Hils Everitt – Editor at Large
So it is with heavy heart and a tiny tear in the eye that I say a fond farewell to the little Suzuki Jimny SZ4. The Jimny and I established a great bond between us over the last eight months and I am already really missing its under-damped suspension and bouncy ride that never failed to make me smile.
It’s been off-road a few times, for example on a lovely greenlane in the Shropshire hills with Toby Savage’s gorgeous Ford Willys Jeep and solo in the stunning Lake District, as well as strutting its stuff alongside the immense Bowler Nemesis last summer.
As one of a steadily decreasing breed of budget 4x4s left in the world that offer true low-range gearing and impressive off-road ability – give or take the odd ground clearance issue – it still ranks high on our ‘we like’ list. You really can have some proper off-road fun in it, as I have amply discovered during its time with the magazine.
Sadly, recent world events may make adventures like this even more difficult. Here we follow the story of some intrepid Scottish 4×4 adventurers through the magnificent mountains of Algeria
Words and photography: Chris Scott of Sahara Overland
I flew in to Adrar in the west of Algeria a few days late and caught up with my tour group. They were not happy bunnies. Their 1000-mile drive down from Oran on the Mediterranean had been marred by bad weather, grotty accommodation and a tedious relay of police escorts, possibly exacerbated by fears about what’s now become known as the ‘Arab Spring’.
And then there was the bad news. That morning we heard about an Italian tourist kidnapped a few days ago on the other side of the country, south of Djanet. While such events have occurred lately in neighbouring north African countries, this was the first in Algeria since 32 tourists were grabbed back in 2003; an event well remembered, since I had narrowly avoided being included.
It’s finally here in the UK and VW’s highly anticipated foray into the highly-competitive pick-up sector with the Amarok has got the 4×4 pulses racing with its excellent new 4MOTION system that simply rocks off-road. Oh, it’s not bad on-road either…
Words: Hils Everitt Photos: VW and Hils Everitt
Let’s cut to the chase. No beating about the bush: Volkswagen’s new pick-up truck is brilliant off-road. Just forget the length of the thing for a moment and its mediocre departure angle when fitted with all sorts of chrome accessories, and those intrusive sidebars, we’re talking about VW’s new 4MOTION system.
The latest technology from VW has made this new foray into the fiercely-contested pick-up market the best of its genre in off-road ability. So far, the pick-up market has demonstrated good old-fashioned 4×4 credentials with the majority offering just part-time 4×4 with low ‘box operated by a transfer lever.
VW has upped the ante with the new version of 4MOTION. It allows the Amarok to tackle steep, greasy and nasty descents in neutral together with Hill Descent Control to make a mockery of the worst of slopes and treacherous wet gloop. It works on the off-road ABS and once you get used to inching down a steep slope in neutral with no driver input whatsoever, it’s damned impressive and reassuring.
Calling all 4×4 owners! This magazine prides itself in featuring the best 4x4s in the world, all the new launches, the best competition vehicles, historical vehicles, the wild and, sometimes, the wacky. What we are looking for now is to learn more about what you, the reader, owns and what exactly you use your 4×4 for. We want to hear from you no matter what you own; old, new, standard, modified – as long as it’s a 4×4. And what do you use it for? Is it your weekend off-road toy? Does it work for its living? Does it tow a caravan, a boat? Why did you choose it? Have you got a history of 4x4s in your family, or are you a new convert to the cause?
The impressively titled Range Rover Davis Mark II Limited Edition is the latest from the extravagant studio of Afzal Kahn. For a price of £65,875 you get a Cosworth engine upgrade, plus the colour scheme includes lower grey sections to the RR, tweaks to the side vents and rear valance. A new exhaust system aids the power increase, with the whole vehicle finished off with RS-R wheels, designed by Kahn, available in both 9.5in x 22in and 10.5 x 22in sizes.
Saab’s new 9-4X crossover should be in our showrooms later this year. Aimed as a competitor to the BMX X5, luxury 4×4 range, the car is actually built at the Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico, due to the company’s association with General Motors. That could well explain the fact that when looking at the photographs, the Saab 9-4X certainly looks like a North American SUV, rather than something from a quirky and highly original Scandinavian company. Scandinavian Saabs also had a good reputation for reliability and build quality, which will be something that will be very important to this market. It’s good to see, however, that the starter button remains between the seats, near the gear lever – that’s traditional for Saabs, and very confusing when you sit in a Saab for the very first time!
In our May 2011 issue, we remembered the Portuguese off-roader, the Uniao Metalo Mecanica, better known in the UK as the UMM. We have a soft spot for this ‘ugly duckling’ off-roader, not because of its looks, but because of its ability. We tested a number of these vehicles, in the Alter model range, during the late 1980s and in certain circumstances it was even a match for the equivalent Land Rover. Trust us, it was not to everyone’s taste, but it was a highly competent off-roader. In the feature we asked if any readers still owned an UMM – well the response was surprising…
We have actually been contacted by Carlos Pires, himself Portuguese, now living in the UK and something of an UMM expert. Apparently there is one guy in the UK who has no less than 25 UMMs! In Portugal the factory is still open to the public for spares and general advice. Indeed, there is a very active Clube UMM with around 300 members keeping this off-roader very much alive.
Just as the new Wrangler Unlimited comes to the market, so do the exciting new overland options. Highly respected US company, Adventure Trailers (www.adventuretrailers.com), has introduced the Habitat Hardtop exclusively for the Wrangler Unlimited. Designed in association with camper specialist Ursa Minor Vehicles, the Habitat is a replacement hard top featuring a lid that opens over the hood of the Jeep to reveal a tent and sleeping area for up to four people. A great, and very simple, idea and from what we can tell, looks very well made. Importantly, it is easy to set up and obviously takes up no more space than the vehicle itself, following the Tread Lightly philosophy. You simply open the rear doors, fold the seat down and a step up allows for stand up room inside the tent. Being off the ground has many advantages and it means you are completely self-contained. This certainly looks an excellent option for Wrangler owners looking to spend some serious time off-road!
News has been announced that should put a smile on all Land Rover enthusiasts; owners Tata of India has revealed end of year accounts that show the Jaguar Land Rover Group reporting a £1.1bn profit. To put that in perspective, profits the previous year were ‘only’ £14.6miliion (which was reported as a ‘bare profit’) and for 2008-9 there was a loss of £678m – a fact that was close to being a ‘near fatal’ loss according to financial industry analysts. Indeed, there were threats that one of the UK manufacturing facilities could have to close. Ford had been well pleased to sell the group to the billionaire industrialist Ratan Tata, but that looks a somewhat short-sighted move now. Despite the recession hitting luxury saloons and 4x4s hard, there has been a rapid recovery at JLR and this has been ‘product led’, as they say in all financial papers. What that really means is that they started to build vehicles that people wanted to buy, they built them properly and at sensible prices.
Export sales have been a major indicator of the profit growth with great success in China, Russia and India. With new models like the Range Rover Evoque just about to arrive on to those markets as well as the UK, this looks an exciting time for Jaguar Land Rover. Indeed, Tata is said to have agreed to invest £1bn per year for the next five years into the UK, the immediate affect of that is an increase in the sales force at Halewood (where the Evoque is being built).
One thing enthusiastic off-roaders need to consider is a decent method of getting all that muck and grime off their vehicle. A decent pressure washer is a very sensible accessory, and this month we have two new washers to consider.
The guys at Sealey have a special summer promotion running that includes a ‘star buy’ pressure washer offer. The PC2701 is on offer for £99.95 (plus VAT). It comes with high/low pressure lance, rotary and fixed brush attachments. There’s also a patio brush attachment – which might be necessary after you’ve dumped all that mud on the driveway! The washer offer is in Sealey’s special summer promotion catalogue, available at www.sealey.co.uk
Nicknamed “The Beast,” Karcher’s brand new pressure washer (pictured) can deliver a 150bar maximum – which is around 40 times a normal garden hose, and should be treated with respect. The K6 also has a clever “Plug ‘n’ Clean” system where you can add detergents.