Monthly Archives: December 2013

WINTER EMERGENCY KITFor those working and travelling in rural areas that might get caught in bad winter weather, Cardiff-based survival gear specialists, BCB International Ltd, has developed this winter emergency kit. Included is a solid fire lighting and cooking fuel made from ethanol, called FireDragon, which can be lit in wet and extreme weather conditions. The kit is claimed to enable individuals to stay warm, hydrated, as well as be seen and heard when the conditions really turn nasty.

Website: www.goodkit.co.uk 

PUTTING THE BOOTS INThis month we have a seriously useful gift as our subscription offer. Clothing and footwear company, Dickies, has a well-earned reputation so you know immediately that these boots are quality.

A combination of rigger boots and wellingtons, these have PVC uppers, are fleece lined and have steel toecaps. They are said to be worth £25 and available in sizes 6 – 12. Of course, you get them FREE when you subscribe to 4×4 Magazine, plus you save 10 per cent on the overall cost, plus have the magazine delivered direct to your door – no need to get your rigger boots dirty trudging to the newsagent! And it couldn’t be easier to subscribe; call 0845 872 7385, go to www.kelseyshop.co.uk/fx/p138.

Famous Four x 25The guys at Famous Four, independent Land Rover parts specialist, are celebrating an impressive 25 years in the business, with their new £150,000 workshop. Richard Varrall and co-director Martin Stebbings said the new six-bay building was necessary as they were ‘full to capacity’. Famous Four now employs some 15 people, and ships thousands of parts every week, with an impressive 50 per cent going overseas. In total, the company’s website now lists over 7500 items that are available for Land Rovers from 1948 to the present day. They are currently completing a nut and bolt restoration of an ultra rare Range Rover Velar, which will be good to see when it is finished. So if you are looking for a particular Land Rover part, call 01507 609444 or go to www.famousfour.co.uk

REPLACEMENT CIRCLIP Also from Gigglepin this month is this replacement circlip for a Warn 8274 winch. The standard Warn 8274 brake is held on by a circlip on the end of the mainshaft, and it’s one that is famous for breaking – normally at the worst possible moment. Gigglepin tells us that this circlip has previously only been available as part of the Warn Brake Service Kit. Gigglepin 4×4 can now supply both the early and late types of mainshaft circlip – individually – at the bargain price of only £6.50 (plus VAT). An essential part of any winch spares kit.

Website: www.gigglepin4x4.net

WINCH SERVICE KITGigglepin has just launched this special offer for the kit required to service and rebuild the brake assembly on a Warn 8274 or GP80 Series winch. This includes a pair of HD brake shoes, spring, spacer, 21 stainless steel ball bearings, three Belleville spring washers (not required on the early Warn 8274) and two square woodruff keys. Gigglepin claims that bought direct from Warn all these parts would add up to over £115, buy direct from them for only £60 (plus VAT).

Website: www.gigglepin4x4.net 

Power Merc!We had a Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG in our recent 4×4 Of The Year test (4×4, Winter 2013) and in many ways it split the judges. For some, the vehicle’s amazing bi-turbo V8 engine was such a phenomenal piece of kit, it was easy to ignore some of the vehicle’s idiosyncrasies. But at the end of the day, it’s not an off-roader and cannot match the offerings from Land Rover. It seems, however, that if you want a pure power Merc with all-wheel drive, you can now have the Concept GLA 45 AMG. Aimed at a younger target group, this sleek, low, compact SUV would certainly be a competitor to Porsche’s new Macan. Powered by a 2.0-litre turbo engine, producing 360bhp and a thumping 450Nm of torque, this machine has a claimed 0-62mph time of under five seconds. The drivetrain is the AMG 4MATIC all-wheel drive system and the transmission is the AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT seven-speed sports option. The design is certainly aggressive, and you have to wonder if it really needs the ‘TURBO AMG’ badging on the front wings. But then if a ridiculously powerful SUV is what you are after, then you are probably no shrinking violet!

Tackling the question of which is the best pick-up available in the UK today is difficult. The choice is wide ranging, in terms of price, character and ability, but only one can win our 4×4 Pick-up Of The Year 2014, but even the runners up often impress

Words: Nigel Fryatt   Photography: Wayne Mitchelson   Second opinion: Howard Sherren

pick upAfter our annual 4×4 Of The Year test in the last issue, we turn our attention to the pick-up market. With models from China, Korea, Japan (and Japan via the USA) this is a small, but highly competitive selection of 4x4s, and it’s a market enjoying some growth. From the adjoining table, you can see that since 2009, UK pick-up registrations have risen significantly, and this year looks like being particularly strong. Now all these pick-ups have important characteristics in common; all diesel powered, all double cab, and all but one with selectable 4WD. They do, however, have very different characteristics and achieve the common aim of carrying four passengers, significant payload, and being able to tow, in very different ways. Prices too, vary widely. We have reported the manufacturer’s claimed basic prices, which all exclude VAT (since in most cases, this is reclaimable), and that means the most expensive model here, the VW Amarok, is close to twice the cost of the cheapest, the Great Wall Steed. For vehicles that are so matched in their main raison d’etre, this is a significant difference. Is it worth that extra expense?

Of course, we also have to deal with the elephant in the room. On this test we have seven of the pick-ups available to the UK market; astute readers will notice that there is one missing. We have no Ford Ranger, our winner from the same event last year, but significantly absent for 2014. The reason for this is simple. If you place an order for a new Ford Ranger today, evidence is that it could take over a year for that order to be fulfilled. In our opinion therefore, it’s effectively not available to the UK market, and certainly not available for our 4×4 Pick-up Of The Year 2014 test. What we have therefore, is the current available UK pick-up market, ready and waiting to be tested.

It’s become a mini-classic in its own lifetime, with cute styling that suits it just as well for the city as for hardcore mud-plugging. A true off-roader with separate chassis and low range gearing and a reputation for reliability that ensures continued popularity

TARGET PRICE: £500 – £13,000

BUYING USED: SUZUKI JIMNY Oh, sure, we laughed at the Jimny when it appeared in 1998, far too small to be a useful SUV, too puny and low-slung to be a competent off-roader, surely it was nothing more than a nippy, traffic-dodging, easy-park city car, a little kinky in the styling department but hardly more desirable than a Mini…

Yet the Jimny has endured, and although its diminutive dimensions still can’t make it a sensible family SUV, it’s proven to be a great fun car for enthusiasts who wish to be part of the SUV lifestyle without having the need for a full-sized family off-roader. Meanwhile the Jimny’s off-road ability continues to astound as more and more older examples find their way into weekend pay ‘n’ play off-road sites where they can be seen mixing it on equal terms with Jeeps and Land Rovers.

It is an oddball little car, boasting a rugged separate chassis and rigid axles at a time when even the most serious of off-roading SUVs were switching to monocoque bodyshells and independent suspension, in consequence of which, the Jimny is relatively heavy for its size and the ride quality isn’t as good as it could be. Performance is hardly exciting, especially with the original 1298cc engine, which although seemingly right up-to-date at the time with its 16-valve head is a single-cam type that needs to be revved close to its 6000rpm power peak to deliver anything like meaningful acceleration, and works hard with much use of the five-speed manual transmission to keep the Jimny in touch with general traffic. Countering this is the fact that it was never intended to be a long-haul highway cruiser, and the uprated variable valve timing unit installed after 2005 sounds a little less frenetic and returns better fuel consumption.

Nigel FryattBob Cooke – contributor

Suzuki Grand VitaraIt wasn’t all that long ago that the name ‘rhino’ was pretty much synonymous with ‘Suzuki’ – the all-conquering little SJ made the rhino symbol its own, a fitting reference to the little Suzuki’s rugged and adventurous nature. It seemed fitting, therefore, that we should involve our long-term Grand Vitara in a more recent rhino-related event, a tough off-road challenge aimed at raising money for conservation projects in Africa.

The British Rhino Charge event traditionally includes some quite daunting off-road obstacles, and bearing in mind the limited ground clearance and unblemished body panels of our luxury-spec SZ4, there’s no way we’d have gone anywhere near the action had it not been for a decision to run a softer-road Safari Trail event alongside the main action. That idea was a good one – although most entrants tackle the event in rugged and sometimes heavily modified vehicles, there are many of us who are concerned enough about the fate of African rhinos to want to take part, but all we have to do it in might be the school-run Nissan Qashqai… or, in our case, the definitely low-riding road-biased 2.4-litre SZ4.

Ian Seabrook

Land Rover Discovery 1 200TdiNot everything has gone to plan lately. I spent a week preparing the car and loading it up for a green lane session in North Yorkshire with some friends. Having not done very much laning at all outside Wales, I was looking forward to a change of scenery. Sadly, only three miles into the 160-mile journey there, it all went wrong. There was a clank, a bang and the front left wheel locked up. Fortunately, it was wet and the wheel was on a white line at the time, so I slowed down with rather less drama than I might have. Reversing freed off the wheel and I could limp home. I hurled everything into the Volkswagen Golf Mk2 I owned at the time and headed north, feeling somewhat depressed.

As it happens, I had a great time as a passenger, especially aboard a Vauxhall Frontera Sport – surprisingly capable if a bit lacking in ground clearance. I also got to drive a friend’s Lada Niva – also very capable if somewhat agricultural.