Tough T: Car Or Truck — What’s Better Off-Road? Only One Makes It Up Cliffhanger 2.0!

It didn't all go well

Before the end of our test, one of these vehicles will break.

What do you need to go off-road? Some will argue you need a purpose-built truck — something like our 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel — to really make it up tough trails like Cliffhanger 2.0. Others will point out cars like the 2004 Volkswagen Touareg have plenty of off-road kit, and as such are just as capable when the going gets tricky. Late last year we tested car versus truck in the snow, and now it’s time to take things to the next level. Which one is truly better off-road?

Tough T: Car Or Truck — What's Better Off-Road? Only One Makes It Up Cliffhanger 2.0!
TFL’s Ram Rebel Rouser.

The truck: 2019 Ram 1500 Rebel

Tough, capable and dependable. That’s what a truck should be. After all, it’s made to work for a living. Our Ram 1500 Rebel aims to take things one step further with some serious off-road capability. On top of what it has from the factory, we’ve done several modifications to make this truck even better as part of our Ram Rebel Rouser project.

Now, the Rebel has made it up Cliffhanger 2.0 before (more on that below), so it should make a successful run at it against the Touareg.

Under the hood is an old-school V-8. More specifically, a naturally-aspirated 5.7-liter Hemi with 395 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. This particular Rebel has the eTorque mild hybrid system, which gives a bit of extra shove at slow speeds. The truck has a locking rear differential, as well as more than 9 inches of ground clearance. It does not have adjustable air suspension, although you can get it as an option.

Tough T: Car Or Truck — What's Better Off-Road? Only One Makes It Up Cliffhanger 2.0!
Unlike the Rebel, our Volkswagen Touareg has air suspension.

The car: 2004 Volkswagen Touareg

The Touareg looks like an ordinary family SUV on the surface, but Volkswagen built the car to have some clout off-road as well. It does have adjustable air suspension, allowing for more than 13 inches of ground clearance, bearing in mind the extra lift from chunkier off-road tires. Apart from the tires, though, the Touareg is still completely stock.

There’s a 4.2-liter V8 under the hood, with 310 horsepower and 302 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission (the truck has an eight-speed). It too has a locking rear differential, though not as much suspension travel or underbody protection.

Uh oh, that didn’t go well.

Everything goes well, until it doesn’t

Both the Touareg and the Ram Rebel made it up the first challenge of Cliffhanger 2.0. The car took the less rocky “Truth” side, while the Ram Rebel went up “Dare”, where momentum is key to make it over the rocky terrain. On Razor Bend, however, things weren’t any easier.

While the Touareg ultimately made it up the obstacle, things went badly wrong for the Ram as it suffered a mechanical failure with its front driveshaft. Ultimately, Roman was forced to back down the trail — no simple task — and use the Touareg to help straighten out the Ram when the truck slid back against a tree. Check out the rest of the video above to see what happens!

If you were rooting for the Rebel, watch Andre’s altogether more successful run below: