Need real 4WD on a city-driveable SUV!

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OK, so now I’m pissed. After noticing that VW decided to get rid of their real 4WD transmission on their Touareg, I’m trying to avoid being forced back to a Ford F-250 which is big ugly and the wife HATES it!

My problem is that I routinely use the truck to get up to remote trailheads where I go mountain biking and also to drive down miles of beach fully loaded w/ three people, coolers, bbq, canopy and beach seats.

I drive a 2004 Touareg which was the ONLY small SUV that gave the the locking differentials I need to make it on the beach and up to the trailheads. I intend to replace it in 2014 (mainly because of my fear of the sealed transmission causing me a $10,000 headache when I least expect it)… and I was going to replace it with another Touareg… but now that’s out… I refuse to get stranded on the beach w/ 2 wheels spinning because of that stupid AWD transmission they put in the 2011 model. That one mod threw out the whole reason to own a Touareg!

So, now I’m trying to figure out what other options I have when I’m looking at the 2014 models. I need a mid-size SUV that seats 5, has a similar cargo capacity to the Touareg and has the real 4WD transmission and the interior appointments that the Touareg has. The Ford F-250 is just a pig and is too big to park. Ditto for the Suburban 4WD. Also the Tahoe and Sierra, while they do come w/ real 4WD optional transmissions, have a terrible interior and layout. I’ll swallow it but only as a last resort.

What other options do I now have? I need to keep the sticker price south of 60K… which pretty much rules out the Cayenne and the Mercedes G-series. I don’t know… does the BMW X5 come with a similar heavy duty real 4WD transmission? I know the Land Rover Sport does, but can I actually get one for under 60K with that transmission? Are there any models out there from other mfg’s that I’m not considering?

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  1. You know what?I was thinking,get like a 68 Ford(tough as nails-retro looks) and put a modern honking engine in there and get some good ol boys to fix you a driveline,sounds like you dont need a daily driver like this-its the Zeitgeist people dont buy SUVs for off roading anymore,I know of a lot of happy coastal North Carolinians And VA Beachers that have 2wd Suvs(dont bring em in the Ridges though during bad weather) manufacturers dont do niche vehicles as a rule now and the ordering process isnt the same as it used to be either.

  2. It might help to know what you mean by a real 4WD transmission, what interior appointments you are referring to that you want (and that the Tahoe doesn’t have), etc.

    I’m working from my iPhone, so I’m limited as to the research I can do at the moment, but here’s what I can think of worth looking at. Based on what I think you mean, you might mean by the above, I’d suggest looking in to:

    Toyota 4Runner
    Toyota Land Cruiser
    Toyota Sequoia (probably too large)
    Jeep Grand Cherokee
    Dodge Durango (probably not, but…)
    Ford Expedition (probably too large)
    Nissan Pathfinder (probably too small)
    Land Rover LR4 (bad reliability)
    Land Rover Sport (bigger, bad reliability, not as offroadable)

    Body on frame SUVs are getting less love from the marketplace usually due to the poor gas mileage and interior layout compromises. Most “real” 4WD trucks have at least a solid axle rear and have a true transfer case to split power up fore and aft. That means there’s a lot I hardware tucked underneath that takes up room that could otherwise be used by interior space. It also adds weight which reduces mpg, though typically being more rugged and reliable.

    Modern SUVs are mostly glorified family sedans that ride higher and have AWD, not a part time, serious 4WD system. They are lighter and more aerodynamic and use the ABS to shift power around to wheels that have grip rather than a mechanical means. There are advantages and disadvantages to that, but for your application, no real advantages. They also add to wear on the systems and are more complex so break more frequently under stress. They tend to get you stuck more easily because they react to wheels losing traction before shifting power around whereas traditional 4WD is proactively already splitting power to all wheels. They’re better than 2WD but not intended for off road use, more ice and snow use.

    Most of the features people want SUVs for, such as ride height visability and enclosed cargo space, can be provided more cheaply by making a family sedan into a tall station wagon (see also, Subaru’s entire lineup of SUVs). People like yourself, who use SUVs for their original purpose, are losing market power.

    Very few, if any, 4WD vehicles today come with front locking differentials (Wrangler?) which is a clue that the truck is a true off road destined machine. Many still offer rear lockers, though, either automatic or button operated.

    For years, now, I have though that if they could make a simple, rugged, true 4WD SUV like they used to, something easy to wrench on and cheap to buy and maintain, they’d have a huge market. Currently, most folks are just buying old SUVs and fixing them up.


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