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Reader: In the "This Just In" column (Jan. '08), you questioned USA Today's proclamation that the '91 Explorer "started the SUV craze." You said "Jeep and Chevy might disagree." I wasn't going to comment, but the recent unibody Ford Explorer America concept (apparently lacking any 4WD controls) made me rethink my resignation on the matter.
True, the '91 Explorer was not the first SUV, but it did start the SUV "craze" among car folk. The craze is why you get all-terrain tires that look like all-season tires. The craze is why you get better ingress/egress instead of ground clearance. The craze is why you get heated/cooled leather seats, and plush carpets instead of hose-out interiors. The craze is why you get chin spoilers instead of skidplates. The craze is why you get IFS/IRS instead of solid axles. The craze is why you get limited suspension travel and stiff rollbars (to improve cornering scores in car magazine tests) instead of generous articulation. The craze is why many SUVs became expensive technical marvels with automatic electronic doodads like air suspension, traction control, and active diffs to maintain capability instead of reliable user-operated mechanicals that are easy to repair and service in the field. The craze is why auto manufacturers listen to these car bozos and not off-road guys when designing their next SUV. It's all because, since the '91 Explorer, there are more of them than there are of you! If you ask the off-road guys at Jeep and Chevy about the USA Today proclamation, I'm sure they are happy to see Explorer get all the blame.
Editor: Right you are. However, even we get some of the blame by choosing IFS-laden rigs as our 4x4 of the Year winners. Read on!
Reader: That's it. I am done with your magazine. Toyota Land Cruiser is 4x4 of the Year? Come on, my grandma drives one of these! If you can look me in the face and tell me that the '08 Land Cruiser will outwheel a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon in Moab then I'll give it to you. I didn't know that your wife got to choose who won it. If these are such great 4x4s then why don't you build one for the Ultimate Adventure? Or don't you want to be seen on the trails with a Lexus or a Volkswagen!
Idaho Falls, ID
Editor: The Rubicon didn't win because the Land Cruiser did better in our test. And your grandma must be cool, just like my wife, who doesn't drive our Land Cruiser. Keep reading for more comments.
Reader: What kind of ship are you running down there? I mean, I know that you are Jeep-crazy but come on! In the 4x4 of the Year (Feb. '08) you have your precious Rubicon Unlimited tearing up the ground on page 67 (looks cool), but then in the summary page you have the same Rubicon getting towed out of the hole by the H3? Listen, it didn't look high-centered or like it had bad tires-maybe the staffer couldn't figure out the locking diff button. Could Jeep have a black eye, and are you able to cope with this? Either Jeep has to either upgrade its "Locking Diffs" or you have to put the smack down on a rogue staffer slipping this in.
Editor: Hmm. That was me driving, and the soft stuff certainly did high-center, high-rear, and high-front. Buttons aren't everything, as my not paying attention shows!
Reader: I just finished reading the Feb. '08 issue. While reading the "Readers' Rides Tips," I noticed what I think was a misprint in the "Fit to Print" article. In that article, you stated Ryan Pecot sent you an image of his '96 TJ. In all my Jeep dealings I have yet to come across a '96 TJ and was wondering about this. As I am sure you are aware, they did not make a Jeep Wrangler in 1996, and the TJ did not come out till 1997.
Keep up the good rag.