Which off-roader is the one to get?
With the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro and Mercedes-Benz G-Class, you’re getting a respectable amount of off-road ability right out of the box. Not all things are equal in this comparison, though. To that end, we take these three off-road machines into the snowy Colorado mountains to find out which is best.
However, we aren’t just taking them off-road for fun. To give a more objective sense of which off-road rigs are the best, we have a new scoring system: the TFL Off-Road Index (ORI) score. We are going to judge these three and many more by criteria every off-roader should have, as well as those that push some off-roaders above and beyond their peers.
The ORI scale measures off-roaders out of a possible 100 points. Cars on the lower end near zero couldn’t make it over a speed bump. Think NASCAR or slammed tuner-mobiles on this end of the spectrum. Up near the 100 end, you have cars with serious off-roading cred, like the three we’re featuring here. Here is how we break down each feature’s score for a truck, SUV or crossover’s off-road worthiness:
TFL ORI score breakdown
- AWD or 4WD: 20 points
- Transfer case (real 4×4 low-range): 20 points*
*5 points awarded if the car does not have a multi-speed transfer case, but has some form of terrain management or off-road setting (cars like the Jeep Compass Trailhawk, for example)
- All-terrain tires: 10 points
- 9 inches or more ground clearance: 5 points
- Differential locks: Up to 15 points (5 pts front/5 pts center/5 pts rear)
- Armor (skid plates): Up to 9 points** (3 pts front/3 pts center/3 pts rear)
**Automatic 5 points awarded if the vehicle has adjustable ride height over 9 inches (cars like the BMW X5)
- Approach/Breakover/Departure angles of 25 degrees or more: Up to 15 points
- Front or 360-degree camera: 5 points
- Subjective score: Up to 1 point
The purpose of this test is to judge most “soft-roaders” or light-duty off-road vehicles based on relatively equal capability. Once you get into the tougher portions like ground clearance and approach, departure and breakover angles, then only the purpose-built off-roaders will win points.
How do these three fare?
Here is how the ORI system works for the Mercedes-Benz G550, Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro:
|Category||Jeep Wrangler Rubicon||Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro||Mercedes G550|
|T. Case OR Terrain Mgmt.||20||20||20|
|A/T Tires||10||10||0 (all-seasons)|
|9+ inches G.C.||5 (10.8 in.)||5 (9.6 in.)||5 (9.5 in.)|
|Diff. locks (F/C/R)||15 (All)||10 (C/R)||15 (All)|
|Armor (F/C/R)||6 (F/C)||6 (F/R)||6 (F/C)|
|Approach Ang.||5 (44 deg.)||5 (33 deg.)||5 (30.9 deg.)|
|Departure Ang.||5 (37 deg.)||5 (26 deg.)||5 (29.9 deg.)|
|Breakover Ang.||0 (22.6 deg.)||0 (Not published)||0 (23.5 deg.)|
|Camera(s)||0 (Rear only)||0 (Rear only)||0 (Rear only)|
After going through the ORI scale, we have to take the 2019 Mercedes-Benz G550, Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro to the track. It may be a bit of a foregone conclusion, but it’s still fun.
Stay tuned to TFLcar.com for more news, views and real-world ORI scale reviews and drag races!