It is no secret that Ford is the dominant manufacturer in the UK in terms of small, family cars. They are also one of the top sellers of sub-compacts, compacts, and family vans in Europe. Now the company is investing heavily in trying to build its market share in the crossover and 4×4 arena. They do well enough in the States, but can Ford really compete in Europe?

The European SUV, crossover and 4×4 market clearly belongs to Nissan/Renault and their very popular Qashqai SUV. Other major players include Opel/Vauxhall, Audi, and BMW. All of the major competitors have long established reputations for putting out robust vehicles capable of withstanding considerable punishment. The big problem Ford is up against is not one of matching the quality and pricing of the competition; it is one of perception.

Ford has long been considered a master of the family car. What’s more, they are the preferred nameplate for family cars that are reliable yet affordable. Trying to compete in the higher-priced crossover and 4×4 market could be challenging. For 2016, the company is pushing hard with the Edge, Kuga, and EcoSport. The latter two are in the midst of major facelifts to improve their ‘sex appeal’.

saf2The African safari experience is on many to-do lists, but few people consider the option to drive the vehicle yourself, plan your own route and camp in the wild. Shaw Safaris in Tanzania will hire you a bespoke Land Rover Defender 110 with an itinerary to suit your own pace. It doesn’t get much better.

 

We crept up along the track, inching forward as the Defender 110’s 300Tdi chugged happily away, keen not to disturb or agitate the wild animal basking in the warmth of the Tanzanian sunshine alongside us in the scrubland. A convoy of Toyota Land Cruisers ahead had previously halted when the huge male lion decided to investigate (and have a nibble at) the All Terrains, but moved on once the lion had lost interest in the unpalatable rubberwear. Now it was our turn to enjoy the beauty of this magnificent African beast up close. “Am I safe here?” came a rather nervous voice from the passenger seat as my other half leaned out of the Defender’s window to come almost face to face with the lion, slumped on the ground below just a metre away.

In the first of a series of Survival Guides, Fenton Motorsport explains how to service a diesel powered Nissan Navara. An ideal insight should you be considering a purchase of Nissan’s popular pick-up

Words and photography: Rob Hawkins

SURVIVAL GUIDE: NISSAN NAVARA

“It’s never let me down, but I do service the brakes and change the oil every 10,000 miles and renew the air filter every 6000 miles,” explains Nigel Barker of Fenton Motorsport on the reliability of his 11-year old 2.5-litre diesel powered Nissan Navara.

While routine servicing really is the answer to reliability, Nigel also admits he had to fit a new clutch thrust bearing at 85,000 miles and a propshaft UJ at 96,000, along with tyres that have generally lasted for around 30,000 miles. Rust is starting to emerge on the rear bumper, which he can live with for now along with a peculiar speed sensor related issue that results in a misfire at 1500-1600rpm – it has been fixed for now by detaching the plug connector at the gearbox.

The concept of a plug-in hybrid 4×4 reflects Mitsubishi’s position among the leaders of modern automotive technology, but in their drive for safer, environmentally friendly motoring have they strayed too far from their 4×4 roots? We take a drive in one of the first Mitsubishi 4x4s to find out…

Words: Bob Cooke Photography: Nigel Fryatt

PHEV meets JEEPThere’s something somewhat ethereal about driving Mitsubishi’s cutting edge Outlander PHEV. It’s not the silence when cruising around town on its electric motors; it’s more the feeling of remoteness from the driving experience, which leaves the driver feeling rather like the captain of a ship relaying instructions for someone else to perform the required manoeuvre. Certainly the unearthly silence as the car pulls away adds to the overall effect, but it’s not the hybrid technology that drains the car of any feeling of excitement, it’s just the growing trend among most mainstream manufacturers to cosset the occupants of their cars against the harsh realities of bustling traffic by engineering the feel and feedback out of controls and switches so driving becomes more like playing a computer game, while packing in worthy but control-sapping technologies such as lane departure warnings, parking sensors and even automatic accident avoidance systems to counter the consequent loss of concentration as the driver fiddles with the multi-media touch-screen display. In the Outlander hybrid, the effect is enhanced by a transmission controlled by a computer-like joystick devoid of the positive action of a proper gear lever, the driver’s attention meanwhile being drawn from the road ahead by the large graphic dashboard display showing whether it’s the electric motors or the petrol engine or both at work, as if the driver a): needed to know, considering that the whole idea of seamless interaction of the various propulsion and battery charging modes is that it requires no input from the driver and b): couldn’t tell when the petrol engine cuts in by the added noise and vibration. There isn’t much of that, but only the most insensitive soul wouldn’t notice it.

Following a career in 4×4 design is certainly an attractive job, however where do you start? Howard Sherren visits Harper Adams University to hear how they are one of only a few that offers a specific Off-Road Vehicle Design course, in addition to a flourishing 4×4 club

Words: Alan Coutts  Photography: Alan Coutts and supplied

OFF-ROAD UNIVERSITYOff-Road Vehicle Design has proved to be very popular in recent years and still remains a key course at Harper Adams University. located just outside Newport, Shropshire. In addition, the university is the only higher education establishment in the UK where students can study the topic to honours degree level. The course is designed to help students develop technical and business skills so that they may pursue careers as design engineers, test and development specialists, technical advisors and engineering and dealership managers within the 4×4 sector.

The department boasts a number of specialist facilities including a purpose built soil hall, off-road track, tractor and telescopic handler training area, well-equipped workshops and the JCB Design Centre fitted with the latest CAE technology. They also maintain an extensive fleet of the latest off-road machines through a policy of purchase, loans and gifts, an attractive asset to most potential students!

Off-road motorsport is a highly competitive business – and that’s not just at the events. The world of the Challenge truck is one full of amazing products and accessories, many of which are suitable for your 4×4. We take a comprehensive stroll through who does what…

Words: Alan Coutts  Photography: Alan Coutts and supplied

CHALLENGING TIMESFactory fresh 4x4s are capable vehicles, but any owner can opt for a huge choice of extras and upgrades to give a more personal, customised, competition aware look. A truck designed for Challenge events can give an owner one of the most purposeful, versatile and best looking 4x4s out there. The prospective Challenge truck owner can happily outsource the work to a specialist to turn their dream into reality, whether that means supplying and fitting accessories, or completing turnkey Challenge builds ready to rock ‘n’ roll. Perhaps there’s a need to do it all yourself; many owners take a huge amount of satisfaction in doing the work themselves or with friends and fellow clubmates, and it’s a tribute to their individuality that no two Challenge 4x4s are ever the same.

The sky’s the limit when looking to take Challenge builds further, but there are basic questions to ask, such as – will the vehicle meet the regulations for the competition series it is intended to enter? Is it for off-road use only, or is it to be fully registered and taxable for on road use? How safe is it going to be? Will it have a co-driver? All these help to decide what truck is required, what level of Challenges it is to do, i.e. pay and play days, clubman events, International X-Trem Challenge Trophy cups, or all three? What modifications and build requirements will it need to meet, what extras will be fitted, and will your 4×4 be a work in progress, or built to a budget with the best materials and ancillaries that can be afforded at the time?

The race is on to create the most refined, road-friendly SUV. Fortunately off-road enthusiasts are still able to lay hands on the one car that holds true to the original concept of the recreational off-roader, the spiritual successor to the charismatic CJ-7

TARGET RANGE: £2000 – £10,000

Jeep Wrangler TJ Some 4×4 enthusiasts might be excused for thinking that most manufacturers of four-wheel drive cars have lost the plot, putting the emphasis on sleek style, comfort and refined road manners at the expense of off-road capability. The truth is they’ve written a new script in which the SU of SUV stands for Significantly Upperclass rather than Sports Utility, with very profitable results. Even Jeep, the company that set the whole recreational off-road ball rolling 60 years ago, has succumbed to the lure of the mainstream big buck by aiming their new Cherokee squarely at socialite suburbia with none of the genuine utility of the original Cherokee.

Jeep has at least clung to one small element of its iconic past, in the form of the Wrangler. The Wrangler had a tough act to follow – it was the replacement for the CJ-7, which back in the 1970s in Renegade form with punchy V8 power, launched the whole concept of the high-fun Recreational Activity Vehicle. In reality the first Wrangler, developed and produced under AMC ownership, was a bit of a cost-cutting compromise, basically fitting CJ-lookalike panels to a shortened Cherokee uni-body frame and hanging the axles on leaf springs, so although the stated aim was to make it a more refined, driver-friendly car, it actually had little more refinement than the CJ-7 and significantly less off-road ability in its standard road-safe low-riding form. Enthusiasts were therefore over the moon when in 1996 Chrysler upgraded the concept with the TJ Wrangler, reverting to a separate chassis, reinventing the iconic styling cues of the CJ-7 while also achieving the double-whammy of better on-road refinement and enhanced off-road performance by adopting long-travel coil springs all round. This car is, unquestionably, the true conceptual successor to the CJ-7.

7 Tips For Losing Weight While DrivingIf you’re really serious about losing weight, you want to do everything possible to shift a few extra pounds here and there. You might be surprised to realise that there are a few things you can do to help you lose weight while driving. The following tips aren’t going to get you to do exercise at the wheel or anything like that – they’re going to prevent you from eating while driving, which will in turn prevent you from putting on more weight. It’s very easy to eat while driving somewhere.

If you drive regularly, say a daily commute to and from work, for example, and you frequently eat when you drive, try to imagine how much food you’re consuming. You’ll be surprised how much it adds up to. It can be easy to fall into the trap of not realising how much food you’re eating while driving. If you can cut out eating while driving  altogether, you’re going to put on less weight and this should contribute towards weight loss. You aren’t going to lose tons of weight by cutting out eating while driving, but it will certainly benefit you, especially if you practice it in the long run.

Tyres are a very important part of your 4×4 and your choices can affect running costs, longevity and performance. The 4×4 tyre market is gradually changing to meet new EU regulations. Read on to find out what’s going on in the market, glean some top advice from the experts and pick up essential maintenance tips

Words: Hils Everitt

RUBBER STAMPEDWithin the motoring world, it is generally agreed by the retail experts that 4×4 owners are far better informed, generally, when it comes to the rubber wear that holds up their vehicles compared to their mainstream peers.

It is also generally agreed that tyres are the most important choice a vehicle owner has in their lifetime of driving and should involve plenty of research and taking on aboard advice from the experts if knowledge is not as extensive as it should be. As the SUV market has exploded in the last decade, so has the availability of tyres suitable for this genre of vehicle and more sizes have become available in the once limited All Terrain and Mud Terrain sector over the years.

It had to be a real adventure, and so there had to only be one route, traversing the continent of Africa, from north to south. The choice of off-roader was perhaps a little more surprising, as the journey was completed by Nissan Patrol 

Words and photography: Rene Bauer

AFRICA BY NISSANHaving previously criss-crossed Australia in a Nissan Patrol, I had always had this dream about a ‘real’ expedition – to have to dig myself out of mud, to be dirty, camp in the bush and maybe also feel fear of fierce locals or wild animals. Itches like this need to be scratched and so a plan was made; my partner, Andrea, and I would cross Africa, from north to south.

The first question, however, was what vehicle to use; Land Rover, Land Cruiser or stick with the Nissan Patrol that we knew so well? After looking at prices, we quickly realised that it had to be a Nissan Patrol, so we bought a black SWB Nissan Patrol 2.8-litre TD.

We spent the following 15 months building, repairing, and welding. First, out with the back seats and in with a bespoke drawer system. The production bumpers went, as well as the side steps and we started planning the replacement parts. As my brother-in-law is a fabulous welder, he offered to manufacture reinforced bumpers, roof rack, swing-away doors for jerry cans and a spare wheel. Happily we agreed… what we didn’t know was that he is a pedantic, precise welder who took six months to make all those parts.

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