Hooniverse Asks: What's the most unlikely yet capable machine out there?

I knew I wanted to get the Range Rover Velar dirty. I did not, however, expect it to be climbing hills, powering through massive rutted trails, and hanging wheels in the air like it just didn’t care. This is supposed to be the fancy pants Range Rover. The one that sacrifices function for quite a bit of form.
But it doesn’t sacrifice anything, because the Velar is ready to get its slim-fit suit exterior covered in mud.
This got me thinking… What is a vehicle that you’d guess wouldn’t be capable yet is actually quite good at a given task? This Velar is a comfortable yet capable off-road machine, but at first glance you’d suspect it would be forced into nothing more than mall crawler duty (in reality, it most likely will mind you).
What other vehicles out there hit you the same way?

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46 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What's the most unlikely yet capable machine out there?”

  1. Sjalabais Avatar

    Am I doing this right?

    1. MohammedM Avatar

      Oh yes!

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        I’ve seen some of these races on YouTube. Wildly entertaining driving and very relatable cars. It’s similar to the BTCC indeed.
        My point though was more the idea of racing a wagon. A wildly successful PR gimmick (thus doing exactly what OEMs do racing for), but also with decent results regarding the sport.

        1. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          Racing a four cylinder Volvo taxi had much the same effect here. When Mark Petch brought over the first one, barely in time to qualify for the first race in Wellington, in those pre-internet days, no-one here knew anything about it. To say it’s subsequent success was surprising at the time was the understatement of the decade.And perhaps the first sign that the days of the normally aspirated V8 might be numbered.

        2. outback_ute Avatar

          Part of the latter would have been the TWR factor?

  2. tonyola Avatar

    A Coupe deVille at Lemans? Ridiculous. However, the late Briggs Cunningham pulled it off. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/475965c61e9a0524acf6e21b609ea09b9e8fb6e4adab7814f9cb5eeb33de2fd7.jpg

  3. Smaglik Avatar

    I fully admit bias, since this is mine, but it will go damn near anywhere in the forest, and tows quite exceptionally. Unexpected from an SAV.

  4. Alff Avatar

    The thermos. How do it know?

  5. 0A5599 Avatar

    Crosley Hot Shot drives to Sebring not intending to race, enters the endurance race in dead last starting position, wins, and drives partially home, breaking down along the way.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Nice story, I like the “hey why don’t we race _your_ car” aspect.
      Le Man’s history would be quite different if the Index of Performance was treated as the outright winner, but I suppose that is what they used to do with the Monte Carlo Rally.

  6. mdharrell Avatar

    I made it to work today in an Austin Allegro, which I believe counts as “exceeds expectations.”

  7. Maymar Avatar

    Different kind of capable, but Jaguar quotes the XE as capable of towing just shy of 4000lbs (1800kg), which seems absurd by passenger car standards in North America. I’m sure they just never saw the need to revise the European recommendations as so few customers actually exploit that, but still.

    1. kogashiwa Avatar

      It’s weird how different the recommendations are between Europe and the UK, and North America. I think the Mazda 3 is rated in the UK to tow around 2000 lb. or so, but over here they make it sound like you’re in peril of your very life if you attach anything heavier than a bicycle rack to the hitch.

      1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

        Yeah, I found it rather funny when I found out my MGB had a higher tow rating than a Jeep Compass (1600lbs to 1000lbs).

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          What’s the rationale behind that? In Europe, cars that toe have to abide to different speed rules etc. Isn’t that so in the US, thus big trailers become an issue?

          1. Eric Rucker Avatar

            There’s a few things going on.
            First off, tongue weight. As I understand, European trailer design is based around 4-7% tongue weight, and then just going really slowly (80 km/h) to avoid the trailer oscillating. Contrast with American best practice of 10-15% tongue weight, and much higher speeds being allowed, with no special licensing required. (And, American drivers won’t tolerate someone limiting themselves to 50 mph on many of our roads.) This means that when there is a tow rating on a car, it tends to be much lower due to tongue weight limits. (There’s a reason why they tend to be in the 1000 lbs area on unibody FWD-based vehicles in the US, because 150 lbs of tongue weight is about all they can safely handle.)
            Second, as I understand, European tow ratings are based on starting the trailer at all from a complete stop, up a 6% grade if unbraked, 12% grade if braked (with a legal requirement for brakes above 750 kg). American tow ratings are about meeting warranty obligations and avoiding liability suits, and are therefore much more sensitive to cooling and handling requirements. In fact, nowadays, there’s standardized requirements (AFAIK these aren’t in legal force, but they’re industry standard now) for tow ratings, which consist of:
            0-60 mph in 30 seconds or less with a maximum weight trailer on level ground
            0-30 mph in 12 seconds or less with a maximum weight trailer on level ground
            40-60 mph in 18 seconds or less with a maximum weight trailer on level ground
            Five launches up a 12% grade to a distance of 5 meters within 5 minutes, in forward and reverse
            Must climb the Davis Dam grade in Arizona at a minimum of 40 mph without any component failures, fault codes, warnings, or fluid loss
            Various handling and stability requirements
            For cars that usually won’t tow, it’s easier for an automaker to say “don’t”, than stress test all of that.

          2. Sjalabais Avatar

            Now that is a wiki grade response, wow. How fast would Americans typically want to go with a trailer? When the law says 80 kph, the practice would be 100 kph – until caught. But it’s still not particularly fast.

          3. Eric Rucker Avatar

            Americans would want to go freeway speeds with a trailer.
            In some states, that’s 80+ mph, or 130+ km/h.

          4. 0A5599 Avatar

            Depends on the trailer. People who tow camper trailers tend to drive slower than people who tow trailers hauling off-road vehicles. People who tow supplies for construction companies may tow fast or slow depending on whether they get paid by the hour or by the job.
            But it isn’t unusual to see someone pulling a big trailer at 80+ mph on the freeway, and with the exception of an oddball Geology professor every now and then, most American towing is performed by trucks capable of hauling the load.

          5. nanoop Avatar

            Excellent reply! The general speed limits are probably the key info.
            Semis here can go only 80kph (so they will go 90kph) on highways, even in the land of autobahnization, so for large trailers it kind of makes sense to homogenize them.
            There are exceptions to this rule,and being the EU it’s based on a list of conditions and a formula.
            Trailers without brakes are limited to something like 400kg and 60kph btw. That is outright dangerous on highways.

      2. nanoop Avatar

        Authorities in Yurp differ between trailers w/wo own brakes (usually overrun brakes), the large ratings are always and explicitly for “self-braking” gear. The brakes are tested at tech inspections evry few years.There also exist ratings for free-trailing carts, those are about 20-50% of the braking carts.
        Is that the case in the US, too?

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          Just to take this one level further: This video implies that adjustable headlights are not standard on US vehicles? All the small differences…

          1. Eric Rucker Avatar

            Headlights that can be adjusted from the driver’s seat are not even allowed for US vehicles (the belief being that American drivers won’t properly adjust them – in fact, for the longest time, headlights had to have bumps molded into them so that they could be automatically adjusted). Automatic leveling is allowed but not required.

          2. Sjalabais Avatar

            Interesting. I wonder if cars that are EU imports have all manual the gear in place, just no way to use it? Probably cheaper to have simpler brackets installed.

          3. Eric Rucker Avatar

            Typically the headlights have to be US-specific optics anyway, but there’s usually a place to mount the motors because the housing moldings are the same, but no motors, and the wires are left out of the harness often. There’s also a blanking plate where the adjuster would go on the dash (or a wider control for instrument dimming instead).

          4. nanoop Avatar

            This is funny considering your explanation of tongue weight differences (which is one of the arguments pro adjustment).
            I am sure some manufacturers are lobbying for synchronization of the laws, while others are working against it…

    2. nanoop Avatar

      The EU list has some surprises, here’s a 4yo one from 1800kg and above: http://www.mit-pferden-reisen.de/files/ADAC_Anhaengelasten/ADAC2014/TO28205.doc___ADAC_Anh__nge__und_Dachlasten_07.2014_Teil_II_ab_1800kg.pdf
      Mercedes C180 coupe: 1800kg.
      Phaeton with V6 Diesel: 2500kg.
      In the 80ies, only successful entrepreneurs with a romantic strand for camping and very successful fairground ride owners with the necessity for comfort (which is the same thing I guess) could afford a Mercedes S-Klasse with a two-axle Tabbert (the Mercedes among European caravans then, around 2000kg).

    3. outback_ute Avatar

      I have read about Innes Ireland towing a Ford GT40 to a race in Europe behind an Aston Martin, at 100 mph. With a light trailer I could see that being under 1.5 ton, assuming someone else took the spares and equipment.

  8. Zentropy Avatar

    My mother’s mid-80s AMC Eagle wagon was surprisingly capable off-road. It never left me stranded, despite my teenaged tendencies to push its limits.

  9. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Olds 442 muscle cars are best suited for drag racing.
    Someone forgot to tell TV and film star Jim Garner and his team Grabber.

  10. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    You can’t go racing in an economy car. Let alone win with one.
    Let alone in rallying AND circuit racing. (Winning the Monte Carlo Rally AND winning Bathurst against the big, proper V8 RWD cars AND winning everywhere else.)

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        Yep, funny but fictional.

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          VW’s were very hard to beat in the round–Australia trials in the late 1950s, and do very well in off-road racing such as Baja

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Much of the Mini’s rally success was based on handicap though, and in 1966 the only V8 opposition was a fairly hopeless Studebaker Lark. Then again you could say that the Monte Carlo Falcons were cheaty homologation specials. And the Mini’s still occasionally pull off wins in historic racing in the wet.

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        They didn’t win the Monte Carlo on handicap, they won outright, and they were very competitive with the Lotus Cortinas and Galaxies in European circuit racing. Later they got their own classes but even when they were in different classes they often won outright.And because they were so competitive and so cheap, more people ran them making them even more likely to win. They were the winningest cars of the late 60s.And the first small saloon with a sporty image, which BMW cleverly levered into the present ‘New MINIs. At the time, Even Enzo Ferrari himself had one.
        In the ’66 Gallaher 500, as Bathurst was called at the time, the race was dominated by the Morris Cooper S. It was won by the BMC entered example of Finnish rally star Rauno Aaltonen and experienced Australian Mini racer Bob Holden a lap ahead of Fred Gibson and Bill Stanley, leading home a flotilla of Cooper Ss that filled the first nine outright race positions. The best non-Mini was a Chrysler Valiant, some six laps behind Aaltonen and Holden in tenth position. The handicap at the time was to not be running a Mini.

  11. neight428 Avatar

    It’s got a nail salon employee stigma, but the 2011-2014 V6 Mustangs are a serious performance bargain. They can outrun a V8 version of the model from 10 years prior in a straight line and the chassis accepts everything non-engine related that the aftermarket makes for the S197’s. Trouble is, the V8 is just a few thousand more.

    1. JayP Avatar

      And the V6 doesn’t sound like the V8.
      When the 2011 3.7 was introduced, I went between it and the 4.6 GT.
      Besides not being a V6, the performance package V6 was REALLY close to the base GT in cost.

      1. neight428 Avatar

        The 4.6 GT would have been a 2010 still on the lot being outshined by the new 5.0 Coyote-engined 2011 GTs that came out at the same time as the 3.7’s. That could have been a heck of a bargain at the time.

        1. JayP Avatar

          You’d think! I tried than angle and no one was dealing the 2010 GTs when the 2011 5.0s were on the lot. I only guess that the cars looked the same, and buyers didn’t know the difference.

    2. Harry Callahan Avatar
      Harry Callahan

      Agreed. As a stand-alone car, the V6 Mustang of this generation is a great car. It just suffers from being the little sister.

  12. salguod Avatar

    The Gremlin in this video. (Go to YouTube.com and watch at 2X speed, it’s a lot more fun.)

  13. 993cc Avatar

    The Renault Twingo I rented in Portugal in 1997 was surprisingly capable off road. Not because it had decent clearance, (it didn’t), but because you could tell exactly where each wheel was and it was manoeuvrable enough to place each wheel on firm ground while fitting between obstacles.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1