4X4s, off-roaders, SUVs, whatever you call them, have undergone serious advancement through the years. Starting off as the most rugged, practical, utility vehicles, 4x4s have been heavily developed and are now some of the most luxurious. At the top end of the market, vehicles like the Bentley Bentayga and Rolls-Royce Cullinan are offering unrivaled comfort and refinement, not just within the SUV sector, but in the automotive industry as a whole.
The mass market has also seen large-scale expansion, making SUVs the fastest-selling segment. Almost every manufacturer now offers a selection of crossovers and soft-roaders within their ranges. The trend is only set to continue, with more investment being made and consequently, sales have declined in traditionally popular, sedan, wagon, and minivan segments. Many models have even been discontinued due to the slump in demand. The downside of making the off-roader more road-friendly is that they are no longer as capable off-road. Here are 10 examples that were more off-road capable than new ones.
10 1973 Suzuki Jimny
The original Suzuki Jimny was released in 1970. The 4×4 was originally produced by Hope Motor Company, however, they struggled to produce it on a large scale and sold the manufacturing rights to Suzuki.
The 359cc, two-cylinder engine produced just 25 hp. The car was based on a scaled-down design, this enabled it to go into spaces that larger 4x4s couldn’t. Power was transferred to the wheels via a 4-speed manual gearbox along with a high and low transfer case. The Jimny was very capable given its limited power but low 600kg weight. The car seated three people, one of the rear seats housed the spare wheel.
9 Lamborghini LM002
The Lamborghini LM002 was manufactured between 1986 and 1993. The LM002 was Lamborghini’s first off-road vehicle, with the LM001 being a prototype. The 4×4 offered supercar performance combined with an SUV body type, much like the modern-day Urus. Powered by a V12 engine, the LM002 could go from 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds and reach a 130-mph top speed.
Utilizing an all-wheel-drive setup, the car could scale a 120% gradient. The LM002 could traverse uneven terrains, sporting 300mm ground clearance. The Urus in comparison has a 250mm clearance.
8 Toyota Land Cruiser
The first generation Toyota Land Cruiser was released in 1951. The Land Cruiser has now been in continuous production for over 70 years. The car was originally used by Japan’s National Police Reserve.
The FJ40 was Toyota’s attempt at making a Willys Jeep competitor. Compared to the jeep, it was significantly heavier at a quarter of a ton more. The boxy shape had short overhangs, this allowed for generous departure angles off-road and made it a very capable vehicle.
7 Land Rover Range Rover
The original Range Rover was launched in 1970, it was intended to bring off-road the ability to a more upmarket audience. Despite the luxury, the car was still a practical workhorse offering an easily cleanable vinyl and plastic interior.
The Range Rover was initially available as a 3 door, closely related to the “Velar” prototype. Buyers looking for a more practical version had their calls answered in 1981 when a 5 door model was released. The car was powered by a Buick-derived 3.5 liter V8. Permanent four-wheel drive allowed it to take on rough, challenging terrains.
6 Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen
Originally developed for military use, the G-Wagen has remained true to its original 1979 design. The car was only recently redesigned, for the 2019 model year, the original having been produced in much the same way for 38 years. The car’s interior was initially rugged, before increasing levels of luxury were added throughout the years.
Making it a great 4×4 is the inclusion of locking differentials on each axle. Similarly, a high and upright seating position provided good visibility over the car’s hood while off-roading.
Following strong domestic demand for off-road capable vehicles, Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi unveiled the Pajero. The car made its first appearance at the 1979 Tokyo Motor Show. Initially available in a three-door configuration, a long-wheelbase version was announced in July 1983.
The car was available with a choice of inline four-cylinder and V6 engines, with both petrol and diesel options on offer. The Pajero sported a tall boxy design, this provided off-road drivers with a clear vantage point enabling great off-road visibility. Proving its off-road prowess was its success in the 1984 Paris-Algiers-Dakar Rally where it finished in third place.
The previous Defender was produced for 67 years, during this time the car became established as an icon and developed a cult following. The car was used for a wide range of applications, from deployment on the battlefield, to being used as a personal car of the Queen of England.
Despite the technological innovations of the new car, the old car has some advantages off-road. Fully independent air suspension unquestionably makes the new Defender handle better on-road, but the original’s solid axles and coil springs allow for better articulation.
The First generation of the Isuzu Trooper was produced between 1981 and 1991, the second between 1991 and 2006. The Trooper first came fitted with a four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual, and part-time four-wheel drive. Later on, V6 options and two-wheel drive-only versions were introduced.
The Isuzu is a true off-road workhorse and is great on the rough stuff due to a low-range gearbox and four-wheel-drive system.
The Willys Jeep is one of, if not the most recognizable 4×4 ever made. Known initially as the “Blitz buggy”, the car was produced in WW2 by the American Bantam Car Company who won the contract having met the needs of the US Military. During the war, over 640,000 examples were produced.
The jeep was powered by a 60 hp four-cylinder engine which combined with a 3-speed manual transmission, enabled a 45 mph top speed. The car’s ride was rough and uncomfortable, but heavy-duty shock absorbers did ensure off-road durability. The jeep was so versatile, it could even be converted to run-on rails.
The first generation Toyota Hilux was released in 1968 and was built by Hino Motors, the company that Toyota acquired the vehicle from. The Hilux was powered by a 1.5-liter 70-hp engine and made use of separate frame construction with a double-wishbone coil spring set up on the front axle and a rigid axle leaf spring set up on the rear.
The truck seated three up front in the cab, while a 1,850 mm cargo bed with a 1000 kg payload capacity was found at the back. A 4×4 version was released in 1979 making the third generation Hilux a true off-road legend with transportation capability.