Tag Archives: 4wd

Unlimited adventure by an iconic 4WD

Having driven through a World War and after several decades of legendary supporting roles in countless Hollywood blockbusters, this four-wheel-drive continues to be on most men’s “must-drive” bucket list.    

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Growing up with black-and-white combat movie flicks and later being madly consumed by the heroics of MacGyver, I cannot be faulted for my never-ending grin when I received confirmation of a weekend fling with a Jeep four-wheel drive ride.

Over the last two decades, mostly during my journalism career, I had driven sport cars to the limit, enjoyed the finest luxury vehicles, and got myself lost – twice – in the jungles of Borneo with only a mud-covered four-wheel drive and packets of instant noodles for company. But none of these experiences involved a Jeep Wrangler; the palm-sized diecast plastic army-green military vehicle I slept with throughout my early years, which I vowed I will one day get my hands on the real thing.

For all those dreamers out there, let’s first get any false hopes out of the way. The Jeep Wrangler is not designed to be modish nor built for a relaxed city drive. Seated on top of old-school solid axles at both ends together with heavy-duty monotube shock absorbers, the retro-styled vehicle comes out rather bumpy with a steering seemingly detached from the road with its share of body roll during sharp turns. And particularly during this year-end monsoon season, the cabin inside can be rather noisy during a downpour.

Its features and fittings, particularly the four-door Wrangler Unlimited Sahara variant which I had, is seemingly unadorned when compared to the current generation of 4WDs that are mostly created to allow city dwellers to theatrically project their adventurous side. There is no fin-shaped antenna, keyless entry and push-button start, rearview camera or 10-way seat adjustments to show off to your friends.

Yet for those like me, it is exactly these types of throwback sensations that make this trail-ready ride great. The real fun starts when you bring this rugged off-roader into nature for a wet and wild weekend. Supported by an extended wheelbase of four 18-inch polished satin carbon wheels accompanied by antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, the Wrangler Unlimited is driven by an imposing 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine that serves up 284 hp and delivers up to 347 Nm of torque.

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Jeep’s Command Trac 4WD system splits torque 50/50 to the front and rear axles for off-roading or conditions where more traction is required, while the main case joint is clamped by 18 bolts for added structural stiffness. Combined with its electronic roll mitigation and electronic stability control, the 4WD allows the driver to be in complete control during the most demanding conditions.

The Wrangler Unlimited’s raised chassis has the capability to safely manage in up to 508 mm of water, offers up to 25 cm of ground clearance, has a 42.2-degree approach angle and a 32.1-degree departure angle, along with a 25.8-degree breakover angle.

Managed by a five-speed automatic transmission which takes it from zero to 100 km/h in approximately 8.8 seconds – commendable considering its bulk and box like shape – this variant is capable of towing up 2,000 kg when properly equipped.

First introduced back in 1941 during World War II, the early Jeep featured a gearshift on the steering column, two circular instrument clusters on the dashboard and a hand brake on the left side. Today, these artless pieces have been replaced with automatic headlamps, steering wheel controls, height-adjustable driver seat, heated power mirrors, cruise control, power windows, auto-dimming rearview mirror and under-hood insulation. But gladly, the iconic seven-slot grille remains.

There are numerous features that will please the sheltered city folks’ palate. While the Alpine premium audio systems with nine speakers – four 6.5-inch speakers, two weather-resistant tweeters and an all-weather subwoofer – is easily the main attraction, there are also the CD/DVD /MP3 player, leather upholstery, heated front seats leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, hard disk drive, a USB port, voice controls, front airbags and hill start assist to tinker with. The Wrangler Unlimited Sahara also comes in 10 options of colours for discerning owners to choose from.

I particularly found the centre console’s lockable dual-stage storage facility very handy, especially when we had to keep our phones, wallets and keys secured when the family’s out for a quick dip at the waterfall. Out from the wet and straight onto a pair of heated front seats, what more can one ask for?

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The most fun I had, to my sun fearing wife’s detriment, was undoubtedly the easily removable three-piece hard top. As I cannot recall any other vehicle that allows the driver to effortlessly remove not only the roof but the doors too, driving around looking cool like in MacGyver with no anxiety over the sudden rainfall makes it all worthwhile as the simple snaps made locking and unlocking the roof pieces fast and simple.

Much to my surprise, the fully-imported Wrangler Unlimited was clearly not found lacking in cabin space. Even with two long-legged adults in front, the back row comfortably seats three, including a child safety seat, while offering over 70.6 cubic feet of ample storage with the 60/40 split rear bench seat folded in.

At the end of the brief but truly enjoyable weekend affair with the RM328,899 (on-the-road without insurance) Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, I am glad to have fulfilled a boyhood dream of getting behind the wheels of a Jeep Wrangler and marking off another item from my bucket list.

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Roll on, not roll over

Electronic stability control senses when you begin to over- or under-steer and applies individual brakes and controls your throttle as needed to help put you back on track. Electronic roll mitigation determines when a rollover may occur and applies braking force to help reduce the likelihood of such an accident.

Additionally, Wrangler Unlimited offers all-speed traction control with special calibrations for driving in 4LO, a brake assist system and a four-wheel disc antilock brake system for improving vehicle control and decreasing stopping distances on both dry and slippery surfaces.

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Ranger runs wild in the city

Housing developers need to start building larger car porches for residential homes judging from the increasing preference for pickups as a family vehicle.    

fordranger-jan2015-0010It was not too long ago when these pickup trucks used to be exclusive to those sun-baked construction-site workers. They would literally jump up onto these colossal grime-covered off-road sloggers, throw their hefty toolbox behind and dive head on towards the hostile muddy terrains these vehicles call home.

That visualisation of a four-wheel-drive vehicle has increasingly changed over the years as more and more families rely on them these days for their family, recreational and daily use. While it evidently remains colossal and tough in appearance, its’ comfort, interior features and capabilities have evolved substantially since.

Leveraging on modern engine technology, passenger comfort and ease of drivability, today’s pickups are equally comfortable ferrying the children around, hitting the shopping mall or accompanying the family for a weekend getaway, as they are if utilised for carrying bulky construction materials or for towing around machineries and other heavy equipment.

fordranger-jan2015-0020Echoing this growing option for car owners is the Ford Ranger 2.2L XLT. Although almost four years on since it was first unveiled to the world, this four-wheel-drive pickup remarkably still manages to preserve its contemporary overall design and balanced exterior. Its most recent tweaks were to incorporate the handy electronic stability programme as well as an added peace of mind for parents with the IsoFix device for child-seat attachment at the back row.

Driven by a 2,198cc commonrail direct injection diesel engine and managed by a 6-speed automatic transmission with a sport mode that enables manual interjection, which I relied on frequently having found the auto gear ratio too distanced between each shift, the truck was perfect for our unfavourable flood-prone city road conditions; very often resembling their off-road counterparts

Though slightly deterred by its unhurried acceleration, I did however found the truck to very responsive when it hit the higher gears. When on the wide and long expressway, I can barely tell the difference between driving a compact SUV and this pickup.

fordranger-jan2015-0002Having conducted this test drive during the recent monsoon season, the Ranger’s 233mm ground clearance and 800mm water wading depth offered plenty of assurance, notably when this vehicle was used by the writer as part of a small aid convoy that assisted in transporting food and other essential items to several communities affected by the floods in Pahang.

For its primary intended purpose of being a workhorse and with a maximum torque of 375Nm at 2,500rpm, it can comfortably handle up to 1,341kg of goods on its back and is capable of towing up to 3,350kg behind it. Alongside handy features like load sensing proportionate valve, electronic brake force distribution, emergency brake assist and hill descent control, the Ranger is clearly designed for serious work

fordranger-jan2015-0018Seated on an 80-litre capacity fuel tank, the truck comes equipped with several features for a more lifestyle touch including auto rain sensing wiper system, electrochromatic inner rear view mirror, cruise control, remote keyless entry and a 4.2” colour display media/entertainment system incorporated with Bluetooth, USB port and voice control. It would have been a tad more impressive if the display console was larger and had more content to display on it.

Putting on the city dweller’s hat, there are a couple of trivial aspects to the car that I found wanting. First off is the comparatively smaller interior cabin space to fit in the whole family and their individual luggage, when equated to the horde of SUVs presently available.

fordranger-jan2015-0015Settled on a child-seat at the back, the hyperactive 2-yeard-old was not able to fully stretch out his legs despite mummy pushing her front seat as far front as possible. As most parents would agree, on an extended journey, an uncomfortable and disgruntled kid is the last thing you need at the back of car.

Possibly just a personal aversion or most likely unfamiliarity with such vehicles, another grouse I had was the distinctive smell and slight clattering emitted from its diesel engine. Adding these mundane whimpers together with the lack of a rear-view reverse camera – vital for such as lofty vehicle – are what prevented me from instantaneously trading in my timeworn jalopy for this RM99,465 ride.

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