Richard Dredge

Richard Dredge

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Richard Dredge

Richard Dredge

Fiat Oltre

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Ugly and pointless, thankfully the long-forgotten Fiat Oltre remained a one-off

Most of Fiat’s concepts over the years have been small cars that are all about clever packaging. After all, this is where Fiat has traditionally excelled, with iconic models like the Topolino, 500, Panda and Uno. When teetering on the brink in 2008 it was the reborn 500 which proved to be Fiat’s saviour. Sure it was priced a bit high for a small Fiat, but those ultra-chic lines and much-improved build quality were well worth the extra cash, even if packaging was an issue.

Before Fiat went through these dark days though, it unveiled a concept which was nothing less than barking mad: the Oltre. It seemed that the company was just following the then-current fashion for overblown monsters that used as much fuel as possible, despite the Oltre being born into an otherwise eco-conscious age. Doing its best to take on the Hummer at its own game, the Oltre was a huge, boxy off-roader that looked as though it had come straight from the heart of a war zone.

However, as is often the case with concepts, all was not what it seemed, as the Oltre was based on Iveco’s LMV (Light Multi-role Vehicle) military off-road machine, so it was hardly a clean-sheet design for Fiat. This impressive piece of military hardware would go on to become a favourite of armies around the globe, thanks to its combination of toughness, go-anywhere abilities and flexibility; there were versions capable of taking between five and seven people. The Oltre itself was capable of accommodating just five, albeit in considerably more luxury than the standard car could provide.

Some versions of the LMV were focused very much on carrying people – that was, after all the purpose of the vehicle. For the Oltre however, Fiat chose to use a crew cab as the basis, which meant it was capable of carrying people as well as ‘stuff’. No less than three tonnes of stuff in fact, which meant that by the time the Oltre was fully laden it could weigh up to seven tonnes. Very eco-aware…

While many concepts are technology showcases, the Oltre was all about mobility. As a result the focus was on technologies that would enable the car to go anywhere, so if you wanted a cabin filled with the latest high-tech entertainment or information gadgetry, you’d have to look elsewhere.

That’s not to say the Oltre wasn’t interesting technically though; any vehicle developed for a military application tends to be intriguing, if not necessarily groundbreaking. In this case the key technologies were in the transmission, which was a permanent four-wheel drive system which incorporated three locking differentials. Allowing optimal grip in all conditions, Fiat claimed the Oltre could tackle a lateral gradient of up to 40%, along with a longitudinal gradient of up to 80%. Pretty phenomenal!

Despite weighing up to seven tonnes when fully laden, the Oltre was fitted with a four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that displaced just three litres. However, the fitment of a variable-geometry turbocharger, an intercooler and common-rail fuel delivery meant there was a huge amount of flexibility on offer, if not necessarily all that much outright grunt. Indeed, the powerplant was capable of generating just 182bhp, but there was a more useful 336lb ft of torque. As such, Fiat reckoned the Oltre was capable of over 130km/h, or 81mph – but you can bet those figures weren’t for a car tipping the scales at seven tonnes.

To go with the distinct lack of pace the Oltre was ugly and it didn’t make much sense either. For starters it was a no-holds-barred full-size SUV designed for tackling the most inhospitable terrain imaginable, yet it was fitted with massive chromed wheels shod in low-profile tyres. Perfect for rappers and football stars, but definitely not for invading armies.

However, despite an excess of bling, it was surprisingly functional as the ground clearance was a generous 50cm, which should have enabled just about any terrain to be crossed. Indeed, Fiat claimed that an 85cm-deep ford could be traversed, or if extension pipes were added to the intake and exhaust, it was possible for the Oltre to wade through water an impressive 1.5 metres deep.

The exterior styling was definitely an acquired taste, with the front and rear wings heavily cut away, leaving much of the running gear exposed. Fiat reckoned the car‘s design was “exuberant”, which was quite an understatement. Amusingly, Fiat also claimed the Oltre’s door handles were flush-fitting so they wouldn’t get in the way during off-road manouevres!

Exterior detailing such as the twin aerials, roof bars, sun visor and roof-mounted spot lights gave the Oltre a lifestyle feel mixed with a bit of luxury along with a healthy dose of practicality. This was reinforced by the side-steps so beloved by yummy mummies in their Chelsea-bound 4x4s. Indeed, if there was ever a car designed for urban one-upmanship – and for giving environmentalists palpitations – it was the Fiat Oltre.


Vital statistics
Debut Bologna 2005
Engine Front-mounted, 3.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission 6-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Power 182bhp
Toruqe 336lb ft
Top speed 81mph

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