Designed for the rigour of military and defence use in Israel, manufactured and modified for use in Australia; the Tomcar was built as a tool for farmers, miners, or anyone that needs to reliably transport loads across rough terrain.
But the specs aren’t promising – a CVT transmission, fully independent suspension and 2X4 – it’s more like a Yaris than a Landcruiser. There’s no stereo, heating, power steering or any luxuries, really, so it weighs under 800kg, can carry up to 650kg, and tow up to 1500kg. The two-seater is a mere 2.8 metres long and the four-seater isn’t much bigger.
But then we look further, and find the suspension offers travel of 330mm at the front and 360mm at the rear, beating many 4X4s, and there’s 380mm of ground clearance when unloaded, or about the same as a Patrol when it’s on 40” tyres. There’s a rear differential lock, the chassis has one smooth plate underneath, and a full roll cage is standard. Approach and departure angles are around 80 degrees, and ramp angle bests most 4X4s with a 2” lift. We’ll stop with the facts and figures here, but you get the point: the Tomcar is a serious off-roader.
But could a 2X4 ever beat a 4X4? To find out, I took a Tomcar out to a local state forest to play with a Defender 110 and a Patrol comp truck on 37” tyres. I’ve got co-founder Joe Brim in the passenger seat saying “drive harder”, and we’re into very deep ruts and rough ground, albeit terrain 4X4s could negotiate well enough.
With its amazing long-travel suspension, the Tomcar is more like a magic carpet than your usual off-road machine. The speed you’re able to carry through the toughest lines and the roughest tracks is well beyond that of most standard four-wheel drives. But when it comes to comparing two highly-capable four-wheel drives to the Tomcar, we need a proper challenge, because fast stuff is fine but it’s the tougher terrain we’re here for.
The first obstacle we found was a relatively steep and slick clay hill to climb, so we readied all three vehicles and sent the Tomcar off first. After just two attempts, with plenty of wheelspin and skinny pedal, the Tomcar makes it to the top. Next I called up the Defender, one of the most capable stock 4X4s, and this one has oversize muddies and a lift. Would it make it to the top? Nope, it got stuck near the bottom, running well out of clearance. It’s left to the comp truck to saunter up on its big 37” tyres that give it the clearance to restore 4X4 pride. It makes it to the top, albeit with plenty of wheelspin.
For the rest of the day, anywhere we go, no matter if the track was littered with rocks or insane ruts, the Tomcar follows. The next slippery obstacle we encounter forces the Defender to winch, this time for the lack of traction rather than clearance. Once again, the Tomcar makes it to the top, but it doesn’t do it with the ease of the comp truck.
Only once did the Defender best the Tomcar, and this was on a steep, rocky climb where the Tomcar’s rear weight distribution (which is 2/3 on the back) meant it was hard to keep the nose in line; its lack of four-wheel drive also meant it couldn’t ascend the obstacle – but even the Defender needed two goes. We ended up flipping the Tomcar, but we simply rolled it back over and went on with our business. As you probably guessed, the comp truck did just fine.
So which is better,
comp car or Tomcar?
Overall, the comp car. But that “overall” doesn’t mean it’d be better in every scenario. The Tomcar’s tiny size and light weight would certainly see it scamper places the bigger cars couldn’t hope to follow, no matter how many turbos you bolt on to turn monster tyres. Now Tomcar vs Defender? A harder question, and the mere fact it gives me pause is credit to the Tomcar. Overall, I’d go for Tomcar with the exception of steep hill ascents in which case it’s Defender. The Defender is also street legal, and while Tomcar is working on making their offering road registrable, currently it’s not the vehicle you can beat up on the tracks, and then drive home.
But the real question is not whether or not the Tomcar is better than a 4X4, it is whether it has sufficient off-road capability for its intended purpose of rough-terrain transporting. That answer is a definite yes. But while the Tomcar is designed as a serious tool, if your purpose happens to be driving enjoyment in a local forest then I think I’ve found something even more fun than a Jeep Wrangler and that’s about as much praise as I can give anything, 4X4 or 2X4.
Prices start from $25,000. Vehicles are not yet road registrable but this is planned for the future.