As Road Test Editor for Leisure Wheels, I get asked one question very often: What is the best 4×4 out there?
It is, of course, a question that is very difficult to answer. There are a lot of great SUVs out there, but each has its specific niche.
For example, I love the Land Cruiser 70-Series. I think it is a great 4×4 for overlanding. I also love the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, since it is just about the best standard trail 4×4 in the business. Another new favourite is the Range Rover Sport, which looks great, goes well and is fantastically plush.
Picking one above the other, however, is impossible, since they were designed with different aims in mind.
That said, picking the “best” SUV is not the same as picking a “favourite” SUV. Selecting the best SUV requires objective thinking – weighing of pros and cons. And, as mentioned, it is only really possible to pick the “best” SUV in a specific segment.
Picking a “favourite” SUV, though, is very different. It is an emotional choice, which means that it is very often a silly choice, but the heart wants what the heart wants.
My absolute favourite SUV is admittedly a silly, impractical and horribly over-priced choice. But there is no other SUV in all the world that I covet as much. It is just the most striking 4×4 I have ever laid my eyes on.
I am talking of the Icon Bronco. It is not an off-the-shelf 4×4. Instead, it is a highly-customised version of a very old-school SUV. It is based on the 1966 – 1977 Ford Bronco, but very little of the original vehicle actually remains.
In fact, only the body is used. Icon, the creators of the Icon Bronco, search until they find an immaculate body that hasn’t been customised or cut to accommodate large off-road tyres. Once they find one, they remove the body, and sell everything underneath. All they want is the body.
The body is completely restored, and is also improved by insulating it to reduce road noise. The body is then fitted to an Art Morrison chassis. Fox Racing shocks and Eibach coils are used, which allow for more than 300mm of wheel travel. A Dana 4×4 axle is used at the front, and an even stronger Dana 66 is used at the rear. ARB lockers are also fitted to both axles.
What powers this off-road monster? The Ford Mustang GT’s burly five-litre, V8 Coyote engine, which provides 303 kW of power. It is mated to an AX-15 five-speed manual gearbox, and an Atlas II transfer case with a 3.0:1 low-range gearing ratio, or an optional 5.0:1 ratio, is installed.
The interior remains very basic, but everything is fabricated to the highest calibre. According to Icon, the interior is inspired by Bell & Ross watches.
As you can imagine, the Icon Bronco isn’t cheap. It costs around US$150 000, which is an absurd price for such an old-school SUV. But the fact of the matter is, the Icon Bronco only looks old-school. It is actually a pretty modern SUV, which is what makes it so perfect. It looks like tose characterful 4x4s of old, but it runs on brand-new underpinnings, which provides the best of both worlds. Is there a cooler 4×4 in the world? I don’t think so.