Whether it's Moab, Big Bear, the Rubicon, or any other 4-Wheeling destination you can name, you're sure to see them. What I'm talking about is the Suzuki Samurai, the beloved mini-ute that's been a favorite of off-roading enthusiasts since it's U.S. debut in 1988.
Unfortunately, after a suspicious smear campaign by Consumer Reports that claimed it was prone to rollovers, sales suffered, and was eventually pulled from the American market in 1995. Any vehicle, if not driven in its intended manner, could be considered "unsafe." Would the Samurai be my first choice for track day or an autocross? Certainly not. But it's perfectly suited to the narrow off-road trails. Places where Broncos, Grand Cherokees and even Wranglers sometimes fear to tread.
But I think the time is right for an updated Samurai. I'd even use the name again. With modern roll-stability control and other electronic safeguards, short of violently cranking the wheel at freeway speeds, even a compact sport-utility could be made relatively safe. Yes, I know how much some of you abhor the electronic nannies creeping their way onto off-roading rigs, but unfortunately, they're a fact of life. Learn to live with them, (or those of you with a technological inclination, to disable them.)
My wish list for the new Sammy would be as follows:
Well under 3,000 lbs. - Considering the original was barely more than 2,000 lbs., I'd say shoot for about 2,600-2,700 lbs.
2.0-2.4L Engine - 140-160-ish hp/torque. Okay, so it's not a power monster, but if you're only hauling less than 3,000 lbs., it should be more than enough. Maybe even a nice little turbodiesel with 120 hp/200 lb.-ft. Possibly even a V-6 option. My next item might help explain why.
4-door option - Okay, I know this may sound like selling out to the suburban hordes, but it's hard to argue with the success of the new Wrangler Unlimited. As long as it's not a two-ton pig, a tidy 4-door, with a retractable cloth or removable top, would be just the ticket to get showroom traffic streaming in.
Live axles, Front & Rear - Let's keep it basic & tough. Live axles, this time with coils at all four corners. Front & rear locker option. If you really want "cred" with the off-road crowd, make the Dana 35 standard equipment, with a 44 upgrade option.
What would your specs be for a resurrected Sammy?