MISSED IN ACTION: 5 4WDS THAT SHOULD COME BACK
5 4WDs that need to rise from the dead
We here at 4W Drive Magazine love the Jeep Wrangler for obvious reasons. In terms of new vehicles, the Wrangler in Rubicon trim is the finest out-of-the-box 4WD money can buy from a Canadian showroom. However, our biggest issue with the Wrangler – other than some build quality issues – is that it has an entire segment all to itself. Our plight is that the Wrangler has no real competition.
Stuck in a sealed tube seated next to editor Irons for three hours on a recent flight, his series of grunts and moans could only be translated into coherent speech once the topic of Jeeps arose. My question to him was, “what vehicle sold today does the Jeep Wrangler do battle with in the 4WD market?” After much head and tummy scratching, we really couldn’t place a direct competitor. The Mercedes G-Class and Land Rover LR4 are both very capable off-roaders, but both have low hanging bodywork, come with ridiculously lowprofile tires, and let’s not even get into the price. The cost of mending a torn up bumper on a G-Wagon or Landy is about the same as buying a new Wrangler.
Our conclusion, the Wrangler is in a league of its own. It has no real competition. The only competitors we could find were vehicles that are long since extinct. Which brought us to an interesting conclusion; which dedicated 4WD’s need to rise from the dead. This is what our nimble minds came up with.
Toyota Land Cruiser/FJ Cruiser
The Land Cruiser has long since left Canadian shores, only slightly represented in spirit by the Lexus LX570. Then, when the FJ Cruiser was abolished, we were left with no real off-road equivalent. Yes, Toyota has supplied us with the TRD Pro-Series versions of the Tacoma and Tundra, but when it comes to an off-road SUV with high-clearance overhangs and a reasonable wheelbase fit for crossing deep
trenches, Toyota’s Land Cruiser line was one of the world’s best.
Ironically, the FJ Cruiser was created just for this reason, but after ten years, we’ve lost it once again. We are going to blame both the customer base and Toyota on the death of the FJ. When Toyota did just as we asked, and brought a true off-roader to market, we rewarded them with only two good years of sales. From 2008 on, the FJ’s sales plummeted and never recovered. That being said, Toyota neglected to update the FJ during its ten-year lifespan to help attract customers. Regardless, we sure do miss a Land Cruiser option in the Toyota lineup, especially since so many other countries still get one. There is hope however. Toyota USA builds a TRD Pro-series version of the 4Runner. With the Pro-Series name starting to infect Toyota’s Canadian fleet, a Pro-Series 4Runner could very well be the closest competition the Wrangler could have in this modern era.
Ah the Scout, a noble and iconic off-road focused Ute that unfortunately did not pass the test of time here in Canada. Unlike our first two brands, International Harvester isn’t around anymore, morphing into Navistar who concentrate on medium and heavyduty commercial vehicles. So, there is little to no hope that the Scout could make a return.
Regardless, we miss the Scout’s simplistic design and engineering, its big V-8 noises… some of its power, and its availability in so many configurations. It won off-road races and spawned special editions based on its platform all over the world. Unfortunately, the failures of the International CXT and MXT likely proved to be the nail in the coffin for any future endeavors Navistar may want to take in the passenger vehicle market. So, if you happen to have one resting in a field or barn, bring it in out of the rain and restore it back to running condition, don’t let the Scout die off completely.
Not many people know this, but the Nissan Patrol was once sold in Canada for a short period of time back in the 60’s. It
may not have had the popularity or the rugged reliability of the Land Cruiser, but the little Nissan (yes, it was called a Nissan despite being sold in Datsun dealerships) was very similar and had the same “go anywhere” nature of its Japanese counterpart.
The Patrol was slightly smaller than its Toyota cousin, but still made use of a 4.0L straight-six that put 133 hp to all four wheels. Unfortunately, while the Patrol became an off-road icon in other countries, the name left Canada long ago. Today, only the Nissan Armada holds any family lineage to the overseas Patrol. Any hope for a future Wrangler competitor is not likely, as Nissan has chosen to axe their only off-road inspired SUV – the Xterra.
Land Rover Series
Like the Patrol, the Defender was once sold in Canada, albeit for a very short period of time. But before the 25 Defenders rolled off the boat from Solihull, the Land Rover Series I, II and III were a common site in the mountains of BC and the agricultural lands right across the nation. Unlike today’s ‘pretty’ Land Rovers; the original Landys were anything but. They were born from the success of the Willy’s Jeep and brought 4WD capabilities to farmers and outdoorsman throughout the Commonwealth and the rest of the world.
While the previous three vehicles on our list have very little chance of making a return to the market, there is a small chance that the Series Land Rover could be reincarnated as the next generation Defender. While we eagerly await word that the Defender will in fact come back to market, let’s also hope that this 4WD will be resurrected to its historical capabilities, be available on Canadian shores, and be within the financial reach of the common man. I know, we’re asking a lot, but let’s hope Land Rover see value in a Wrangler competitor.
The Bronco is yet another off-road icon that left us all too soon, and back in the 70’s was quite likely the Wrangler’s greatest threat. That threat soon deflated, then died off completely, leaving the Wrangler in the unchallenged market it enjoys today. However, it is with the Ford Bronco where the greatest hope of a competitor lies.
It seems as though all the product planning people in Dearborn are getting tired of seeing so many Wranglers passing by their window on a daily basis. Fields of Wranglers with no common predator to keep their numbers in check. While unconfirmed rumours that the Bronco could be making a return to the SUV market in 2020 are just that – rumours – but there is some evidence to back this up. Ford is expanding production lines and have announced that five new SUV names will be launched in the next five years. They also hinted that these SUVs would swim in markets Ford doesn’t already tread water. That means an offroad focused SUV could quite likely be on the way. Enough is enough, the Wrangler needs a rival.