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Cheréne Pienaar: The best off-road vehicles 2011 – 2012

1 June 2012

Choosing the best off-road vehicles

The debate around the “best off-roader or 4×4” will never end, and Road Test editor at Leisure Wheels, GG van Rooyen, recently gave his two cents on the matter here. Now, guest blogger Cheréne Pienaar takes a crack at the question – what’s the best off-roader?

by Cheréne Pienaar

If you always dreamed about driving to the top of the steep Ouberg Pass near Sutherland, or trampling the vast desert hills of Sossusvlei with an unstoppable 4×4, it would be wrong not to experience the sheer power of an off road vehicle sometime in your life… preferrably before retirement.

Many 4×4 enthusiasts would agree that choosing the right off road vehicle is just as import as choosing the right spouse. Doing your homework by talking to ex-partners (reading reviews), dating the person (hiring a 4×4), and getting to know your potential road partner before you make a decision (test driving) are great ways to get clued up about what you are letting yourself into. Drive South Africa has referred to reviews on the best off road vehicles of 2011 to 2012 and are also offering most of these vehicles to hire.

Go ahead, make an informed decision and choose a road partner with enough grit to take you to Happy Ever After and beyond.

Top off road vehicles 2011 – 2012

Off roaders had a field day with many new and exciting off road vehicles being released in the past year and a half.

1. Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Reviewers all over the world raved about the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon that was released last year, and the Leisure Wheels team has one in their long term test fleet. Even Landrover fans would agree (though hesitantly) that it has “just as much soul as a Landy,” as pointed out by a fellow motoring scribe after the launch. “It is chunky, in your face, and there is a reason why you see more and more of them on our roads. This must be the most unstoppable vehicle you’ll find out there, and the facts prove it.”

“The current generation Wrangler (JK model) is one of the few field driving vehicles with fixed axles and coil springs as well as diff-locks in the front and in the rear. The Rubicon’s anti-roll bar’s front shaft can be disconnected at the push of a button for even better wheel articulation. The low gearbox’s 4.1:1 relation makes it possible to rev loudly at 0.8 km/h. Compare that to a Hilux’s 2.56:1.”

“And the bad news? I don’t own one.”

Wrangler specs:

Engine: 3,6-litre V6 petrol engine (209 kW/347 N.m)
Gearbox: six-speed gearbox, four wheel drive (part-time), high and low range
Performance: 0-100 km/h in 8,1 sec. and 159 km/h top speed; 12 litre/100 km

2. Suzuki Jimny

We at Drive South Africa recently test drove this nifty off road slicker ourselves and were pretty amazed at what this tiny machine could do. Do not judge it by its size as it can easily get you on top of that steep climb. The Suzuki Jimny seats two people and can be equipped with everything you need, from a fridge to a drawer where you can stack your clothes. This vehicle definitely deserves to be on the best off road vehicles of 2011 to 2012 list.

See the video review of the Suzuki Jimny at the bottom of the page.

Engine: 1,3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (63 kW/110 N.m)

Gearbox: Five-speed gearbox, low range
Performance: 0-100 km/h in 14,1 sec. and 159 km/h top speed; 7.5 litre/100 km

3. Toyota FJ Cruiser

The folks at Topcar are usually against anything Toyota, but they were surprisingly positive about the Toyota FJ cruiser. Journalist Aaron Borrill did not question its visibility but did question its performance. “The logic behind its success is quite simple: People want to drive something that stands out from the crowd, something the FJ Cruiser does very, very well, but just how good is it on the black stuff?”

Colleague Angus Thompson answers with condifence. “The FJ shares suspension parts with the 120-Series Land Cruiser. That means a high-mounted, double wishbone front suspension with coil springs and a stabiliser bar as well as a four-link rear suspension with coil springs, a lateral rod and stabiliser bar. The result is a massive 200 mm of front wheel travel and 231 mm of articulation at the rear. Even through the most arduous cross-axle obstacles we tackled on our off road evaluation in the Magaliesburg area, there was no sign or sound of chassis twist.”

Engine: 4,0-litre V6 petrol engine (200 kW/380 N.m)
Gearbox: Five-speed gearbox, four wheel drive (part-time), low range
Performance: 0-100 km/h in 10,18 sec. and 176 km/h top speed; 12 litre/100 km

4. Land Rover Defender

You can’t have a best off road vehicle list without mentioning a Land Rover.

The Land Rover Defender does Land Rover’s name proud if you look at the various reviews. Austrailian couple Stan and Marianne Rogers are doing a Cape to Cairo trip as I am typing this. Reading their regular updates, I stand in awe as “Tin Can”, their Land Rover Defender gets them to unimagined spots, such as the highest pub in Africa at 2784 metres above sea level!

Engine: 2,2-litre Diesel engine (90 kW/360 N.m)
Gearbox: Five-speed gearbox, four wheel drive (part-time), low range
Performance: 0-100 km/h in 10,18 sec. and 176 km/h top speed; 12 litre/100 km

Do you agree with Cheréne’s selection of the best off road vehicles of 2011 to 2012? If not, comment below and tell us what your top off road vehicle of 2011 – 2012 is!

Read Leisure Wheels Road Test Editor, GG van Rooyen’s take on the Best 4×4

About Cheréne Pienaar

Born and bred in Bloemfontein, this Free state gal is an obsessive reader and hiker and loves discovering… all the time. As an e-marketing assistant and copywriter she believes social media is the future and plans to conquer Africa one word at a time.