May1stDrive1The one-spec Nissan Murano with a thirsty V6 didn’t really catch the UK public’s imagination, but the introduction of a 2.5-litre turbodiesel version may entice crossover fans to delve into the Nissan luxury brand

Words: Hils Everitt; photos: Nissan

The problem we always had with Nissan’s flagship, luxury 4×4 was the fact that it was powered by a really thirsty, albeit lusty and responsive, V6 3.5-litre petrol engine.

Mated to an Xtronic CVT automatic transmission it pumped out a hearty 252bhp with 236lb ft of torque. Impressive figures, but it really was a lost soul in the 4×4 market. Big petrol engines like that were an endangered species back in 2008 when the last revamp appeared, and in these days of extortionate fuel costs the 3.5 V6 one-model-only Murano is even more obsolete in the UK.

April11FirstDrive1There is not much available these days in the 4×4 Commercial Van sector for a decent price, which makes Nissan’s Pathfinder Van a good choice, as long as you are under six feet tall!

Words: Kevin Baldwin; photos: Wayne Mitchelson

If a pick-up truck remains too down on the farm for you and you find the iconic appeal of the Defender a little too lacking in creature comforts, then the remaining choice of 4×4 ‘van’ for the commercial user comes down to a pretty restricted short list of potential purchases. The Nissan Patrol dropped off the list last year following Nissan’s decision to withdraw the model from sale in the UK, and the introduction of the latest upmarket model Land Cruiser killed off the commercial variant that has been an option on the previous model’s range. If you’re in a business where image is everything, then the Discovery 4 line-up will tick all the right boxes, but the two-seat Commercial version comes with an up-market £30k plus price tag to match the image. That leaves the ageing Mitsubishi Shogun and this, the Nissan Pathfinder Van, the latest 4×4 to ditch its back seats in an attempt to attract the VAT-registered buyer.

1stDrive1A wet Warwickshire woodland seemed the perfect place to try out the new Can-Am Commander ‘Side-By-Side’ – open up the 1000cc Rotax V Twin engine, see how good the Maxxis Bighorn tyres were and generally have some fun!

Words & photos: Toby Savage

When Joseph-Armand Bombardier formed Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) in Quebec, Canada, back in 1937, he launched a small tracked vehicle to cope with the deep winter snow. This grew to Snowmobile production, then Jet Skis and Quad Bikes. Along the way the company acquired Evinrude engines for the nautical range and the Austrian engine company, Rotax, for the Quads and ATVs. They have built up a formidable reputation over their 70-year history for both reliability and performance.

1stdrive1John Deere’s latest Gator all-terrain pick-up just got butcher styling, improved ride quality and best in class payload. A big improvement on the old canary yellow and green-only machine.

Words: Hils Everitt

One of the first improvements that is easily noticeable on John Deere’s latest revamped Gator, apart from the more aggressive styling, is the new colour option. The brash green and canary yellow scheme, so beloved by fans of the manufacturer, have often put off potential utility companies, giving it a rather toy town appearance.

top4x4sTo welcome the New Year in style we bring you our biggest and best test of the year. The top 4×4 vehicles, split into six groups tested on- and off-road, but which is the ultimate production 4×4 for 2011?

Words: Kevin Baldwin; photos: Wayne Mitchelsn

The past 12 months has been a funny old year within the car industry. Cars that had been set for launch have been put on the backburner while manufacturers get their finances in order, and low-volume sellers have been chopped from model ranges. With the industry tightening its collective belts, just getting 4x4s on loan from scaled-down press fleets has been a tricky business. In the case of Jeep, it had the added complication of a corporate buyout, which resulted in an almost no-show at this year’s event from the oldest manufacturer of 4x4s in the world.

Last year Jeep won three groups with its Patriot, Cherokee and Wrangler models. We managed to secure a Wrangler model this year – only just mind – but that was from new owners Fiat. One does have to worry about Jeep in the UK. It offers decent 4x4s, packaged at the right prices, but in spite of this the UK buyer seems reluctant to buy into the Jeep brand. There’s a new Grand Cherokee in the US this year:

ssanThe original was panned for its rather ugly looks but it was a credible offroader. SsangYong’s 2011 update of its Korando model is labelled a ‘Classy Utility Vehicle’, but how much class does the new crossover really have?

The SsangYong Korando – these are names that don’t mean too much to us in the West, but there’s been a Korando model around since 1974 and SsangYong claims it as the longest running brand in Korea; the SsangYong element has seen rather less continuity.

polaris3After pressure from farmers and estate workers Polaris rewarded their pleas and has launched the first Ranger side by side diesel-powered ATV.  

Words & photos: Hils Everitt

When the invitation came through to view the hot-off-the-factory-floor new Polaris Ranger Diesel side by side ATV at the Soltex – the show for everyone who works in the estate and sports ground management industry – the first thought was, not much we can tell about it sat on an immaculate trade stand bustling with smart management and no mud in sight.

So, it was with delighted surprise that we learned Polaris had secured the use of Soltex’s venue, the Royal Windsor Racecourse’s purpose-built offroad route secreted in the trees. The downside was that I wasn’t allowed to drive the Ranger in the mud, despite my off-roading credentials, but a quick blast on a stretch of tarmac was the best I’d get, although it did demonstrate the excellent top speed of 35mph. Okay, so that is 5mph less than the previous 455cc single cylinder four-stroke petrol unit, but this isn’t a vehicle built for speed.

1stThe revised Nissan Pathfinder has been refurbed to create a more luxurious feel and takes the road less travelled  

Words: Graham Scott; photos: Matt Fowler

In the UK the Pathfinder is almost a bit of an anomaly, an unusual vehicle to see out and about, but in Europe, and particularly Spain where it’s made, you’ll see them all over the place. The Pyrenees seem to be full of them at the weekends, being used as God, or Nissan, intended.

Nissan UK’s range, outside the passenger cars, focuses more on its crossover vehicles. The Qashqai is indeed the cash cow here and in Europe. You have to have a minor rummage beyond the headlines on the Nissan site to find its ‘intelligent 4x4s’. No hardcore Patrol here any more, but instead the X-Trail which you could argue is a crossover, and the Navara pick-up. That leaves just one large 4×4 in the range – the Pathfinder.

1stdriveThe Range Rover is celebrating a significant birthday this summer. In company with most of its customers, Land Rover’s flagship 4×4 has passed the big 4-0, and by way of celebration it has been equipped with a new, more powerful and cleaner diesel engine plus a few cosmetic touches.  

Words: Sue Baker; photos: Sue Baker & Nick Dimbleby

In place of the previous 3.6-litre TDV8, the Range Rover, at a rather fabulous 40 years young, has acquired a new 4.4-litre double turbo unit. The gearbox is new too, an eightspeed ZF auto accompanied by steering column paddle shifts.

vw1Volkswagen’s new T5 4Motion Transporter van continues the impressive pedigree of its predecessors.

Words & photos: Toby Savage

Perhaps unusually for vehicle enthusiasts, Volkswagen van fans are equally keen on the new breeds as the old. The owner of a Wolfsburg built, 1950s’, ‘Barn Door’ Type 2 is rarely such a purist that he will turn his nose up at the latest model. The key to this broad acceptance is, perhaps, that the concept of the VW van has remained faithful to the original design.