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.

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We have always been very positive about Fiat’s little Panda 4×4; it’s a competent and capable, road-biased, small SUV. With the introduction of the new Panda Cross, that view has now changed…

If you work in a quarry, then you are used to things that are pretty big. All the mechanical equipment used is big, the holes in the ground can certainly get big, and the piles of rock, rubble, sand and general geological detritus can quickly turn into small mountains as work progresses.

The new Jeep Renegade will arrive in the UK in early 2015 and we have been to Italy to drive it. That might seem a little odd for a US vehicle, but the Renegade is actually built in Italy, thanks to the partnership with Fiat. It’s great to report that in Trailhawk form, this is a proper off-roader; while also quiet and comfortable on-road as well.

 

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.

Jeep Cherokee

It was a nervous few minutes early on a Saturday morning as I eased the transfer lever back a notch. The yellow indicator lamp saying ‘part time’ lit up on the dash, but had four-wheel drive actually engaged? I eased the gear lever into reverse, felt it clonk into gear, and the car eased gently backwards. No graunching, clicking, rattling or screeching sounds, just a gentle creep backwards. Then I selected Drive and eased the Cherokee back up the driveway. Then the lever went back another notch; no sign on the dash of a green ‘full time’ indication, but the Jeep drove backwards and forwards again without hesitation. I then yanked the stick all the way back to low range. The ‘part time’ lamp lit up again, and as I eased the Jeep up and down the drive again it did, at least, seem to be in low range.

julystaffhilsphotoHils Everitt – Editor at Large

Subaru Forester 2.0D XC Premium

It’s not often I get to ride in the back seat of a car as a passenger. I do often sit in the privileged position of co-pilot and, in our long-term Subaru Forester; it is a reasonably comfortable ride. This is an SUV that hugs the bends quite well, considering its somewhat ungainly stance as a 4×4, and you don’t feel too much wallowing or juggling around.

The same cannot quite be said of riding in the back seat, however. It is billed as a five-seater, but there isn’t really enough comfort room in the back for three adults. On a recent journey to a birthday party, I was sitting with two average-sized ladies in the back, and by that I mean not overweight nor excessively tall. I was in the middle, naturally, as I have very short legs and the transmission tunnel isn’t so much of an issue for me, although there is not a lot of room as the invasive centre console bulges back into the rear. At five feet tall and a size 8, I am petite: basically, the size of a 13-year-old child, according to some clothing manufacturers. Yet, even with two slim friends, we were still a little bit cramped in the back. I could easily have got my Jeep Grand Cherokee out of the garage to give us all abundant luxurious space in the back, but I wanted to test the Forester’s credentials. Luckily, it was a late afternoon garden party, so none of us was clad in slinky and vulnerable-to-creases silk cocktail dresses. If we had been, the Jeep would have been essential.

Nigel FryattNigel Fryatt – editor

Land Rover Freelander 2There it was, ahead of us. As the Freelander eased forward, at a relaxed snail-paced crawl, up the slight incline it was obvious where we were as ahead was the famous Big Sky that you find in Norfolk. There was a brisk northerly wind (something else you get in this part of Norfolk), but the sky was a pale blue, the sun was shining and we were driving one of the oldest known transport routes in the UK. It struck me then, that this is what 4×4 ownership was all about. In this weather, the route was simple, the Freelander’s wheels occasionally scrabbling on the loose chalk and flint surface in some of the ruts, but that wasn’t the point. It wasn’t technical off-roading, it was getting-away-from-it-all off-roading along a section of Peddars Way, in north Norfolk and all was well with the world.

Peddars Way is an intriguing route. Check out the Ordnance Survey map and it declares it is a Roman road – and for sure a lot of its 46 miles is arrow straight. The name is also believed to be from the Latin ‘pedester’ meaning ‘on foot’, but there are some historians who believe the actual route is much older than that. Officially, it starts at Knettishall Hall in Suffolk, near Thetford and ends right at the north Norfolk coast near the coastal villages of Brancaster and Brancaster Staithe, close to the site of the Roman fort called Brandodvnvm, where it joins the Norfolk Coastal Path. The section we were driving has probably changed little in the hundreds of years that have passed, save for the thrum of the massive farm vehicles working on the cultivated fields either side of the track. Sadly, however, for off-road enthusiasts, much has changed for Peddars Way.

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.

One oft forgotten, or even ignored, land-locked country in Africa has much to offer the off-roader, Malawi could well be the ideal holiday adventure drive you’ve been looking for

DRIVING MALAWIWords and photography: Nick Redmayne

“Twenty five vehicles rolled by clients. All these have been due to driver error…” It wasn’t the ‘welcome pack’ I’d expected from Safari Drive. Along with this A4 treatise, which could have been subtitled. “Bad shit happens when you drive fast and loose on gravel roads…”, was a full colour picture of a lovely 110 Land Rover Defender… on its roof, offering inelegant views of its sump plug to any that cared to look.

I’d first considered driving around Malawi during a visit in 2011. However, an unfortunate combination of misappropriated aid money, a shiny new presidential jet and the expulsion of the British High Commissioner had resulted in nationwide fuel shortages as donor nations unaccountably suspended payments. Two presidents on, in 2014, I was back.

BobCookeBob Cooke – contributor

jeep cherokeeI watched with a certain amount of awe as Axel Seedig drove his Grand Cherokee up the narrow, steeply angled climb. It was more like a gulley than a track, with a couple of big humps and dips on the left which looked as if they’d not only get a car cross-axled, but would also tip it sideways into the steep gulley wall to the right if you weren’t very careful. Axel’s car, a well-modified off-roader (that has previously appeared in our Your 4×4 Life section), made it look easy, partly because the rear diff was locked up and partly because it didn’t look as if Axel cared one jot about smacking his truck sideways into the earth wall if it all went wrong.