Motorcycles, ATVs, and Jeeps are known for their off-roading capabilities, but when it comes down to the larger specimens in the off-roading category, which is best: truck or SUV? Both vehicles have their pros and cons, things like size, cost, transmission, and horsepower. Take a look at a few facts about these mighty machines and determine for yourself whether trucks or SUVs take the award for best muddin’ vehicle in this.
One of the major factors which makes or breaks an off-roader is ground clearance. All those dips, bumps, gullies, and potholes don’t cater to low riders. What’s really important here is the break over and departure angles; this is the angle at which you can take a dip, and the angle at which you rise back out of that hole. The amount of space you have in the lower center of your vehicle, as well as the space between the ground and your front and rear bumper, is what will keep your truck or SUV from getting lodged in the mud, or scraped across rough terrain. The average ground clearance on a pickup, such as the GMC Sierra1 1500 is 8.5 inches, in an SUV like the Ford Endeavor, you’re looking at 8.25 inches. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, with the 2016 Ram 1500 clearing 10.3 inches, and the 2015 Subaru Forester clearing 8.7, so it really depends on the make and model you choose, but generally trucks win out in this category.
Most people think that the key to getting in and out of deep spaces in an off-road vehicle comes down to torque, but you need more than power to get out of the mud. Vehicles that allow you to gear down into the lowest possible first gear setting are a big help with maneuvering a beast of a vehicle through rough terrain. So, how do you know where the lowest gear lies? It all has to do with axle ratios. A low gear ratio gives you more power at low levels, and makes it easier to make it out of a ditch without a running start. A diesel truck usually has the advantage here, but some SUVs come with optional axle ratios as well.
Tyres and Wheels
Yes, off-road all-terrain, or better yet, mud-terrain tyres are going to be your best bet against anything mother nature throws at you, but you also need to have the right size to get the job done. The average off-roader rolls on nothing less than 33 inch tyres, with some going as high as 35. This is partially personal preference, and partially what you can get at your budget. Mud-terrain tyres are more expensive than your standard street wheels, but if you plan on taking your truck or SUV out of the city often, it’s well worth the investment.
Generally, trucks have more space for these large-scale tyres, but there are lift kits for both trucks and SUVs to get them where they need to be for just about any wheel. In this category, it’s a bit of a tie between the two, because either can be fitted with mud-terrains in a variety of sizes.
This is where the SUV finally has an advantage, depending on the make and model of course. It’s also the reason that many off-roaders choose jeeps over any sort of covered vehicle. The heavier your ride is, the harder it’s going to be to get it through the mud and rough terrain. Weight + gravity = more friction while you roll. The lighter your vehicle, the easier it is to maneuver it through brush and out of potholes. Unless you’re driving a small, older make truck, most SUVs are going to take the edge here.
Other features to watch for are elevated cool-air intakes, so you aren’t sucking water into your engine, and wheel articulation options to get in and out of stiff terrain. Looking back over the main selling points of a true off-roader, it appears at first glance as though trucks have it locked down, but this is by only a small fraction. Trucks and SUVs can be outfitted to provide you with most of the same features, making it a truly personal decision as to which you go with.