The pickup truck that you see on city streets and those that climb muddy, rocky trails on the weekends are different beasts. If you’re looking for a vehicle that can handle extreme trails in the mountains or along muddy roads, then you need one with power. This review can help you find the best off-road truck for extreme adventures.
How to Keep Off-Road Trucks Street Legal
image source: Pexels
With the cost of some off-road or 4x4 trucks at nearly $45,000 to $50,000, not many people can afford to have a truck they only use for their off-road activities. Most people drive the trucks they take off-roading during the week to go to work, drop the kids at school, and run errands on level, paved roads. To be able to drive an off-road truck in town, they need to be street legal.
However, the laws for truck modifications are different from state to state, so there isn’t a street legal standard. In most states, the placement of headlights and brake lights define street legal. In other states, some equipment, like certain bumpers, are not allowed on vehicles.
Even though you may not be planning to modify your truck, off-road packages on new pickups are modifications of the original designs. Modification laws, or “lift laws,” apply to any trucks that undergo changes. These laws often limit the size of the vehicle and dictate what type of modifications can be made to make sure the vehicles are safe, not noisy, and do not cause pollution.
In most states, the maximum size of a street-legal vehicle is approximately 102-inches wide, 13 to 14 feet in height and 44 to 45 feet long. While many states do not have a frame height restriction, wheel size, bumpers, mud flaps, fenders, or steering system restrictions, other states may, so you should always look up lift laws where you live to make sure your vehicle is street legal.
Also, many states make it illegal to drive a vehicle with front or rear suspension alterations or changes from the original design of the vehicle. However, heavy duty shock absorbers and springs are okay to install on most trucks. There are restrictions for the height of headlights, brake lights, and auxiliary lights that you can fit on trucks.
Tires must be in good condition without bulges and cords showing, all vehicles should have mufflers, it is not legal in most states to install cutouts or bypasses on the exhaust, and there may be laws about replacing the engines in off-road vehicles.
Before buying an off-road truck, especially if you plan to add modifications to it, research the lift laws in your state. Of course, you will want to purchase the right type of off-road truck as well.
How We Chose Our Ratings
During our research of off-road trucks, we took the manufacturers and their reputations into consideration, along with the specifications of each truck, and the reviews and testimonials from people who own the vehicles in this review. We gave each truck a rating between one and five stars, with five being the best to help people find the off-road truck for their adventures.
Best Off-Road Truck
If you want a truck to take from city streets to mountain trails, consider buying one of these seven new off-road models.
If you want a powerful truck to get you up mountain trails, then the 2019 Ford F-150 might be an ideal match for you. It boasts of a 24-valve 3.5 Liter Twin-turbo engine with Ecoboost. The Ecoboost feature is a turbo-charged, direct gas injection engine that’s on many Ford models. It lends the Raptor the power drivers want to climb some of the toughest off-road paths.
It also has a 10-speed automatic transmission. This pick-up generates 450 horsepower and 510 pounds of torque per foot. A truck with this much power needs a good set of wheels and tires to travel on, and the Raptor features 17-inch cast aluminum wheels with BF Goodrich 315/70R17 all-terrain tires.
The driver can lower the PSI of the tires to get the traction the truck needs on mud or ice. However, to keep the beads from popping and ruining the tires, they have bead-locking technology. The power is also aided by a dual exhaust system with dual exhaust pipes under the back of the truck. The fuel tank capacity is 26 gallons for the standard range, and 36 gallons for extended range.
To get better handling in the city or off-road, the Raptor has front independent suspension and a terrain management system with six drive modes. It features FOX racing shocks, trail control, a front axle, and an electronic-locking rear differential for the rear 4.10 axle.
Along with much other safety, security, convenience features, and an attractive build, the King Ranch is a truck for both the city and fun in the country.
The GMC Canyon All Terrain has many standard features that give it the power it needs for weekend adventures. It comes with a 3.6-liter V6 engine with 8-speed automatic transmission. It also comes standard as a four-wheel drive vehicle with an off-road suspension system.
Along with the suspension, the truck also features an electronic stability control system, StabiliTrak, with traction control. It gets its traction from a set of 17-inch Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain tires. The V6 engine provides 308 horsepower at 6800 rpm and 275 pounds of torque at 4000 rpm.
To help control the ups and downs on the trail, the truck assists with hill descent. When towing a trailer, the Trailer Sway Control makes sure the truck and trailer keep going the same way. If the trailer starts swaying, the truck and trailer’s brakes are automatically applied to ensure the trailer gets back in line. The truck can tow up to 7,800 pounds. It also automatically detects a grade of five percent or more.
Despite what might be going on outside, the cab of the truck is quiet thanks to the triple-sealed doors. It is also roomy and comfortable, easily seating the driver and three passengers. The V6 engine gives the GMC good gas mileage at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg highway.
The popular Chevrolet Colorado’s off-road model is the ZR2. The 2019 version comes standard as a four-wheel drive vehicle with a 3.6-liter V6 engine. Its 8-speed automatic transmission helps it power up hills or smoothly traverse city streets. Since the manufacturer of Chevrolet is General Motors, the Colorado ZR2 is similar to the GMC Canyon All Terrain.
Along with the same size engine and transmission, Colorado's engine is also 308 horsepower at 6800 rpm. It also has 275 pounds of torque at 4000 rpm. It has four-wheel antilock disc brakes, both front and rear differentials that lock at with the touch of a button, and electronic traction control. This truck also comes with the StabiliTrak electronic stabilizing system.
Its off-road suspension has gas shocks, a shield for the two-speed transfer case, and a hill descent control to ensure the truck and trailer make it down steep grades safely, especially in rough terrain. It comes standard with 17-inch aluminum wheels on which mounts the 17-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac 275/65R17 tires.
The interior of the truck has many convenience features like power windows, power locks, power seats, a tire pressure monitoring system, remote start, and remote keyless entry. Also, everyone can stay connected with the internet while on the road.
Another General Motors product, the 2019 GMC Sierra is built for both city driving and going camping no matter how rough the terrain happens to be. It has a powerful 420 horsepower 5.3-liter EcoTec V8 engine. EcoTec helps control the emissions from the vehicle to reduce pollution output from the dual exhaust system.
The four-wheel drive vehicle has an 8-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfer case. It comes with a two-inch lift to provide 10.88-inches of ground clearance for the vehicle. It travels on 18-inch aluminum six-spoke wheels, on which are Goodyear all-terrain 265/65R18SL tires. Mud terrain Goodyear Duratrac tires are optional.
The truck also comes standard with LED headlights, taillights, and fog lights, so you can see the road no matter the weather conditions. The off-road suspension includes Monotube Rancho shocks to make the ride as comfortable as possible on rough terrain. It also has the StabiliTrak electronic stability control system.
The stability control feature automatically adjusts the brakes and torque to keep the truck on the path during emergency maneuvers. It has traction control, so it can detect when the wheels are slipping and applies the brakes or reduces power to help drivers maintain control on icy, snow-covered roads.
It also includes a system that detects when a hill has a five percent or higher grade, and Trailer Sway Control, that detects movement in the trailer and adjusts to keep the truck and trailer moving in the same direction.
While experts think that the towing and hauling capabilities of the Nissan Titan isn’t as good as some of its competitors, they give it high marks for off-road abilities. The Titan Pro-4X comes with a 7-speed automatic transmission and 5.6-liter V8 engine as standard features.
The engine provides 390 horsepower @ 5800 rpm, along with 394 pounds of torque @ 4,000 rpm, so it has the power to muscle up most inclines. It has a 2-speed transfer case that engages the four-wheel drive with a switch. It also comes with help to start pulling cargo up hills and to control the descent.
At the heart of any off-road truck is its suspension. The Titan Pro-4X comes with an independent double-wishbone front suspension and multi-leaf rear suspension, both with stabilizer bars. The rear suspension also has a solid axle. To help the truck survive the bumps along the trail, it has skid plates beneath the:
The Titan has an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with off-road shock absorbers and rack and pinion steering. The truck has body-on-frame construction, with a full-length boxed ladder frame. It travels on a set of P275/70R18 tires with a full-size spare with which to change a flat.
If the sun hasn’t risen in the sky when your adventure begins, turn on the automatic shut-off LED headlights or the fog lights on murky days. It also has a set of daytime running lights for road travel. The truck also has a slew of safety and convenience features that make it the best off-road truck for city driving.
The Nissan Frontier Pro-4X is one of the top off-road vehicles. It is available in several configurations for 2019, including King and Crew Cab models. The 4x4 vehicle runs on a 4.0 Liter V6 24-valve engine with a 5-speed automatic transmission.
It has a two-speed transfer case that is switch-operated, the rear differential has an electronic lock, and the truck has controls to help climb and come down steep hills. The pickup also puts out torque of 281 pounds per foot at 4000 rpm.
The wheels of the truck, which helps determine its ground clearance, are 265/75R16 snow and mud-rated tires that allow the truck to travel on any terrain. The Frontier also has an independent double-wishbone suspension that controls the movement of the vehicle. There are off-road performance shock absorbers on the truck that help provide a smooth, stable ride.
This vehicle is loaded with safety figures to prevent injuries and limit as much damage to the body of the truck as possible. It is available in three colors, red, black, and gun metallic with graphite steel cloth interior. It gets decent mileage of 15 to 19 mpg in the city and 21 to 23 mpg on the highway.
The Toyota Tundra SR5 has an off-road package that will help put you on almost any trail that you wish to try. The truck comes with a 5.7 Liter V8 Flex Fuel engine, where Flex Fuel is available, and a 6-speed automatic transmission. A Flex Fuel engine uses E85, gas, or a combination of both fuels. The 4x4 vehicle has 18-inch split 5-spoke off-road alloy wheels, which are covered by all-terrain P275/65R18 tires.
It has skid plates beneath both the engine and fuel tank. The tank holds up to 38 gallons, which may need frequent refueling depending on your driving habits and gas mileage of only 13 mpg in the city and 17 on the highway. The truck comes in a double cab, or crew cab, body style.
To see the road when it’s getting dark, you can turn on the wide-angle LED front fog and headlights or, during the day, the daytime running lights. It has Bilstein off-road shock absorbers, a heavy-duty suspension to make the ride as comfortable as possible, and dual exhaust system.
This Tundra has a 5.5-feet short bed, and it is available in several exterior colors, including:
Before shopping for an off-road truck, determine what type of off-roading you plan to do. Going mudding or climbing up steep, boulder-filled roads are entirely different adventures. Making that determination will help to dictate the ground clearance, power, tires, and axles you’ll need.
In some cases, you may need to add modifications to the truck or choose something other than a pickup. An SUV or a Jeep may be more in line with what is necessary if you want to imitate a mountain goat and climb steep, rocky trails. You will also want to consider your budget to decide how much power and which features you can afford for your truck.
However, if you need a vehicle for both work and play, then one of these seven vehicles may be the best off-road truck for your needs. They should be able to get you to most wilderness campgrounds, go on fishing trips with the guys, and still go to the market to pick up dinner on the way home from work during the week.