UNSUNG HEROES: 5 CONCEPT 4WDS
5 awesome 4WD concepts they should have built
Last issue, we brought you the story of all the great Ford 4WD Concepts that were created to get our mouths salivating, only to be hidden away in museum catalogs never to be seen again. Unfortunately, this is what concept vehicles are, they are designed to judge a potential markets’ opinion, to figure out whether certain design elements should be reincarnated in future vehicles.
It’s a painful thing to experience for fans of a particular motoring genre or brand. Out-of-the-box thinking and futuristic leaps forward in design and technology are placed in front of our enthusiastic eyes, then snatched away to study our reactions. When you spend as much time as an automotive journalist and enthusiast as we have, you start to feel like a lab rat every time one of these things come along. You do your best not to fall in love with them, because chances are, they’re never going to be built.
Regardless, we found five incredible 4WD concept vehicles that truly should have been built. Yes, they are all over the top and each brand would have lost money on the exercise, but how cool would it have been to be able to go down to a showroom and pick up one of these beauties? Here are our top five 4WD concepts they should have been built.
2005 Jeep Hurricane
Let’s start with Jeep, and their manic Hurricane concept they revealed to the world at the North American International Auto Show back in 2005. The Hurricane is quite likely the greatest answer to why we are Jeep fans. They knew they were never going to build the Hurricane, so why not make it completely bonkers. And we’re not talking 1,000 hp and 54-in tires bonkers, we’re talkin’ two engines, 16-cylinders, 11.4L of displacement, four differentials and four-wheel skid steering bonkers. Bonkers to the point of thinking, “storage space be damned, we can fit another HEMI in there.”
The Hurricane was something epic, Jeep didn’t just take it to another level; they blasted it out of the atmosphere. It starts on a completely custom buggy body and makes use of two 335 hp HEMI V-8’s (it was 2005, imagine a couple Hellcat engines), one in the front and one in the back, for a total of 670 hp and 740 lb-ft. Instead of simply putting transaxles on each engine, Jeep made a maze of driveshafts coming into several central transfer cases, then being distributed out to four separate differentials, one for each wheel. This allowed the Hurricane to not only have four-wheel steering, but to also put reverse and forward drive to select wheels. This gave the Hurricane the ability to move in ways no other vehicle could, including rotating on spot, crabbing and pivoting; it was the perfect rock crawler.
To get into all the details of this brilliant engineering exercise would require an entire feature. But an approach angle of 64° and a departure angle of 87.7° has to be mentioned. At the end of the day, the Hurricane was easily the greatest 4WD concept of
all time, quite possibly the greatest of any genre. Too bad they couldn’t make a small handmade production run of 10 or so vehicles, just to say they built the greatest 4WD of all time.
2006 VW Crafter Atacama
VW surprisingly makes the list with this 4WD camper dubbed the Atacama, which was displayed back in 2006. Based on the VW Crafter van, VW designed this very cool campervan body that sits on the modified chassis that was reworked by Austrian 4WD specialists, Achleitner.
Not a lot has ever been said about the cabin of this camper, but under the skin, the Atacama has VW’s 2.5L 5-cylinder TDI engine that delivers 164 hp with 148 lb-ft with a 6-speed gearbox. Power is delivered to all four wheels thanks to modifications by Achleitner, which provide three locking differentials, a suspension lift and meaty BFGoodrich tires. These mods allow the van to wade 600 mm, climb a 45° hill, handle a 43° side-slope and have a 28° approach angle and 45° departure angle. Not sure about you, but that all sounds like the perfect overlanding vehicle to us… with a little extra turbo boost.
2011 Land Rover DC100 Can you believe it has been five years since Land Rover taunted us with the releases of the DC100 Concept (DC standing for Defender Concept)? The two concepts were supposed to be a design exercise to judge the public’s opinion for what the iconic Defender’s successor should look like. Apparently they didn’t get the answers they were looking for, because five years later we still haven’t received this, or are any closer to knowing if Land Rover even plans to replace the Defender, a vehicle that was supposed to come online a year ago.
Regardless, the DC100 was a fantastic looking vehicle that didn’t quite have the clearances of the old Defender, but looked wilderness-ready nonetheless. On top of that, there really isn’t much to tell about the DC100, as it was a true concept car and had very little in the way of operational mechanics.
Think what you want when it comes to the DC100’s legitimacy as a Defender successor, we think it looks so good Land Rover should have pulled the trigger on this vehicle regardless what name would have gone on the tailgate. Let’s hope this, or something similar, is still on Land Rover’s drawing boards.
2012 Mercedes Ener-G-Force Like the DC100, the Ener-G-Force that was released back in 2012 was a design exercise meant to replace an iconic offroader with a modern interpretation. While similar circumstances can be related to the DC100, the Ener-G-Force actually has more in common with the Jeep Hurricane, as it is a fantastic engineering experiment.
A great deal of the technology still needs some advancement to work but we like the direction Mercedes is taking. The roof of the Ener-G-Force is designed to catch rainwater in tanks. This “recycled H2O” is then transferred to a “hydro-tech converter” turning it into hydrogen. This hydrogen is used to power the fuel cells, with electricity storage cells hiding in the side skirts. The wheels are fitted with electric motors, and power is adjusted individually to give this 4WD the ability to keep all four wheels spinning, or not, depending on the environment to be traversed.
You gotta admit this thing has some real potential, perhaps when the G-Wagon’s days are finally up we’ll see something along these lines actually make it to market.
2015 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2
As we come to our final concept, we find a vehicle that lifted our spirits back in January 2015, in hopes that the General would finally produce a realistic all-terrain offering to off-road-starved GM fans. Ford, Jeep, Ram, Toyota and Nissan all make proper off-road focused 4WDs, but for a very long time, GM has been sitting on the sidelines looking in.
The thing is, GM has been thinking of building a proper off-roader for some time now, showing a couple Raptor fighting versions of the Silverado in years past. Then Chevrolet showed us this Colorado ZR2 concept last year, sporting a proper suspension lift with King Off-Road external reservoir shocks, meaty Goodyear Mud Terrains, proper tow hooks and rock sliders, an integrated winch in a bumper that takes approach angles seriously, as well as lots of other off-road goodies. It all seems like the perfect fit, with GM’s baby Duramax providing the grunty low-end torque. But like all concept cars, it’s all just hope.
Here’s the catch however, a test mule has been spotted that sports a similar ride height and bumper clearances as the ZR2 concept. Translation – the Colorado ZR2 will likely become a reality, and could be on the scene in a very short period of time. So rejoice GM fans, your long wait could be over. Keep watching this space as we will have the absolute latest on these developments.
Carrying your living quarters cross-country, we like the sound of that.
The DC100 could have been an excellent Defender replacement, but there’s no sign of it yet.
The Ener-G-Force runs on water and has four electric motors, one for each wheel.
Keep the faith, there is still a good chance the ZR2 will become reality.