Friday, September 19, 2014

Are Lifted Cars the Next Big Thing?

MINI Countryman from the 2013 SEMA Show

As I was working on the Teal Terror (and accompanying trailer) this evening, was was thinking about how I've noticed an interest in smaller vehicles going off the pavement. I'm not necessarily talking about hardcore boulder-crawling off-roaders or buggies slogging through feet of mud. I'm talking about an increased interest in people adding ground clearance and capability to a host of vehicles, and not always 4WDs.

For instance, I've seen threads on Yaris World asking about springs that lift a vehicle rather than lower it. I've also seen threads about all-terrain tires for the Yaris. And, no, there isn't a company that I'm aware of that offers lift springs for a Yairs, and there aren't a whole lot of smallish 14" or 15" all-terrain tires. But it's interesting that I'm even hearing this conversation.

Primitive Racing Subaru XV CrosstrekThere's also the sect of the Subaru crowd that prefers to raise their cars instead of lowering them. Fortunately for them, there are companies out there offering parts to actually beef up a Subaru and make it more capable, case in point, the offerings from Primitive Racing. There are people out there lifting the Suzuki SX4, too.

Even while on my way to work this week I came upon a lifted MKIV Volkswagen Jetta TDI Wagon on all-terrain tires with a little roof rack. How cool! I wish I'd snapped a photo.

I know what you may be thinking. A Yaris or Jetta isn't even AWD, so why bother? As someone who has logged significant miles off the pavement over the last several years, I can tell you that having ground clearance is sometimes more important than having 4WD. And while having a drivetrain that moves all four wheels is clearly superior to a two-wheel-drive car/truck/SUV on dirt, a bit of ground clearance and a good set of tires will get you pretty far down many trails.

MINI Cooper rally car racer
Maybe this interest has been piqued due to the increased popularity in rally racing. Since most rally cars are made to slide along dirt and gravel roads, they need a bit more ground clearance. Make sense, no?

Perhaps some of this interest in more capable vehicles stems from the flood of compact and subcompact crossovers that are out there. Companies such as Jeep with its Patriot and upcoming Renegade; Subaru with its XV Crosstrek; and Fiat with its soon-to-be-produced 500X already offer a bit of lift and more capability than most compact crossovers. Maybe you saw the awesome Chevrolet Niva concept. But how about a Nissan Juke with a lift and some more aggressive tires, or a Volkswagin Tiguan for the gravel? I've seen the MINI Countryaman,Toyota RAV4s, Honda CR-Vs, Ford Escapes, and other crossovers given the off-the-beaten-path treatment, and I think it's great and a fresh approach to compact car customization.

I love off-pavement driving as much as I love asphalt-burning corner carving. It's neat to see an increased interest in venturing off the tarmac vs. the "MOAR LOW!" crowd. Will lifting be the next lowering in terms of custom car trends?

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