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Four-wheel drive has revolutionised the way we drive cars not just because, if we pick the right one, we can enjoy great off-road capability, but also because 4×4 cars just look so good and command the road like no other. That’s why they have become so popular over the years, for the sheer size, safety features and cabin luxury that you’ll get when you buy one – providing you can afford the price tag.
But not all 4×4 cars are expensive, prices have come down considerably in recent years, thanks to the introduction of Crossovers, which offer a bolder look, higher visibility and optional four-wheel drive capability within what is essentially a compact car.
With the 4×4 and Crossover market simply thriving, Trusted Dealers takes a look below at how four-wheel drive cars evolved into what they are today.
It all started back in 1899 at the turn of the century when Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that’s the founder of Porsche) designed and built a four-wheel-driven electric vehicle for the k. u. k. Hofwagenfabrik Ludwig Lohner & Co which he presented to the public during the 1900 World Exhibition at Paris. An electric hub motor at each wheel powered the vehicle, and despite the car being clumsily heavy, the vehicle proved a powerful sprinter and record-breaker in the hands of its owner E.W. Hart.
In 1945 Willys (owner of Jeep from 1950 onwards) introduced the CJ-2A to the market – the first full-production four-wheel drive vehicle for sale to the general public, and the vehicle which set the presendent for many other four-wheel drive vehicles to be developed. The Willys CJ (later known as the Jeep CJ) was a public version of the military jeep from World War II and proved so popular that it stayed in production through seven variants until 1986 before it was replaced by the Jeep Wrangler.
The first Land Rover appeared at the Amsterdam Motor Show in 1948, originally conceived as a stop-gap product for the struggling Rover car company, and despite very little capital being invested in it, it proved far more popular than passenger cars. Over the years the Land Rover has grown from strength to strength encompassing a wide range of four-wheel drive cars to include the Defender, Discovery, Freelander, Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Range Rover Evoque. One of the most appealing qualities of the Land Rover is its superb off-road capability unmatched by other 4×4 cars on the road.
The Toyota RAV4 was the first compact crossover car to be produced, making its debut in Japan and Europe in 1994. The RAV4 was designed to offer consumers the benefits of Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) such as increased cabin space and higher visibility, with the option of full-time or part-time four-wheel drive and the maneuverability and fuel economy of a compact car. The RAV4 enjoyed immediate success and paved the way for a long list of competitive compact crossovers such as the Subaru Forester, the Suzuki Vitara and more recently the highly popular Nissan Qashqai.
Land Rover Range Rover
In the 1970s, following the success of the Land Rover, Rover developed a luxury four-wheel drive car known as the Range Rover, which unlike many other rivals cars at the time, was capable of serious off-road use. The Range Rover has enjoyed huge success over the years as it appeals to those looking for a luxury 4×4 car with proper off-road capability. The more recent development of the Range Rover Sport in 2005 and the Range Rover Evoque in 2011 has ensured the Range Rover family continues to dominate the 4×4 market.