The windshield wipers slap furiously as the pickup splashes its way through the deep mud bog, the last in a series of obstacles along an off-road trail rough enough to shake loose a few fillings.
It's not the sort of route most drivers will experience in a lifetime, but pickup owners expect their trucks to be ready to handle that sort of situation on a regular basis.
So, when Ford decided to give some automotive journalists a chance to drive the all-new Ranger pickup this month, it took them up into the mountains east of San Diego where they could put the truck through what can best be described as a torture test.
Ford's full-size F-Series pickups make up the best-selling product line in the U.S. automotive market, but the automaker has been notably absent from the midsize truck segment since killing off the old version of its Ranger back in 2012, shuttering the archaic Twin Cities Assembly Plant in Minnesota. It's a decision the automaker soon came to regret.