The world of off-road pickups sure seems like it's getting crowded, but the reality is that half-ton trucks were always pretty capable, even with what seemed like fairly basic 4x4 packages. It wasn't until recently that manufacturers really started to carve out different off-road niches for their mainstream pickup offerings. With the introduction of the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 AT4X (alongside its mechanical twin, the Chevy Silverado ZR2), the crowd has grown even thicker.
Even we have trouble keeping up with the increased segmentation of off-road pickup trucks, so we threw together this handy guide to help you understand just where these various packages fit into the broader pickup hierarchy. Let's dive in.
If we say "Z71" or "FX4" to you, both will probably ring a bell. That's because they've been around a few days short of forever and their respective customers have grown so used to these package codes that OEMs got into the habit of just plastering them on the side of so-equipped truck beds. Anybody who sells a pickup truck offers some sort of basic off-road prep package like this one. Z71 is found on GM vehicles; FX4 is Ford's. Ram just calls it "Off Road Group," but no matter what you call them, they're all pretty similar.
Typical upgrades for this category include some additional ground clearance, a basic all-terrain tire, heavy-duty suspension upgrades and likely either a limited-slip or locking rear differential. These are pretty handy for anything beyond a rutted dirt road. On newer trucks — especially on higher trim levels — you'll probably also get some dedicated off-road drive modes.
This is where things start to get interesting. To qualify for this category, a locking rear differential is a must. Most of the names in this segment are well-established too, though some (Nissan Titan Pro-4X, anyone?) may not necessarily be on your radar. The Toyota Tundra TRD Pro checks in here, as does the Ram Rebel, Chevy Silverado Trail Boss and GMC Sierra AT4 (no X!).
Realistically, if there's somewhere you need to go and one of these trucks won't do it, you might want to consider a helicopter. But it's 2021, and our thirst for capability is strong, so of course, there's a way to spend more of your money on this type of thing. Onward!
Here we are, the home of the new 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X and Chevrolet Silverado ZR2. This is a tiny niche, otherwise occupied only by the Ford F-150 Tremor. For those of you playing "Pigeon-Hole the Pickup Truck" along with us at home, all of these are new entries within the past year. Both of GM's trucks come with swanky Multimatic DSSV shocks, making them excellent both on- and off-pavement, and are also equipped with locking front and rear differentials. The Ford F-150 Tremor doesn't get the fancy Multimatics, nor is the front axle a locker (it's a Torsen limited-slip, which is the next-best thing), but this is where it best fits within the hierarchy.
Welcome to the "convert money into noise at whatever rate you please" category, which is apparently only open to manufacturers who like orange. We'll note that this territory was staked out long before we got an F-150 Tremor or Silverado ZR2. We set the lower bound on this segment at the Ford F-150 Raptor, with the Ram TRX anchoring the upper end — at least for the time being. A new Raptor R will compete with Ram's big dinosaur soon enough.