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I still have to drive it. As Cliffy mentioned, that seems to be the main selling point. There was nothing in the looks or the setup that would prevent me from buying if it drives like everybody says.
The Europeans get another flavor of the Runner/GX470. There it is called the Land Cruiser. Take a look:http://www.cardesignnews.com/autoshows/2002/paris/highlights/h14-toyota-landcrsr.html
I think it looks pretty cool. Mostly I wonder why the American market won't support a 3-door SUV like the one shown in the pictures. I for one would like a shorter wheelbase, two-doors, and the more sporty look. Given the whole debate about third row seats, I guess I shouldn't even ask.
Most of these problems lie in the execution, not in the theory or concept. The fact of the matter is, the trend is towards IFS/IRS. Sooner or later, someone will get it right.
The big bug-a-boos regarding IFS/IRS (historically) in terms of off-roading have been: strength (or lack-there-of) and articulation (vertical wheel travel). Let's talk about those:
Strength: Well we all know about the IFS/IRS Hummer, with it's over 10,500 GVW. Did you know that Oshkosh*, the maker of severe-duty military and off-road vehicles offers vehicles that have fully independent suspensions? Granted these are purpose-built and very expensive vehicles. The point is: A) the military has confidence in IFS/IRS suspensions it can be done, and C) sooner or later the costs will come down so that that mere mortals will be able to afford good IFS/IRS equipped off-road vehicles. This has always happened in the past, I see no reason why it won't happen in the future. What it takes is new thinking to solving old problems.
Articulation: Again, new thinking is needed here. Most of today's IFS/IRS setups are very closely based on on-road setups, not designed as off-road from the get go. I remember a couple of years ago Toyota showed an off-roader built by Rod Millen(?) that closely resembled the old style Land Cruiser. It had IFS/IRS, and it had gobs of wheel travel. It was a cover story for Four-Wheeler magazine. It was an awesome truck. Most off-road racers have IFS with huge amounts of wheel travel. If you can do it up front, it can be done in the rear too. However, the vehicle has to be designed from the get-go with this in mind. You can't just graft, or transplant a long-travel suspension onto an existing vehicle.
I am absolutely convinced we will see very good IFS/IRS off-road vehicles that the average Joe can buy. It may take 5 years, or it may take 10 years, but it's coming... The public wants it (I'm talking about the 99% of the public who buys these things, not traditional hard-core off-roaders), and hard-fought *competition* will make sure superior setups are developed. We may not be there yet, but it's coming. Even if the VW Touareg turns out faulty, it will spur others on to develop better systems using the fundamental concepts that VW laid out. I think Toyota (or Honda) could build a superb Touareg—if they wanted to, and if the market demanded it. Who knows, maybe the 2nd or 3rd generation Honda Pilot, as it evolves, will be that vehicle?
* = http://www.oshkoshtruck.com/Check out the "Striker" (Airport section), and the "MTVR" (Defense section). These are rather "strong" vehicles (and with IFS/IRS), I would say...
Bottom line for me: I see tremendous potential for IFS/IRS in off-roading, and nobody is going to convince me otherwise.
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