Ram takes Gold Hitch award, Raptor wins Gold Winch

Gold Hitch awarded for towing prowess, Gold Winch for off-road superiority

Published: March 26, 2019, 5:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 2:55 PM

2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn Edition

The 2019 Ram 1500 and 2019 Ford Raptor have been recognized for their towing and off-road prowess, respectively, under the most difficult of conditions, winning the Gold Hitch and Gold Winch awards, again respectively, as presented by video truck reviewer The Fast Lane Truck (TFLtruck).

The Gold Hitch Award recognizes pickups for their ability to tow a trailer under demanding conditions, and the Gold Winch Award recognizes off-road prowess in a pickup.

Contenders for the Gold Hitch Award are tested on a gruelling course called the Ike Gauntlet, nicknamed the “World’s Toughest Towing Test” — a 13-km loop on Interstate-70 between Dillon, Colorado (at 2,777 metres above sea level) and the Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels at the Loveland Ski area (3,401 metres) with a grade that reaches 7%.

“Maximum-effort testing is what the Ike Gauntlet is all about,” said TFLtruck Managing Editor Andre Smirnov. “High elevation, steep grades and heavy loads challenge all trucks to the fullest. The Ike Gauntlet scoring system lets our viewers clearly see how these vehicles performed and compared to each other.”

The pickups tow trailers loaded to near their maximum towing capacity. They are scored on the Ike Gauntlet scoring system, fuel efficiency on a 161-km highway loop, and subjective scores from the panel of editors.

Three pickups vied for the title — Ford F-150, GMC Sierra 1500 and the Ram 1500 — the latter two are all-new for 2019; the Ford was a previous winner used as a benchmark. The Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra were excluded because they didn’t change significantly for 2019.

To win the award, the three candidates were asked to tow 4,127-kg trailer over the 13-km highway loop, with the Ram’s 5.7-litre HEMI V-8 eTorque system outdoing the others to take the Gold Hitch.

“While the data we collected during our real-world testing demonstrated how close the competition really is,” said Smirnov. “The new Ram 1500 stood out with available air suspension and technology features that made hooking up a trailer easier and the trailering experience more relaxed.”

Contenders for the Gold Winch were put through a battery of tests and the Cliffhanger 2.0 — a 20-degree grade made up of loose rocks, with a Truth or Dare split (all the competitors took the rocky “Dare” side) topped off with an obstacle nicknamed “The Razor’s Bend.”

“This mountain trail is not impossible,” said Roman Mica, Editor, Host and Producer. “The challenge is for participating automakers to build a vehicle that can be effective and easy to navigate up a difficult off-road obstacle.”

The competitors were the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Trail Boss, Ford Raptor, GMC Sierra 1500 AT4, Nissan Titan PRO-4X, Ram Rebel and Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. All competitors were 2019 models with the exception of the Nissan, which was the benchmark.

The pickups were judged on ramp travel index (suspension articulation), crawl ratio (slow speed control), front visibility (visible distance to an obstacle ahead), camera visibility and manoeuvrability.

And although the Raptor came out ahead at the end, each of the five tests were won by a different competitor.

“The 2019 Ford Raptor takes it to the next level with the addition of the latest (Trail Control) crawl control system and active FOX shocks suspension,” said Smirnov. “The Trail Control is simple to engage and to use. The system is smooth and quiet in its operation. The Active (Live Valve) FOX shocks respond to changing terrain in real time, and the shock stiffness can be adjusted via the drive mode selector.”