The 4x4 Equation
What Makes Four-Wheel and All-Wheel Drive Vehicles So Popular?
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Honda is also looking at the luxury sport utility segment and is considering a leather-trimmed version of the Isuzu Trooper that may be marketed as a $40,000 Acura this fall. Infinity is also due late next year to launch a vehicle aimed at the same market. It may be based on the Nissan Patrol, a large Land Cruiser-like platform now only available in Japan. The Nissan Pathfinder itself is due at the end of this year to get a total makeover.
Chrysler has cancelled its plans for a new luxury SUV, the Dodge Adventurer, based on its Ram pickup truck. But it is still considering introducing a youth-oriented, compact Plymouth Back Pack, based on the Plymouth Neon chassis. GM is of several minds regarding new SUV offerings. It withdrew and is now reintroducing the Oldsmobile Bravada. GMC Truck is trying to differentiate itself from Chevrolet's models and capture the high end of the SUV market. Meanwhile, Chevy management is doing its best to prevent the move. At the same time, Cadillac is working on a Chevy Tahoe-based SUV powered by Cadillac's Northstar V8 engine. The projected price is no surprise--$50,000.
In Alabama, Mercedes is busy building its first manufacturing facility outside of Germany, geared to introduce an "All Activity Vehicle" in 1997 that may even sell for under $50,000. And Land Rover, the image leader that most of these companies are chasing, is slated to introduce its CB40, a luxury compact SUV that it would like to sell in high volume. Land Rover, like other manufacturers, is concerned that by 1998, the U.S. government will raise the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for light trucks.
If, by 1998, you are tired of suburban traffic jams looking like upscale military convoys, additional AWD choices are on the horizon. This fall, the Audi division of Volkswagen will replace its 90 series sedans with a new V6-powered A4 model. Early reviews of the European model indicate that the A4 is worthy competition for the 328i. Unfortunately, Audi is not bringing over the turbocharged 1.8 liter version of the A4. Nor is it hurrying to bring over its aluminum-bodied A8 luxury sedan.
A bit farther north, the sensible Swedes at Volvo will introduce AWD versions of their popular sedans and station wagons to the U.S. market in 1997. And Land Rover is even considering putting its 4WD expertise into a series of luxury sedans and wagons.
For the enthusiast who need never ask of price, two Italian 4WD treats are in the offing. If Bugatti can bring stability to its finances, it may finally export its already federalized EB110 America. Detailed in Cigar Aficionado's Spring 1995 issue, the America could be the most exotic, no-compromise, street-legal car ever built. Powered by a quad overhead cam, 3.5 liter V12 with five valves per cylinder and four turbochargers, the aluminum and carbon fiber-clad car should develop 600 Bhp and top out at a serene 212 mph.
Finally, by 1998, Lamborghini is expected to introduce its LM003, successor to its older (and withdrawn from the market) LM002, its superexclusive, superexpensive sports utility. Favored by captains of industry and generalissimos of unruly nations, the 3.5 ton LM002 shared the 5.2 liter, 420 Bhp V12 engine of the Diablo VT, and can sprint at 124 mph across desert sands or beachfront drives. The LM003 should do that and more. Buon viaggio!
Joshua Shapiro is a freelance writer based in New York.