News

Off-road vehicles around the world: Defender, G63, Jimny, Thar & more

Off-roaders were theoretically born during the Second World War, as demand for tough cars that could tackle all surfaces was the need of the hour.

BHPian Arsenic recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Off-Roaders Around The World

This series is inspired by the Automotive History series of the YouTube channel Ed's Auto Reviews. Do subscribe to their channel!

Previous instalments in this series - Crossovers Around The World

In the last instalment of this series, I showed some interesting and unique crossovers around the world. This time around, I reckon it's a better idea to discuss a much cooler high-riding vehicle: the off-roader.

An off-roader typically has body-on-frame construction, and needs a proper 4x4 drivetrain, usually with a low-range gearbox, in order to conquer rough terrain. Off-roaders were theoretically born during the Second World War, as demand for tough cars that could tackle all surfaces was the need of the hour in the US Army camp. This was when the first ever 'General Purpose' (GP, or 'Jeep' as we say it today) vehicles were born.

A quick note, I will include monocoque vehicles that were designed for off-roading, because a monocoque chassis doesn't fully limit off-road capability. In fact, I predict that body-on-frame construction as a whole will probably die out in the future as a whole. Reason? Monocoque construction gives cars better handling, and given that everyone wants to drive their Wrangler to Tesco, this translates into better sales.

Additionally, since the only off-roader that's exclusively a 3-door and is still sold in major markets across the globe is the Suzuki Jimny (with even that set to change next year), 5-door off-roaders will be included.

Lastly, a special thanks to GTO, who suggested that this list be expanded with more entries while it was still in the assembly line. Without him, this list would've been quite a bit emptier. Thanks for the recommendation!

Ready? Let's get crawlin'

The Americas & Europe

'Murica

The land of the bald eagle gave us some of the first mainstream off-roaders in the Chevrolet Blazer and Ford Bronco. These were pure, hairy-chested, gun-slinging, freedom-exporting metal brutes. Eventually, the iconic 'CJ' small off-roader evolved under AMC and later Chrysler into the Jeep Wrangler. With the off-roader craze back in full swing today, you'd expect to see some interesting offerings under each nameplate. So, here's the 2022 Blazer, Bronco and Wrangler together:

Did someone miss the memo?

Well, with the Blazer being just another bland crossover, that effectively leaves the Wrangler and Bronco to battle for the coolest off-roader from the USA. This one, I understand, will be a bit subjective. But I personally feel the Bronco looks a lot fresher and more unique, and in terms of nameplate revivals, this one absolutely hits the spot.

Brazil

This is the Brazilian take on the small off-roader; the Troller T4. The T4 was first introduced in 2004, and after Ford's acquisition of Troller, was redesigned in 2014 with it now being built on the same platform as the Ford Ranger.

The Troller actually looks really nice, so props to the Brazilians. The T4 came with a Dana 44 differential, Eaton gearbox and a 1352 Borg Warner transfer case. Unfortunately, just like in India, Ford ceased its Brazilian operations and closed down the Troller plant in 2021. Rest in peace T4, Ford should've exported you globally instead of killing you. Perhaps Troller would've been a household name in the likes of Bri'ain. Or it would've been the next Perodua Kelisa, but let's try to stay positive. If only...

Fun Fact: Troller made another vehicle as well, the 2-door Pantanal pickup. Only 77 were made, and each one was recalled in 2008 due to the possibility of cracks forming in the chassis! Eventually, Ford decided to take back all Pantanals ever made, rendering the pickup obsolete unless an owner wanted to keep theirs.

Bri'ain

One wouldn't expect the scone-devouring Bri'ish public to be big fans of off-roaders, given that they'd spill their cuppa quite a bit while going over rocks. Yet somehow, they have a brand whose entire philosophy is 'go anywhere'. Anywhere? Yes, anywhere. Especially your local FNG, because this is a Land Rover we're talking about.

Anyways, this is their pure off-road focused offering: the Defender, which is not actually built on a BOF chassis like the aforementioned 4x4s. Why? Well, you see, over time Land Rover has remained quintessentially Bri'ish, but now targets 'posh and refined' Bri'ish businessmen in Mayfair rather than shepherds in Derby. As a result, the Defender has also had to evolve. The new Defender is much plusher and softer, but still has Land Rover's iconic reputation and does a pretty decent job. Of course, that reputation does include the check engine lights replacing the owner's decorated trees at Christmas in addition to legendary 4x4 capability, but regardless at least their DNA, if slightly infamous, is retained. What, you want a reliable Land Rover? Go buy a Suzuki or something, peasant. *sips cuppa*

Alternatively, if you're too scared of your Defender getting a ding in the door while taking the road less travelled, perhaps the Bowler Wildcat is what you need. This is a beast of an SUV built on the old Defender powered by a proper 4.6L V8 with body panels made out of fiberglass and a roll cage which forms part of the main structure. You probably won't be seeing these parked too often at the Royal Ascot.

An honourable mention to the new Range Rover, which may have traded the most far-flung parts of the Scottish Highlands for Kensington High Street, but still retains its iconic silhouette and off-road prowess. It's certainly a lot more offroad-y than the likes of the Mercedes GLS and BMW X7, and comes with a PHEV option for the environmentally conscious, or for those who don't own a few petrol stations.

Deutschland

Ze land of ze bratwurst, Oktoberfest and ze DQ200 proudly present ze world's toughest rock and mall crawler: Ze Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen. Zis is an automobile crafted by the finest German engineers in ze world. Zis is a car designed to take you to a meeting at ze Deutsche Bank headquarters on a Friday, then conquer the rough terrain of ze Alps on Saturday, and finally take you to your local currywurst stall for a refreshing meal on Sunday.

Yes, it may still have visible rain gutters in 2022, and there was no need to stuff this Amazon carton on wheels with a ridiculous 4.0 twin-turbo V8 that takes the moving box from 0-100 in 4.5 seconds in the G63 AMG model, but this is a truly German car, in the sense that it is ridiculous and proud of it. It's a damn sight better than the Golf 1.5 TSI.

But is that the only German off-roader? Well, here's something interesting: you may not think of the Porsche 959 as an off-roader, but due to its rally roots, the 959 came with a 'G' (Gelände, or off-road) gear that meant that the shift pattern read G-1-2-3-4-5. This gear wasn't intended for on-road use, but with the limited clutch slip required to move the 959's engine onto its powerband, starting off in G was a breeze even on the track.

Россия

This is a Lada Niva. It is basic. It looks like it has arrived straight out of 1975. Yet somehow, I like it, even if it looks like a Maruti Zen with a lift kit.

It's worth noting that there are actually two Niva models: this Soviet tank, marketed as the 'Niva Legend', and a softer, yet almost as rugged, crossover branded as the 'Niva Travel'. However, the Niva Travel wasn't actually a Lada until 2020, when GM stopped marketing the 'Chevrolet Niva' and hence the rebranding as a Lada occurred. IMO the Niva Legend is a proper, barebones basic off-roader - it may not do your grocery runs, but it'll certainly take you through every Russian mountain you come across.

The Niva Travel, on the other hand, looks a bit more like a bizarre combo of a pre-2017 Daihatsu Terios and a first-gen Dacia (Renault in India) Duster, with the front grille slightly resembling that of the Toyota 4Runner. While the Niva Travel does appeal to someone who doesn't want a Soviet toaster on wheels, the more hardcore Legend certainly will appeal to hardcore off-roading fans seeking pure off-roading pleasure.

Asia

China

I'm not trying to get some social credit points deposited in my account, but I genuinely think this is the coolest-looking 4x4 on this list. That's a highly subjective thing, so remember, our views can differ!

This is a GWM Tank 300, and it's the Chinese take on the rough 'n' tough 4x4. Surely there must be something really good about it - even Doug DeMuro wishes these were sold in the USA! The 300 was the first vehicle from GWM's off-road focused 'TANK' brand, and say what you will about it slightly resembling a 6th-gen Ford Bronco, the 300 was actually released first. I promise I genuinely like this thing, the social credit is just an added bonus...

But what if you crave a Jeep Wrangler, but you only want to buy a Chinese car? This is the bizarre BAIC BJ40, China's odd copy of the Jeep Wrangler.

The Sino Wrangler is available in quite a few markets across the globe, including the UAE and our neighbors, Pakistan, where it is assembled through CKD kits assembled by local company Sazgar. Considering how much flak the Mahindra Thar has gotten for resembling the 3-door Wrangler which doesn't even form the majority of the Wrangler's sales, I wonder what FCA - sorry, Stellantis - thinks of this one. I don't think they'd be too happy...

Japan

Since South Korea isn't getting a mention this time, I thought I'd talk about two extremely cool off-roaders from the land of the rising sun: the Suzuki Jimny and the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado.

Both cars are important examples of how to not lose an off-roader's key reputation of being a tough and solid 4x4. While the Jimny has attracted eyeballs globally for being a capable and aggressive yet small and cute boxy brute, the Prado seems to be the only large off-road SUV that isn't something you use to take little Timmy to his piano recital (Jeep Grand Cherokee, I'm looking at you) - well done Japan! Another well-done deserved for keeping the Toyota Land Cruiser's iconic off-road capability and toughness even though its interior has become a lot more comfortable and luxurious (GMC Yukon, I'm looking at you), reminding me of an awesome Australian quote - if you want to go to the Outback, you take a Land Rover. If you want to come back from the Outback, you take a Land Cruiser.

India

I'm genuinely proud of India here. See, the original Mahindra Scorpio was an iconic car but it never really had amazing road manners and the design looked pretty outdated by the late 2010s. So Mahindra decided to continue the Scorpio nameplate with a car that was just as macho as the previous generation but also had a much more livable interior and a much more modern-looking design.

The 2022 Mahindra Scorpio-N is truly remarkable, and I hope Mahindra exports these globally. Tata, take notes - that wasn't the Safari we wanted. Regardless, Tata's disappointing revival of an iconic nameplate shouldn't take anything away from the deservedly much-hyped Scorpio-N that genuinely impressed me.

And then of course, for those who don't necessarily care about the third row of seating or a large touchscreen, there is the Mahindra Thar and Force Gurkha, one of which is a solid, brawny jeep that has a reasonably nice-looking cabin and decent road manners, while the other offers a well-built Mercedes-derived diesel engine and excellent off-roading capability that has left many impressed.

As I said last time when talking about the XUV7OO, well done Mahindra (and Force!)

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

 
Love Cars Live Cars