4x4 Of the Year
Hat's off to a superb Feb. '11 issue. It's probably my favorite issue to date. The 4x4 of the Year section was put together well, with solid backing behind your decision. I was a little surprised that Lexus/Toyota didn't select the 4Runner Trail Edition for the contest despite the V-6. I think it may have fared better than the GX given its power-to-weight ratio, clearance, and so on. The 4BT Bronco and Ultimate Avalanche ("Fred DED") stories were great too! Keep up the good work.
West Jordan, UT
Thanks for the vote of confidence. We knew the Land Rover LR4 won fair and square, but sometimes people just don't understand how the test works.
4x4 of the Year Choices
4-Wheel & Off-Road has been my favorite magazine for something like 10 years, and I've seen tons of letters to the editor whining about the 4x4 of the Year test. I swore I'd never be "that guy," but something in the latest test bugs me. For years 4WOR has asked 4x4 manufacturers to keep using solid axles. We all know that they're a better choice for serious off-roading. Yet in the 2011 4x4 of the Year article, you guys sang the praises of the two vehicles with four-wheel independent suspension and spoke pretty negatively of the solid rear axle in both vehicles so equipped. While I realize that this was done in the name of objectivity, it seems pretty counterproductive. I would imagine that as a magazine devoted to real off-roading, you guys would at least word it in a way that doesn't imply that solid axles are such a bad thing. Please don't turn into Car & Driver. I like 4WOR as it is!
Good comment, John. What is often left out is the fact that a solid axle properly esigned and built can outdo an independent suspension system. However, we have to be unbiased and can only test what is eligible and what we are given each year, hence the comments. I'd like to put one of those fully independent rigs against, say, the winner of our 2001 4x4 of the Year test and see how the new ones fare, because we called that rig the Kung Fu Master and it was solid-axled front and rear. Give me a '99-'04 Jeep Grand Cherokee any day.
While reading the 4x4 of the Year report (Feb. '11) I noticed the comments both negative and positive concerning electronic brake-based traction control systems. An easy way to increase the effectiveness of these systems is to upgrade the brake pads. The upgraded pad material produces greater friction, which helps reduce stopping distances on-road while allowing much greater progress with lifted wheels off-road. My '04 Disco runs EBC Green Stuff pads. This simple modification allows the ETC to work better and avoid the "momentum" approach to wheeling an ETC-equipped vehicle. Keeps the body damage down while wheeling Rausch Creek and the former Paragon too! Try it out. On a good ETC system like the Rover it makes a world of difference. Enough to support our A-to-Z FAB #513 Ultra 4 rig anyway! Great article, by the way. Keep it up!
Jason, good point, although we've never done any definitive testing this way. We have to keep the 4x4 of the Year vehicles stock for testing, but your letter makes us think that we could do more tests on the vehicles afterward. The brake-based traction control systems are not going away and only getting better. The Luddite in us still loves our old lockers and carbs, but the tech geek in us appreciates new technology and can only hope it gets better.
Speaking of Altered Reality
You guys need to get back to reality. The 4x4 of the year doesn't have an average price of $55K and an average 12.5 mpg. What year are you in? The fact that you never recognized the greatest four-wheeler ever, the Jeep TJ Rubicon, and continue to test leather-covered luxo land yachts is not part of my year or world. Scratch one of these little soccer mom trucklets and it will cost more than a set of tires to fix.
As for the Raptor, you only put it in to lose, and to add some off-road credibility to the article. No way would you have a two-year winner. Wouldn't help the ad revenue for the mag, even if it is the best by a long mile.
As for your Ultimate Adventures, dang, I wish someone would build me an $80K toy to thrash. You guys got a great job thrashing a field that costs more than most readers' houses for your annual tests. The point is, why should anyone else care?
Sorry, Steve, the reality is vehicles cost that much now. Are you stuck in the '90s? And you say we never recognized the Jeep TJ Rubicon. Where were you in 2007 when we tested it? You actually have to read the articles we print, not just look at the pretty pictures and read part of the captions.
And your comment on ad revenue? Oh, come on, I beg you to go back through the years and look at the winners of each year and figure out how the advertisers all changed their ad schedule because we did or did not pick them as a winner. I dare you. Let me know what you find, as I already know.
As for the Ultimate Adventure trucks, you must realize that those trucks are dream machines, a dream truck for our readers to imagine what could be done on a beyond-normal budget, a dream truck that maybe you don't copy completely but hopefully you take something away from, whether it's how we mount the winch, how to put rear steer in a fullsize truck, or just a funky paintjob. As magazine writers we don't rake in big bucks either. Like you, we mostly rent homes and clip coupons, but we can dream of amazing trucks to build for our off-road trip and hopefully you like them. Unrealistic, yes, but so is the model in Playboy, but that doesn't mean you don't like looking at her. If you had the chance to build something crazy and over-the-top and then see what it does off-road, wouldn't you? That is why we balance those buildups with low-budget projects throughout the year.
More No Whining!
Rick, don't let them beat you up. I showed up to a welding show after work that had an oxy-acetylene cutting contest. "Who could cut a 10x10 H-beam the fastest?" I blew off the best time by 18 seconds. That's not a big deal, but what pissed off the other welders was that I was dressed in flip-flops, shorts, and a tank top! The moral is that a good, intelligent welder knows not to stand under his or her spray. That goes for outhouses too!
I've retired from national defense and over the years have welded everything from lawnmowers to M1 Abram tanks in every position you could get in with every type of safety equipment there is. Experience is number one, and all I have to say to the finger-pointers is, "My cow died and I don't need your bull!"
Thanks for your continuing contribution to four-wheeling, your staff, magazine, and devotion to safe, responsible off-roading.
Keith R. Bankston
Paso Robles, CA
Thanks, and I'm still laughing about your dead cow!
Péwé My Ride
I have been reading your magazine since I was 15 years old, and I am 32 now. I love what you guys do, and I even don't mind all Jeeps in every issue. I have a cool idea for you guys. Pick a reader and Péwé his ride (like "pimp my ride"), only make it a cool off-roader. It would be neat to see some average Joe's ride get some help. I don't mean a nice paintjob but rather some cool mods a lot of us can't afford. Thanks for keeping the mag cool over the years.
Brake System Tips
I think your mag is great. It has a great variety of helpful information. However, there are the occasional errors. The first section I look at is the technical articles. In the Feb. '11 issue you ran a how-to on upgrading a brake system ("Better Braking"). Two of the photos did not have enough explanation. Photo 2 shows what appears to be red Loctite brand thread locker. While I agree with using chemical thread locker, this product requires 500 degrees of heat in both the bolt and the component to remove the fastener after curing. If you have to make a repair on the trail, good luck. Photo 4 shows a fair method for compressing the piston, but caution must be exercised when doing so. If the vehicle has ABS, a flake of rust may be forced into the control unit, causing a failure of that system. This could be a very expensive mistake. The best way to do this is to open the bleeder screw to relieve the pressure rather than pushing the fluid back to the master cylinder.
Good point on the caliper pushback, Chuck. I have to disagree on the red Loctite though, as I have used the sweet-tasting stuff for years and, while it is tough, have never had to heat anything to 500 degrees or get a breaker bar out. Maybe that's a good shootout though? Hmm, nice idea!
More Breaking Brakes
I have come to the conclusion that 4WOR is the best publication in its field. I also must take issue with some advice given in the "Better Braking" article (Feb. '11). You recommend using antiseize compound on caliper slide pins. I have learned from experience that anti-seize will expand and deform slide boots and other rubber parts that it comes in contact with. Synthetic caliper grease works but can dry up after a period of time. Dielectric grease, in my opinion, is the best option in this application. It is silicone based, will not harm rubber components, and holds up quite well to heat. I would appreciate any input you have on this subject.
The truth, Ben, is that we have never had antiseize swell and seize. But then again we don't live in your cold climes so it certainly is possible. Maybe we'll stick to dielectric grease from now on. Anyone have more input on this? Drop us a line!
Reader Rant No Whining!
Geez, I get sick of self-righteous people whining about nitpicky things. Who has time to police the magazine articles to find out who is not wearing their seatbelts, who is welding in sandals, etc.? I think personal safety is a personal choice. If one chooses not to take advantage of personal protection, then that is their choice. Maybe they will be weeded out by natural selection and as a whole the population will become smarter and we won't keep saving stupid people to continue to perpetuate stupid genes.
Once, as I was getting a ticket for not wearing my seatbelt while driving down the road in St. George, I asked the officer how he could justify writing me a ticket as a guy rode by on his motorcycle without a helmet (or seatbelt, mind you). He said, "Well, I can't" as he handed me a ticket anyway and bade me good day. Usually I do wear my seatbelt. If I would have died in a fiery crash that day I would only have myself to blame, not Dennis Boyer from Naples, Florida, for not pointing it out for me (In Box, Nov. '10), or Rick Péwé for not being a better role model. Enjoy the magazine for what it is.
Finally, I'm not whining here, but I noticed my Chevy wasn't in the SAS Chevy section of Readers' Rides in that same issue. This isn't a threat here, but I'll just keep sending pictures. LOL.
4-Wheel & Off-Road welcomes letters to the editor. Letters must include an address or a telephone number so the sender can be verified. Once verified, your name may be withheld at your request. Letters published in this magazine reflect the opinions of the writers, and we reserve the right to edit letters for clarity, brevity, or other purposes. Due to the large volume of mail we receive, we regret that we cannot reply to unpublished letters or return photos. Digital photos must measure no less than 1600 x 1200 pixels (or two megapixels) and be saved as a TIFF, an EPS, or a maximum-quality JPEG file.
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