but it’s one of the industry’s worst kept secrets.

In response to the TRX, word is Ford also preparing a more powerful version of the Raptor. Many enthusiasts miss the V-8 from the truck’s first generation, so Ford is rumored to be fitting the supercharged 5.2-liter V-8 from the new Shelby GT500 Mustang. In the muscle car, the DOHC engine produces 760 horsepower and 625 pound-feet of torque.

And then there’s the new Land Rover Defender with its 11.5 inches of ground clearance and an ability to ford 35.4 inches of water. It’s just now reaching dealers and more versions will soon follow. It’s independent front and rear suspensions don’t offer the wheel travel of a Wrangler Rubicon, but Land Rover’s Terrain Response System is standard and a 10,000-pound winch is available. Base price is about $50,000.

Bottom line: it’s a very good time to be an off-road enthusiast. Rejoice!

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