4X4 tires are changing with the times. No longer does 4X4 conjure up mental images of just off-road trucks with bawdy looks and big accessories, a new breed of vehicle has emerged with its own advantages. The Soft Roader.
Add to this, the changing demographic of off-road truck and SUV drivers, and you have a great excuse for creators of 4x4 tires to be granted license to go to town, literally.
Take a look around. If you didn't know better, you would swear there was a mysterious dirt track on every block, a rock-climb behind every garage and a river to cross at every set of traffic lights. SUVs, trucks and soft-roaders like the Honda CRV or Ford Escape are everywhere.
Buyers are looking towards larger, more adventurous vehicles to tantalize their yearning for the wild. Maybe most of these SUVs and trucks that inhabit suburbia will not see the wild for some time, or ever. But, consumers like you and me want them, maybe just in case a day comes when we want to get back to nature. Maybe just because we feel safer in them. Maybe it’s because Johnny Smith has one and we want one, too.
Car builders are finding that many consumers want something with off-road credibility, but with similar manners to a sedan or station wagon when on the road. This has meant the development of quieter street and all terrain tires with a softer ride to suit SUVs and trucks.
It has also sparked the rise of the soft-roaders, crossover vehicles that are refined, compact to mid size SUVs.
Before we get too excited though, most soft-roaders have modest off-road capabilities. I doubt if you would ever see one rock crawling or mud racing, but I also doubt an owner of such a vehicle ever intended to do such things.
Soft-roaders are street dwellers with relatively high gear ratios and all wheel drive, but no two-speed transfer case like a true 4X4. True off-roaders, are engineered with power trains, suspension, brakes and traction devices built for heavy-duty service. True off-roaders have the ability to use low range gears to get over and through very challenging surfaces that soft-roaders have no chance of traversing.
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The other side of the coin is the number of people purchasing true off-roaders, like Jeep Cherokee or Landrover, and giving them more acceptable street manners by equipping them with street or mild all terrain 4x4 tires.
This is quite practical if you know that some day you will use the vehicle off-road and, for now, wish to compromise for the sake of durability and comfort on the street.
Tires continue to evolve, but there will never be one true miracle tire that does everything perfectly. A soft-roader is a great option if you are looking at traveling the occasional dirt track and want to be sure you will get back out. Along the way, you’ll enjoy sedan-like refinement, ride and interior design.
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