The other day, I saw an advertisement for a 4x4 touted as the most technologically advanced in its class. It annoyed me, greatly. As a magazine editor, I am often fortunate enough to be able to test some of the latest four-wheel drives, sometimes months before they hit the open market. Lately, the common theme throughout most of the major brands seems to be increased complexity and decreased off-road prowess.
Sure, new autos are safer and nicer than ever before, but some of the modern tech makes me question what the future of automobile freedom will be. Take for example the following GPS-based hypothetical. Let’s say you input a trip to your local off-road park. Soon after, the data calculates, the stars align, and just like that, you have turn-by-turn direction, along with an estimated time of arrival. If you’re like me, your inner hillbilly often tries to beat the estimated arrival time for fun.
With a little luck and skillful driving, every now and again, I shave a few minutes off. Can you imagine if in the future a ticket arrived in the mail from your local municipality that said, “Congratulations, you beat your GPS Estimated time by 15 minutes, now please pay your speeding fine.”? OK. That might be a tad farfetched, but it’s not to say that it couldn’t happen.
Technology isn’t all bad, but it’s still a challenge for those looking to purchase and modify a late-model 4x4. Tone rings, stability control, and advanced ABS have drastically changed the way we build rigs. This was something I thought heavily about when I was looking for a new project rig. Looking at builder-friendly late-model SUVs, I realized, there was going to be a major electronic hurtle I would have to overcome at some point.
This got me looking at older vehicles. I wanted something that wouldn’t cut power because the tires are spinning at different speeds, or that would take a special computer to diagnose an otherwise simple problem. After much research, I settled on an ’98 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which you can read more about in this issue. Is it the perfect SUV? No. But it meets my requirements, and with the field of contenders, it was the least of all evils.
The future of the 4x4 is surrounded in what ifs and speculation. It’s wild to think that a flying car actually exists (it’s called a Terrafugia, Google it), but trains are still as relevant to our infrastructure today as they were decades ago. Old and new technology will always be forced to work side by side. It’s up to you to find your tech-tolerance level to make the outgoing and incoming compute correctly for your needs.