Technology in the off-roading world has surely progressed quite a bit over the last 30 years. But just how much have today’s off-road rigs moved on from their ancestors? We wanted to see exactly how much it has progressed, by pitching old versus new in an off-road race.
Tommy, Andre and Nathan to each brought an off-road vehicle from different points in the past three decades. Representing the oldest, Tommy brought his 1991 Jeep Cherokee. Andre brought the newer TFL rescue rig: a 2004 Land Rover Discovery II. Nathan, representing the most modern off-road rig, brought a $30,000 Polaris RZR XP 4 Turbo S. The challenge: race up a challenging off-road trail to Rainbow Lakes outside the ghost town of Caribou, Colorado. This trail has rocks, ruts, mud, bumps and pretty much any off-road obstacle you can imagine. We decided to start the race at the trail’s first water crossing and the finish line would be the second water crossing. That’s a distance of about two miles.
1991 Jeep Cherokee XJ
Tommy, having the oldest vehicle in the race, set off first. His 1991 Cherokee cost him just $3,300. It has a 4.0-liter straight-six, solid front and rear axles and a locking center differential. All of which should be enough to bash through Caribou in a reasonable amount of time. Given Tommy’s lack of off-road tires, the Jeep ran into some difficulty in the muddier sections of the trail. However, Tommy did manage to complete the course with no major damage. His time: 11 minutes, 15 seconds.
2004 Land Rover Discovery: “The Rescue Rig”
Andre set off next in the TFL rescue rig. This 2004 Land Rover Discovery II was also a bargain, at least to buy – just over $4,000. Despite its known reliability issues, the Landy came with an incredible amount of off-road goodies. The previous owner lifted the rig and fit it with traditional springs, rather than the questionable air suspension.
There are ARB steel bumpers front and rear, a beefy winch and some chunky off-road tires. The Land Rover doesn’t have lockers on the axles, but it does have a center locking diff like the Jeep. Andre still had a tough time on this trail. However, his extra off-road goodies paid dividends for his time. He managed to beat Tommy with a time of 10 minutes, 41 seconds. Pretty respectable.
2018 Polaris RZR XP 4 Turbo S
This Polaris RZR XP 4 Turbo S is a masterclass in off-road tech. It has 32-inch tires, 25-inches of suspension travel, a 168 horsepower turbocharged engine and an active damping suspension that we’re pretty sure is powered by voodoo magic. This is a $30,000 (and up) machine, purpose built for dominating off-road trails like Caribou. It is no question that this will be faster than the other two. The question is by how much. To find out, check out the video above!
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