With a good understanding of what the Ford could do, Bacal saddled up in the Ram. The first issue was a transmission that couldn't seem to decide what gear it wanted. In both manual and fully automatic modes, the transmission would hunt for gears. It jumped between neutral and whatever gear it had been in before. This seemed out of character for the Ram, and at the time of this writing, Chrysler engineers were still investigating the problem.
The slow steering became a bit of an issue again, as Bacal likes to say, "If it isn't good on pavement, it gets worse in the dirt." He noted a lack of on-center feel, a large degree of steering angle needed for turn-in, and non-linear steering response. He did notice how well-balanced the Ram's roll rates were front to rear.
I found the Ram even more difficult to drive than Bacal did. In the Raptor, I could think several corners ahead and plan my line, but the Ram required far more concentration to keep it going where I wanted. I had the same issue with the transmission.
Once we got to the high-speed whoops, the Ram showed its stuff with race truck-levels of suspension travel and monster truck ...
When it did hold a gear, acceleration was strong and the rear differential felt more aggressive. Less feel and modulation in the brake pedal meant it was easier to overdo it on corner entry. Turn-in was a crapshoot -- first you got no response, then you overshot the sweet spot and plowed past your intended line. Get on the gas hard and the Ram rotated much faster than the Raptor. With the transmission as it was and a lack of finesse in the loud pedal, doling out power became a binary operation of either on or off. I had to sling the bed around and countersteer as fast as I could, because I needed all of it. After a lap or two, I found myself looking in my direction of travel through the side windows. It certainly wasn't as fast or efficient as the Raptor, but if you want to win a roostertail competition or do a remake of "Smokey and the Bandit" with a truck, this might be your choice.
After the Rally-X, we drove to a rock garden for some light crawling. Although you wouldn't expect to see either truck on the trail, it isn't unrealistic to think an owner will encounter situations that require crossing a riverbed or getting to the top of a rocky hill. Bacal rated the Ram as having a clear advantage in ground clearance and approach angle, but noted that the Raptor provided better suspension articulation, keeping all four tires firmly planted and able to deliver torque. For techier truckers, the Ford has a forward-looking camera that keeps your buddies in the truck longer, instead of standing out in the heat, spotting your route.
Our final test and certainly the hardest on the trucks was the high-speed moguls or whoop-de-doos. A series of small jumps tests suspension reactions at both extremes of its operating range. This is the absolute worst torture test a shock absorber will ever see. Both trucks are equipped with Fox Racing internal triple-bypass shocks, with the advantage going to the Ram's 3.0-inch units compared with the Raptor's 2.5-inch units. The Ram Runner is also rated at 14 inches of suspension travel both front and rear, while the Raptor makes do with 11.2 inches of travel in front and 12.1 inches in the rear.
The Ford was first out of the gate. Bacal was impressed with the predictability of the Raptor. The suspension bottomed only on the biggest of the whoops, and the impact didn't throw the truck off course. It did have a problem with left-foot braking. With constant applications at the top of each whoop, the brake system would load up with pressure and modulation became all but impossible. While amateur off-roaders will probably never notice, much less use the technique, serious enthusiasts will find it annoying.
After the first run through the bumps, it was obvious the Ram Runner had found its happy place. Although it took more effort to keep it in a straight line, our unofficial timing method showed the Ram flying over the moguls at 8 to 10 mph faster than the Raptor. That extra suspension travel and ground clearance really made all the difference here. The Ram still was not without problems. While the bottoming response was even better than the Raptor's, when the suspension topped out, in full droop, we heard crashing sounds and felt a harsh vibration through the chassis. Bacal's final comment on the Ram was that it felt much closer to a race truck in this section than the Ford.
Flying over big bumps is clearly what the Ram Runner is all about. The Raptor is a far more well-rounded package. Ford's tuning allows its truck to be faster and easier to drive in every other condition. For me, a truck needs to be a multipurpose tool that excels at whatever task you throw at it. The Ford Raptor is the clear winner in those concerns. The Ram Runner is too focused on a single objective. In professional off-road racing, drivers and vehicles are subjected to everything from pavement to gravel, dirt, and deep sand, and the Ram likes only one of them.
Some fans will say these are two different trucks: One rolls right off the showroom floor ready to go, while the other is essentially a box of parts requiring a high level of expertise for the owner to finish on his own. I'd argue that, in the end, both aim to give the owner a truck that is ready to hit the dirt and provide a near-race-truck experience. Both have a full factory warranty and can be serviced at any dealership. At the end of the day, both trucks allowed our inner 8-year-olds to pound and slide through the dirt. kicking up roostertails and doing all the things we dreamed of on our PK Rippers, but the Ford Raptor drives our outer adult back and forth to work.