With the Glenfrome Facet fresh in your minds, let me introduce a vehicle that trades on the same concepts of being off-road-ready, luxurious, stylish, and expensive. Based on spec sheets, the similarities between the two are striking…if only their bodywork wasn't so different.
While the 1984 Facet looks futuristic enough to have been cast in Back To The Future Part II, the Cardi Next appears to have the face of Franklin, a for-the-kids animated turtle seen often on Canadian morning TV.
Underneath its sympathetic reptilian face, the Next features the complete drivetrain from a Lada Niva, sitting in a tubular steel frame. That means, yes, just a 1.7-litre 4-cylinder GAZ 21213 engine with around 90 horsepower. While you'd lose to the Rover V8-powered Facet in a drag race, off-road might be another story. The Niva, in stock form, has been shown to climb a 58° slope and ford up to (an amazing) 100 cm (39 in) of snow. This snow-shredding ability is probably why a Canadian 'Snowmageddon' is just called 'winter' in Russia.
That said, with its targa top, the Next has striking similarities with the plebeian Suzuki X90. That said, I can understand why Russian elite would be attracted to a small, sporty off-roader that could drive nearly anywhere during the summer months. With a wilderness as large as ours is here in Canada, I can certainly see the appeal of trundling off into the woods for a weekend getaway.
Outside, shapely fibreglass body panels and two-tone paint help hide its lack of performance, while an interior made from more fibreglass panels is helped by generous amounts of leather and hand-made switchgear. As a concession to style, its small rear luggage compartment is only accessible after folding the seats forward and passing things through the interior.
The following year, Cardi introduced another SUV called the Tetra. Essentially identical to the Next, it lacked a removable targa roof and is said to have been optimized for the Russian winter…er…'Snowmageddon'. Both Cardi SUVs have large, bubble off-road tires that help spread out its relatively lightweight 1100 kg (2425 lbs) on sand and snow. Yes, it has full-time 4-wheel-drive.
Something that made this particular story easier to write than most is the existence of an active Cardi Tetra owner who has posted a few updates about his SUV, in Russian, on drive2.ru. Sadly, the log book was last updated in 2013, but the posts still give a unique look into life with a limited-run off-roader.
Only a handful of Cardi off-roaders were completed before the Moscow-based industrial design and custom vehicle engineering firm began to create sports cars. You'll be able to read about them here in due course.