Automotive

Down and dirty with the off-roaders of IAA Frankfurt 2019

Down and dirty with the off-ro...
Mercedes-Benz highlights the G-Class individualization program, G manufaktur
Mercedes-Benz highlights the G-Class individualization program, G manufaktur
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Mercedes-Benz highlights the G-Class individualization program, G manufaktur
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Mercedes-Benz highlights the G-Class individualization program, G manufaktur
G manufaktur offers more than a million possible G-Class combinations, according to Mercedes
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G manufaktur offers more than a million possible G-Class combinations, according to Mercedes
The ID. Buggy wasn't the newest Volkswagen Group electric off-roader, but it was the brightest
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The ID. Buggy wasn't the newest Volkswagen Group electric off-roader, but it was the brightest
Volkswagen originally introduced the ID. Buggy at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show
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Volkswagen originally introduced the ID. Buggy at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show
The ID. Buggy is powered by a 201-hp rear electric motor and 62-kWh battery pack
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The ID. Buggy is powered by a 201-hp rear electric motor and 62-kWh battery pack
Audi's oddball AI:Trail quattro is the all-new VW Group e-off-roader at the Frankfurt show
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Audi's oddball AI:Trail quattro is the all-new VW Group e-off-roader at the Frankfurt show
With the AI:Trail, Audi eliminates the displays usually included on autonomous concepts in favor of an oversized glasshouse that provides views outside
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With the AI:Trail, Audi eliminates the displays usually included on autonomous concepts in favor of an oversized glasshouse that provides views outside
Audi shods the AI:Trail in 33.5-in tires
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Audi shods the AI:Trail in 33.5-in tires
The weird tires include integrated suspension and pressure regulation
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22-in wheels hold the AI:Trail's tires in place
Front storage space in the Audi AI:Trail
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Front storage space in the Audi AI:Trail
Audi uses a mix of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber in the construction of the AI:Trail
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Audi uses a mix of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber in the construction of the AI:Trail
The AI:Trail is powered by a 435-hp four-motor all-wheel-drive electric powertrain that provides up to 310 miles of range, or around 155 miles in rough off-road conditions
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The AI:Trail is powered by a 435-hp four-motor all-wheel-drive electric powertrain that provides up to 310 miles of range, or around 155 miles in rough off-road conditions
Odd AI:Trail details include the indoor/outdoor rear hammock seats and drone-based lighting system
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Odd AI:Trail details include the indoor/outdoor rear hammock seats and drone-based lighting system
The AI:Trail is the fourth and final concept in Audi's series studying purpose-driven cars of the future
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The AI:Trail is the fourth and final concept in Audi's series studying self-driving cars of the future
2019 Frankfurt Motor Show off-road-style test track
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2019 Frankfurt Motor Show off-road-style test track
A couple G-Classes make their way around the test track
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A couple G-Classes make their way around the test track
Tackling the hill climb
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Tackling the hill climb
Almost there ...
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Almost there ...
King of the mountain
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King of the mountain
The Ford Ranger Raptor is always a welcome sight
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The Ford Ranger Raptor is always a welcome sight
The king of the Frankfurt off-road squad: the much-anticipated all-new Defender
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The king of the Frankfurt off-road squad: the much-anticipated all-new Defender
Staring the new Defender down outside at the Frankfurt Motor Show
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Staring the new Defender down outside at the Frankfurt Motor Show
Of course, the new Defender also had a spot inside, center stage at Jaguar Land Rover
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Of course, the new Defender also had a spot inside, center stage at Jaguar Land Rover
Thankfully, Land Rover straightened out some of the soft curves from the DC100 concept, but the new Defender still feels a little too soft and modern in comparison to the classic
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Thankfully, Land Rover straightened out some of the angles from the DC100 concept, but the new Defender still feels a little too soft and modern in comparison to the classic
Spare tire on back
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Spare tire on back
Our first thought as we approached the new Defender was, what the heck is that box hanging off the rear side window?! It's a lockable, waterproof gear carrier that can be purchased alone or as part of several upgrade packages
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Our first thought as we approached the new Defender was, what the heck is that box hanging off the rear side window?! It's a lockable, waterproof gear carrier that can be purchased alone or as part of several upgrade packages
This Defender includes the "Explorer Pack" with expedition roof rack, side gear box, snorkel and other upgrades built for getting out there
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This Defender includes the "Explorer Pack" with expedition roof rack, side gear box, snorkel and other upgrades built for getting out there
Land Rover does offer a removable backpack/rear seat divider, but that comes on the Adventure Pack, not the Explorer Pack pictured here. We're not sure if the backpack there is an official Land Rover accessory (this Defender was glassed off) or just a visitor/staff member' pack dropped haphazardly - it looks more like the latter
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Land Rover does offer a removable backpack/rear seat divider, but that comes on the Adventure Pack, not the Explorer Pack pictured here. We're not sure if the backpack there is an official Land Rover accessory (this Defender was glassed off) or just a visitor/staff member's pack dropped haphazardly - it looks more like the latter
We like how Land Rover has neatly integrated the raised intake with the A-pillar
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We like how Land Rover has neatly integrated the raised intake with the A-pillar
The new Defender 110 has ground clearance of 11.5 in (291 mm) and approach, break-over and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees, respectively
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The new Defender 110 has ground clearance of 11.5 in (291 mm) and approach, break-over and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees, respectively
Land Rover was striving for a look that's recognizable as a Defender but new and modern at the same time
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Land Rover was striving for a look that's recognizable as a Defender but new and modern at the same time
Land Rover provides stout capability with the new D7x all-aluminum platform that Land Rover says provides the stiffest vehicle body it's ever produced
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Land Rover provides stout capability with the new D7x all-aluminum platform that Land Rover says provides the stiffest vehicle body it's ever produced
Love it or leave it, the new Defender is definitely among the buzziest new vehicles in Frankfurt
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Love it or leave it, the new Defender is definitely among the buzziest new vehicles in Frankfurt
Land Rover Defender
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Land Rover Defender 90
Land Rover Defender 90
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Land Rover Defender 90
The Evum Motors aCar doesn't debut with the fanfare of other off-roaders in this gallery, but the modular electric 4WD utility vehicle certainly looks more practical and useful than an electric dune buggy or autonomous 4x4 of the future
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The Evum Motors aCar doesn't debut with the fanfare of other off-roaders in this gallery, but the modular electric 4WD utility vehicle certainly looks more practical and useful than an electric dune buggy or autonomous 4x4 of the future
The Evum aCar is all work truck, its 4WD consisting of two 13.5 hp motors, its top speed limited to 43 mph (70 km/h)
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The Evum aCar is all work truck, its 4WD consisting of two 13.5 hp motors, its top speed limited to 43 mph (70 km/h)
Brabus shows off one of its tuned G-Classes
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Brabus shows off one of its tuned G-Classes
Brabus doesn't only go off-road but also goes off land with its customized boats
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Brabus doesn't only go off-road but also goes off land with its customized boats
Land Rover will offer a roof-top tent and many other accessories for the new Defender
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Land Rover will offer a roof-top tent and many other accessories for the new Defender

The 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show isn't solely about electrified performance vehicles. There's also a small but fascinating collection of 4x4s and off-road sports vehicles, some of which are weird concept cars, others soon-to-be hot-selling market staples. Whether you want to see what mid-century autonomous off-roading might look like, or you just need to haul supplies around a muddy job site, Frankfurt's collection of off-road-ready vehicles will be of interest.

The new Defender 110 has ground clearance of 11.5 in (291 mm) and approach, break-over and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees, respectively
The new Defender 110 has ground clearance of 11.5 in (291 mm) and approach, break-over and departure angles of 38, 28 and 40 degrees, respectively

The icon, the legend, the go-anywhere hero of mud and dust ... the Land Rover Defender finally returns after a three-year hiatus. And, well ... meh. The look is better than we feared, straightened out and toughened up over the much-maligned 2011 DC100 concept that served as an early preview, but a US$50,000 glossy, unibody 110 loaded with driving sensors, Apple CarPlay and over-the-air updates wasn't exactly the simple, hard-nosed 4x4 we thought we were waiting for. An available Urban Pack?!

Whatever the case, this is the future of the Defender, so fans will have to embrace it or leap to the Wrangler or Land Cruiser camps. And there's still a lot to embrace, starting with the newly developed all-aluminum D7x (for extreme!) architecture that Land Rover claims results in its stiffest body ever, some three times stiffer than body-on-frame designs. A permanent all-wheel drive, two-speed transfer box and host of off-road systems like Configurable Terrain Control, Wade Sensing and ClearSight Ground View help the toughest Land Rover of them all make its way through thick and thin. Accessory Packs and a huge a la carte accessories list should create a low-hassle path to building out the perfect Defender for your usage, whether that's day trips with bikes and kayaks or months' long overland expeditions.

Land Rover will offer a roof-top tent and many other accessories for the new Defender
Land Rover will offer a roof-top tent and many other accessories for the new Defender

Speaking of accessories ... maybe it was just that we attended Frankfurt right after the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, but staring at the Defenders on the show floor got us very excited for a new generation of Defender expedition vehicles. While we'll have to wait a while for the third-party pop-up roofs and mini-kitchens, Land Rover's most ambitious accessories program ever is already preparing to supply Defender owners with accessories like a roof-top tent, expedition roof rack and inflatable tailgate awning. Some of the first Defender off-road campers will look something like the one above.

Audi uses a mix of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber in the construction of the AI:Trail
Audi uses a mix of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber in the construction of the AI:Trail

Very much the opposite of a long-awaited off-road icon, the Audi AI:Trail quattro is more an out-of-left-field off-road oddity that'll never, ever happen. The little 4x4 completes the AI series that started two years ago with the Aicon and proceeded through the AI:Race (originally called the PB18 e-tron) and AI:ME. The AI:Trail is the strangest of the bunch, absolutely loaded with weirdness like indoor/outdoor hammock seats and swarming drone headlights/utility lights.

But the AI:Trail quattro isn't merely weird novelty for the sake of it – it provides an interesting exploration of how electric drive and autonomous technology can be used to power the on/off-road vehicle of the future. Its Level 4 capabilities are available on highways and in cities, handing the reigns over to the human driver when pavement turns to dirt. The four wheel motors of the 435-hp electric drive constantly adjust torque to manage traction and slip, while an auto-adjusting tire pressure system tweaks psi for changing surface conditions. Sensor-based alerts let the driver know if the terrain exceeds the vehicle's ground clearance or angles of incidence.

The AI:Trail won't be tackling Hell's Revenge alongside the new Defender anytime soon (ever), but it certainly is a rare and interesting look at how next-gen automotive technologies could be used to enhance off-road capabilities and experiences.

The Evum Motors aCar doesn't debut with the fanfare of other off-roaders in this gallery, but the modular electric 4WD utility vehicle certainly looks more practical and useful than an electric dune buggy or autonomous 4x4 of the future
The Evum Motors aCar doesn't debut with the fanfare of other off-roaders in this gallery, but the modular electric 4WD utility vehicle certainly looks more practical and useful than an electric dune buggy or autonomous 4x4 of the future

A whole different beast from either the AI:Trail or new Defender, the new aCar from Munich-based Evum Motors is another interesting off-roader in Frankfurt. Tucked away from the bright show floors of the main halls, the aCar stands quietly in the New Mobility World area of the show, drawing in the occasional passerby with its bright paintwork.

More a truck than a car, the aCar is designed as an all-electric utility vehicle for agriculture and industry. Its basic dual-motor four-wheel drive has an output of 27 hp and range up to 124 miles (200 km). Solar panels can be added to the roof as battery support, and a modular design makes it easy to outfit the aCar for different tasks, from hauling packages, to carrying hay, to sweeping the street. It has a payload of 2,200 lb (1,000 kg) and a top speed of 43 mph (70 km/h).

Evum developed its initial 2017 prototype with emerging markets in mind, but it's now planning to start in Europe, where the €28,900 aCar will be sold as an affordable, versatile and low-maintenance work vehicle. The company is preparing its production facility in Lower Bavaria and plans to start rolling out vehicles in early 2020 before expanding its footprint with micro-factories in target markets.

Check out more of these Frankfurt stars and the supporting cast of off-road vehicles in the photo gallery at the top of the page.

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