4x4 Of the Year
Hat's off to a superb Feb. '11 issue. It's probably my favorite issue to date. The 4x4 of the Year section was put together well, with solid backing behind your decision. I was a little surprised that Lexus/Toyota didn't select the 4Runner Trail Edition for the contest despite the V-6. I think it may have fared better than the GX given its power-to-weight ratio, clearance, and so on. The 4BT Bronco and Ultimate Avalanche ("Fred DED") stories were great too! Keep up the good work.
West Jordan, UT
Thanks for the vote of confidence. We knew the Land Rover LR4 won fair and square, but sometimes people just don't understand how the test works.
4x4 of the Year Choices
4-Wheel & Off-Road has been my favorite magazine for something like 10 years, and I've seen tons of letters to the editor whining about the 4x4 of the Year test. I swore I'd never be "that guy," but something in the latest test bugs me. For years 4WOR has asked 4x4 manufacturers to keep using solid axles. We all know that they're a better choice for serious off-roading. Yet in the 2011 4x4 of the Year article, you guys sang the praises of the two vehicles with four-wheel independent suspension and spoke pretty negatively of the solid rear axle in both vehicles so equipped. While I realize that this was done in the name of objectivity, it seems pretty counterproductive. I would imagine that as a magazine devoted to real off-roading, you guys would at least word it in a way that doesn't imply that solid axles are such a bad thing. Please don't turn into Car & Driver. I like 4WOR as it is!
Good comment, John. What is often left out is the fact that a solid axle properly esigned and built can outdo an independent suspension system. However, we have to be unbiased and can only test what is eligible and what we are given each year, hence the comments. I'd like to put one of those fully independent rigs against, say, the winner of our 2001 4x4 of the Year test and see how the new ones fare, because we called that rig the Kung Fu Master and it was solid-axled front and rear. Give me a '99-'04 Jeep Grand Cherokee any day.
While reading the 4x4 of the Year report (Feb. '11) I noticed the comments both negative and positive concerning electronic brake-based traction control systems. An easy way to increase the effectiveness of these systems is to upgrade the brake pads. The upgraded pad material produces greater friction, which helps reduce stopping distances on-road while allowing much greater progress with lifted wheels off-road. My '04 Disco runs EBC Green Stuff pads. This simple modification allows the ETC to work better and avoid the "momentum" approach to wheeling an ETC-equipped vehicle. Keeps the body damage down while wheeling Rausch Creek and the former Paragon too! Try it out. On a good ETC system like the Rover it makes a world of difference. Enough to support our A-to-Z FAB #513 Ultra 4 rig anyway! Great article, by the way. Keep it up!
Jason, good point, although we've never done any definitive testing this way. We have to keep the 4x4 of the Year vehicles stock for testing, but your letter makes us think that we could do more tests on the vehicles afterward. The brake-based traction control systems are not going away and only getting better. The Luddite in us still loves our old lockers and carbs, but the tech geek in us appreciates new technology and can only hope it gets better.