Ever since Tesla showed its Cybertruck pulling an F-150 uphill, towing tug-of-war videos have surged in popularity. One YouTube team even attempted a Tesla-Ford rematch and highlighted how difficult it is to compare ICE trucks with electric ones. But are tests like this actually useful, or pure publicity stunts? Recently, Edmunds.com took two popular off-road pickups, the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, and made its own tug-of-war towing video. And it shows what actually gets proven in these competitions.
Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro vs. Jeep Gladiator Rubicon towing tug-of-war competition
On paper, these two trucks are somewhat similar. Both are popular off-road trucks, though Motor Trend found the Gladiator more capable and refined. The Tacoma TRD Pro is cheaper, though. Their V6 engines make roughly the same power and torque: the Gladiator’s makes 285 hp and 260 lb-ft, the Tacoma’s 278 hp and 265 lb-ft.
However, when it comes to payload, the Gladiator appears to have the upper hand. On our list of the mid-size trucks with the highest payloads, the Gladiator came in 4th with a 1600-lb capacity. The Tacoma didn’t even make the list. The TRD Pro also can’t tow as much: Toyota rates it at 6400 pounds, whereas the Rubicon can tow up to 7000. However, that’s only with the Max Towing Package and 8-speed automatic, according to TFLTruck. Without that, the Gladiator Rubicon can only tow up to 4500 pounds.
So, how did they do in Edmunds’ test? The test team first tried 4Hi mode first; while 4Lo would provide more low-speed torque, it might have also damaged the trucks. But the team was soon forced to switch to two-wheel drive mode.
The trucks simply didn’t move. Even in two-wheel drive mode, all they did was spin their wheels and dig holes.
Is a towing tug-of-war competition actually a good way to compare towing capacity?
Jason Fenske of Engineering Explained went over this in his video on the Tesla-Ford tug-of-war. A tug-of-war between two trucks involves a lot of factors beyond just power and torque. There’s the difference in traction provided by the tires, as well as gearing and axle ratio differences. There’s also the matter of weight difference, and how each truck’s weight is distributed—towards the front, or towards the rear, which further impacts traction.
And arguably more important than horsepower and torque is knowing how that power and torque is delivered. YouTubers The Zunigas experienced this in their Tesla Model X vs. Ford F-250 tug-of-war towing video. The Model X towed the F-250 away when both vehicles started from a standstill. But when the F-250 was allowed to rev its engine beforehand, it was able to overpower the Tesla.
How to really compare vehicles when it comes to towing
Towing capacity is, of course, the simplest and easiest way to compare two different trucks or SUVs. If what you really need is to tow more weight, pick the vehicle with the bigger capacity and correct hitch.
But, if it’s about daily-driving, sometimes the one with the bigger numbers isn’t the best. Motor Trend said as much when the Ram Heavy-Duty won Truck of the Year. It couldn’t tow the most of the trucks being tested, but it drove and rode the best while towing.
In short, tug-of-war towing videos don’t really prove anything. Especially not which truck can tow more.
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