Kings of The Road

As putative antidotes to suburban life, 4WDs are hot and heading upscale

To understand what makes the descendants of the Jeep the hottest vehicles of the 1990s, consider this fact: one of Chrysler's biggest challenges four years ago was to design the Grand Cherokee so the CD player wouldn't skip when going over rocks.

That's because Ford Explorers or Chevy Blazers are not about exploration or blazing, or even about fat tires meeting bumpy terrain. They are about the possibility of it. "They suggest you could drive off-road if you wanted to, even if you never do," says Christopher Cedergren, senior vice president of AutoPacific, an automotive consulting firm. In other words, they...

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