6 Cool New Off-Road Vehicles at the Truck Rodeo

Oct. 30, 2014 By Jeff Ross
When the dust settled following the 2014 Truck Rodeo, the 2015 Ford F-150 emerged victorious as this year’s Truck of Texas, but the real winners were the automotive journalists, bloggers and influencers who were on hand to spend two days driving 65 of the latest trucks, SUVs and crossovers on the market. About a third of the vehicles were soft-roaders or on-road SUVs (like the Dodge Durango R/T), but the majority were capable of running the moderately challenging off-road course set up at the historical Knibbe Ranch in Spring Branch, TX, which consisted of rocky and muddy terrain as well as shallow water crossings. Of all the vehicles available to drive on this course, there were six in particular that stood out not only for being new to the market but also for their commendable off-road prowess, proving that there are still some great options for enthusiasts looking for rugged trucks and SUVs.

2015 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
Even before I made it to San Antonio for this year’s Truck Rodeo, I was looking forward to driving a handful of vehicles, and at the top of my list was the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71. Having already driven all of GM’s redesigned 2015 model year full-size SUVs, I was curious to see what Chevrolet had done to improve the off-road worthiness of the Tahoe and Suburban with the addition of the Z71 package. Introduced just last month at the Texas State Fair, the Z71 package can be added to either of Chevy’s big SUVs in LT trim level for $1,695 bringing some of the same equipment found on the Silverado Z71 including the 18-inch, five-spoke wheels wrapped in taller and meatier P265/65R18 Goodyear Wrangler off-road tires, a front skid plate and front tow hooks.

Also bundled into the package price are fog lights, a distinctive chrome grille, front parking assist sensors, chrome running boards and the ubiquitous “Z71” badges. To be honest, it’s hard to say if the package helps improve off-road performance, but the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 had no problems tackling the course and it looked equally good doing so. While it sure is a mean-looking SUV, I couldn’t help but wonder how much better it would look and perform with a suspension lift and removal of the running boards. Overall, the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 won’t be confused for a hardcore off-road SUV, and with a starting price of $54,490, there are plenty of other options for enthusiasts to consider.

2015 Ram 2500 Power Wagon
With the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor taking an undetermined hiatus, the king of the factory off-road trucks for the 2015 model year might be the Ram 2500 Power Wagon. Updated for 2014, the big news is that the 5.7-liter Hemi has been ditched in favor of the more powerful 6.4-liter Hemi pumping out 410 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque. While this added power definitely helped the Ram 2500 Power Wagon put up little fuss at the Knibbe Ranch, the new electronic disconnecting front sway bar is what should make the biggest difference in more challenging off-road driving.

Continuing to join the new engine and trick sway bar, the 2015 Ram 2500 Power Wagon still offers front and rear lockers, 33-inch tires and a 12,000-pound Warn winch, and it also adds the new coil spring suspension setup that is shared with all Ram Heavy Duty trucks. As if the Power Wagon didn’t stand out enough already, there is also a new optional graphics package that brings the in-your-face styling of a monster truck.

Next Page... 6 New 2015 Models from Texas Truck Rodeo

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