The Silverado handled the twist ditch without any difficulties. When the front and rear wheel would leave the ground we paused the Chevy for a moment, gave it some gas and felt the rear locker kick in to provide the needed traction. The Ford, without its lockers engaged, was unable to handle the twist ditches. It quickly spun out and redlined. But when the Ford's ELockers were engaged the twist ditches proved to be no obstacle. The ELockers were also more comfortable for the driver because there was never the anticipation and guesswork you get with a mechanical differential when trying to climb over the ditches.
Next up was a hill climb, but this was no ordinary hill. This was the kind of hill that gives you pause to make sure your final will and last testament are in order. The kind of hill that would make even Sisyphus want to throw up his arms in defeat. It was a 50-degree monster strewn with a surface of loose river rock, dirt and 6-inch deep ruts from past test vehicles.
We got out and walked the hill to get a better feel for the terrain and then got back in the Silverado for the first try. Hitting the gas we got within a few feet of the top before it was clear not even the mechanical locker was going to get us over. Staring at blue sky, barely able to see the slope ahead of us, we were forced to back down the incline very slowly. It took one more try with a little more gas and a slightly different approach before we got the Chevy over the crest.
We didn't even try to run the SuperCrew up the hill without the front and rear diffs engaged. ELockers activated, the SuperCrew hustled up the hill with barely a complaint. Clearly the advantage was with the ELockers.
We took on three other off-road courses before calling it a day, with much the same results as the previous tests. A large field of dirt moguls offered us the opportunity to place the trucks into any combination of attitude or angle. A log ditch had around ten telephone poles chevroned together at 30-degree angles to climb the trucks over and we parted a deep water trough that brought muddy water nearly up to the tops of the wheel wells.
Overall, the trip to Eaton's proving grounds drove home some critical points because a lot of things we did you couldn't do with a truck 10 years ago. And, if you are going to take on the world with your pickup you need equipment that is up to the task, has the latest and most appropriate technology and has been tested to the highest of tolerances. Eaton's differentials are just a small assortment of the arsenal you might want Q to arm you with before your mission.
Eaton's ELockers are expected to be available as an aftermarket kit in September 2002. Estimated retail pricing will be approximately $700 to $750 per axle.