1941 Bantam Reconnaissance Car
1948 Land Rover
1950 BJ Jeep
1998 Allroad Quattro
1941 JEEP – BANTAM
The Bantam Reconnaissance Car was designed for the US military as part of the war effort. But Bantam was too small to produce the numbers, so Willys and Ford got the job. Both made improvements, and the Willys design became the standard from which today’s Wrangler is still recognisably derived, and should that ever change American will re-run its Civil War.
1948 LAND ROVER – LAND ROVER
Inspired by the Jeep, the Land Rover saved the Rover company, and gave bearded sandal wearers something to repair for the rest of eternity. Yet what Land Rover show today will be in their cars tomorrow, and the competition’s about a decade later.
1950 TOYOTA – BJ JEEP
Toyota’s first 4X4 was the AK10, reverse-engineered in 1942 from a captured Bantam Jeep. The second was the BJ Jeep, developed in 1950. It had no low range.
1950 NISSAN – 4W60
Nissan won a Japanese government contract and the result was the 4W60 Patrol, which survived until 1960 when it was replaced by the G60.
1966 FORD – BRONCO
For such a large car-maker Ford haven’t really had much of a history with 4X4s, but their first effort was the Bronco of the mid-’60s.
1970 SUZUKI – LJ10
Suzuki’s tiny LJ10 is another vehicle developed from an older company, in this case the Hope ON360. The Jimny is a direct descendant, but times have forced a complete redesign we hope to see next year – the iV-4.
1972 SUBARU – LEONE
Subaru is associated with the car-based 4X4 more than any other brand, and it all began way back in 1972 with the Super Touring Leone wagon, which led to the famous L-Series being sold in Australia.
1979 MERCEDES-BENZ – G-CLASS
Mercedes-Benz have at one point made one of everything, including the Unimog which began in 1947. But this is about car-sized 4X4s, and the first there was the venerable G-Class in 1979, which hasn’t changed since. Well, unless you count a stonking V8!
1978 HOLDEN – LUV
Holden’s first wagon SUV was the Jackaroo wagon from 1981, and since then the company has rebadged a variety of vehicles such as the Captiva and Colorado 7. But before the Jackaroo there was the Rodeo, which was also an Isuzu design and first sold in Australia by Holden as the LUV in 1978.
1982 MITSUBISHI – PAJERO
The first Pajero protoypes were shown to the public as far back as 1973, but it took until 1982 for the vehicle to enter production and it hasn’t stopped since!
1983 SSANGYONG – KORANDO
The Koranda is another license of an existing model, and in this case it was the Jeep CJ-7 being resold under another name.
1986 LAMBORGHINI LM002
In 1986 Lamborghini launched their first 4WD, a consumer version of a vehicle originally designed for military use only. With a 7.2 litre petrol V12 engine, and a 290 litre petrol tank, it’s easy to work out why this vehicle was nicknamed: ‘Rambo Lambo’. Be still, my beating heart…
1991 HYUNDAI – GALLOPER
The Galloper was just a second-generation Pajero rebaged. Hyundai’s own 4X4 was the Terracan, released in 2001, and even that owed its chassis to the Pajero. It acquired a following thanks to its budget off-road and towing capability.
1993 HONDA – CROSSROAD
The Crossroad was simply a rebaged Land Rover Discovery Series 1, but it didn’t end well, so Honda replaced it with the entirely different CR-V from 1995.
1996 LEXUS – LX450
The first Lexus was the LS400 road car in 1989, and first SUV was the LX450, based on the 80 Series LandCruiser.
1998 AUDI – ALLROAD QUATTRO
Audi famously took the rally world by storm in the ‘80s with the four-wheel-drive Quattro, a moniker which their marketing department has since squeezed dry by applying to it every all wheel drive Audi. But the Quattro wasn’t an off-roader, although if you watch the exploits of rally ace Ari Vatanen you’d be forgiven for thinking differently. The first Audi SUV seems to be the Allroad Quattro which is essentially a lifted A6 wagon, with adjustable air suspension and, in manual variants, low range.
1998 GREAT WALL – SAFE
Great Wall was only formed in 1984. You have to love any company that produces cars called the Florid, the Wingle, the Coolbear, the SoCool and their first SUV, the Safe.
1998 KIA – RETONA
Kia’s subsidiary Asia Motors released
the Rocsta in 1990, and that became
the Retona of 1998.
1999 BMW – X5
The X5 is the SUV that influenced more than it
is generally given credit for, sparking a new wave of premium vehicles and raising the bar for on-road handling.
1998 MAZDA – AZ-OFFROAD
Before the current CX range there was the Tribute, first appearing in 2000 as a joint venture with Ford which called the same car the Escape, and in 1998 they rebadged Suzuki’s Jimny as the “AZ-Offroad”.
2002 PORSCHE – CAYENNE
The car that saved Porsche. It’s taken until 2013
for Porsche to dare to introduce a second SUV,
2002 VOLKSWAGEN – TOUAREG
VW have a long history with off-road vehicles, but they started off as air-cooled, rear-engined 2X4s. The first real VW SUV was the Touareg in 2002, which also formed the basis for Porsche’s Cayenne and Audi’s Q7. Shhh.
2002 VOLVO – XC90
The first Volvo SUV was the XC90 which first appeared in 2002 and became the kid-carrier of choice for the family who wants something a cut above a Territory or Kluger.
WHO HASN’T COME TO THE PARTY – YET?
The SUV is something of a wheeled gold mine; a car that buyers snap up yet one that can be sold at a premium compared to its reasonable development costs. For example, sportscar maker Porsche agonised over the decision to introduce the Cayenne in 2002, but had it not done so there would be no Porsche today, as the Cayenne accounts for the vast majority of its sales and profit – be sure to mention that to the next 911 worshiper you encounter. The story is similar wherever you look from BMW to Mazda – SUV line-ups are common and they sell very well, beaten only by anodyne mass-production shopping trolleys like the Mazda 3 and Hyundai i20, which are far less profitable per unit.
But not quite everyone has a SUV. Holdouts at present include Jaguar, Maserati, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Bentley. All these have either announced SUV plans or there’s strong industry rumours that they will. And that leaves just five – Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lotus, Rolls Royce and Morgan – with no known or firm plans for an off-roadish vehicle.
This little list raises a number of interesting observations. Firstly, all these manufacturers are niche operations that are amongst the most storied and evocative marques in motoring; ones that have a band of devotees that’s strong and loyal, but small. The bosses are rightly loath to sully such heritage with bandwagon-popular vehicles like SUVs.
Alfa Romeo have flirted with SUV concepts in the past and remain a potential SUV developer, but perhaps owner Fiat have decided they’re better off spending their money developing automotive lust-objects like the 4C and leaving the SUVs to their other marques like Jeep, not to mention Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat itself. They also own Ferrari, and Ferrari are of course special (just ask them).
Ferrari are quite happy deliberately selling very few vehicles at extremely high prices so have no need to increase sales, and indeed extra volume would start to destroy the exclusivity which is their brand strategy. Did you know you apply to buy a Ferrari and you need to be assessed and approved – you don’t rock up with a ute-load of cash?
For the moment though, the closest Ferrari has to a SUV is the FF, an all-wheel-drive road car that accommodates four people and some skis. Anyway, Fiat Group’s top end SUV is covered by their Maserati brand who intend to give us something called the Levante. Interestingly, this Levante was to be built on Jeep Grand Cherokee underpinnings but that idea has now been scrapped because of, apparently, buyer expectations around engineering. Rubbish! Let’s be honest, it was marketing. If you’re going to pay Maserati coin for an SUV, you don’t want people laughing at you and pointing out that it’s just a Jeep with bling, like we do with Lexus/Toyota.
A competitor in the super-expensive SUV market will be Lamborghini, who have successfully targeted the chest hair and gold chain market, so a brash Ess You Vee would be perfect for their clientele. Their forthcoming SUV, the Urus, looks sleek and sexy.
As for Rolls Royce, I could easily see Roller SUV, which let’s face it couldn’t be any heavier or larger than the current limos, and if Bentley are going to do an SUV, why not arch-rival Rolls. The Phantom already has air suspension, so they just need to jack it up a bit, add another diff, gutter-roll the wheelarches to take a set of 34-inch Jungle Trekkers and she’s sweet.
Words: Robert Pepper