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From the Ford Bronco to the Kia Telluride: These are the 4WD models that could change the off-roading game in Australia | Opinion

The Ford Bronco, Kia Telluride and others could move the off-road game beyond the usual Toyota Prados and Ford Rangers.

There's nothing wrong with competition. It's a good thing. And in economic terms, it's one of the chief aspects of capitalism and helps to form the basis of a healthy free market.

New, unusual products, beyond their initial novelty value, have a way of exciting consumers the way rehashed, rebooted, dressed-up versions of existing goods never could.

Which is why the potential arrival in the not-too-distant future of the Rivian R1S, Ford Bronco, Kia Telluride and the massive all-new Cadillac Escalade EV, the IQ, is good news. If these vehicles do land on our shores soon-ish it'll well and truly rattle the Australian market cage.

But for different reasons...

Rivian R1S

The R1S measures a listed 1963mm high, 5100mm long (with a 3076mm wheelbase), and 2078mm wide. The R1S measures a listed 1963mm high, 5100mm long (with a 3076mm wheelbase), and 2078mm wide.

The world of electric SUVs is expanding seemingly every second and the Rivian R1S is one of the most anticipated EV arrivals tipped to come to Australia.

Rivian, a US electric vehicle manufacturer, builds what it calls "Electric Adventure Vehicles", which it states are "designed and engineered to go where most vehicles can't go, sustainably — that means steeper grades, through water and over challenging terrain".

Its line-up currently consists of a ute, the R1T, and an SUV wagon, the R1S.

The R1T has already set pulses racing worldwide and it has been outselling the Ford F-150 Lightning Electric in the US this year.

Also, more tellingly, the R1T has just won the annual Rebelle Rally in the US, at time of writing. And it was a stock-standard version. The rally crosses more than 2400km of desert over eight days, so if anyone doubts the off-road effectiveness of a Rivian EV, there's that...

The R1S measures a listed 1963mm high, 5100mm long (with a 3076mm wheelbase), and 2078mm wide (with the side mirrors folded in).

It's available with three AWD drive systems: Dual-Motor (approx. 827Nm), Performance Dual-Motor (approx. 1124Nm) and Quad-Motor (approx. 1231Nm).

It's unconfirmed whether Australia will get all three drive systems.

The dual-motor R1S will have All-Purpose, Snow and All-Terrain drive modes; the Performance Dual-Motor will have All-Purpose, Snow, All-Terrain, Sport and Soft Sand; and the Quad-Motor-powered variant will have All-Purpose, Snow, All-Terrain, Sport, Rally, Drift, Rock Crawl, Soft Sand and Conserve.

Driving range is an estimated 260-400 mi (approx. 418-643km) for the Dual-Motor; 352-400 mi (approx. 566-643km) for the Performance Dual-Motor; and 321 mi (approx. 516km) for the Quad-Motor.

The R1S has approach, departure and rampover angles of 35.6, 34.3 and 29.6 degrees respectively. Maximum ground clearance on the R1S is listed as 378mm and maximum wading depth is 1097mm.

Payload is 800kg, and the R1S has a maximum towing capacity of 3500kg.

This large electric SUV has dual front tow hooks, sliding tie-down loops in the rear cargo area, a built-in air compressor, room enough under the rear cargo area for a compact spare tire, first aid kit and portable charger, as well as integrated accessories (including cargo crossbars and mounts).

Prices for the Rivian R1S will likely start around the $130,000 mark.

So, on paper at least, the Rivian R1S looks set to force a lot of doubters to have a big re-think about their idea of EVs as effective off-roaders. (I'll withhold my judgment until I can actually test an R1S off-road.)

Ford Bronco

The sixth-generation Bronco is available in the US with a choice of turbo-charged petrol engines. The sixth-generation Bronco is available in the US with a choice of turbo-charged petrol engines.

Relaunched in the US in 2021 after a 25-year hiatus, the modern-day Bronco has proven to be a major hit for Ford.

And the possibility of a right-hand-drive version of the Ford Bronco being made available in Australia has been enough to make local motoring writers' palms become even more sweatier than usual.

Not to mention the ripple of spine-tingling excitement that's pulsed through Australia's hard-core off-roading community.

Because this is a 4WD with real proven heritage.

This retro 4WD uses the same Ford-developed ladder-chassis platform – aka T6.2 architecture – designed and tested by Australian engineers and used to great success in the Ranger, Raptor and Everest.

The sixth-generation Bronco is available in the US with a choice of turbo-charged petrol engines: a 2.3-litre four-cylinder (223kW/440Nm), a 2.7-litre turbocharged V6 (246kW/562Nm), and a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V6 (312kW/597Nm) in the top-shelf Bronco Raptor.

It's sold as a short- or long-wheelbase, two-door or four-door wagon.

The Broncos will likely be shipped to Australia as left-hand drive vehicles and then converted to right-hand drive locally at RMA Automotive Australia, in Melbourne.

A hybrid version is on the cards as well.

Aussies prices for the Ford Bronco will likely be a lot more than the US $US39,130 ($A60,900).

Kia Telluride

Built on the same platform as the Hyundai Palisade, the Telluride is a huge sales success in the US. Built on the same platform as the Hyundai Palisade, the Telluride is a huge sales success in the US.

City-focussed SUVs are popular in Australia, but some people who own one – or are thinking about buying one – still hanker for a tougher version of their favourite FWD or AWD wagon.

Say hello to the Kia Telluride. Built on the same platform as the Hyundai Palisade, the Telluride is a huge sales success in the US and could be a popular inclusion in the Aussie market.

This large SUV rival to the Toyota LandCruiser Prado had a facelift for MY23 but the powertrain is unchanged – a 217kW/355Nm 3.8-litre petrol V6 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission, as per the Hyundai Palisade.

The Telluride is available in the US as front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

New off-road-leaning grades with improved ground clearances have been released in the US, but don't expect too much in terms of off-road effectiveness from your Telluride.

For example, the top-spec Telluride SX Prestige X-Pro has driving modes that include Comfort, Eco, Sport, and Smart. Snow mode is onboard AWD variants.

It has a listed 213mm of ground clearance, and approach and departure angles of 17.9 and 23.2 respectively. Rampover angle and wading depth are not listed.

Towing capacity is a claimed 2494kg.

So, not a hard-core off-roader but the Telluride certainly has the potential to be a dirt-road touring vehicle.

As a price reference point, the top-spec Telluride SX Prestige X-Pro costs from US$54,550 (about AUD$85,805).

Cadillac Escalade

The all-new Escalade IQ is a big electric SUV. The all-new Escalade IQ is a big electric SUV.

General Motors looks set to return to the Australian market this time with a range of electric Cadillac SUVs.

GM's plans to launch the Cadillac in Australia have so far been thwarted by the global financial crisis in 2008 and the knock-on effects of the COVID pandemic in 2021.

This time it looks set to follow through – and its biggest model might just be geared up enough to take on the likes of the Lexus GX and the Land Rover Defender.

The EV line-up is tipped to include three models but the biggest and most off-road-leaning vehicle is the MY25 Cadillac Escalade IQ, measuring 5697mm long (with a 3460mm wheelbase), 2389mm wide (mirrors out) and 1934mm high.

The all-new Escalade IQ is a big electric SUV with a 200kWh lithium-ion battery and a claimed driving range of 724km on a full charge.

It has dual permanent-magnet motors – producing 505kW/834Nm (Normal mode) and up to 560kW/1064Nm (Velocity Max) – and all-wheel drive.

Air suspension and rear-wheel steering are just some of the other characteristics that will appeal to those who like to venture off of sealed surfaces.

Towing capacity is an estimated 3630kg approx.

US prices for the Escalade IQ start from the $US130,000 ($AU200,000) mark.

What I reckon

More choice is always a good thing.

And even though the Kia Telluride and the Cadillac Escalade IQ are engineered for urban life with a smattering of light off-roading, it's still heartening to see off-road capabilities be improved, even if by increments.

As for EVs, well, current adventure-leaning versions are largely unproven in Australia's off-road realm, especially in terms of efficacy in sustained extreme conditions, but news that more are headed our way is certainly exciting.

Variety is the spice of life and there's nothing wrong with rattling the cage every now and again and seeing what happens.

Interesting times ahead.