During my apprentice days, I came across the KISS principle. You found out what this meant as soon as you tried to offer up a complicated solution to a problem and met with the answer, “K(eep) I(t) S(imple) S(tupid)!”
So why can’t some manufacturers of vehicles that send their products to this region still follow this principle. For instance, take the old series Land Rovers or the early Landcruisers. I know, they may be basic, noisy and uncomfortable (no chance of falling asleep at the wheel though) but they were reliable, slow in relationship to modern vehicles (less likely of accidents / rollovers) had, manual steering and non servo brakes (no need for expensive gym fees), 2-60 air conditioning, 2 windows open 60 k.p.h. (no need to install an expensive sauna) and you became an apprentice to Macguiver by being able to fix your vehicle with a tool kit that contained a bent spoon and a Big G!
Good solid vehicles that were easy to maintain and find spares for easily. Simple to operate part time 4wd selection, although some did get confused by the different coloured knobs (don’t even go there!) on Land Rovers even though the instructions were clearly printed on a plate on the gearbox bulk head. It was all mechanical; simple levers. You knew you were driving. You had no choice but to get feedback from the vehicle.Then refinements started to take place.
The Range Rover came into being quickly followed by the 110. Coil springs making the ride more comfortable and the vehicle more off road capable. And Full Time 4wd with a lockable centre differential. Here then starts the start of the confusion from what I’ve seen. Although these vehicles were still pretty basic by today’s standards a lot of folks did not understand what this centre differential lock was for and in my opinion led to expensive repair bills and rollovers on unsealed roads. The operation of a vehicle with a high centre of gravity that could go quicker had started to get more complicated and for this type of environment supplement “more dangerous”.
Toyota still kept on making relatively basic 4wd vehicles but concentrated on making the vehicle more comfortable for the occupants with more refinements and larger engines which unfortunately made these reliable vehicles go faster. They hence started to take over the 4wd market place. But you only have to look at the original Hilux to realise what a fairly large, refined diesel engine could do to a basic vehicle that had a high centre of gravity. Yep, a commonly rolled 4wd vehicle! Enter independent front suspension. Mitsubishi, to my knowledge, were the first to fit it on the Pajero. A 4wd vehicle that, as rumour has it, was designed by women for women. Hence a high, comfortable, seat position whilst still maintaining ease of entry and exit. Easy and good to drive. But off road capability was compromised.
These days, there are a myriad of 4wd drive vehicles to choose from, all boasting more refinements than the other. Differing types of 4wd drive train; part time, full time, select-a-track, hybrid, viscous couple centre differentials, limited slip differentials, locking differentials and manual, automatic and electric free wheeling hubs. Confused? Sure why not. You get different and sometimes completely wrong (read dangerous) information on these more complicated aspects of 4wd vehicles. My advice is KISS as much as possible. Contrary to what Dr. Stockley (at the Surgery) says it won’t make you pregnant!
I recently had the pleasure of driving one of the modern types of 4wd vehicles. It had Advanced Cornering Enhancement, Electronic Traction Control, Downhill Descent Control, ABS and you could program into the vehicle the type of terrain and it would alter the engine toque and power to suit. Hopefully you never bump into anything when off roading otherwise you could be smothered by airbags from the front, the roof and from the doors it seems! Now I must admit, as an avid fan of road safety, most of these safety devices save lives. So, accept that progress in 4wd refinements can be a good thing but what about the humble seatbelt? Countries still find it hard to convince their driving population to wear them. Also, has some of the thought been taken out of driving? Do modern vehicles encourage distraction? Have they to some extent become an extension of our living room?
It seems to me that slowly, and sadly, driving is becoming dehumanised to the point where it will become boring which in itself can encourage unsafe driving habits, such as high speed driving, so as you can still get a buzz out of it.