I drive a Jeep. Not a Cherokee, Grand Cherokee or Liberty mind you (although we do have a Liberty as our “family” car) but a balls-to-the-wall black 2000 Wrangler with dual lockers, Dana axles, an 8,000-pound Warn winch and nearly a year’s worth of mud and dust.
Besides the Liberty, we have another Wrangler. a red ’95 that is Amy’s off-roader. But my daily driver is the black Wrangler, which is about as basic as you can get in American iron. I’ve taken all three on trails that would make a mountain goat puke and loved every second of it. Ask Amy about the time we took the Liberty down the back side of Poor Mountain on the road marked “Not recommended for motorized vehicles.”
A sticker on the back bumper of my Wrangler reads: “Don’t Follow Me…You Won’t Make It.” Over the years, a number of Explorers, Trail Blazers, Trackers and Land Cruisers have tried but all fell back when the road ran out.
A few years ago, during a 27-inch snow storm in Washington, I came across a DC yuppie and his brand new Hummer H2 stuck in a snow bank on the Mall. So I lashed my back bumper to a tree and used the winch to pull him off the snow.
“I don’t understand it,” the yuppie kept muttering. “This is a Hummer.”
“Not really,” I replied. “It’s just a Suburban with big tires.”
I’ve found that four-wheel drive owners fall into two groups: Those who buy such vehicles because they actually intend to wander offroad from time and time and need the capability and those who drive them because they think its cool. Unfortunately, the latter far outnumbers the former.
Which is why junkyards are filled with broken remnants of SUVs that drivers wrecked because they didn’t understand the physics of handling a vehicle with a high center of gravity or thought having a four-wheel drive meant they could drive 50 miles an hour in snow or on ice.
Four-wheel drive vehicles are great for people who know how to use them but are as dangerous as a loaded guns in the hands of most of the idiots who don’t. You can put all the safety features in the world on a four-wheel drive vehicle and all can be easily defeated by a loose nut behind the wheel.