4WORD

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

AN IN­TER­EST­ING yarn that caught my eye when read­ing this is­sue of 4X4 Aus­tralia was Fraser Stronach’s Tech Torque col­umn (page 20). Fraser loves the con­ve­nience of mod­ern elec­tron­ics which make driv­ing over any ter­rain eas­ier, but he listed the old stan­dards of ground clear­ance, wheel travel and a light weight as the most es­sen­tial char­ac­ter­is­tics needed to make a good off-road ve­hi­cle.

No mat­ter how many lock­ing diffs you have, what tyres you run, or how much power you have, it all means noth­ing if the belly of your ve­hi­cle is drag­ging over ev­ery ob­sta­cle and the tyres aren’t in con­tact with the ground. It is off-road ba­sics and why many older ve­hi­cles still do so well when faced with tough ter­rain.

Yes, elec­tronic trac­tion con­trol (ETC) is an amaz­ing and valu­able fea­ture and one you don’t want to do with­out, but in most cases it’s used to make up for a ve­hi­cle lack­ing in the three es­sen­tials. Mod­ern ETC sys­tems are so good that many so-called soft-road­ers would climb over al­most any off-road ob­sta­cle if they had the clear­ance to do it, with­out rip­ping off bumpers and un­der­body parts. The trac­tive abil­ity of these sin­gle-range-trans­fer-case ve­hi­cles is as­tound­ing, but they don’t have the clear­ance or the tyres (usu­ally) to make the most of it.

We’ve seen old-school 4x4ers laugh at us when we test ve­hi­cles like late-model Range Rovers on low pro­file tyres, only to see their jaws drop when the lux­ury SUV does it eas­ier than their older Cruiser or Pa­trol rid­ing on 33-inch mud­dies with dou­ble diff locks. At times, the Rovers have gone fur­ther than the tra­di­tional of­froader. It truly is a rev­e­la­tion.

This is why the mod­ern ve­hi­cles that of­fer a com­bi­na­tion of the old-school at­tributes as well as mod­ern ETC tech­nol­ogy are so bloody good now. Rigs like LC200S, Y62 Pa­trols, Ran­g­ies and even Pra­dos and Rangers get the job done, while oth­ers will be leav­ing bits all over the tracks as they get dragged out.

The new tech­nol­ogy is far from the be-all-and-end-all of off-road driv­ing, but it adds amaz­ing abil­ity to the right plat­forms.

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