Ike Gauntlet: I Max Out the Maverick, Santa Cruz & Ridgeline, But Which One Wins The World’s Toughest Towing Test?

The results are way closer than expected.

Can these new small pickup trucks tow on the Ike Gauntlet™ – world’s toughest towing test? We put a new 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz, a new 2022 Ford Maverick, and a new Honda Ridgeline to this ultimate test with a 4,000 lbs trailer in tow. Let’s see how they do!

Ike Gauntlet

This is the world’s toughest towing test because it’s an 8-mile climb up the country’s steepest interstate highway (I-70) to a maximum elevation of 11,158 feet above sea level. This is a 7% grade with a 60 MPH speed limit.

Hyundai Santa Cruz

The all-new 2022 Santa Cruz AWD we are testing here is equipped with a 2.5L turbocharged I4 engine and an 8-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. This engine is rated at 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. This compact pickup is equipped with a two-inch hitch receiver and an aftermarket trailer brake controller. This gives the Santa Cruz AWD turbo a 5,000 lbs maximum towing rating (other Santa Cruz models are rated to tow 3,500 lbs or less).

Ford Maverick

The all-new 2022 Ford Maverick AWD you see here is equipped with a 2.0L turbocharged I4 engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission. This power plant is rated at 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. When properly equipped, this version of the Maverick is rated to tow up to 4,000 lbs. The Maverick’s 4K towing package includes an integrated trailer brake controller – which is great to see. The Maverick also has a specific Towing drive mode.

This is precisely the weight we are pulling this time – 4,000 lbs. It’s our Iron Bull trailer that we light-weighted with a Citroen 2CV on top.

Honda Ridgeline

We are using a new Ridgeline V6 AWD midsize pickup as a benchmark for this comparison. The Ridgeline is indeed a larger pickup truck when compared to the other two, but its maximum towing capacity is not far off. The Ridgeline is rated to tow a maximum of 5,000 lbs.


While the Santa Cruz and the Maverick climbed the big mountain in a benchmark 8 minute time, their downhill braking performance, suspension feel, and uphill reported fuel economy were different. The Santa Cruz has a worse downhill performance with 12 brake applications. The Maverick needed 9 brake applications to complete the descent. The Santa Cruz had a more comfortable ride while loaded with this trailer.

In the end, these two compact pickup trucks had an approximately the same Ike Gauntlet™ score, and both impressed by completing this very difficult challenge without any overheating issues or other serious concerns.

Check out the video below for all the details. What do you think? How would you rate this very close competition?