Winter 2015 Issue of 4×4 Magazine
Welcome to the 2015 4×4 Of The Year. This is our annual special issue where we look at the latest 4x4s on the market, from the seriously hardcore, the seriously expensive and the seriously competitive SUV market. Hopefully you won’t mind me blowing the magazine’s well used trumpet to explain that this magazine was the first ever to do such a major four-wheel drive group test back in the 1980s, and we have managed to continue every year since. As you can imagine, we are genuinely rather proud of that record, and since I was in on the very start, I can also be personally proud (and somewhat surprised, if I’m honest) to be still around and involved.
It’s always a massive undertaking to get all these vehicles together in one place, and the logistics were managed impeccably as ever by Sue Loy. We then need a photographer who understands the special demands of a 4×4 test, and once again we relied heavily on the many talents of Wayne Mitchelson. Our thoughts go to Wayne as he has managed to injure his back since the test – thankfully he got the images to me before the accident! Here’s hoping you are back behind the wheel soon, Wayne. In charge of most of the testing were previous editors of this magazine, Hils Everitt and Bob Cooke; add myself to the mix, and the team is complete. Our thanks also have to go to Peter and Heather Morgan who let us use the extensive facilities at their Motor Safari site. Without their help and support we would not have been able to complete the test. Thanks, guys.
January 2015 Issue of 4×4 Magazine
Time for a confession. I’m getting rather interested in tyres. When discussing with any of my non off-roading friends that I’m about to write a feature on 4×4 rubber, I regularly get the rather tedious, and not very funny, comment that tyres are ‘black and round – what more is there to say?’ Plenty as far as I am concerned, and a lot of it very interesting in my humble opinion. In this month’s issue is the report of my recent experience driving 250 miles through the Mexican Baja, testing the new 4×4 tyres from BFGoodrich. This was an illuminating, entertaining and at times alarming experience, driving Baja Challenge buggies over some of the most testing off-road tracks and rocky trails this writer has ever experienced in 30 odd years of motoring journalism. For once it was not driving with a bunch of fellow journos, some of whom may think they are hotshot aces when getting behind the wheel, my fellow drivers in Mexico included actual Baja 1000 winners, and professional off-road specialists, including Rod Hall – the only person to complete all 46 Baja 1000 events! Humbling? You had better believe it.
Christmas is a great excuse to buy someone something that you’d really like yourself, but feel you shouldn’t really! When it comes to radiocontrolled model off-roaders, then we are sure that any of the younger offspring in the family would just love one of these; and you’d be just the person to explain how to drive it off-road! This is a 10th scale Jeep Wrangler from Axial, fi tted with Falken tyres apparently. It’s claimed to be a fully functional rock-crawler and all you will need to buy are batteries. Looks great to us, and it will be on the list to Santa. Fully functional, the Axial model is not cheap at £314.99, but what better way to work off the Christmas turkey than running around the garden driving over the neighbour’s rockery? Available from model shops, call 0845 459 1966, email: [email protected] or visit the website… but beware, there are some fantastic models on there! Important legal bit: Jeep and related logos, vehicle model names and trade dresses are trademarks of Chrysler Group LLC and are used under license by Axial Inc. © Chrysler Group LLC 2014 Website: www.axialracing.com
The 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.
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 BFGoodrich All Terrain tyre is an iconic favourite for many 4×4 enthusiasts. The great news is that it has just got better, and we have had an exclusive opportunity to test the latest version, the KO2, across some of the roughest tracks and trails in Baja Mexico.
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.
OK, so this isn’t technically a product that has a specific ‘off-road’ application, but it is certainly ‘out there’. This new offi ce seat is a replica of the seats fi tted to the Millennium Falcon spaceship, made famous in the Star Wars franchise. It is actually designed and built by Geoff Dunsford, the man who designed the originals. Besides looking rather cool, and we assume very comfortable since you can travel to another Galaxy while seated, each seat comes numbered and authenticated; this is a strictly limited production run. Geoff is obviously in the seat business and he is, with his son Mark, ‘the force’ behind Cobra seats. (That pun was in the release sent to us, so we make no excuses, but it did make us smile!). As a limited edition, it’s not a cheap seat but if you are a Star Wars fan, or just want something a little different in your offi ce, then you’ll probably be OK with the £690 price (inc VAT). Website: www.cobraseats.com
December 2014 Issue of 4×4 Magazine
For many, SUVs are just plain ugly. Too big, too brash and too much. These people had a field day when Porsche unveiled its Cayenne. The company’s desire to make sure everyone knew it was a Porsche by grafting a 911 sports car nose on to the front was thought by some to be a hideous piece of automotive design. It’ll never sell… The Cayenne is now the largest selling model in the German manufacturer’s range; fair to say that, when looking at the sales figures, Porsche is now really an SUV manufacturer that side-lines in quirky sports cars.
SUV design is primarily a case of function taking first place over form. Few are designed just for design sake; a Defender is hardly svelte with smooth lines that make you want to run your hands along the bodywork – and not just for fear of catching yourself on a protruding rivet. It’s built to do a job and its looks are secondary. Much has changed at Land Rover with the high-class designs rolling from Gerry McGovern’s studio. When the Evoque was first shown, its dramatically different looks made traditionalists declare it was not a proper ‘off-roader’, it was soft and an example of design over function. Sales of the Evoque destroy such comments with sales being 50/50 between male and female customers, and driven properly the Evoque is a competent off-roader. And like the Cayenne, the Evoque is a huge sales success.
This is being written during August and Surrey’s second day of continuous rain! Summer appears to most definitely be over. This means that temperatures will drop and thoughts ought to turn to weather you should consider a winter tyre for your SUV. Regular readers will know that we are particularly evangelical about the winter tyre and highly recommend it. The guys at Toyo think similarly and have announced the new Open Country W/T tyre. In case you are new to this, the point of a winter tyre is that the compound is different to a summer option and as such offers considerably more grip once the temperature drops below 7degC – and that is the average temperature in the UK during morning and afternoon rush hours for SIX MONTHS of the year. So please don’t think about a winter tyre as a snow tyre, although when the white stuff does fall the winter compound and the tyre’s tread design, which includes deeper side grooves, or sipes, will give you a lot better grip and traction. Indeed, once you fit winter tyres, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to decide to swop each year. The Toyo options are available from 15 to 20 inch sizes, with prices starting at around £80 a tyre.