1994 Luxury SUV Comparison Test



From the March 1994 concern of Automotive and Driver.

Hark again with us for a second to the early days of the Jeep Grand Wagoner, which appeared in 1963 as the primary of a brand new breed—a utility car that wasn’t descended from a truck. In these days sport-utility autos have been huge, unhealthy, and ugly. Few folks would brag about proudly owning these highway crushers, which have been relegated largely to winter however when extra respectable varieties have been caught at house enjoying canasta. Again then, sport-utility vans did not should be engaging, or refined, and even notably well-made.

However the explosive development of the sport-utility market has, inevitably, caused some cross-breeding between probably the most rugged of the mudders and probably the most subtle of sedans. With greater than one million offered every year (1,132,177 in 1992), sport-utes have turn into major home equipment liable for taking the hazard out of snowdrifts in addition to shuttling to work and play. Requested to pinch-hit for passenger vehicles, they’ve assumed the urbane qualities of among the best sedans with out denying their earthy heritage.

This new area of interest of gentrified vans that we have gathered right here—the Isuzu Trooper LS, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Restricted, the Ford Explorer Restricted, the Mitsubishi Montero SR, the Vary Rover County, and the Toyota Land Cruiser—mark the spot the place off-road functionality and carlike luxurious collide.

Since they’re used most frequently as vehicles—their makers say solely about 5 p.c are ever deliberately taken off the pavement—we put this gang of six by our conventional comparison-test procedures. Then we threw some dust into the equation. Along with driving them on highways and on back-road loops of the Vermont woods—together with relaxation stops at Goshen’s beautiful Blueberry Hill Inn mattress and breakfast and the sensationally low-key Trapp household lodge in Stowe—we additionally tossed in two days’ price of off-road driving instruction with the chaps at Rovers North. With their experience, we realized the finer factors of winching and snatching.

The most important shock: whereas most of those autos compromised their off-road talents for the sake of on-road efficiency, all of them remained surprisingly adept at climbing out of the slop. Just a few of them—and one particularly—squarely hit the cross-hairs of luxurious and flexibility. Which of them, you ask? Properly, here is how they completed. —Martin Padgett Jr.

sixth Place: Ford Explorer Restricted

Aussies invented ‘roo bars, which aren’t lager lounges for marsupials crossed with pogo sticks, however grille guards in opposition to kangaroo encounters of the worst sort. Received that? The Ford Explorer as a substitute sports activities “poo’bars”—as in “to have interaction four-wheel­ drive and lock the diffs, simply poosh the 2 little bars on the sprint.” These useful push bars rank among the many Ford’s greatest options. But our newest drive tells us this outback­-going creature wants updating. Quickly.

HIGHS: Lowish value, pushbar drivetrain controls, good-looking inside, first rate ergonomics.
LOWS: Lack of floor clearance, lunky suspension, boring engine, knee-poke shift lever.
VERDICT: Wants a full re-do.

The Ford has led the home sport­-utility-vehicle section in gross sales and satis­faction. Now it has been round for 4 years, and faces newer—if pricier­—imports. The “new” Restricted lends an “enhanced stage of luxurious look and comfort options”—superficial add­-ons in opposition to some sport-utility autos which might be extra full of life and succesful.

The Ford is at its greatest toodling round. Ask extra and the Explorer reveals brief­falls in floor clearance, suspension, construction, and powertrain. The entrance dif­ferential and rear suspension grasp low, which can trigger an actual hangup on huge rocks and sharp crests. The “Twin-Trac­tion Beam” entrance suspension is commonly off the beam in retaining contact with terra infirma. The construction twists and creaks. The working boards add weight and bulk. (The colour-banded entrance bumper additionally attracts sorry feedback.) Worse, the Ford is brief on towing factors.

The Explorer’s 4.0-liter V-6 tells you it is sad. Overworked and below­-deadened, it wins the John Deere-sound­alike contest. You should press arduous on the stiff throttle although you get lazy response in return. Nonetheless, this may be useful when getting underway on slimy terrain.

The Explorer’s greatest function stays its inside. It is good-looking and its ergonomics are typically good. Alas, the column-mounted shifter for the four-speed automated’s PRNDL (say prin-duhl) pokes the motive force’s knee (say OUCH!) when levered all the way down to Low—a “Low” level since first gear is used off-road to manage steep descents.

The Explorer’s dealing with is commonly lunky, its really feel tippy, and its steering is just too limp for {smooth} transitions from tight turns to straight forward. The suspension is bobby, typically using poorly. A heaviness hangs over its conduct. And the Ford hangs up typically on off-road obstacles.

The Explorer’s lack of deftness positioned it no higher than the mid-pack in any of our efficiency checks. Extra typically it completed close to or on the backside, the place it ran aground in our hearts and on our charts. —Larry Griffin

1994 Ford Explorer Restricted
160-hp pushrod V-6, four-speed automated, 4435 lb
Base/as-tested value: $29,020/$30,100
60 mph: 11.0 sec
1/4 mile: 18.3 sec @ 75 mph
Braking, 70­–0 mph: 198 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.66 g
C/D noticed gasoline financial system: 17 mpg

fifth Place: Isuzu Trooper LS

Though our Trooper is generally unchanged from its profitable kind in our final sport-utility vehicle comparison in May 1992, it was outgunned on this take a look at by pricier off-roaders. The massive Isuzu is snug to journey in, and due to this fact likable. However two weak spots turned obvious when put next with the opposite 5 autos on this take a look at.

HIGHS: Glorious match and end, good management responses, assured dealing with.
LOWS: Rudimentary part-time four wheel drive system, boring styling.
VERDICT: A high-quality wagon with a restricted mission.

First, an aesthetic value have to be paid in change for the Trooper’s spacious inside, which is second solely to the colossal Land Cruiser’s out there area. The five-door Trooper (a shorter three-door model is on the market) is about an inch shorter and narrower than a five-door Ford Explorer, however there are six extra cubic ft inside. That is due largely to the Trooper’s peak benefit of 5.5 inches over the Explorer. As soon as contained in the Trooper, you instantly sense that terrific area benefit, however it’s area wrapped by sheetmetal devoid of curves, sheetmetal with out an attractive form. Standing side-by-side with the low-slung Jeep and the bulging-rendered Montero and even the Land Cruiser, the Trooper verges on the homely.

Second, the trooper’s part-time four-wheel-drive system is much less helpful in all kinds of driving circumstances than the methods of its rivals. The Jeep, Vary Rover, and Toyota all have splendid full-time four-wheel-drive methods; the Montero and Explorer have part-time methods that may be engaged at freeway speeds. The Trooper has an archaic part-time system that does not allow shifting into four-wheel drive until the automobile is stopped.

This creates a trouble when the motive force is cruising on a freeway that’s experiencing a change in climate circumstances. That driver additionally can not change to four-wheel-drive on an off-road path, or extra considerably, on a sloped snow-covered driveway, till they’ve come to a cease, which might value them priceless momentum in essential conditions. Briefly, they danger getting caught doing this.

We won’t shake the picture of how embarrassing it could be to get caught in your personal driveway in a $32,580 four-wheel-drive wagon.

Nonetheless, there may be an excessive amount of goodness on this wagon past the cavernous inside. The chassis of the Isuzu is inflexible and the suspension is softly sprung. The result’s a rattle-free journey, however that additionally means sluggish dealing with. Engine and highway vibrations really feel extra remoted than within the Grand Cherokee or the Montero. The Isuzu’s 190-horsepower, twin-cam V-6 pulls easily to its 6500-rpm redline, however solely the Explorer is slower to 60 mph. One take a look at driver described the Trooper’s squarish dashboard as ugly, however the exact really feel of all of the controls, and the meeting high quality all through, are tops on this class. —Phil Berg

1994 Isuzu Trooper LS
190-hp V-6, four-speed automated, 4485 lb
Base/as-tested value: $28,400/$32,580
60 mph: 10.9 sec
1/4 mile: 18.1 sec @ 75 mph
Braking, 70­–0 mph: 193 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.69 g
C/D noticed gasoline financial system: 16 mpg

4th Place: Mitsubishi Montero SR

Within the final couple go-arounds, the Mon­tero hasn’t gained any standing ovations. In our most up-to-date sport-utility take a look at, it positioned fourth amongst six autos, and a latest long-term hauler wasn’t precisely memo­rable. This 12 months’s Montero SR comes with a brand new and extra highly effective engine, and another refinements which have boosted its picture.

It is a unusual sight to see a tachometer on a sport-utility with a 7000-rprn redline. By way of sophistication, Mitsubishi’s all-­new DOHC, 215-horsepower V-6 may be very untrucklike, and took to high-speed inter­state driving like a greyhound after a jackrabbit. That is a great check in a car that not too way back could possibly be charitably described as a turtle—fast sufficient to have are available in second solely to the speedy Jeep in practically all of the acceleration checks.

HIGHS: Versatile driveline, beefy bod with energy to match.
LOWS: Vagabond steering, penalty-box rear seating, styling frippery.
VERDICT: Competent, and with the brand new engine, respectable.

The Montero’s versatile drivetrain gives probably the most selections of driving modes: rear-drive, and the same old excessive and low ranges in four-wheel drive—all manually chosen with a console-mounted lever. Plus, the middle differential may be locked utilizing the identical lever. A change on the con­sole additionally locks the rear differential. Nonetheless, it was harder to get the Montero going than its rivals, most notably on the off-road college’s hill of barely frozen mud, and once more on the packed snow of Smug­glers Notch cross. The SR’s spiffy engine, sarcastically, is likely to be a part of the issue. Even supposing the V-6’s 228 pound­-feet of torque peaks at a low 3000 rpm, the torque supply proper off idle appeared dif­ficult to modulate in contrast with the responses of the opposite vans.

The driving force’s seat is snug for lengthy journeys and gives a commanding view of the highway, in addition to the truck. Mitsu’s intelligent shock-absorbed driver’s seat has bitten the mud for 1994, though we solely missed it throughout tough off-roading. The dash-mounted inclinometer, altimeter, and compass can appear a bit pointless till you get misplaced on a darkish, wintry Adirondack highway, as did certainly one of your humble servants.

The Montero carried out unremarkably by the emergency lane-change course. However then, throughout one run, it bought our consideration after we virtually rolled it. Given the tipsy-turvy manners of most sport-util­ity autos in emergency maneuvers, we’ll chalk up that near-disaster to hap­penstance. As for its steering, we want Mitsubishi would exorcise the on-center useless spot, however no less than there’s an airbag for the motive force. “Wins the award for probably the most steer­ing play,” stated one editor.

The Montero SR completed fourth, because it did in our Might 1992 comparo, however this time it competed in a a lot pricier section. Now that is a step in the fitting route. —Don Schroeder

1994 Mitsubishi Montero SR
215-hp V-6, four-speed automated, 4742 lb
Base/as-tested value: $30,113/$31,332
60 mph: 9.7 sec
1/4 mile: 17.5 sec @ 78 mph
Braking, 70­–0 mph: 190 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.69 g
C/D noticed gasoline financial system: 16 mpg

third Place: Vary Rover County

Purists will almost definitely assume that some very good niceties—the smooth leather-based, the elegant wooden trim, the meringue­-smooth drivetrain—have in some way impinged on the knowledgeable off-road talents of this short-wheel-based Vary Rover County. For probably the most half, that’s unfaithful.

Within the years because the first version plowed onto the scene in 1970, the Vary Rover has obtained an Eliza Doolittle-style makeover that has elevated it from its util­itarian digs into the realm of luxurious sedans. Alongside the best way, it has acquired such dain­ties as power-adjustable leather-based seats, gen­uine wooden trim, and a bigger V-8 engine. The final two years have been watersheds for the Vary Rover. It gained an all-new long-wheelbase mannequin final 12 months, and a height-adjustable air suspension this 12 months.

Our short-wheelbase Vary Rover County got here geared up with probably the most com­plete listing of luxurious facilities within the group—making it, at $47,525, the most costly of our lot. Options that suck as much as the swell set embody seats that may be adjusted in eight instructions, are heated, and are moved about with an influence change; the aforementioned digital air suspension; and a 120-watt, ten-speaker stereo.

HIGHS: Mellow drivetrain, excellent off-road capability.
LOWS: Barely amusing Brit notions of physique rigidity and ergonomics.
VERDICT: Quirks apart, a virtuous mix of on- and off-road efficiency.

These perks did not diminish the Rover’s deft off-road dealing with. Its full­-time four-wheel drive has a lower-ratio gearset for trundling out of really deep muck. The throttle cooperates by tipping in gently, avoiding right-foot overdoses of tire-spinning torque. With the air suspen­sion at its larger setting, the Vary Rover’s strategy and departure angles are 33 levels, which make clearing deep ruts a snap. And may you end up high-centered, the air suspension can push down the wheels an extra 2.8 inches in its seek for traction. Aside from the sumo­-like Land Cruiser, the Vary Rover had the least problem extracting itself from the varied traps that the fellows at Rovers North driving college set for us.

It excels as an off-road car, however the Vary Rover scores nicely on pavement, too. The brief hood drops cleanly out of sight for an unobstructed view of the highway, whereas a big greenhouse makes it straightforward to again into parking areas. That unob­structed view is enhanced by the excessive seat­ing place. The air springs and good wheel journey (eight inches up entrance, eleven inches within the rear) added as much as the cushiest journey on the freeway, and the torquey V-8 and four-speed automated felt as civilized as a powertrain from certainly one of Germany’s uber-cruisers.

Apart from its value, which was $5894 greater than its nearest competitor, the Rover was solely hampered by spotty (albeit improved) construct high quality and hunt-and-peck ergonomics. The cruise management engaged intermittently, the metal hood fluttered at most speeds, and the gaps within the physique pan­els have been massive sufficient that we might see the inside door lights by them. The horn is positioned on the tip of the turn-signal stalk, the fuel-door opener is on the left facet of the steering column, and the seating place feels extra Greyhound than Orient Specific.

Regardless of the niggles, the Vary Rover embodies each luxurious and off-road capa­bility. It is the one sport-utility car, certainly one of us famous, that might be acceptable for retrieving the corporate chairman on the airport. Being British has carried out nothing for the cachet of Benny Hill reruns, however it appears to work for aluminum-paneled vans. —Martin Padgett Jr

1994 Land Rover Vary Rover County
182-hp pushrod V-8, four-speed automated, 4568 lb
Base/as-tested value: $47,525/$47,525
60 mph: 10.4 sec
1/4 mile: 17.9 sec @ 77 mph
Braking, 70­–0 mph: 213 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.67 g
C/D noticed gasoline financial system: 15 mpg

2nd Place: Toyota Land Cruiser

In the course of the days we spent treading evenly by Vermont’s beautiful woods, this Toyota got here to be identified affection­ately because the Land Bruiser. This rude appellation appeared to suit a car that cuts a swath 76 inches huge by the forest. Plus, it kilos Mom Earth with greater than two and one-half tons of rock­-crushing weight. Whereas none of those autos is strictly dainty, this one dwarfs all of them.

The Land Cruiser’s grand exterior encloses an unlimited cabin that may accommodate as many as seven individuals, or 91 cubic ft of stuff. The load is due partly to a granite-like physique construction, and consequently, nothing rattles, squeaks, or jig­gles—even when pounding over boulders and plunging throughout streams. Like different Toyotas, this one additionally earned excessive marks for its astonishing meeting high quality, intu­itive ergonomics, and complicated drivetrain.

HIGHS: Impeccable construct high quality, ergonomic inside, slick and easy four-wheel drivetrain.
LOWS: Cumbersome measurement, weight, and pricetag.
VERDICT: Consider it as a Suburban constructed by Lexus.

Full-time four-wheel-drive, with an simply chosen low vary and middle dif­ferential lock, make the Toyota splendid for the on-road buyer who is anxious extra about occasional unhealthy climate than the prospect of crossing the Rubicon. This technique, plus an simply modulated throttle and many weight urgent down on aggressive mud and snow tires, gave the Land Cruiser the sting in our climb-the-­snowy-mountain-pass take a look at. Nonetheless, critical off-roaders ought to select one of many smaller vans. The Bruiser is simply too huge to navigate between tight rocks and bushes and not using a group of spotters.

An enormous DOHC six-cylinder engine of 4.5 liters that packed a wallop of 275 pound-feet of torque was capable of ship solely mid-pack efficiency. New all-disc ABS brakes and a well-tuned suspension belie the Bruiser’s measurement—it got here to a cease within the shortest distance, and was second solely to the sprightly Jeep on the skidpad and thru the lane-change problem. We would like to see this difficult­ware utilized to a lighter, nimbler 4Run­ner-sized bundle.

The Land Cruiser’s sophistication and construct high quality supply some justifica­tion for its bruiser value of $41,623 and earn it a spot close to the highest of the category. Its sheer bulk, nevertheless, bars it from the winner’s circle. When the mud (and dust) settled, none of us might conceive proudly owning and piloting such an enormous truck when a smaller, nimbler, and extra enjoyable­-to-drive instance is on the market. —Frank Markus

1994 Toyota Land Cruiser
212-hp inline-6, four-speed automated, 5153 lb
Base/as-tested value: $34,653/$41,631
60 mph: 10.7 sec
1/4 mile: 17.9 sec @ 76 mph
Braking, 70­–0 mph: 178 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.72 g
C/D noticed gasoline financial system: 15 mpg

1st Place: Jeep Grand Cherokee Restricted

Our seek for probably the most luxurious and most succesful sport-utility ended about the place it began—on our 1993 Ten Finest listing. Just one sport-utility car has ever managed to snare a spot on our honor roll, and although it fell off the listing this 12 months, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, in V-8-powered Restricted trim, continues to be the one sport-ute that makes us overlook we’re driv­ing a truck.

When the mud-slinging got here to an finish, solely the Grand Cherokee had handed the on- and off-road efficiency pop quiz with flying colours. Many of the credit score due goes to the near-invisible operation of its full-time four-wheel-drive system, which has a viscous middle differential that locks up solely when further traction is demanded by spinning wheels. Due to it, and even using atop cozy Goodyear GA all-sea­son freeway tires, the Grand Cherokee ascended Smuggler Notch close to Stowe, Vermont, in deep snow with ease.

The Jeep didn’t shame itself on the Rovers North Off-Highway college both, regardless of being outfitted in upscale Lim­ited trim. Had it been geared up with the Up Nation bundle that features all-ter­rain tires, entrance tow hooks, uprated shocks and comes, and skid plates to guard the underside (a $350 choice), it could not have gotten caught within the mud practically as typically because it did.

HIGHS: Torquey engine, car-like really feel, all-season confidence.
LOWS: Thrashy valvetrain, wandering steering, gas-gobbler.
VERDICT: A flexible car with few compromises.

Although it really works remarkably nicely off-road, the Jeep carried out even higher within the area that sport-utility autos most frequently discover themselves: on the pavement. It outperformed each different car within the group by a snug margin. With its comparatively svelte uni­physique and smallish total measurement, the Jeep was probably the most car-like of the autos on this comparability take a look at. Though it seats 5 and hauls loads of baggage, it isn’t as tall as its rivals and is thus simpler to get into. The challenges of suburbia are simply met by the relaxed energy of a 5.2- liter V-8 driving by a well-mannered automated transmission.

This kind of versatility is surprising in a car marketed as a form of high-per­formance station wagon. It is a pity that the brawny V-8 broadcasts a lot valvetrain thrash into the cabin, however with out that noise, the listing of complaints can be a brief one: just a bit instrument panel reflection, some unconvincing wooden trim on the console (it is good elsewhere), and sometimes wandery steering. None of those are critical flaws, and none deter from its all-terrain fluency. It could not have returned to the Ten Finest, however of its sort, the Jeep stays the ultimate. —Barry Winfield

1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee
220-hp pushrod V-8, four-speed automated, 4101 lb
Base/as-tested value: $30,113/$31,332
60 mph: 8.0 sec
1/4 mile: 16.3 sec @ 84 mph
Braking, 70­–0 mph: 180 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.75 g
C/D noticed gasoline financial system: 16 mpg


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