What is the future for four-wheel driving?


Is it really possible to fall in love with the modern four-wheel drive?
The last decade or two has seen the rise and rise of technology in our 4X4s. Not so long ago we were all clinging to our mechanically injected diesels and solid front axles proudly declaring that we’d never go to one of those unreliable computer-controlled engines or IFS crap!


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But here we are, down the track a little and it seems that if you want a new 4X4, (with a couple of notable exceptions like the Wrangler, Defender, GU and Jimny) your only option is to go IFS, and there isn’t a single new vehicle on the market that’s still sporting a carby or mechanical fuel pumps.
And is that really a bad thing?


Sure, when technology is new it can have its teething issues. Early on there were no shortage of stories of blown up common-rail diesels, and we’ve all heard the old bloke at the bar telling us how “ya can’t even lift those IFS rigs more than an inch or two, don’t waste yer money!” But two decades down the track, can the same tired old lines still be trotted out?
I think the technology thing often comes down to manufacturers. Big players like Toyota and Land Rover have got it dialled. Just take a spin in a LandCruiser Sahara or a Range Rover and try to tell us it isn’t bloody nice to drive, I dare you.



Hell, we recently took delivery of a couple of VW Amaroks and while I really didn’t want to like them, after a couple of hours in the saddle I couldn’t help but be impressed. The tech in these things is flat out amazing. If you’re cruising along at three-quarters throttle and you suddenly lift off the accelerator, the computer actually takes up the slack in the brake pedal travel, just in case you’re going to jump on the picks to avoid a collision. It may save only milliseconds of reaction time maybe, but we all know that sort of thing can count big time.


As for common-rail technology, does anyone really think it’s a bad thing any more? It provides us with hugely improved power, economy and driveability and all it takes to get more out of them is to plug in a chip and throw an exhaust on and Shamwow, 30% more grunt. As for reliability, these days whenever something goes wrong it’s down to a faulty sensor. Plug a $60 scan tool into your on board diagnostics port and it’ll tell you what’s gone wrong. If you brought your laptop with you, you can probably clear the fault with a couple of keystrokes and keep driving. Compare that to getting down in the dirt, getting doused in diesel as you try to check the filter, burning your forearm on the still-hot exhaust and banging your head on the transfer case causing you to lose the bolt that you needed…


Don’t get me wrong, I still love the old tech stuff and I loathe what I consider to be redundant systems – things like EGRs, DPFs or anything that’s counter-intuitive to the driveability of a vehicle. But I have to admit I’m coming around to the new school way of doing things. I’m not sure if I should be happy about that or if I should hate myself for even typing that last sentence out…





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