Illustration by Alexis MarcouCar and Driver
From the December 2020 issue of Car and Driver.
You can’t escape gravity on four wheels, but you can—briefly—fly in the face of it. Getting a three-ton truck airborne takes not only the right machine but also the right mix of speed and topography, plus the steely confidence of a teenager about to do something dumb. Heed our advice and you can momentarily defy gravity without becoming a YouTube fail. Probably.
The runway requires a rise in a section of road or trail that points toward the horizon. You also want the backside of the ramp to have near the same slope as your takeoff, which will soften your touchdown. The ideal spot—clear sightlines, no trees, and no traffic—is most commonly found in off-road recreation areas in sand dunes or deserts.
Dialing in the right speed is a trial-and-error process that should start from the too-slow side of things. If the launch velocity is too high, the nose will pitch down during the extended hang time and your flight will end with a spectacular vehicular face-plant. Or maybe even a cartwheel. But now is not the time for second-guessing, either. Keep your foot steady on the accelerator until you’re airborne. You may be tempted to scrub speed at the last second, but doing so will load up the front tires exactly when you want to keep weight on the rear axle.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight. Ignore the loose change floating around the truck’s cabin. Don’t hit the brakes or steer. It’s too late to slow down or change direction, and the wheels need to be straight and rotating when you make contact with terra firma again.
Stay cool, Maverick. Ride out the jump with light or moderate throttle and small steering inputs. Traction will vary as the suspension compresses and rebounds, and until the vehicle settles, there’s just as much danger in overcorrecting as there is in doing too little.
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