In an era where even a hatchback with body cladding all around is termed an SUV by many people, there are still a few conventional SUVs that pack in go-anywhere ability and robustness with their ladder-on-frame construction and four-wheel-drive systems. In the affordable end of the market, there are very few four-wheel-drive SUVs that offer the versatility of a daily driver on urban roads and a smooth crawler on difficult terrains. Here are some of the four-wheel-drive SUVs that have become a very popular choice of wheels due to their off-roading capabilities:
Maruti Suzuki Jimny
The tiny compact four-wheel-drive SUV from Maruti Suzuki, the Jimny, currently holds the distinction of being the country’s most affordable 4×4 SUV. The five-door Jimny on sale in India comes with a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine under its hood, which produces 105 PS of power and 138 Nm of torque. This powertrain is offered with both 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmission choices.
Before the arrival of the Jimny, the Mahindra Thar was available as India’s go-to affordable lifestyle 4×4 SUV. Unlike the Jimny, the 4×4 Thar is available with both petrol and diesel powertrains. The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine in the Thar produces 150 PS of maximum power and 320 Nm of maximum torque, while the 2.2-litre diesel engine makes 130 PS of power and 300 Nm of torque. Both of these engine options are offered with 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmission choices.
The Force Gurkha was launched as a direct rival to the Mahindra Thar, but in comparison, it feels more utilitarian and lacks many of the comfort features offered in the Jimny and Thar. However, one thing it surely doesn’t lack is off-road drivability. The Force Gurkha is currently offered with a 2.6-litre four-cylinder diesel engine and a 5-speed manual transmission as standard, with the engine claiming 90 PS of maximum power and 260 Nm of maximum torque.
If you want a 4×4 SUV from Mahindra other than the Thar, and with more practicality, the Mahindra Scorpio-N is your answer. This three-row SUV from Mahindra is offered with a capable off-road four-wheel-drive system with the 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine option. Offered with 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmissions, this engine produces 175 PS of maximum power and 400 Nm of maximum torque.
Like the Mahindra Scorpio, the Toyota Fortuner is also offered with a four-wheel-drive system with its diesel engine option. The Toyota Fortuner 4×4 claims to produce 204 PS of maximum power and 500 Nm of maximum torque with both 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmission choices.
How does a four-wheel-drive system work, and how does it differ from an all-wheel drive? Exclusively engineered for SUVs to make them comfortable and easy to drive in the most grueling of terrains, a traditional four-wheel-drive system channels power to all four wheels of an SUV through working differentials at the front and rear, via a transfer case. All four-wheel-drive vehicles come with three drive modes – 2H, 4H, and 4L. In the 2H mode, the vehicle is primarily driven in the rear-wheel-drive mode, in which the engine channels the power produced to the rear wheels. In both 4H and 4L modes, the transfer case is engaged and connected to the front differential via a driveshaft, which enables the engine to channel power to the front wheels and rear wheels simultaneously. With the help of a driveshaft, the engine connects to these differentials and channels the power to the front and rear wheels as and when required. On the other hand, an all-wheel-drive system transfers the power to all four wheels all the time and does not have dedicated low-range and high-range modes as in a 4×4 SUV.