Monthly Archives: June 2018

Dacia has come a long way in a short amount of time and it’s now time for the UK’s most affordable SUV – the Duster – to have a proper makeover.

Let’s be clear from the offset: this is Europe’s second best-selling C-segment SUV, so pay attention. Plus, this isn’t just a facelift either – you’re looking at the Duster 2.0.

There are no panels carried over from the old model, and the new version looks altogether more muscular.

The sculpted bonnet, wider headlamps and revised grille all contribute to this, while the raised shoulder line gives a greater sense of security from inside. At the rear, the tail lights are now chunky and square and smart alloy wheels now reach as big as 17” on the top-spec Prestige derivative.

The simplicity of the brand is clearly inside. You have everything you need and nothing more. The new S-shape dash is uncluttered, with the focal point being the 7” touchscreen multimedia system that comes as standard on Comfort and Prestige trims.

It’s a typical black interior, which should help it age gracefully, while the seating has been improved with height adjustability, even if more support under your thighs would be nice. Look more closely, though, and you can start to see how Dacia keep their prices so low.

The air vents for example (of which there are five) are identical, meaning they’ve only had to spend the time – and resources – in developing one vent. As a result, they can focus on stuff that matters, like improving storage and refinement.

A neat drawer under the passenger seat addresses the former, while the thicker glass and more liberal use of absorption materials behind the scenes tackles the latter. Okay, so the Duster still isn’t a byword for luxury, and there is an air of cheapness about the cabin, but you cannot argue when you consider the Duster’s pricing.

You can get behind the wheel of a new Duster for just £9,995, albeit one that is basic even by Dacia standards and only 2WD. Nevertheless, you could go all-in for the 4WD Prestige model and you only need to part with £16,395. You’ll find that down the back of the sofa…

And for your sofa change, you now get rather a lot. Owners of the old Duster wanted a few of the extra toys you expect to get with modern cars. Climate control, keyless entry, a rear camera and even electric power steering – you can fill your boots with the new Duster. There’s even fancy tech like blind spot detectors, although no lane departure or autonomous braking yet.

What about driving, then?

Well the 4×4 variant only comes with the 1.6-litre 4cyl SCe 115 petrol motor. It’s a naturally aspirated unit and rather slow. But, in the absence of a turbo, this is an engine that loves to rev and even manages to sound fruity on occasion. So you can thrash it to your heart’s content (necessary rather than a choice) and you’ll still only be doing 17mph.

Thankfully, a turbocharged TCe 130 engine is expected to arrive in March next year, which should help provide some welcome mid-range. The 4WD Duster also uses the six-speed manual over the five-speed, lowering drone on motorways. Shifting gears requires a relaxed approach, but is certainly no chore, while the lighter steering will prove useful around town. The only place the Duster does start to feel out of its depths is on the faster roads, where tyre noise, ride quality and its lack of power are all exposed.

Around town the suspension setup is actually pretty good at tackling the worst of British roads. Off-road the Duster is a capable and formidable machine, with short overhangs, all-new Hill Descent Control, short first gear and the 4WD rotary system, the same you get in a Nissan X-Trail.

It’s still more of a soft-roader, with limited articulation and no low-range ‘box, but it’s determined to conquer any obstacles in its way and performs like an SUV as well as looking like one.

Like Dacia, the Duster sticks to doing what it does best. It’s a plucky SUV that will give you everything you need on a drive as you go about your daily life, but has more than enough ability to turn out a welcome surprise now and again.

Plus, the Duster seems a vehicle that is as easy on the eye as it has always been – and still is – on the wallet.

It raised a few eyebrows when Bentley announced that their entrant into Pikes Peak this year was going to be a Bentayga. But it paid off, setting a new record on the hill climb for a production SUV.

Rhys Millen piloted the course in 10:49.9 – covering the 12.42-mile sprint almost two minutes quicker than the previous record.

The Bentayga was modified for the challenge, although not much. Alterations consisted of racing seats in the front and none in the back, a production spec Akrapovic exhaust, a roll cage, fire extinguisher and  sticky Pirelli tyres.

In celebration of the achievement, a very limited run of 10 Pikes Peak Edition Bentaygas will go on sale in August. They’ll have the same W12 engine, plus it will be available in the same Radium green as the record breaker. There will also be a black paint option to go along with the 22-inch alloys with Radium accents and the equally colour co-ordinated leather and alcantara interior. Normal service will be resumed on the seating front, and the dashboard bears a graphic of the world-famous hillclimb.

Made in such small numbers, and on offer to both US and European customers, all ten are sure to be spoken for very quickly, although there is no word yet on pricing.

Mitsubishi’s Shogun Sport went out of production twelve years ago, but made a comeback in Australia in 2015 under the Pajero Sport alter ego. And after success Down Under, the Sport is returning to the UK, too.

The 2018 Shogun Sport takes its place as the hardy, practical and off-road capable SUV in the Mitsubishi stable. And it feels purposeful.

Power comes from a 2.4-litre, all-aluminium turbo-diesel engine that gives 179bhp and 317lbf.ft. Given that the Sport weighs in at over two tonnes, it isn’t quick off the line by any means, but when in the economical 2WD setting power goes to the rear wheels only.

Out on the road, it is a comfortable yet firm ride, with controlled body roll, although on the winding lanes of the Cotswolds the seven-seater felt rather large. The driver is afforded a princely vantage point, though, and visibility is good. Steering is a tad heavy, but not intrusively so. It just serves as a reminder that the Shogun Sport is utilitarian.

On both 3 and 4 variants (the only two trim options) the Shogun Sport comes with leather seats on all three rows – the third of which is actually habitable. Piano black plastics cover much of the cabin, and contrary to modern interiors, almost everything is button-manned. There are two handles for both the driver, passenger, and then one on either B-pillar, which if you’re lucky will frame your view over the shoulder rather than block it.

Stowage in the front is poor, though. The smooth and sleek centre console flows into the armrest between the front seats, and whilst it looks smart, you soon realise that there is nowhere to put things – or is there… Down either side of it, you’ll find pockets big enough for a phone or notebook, and door pockets that are similarly sized. Two central cup holders sit in front of the padded armrest, which is hinged to give access to the cubby box. This is where USB ports live, and there’s a convenient shelf that sits atop the storage area to provide a resting place for your now necessary mobile phone. Let me explain…

There is a seven-inch touchscreen, and the infotainment system gives access to vehicular information but, bizarrely, no navigation unless you utilise the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto capability. This isn’t such a stress as both functions work well, but really, no sat-nav in a brand-new car? What if you don’t have any mobile data? You expect us to read a map that’s been printed on paper?

Being big, you’d expect the Shogun Sport to be practical. It is. The boot measures in at 131 litres with all seven seats upright, but flatten the back row and that figure grows to 502 litres. There’s a towing capacity of 3,100kg for a braked trailer with a weight of 125kg. The roof boasts a load capacity of 80kg, and the payload for the boot sits at a handy 600kg.

The eight-speed automatic offers plenty of low-down revs to get the Sport up and running and is then smooth and faultless at cruise – you’re up in sixth gear doing 40mph before you know it. Paddles behind the wheel override the automatic selection, which is convenient once you venture beyond tarmac.

Equipped with Mitsubishi’s Super Select II 4WD system, the Shogun Sport has four transmission modes and another four off-road settings. 2H offers power to the rear axle alone for better fuel efficiency, whilst 4H spreads the power and gives 40% of the drive to the front axle. The next setting, 4HLc, locks the central diff and is ideal for snowy, sandy and high-drag surfaces, whereas 4HLLc drops into low range. In the two latter settings, the rear diff can be locked via a switch on the centre console. The off-road settings are gravel, mud/snow, sand and rock – so you’re well covered on all fronts.

Let loose in the Shogun Sport we were directed to an active quarry, where a bespoke off-road course had been cultivated around the busy lorries and trucks at work. This highlighted the expertise of the Shogun Sport, and vastly altered so-so opinions gathered on the road.

Each aspect of the Sport’s off-road credibility was questioned, and each time it answered confidently. In 4H the traction control managed the power well and calmly pulled us up twisting tracks. Hill Descent Control and 4HLc worked together well to calmly control speed down slopes – as did engine braking in low-range 4HLLc. Crawling over rocks – even without rock mode on – the Shogun Sport felt assured and steady footed, and it climbed faces much too steep to walk up, without breaking a sweat. Its wading depth of 700mm meant the lake we plunged into was easily crossed. It was here, tackling the challenges in the quarry, that the Shogun Sport came to life.

Balanced with the rear passenger wheel drooped and airborne, the Sport proved its strength. Rear doors opened and closed without problem, creaks or any issues at all – and the chassis was reassuringly strong, too.

Standard equipment on the Shogun Sport 3 comprises of 18-inch alloys, leather seating, LED head and tail lights, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, the rear diff lock and all of the off-road toys – OTR pricing starts at £37,775.

Shogun Sport 4s – like the one we tested – come at a £2k premium, with the top-spec model bringing headlamp washers, heated front seats, adaptive cruise control, the 360-degree camera, and an upgraded sound system to proceedings. It also gets safety features in the form of Blind Spot Warning, Forward Collision Mitigation and an Ultrasonic mis-acceleration Mitigation System.

The Shogun Sport does what it must on the road and leaves little room for complaint, but where it really earns its stripes is in the rough and tumble. It isn’t massively sophisticated, but it is practical, robust, and impressive off-road. Compared to competitors that are strong performers away from tarmac, it doesn’t look bad value either.

Jeep are flourishing as a brand, and a model that has helped the brand grow in Europe – and the UK – is the Renegade, and it’s just received its mid-life facelift. So what’s changed?

Firstly, the 2019MY Renegade looks fresh. The front end is updated and has taken inspiration from the new Wrangler. The stylish mimicry begins with circular lights either side of the trademark grille, featuring the same horizontal, rectangular LEDs found in the big brother. At the back there are more similarities, with the square tail lights echoing those on the JL Wrangler. There’s plenty of space inside and the interior is smart – ours was black with grey leather inserts on the seats and dash – there isn’t a luxury feel, though.

A touchscreen infotainment system dominates the dashboard, and at times the menus made simple functions overly complicated, but it is responsive and display quality is good. At one point, however, the system froze and became entirely unresponsive, before sorting itself out after an indiscriminate amount of time. But, this being an early model, we wouldn’t fuss over that.

There is a cost to the eye-catching design, however, as the tall, square cabin is a victim of loud road noise on motorways and visibility is poor. The safety features and blind spot warning system is fine on faster roads, but driving in towns you’re reminded that it’s just better to not have a blind spot at all.

It isn’t just the looks than have been updated, with three new petrol engines on offer. With new aluminium blocks, there is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder worth 120bhp, and a 1.3-litre unit with an extra cylinder available with 150 or 180bhp. On the diesel front the 1.6 and 2.0-litre MultiJet II units remain unchanged.

We drove the 150bhp 1.3-litre four-cylinder, which comes with 4WD and a dual clutch six speed gearbox. It was sluggish off the line and this initially resulted in the right foot asking for more than it needed. However, it did highlight that the new engine actually has something to give and was fairly peppy and energetic when prodded, and at cruising speeds it was comfortable.

Ride quality in the Renegade was surprisingly firm, with potholes and impurities on the road very noticeable and not entirely comfortable at times.

There was plenty of safety tech too. Alongside the blind spot indicator there’s lane departure warning, speed assist that reads traffic signs, forward collision warning with active emergency braking – all of which is standard on Limited models like the one we drove.

We also nabbed a brief go in a TrailHawk version, and although it wasn’t a taxing off-road course there was no cause for concern. The ride was rather on the firm side, as in the Limited, but with the added off-road modes it remained surefooted up and down steep gravelly climbs and remained unfazed by the route.

The Renegade is by no means the hardest off-road vehicle Jeep make. Nor is it a driver’s car. It’s a practical family vehicle that sits everyone in comfort and does a job. Put to use or not, Jeep’s off-road credibility means that the updated Renegade remains desirable as the rugged option is its class.

Full specs as pricing are yet to be announced, but expect prices to start at about £25k when the refreshed Renegade goes on sale in the autumn.

After images leaked in recent weeks of the new Suzuki Jimny, we’ve been given official snaps of the ever-exciting off-road Suzi.

Details are scant at the moment, with confirmation of a ladder chassis, 3-link suspension set-up and part-time 4WD with low range ‘box.

But, what we do have is images of what the Jimny will look like – and it looks fantastic.

It’s a new look, pairing old-school charm with newfound attitude and purpose.

The interior appears well equipped and there’s a choice of single and two-tone paint options.

Nothing concrete has been released regarding specs or release for the fourth-gen, but we’ll certainly let you know as soon as there is.

Earlier in the week we brought you news that Skoda’s vRS-ified Kodiak had set a record at the Nurburgring.

We didn’t have a time then, but we do now – 9:29.84. It’s the fastest seven-seater around the Nordschleife circuit thanks to the driving expertise of Sabine Schmidt.

Having driven more than 30,000 laps of the infamously gruelling circuit, Sabine was the ideal driver to get the best out of the Kodiak’s new 2.0-litre BiTDI engine and the 236bhp it produces. Torque is easily accessible from the unit – reserved especially for the Kodiak vRS – thanks to Dynamic Sound Boost, and adaptive chassis control and selectable driving modes helped Sabine achieve the record.

The lap was completed with the vRS still wearing its camouflage, with the global debut set for the Paris Motor Show in October.

If you were in the market for a solid, yet hooligan-esque SUV but felt you were lacking in options, Skoda may be about to answer your prayers.

They’ve released a teaser video of a Kodiaq vRS at the Nurburgring with a promise of a ‘record breaking lap’.

Sabine Schmidt was at the helm for the lap, which will be revealed tomorrow, 14th June. Keep your eyes peeled…

Details on the hot seven-seater are yet to be announced, but it is expected to hit the market later in the year.

Want one already?

Jaguar E-PACE global media drive, Corsica 2018

Jaguar’s second SUV has been bolstered by a new choice of engine, more safety tech and optional adaptive suspension.

The brand’s 197bhp 2.0-litre petrol unit is now available in the E-Pace at a price of £33,260. With a twin scroll turbo it achieves 0-60mph in 7.7 seconds and claimed economy figures of 34.4mpg.

Adaptive suspension is now available, too. The electronic system reads the road conditions every two milliseconds and adjust the dampers every 10 to manage body roll and improve vehicle control. There are selectable comfort an dynamic settings, that either prioritise a smoother ride or driver engagement.

Smart Settings is a new AI system Jag have introduced to tailor the vehicle settings to your preferences. The self-learning system can accommodate up to eight profiles, and monitors weather, location and your behaviour to learn when you’d want the heated steering wheel on, what type of music you listen to in the morning and so on. Debuted on the new I-Pace, the Smart Settings is part of the Connect Pro Pack, which also includes a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, real-time traffic information and an alert when you’ve forgotten your mobile phone.

All E-Pace models will now also come with particulate air filters on all engines, and are available to order from dealers from £28,500.

The July issue of 4×4 hits newsstands today – and it’s a pick-up special!

Toyota’s rugged one-tonne Hilux Active wins us over with it’s no nonsense attitude and we learn how the Isuzu D-Max Huntsman hits a very specific nail on the head.

Featured vehicles include a six-wheeled Land Cruiser and a Ranger that’s kitted for professional off-roading, plus we ponder when a Land Rover becomes too long.

Our Project 90 muddies its boots and the long-term Skoda Kodiak Scout… gets overtaken by a cyclist.

All of that, plus the monthly update of trail guides and much more!

Buy it in all of the usual ways – from WHSmiths, independent newsagents or via our online store, where you can currently get the next 12 issues for £12!

The fourth generation of BMW’s X5 has been revealed, with an active chassis system and a choice of three engines.

With a new, refreshed design, the X5 remains simultaneously rugged and sleek, and is longer, taller and wider than its predecessor – with a longer wheelbase too. Xline models are differentiated from M Sport models with aluminium grille bars, window surrounds, roof rails and pearl chrome details – M Sport have body coloured wheel arches and bumper trim, and gloss black roof rails and exterior trim. M Sport lines also get bigger alloys, a choice of 20-inch alloys and 22-inch for M Sport Performance models, whilst Xline vehicles have 19-inch standard alloys.

Two diesel and a singular petrol engine will be on offer in the new X5 – the 265bhp, 457lbf.ft xDrive30d, the 400bhp, 560lbf.ft M50d and the 340bhp, 332lbf.ft xDrive40i petrol. The bigger diesel hits 60mph in 5.2 seconds, whilst the smaller option manages a combined mpg of 47.1.

Each of the engine choices comes with the latest eight-speed Steptronic automatic ‘box, with a wider ratio spread and new electric controls for improved efficiency.

M Performance models get a lockable rear diff, with all models fitted with the xDrive 4wd system – featuring a rear wheel drive option.  The new chassis setup includes a double wishbone front axle and five link rear, features a dynamic damper control system and sport or comfort settings. The system also combines active roll stabilisation, active four-wheel steering, and an optional off-road package including underbody protection, and sand, rock, gravel and snow traction control settings.

A fully digital instrument cluster shares the same graphics as the control touchscreen, in an interior with minimal physical buttons. Leather sports seats are electrically controlled and offered in a choice of four colours. M sport models get an M Sport steering wheel, pedals and accent piping on the upholstery.

Four-zone air conditioning is new, as is the panoramic glass roof which features LED lights that can imitate a starry night sky, and thermo controlled cup holders. An optional rear-seat entertainment package places two 10.1-inch screen on the rear of the front seats, and has access to a Blu-ray enabled DVD player, HMDI and USB ports and two headphone jacks.

Driver assists include adaptive cruise, stop and go functionality, the ability and adhere to speed limits, lane and steering assist, traffic assist, and lane change, crossing traffic and rear-end collision warning systems.Parking the X5 has been simplified with parking assistant, and front, rear and panoramic camera views.

Mobile connectivity is available on a subscription basis, whilst a hard drive of 20gb is embedded into the X5’s system, which remotely downloads updates when they are released. An integrated Microsoft Office 365 function brings the office to the cockpit, making emails and calendar appointments easily accessible on the move.

The fourth-gen X5 goes on sale in the UK in June, with prices beginning at £56,710 for xDrive30d models. The M50d starts at £70,690 whilst the petrol xDrive40i kicks off at £58,100.