Pimp My 4×4! But Start With the Tyres!


Four-wheel drive, 4WD, or 4×4 is a term used to describe a four-wheeled vehicle with a drive train that allows all four wheels to receive power from the engine simultaneously. The term has traditionally been linked to sports utility vehicles, or SUVs, which have been very popular in the United States, and are now becoming popular across Europe. The benefit of a car with four-wheel drive is that it allows for normal two-wheel drive on normal roads and superior four-wheel mode for low traction conditions such as snow, ice, slippery surfaces, mud or loose gravel.

In response to criticism by civic groups against using larger SUVs for daily urban trips, car manufacturers are now trying to position the smaller versions as green vehicles, with levels of CO2 emissions much closer to their conventional car equivalents than larger models. For example, Citroen recently launched the C-Crosser, only available with a particulate filter and frugal diesel engines.

These newer models are likely to be popular in Europe, where smaller SUVs have been more successful than larger models, and are likely to be a bigger driving force for sales of 4WD vehicles in the near future. Other examples include the Nissan Qashqai and the Renault Koleos, both combining four-by-four drive and limited off-road capabilities with the handling of a passenger car.

J.D. Power Automotive Forecasting estimated SUVs comprise 1.5 million out of 18.3 million vehicles, or 8% of the car market, in Europe in 2007. Of this quotient, 0.6% are small SUVs, 2.4% are large ones and 5.3% are medium-sized. By 2010, the SUV segment is estimated to grow to 10.1%, with medium growing to 7% and large slipping to 2.2%. By 2014, the SUV market is expected to increase to 11.2%, with medium-sized cars responsible for 7.6% and large cars for 2%. The total European new car market is then expected to be 21.9 million vehicles.

This is of course good news for car workshops. In recent years, TV shows such as MTV’s Pimp My Ride, have increased the popularity of overhauling, or, if you will, customising cars with things like game consoles, chrome wheels and faster engines. But before 4×4 owners go off trying to similarly overhaul their own vehicles, it might be best to invest in a new set of 4×4 tyres.

Donald Cheach, editor of Top Gear Malaysia, recently told the Malaysia Star: “The first thing I would recommend is definitely a set of better tyres. There is nothing wrong with go-fast upgrades as long as there is an equal effort to improve the safety aspect of the vehicle. The wheels represent the unsprung weight of the vehicle. Generally, the lighter this is, the more efficient the performance. Suspension should be looked at next, followed by engine upgrades”.

Ultimately, those looking to buy a new SUV in order to take advantage of its 4×4 capabilities, yet stay environmentally conscious, will find their needs well-met by upcoming medium and small sized SUVs, should they decide to pimp them or not.


Source by andrew.regan.2006@googlemail.com