Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sacred Cow: Offroad coupe

In the spirit of being more positive, this edition of Sacred Cow will not criticize an overhyped notion, but rather praise an undeservingly overlooked one.

For a lot longer than I can remember, manufacturers have built concept cars in the form of offroad coupes. The oldest of the current crop is probably the Audi Steppenwolf - originally slated to see production as an A3 Allroad, but axed in Berndt Pischetzrieder's war on needless niche models. There have been plenty since then, notables including the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution (the shape of the Dakar hero that never made it to showrooms) and the Range Sportster.

It could be argued that the original offroad sportscar was the dune buggy, but the notion undoubtedly traces its roots to the Lamborghini LM002 at least. But, while I believe you could get Brabus to build you a 640bhp turbocharged V12 three-door Geländewagen if you asked nicely, proper offroad coupes have been notable by their lack of presence. The powers-that-be simply don't think there is a market.

In reality, there is. There are a lot of places on the planet where the road quality does not match the concentration of wealth. In the winter especially, SUVs are desirable even for urban use simply because they give you the confidence to proceed over rough ground - and city streets can be very rough. These cars are also very often devoid of passengers, and hardly ever carry more than one. It's hard to design an evocative, gorgeous SUV - personally I am partial to even the garden-variety Pajero, but the only one enjoying universal acclaim seems to be the Range Rover Sport. If you stop thinking of it as a two-box wagon on big wheels, things can get a lot more interesting.

In the age of platform sharing, it is not that expensive to spin a car like this off an established model line. It's purely a matter of will; unfortunately the decision-makers live in a whole different world from the target audience.

The only true offroad coupe you could actually go and buy was the Mega Track. But it was mind-bogglingly expensive, and only five are known to have been built.

Three of them are in Russia.


Anonymous said...


antyx said...

November 23rd. :P

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