When it comes to new vehicles, enthusiasts clamor for two things: Cheap sports cars, and honest off-roaders. The former is covered, more so now than in quite a while. The Miata stands strong. The Subaru/Scion/Toyota BRZ/FRS/GT86 trio has become common. And a new Z-car is on the horizon. But when it comes to legitimate four-by-fours, the options are slim. And even more so when you factor in the “inexpensive” request.
Consider this: Even in the age of the average vehicle selling around $36k, the Wrangler is pricey. And gets very pricey, fast. You can get into one for around $30k, but you can also option one to well over $60k. $35k gets you in the door at Toyota, but the 4Runner you want is in the $40-50k range. Nissan stopped selling the Xterra years ago, though still offers the Armada in the middle price bracket. And a Land Cruiser? All of $85-90k. A G-Wagen is deep into the $100k-figures. And yes, yes, the Bronco is on its way. But, shockingly, that about covers it for BOF 4x4s on sale in the USA today.
Sure, there’s a collection of others that claim hardcore off-roadability. The slew of Range Rovers come to mind. So does the Bronco Sport. And the Grand Cherokee. And all of the other Trailhawk-named Jeeps with their easily identifiable red tow hooks.
Though modern crossovers can be quite capable off-pavement, they’re not quite at the same level of capability as are their true, body-on-frame (or at least even transfer-case-bearing) brethren. Yes, a Grand Cherokee will go places most would never imagine. But a Wrangler will still go further. If not for the way it’s constructed, then for what its design allows to be added afterward.
It also bears mentioning that many of the most capable vehicles today are able to claim such thanks largely to computers. Land Rover, for example, is the king of this. The new Defender is a marvel of modern technology. And will, unquestionably, be more difficult to repair than an older Defender. Not to mention, harder to work on due to the electronics involved. Needless to say, the simple four-by-four is a thing of the past. The 4Runner and Wrangler are as close as it gets.
All of this leaves an opening for a new vehicle to enter the market. Currently, on sale as the UAZ Patriot, this is the introduction of a new-for-the-USA four-wheel-drive SUV that could capitalize on a segment that has, as of late, begun to disappear. It’s a return to form for what we used to know of the rough-and-tough four-by-fours. Built on a body-on-frame construction, it has the bones of a real 4WD vehicle. A two-speed transfer case is standard, and a locking rear differential is an option. As is a manual transmission. It (or 6-speed auto) will be mated to a 150-hp, torque-figure-unavailable four-cylinder gas engine.
On the tech front, UAZ/Bremos has come out swinging. A 7″ touchscreen, backup camera, LED DRLs, front and rear heated leather seats, and a heated steering wheel all come standard. So does an air-conditioned glovebox, WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth, and so on. Off-Road mode, Hill Hold Control, and more are there from the get-go.
The company is serious about its SUV’s off-road chops. The specs might not be as strong as some other offerings, but they’re stout. The Taos/Patriot has 8.26″ of ground clearance, 19.68″ of water fording ability, a 35-degree approach angle, and a 30-degree departure angle. All of which can be improved with the optional accessories, of which there are aplenty: Snorkel, bumpers, winches, and even lift kits will be available from the selling dealerships.
I don’t doubt for a second that there will be skepticism about a Russian-backed vehicle and its merits when it comes to data broaching. We discussed this on the Off the Road Again Podcast and there is definitely a bit of a question regarding this. The other major question is the powertrain. It’s not big power and it’s not extremely futuristic. It just kind of is. But for the off-road community, it’ll suffice. The same goes for its intended purpose.
If nothing else, it reminds me of the selection of 4x4s from the 1990s and 2000s. Isuzu Trooper, Nissan Xterra, Mitsubishi Montero, and so on. Simple, honest, rugged, and, relatively, cheap. It might not, and likely never will be, a huge sales hit, but supposedly it’s going to be on sale here. And for that, we should be excited. Now we all just have to put our money where our mouths are and actually buy the damn thing.