Automotive

Powerful, intriguing and mind-bending off-road vehicles of 2016

Our pick of the best off-road vehicles of 2016
Our pick of the best off-road vehicles of 2016
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Land Rover Defender Heritage Edition with Alu-Cab Icarus roof system
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Land Rover Defender Heritage Edition with Alu-Cab Icarus roof system
Inside the Alu-Cab Icarus pop-up roof
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Inside the Alu-Cab Icarus pop-up roof
A peek inside the Land Rover Defender Heritage Edition at Overland Expo East 2016
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A peek inside the Land Rover Defender Heritage Edition at Overland Expo East 2016
Sand, dirt, mud, brush, water ... outside of a solid brick wall, not much stands in the way of the Sherp ATV
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Sand, dirt, mud, brush, water ... outside of a solid brick wall, not much stands in the way of the Sherp ATV
The Sherp ATV looks insanely powerful outside, but it relies on a very modest 44-hp four-cylinder
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The Sherp ATV looks insanely powerful outside, but it relies on a very modest 44-hp four-cylinder
Variable terrain? No problem for the Sherp ATV
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Variable terrain? No problem for the Sherp ATV
The Sherp ATV shows its amphibious side
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The Sherp ATV shows its amphibious side
Sherp ATVs ready for action
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Sherp ATVs ready for action
At 2,866 lb, the Sherp ATV's weight looks more "supercar," less "military vehicle"
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At 2,866 lb, the Sherp ATV's weight looks more "supercar," less "military vehicle"
The Sherp ATV makes small work of obstacles that would incapacitate other off-road vehicles
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The Sherp ATV makes small work of obstacles that would incapacitate other off-road vehicles
Those massive tires help the Sherp ATV roll over all types of land obstacles and swim at speeds up to 3.7 mph (6 km/h)
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Those massive tires help the Sherp ATV roll over all types of land obstacles and swim at speeds up to 3.7 mph (6 km/h)
Variable terrain? No problem for the Sherp ATV
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Variable terrain? No problem for the Sherp ATV
The Adventure package adds power and performance to the already-rugged Works Electric B14
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The Adventure package adds power and performance to the already-rugged Works Electric B14
The 82-lb B14 Adventure isn't quite as light or easy to transport as other folding scooters, but it's sure to be more fun in the dirt
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The 82-lb B14 Adventure isn't quite as light or easy to transport as other folding scooters, but it's sure to be more fun in the dirt
The B14 Adventure is powered by a 4,400-watt electric motor
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The B14 Adventure is powered by a 4,400-watt electric motor
B14 Adventure: "the new definition of all-terrain adventure"
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B14 Adventure: "the new definition of all-terrain adventure"
The B14 Adventure looks like a pretty fun alternative to more traditional powered off-road vehicles, like dirt bikes and ATVs
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The B14 Adventure looks like a pretty fun alternative to more traditional powered off-road vehicles, like dirt bikes and ATVs
Nissan went track crazy earlier this year
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Nissan went track crazy earlier this year
The American Track Truck Dominator snow tracks turn Nissan's crossover lineup into a fleet of snow machines
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The American Track Truck Dominator snow tracks turn Nissan's crossover lineup into a fleet of snow machines
Nissan introduced the Rogue Warrior at the Montreal International Auto Show in January, then followed up with Pathfinder and Murano versions at the Chicago Auto Show in February
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Nissan introduced the Rogue Warrior at the Montreal International Auto Show in January, then followed up with Pathfinder and Murano versions at the Chicago Auto Show in February
Nissan rips through the snow with its Winter Warrior lineup
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Nissan rips through the snow with its Winter Warrior lineup
Anyone hoping for a real Winter Warrior will have to find someone outside of Nissan to build it. Nissan made clear these are one-offs
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Anyone hoping for a real Winter Warrior will have to find someone outside of Nissan to build it. Nissan made clear these are one-offs
A different kind of ski lift, the Nissan Winter Warrior crossover
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A different kind of ski lift, the Nissan Winter Warrior crossover
Nissan goes Winter Warrior
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Nissan goes Winter Warrior
Beyond adjusting the suspension and structure around the tracks, Nissan left other mechanical equipment stock
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Beyond adjusting the suspension and structure around the tracks, Nissan left other mechanical equipment stock
Beyond the tracks, the Warriors also received matching body wraps and Nissan accessories
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Beyond the tracks, the Warriors also received matching body wraps and Nissan accessories
Nissan's trio of Winter Warriors
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Nissan's trio of Winter Warriors
Nissan's trio of Winter Warriors
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Nissan's trio of Winter Warriors
Nissan used the wild concept cars to draw attention to its crossovers and their strong sales
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Nissan used the wild concept cars to draw attention to its crossovers and their strong sales
Nissan doesn't show it in its photos, but the Winter Warriors also include hatch tents for winter camping
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Nissan doesn't show it in its photos, but the Winter Warriors also include hatch tents for winter camping
Nikola Zero all-electric side-by-side
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Nikola Zero all-electric side-by-side
Nikola Zero all-electric side-by-side
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Nikola Zero all-electric side-by-side
Nikola claims its Zero has up to 520 hp and 476 lb-ft
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Nikola claims its Zero has up to 520 hp and 476 lb-ft
Other Nikola Zero specs include 20 in of suspension travel, up to 200 miles of range and 32-in tires
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Other Nikola Zero specs include 20 in of suspension travel, up to 200 miles of range and 32-in tires
Nikola Zero UTV
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Nikola Zero UTV
Nikola Zero UTV
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Nikola Zero UTV
Inside, the Nikola Zero has a high-tech cockpit with two digital displays
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Inside, the Nikola Zero has a high-tech cockpit with two digital displays
The SkyRunner MK 3.2 covers all types of ground ... plus air
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The SkyRunner MK 3.2 covers all types of ground ... plus air
SkyRunner offers a unique adventure for land and air
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SkyRunner offers a unique adventure for land and air
The SkyRunner MK 3.2 can get a lot more air than this
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The SkyRunner MK 3.2 can get a lot more air than this
The SkyRunner can hit speeds up to 70 mph on the ground
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The SkyRunner can hit speeds up to 70 mph on the ground
The dual personalities of the SkyRunner MK 3.2
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The dual personalities of the SkyRunner MK 3.2
SkyRunner MK 3.2
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SkyRunner MK 3.2
With its ram-air parafoil wing, the SkyRunner reaches cruising speeds up to 40 mph
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With its ram-air parafoil wing, the SkyRunner reaches cruising speeds up to 40 mph
The SkyRunner cockpit has flight system info on the left and ground system info on the right
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The SkyRunner cockpit has flight system info on the left and ground system info on the right
The SkyRunner has a Rotax engine for the propeller and a ProStar engine for the wheels
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The SkyRunner has a Rotax engine for the propeller and a ProStar engine for the wheels
SkyRunner MK 3.2 airborne
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SkyRunner MK 3.2 airborne
SkyRunner MK 3.2 wears some tracks for snow and ice
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SkyRunner MK 3.2 wears some tracks for snow and ice
SkyRunner MK 3.2
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SkyRunner MK 3.2
Neematic's FR/1 was introduced as one of the world's fastest e-bikes at Intermot 2016
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Neematic's FR/1 was introduced as one of the world's fastest e-bikes at Intermot 2016
Part dirt bike, part mountain bike and part electric bike, the Neematic FR/1
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Part dirt bike, part mountain bike and part electric bike, the Neematic FR/1
The Neematic features a 20-kW motor, quite powerful by e-bike standards
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The Neematic features a 20-kW motor, quite powerful by e-bike standards
Neematic plans to launch a pre-order campaign next year
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Neematic plans to launch a pre-order campaign next year
The Yamaha T7 concept features a four-projector LED headlamp
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The Yamaha T7 concept features a four-projector LED headlamp
Yamaha T7 concept
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Yamaha T7 concept
Yamaha powers the T7 concept with a specially developed version of its 700cc CP2 engine and gives it a custom-made Akrapovič exhaust
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Yamaha powers the T7 concept with a specially developed version of its 700cc CP2 engine and gives it a custom-made Akrapovič exhaust
Yamaha revealed the T7 concept at EICMA 2016
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Yamaha revealed the T7 concept at EICMA 2016
The Yamaha T7 is designed to preview a more off-road-friendly mid-size adventure bike
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The Yamaha T7 is designed to preview a more off-road-friendly mid-size adventure bike
The T7 concept is inspired by Yamaha's XT600Z Ténéré 
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The T7 concept is inspired by Yamaha's XT600Z Ténéré 
Yamaha plans to get a T7-like production bike to market by 2018
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Yamaha plans to get a T7-like production bike to market by 2018
Yamaha T7 concept
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Yamaha T7 concept
The T7 has a carbon fairing and skid plate
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The T7 has a carbon fairing and skid plate
Yamaha T7 concept
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Yamaha T7 concept
Yamaha T7 concept
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Yamaha T7 concept
The SafariSeat uses four wheels and a hand-controlled lever system to muscle over rough terrain
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The SafariSeat uses four wheels and a hand-controlled lever system to muscle over rough terrain
There's been a whole lot of talk about changing mobility in first-world cities, but the SafariSeat focuses on mobility issues in developing countries
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There's been a whole lot of talk about changing mobility in first-world cities, but the SafariSeat focuses on mobility issues in developing countries
The Hennessey VelociRaptor 6x6 has 600 hp, or 100 hp per wheel
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The Hennessey VelociRaptor 6x6 has 600 hp, or 100 hp per wheel
Hennessey's full-blown VelociRaptor 6x6 treatment includes the extra wheels, engine tuning, suspension upgrades and new components
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Hennessey's full-blown VelociRaptor 6x6 treatment includes the extra wheels, engine tuning, suspension upgrades and new components
A lot of truck, a lot of coin: $295K before the engine upgrades
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A lot of truck, a lot of coin: $295K before the engine upgrades
Our pick of the best off-road vehicles of 2016
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Our pick of the best off-road vehicles of 2016
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We're not sure 2016 quite matched the sheer off-road weirdness of 2015, and its nomadic minivans, spider-like articulating go-carts and recreational tanks, but it definitely brought a vast variety of off-road vehicles for all tastes and types. From 6x6 trucks to flying ATVs, here are the best new vehicles for kicking up dirt, squelching through the mud, motoring over snow and otherwise having fun meters or miles away from dry, level pavement.

Otherworldly giant: Sherp ATV

The Sherp ATV makes small work of obstacles that would incapacitate other off-road vehicles
The Sherp ATV makes small work of obstacles that would incapacitate other off-road vehicles

One of the weirdest vehicles we've seen, ever, the Sherp ATV looks like something straight out of a video game ... or Russia. It does indeed hail from the latter, where it relies on gigantic 63-in tires to rove over any land obstacle in its way, then paddle through any water that might cross its path. So it'll rumble over rock fields and crunch small trees on its way to taking a swim through the river. And while it looks absolutely massive, the Sherp ATV's 2,866-lb (1,300-kg) weight and 44-hp 1.5-liter turbodiesel engine are quite modest in size. Just a wild ride through and through.

Get up, stand up: Works Electric B14 Adventure

B14 Adventure: "the new definition of all-terrain adventure"
B14 Adventure: "the new definition of all-terrain adventure"

Very different from the dime-a-dozen electric scooters we see virtually every week, the Works Electric B14 Adventure actually gets us excited about stand-up electric motoring. This high-performance off-road scooter puts its 4,400-watt electric powertrain to work punching through dirt and grit. Underbody protection keeps the hardware safe during 3.9-second 0-30 mph sprints and 37-mph (60-km/h) top speed runs. The scooter also folds, so it's much easier to get to the trailhead than a dirt bike or ATV.

Thrashing through the snow: Nissan Winter Warriors

We flirted with the idea of including the Kia Sorento Ski Gondola on this list, but then we remembered Nissan's fleet of powder-pillaging utility vehicles. Not only did Nissan beat Kia to the idea of creating a tracked crossover, it actually built an entire lineup and unleashed them all on actual snow.

Nissan's trio of Winter Warriors
Nissan's trio of Winter Warriors

Nissan's Pathfinder, Murano and Rogue Winter Warriors rely on Dominator snow tracks for the ultimate in winter traction. Nissan took pains to keep other mechanical and structural elements as close to stock as it could while accommodating the tracks. With their hatch tents, the Winter Warriors could have been dark horse contenders for our motorhome round-up, but we think they fit in better here.

Audaciously amped-up ATV: Nikola Zero

When we first heard Nikola Motor Company's plan for a 520-hp all-electric UTV, we thought, "sure, we'll ride that down the trail on those days when our unicorn is under the weather." But so far, the startup with promises much bigger than its name recognition is moving along with the design. Over the course of the year, the Zero went from rendering to 520-hp prototype. With roof-mounted solar panels and a choice of 72- and 107-kWh battery packs, the Zero will purportedly drive for between 100 and 200 miles (161 and 322 km) and complete a supercar-like 3-second 0-60-mph (96.5 km/h).

Other Nikola Zero specs include 20 in of suspension travel, up to 200 miles of range and 32-in tires
Other Nikola Zero specs include 20 in of suspension travel, up to 200 miles of range and 32-in tires

The Zero is several times more powerful and expensive than the typical UTV and is really in a class of its own ... or it could be, if Nikola gets it to production. Though the startup has seemingly been moving along with its bold plans, which also include a powerful, long-range fuel cell semi-truck, we remain skeptical of any overnight company touting such extreme goals. Maybe the $37,000 production Zero will make our "best of 2017, 2018 ..." list, or maybe it'll be conspicuously absent during voting.

Off-land vehicle: SkyRunner MK 3.2

We've seen plenty of off-road vehicles that can tackle various types of earth and some that can master earth and water. The SkyRunner MK 3.2 belongs to a very select class that can leave the rugged earth completely for the air.

With its ram-air parafoil wing, the SkyRunner reaches cruising speeds up to 40 mph
With its ram-air parafoil wing, the SkyRunner reaches cruising speeds up to 40 mph

This unique vehicle is part dune buggy and part light aircraft, relying on independent powertrains to send it ripping through the dirt at up to 70 mph (113 km/h) and soaring through the sky at up to 52 mph (84 km/h) with help from the parafoil wing.

A full tank will get you 240 miles (386 km) on the ground or 120 nautical miles (222 km). The vehicle's propeller doubles as a self-rescue system for thrusting it out of sticky situations on the ground, like when its wheels are spinning in the mud. This one is definitely the "2016 vehicle we'd most like to do an extended test on."

Motored mountain bike mayhem: Neematic FR/1

Neematic's FR/1 was introduced as one of the world's fastest e-bikes at Intermot 2016
Neematic's FR/1 was introduced as one of the world's fastest e-bikes at Intermot 2016

The super e-bike category keeps growing. This year we tried our hand at the very convincing Stealth Bomber and watched as that bike got some big, new competition from Lithuania. An adrenaline-pumping cross between a dirt bike, an electric bike and a mountain bike, the Neematic FR/1 packs a super-potent 20-kW mid-drive.

That's good for an estimated 62 mph (100 km/h) top speed, one of the fastest speeds we've seen for an e-bike. This "top performance e-bike for rough terrain" will travel between 31 and 62 miles (50 and 100 km) on a full charge of its 2.2-kWh battery pack. Pre-orders are supposed to start next year, but again, when it comes to insane vehicles from startups we've never heard of, skepticism is prudent.

Stay-over Rover: Defender Heritage Edition with Icarus pop-top

Land Rover Defender Heritage Edition with Alu-Cab Icarus roof system
Land Rover Defender Heritage Edition with Alu-Cab Icarus roof system

It was a pretty big year for iconic 4x4s around the world. The Jeep Wrangler blew out 75 candles; the Toyota Land Cruiser morphed into this insane 2,000-hp land rocket; and the Land Rover Defender ended production after 68 years. The Defender has been conspicuously absent from the US market for two decades, so you can imagine our blissful surprise when we stumbled upon an all-new Heritage Edition in the mountains of North Carolina.

Not only was this a cool sight in itself, but this particular model flaunted an Alu-Cab Icarus pop-up roof with built-in bed, making it an overlander equipped to string together days and weeks of exploratory off-road adventure. In this final year of the Defender, this example exemplifies the iconic 4x4's spirit better than any other we saw.

More-adventure bike: Yamaha T7 concept

Yamaha's T7 concept got adventure riders drooling at EICMA this year. Channeling the great XT600Z Ténéré, the T7 concept aims to provide a balance of baggage-hauling mileage-clocking and sharp, agile off-road handling.

Yamaha T7 concept
Yamaha T7 concept

As Yamaha explains, many a mid-size adventure bike will treat you just fine on the highway, but it'll be less than friendly in the dirt and rock. The T7 aims to end those off-road deficiencies with an all-new, lightweight chassis and specially tuned version of the 700cc CP2 motor. This bike screams out and invites adventurous souls to explore anything and everything on the horizon, pavement or otherwise. Yamaha plans to release a production bike in this vein in 2018.

All-terrain mobility: Uji SafariSeat

The SafariSeat uses four wheels and a hand-controlled lever system to muscle over rough terrain
The SafariSeat uses four wheels and a hand-controlled lever system to muscle over rough terrain

We've covered a ton of high-powered off-road vehicles aimed at heart-quickening recreation this year but not nearly as many off-roaders constructed with the goal of helping humanity. The SafariSeat does just that as an off-road-ready wheelchair designed to help the disabled tackle their daily transportation needs in places where proper paved roads and sidewalks are lacking.

A regular wheelchair won't be of much use in a rural, pavement-free village, but the SafariSeat and its levered drivetrain, knobby tires and suspension make it possible to get around. Unlike other off-road mobility aids with high price tags, this one is designed to be as affordable as possible, and plans call for making the blueprints open source so that people who can't afford them can build them themselves. Uji's recent Kickstarter campaign tripled its goal a couple months ago, with more than 100 backers gifting one or more £200 SafariSeats to those in need.

Added limbs, sharpened claws: Hennessey VelociRaptor 6x6

How do you make the 450-hp 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor super-pickup even wilder? Adding another axle seems like a pretty sure means to that end, and throwing in an extra 150 hp just seals the deal. And who better to do that than Hennessey, creator of the world's fastest production car (unofficial).

Hennessey's full-blown VelociRaptor 6x6 treatment includes the extra wheels, engine tuning, suspension upgrades and new components
Hennessey's full-blown VelociRaptor 6x6 treatment includes the extra wheels, engine tuning, suspension upgrades and new components

In addition to the added wheels and power, Hennessey's VelociRaptor 6x6 upgrade program includes suspension modifications, new wheels and tires, new bumpers, a roll bar, and LED lights. We're not sure it's among the first 50 vehicles we'd spend over $300K on, but it'll start a conversation as quickly as any of the models on that list.

See more of these agile aggressors and mountain marauders in pose and dirty action in our photo gallery.

2 comments
Milton
That Sherp ATV is absolutely incredible. Its light-weight coupled with that massive tire footprint make it extremely capable. I'd like to see the same concept without tank-steer and with some suspension. But then again, suspension on a vehicle with such heavy tires is probably pointless (unsuspended weight)
Tom Lee Mullins
I think the Sherp ATV is really neat. I think the flying one is nice.
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