The Rock Garden
Affectionately known as the Rock Garden, our 50-yard boulder course has claimed its share of rocker panels, wheels, and suspension parts over the years, where many rocks wear some shade of metallic paint--badges of honor from vehicles past. With the help of a spotter, our goal was to test rockcrawling abilities and make it out without damaging anything.
Hummer's H3 is an incredible rockcrawler, literally idling over any obstacle in its way, utilizing its best-of-the-bunch (and maybe the industry) 68:1 crawl ratio. A third of the way into the course, we stalled the engine on a large rock. It's here we wish the H3 were fitted with a clutch interlock disabler, which would've allowed us to use the starter to get us over the obstruction. Restarting with a slip of the clutch, we were again underway.
Our Toyota tester provided a surprise for us. We expected to have issues on the larger rocks, given the Land Cruiser's street-style shoes, but it had no trouble in the grip department. Its departure angle, lowest in the test, came into play several times, as its trailer hitch scraped over many a rock, cementing its nickname of "Tail Dragger."
Born and bred on the Rubicon trail, the Jeep has plenty of torque to get the job done, but its street tires had difficulty finding grip on large weather-worn rocks, and it could've used additional suspension articulation when traversing multiple boulders. Meanwhile, the Power Wagon reduced the Rock Garden to mere stepping stones, obliterating each challenge in its wake, due in large part to its tall tires and giant stance. With its front stabilizer bar disconnected, the Dodge's articulation is nothing short of incredible, posting a ramp travel score of 534, some 30 percent better than with the bar engaged.
Placing the Touareg's suspension in maximum ground-clearance mode makes it easy to tackle the rocks, but it also locks the suspension at full extension, making for one jouncy ride. Like the Jeep, its lack of aggressive treads made smooth rocks more challenging, with the traction control system hunting the fine line between power and grip. Placing Terrain Response into rockcrawl mode, the LR3 elegantly strode across our course with nary a slip or slither, its myriad sensors instructing the host of electronic nannies on the best action to keep the Rover on its course. The 4x4 LCD display was helpful to determine wheel placement and allowed us to see how much articulation was dialed in over every rock.