At one time, it was practically mandatory equipment on nearly any 4-wheel drive Truck or SUV (even before they were called that). What I’m talking about is the 2-speed transfer case. Now, it’s getting to be a smaller and smaller pool of vehicles that offer this feature. Even nameplates that have historically been the standard-bearers for off-road vehicles are slowly starting to abandon them.
Examples? Jeep: Obviously, the Compass whatever-it-is, but even the lower-level Grand Cherokees are making due with a dumbed-down single-speed Quadra-Trac I.
Land Rover: Yes, the LR3 and Range Rover still have 2-speed transfer cases, but the LR2 (replacement for the Freelander) doesn’t have one. Neither did its predecessor, that I’m aware of.
Toyota: Granted, they just gave us the excellent FJ Cruiser, which most definitely has a 2-speeder in 4x4 trim. But as for the rest of the lineup, it’s a scarce commodity. RAV4? Nope. Highlander? No way, Jose. As far as I know, the 4Runner still has one, but I’m sure it’s a matter of time before they clump it into some special, $6,000 “Off-Road” package, or drop it altogether.
While I don’t think it will ever disappear entirely from the OE lineups, the trend is undeniable. It is increasingly being reserved for the most hard-core off-road vehicles, while the more mainstream “soccer mom” SUVs are making due with a torque-sensing all-wheel-drive system, or some other such know-nothing nonsense. “Transparency” is what the OEs are going for. What? Transparent to bubble-headed, soap-watching NIMBY suburban moms that think a vehicle “handles” well when they can pull it into the parking space in front of Wal Mart? I’ll bet you half of them would be freaked out by even a gravel driveway!
My only comment to the manufacturers: Don’t forget who built your reputation. Just as quickly as your sales figures inflated by all the suburbanites snapping up your products because having an SUV was the “in” thing, they’ll just as quickly abandon you for a Prius or “sports tourer” of some sort when gas prices spike again, or they’re no longer the status symbol of the day. But the flannel-wearing, pork & beans around a campfire guys that have had a true off-road rig for years, those are the guys that made you what you are today. Granted, you may not get the tens or hundreds of thousands of sales from them that you might get from watered-down “crossovers” or wimpy unibody truckettes, but they’ll be with you through the thick and thin as long as you still give them a reason to visit your showroom.