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The 1996 4wd/offroader/SUV comparo (Final verdicts part 2/2)


#42

Glad to hear that you have given a favorable verdict about my behemoth of an SUV - one of only two full-sized outliers in a field where nearly everything else turned out to be smaller, showing that, given the demands of the Swedish market, there is a niche, however limited, for a vehicle of this size.


#43

THE FINAL VERDICTS


MAD OURAY II
The MAD Ouray II is the car that gets the highest rating in this test. But that does not necessarily mean that it is the best car, since the best car is always the one that is the most suitable for your own needs. And for many people the sheer size of the MAD is a drawback, not to mention that it really is heavy on the bank account.

It is not without its other flaws either, but sure, if you can afford the ownership and does not mind having to drive around in something that feels like a bus most of the time, then the MAD is a great car, no question about it. And for a lower price it beats its nearest competitor, the Mons Granite, in many aspects.

PROS: High safety rating, very spacious, very comfortable
CONS: Clumsy in everyday traffic, high ownership costs, lackluster braking performance

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: **
Performance: ****
Comfort: *****
Roominess: *****
Equipment: *****
Engine and drivetrain: ***
Quality: ****
Economy: *
Safety: *****
FINAL VERDICT: 34/45

CUTLER ADIONA


The Cutler is a classic example of a well thought out car that is not superior at anything but a good allrounder without any major flaws, to a price that is very competitive. It was clearly a favourite among most of our testers, and since it will fulfill the needs of most people looking for a 4x4, one that we can recommend too. But watch out for high costs of ownership!

PROS: Great value for the money, spacious, high build quality
CONS: High costs of ownership, a bit clumsy to drive, drivetrain a bit outdated

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: ***
Performance: ***
Comfort: ****
Roominess: *****
Equipment: *****
Engine and drivetrain: ***
Quality: *****
Economy: **
Safety: ***
FINAL VERDICT: 33/45

MARKLEY BOZEMAN


The Markley Bozeman is another great allrounder. A little bit cheaper than the Cutler, and a little cheaper to own too, but we feel that it is at the same time lagging a bit behind in most areas, though it has some points where it does shine, like the smooth engine and high safety rating. Test drive it and see if you think that it it worth its lower price to do some tradeoffs - it might as well be and the Markley is definitively not a bad car.

PROS: Smooth running engine, high safety rating, high build quality
CONS: Mediocre offroad performance, somewhat sluggish acceleration, low fuel economy

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: ***
Performance: ***
Comfort: ***
Roominess: ****
Equipment: ***
Engine and drivetrain: ****
Quality: *****
Economy: **
Safety: *****
FINAL VERDICT: 32/45

KNIGHTWICK ADVENTURE


We can’t deny that there is some prestige behind the words “I drive a Knightwick”, neither can we deny that the Knightwick is a really nice car - but it comes at a cost. The much cheaper Cutler Adiona does everything at least almost as well and the rational reasons behind buying a Knightwick then is probably few.

But if you feel that you would look like a peasant if you parked a Cutler in front of your mansion, we can’t blame you for rather having a Knightwick.

PROS: High comfort, very high build quality, seating for seven.
CONS: High purchase price, high costs of ownership, questionable value for the money.

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: ***
Performance: ***
Comfort: ****
Roominess: ****
Equipment: *****
Engine and drivetrain: ****
Quality: ****
Economy: *
Safety: ****
FINAL VERDICT: 32/45

MONS GRANITE


We’re fully aware that you don’t buy a Mons Granite for rational reasons, but if we still try to looking at it rationally, we see no reason to buy the Mons instead of the MAD. Sure, it has offroad capacity that can’t be matched - or is needed anywhere in Sweden where you can get to with this beast that immediately will have problems with rocks and trees standing in the way. The MAD feels like a better car overall, for a lower price.

But sure, if you want to blaze through the desert at high speeds in full comfort and money is not a problem, then the Mons is the car for you. So, we bet Mons will have greater luck in the Saudi market than in the Swedish.

PROS: Offroad performance, spacious, comfortable
CONS: Clumsy, extremely uneconomical, rough running V6
OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: ***
Performance: ****
Comfort: ****
Roominess: *****
Equipment: ****
Engine and drivetrain: **
Quality: *****
Economy: 0
Safety: ****
FINAL VERDICT: 31/45

FOREA HRC-4


So… You are the average family man, that is satisfied with your ordinary family car but are tired of getting stuck in bad weather conditions? Buy the Forea, it is all you need. Sure, it is on a whole different level than the others when it comes to offroad capacity, but it is because it is a completely different concept - and it works like it is intended to do. Very well, in fact, and we believe that this is something we will see from more manufacturers in the future.

PROS: Passenger car-like feeling, fuel economy, build quality
CONS: Rust protection, offroad performance, purchase price high for its class.

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: ****
Performance: ***
Comfort: ***
Roominess: ***
Equipment: ***
Engine and drivetrain: ***
Quality: ****
Economy: ****
Safety: ****
FINAL VERDICT: 31/45

ARMOR TIMBERWOLF


The Timberwolf is not a bad car in itself and if it weren’t for some really strange flaws it would score higher. But the useless rear seat in a car this size with 4 doors is a mystery. The notoriously bad brakes another serious flaw. Sure, we won’t tell you to avoid the Timberwolf since it has some good sides too - the question is why Armour couldn’t have thought out the concept a little bit better than this?

PROS: Good safety rating, well equipped, decent build quality
CONS: Useless back seat, bad brakes, low comfort

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: ***
Performance: ***
Comfort: **
Roominess: ***
Equipment: ****
Engine and drivetrain: ***
Quality: ****
Economy: **
Safety: *****
FINAL VERDICT: 29/45

FM STREETSUV


The FM Streetsuv quickly became a favourite among our test crew too. Sure, it has the classical small car drawbacks like lack of comfort and space, but it really gives the competition even in the larger classes a run for their money. A great car to drive both on and off the road - as long as you aren’t in a hurry, and really great value considering the low sticker price.

PROS: Capable on and off the road, low cost of ownership, great value for the money.
CONS: Slow, cramped, low comfort

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: *****
Performance: **
Comfort: **
Roominess: *
Equipment: ***
Engine and drivetrain: ***
Quality: ****
Economy: *****
Safety: ***
FINAL VERDICT: 28/45

Next page: The last 8 cars

@abg7, @Stryder237, @Maverick74, @mart1n2005, @cake_ape, @vouge, @GassTiresandOil, @Jaimz


#44

Spot on review of the Granite, just what I was going for - an overpriced, overengineered, luxury off-roader barge. The car is supposed to be an oxymoron in itself, targeting the niche market of the uber-rich irrational buyer with an oil well at their disposal. I chose the weird gearing to mimic a crawl gear IIRC, so that explains that. I’m not sure what explains the V6 though!


#45

You have hit the nail on the head right there - the Ouray II is not exactly for everyone, given that it was clearly designed for the vast American market in mind, but it’s just the ticket if you want a big, plush SUV and are willing to pay for it.


#46

I swear the brakes on the Timberwolf were much better when I imported the file. Almost no fade at all… something must have happened during export:


#47

I can take a look at that, however, I don’t think that they affected the final rating too much in the end.
However, I am more curious why there was 2+3 seating in such a large 4 door SUV? :stuck_out_tongue:


#48

I was basing it off of the XJ Cherokee I used to have. The rear bench was a normal size, but you could fold it flat to add cargo space. Even in the old full-size Wagoneers, the fold-down rear bench was standard, and useful. I know Automation scores +3 seats as less comfortable than fixed ones, but in real life I’ve noticed the difference to be negligable.
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#49

Well, I’m glad where I ended up, this was a fun competition! The detailed reviews were very helpful and the format is less restrictive and arbitrary than a CSR.

Maybe the facelift of the Adiona needs a new powertrain though…


#50

Ah, OK, I guess that’s all about how some things in the game is up for interpretation then. I have never seen the (+3) seating as a fold flat bench (that is in any station wagon more or less), rather the bench you can find in some 1½ cab fullsize pickups (wide enough for 3, but uncomfortable due to lack of space), while the +2 seating have felt more like the jump seats in a Chevy S10 or Nissan 720/Hardbody, or the so called “back seat” in many sports cars.

I guess your view have been different, and since I haven’t been able to read the thoughts of the developers, I don’t know who is right here TBH.


#51

That’s ok. I have often wondered about what exactly constitutes a +3 seat or a folding bench. lol no worries.


#52

I am wondering about the ABS and traction control comments directed at mine. I realise most other entries had at least ABS but it was rather uncommon to have that in SUVs at the time, much less traction control (at least on the North American market).


#53

From what I remember when I was reading car magazines at the time, vehicles sold without ABS and/or airbags was starting to recieve heavy criticism around maybe 94-95, at least in Sweden. Now, the SUV segment wasn’t actually huge by then so maybe they were less equipped in general and went “under the radar”.

By the way, I never criticized any car for not having traction control, because it really wasn’t common standard equipment in the mid 90s (a couple of years later the scandal with the Mercedes A-class forced in standard ESC in many cars quite quickly, but that’s a different story and before that most cars was sold without anything), it was just something that I noticed on the cars that actually had it.


#54

Sweden was definitely more serious about safety than other countries, much earlier. (I mean… gestures at Volvo). The US? Not so much.

There was no ABS on the Ozette because it was not common in the US on SUVs (except the very top line ones) until after 2000 or so. I was a salesman at a Ford dealership in 2008-2009 and YOU COULD STILL BUY BRAND NEW FOCUSES WITHOUT ABS. And we did. A lot of them. Because of the 4 trim levels, it only came on the top one standard and the 2nd from top as an option.


#55

Oh wow, tied for third? I honestly wasn’t expecting that. I figured forgoing an advanced automatic and variable power steering would have hurt the drivability too much. Coupled with the mediocre fuel economy compared to everyone else I was thinking it would be far lower. I guess the fact I chose to keep the safety above 50 really helped.

Congrats to abg7 for the overall win! Thanks for hosting this challenge Knugcab!


#56

The Markley was, as I think I stated, not excellent at anything except for maybe the safety rating. But it was a great allrounder that lacked any serious flaws, for a price that was sane. So, I think that you had a well thought out concept after all.

And by the way, the aftermath of this test is not “you should have all put in ABS, suckers!”, having some vehicles without it represents the market as a whole, and what I try to do when writing the reviews is to reflect what actual car magazines probably would have written back then (and that’s a reason why I almost always completely leave the aesthetics out of the question, for example, they are rarely reviewed IRL because they are highly subjective and because the reader can judge his/her opinion out of the pictures). And if I should write a list about “top 10 hot topics in car magazines in 1996”, ABS would relly have one of the places on that list, so…

The only things that was outdated on the limit of being unrealistic IMO was the 4 speed manuals in the BOG and Meixian-Hinode. I don’t remember any car that still had one in 1996.


#57

I’m surprised that I was the only V8 in the particular segment, I guess if the game had diesels it would have all been different anyway. Glad with how I did anyway, still some life in a body on frame SUV


#58

Given the upmarket positioning of the Ouray II, it made sense for me to give it standard ABS + TC on the submitted trim. And the verdict about it proved that there is, against all odds:

Anyway, these are among the most honest reviews I’ve ever seen outside of CSR, CSC or TMCC - and this is just for the top 8 cars; keep up the good work!


#59

BOF SUVs weren’t really uncommon back then, IIRC the most sold SUV in Sweden around then was the Nissan Terrano II, which more or less was a rebodied gen 1 Terrano/Pathfinder (so it has the roots in the D21 Hardbody/Navara, and to some extent in the 1983 update of the 720 pickup), it got praise because it was “so much like a passenger car to drive”, I can’t really say that about my 1985 720 4WD at all, even though a Terrano II probably is a bit more refined… :joy:


#60

I am a big fan of the terrano II and it’s ford maverick cousin.

I will agree with abg and say I enjoyed this challenge and the reviews as well, if you feel like doing another of these in the future I’m sure you’ll get some good entries again


#61

RCM YUKONITE


For being an all new design, the Yukonite isn’t really impressive in any way, but that’s OK, not every car has to be the best at everything, sometimes being “good enough” is - good enough.

And the RCM is for the most part - good enough. And for a price that beats many of its smaller competitors it is hard to complain. Especially considering that you get a roomy and practical car.

So, we can see this as a bargain if you are, for example, running a bussiness where economy, reliability and practicality is the key words and you have to get to your destinations on rough roads without hassle. Because a real off roader is something the Yukonite is not.

PROS: Low sticker price, spacious, reliable
CONS: Low comfort, low offroad capability, poor rust protection

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: **
Performance: ***
Comfort: **
Roominess: *****
Equipment: ***
Engine and drivetrain: ***
Quality: ***
Economy: ***
Safety: **
FINAL VERDICT: 26/45

ARDENT OZETTE


Rumors are around about a new generation Ardent Ozette in a not too distant future. Until then, we have to do with the old model - and surprisingly enough it shows that there is still some life left in this platform. It does not feel old when you drive it, it is clearly one of the most economical ways to own a vehicle driving on all four wheels today, and probably the only big argument against it is that you can get the more up-to-date and very good FM Streetsuv for not much more money.

We’re looking forward for the next generation. If Ardent could release something in 1987 that still is this competitive, a new Ozette could as well become the king of the small SUVs.

PROS: Seating for five, great overall economy, joyful to drive
CONS: Slow, cramped, low safety rating

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: ****
Performance: **
Comfort: **
Roominess: **
Equipment: **
Engine and drivetrain: ***
Quality: ***
Economy: *****
Safety: **
FINAL VERDICT: 25/45

HEROS VARACROSS


Even if the Varacross has its points, we can’t find anything that justifies the horrible sticker price. What you get is after all still a small, cramped and not very practical SUV, that doesn’t even offer any impressive offroad performance. Yes - it is fast. Yes - it has a V6. Yes - it is the unmatched class leader in comfort. We just have our doubts that anyone that wants a fast and comfortable car with a V6 is looking for a small SUV and vice versa. Also, the unpredictable behaviour on the road doesn’t belong in a modern car.

PROS: Nice driveline, good performance, class leading comfort
CONS: Ridiculous sticker price, cramped, unpredictable handling

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: **
Performance: ****
Comfort: ***
Roominess: *
Equipment: ***
Engine and drivetrain: ****
Quality: ***
Economy: **
Safety: ***
FINAL VERDICT: 25/45

GSI BERGSGET


The somewhat unorthodox looks of the GSI seems to be something people either love or hate - and it is of course up to you to decide what you think. But except for the looks, it stands out only by having great fuel economy and performance. Other than that it is a quite mediocre car, that is more or less ruined by its annoying turbo lag. A less than well thought out concept in our eyes, even if we disagree with the reports from the US that accuses the GSI for being unsafe to drive.

PROS: Fuel economy, performance, brakes
CONS: Turbo lag, low comfort, cramped

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: **
Performance: *****
Comfort: *
Roominess: *
Equipment: ***
Engine and drivetrain: **
Quality: ***
Economy: *****
Safety: ***
FINAL VERDICT: 25/45

HUSAR GORA


Every now and then, a car with unconventional engineering pops up. Sometimes it changes the world, like the Citroën Traction Avant, the VW Beetle or the BMC Mini. Other times we end up with results like the Husar Gora. No, we can’t really recommend this to anyone. The strange engineering decisions aren’t doing it any favours at all, the build quality is almost non-existant, the behaviour on the road borderline dangerous and some parts are almost impossible to get, take the tyres as an example, name one tyre shop that has 200/100R18 tyres in stock?

It clearly was worth a try but we hope that Husar will contact “Sickan” from the “Jönssonligan” movies the next time, since he probably has the plan it seems like they were lacking.

PROS: Good offroad capacity, nice drivetrain, high passive safety
CONS: Low active safety, terrible build quality, strange engineering decisions

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: *
Performance: **
Comfort: ***
Roominess: ****
Equipment: ***
Engine and drivetrain: ****
Quality: *
Economy: *
Safety: ****
FINAL VERDICT: 23/45

HILLSTROM LIMEROCK


The Hillstrom Limerock looks like if it came straight out of an episode of Dallas. To be a bit harsh, it is about as old as Dallas too, and probably it is time for the last season soon. A car for the modern cowboy, it can take you (and lots of cargo) anywhere, has macho looks and for a decent price you get lots of buttons to play with - that is, as long as they don’t fall into your hands.

If we bought a bunch of toy cars that represented all our tested vehicles, and took them to a sandbox, we can bet that many small boy would have grabbed the Hillstrom before anything else - but it has its drawbacks in a cramped cabin, outdated driveline, poor rust resistance, terrible build quality and almost silly fuel consumption.

Hillstrom makes decent farm tractors and should maybe stick to them since it appears that it is getting too tough for them as a car maker to keep up with the competition.

PROS: Well equipped for the money, good offroad performance, lots of cargo space.
CONS: Outdated construction, horrible fuel economy, shoddy build quality.

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: ***
Performance: ***
Comfort: **
Roominess: **
Equipment: ****
Engine and drivetrain: **
Quality: **
Economy: *
Safety: ***
FINAL VERDICT: 22/45

MEIXIAN-HINODE TENGLU


The Tenglu might look like a joke on todays market, a primitive little box on wheels. And well - it is. A primitive little box on wheels, that is, but it is unfair to call it a joke. We can’t see Mr. Average trading in his Olsson for a Tenglu anywhere soon - but it will fill some niche markets for sure. Show us another 8-seater 4x4 for the same price - we bet you can’t. And if you have ever visited South-east Asia you know how there is beat up Tenglus everywhere just refusing to die, like mobile cockroaches.

Maybe the vehicle to carry a crew of workers somewhere far out in the countryside where roads are almost non-existant. Or the minibus for transporting pupils to the rural schools from all the small villages where the plow truck seldom comes too early in the snowy mornings? We can see many examples where a Meixian-Hinode Tenglu will do its duty very well.

But as your daily driver and main car? Probably not.

PROS: Seating for 8, extremely reliable, low sticker price
CONS: Low comfort, low safety rating, outdated driveline

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: **
Performance: **
Comfort: *
Roominess: ****
Equipment: **
Engine and drivetrain: *
Quality: ****
Economy: *****
Safety: *
FINAL VERDICT: 22/45

BOG A-10


Yes, we know, this is the Hawaii shirt among blue collar clothing. But since it is still an interesting car for many people, we decided to include it in our test. And you have probably already decided that choosing this as your next daily driver isn’t a wise move. It is a beach toy. A fun concept car made real. Maybe the best dune buggy ever made.

And sure, it works well for what it is, and is dirt cheap too. Still, we can’t stop thinking about how an updated driveline and safety equipment would have made it a better car - without sacrificing any of the fun.

PROS: Low sticker price, reliable mechanics, fun concept
CONS: Totally unpractical, outdated driveline, low safety rating

OUR RATING:
Driving characteristics: ***
Performance: **
Comfort: *
Roominess: *
Equipment: ***
Engine and drivetrain: *
Quality: ***
Economy: *****
Safety: *
FINAL VERDICT: 20/45

SOME FINAL WORDS
One thing to keep in mind is that all the test cars have one thing in common - they have 4 wheel drive. Other than that, many of them are completely different animals. So are we telling you to ditch the thoughts of a BOG because you should buy a MAD instead? Absolutely not, if you want a BOG, buy a BOG, they do fulfill completely different niches on the market. A rating in numbers is only half of the truth. There is some cars here we would not recommend because the competition does everything better - or cheaper, though.

The first decision you must make is if you really want - or need - 4 wheel drive. If your honest answer is “no” the market is flooded with nice 2 wheel drive cars to choose from. And the only car here that can compete head-to-head with a regular passenger car is the Forea - if you need more offroad capacity than it can offer, you have to do some tradeoffs.

But if you have decided that 2 wheel drive is not enough for you, we hope that our comparision was useful as a guide which vehicle you should aim for - or fits inside your budget.

@thecarlover @VicVictory @Vri404 @oppositelock @ImKaeR @Knugcab @S_U_C_C_U_L_E_N_T @OME