The best high performance 4×4’s for those in a hurry
The world of 4×4’s has come a huge way in the last 20 years. Today’s market wants more performance at a moment’s notice with no one wanting to wait to overtake. For 4×4 users gone are the days of smokey old trucks bumbling down country lanes. In this process, 4×4’s have become very big and consequently very powerful. For those looking get get the school run done in record time yet still have the size and performance to attend your local shoot there are now a plethora of options other than a Range Rover.
How high performance 4×4’s have changed
Since the dawn of time humans have wanted to go faster. This became evidently true with cars and vehicles. While this started with single seater race cars, events like the Baja rally and Paris to Peking rally heavily relied on off road sections. While this didn’t translate into the consumer market for some time it certainly started was the start of the process. Many companies sprung up taking the stock models from manufacturers and putting in high performance parts.
This started with bigger engines to make the vehicles go faster and bigger wheels for added traction. While this worked for straight line speed this didn’t make the cars much better overall. In time, manufacturers got into the trickier components like suspension and steering arms to improve off road compliancy. As we saw with the two previous iterations of G wagon, the new chassis transformed the ability of the vehicle far beyond the capabilities of the previous model.
For the present day we now have vehicles that are both fast and compliant. Other than the fuel economy there aren’t many compromises to be made if picking a 4×4 over a saloon or hatchback. Yet the best may still be to come as manufacturers look to bring the 4×4 into modern world with EV 4×4’s just around the corner. However, right now we might just be enjoying the swansong of high peformance vehicles before EV’s are mandated. This swansong whole heartedly includes 4×4’s and as you’ll se below include some remarkable vehicles.
Best of British
Muddy lanes and tight lanes are synonymous with the British countryside. For a long time these were taken at a meandering pace by some iconic JLR products. While fantastic at the time, this time is no longer its friend. However, with some clever engineering you can have the best of both worlds. Iconic styling paired with something more modern underneath creates motoring pleasure. You get the nostalgic shapes and feels while having modern running gear running the show.
Bowlers EXRS is the first stab at a road legal version of their famous off road machines. This off road first approach means compliancy off the tarmac comes as standard with the on road development coming afterwards. Taking a Range Rover sport and putting it on a pretty grusome diet leaves you without a lot of mod cons. However, what you get in return is a very angry, very powerful 4×4. Unlike most High Performance 4×4’s the EXRS doesn’t try and hide any of that performance behind any leather or luxury. You get two bucket seats, big tyres and a whole load of performance.
Chieftan Range Rover
Let’s say you were looking for something with a slightly more classic shape with some country heritage. You may have a time escaping the classic lines of the Range Rover Classic. Gorgeous in its time and iconic by today’s standard, this classic shape is now back out to play. While the original could be specced with a manual V8 by today’s standards it isn’t exactly fast. However, choosing a Chieftan restomod will ensure you’ll have all the power you’ll need. In standard spec, you’ll get a 430hp LS3 V8 with a 5.3 second run to 60. If that isn’t enough you can add a supercharger on top boasting 700hp and probably a second less to 60. If that’s not enough to overtake this harvest agricultural kit then we don’t know what is.
Everything’s bigger in America
Unlike us Brits, a 4×4 in America is a normal vehicle while a hatchback or SUV is a niche choice. Petrol is cheap, roads are wide and journeys are long. Equally, with V8’s and big power being an undoubtedly American thing, they know all too much about High Performance 4×4’s. If you’re in a hurry or need enough space to have an in car dinner party then an American made 4×4 is where your money is best spent.
The Jeep brand is synonymous with adventure, ruggedness and borderline boisterous styling. As the market demanded more Jeep brought out more. Falling under the Crysler umbrella, Jeep were able to take an off the shelf supercharged V8 and shoehorn it straight into their premium Grand Cherokee chassis. Having been an owner of their XJ Cherokee much has changed. This one will do a 3.6 second 0-60 dash compared to 8.5. While this model isn’t necessarily designed for rugged off road use it will certainly munch up some British B roads. With UK costing roughly 80-85K it may be one of the cheaper vehicles on this list. Equally, if you want a little more power a Hennesy model will add 300hp in exchange for 35 thousand dollars.
Velocity Ford Bronco
The Bronco in many ways can be seen as America’s answer for our own Land Rover Defender. Big, boxy and rugged these trucks were a staple of rural life stateside. Just like our Defender, once they became old they became expensive and people started restoring stroke modifying them. In the case of Velocity, this involves a ground up rebuild and restomod. The standard ingredients involve a bigger engine, better chassis components, brakes and other things. As these are made to order you start with a standard V8 all the way up to a supercharged model. Funnily enough, these top out at 700hp too and with the optional convertible, this likely feels pretty hairy!
The Beast from the East
There’s no doubt that the Asian market demands the most from their vehicles. The humid air, rugged roads and varying service availability makes a cars life incredibly tough. Through this, brands like Toyota and Nissan have made some incredibly competent vehicles. These hard climates pose a constant obstacle to these vehicles yet many have gone on and on for many miles. The key is simplicity in design and overengineered components prone to failure.
Toyota Land Cruiser from Restopower
The Toyota Land Cruiser is an incredibly capable vehicle. Most models command a serious premium even once they’ve ticked over 200 thousand miles. However, many are ripe for some fettling and modification to create something a little more special. In the UK, Restopower have a track record of building some High Performance Land Cruisers ready for the 21st century. Their latest project implanted Toyota’s UZ engine into the old FJ40 body. This swap took the power to weight ratio of the FJ40 into performance car territory. With some more engine work you can take the FJ40 into brand new BMW M4 territory. Naturally, choosing a more modern shape can open up more avenues for more power.
Nissan Patrol from Diesel Power UK
The Nissan Patrol has the foundations for an incredibly capable vehicle. In standard format you get a super compliant truck that will get you from A-B without any fuss. However, in the name of High Performance you’ll want to have a look at some of Restomods available elsewhere. The one that comes to mind are the wizards up at Diesel Pump UK. They’re famous for their Merceded OM606 engine that are perfect for big Diesel Horsepower. The owner himself drives a Patrol and with all the vehicles on the market this has to be for a reason. You’ll forgo many of the luxuries available elsewhere but you’ll have ontap performance at a moments notice.
The European market has long been where luxury and performance meet hand in hand. In many cases you can have your cake and eat it too. If you fancy some mod cons paired with a side of refinement then the European market may have you covered. Understandably, you have the big three, Audi, Mercedes and BMW. Between the three of them you can find vehicles throughout their history that still do the job today. New and old vehicles have all followed the same design principles, performance and luxury in equal measure.
If you’re looking for something to go toe to toe with the Range Rover then the Audi Q8 is a tough vehicle to look past. Audi’s Quattro system is famed for rally success and has been a staple part of the brand for decades. This is no different when it comes to Audi’s bigger vehicles including the Q8. The comparison between the Q8 and Range Rover is very close. The internal size is a difference of a few centimeters while the performance is comparable until you step in the S8 and SQ8 models. If that isn’t enough then consider ABT’s high performance rendition of the Q8 which puts down an extra 165 hp even over the supercharged Range Rover Sport.
Mercedes G Wagon “Wolf”
The G wagon is one thing but the Wolf variant is a different breed entirely. Developed as a ultra rugged military vehicle to put up with the harshest environments for wherever a nations army might end up. The same vehicle has taken one man on a 820,000 KM world tour over two decades. 172 countries including warzones on the cars original running gear is no mean feat. Expedition Motor Company will build you a bespoke Wolf with a full suite of mod cons but the original 97hp engine. Conversley, head up to Diesel Pump UK to get one of their engine swaps and you can more than triple this.
BMW built its brand on small on small family sedans until stepping into the 4×4 market with their X5 int he late 90’s. Since then BMW and the market have been lapping up SUV’s and 4×4’s at an alarming rate. While BMW have made 4×4’s bigger and smaller, the X5 has always been the best of the bunch. Their 4th generation model comes with all the tricks and gadgets you may need. On the road you can have up to 617hp pushing you to 60 as quick as an Audi R8. Off road, you’ll be able to tackle tricky obstacles in comfort and keep the exterior scratch free with your 360 camera. This is a best of both worlds scenario, should you need the power you have it under your foot while all the suspension trickery will guide you straight over most obstacles.
Picking a high performance 4×4 was often a choice of which Range Rover or a bespoke build from an aftermarket company. Coming into present day their are choices from most the major manufacturers to satiate these demands. From around the world there are vehicles that can get you from A to B in record time while offering you enough performance to get you around your local shoot.
The cars on this list are a blend of out and out performance and off road pedigree. Depending on whether you normally shoot over hilly or flat ground will dictate how much off road performance you need. Especially with the European cars, the top of the range models are often closer to the ground with stiffer suspension, two attributes not conducive to good off road performance. Step back a couple of tiers and you’ll find smaller wheels and taller suspension which should hopefully help you avoid any scraping.
If the choice was ours we’d be looking at some of the more “bespoke” options. The Bowler EXRS is a phenomenally competent vehicle with a raucous sounding engine. For something a little more understated we’d opt for the Wolf. With the options available from Diesel Pump we think you could build quite a nice daily vehicle while improving the MPG and Performance over stock. While we wouldn’t go with their full fat build, we think 300hp would be enough to surprise most other road users.
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