Nigel Fryatt – editor
EVEN the most cautious and careful driver can have an ‘incident’ when driving off-road. It’s one of those activities that you shouldn’t do, if you are not prepared for the consequences that might involve some damaged metal (or plastic), since it’s not always just your pride that gets dented.
That would be a good way of introducing, or indeed excusing, the dent that now appears on the Suzuki’s front bumper. I could regale you with stories of derring-do, on how the little Suzuki had been ploughing through the rough stuff, embarrassing vehicles more suited to serious mud-plugging, when one of those nasty mobile rocks ‘jumped out’ in front of me and caught the valance. I could say that, if it was true. Sadly, I have to admit that the damage was done… in a car park. Now it was the muddy, slippery car park at a small wildlife nature reserve somewhere in Surrey, and not a tarmac covered Tesco’s car park, but that still doesn’t quite excuse it.
Stupid thing was, when I drove in and parked I noticed the small wooden fence, less than a foot high, low down on the passenger’s side. It would be easy to miss that I thought to myself. Of course, some time later when I came to reverse out of the space, putting the wheel to full lock and looking over my shoulder to see all was clear behind and easing back, the resulting graunching noise told me that, basically, I was an idiot.
Bob Cooke – contributor
I wouldn’t have known there was a problem until I drove the Cherokee over one of those ridiculous speed bumps on the way to the supermarket. The noise from the back wasn’t the usual thump caused by the tool box bouncing in the boot, it was a definitely sharper bang, and it happened again as I drove over the next speed bump. My initial suspicion was a failed damper, though even that was surprising since the dampers are little more than a year and a half old, having been fitted at the same time as the heavy duty springs went on, and although I do use the truck off-road I don’t treat it harshly enough to ruin a set of dampers that quickly. So, once the rain had stopped I got underneath and had a look, to find that the dampers all seemed secure. The spring, however, wasn’t. The bolt holding the rear of the nearside leaf spring to the hanger had fallen out, allowing the rear of the spring to crash upwards directly against the chassis rail, hence the loud bang every time I bounced it over a hump.
There have been a few miles clocked up this month chasing features; but for once, some of those off-road miles have been in great comfort!
I have been on my travels again this month, spending a few superb days in and around Exmoor National Park, which spans west Somerset and east Devon. You can read two of the features from that trip this month: the Defender Challenge Series and a review of an excellent tour of Exmoor, courtesy of Experience Exmoor.
The Exmoor tour was a real treat as, for once, I was being chauffeured around in a luxury 4×4. I have experienced the joys of greenlaning from the passenger seats of old Land Rovers, Land Cruisers and Jeeps, which is superb. But there is hardly enough room to breathe with all the kit stacked in, and jumping in and out as I do to take pics (and generally admire the scenery) can be a right old palaver – particularly in Defenders! Don’t get me wrong, I love Defenders and Series Land Rovers, but their lack of comfort and ease of entry and exit, for a vertically challenged sort like me, can become a bit of a performance, much to the delight of onlookers.
July 2014 Issue of 4×4 Magazine
It’s fair to say that each month that I receive the copy and photographs from regular correspondent Robert Pepper, my well of resentment begins to fill. Once again he tells us of loading wife, kids, a few steaks and even some cold beer into his Discovery and just driving off into the Bush. The pictures show the family’s campsite in some wonderful remote location, and you know he’s had a great off-road drive to get there. The only saving grace is that Robert’s an ex-pat, a nice bloke and not a freshly grown Australian; otherwise the resentment might overflow completely. Of course there’s also the email I might get from America asking if I want a story of someone driving their Jeep through the desert, and the excitement of rock-crawling along some National Park trail. Then you learn from somewhere like Portugal that it is completely legal to follow dirt tracks into the mountains without worrying about whether you are actually allowed to be there, because you can…
Here in jam-packed Blighty, any greenlaning trip is best done with a fully qualified High Court barrister on-board to argue the case should you bump into Mr and Mrs We-know-our-rights, out ‘rambling’ with their best friend and spinster of the parish, Ms I-know-even-better who will doubtless expound that you ‘and your massive dirty horrible four-wheel drive machine’ shouldn’t be on this track. Even if legally, you have every right to be there. Let’s face it, off-roading in the UK is not as easy a task as the one that confronts Mr Pepper each weekend!
Now in its 35th year of production, little has changed with the Mercedes-Benz G-Class – apart from the name. To most off-roaders, this venerable 4×4 will always be known as the G-Wagen, or Geländewagen; simply translated that’s all-terrain vehicle. Now it’s simply the G-Class, to match the full Mercedes range.
The German company has officially announced that there will be a completely new ‘G’ on, and off, the roads for 2017. Yet while there will be significant changes, much will stay the same, according to Andreas Zygan, Mercedes SUV boss: “We have to be careful with our heritage. We offer something really special. Last year, the 34th, was the best ever for G-Class sales. It’s amazing, and one of our idols.”
We gather that the new model will use a lot more aluminium in its body structure, with the aim being to take as much as 200kg from the existing model’s hefty 2570kg bulk. It will also be wider, a much needed development as the vehicle has always suffered for rear seat interior space. Not something that seemed to matter 35 years ago, but certainly does today where even small hatchbacks are now much ‘fatter’ than their original versions.
It will also get a new front suspension, possibly three or maybe four link. This will be associated with an electro mechanical steering system, not a completely ‘fly by wire’ approach but certainly lightening up the present vehicle’s rather hefty approach. The suspension will also improve the handling characteristics, which are a long way from present products from the likes of JLR.
Own a 4×4 and fancy trying a different sort of off-roading? In that case, look at what the UK can offer for your 4×4 adventure adrenaline fix! Here’s a round-up of just some of the off-roading adventures you can enjoy. So come on, go get involved…
Words: Sarah Harrington-James
If, like us, laying on a beach for a week for your hols sounds about as interesting as doing your tax return, then read on. There has been much hype of late about doing a ‘staycation’ in the UK and we’re all for that – albeit for a day trip, short break or longer – even better if it’s combined with your hobby. And we’re pleased to reveal that there are some fantastic opportunities out there to get mud-splattered to your heart’s content doing 4×4 driving courses in your own vehicle or in ones that are supplied on a whole variety of terrain. But if you fancy something just that little bit different and are up for a challenge, why not try piloting a hovercraft, have a go at tank driving or quad biking? We’ve put together a wide selection to cater for all tastes and levels, so we’d suggest go make yourself a brew, kick back and get inspired from this selection.
Operating from a 400-acre site in the Midlands, Avalanche Adventure can offer adrenaline junkies everything from quad bike safaris, off-road 400cc racing buggies to eight-wheeled amphibious vehicle driving and Land Rover off-road driving experiences. You can take to the ‘tough terrain track’ that incorporates steep inclines, shallow and deep water, side slopes and axle twisters in one of Avalanche Adventure’s Defender 90s and a BORDA-qualified instructor will tailor a route to suit your own ability. Or, if you’re planning on paying them a visit as a 4×4 club for a Pay and Play session, you can hire the entire site for £200+VAT a day with the exclusive use of the track and nearby woodland to test your mettle; a list of available dates are on the website.
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 01858 880613
Land Rover is the official team partner of Red Bull Extreme Sailing. Apparently Land Rover all-terrain vehicles and the Extreme 40 catamarans make a natural fit. One floats a bit better than the other though. If you have never seem Extreme 40s in action, go to You Tube and check them out. Awesome things.
You have to admit that this Land Rover Defender looks the business! It’s one of the bespoke Land Rovers from Bespoke Cars Ltd, based at Harrogate in Yorkshire. Each Land Rover conversion is done to suit the customer, hence the name! While that might be a little too expensive for some of us, the guys at Bespoke have let us know that the super cool GTS-R Defender wheels are available at an excellent £245 per wheel, and to make that even more reasonable, there’s a 10 per cent discount for 4×4 Magazine readers (just quote the code: bes69). We will be looking at ‘special 4x4s’ in a future issue and look forward to learning more at what Bespoke has to offer.
Here’s an interesting new product that we have just heard about. Called the Trac-Grabber it’s claimed to be an inexpensive, and very simple to fit device to get a vehicle unstuck. Basically you strap a large rubber pad across the tyre, which when rotated offers more bite and actually raises the tyre slightly. Looking at the demonstration video on the website, it looks a pretty good ‘get you home’ device for severe snowy conditions, but would probably be useful for commercial/utility organisations; not a bad addition to an overlanders emergency kit bag either. As yet, it’s not available in the UK – you heard about it here first, folks – but you can contact the company via the website. And if you do, please give us a mention!
Volkswagen Commercials has a new version of the Multivan range, now fitted with the company’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive technology. This means the 2.0-litre TDI engine is connected to the Haldex multi-plate coupling in the rear axle to give all four wheels drive. The van has an approach angle of 21deg and a departure angle of 15deg. It also has 19inch alloy wheels, which will give the machine some decent abilities when the weather gets bad, or ideal for deliveries to rural locations, building sites etc. This Multivan Alltrak fits neatly into VW’s commercial range. Interestingly, VW actually produced the company’s first 4×4 van some 29 years ago with its T3 Transporter.