Off Road is the New Track
“We've made living biological attractions so astounding that they'll capture the imagination of the entire planet.” — John Hammond, Jurassic Park
You'd have to be deaf not to hear the roar of the new RAM TRX that was unveiled in August. Rumor has it the redesigned Ford Raptor will bring back an even more ferocious V8. Chevy, not to be outdone, plans to release its own ZRX version of the Silverado in the near future, loaded with its magic Multimatic suspension. It is certainly an awesome time for truck lovers!
However, with Wranglers and Broncos in the wild, it begs the question: when these creatures roam the land, who should consider buying them? Arguably, smaller, lighter, more customizable vehicles will take on trails much more readily. Wouldn't they be preferable to buying a monster truck?
Movie references and hyperbole may seem excessive here, but that's what marketing is all about. Car companies, like all proprietors of consumer goods, really sell stories. And full-sized off-road trucks can fit a lot of fiction into their crew cabs. The person seated there will be urged to think of desert running, river crossing, and dirt jumping. (Insert 90's Tim Allen grunting here.) Likely, they will do none of those things.
Like the garage queens owned by many car enthusiasts, these trucks will not often be used to their full potential. However, keeping with the Everyday Driver mission, owners are urged to make the most of their cars--to take up autocross, track days, and high performance driving events--all in an effort to enhance skill and enjoyment of driving.
If you've read this far, you probably already have "the disease" and need no convincing to drive your car hard. And therein lie two problems that must be addressed: one, you can't really push a modern sports car on a daily basis without getting arrested; two, the money and time that go into driving as a pastime are not conducive to having free weekends or a fat wallet.
Knowing that many owners of expensive, off-road trucks are really just purchasing allure, it becomes obvious who these trucks are really for...enthusiast car owners! Here are some reasons why you, as an enthusiast, petrolhead, or motorsports fanatic, should consider a high-performance truck.
If you are an average American adult--especially with a home and family--you cannot deny pickup practicality. They are so popular because they can tow, haul, move people, and go to Home Depot whenever you want. Why a 700hp-plus model like the TRX? You can get all your weekend chores done much faster! Kidding aside, owning a powerful pickup may seem like overkill for school drop offs and coffee runs, and it is. But think about owning just one vehicle, one that can literally do everything ranging from mundane suburban tasks to insane stuff you see in promotional films. That’s when owning something like a TRX, Raptor, or ZRX starts making sense for an automotive enthusiast: what you lose in outright utility you gain by driving a true Swiss Army knife--albeit one with a chainsaw attachment.
Comfort and Performance
The new crew of off-road trucks are plush if not totally lux. Like many full-sized models, their interiors can be optioned up and start to rival European sedans and SUVs (as do their prices, unfortunately). So, if comfort is priority--which makes sense for a daily driver--then you won’t sacrifice much with one of these new trucks. (Accept maybe the Chevy. GM interiors, am I right?). How about the ride? If big and floaty is your thing, then you will need to look elsewhere. Many dirt-worthy versions of trucks ride and handle better than their cousins. This is thanks to suspension and drivetrain tuning. Two notable examples are the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro versus the regular trims, of which the former of which rides far nicer, and the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 versus the standard Colorado, between which there is no contest. Will the ZRX reign over the other versions of the Silverado? It will.
Back to the main argument. It is fun to drive cars like a Quadrifolgio or a Z06 on the streets. But you will never experience much of their performance on public roads. Tracking a fast car is awesome, but, for many of us, doing so necessitates sacrifices of time, money, and everyday usability. Bring on the trucks! The TRX, Raptor, and ZRX, as previously mentioned, are starting to rival track cars in power if not in handling, though they focus on a different type of performance. Think of running a sprint versus backpacking. One is explosive and exciting, while the other is slower paced, more technical, and more involved with nature. This analogy overly simplifies, but the point is that off-roading can be just as much fun as track or autocross. It is generally cheaper and more accessible. There are fewer consumables to purchase, though there are some entry costs in terms of gear. Like on-pavement racing, off-roading offers a challenge for drivers with a host of different skills to learn and master. If you are experienced in one type of driving you will definitely enjoy expanding your repertoire, and owning one of these new trucks will enable you to make the most of your time behind the wheel.
Time to Trade?
There is a truer ownership case for the new trucks from RAM, Ford, and Chevy that rewrites the stories being marketing to us. But there is also a compatibility issue, as those who will love these trucks the most are those whom already devote themselves to other driving pursuits. If you would normally chase lap times, consider rock crawling. You will likely find that off-roading is a worthy test of you as a driver. As for those also who would just assume own a mall-crawler, you are advised to treat it like a fire truck. Get it really dirty, hose it down and detail it, then parade it around town. Just remember it won't fit through the Starbucks drive-through. In the end, trucks like the TRX, Raptor, and ZRX are meant to deliver year-round, all-conditions driving excitement. I hope more and more of us are willing to let these beasts loose in their natural habitat.
TLDR: I really, really want a RAM "T-Rex” and so should you.
PS - Despite the title of this post, there are no overt references to a certain TV show. Sorry, but dinosaurs were more appealing at the time of writing and the original title was too catchy to pass up.
Bill hosts a blog and YouTube channel that lead him to think more deeply about what it means to drive. The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.