Off-roading is quite a popular pastime these days. Ask any automotive service technician and they’ll probably tell you that it looks like off-roading’s popularity will only increase among die-hard auto enthusiasts and average drivers alike.
What’s not certain is whether off-roading will grow primarily as a rock climbing and trail riding adventure, a racing sport, or a trend urban drivers will embrace just for image sake. We can get our best clue of what’s to come by looking at the vehicles themselves.
Truck Versus Jeep
The 2013 Lucas Oil Off Road Expo in Pomona, California was all about the Jeep. Those agile climbers were certainly present this year, too, but 2014 was dominated by trucks and racing.
We’re not just talking vehicles for classic desert racing, either. The biggest trend at the expo this year was Ultra4 racing which is a bit of a hybrid of classic racing and rock climbing. It only started in 2007, but now the annual King of Hammers Ultra4 race in the Mojave Desert near Johnson Valley, California draws 40,000 spectators and has even inspired movies.
While off-roading has always involved getting a bit dirty, Jaguar is attempting to bring a bit more class to the pastime. The luxury sports car maker is launching the Land Rover through its Special Vehicle Operations division.
It’s supposed to be a down and dirty off-road version of the Range Rover. They’re clearly going to have to make some changes to their design for it to work properly when people actually take it to the trails or the rocks. The question is how many alterations will Jaguar make?
As students in mechanic colleges already know, good ground clearance, wheel articulation and low-end torque are essential for off-roading. Otherwise, you risk damaging your vehicle or maybe even having to walk home.
While auto sales college graduates will surely be clamouring to make some good commissions off what is bound to be a robust sticker price, the question remains as to whether or not this will be a vehicle used for real off-roading on a frequent basis. It could just as easily turn out to be more of a tough-looking luxury car for urbanites who like the idea of leaving the city streets behind (even if they don’t actually do it all that often).
The Future is Wide Open
So will off-roading stay extreme as it continues to grow in popularity or will these heavy duty vehicles become urban style accessories like the Hummer? If it does stay extreme, will it be more about Jeeps climbing or trucks racing?
Maybe, just maybe, as off-roading increases in popularity, several versions of it will grow, multiply, and even merge together.
Do you go off-roading? What do you think the future holds for the sport? Let us know in the comments.