Driving deep into the park, Shell Reef, a series of hills thrust up from a four-million-year-old sea reef--includes a face with a 64-degree incline; it's the perfect locale to set up a 150-foot run to see how far each vehicle could go without losing traction.
With both diffs locked, the Power Wagon made a full pull to the top, blasting past our makeshift finish line, and would've kept going over the crown if we'd let it. Kudos to the grip-ripping BFGoodrich All Terrain T/A tires that even found traction once we stopped. Selecting the Rover's rockcrawl mode, the LR3 made an equally impressive haul all the way to the top, brake-sensor nannies assisting along the way.
We expected the H3 to be the billygoat of the hillclimb test, hopping beyond where the Dodge and Land Rover stopped. But even with its great gearing and 33-inch tires, the Hummer mustered only a 142-foot run before it ran out of steam and traction (here, the manual transmission made it difficult to quickly find the right gear). Had the Touareg been shod with more aggressive tires, we're certain it would've made it to the top; but its street-derived Continental 4x4 Contact tires started slipping early on, kicking the stability and traction control into overdrive and quelling the power needed to travel up the grade. Its fourth-place finish: a decent 140.5 feet.
Even in low range, with Vehicle Stability Control switched off, the Land Cruiser could manage only 131 feet. Its traction-starved Bridgestone Dueler tires were no match for the slippery slope, and the ever-present VSC nanny didn't help things. We had high hopes for the Jeep, especially when it blasted off the start line, Hemi screaming. However, the driver quickly learned that copious amounts of horsepower, mixed with a 3.73:1 axle ratio, a 2.72:1 low range ratio, and axle hop equal loud banging noises and blown CV joints. Yes, we found the weakest link, and it left the Grand Cherokee with a DNF on its scorecard for the final event.