The off-road scene in Britain is dominated by just a few makes and models of vehicle. Go to a typical 4×4 playday and almost everything you see will be Land Rovers, Jeeps and Suzukis – while on a construction site, it’ll be a few select brands of pick-up. But there’s a whole world of alternatives out there, too – some of them a common sight, others rare and hard to get, but all of them with lots to offer if you’re willing to think outside the box.

Whether it’s for work or play, here’s a selection of 20 off-road heroes worth thinking about for your next project. Some are very well known, but there are others that you’re unlikely ever to have thought about. As always, finding a good, solid truck on which to base your build is critical – but so long as you get that nailed, any of these vehicles here could be turned into an off-road machine to be truly proud of…

Jeep Wrangler

Jeep says the new model is the best Wrangler yet, but they’ve all been pretty good. The original YJ, with unpopular square headlights, only came to Britain in small numbers, but its combination of leaf springs and a cheerfully boorish 4.0-litre straight six engine made it pretty hilarious to drive.

It was in 1998, though, that Jeep hit the off-roading mainstream in the UK with the arrival of the coil-sprung TJ. This sold in much higher numbers, and plenty of people modified them – usually to a high standard, too. The good thing about all Wranglers is that with the combined output of America’s aftermarket on your side, there’s almost no limit to what an imaginative (and rich) owner can do with one.

Another advantage the Wrangler has over the Land Rover Defender is that it commonly comes with kit like cruise, leather and air-con, and in some cases you can hear the stereo. But the real step forward came with the introduction of the JK model in 2007. As well as being far more refined than the TJ it replaced, this was the first Wrangler available in either diesel or five-door form, and as a result it out-sold all previous models several times over.

The JK was also available in Rubicon form, with a set of off-road enhancements making it probably the best factory-standard off-roader in the world. You could only get this with a petrol engine, but the new JL model has righted that wrong (if a wrong is what it was).

Every Wrangler has been cool, and people like them for that alone, but more than that there’s no other 4×4 that’s so well set-up for modifying. Their values have gone up strongly since the Defender went out of production, but the number of them you see being used off-road has spiralled upwards in recent years – whether you’re looking to buy new, old or really old, the Wrangler is a very good bet indeed.

Daihatsu Fourtrak

The Fourtrak was ugly, rough and boring, and any that are left now are likely now to be rusted half to death. But you could drive a stake through its heart and you still wouldn’t be able to kill it – its doughty unbreakability means you’ll still see ancient examples chuntering around playday sites and hill farms as reliably as the day they were born. There are almost none left for sale now, and those you do see are mainly the later Independent model whose front wishbones and low-slung gearbox meant it wasn’t a patch on the old leafer off-road, but anything with Daihatsu’s absolutely legendary 2.8 TD engine is going to have traction to spare. You almost never see a modified Fourtrak – just beaten-up ones, on no more than a set of mud tyres, still showing the rest of the world how it’s done.

Toyota Land Cruiser

Where do you even start with the Land Cruiser? It’s an entire family of different vehicles with many major differences – but with strength, mighty build quality and serious off-road skills common to all of them.
The Land Cruiser range can be divided roughly in two. Up top, there are the big ones – as exemplified by the 80-Series from back in the 1990s, which many people will tell you is the best car ever made. It had proper beam axles at both ends, each of them with a locking diff, as well as long-travel suspension that made it stunningly agile, and its built-in strength was such that you still see them for sale today with a quarter of a million miles or more under their belts.
The later 100 and 200-Series Cruisers are less popular with off-roaders due to their greater complexity and independent front ends, but both are still massively capable both on and off-road. There’s a rare 105-Series model, too, which wasn’t made for the UK but whose no-no-sense spec and front beam axle made it ideal for real work, and also in the realms of the grey import you might be tempted by the hefty 70-Series trucks which, again, don’t come here officially.
Smaller Land Cruisers, which have been sold under the Prado name elsewhere around the world, offer a more manageably sized option whose off-road abilities are scarcely less epic. Anything from before the 90-Series Colorado is now very rare indeed, but the 120-Series from 2002-on is a fantastic vehicle – and the current 150-Series, which has just become available in basic Utility form, is now one of the most attractively priced off-road vehicles you can buy new.
As with all Japanese vehicles, the supply of parts for modding Land Cruisers is limited. But the best specialists are exceptionally good – and with just a minimum of mods, any of these mighty Toyotas will tackle most terrain at a stroll.

Range Rover

The original Range Rover was the truck that launched a thousand jokes about panel gaps that were visible from space. It’s incredible off-road, though, and there’s no end of ways in which people have modified them – including taking the body off and replacing it with
something else altogether. The only problem is that there aren’t many Rangeys around now, and those that are still in one piece have normally either already been modded or restored.

Buying someone else’s old project is a massive leap of faith, but if you enjoy your workshop time it can yield a huge amount of truck for your money. Find an original one, meanwhile, and you’re far better treating it as a classic car.

Even the second-generation P38 model is lurching into classic territory now – though between its shocking build quality and a degree of complexity that more or less guarantees pain for people who own one in later life, you’ll soon come to understand why they cost so little to buy. For this reason, the P38 has never caught on among off-roaders, and nor have subsequent models – whose luxury levels, and running costs, have continued to climb almost exponentially.

Use one of these later Rangeys as a daily driver or towcar, and it will be imperious. But for a vehicle with soul, whether or not you’re going to off-road it, only the Classic will do.

Mercedes G-Wagen

The original G-Wagen was a fantastic off-roader, with proper axles, diff-locks every- where and the build quality of a tank. It also had the weight of a tank, and in recent times came to cost pretty much the same too, but with a set of the right tyres on board it would drive absolutely anywhere.

A new model with an independent front end was announced at the start of this year, but for anything close to modern you’ll need to be properly rich to own a G-Wagen, let alone off-road it. Find an early one, however, with one of Merc’s slow but unstoppable diesel engines, and aside from those tyres the only mod you’ll need to make is to strip out as much weight as possible.

Land Rover Defender

The Defender has been a dominant presence throughout the UK scene more or less forever, though the sky-high prices they command means more and more people are thinking twice before using them off-road. Values have kept on climbing since production ended just under three years ago, and most owners now think in terms of prettying them up and keeping them nice. rather than modding them into the mud-bashing warriors they’re meant to be.

Either way, there’s a vast aftermarket in place to help you maintain, rebuild, restore, customise or modify a Defender into whatever sort of machine you want it to be. Even a reliable one… though one problem with them is that by now, the vast majority have been worked hard, abused, neglected, modified and/or hit with spanners by persons unknown. Buying a proper shed and using its identity to basically build yourself a new vehicle from scratch is a common approach, though even this will probably mean shelling out several grand on the donor vehicle.

Prior to its demise, Land Rover liked to say the Defender had been in continuous production since 1948. Taking it at its word, that means we need to include the old leaf-sprung Series models here; they’re completely different in character and these days fall squarely into the classic car category, though they’re incredibly willing off-road whether in standard or modded form.

For day-to-day use, though, it’s got to be a Defender. Many people go for the later ones from 2007 onwards, with the 2.4 or 2.2-litre Puma engine, but many others would sooner chew their own arm off. If DIY maintenance is your thing, the 200 or 300Tdi will suit you best, but the Td5 from 1998-2007 is very popular – even if later ones cost an eye-watering £535 a year in road tax. Whichever Defender you own, you need to expect it to require regular work, but the good news is that when you come to sell it, you’ll probably get your money back – and, if you’ve tidied it up, even turn a profit. This fact alone means the Defender is potentially the cheapest vehicle to own in the entire used car market.

Jeep Cherokee

There have been four iterations of the Cherokee, but for serious off-roading there might as well only ever have been the first. The XJ model, which came here from 1993 to 2002, was amazingly capable even in standard form. It only took a small lift and slightly bigger tyres to turn it into a proper boss off-roader, but with the colossal American aftermarket behind you there’s almost no limit to what can be done to one if you want to go the extra mile. Finding a Cherokee from this era will be your biggest challenge now – they sold in enormous numbers back in the nineties, but most of those vehicles have long since breathed their last – and of the ones that are still running, the majority have already been modified into off- road weapons.

Suzuki Jimny

Replacing the brilliant and vastly popular SJ wasn’t going to be easy, but somehow the Jimny managed it. Small but strong, agile but affordable, it retains all the virtues that have made Suzuki into one of the world’s favourite 4×4 makers. It wants a bit for ground clearance in standard form, but the breadth and depth of accessories and modifications available mean that whatever you want to do to one, from mild to wild, the only limits are your imagination and, of course, wallet.

There’s a new Jimny on the way, but the original was manufactured for two whole decades – and for a budget off-road project (as opposed to a cheap shed you’re going to wreck), there’s precious little that can touch it.

Toyota Hilux

It’s been around for more than half a century, and in that time the Hilux has sold more than 16 million units, carving itself a rock-solid reputation for hard-working indestructibility on the way. Early ones were leaf-sprung front and rear, which did nothing for their ride quality, but since 1997 they’ve gained an independent front end which transformed their refinement on the road without wrecking their abilities in the rough.

The most modern Hilux was designed to be more SUV-like inside, but it’s still a world-class truck whether for work or play. And the previous model was probably the best off-road one-tonner of its generation. In each case, there’s plenty of kit available for modifying a Hilux into something really special – but it says a great deal that when you go looking to buy one, there’s a notable dearth of cheap examples around.

Isuzu Trooper

For some reason, the Trooper hasn’t ever entered the mainstream for off-road modding. But there are some excellent examples out there which prove how much you can do with what is a stout, long-lasting truck with bags of potential. Whether you go short or long-wheel- base, you can get more height and flex from a Trooper with relative ease, and so long as you avoid the infamous 3.0 TD engine from the last few years of production its drivetrain is bomb-proof. There are still plenty around to choose from – and if you can’t find the Trooper you want, the little-known Vauxhall Monterey is basically exactly the same vehicle underneath.

Nissan Patrol

It’s not quite as famous as the Toyota Land Cruiser, but the Patrol has a similar history of popping up wherever there’s a war to be fought, a desert to be crossed or a natural disaster to be mopped up. It’s a rarity in Britain, which can make for some fairly excruciating parts prices, but if you want a truck that was built to last you can’t do much better.

As with the Land Cruiser, you can modify a Patrol – but the kit for doing so is rare and therefore expensive in the UK, and anyway it’s already so stout and capable that you don’t really need to bother. Unlike the Land Cruiser, on the other hand, the Patrol doesn’t hold its money nearly as strongly – meaning it could be an appealing alternative if you’re on a budget. It remained beam-axled all-round throughout the whole of its time in the UK, too, so if you do want to lift its suspension you’ll find it easy to work with.

Ford Ranger

Once a bit of an also-ran in the pick-up market, let alone the 4×4 market overall, the Ranger turned that on its head when the T6 model arrived in 2012. Big, imposing and roomy inside, this is also extremely capable both on and off-road – and you can get it with a 3.2-litre diesel engine that thumps out 200bhp and can easily be tuned for more.

All this and an attractive purchase price has helped the Ranger muscle its way to the top of the one-tonne market. But its time truly came when Land Rover stopped making the Defender. Suddenly, well-heeled vehicle builders needed something else to invest in – and with very limited supplies of the Jeep Wrangler being available in the UK, they turned en masse to the Ranger.

Now, there’s a wealth of equipment available for them, and more and more specialists are turning them into street machines, off-roaders and everything else in between. Older models are worth some thought if you’re on a tighter budget, as they’re plentiful and a lot better than they tend to be given credit for – but rarely has there been a more dramatic example of a vehicle muscling in on a market where once it hardly even registered.

Suzuki Vitara

Photo: Steve Taylor/Total Off-Road.
Suzuki Vitara. (3″ suspension lift, 3″ Body lift)
Dave Sturmey (Blitz Midlands)

The original Vitara was a giant-killer par excellence – and a good laugh on the road, too. Amazingly capable off-road, cheap, more robust than it looked… and you could get it in pink. Stick with a three-door model, though, as the long-wheelbase version needs a lot of lift to overcome its low belly.

That’s if you can find one that hasn’t already been modded to within an inch of its life. Straight Vitaras are very rare now, but rather oddly no-one has ever done much with the Grand Vitara that replaced it, even though it was basically the same vehicle in a lot of ways.

A welcome bonus is that towards the end of the vehicle’s run, Suzuki fitted the SWB Grand Vitara with a diesel engine; find one of these, and you could have the makings of a left-field project par excellence. Just don’t go buying the later Mk2 Grand Vitara from 2005-onwards by accident, though, because it’s as much use off-road as a piece of cheese.

Land Rover Discovery

The Discovery has long since replaced the Range Rover as the thing you turn to if you want a Land Rover but can’t afford, or abide, the Defender. The original model, which was the purest in the traditional 4×4 sense, was basically a 100” Defender with some posher kit and a smarter set of clothes, and it was fantastically capable off-road.

It was also hilariously unreliable, but parts and know-how are in plentiful supply and neither costs too much so long as you shop around. There’s almost no end to what you can do with them in the workshop if you want to build a modified off-road machine, too.

The Discovery 2, which came along in 1999, is bigger and more complex than the D1, and it’s hilariously unreliable too. One difference is that while the original was infamous for body rust, particularly in the boot, floors, sills and footwells, the Disco 2 is more likely to suffer from a rotten back chassis.

In each case, the diesel engine is the one to go for. The Tdi in the D1 is best for DIY maintenance, while the Td5 in the D2 is one of the most reliable things Land Rover has ever made. Elsewhere, common sources of irritation on the Disco 2 include the rear air suspension, ‘active’ anti-roll bars and sunroofs (a vehicle without them is worth more if you can find one), while with the D1 your biggest problem will simply be finding one worth having.

In each case, whether it’s maintenance or full-house modding the aftermarket has come up with an answer to every question the Discovery asks. That’s the case with the later Discovery 3, too – though while this was a great leap forward as an all-rounder, its monumental complexity means it’s a risky one to take on, and it’s nothing like as naturally capable off-road and far less easy to modify compared to the earlier models.

Mitsubishi Shogun

The Shogun was once derided as a glam wagon – in fact, it still is by some. But while it was once at the soft end of the spectrum, it’s stayed true to its roots and is now one of the most truck-like 4x4s on the market. For off-roading, the 1990s’ Mk2 model is the one to go for as it still had a live rear axle and proper chassis, and the 2.8 TD engine is as strong as an ox. They’re all very capable in rough terrain – and in long-wheelbase form they’re brilliant tow barges.

The Shogun is much more moddable than you’d expect, too, even if the amount of stuff available for them is limited. And because they last well but don’t often tend to get used and abused off-road, there’s plenty around for you to choose from.

Volkswagen Amarok

The Amarok has always been positioned as a premium vehicle among pick-ups, and not all models have low range. Those that do, however, are astonishingly agile for their size in rough terrain, making this a seriously attractive alternative to the traditional Far Eastern double-cabs.

The Amarok’s timeline is a little odd in that the engine choice changed completely when it was facelifted. Initially, it came to the UK with a 2.0 TDI unit which was at the time the smallest in the market; now, it has a 3.0 TDI which is one of the biggest.

The engine is extremely strong and currently comes with a choice of four power outputs. If you want to use an Amarok for off-roading, however, you need to stick with one of the lower ones, as a dual-range transfer case is only fitted to models with a manual gearbox. Even the old 2.0 TDI didn’t always come with the right stuff for off-roading – but either way, there’s a good, if not normally cheap, choice of equipment available for modding the Amarok into an even better machine than it was in the first place.

Nissan Terrano

When it came out in 1993, nobody thought the Terrano would ever be seen as a serious proposition for off-roading. But after almost 15 years on the market, it was one of the few trucks left with a proper chassis, low box and live rear axle. Better still, while there’s next to no off-the-shelf modding kit available for it, the Terrano can easily be turned into an even more capable performer than it already was as standard. They’re not as cheap to buy as you might expect, but a good one is a real investment. The 3.0 TD engine from towards the end of production is the most attention-grabbing engine option, but it’s been known to suffer oil pressure problems; at the other end of the scale, the very earliest 2.7 TD is as simple, and therefore reliable, as it’s possible for a diesel engine to be.

Mitsubishi L200

The L200 was at the forefront of the double-cab revolution in the UK. It’s been overtaken by the Ford Ranger now, but the sales success it achieved during the noughties means there’s loads of choice on the used market. Most of these are higher-spec models, as this was the original lifestyle truck, but that’s no bad thing as it means you get the option of full-time four-wheel drive – even if you need to stay at the bottom end of the range if you want a locking back axle.

As with the rest of the pick-ups on the market, there’s a good range of equipment available for the L200. If you want to build a one-off project, on the other hand, the wide availability and low prices of older trucks means you can cut one up without spending big bucks in the process.

Vauxhall Frontera

Early Fronteras had shocking build quality, and late ones rode like a giraffe on a trampoline, but you can modify a Frontera into a very willing off-roader. There’s not a lot available in the way of off-the-shelf mods, but people have done effective suspension lifts for next to no money – and for a few quid more, there are some exceptionally tidy ones out there. There’s not exactly a lot of choice on the used market these days, as so many have been broken, but if you can find one a SWB 2.8TD Sport from just after the arrival of coil springs is the ideal base for an off-road project.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

As with the smaller Cherokee, the Grand has come to the UK in various forms but there’s only one worth thinking about in terms of modding. The 1999-2005 WJ is strong, plentiful and ideal for modifying, with beam axles front and rear and no end of kit available. The 2.7 CRD diesel is the one to get, and if you choose an Overland model Jeep will already have done some of the modding work for you – but whatever you start with, and wherever you take it, there’ll be no end of American specialists ready to help you.

For a daily driver that’s still very able off-road in standard form, the more modern WK from 2005-2012 is extremely good value too. Its independent front end means it’s not so appealing to modify, but unless you want to go really hardcore there’s no such thing as a bad Grand Cherokee.

 

Are there any vehicles that you’d put on the list instead? Let us know!

 

 

Article first featured in 4×4 Magazine, November 2018.

Tesla have revealed their all-electric pick-up, you know, the one that is set to be as fast as a supercar.

But, the reveal of the Cybertruck has been striking for a different reason – the way it looks.

On first glance you may well think that the image is still loading, but rest assured that the Cybertruck actually is that pointy. Its wedge shaped design is arguably reminiscent, very vaguely, of things such as the Countach or the DeLorean. These are good looking supercars, but they’d be ridiculous pick-ups.

This does look more utilitarian, though – a notion which is cemented with the revelation that is has an exoskeleton. The outermost of the body is made from ultra-hard 30X cold-rolled stainless steel, whilst the windows are Tesla armoured glass. Its (literally) straight-edged appearance is functional, though, as it is supposed to protect against dings and dents.

With the peak of the harsh wedge shape above the drivers head, the roofline then slopes backward all the way to the tailgate. This means that beneath the tonneau cover there is plenty of room – including storage space under the bed, the frunk and sail pillars, total storage is 2,831-litres. To maintain a comfortable ride when laden, the air suspension is capable of levelling itself and can be manually adjusted four-inches in either direction. Plus, it has a quoted payload of 3,500lbs and towing capacity 14,000lbs, aka 1,587kg and 6.35-tonnes.

Inside there is room for six across two banks of three, and beneath the second row lies additional storage. With a seemingly flat floor and no transmission controls between the driver and usual second front passenger, there is room for a sizeable seat in the middle that looks to be much more than a jump seat – the same goes for the back, too. In typical Tesla fashion there is a huge 17″ touchscreen sitting centrally on the dash, in what is largely a fairly simple cabin.

With three powertrains on offer – single motor rear-wheel drive, Dual Motor all-wheel drive and new Tri Motor all-wheel drive, there are a range of performance specs to digest. The entry model will have a range stated as over 250 miles and towing capacity of 3.4-tonnes and 00-60 in 6.5-seconds. Dual Motor models are upgraded to over 300 miles of range, 4.5-tonnes of towing ability and a 2 second saving on sprint time, whereas the Tr-Motor trumps them both in all stakes with 500 miles of range, the ludicrous 6.35-tonne towing limit and the figure Elon Musk earmarked – 0-60mph in 2.9 seconds.

As is the Tesla way, the Cybertruck has chosen its mantle and stuck to it. In making a tough truck, Telsa gone all out. Made with the toughest materials (Tesla say that if they found anything tougher than 30X cold-rolled steel they would’ve used it), ruthlessly rapid and, if the claimed figures are accurate, it will be as crazy as it looks.

Mitsubishi have announced special offers, available on both the L200 Challenger and the Shogun Sport Commercial.

For a limited time, prices on these two models have been slashed, with CV pricing starting at £23,499 for the L200 Challenger and £26,344 for the Shogun Sport commercial. This means there are respective savings of £4,206 and a healthy £7,341 to be had, with both vehicles available on personal contract hire or hire purchase with interest rates of 6.9% APR.

The L200 Challenger is a high-spec variant of the Series 5 pick-up, which is offered in grey, black and white, sat on 17″ black alloys and with bespoke blacked out detailing around the exterior – such as the front grille, bumper accents, fog lamps surrounds, side steps, extended wheel arches, door mirrors and handles plus the rear bumper.

Inside there are heated front seats, black leather on all plus a seven-inch infotainment screen that’s enabled with Bluetooth, DAB radio, an integrated reversing camera and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plus, mechanically, it has Mitsubishi’s Super-Select 4WD system, which changes at speeds of up to 62mph, and has a payload of a tonne and can tow 3,500kg.

The Shogun Sport is a more utilitarian option, with a load bed measuring a metre wide between the rear arches and a touch shy of two-metres deep, meaning that there is room for a Euro pallet back there. Total load space comes in at 1,488 litres, plus it is an easily accessible hold, with a 605kg payload and a 3.1-tonne braked towing capacity. It also has a 4WD system with a low ‘box, different terrain settings, front and rear lockable diffs and Hill Descent Control.

Both vehicles can be purchased online, or at you local Mitsubishi dealership.

 

Volkswagen’s Amarok is a stellar pick-up truck, one with which there have been a few lavish special editions – and now there’s another on sale.

The Black Edition is available on Highline Amaroks – including the Aventura flag bearer. The 204 and 258bhp versions of the 3.0-litre V6 will be on offer under the bonnet in conjunction with the eight-speed automatic transmission.

Black Edition models add the Lights and Vision pack (which includes rain-sensing windscreen wipers) and the Discover Media Navigation system, meaning it has European map data plus the off-road information display. All Black Editions also come with front and rear parking sensors, Trailer Stabilisation and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System.

Styling additions include 20-inch Talca alloy wheels – black of course. There are also black bumpers front and rear, black sidebars, black fog light frames, a black polish trim on the grille (which itself is black), then a sports bar in black, plus a black headliner for the interior and decorative black inserts on the dashboard.

Aventura Black Editions also come with a Nappa leather interior, upgraded Ergo Comfort seats in the front and a leather multifunction steering wheel with transmission paddles. On the outside it has power folding side mirrors, the front fog lamps have a cornering feature, there’s a front underbody guard, the underbody cladding has been styled and the truck bed has a protective lining.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles are also offering matt paint at a discounted price of £2,420, along side Mountain Top roll covers at a fitted price of £1,665.

Pricing for the Black Edition starts at £34,835 for the 204bhp V6 powered truck before tax – meaning that civilian trucks will cost £42,885 once they’re on the road. For the more powerful version those figures will rise to £38,465 and £47,241 respectively, with the Aventura Black Edition topping the scales with price tags reading £40,995 and £50,277.

It may not even have entered production yet, but Bollinger Motors have revealed that it plans to make four-door versions of it’s B1 and B2 electric vehicles – as well as the initial two-door ones that are set to begin belated production next year.

The all-electric company revealed the B1 a while back, as a real-life Meccano 4×4, before shortly after revealing the B2 pick-up version.

They have also revealed that the powertrain will now have 614bhp and a range of 200-miles from a 120kWh battery, as opposed to the 520bhp supposed before.

Designed to be as practical and spacious as possible, the interiors can be readjusted and the seats bolted into a variety of positions, but the trucks are very well proportioned – for outright storage and with off-roading in mind, too.

The pick-up B2 has 15” ground clearance, 52-degree approach angle, 25-degree break over angle and the 28-degree departure angle, whilst the bed measures in at 5ft 9in long and 4ft 1in wide – or 1.75m and 1.24m respectively.

This means that with the tailgate down in the cab, the Bollinger Motors pick-up is able to transport 4’ x 8’ sheets of plywood, and if you open up the glass on the rear as you can on the B1 in order to reach the top compartment, Bollinger say you can haul 72 sheets of ½” plywood. With the powertrain hidden beneath the floors, there’s plenty of room to store just about anything with the frunk and the huge rear space.

We’re excited to see what the finished products are like, although they won’t enter production until next year – and you can expect a wait on top of that before they make it over to the shores of Britain.

When Ford made the Ranger Raptor, they had hardcore off-roading in mind – and when you’re off-roading it’s easy to get carried away. If this happens you can easily get lost.

To stop Ranger Raptor customers getting lost in the desert, Ford have integrated a breadcrumb feature where when it’s off-road, it drops a pin in the map every second, enabling you to retrace your steps accurately when the time comes to take to the tarmac once again.

Pretty cool, eh?

For years, Ford’s Raptor nomenclature has referred exclusively to the too-big-for-Britian F150 truck. But last year it was announced that the company was getting set to give the Raptor treatment to the Ranger, too.

And now we’ve driven it.

With uprated Fox shocks and a dedicated Baja mode for dune-bashing and high-speed off-road exploits, the Ranger Raptor is a certified thrill seeker. Safe to say that on an introductory test drive in West Sussex, we didn’t come close to exploiting its full skill set.

One of the key factors in the Raptor’s character is its engine. Ford has introduced a 2.0-litre four-pot diesel across the whole of the Ranger line-up; this is smaller than either the 2.2 or 3.2-litre units which have been available on the current model since its launch in 2012, which was met with groans – but if any manufacturer knows how to get more from less, Ford’s recent record suggests it’s the one.

Under the Raptor’s bonnet, you’ll find the range-topping bi-turbo version of the 2.0-litre engine. This has 210bhp and 369lbf.ft – figures that surpass those of the much-revered 3.2-litre from the previous Wildtrak.

You’ll gain access to the engine’s torque slightly later, with max shove coming between 1750 and 2000rpm. Peak power is reached further up, too, at 3750rpm (3000 for the 3.2). We like stuff to happen at low revs, but we like torque and power wherever we find them so Ford’s downsizing may not be a case of doom and gloom after all.

And it isn’t.

But it’s not a roaring success either.

Sadly, we didn’t have any dunes off of which to launch our Raptor. The track we were given to drive on was more like a green lane, with a few rough straights to fly down – and it was here that the power plant felt most at home.

Up and down various climbs, it felt like the unit was being worked hard. To us, certainly, it doesn’t have the same easy-going nature as the 3.2. With a 10-speed automatic gearbox as standard, it takes a bit of a stamp on the pedal to eke any urgency out of the motor – it does respond with some decent poke, but you do need a heavy foot with which to extract it.

This translates on to the road too. The twin-turbo unit is more than comfortable at a cruise and is actually remarkably quiet, but the power still doesn’t feel forthcoming from low down.

The suspension on the Raptor, however, is wholly impressive. The set-up is independent at the front, with a multilink solid axle at the back and truly wonderful Fox 2.5” internal bypass shocks on all four corners. These do result in a ride that is on the firm side, but the control and adaptability they offer is immense – and ride-wise, it refrains from ever crashing about and always keeps on the good side of your spine.

This is the case both on and off-road, where it’s particularly impressive is when you’re battering down a trail at the sort of pace you just wouldn’t use on a green lane. You’re well aware of the obstacles beneath you, but the Fox shocks revel in suppressing the impacts they create.

You’re also treated to a comfortable time on the road, which is good because the Raptor cabin is a sophisticated place to be. You’ve got well sculpted suede and leather seats; Ford’s latest SYNC3 multimedia system, complete with an 8.0”-inch touchscreen, adaptive cruise control and a FordPass Connect Wi-Fi modem.

It’s difficult to make a conclusion on the Raptor as a dune-basher, as we didn’t get chance to, well, bash any dunes. What we can say, though, is that with its strengthened chassis, and in particular those Fox shockers, it feels ready for anything. You can tell, even at low speeds, that you’re riding on a sophisticated yet heavy-duty suspension set-up – which of course just makes you want to push it harder. As pick-ups go, it’s a definite driver’s truck.

The Raptor’s suspension is outstanding, for sure – so much so that it goes a long way to making up for the vehicle’s somewhat hot and cold engine. We do feel a bit harsh to be criticising the latter, however, as it does a good job overall. Certainly, had the old 3.2 not have been viewed so fondly for so long, there would be no complaints.

There’s a suite of driver aids which means that piloting the Raptor both on and off the blacktop is a doddle. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, cruise-managed hill descent control and hill hold are all worthwhile additions that go a long way to making the Raptor effortless to manage.

Without a more comprehensive drive of the Raptor, we can’t yet deliver a complete verdict. It’s a super-truck, however – that much is clear. And so too, to us, was the fact that after just the briefest of times behind the wheel, it’s a pick-up that’s capable of much, much more.

Read the full First Drive account in the September issue of 4×4, out 6th August.

Nissan have detailed further the specifications of the soon-to-be-updated Navara, with more depth on the economy, infotainment tech and the specifications of different trim levels.

The engine available with the updates – the same 2.3-litre unit in either 163 or 190bhp – is more economical than before, with a 40.9mpg return attainable on a combined cycle(NEDC).

Suspension changes have been made to allow easier to handle steering, plus the five-link rear setup is standard across all models now, having been added for KingCab body styles.

A swathe of advanced connectivity also makes the Navara a sturdy workhorse at the same time as being a truly modern vehicle. There’s NissanConnect with Alliance in-Vehicle Connectivity, the system upgrade also allows users to mirror their smartphone on the upsized 8-inch screen that is more responsive and features a clearer display. The Nissan Connect Services app is also now fitted, with built in 4G, TomTom maps with real-time, over the air updates and both Google satellite and Street View. The app also offers remote control of the horn and lights, plus a vehicle locator to help in Navara-heavy car parks, I guess… The system is also compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Standard wheel size on lower spec models is now 17-inch (rather than 16) with new 17 and 18″ designs, whilst high-spec models also get LED headlamps with a gloss black inner shell.

The new Navara is on sale now across Europe, with pricing kicking off at £21,850 as a CV for the KingCab variant.

 

Mitsubishi have thrown down the L200 Challenger – a special edition of the fifth-generation model.

Using the L200 Warrior as a start point, the new Challenger will be available in three body colours – white, grey and black – the latter of which match the finish of its 17-inch alloys and the detailing of the front grille and much of the exterior furnishings.

It will also match the black leather interior, which comprises electric driving seat, which is heated along with that for the front passenger. Other aspects include a 7″ screen which is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, as well as having Mitsubishi’s Smartphone Link Display Audio system and DAB radio.

As with the Warrior models, standard equipment is high with reversing camera, LED DRLs and xenon headlights, automatic wipers plus lane departure warning, hill start assist and trailer stability assistance all as standard on Challenger trucks.

It also utilises Mitsubishi’s 180bhp diesel unit with Super-Select 4WD system and a towing capacity of 3.5-tonnes. It too retains the one-tonne payload, so can be registered as a commercial vehicle, whether the six-speed manual or the automatic transmission is optioned.

To get a Challenger onto the road as a commercial haunt, the manual will cost £27,705, with the automatic available for £29,105. The L200 Challenger is on sale now, and will crossover in showrooms with the new sixth-gen truck when that goes on sale in the autumn.

The D23 Nissan Navara is a good truck – which is just as well as the headlines of the new update are uniform suspension, a new manual gearbox, bigger brakes, engine upgrades and more tech as standard.

King Cab models will now feature the same multi-link suspension as used in the double cab models, which in turn has provided a 46kg increase in the payload of two-door trucks, with the rear also sitting 25mm higher.

The 163bhp engine is now fitted with two turbochargers, matching the tally of the 190bhp version, which has upped torque to 313lbf.ft, a digit increased by 16. An all-new six-speed transmission is joining the revised powertrain, with linger ratios and a shorter throw, meaning changes are less frequently required but more pleasant to enact.

Braking should be more assured in the updated Navara, with rear drums replaced for discs and callipers whilst the front discs are 4mm bigger. The results? a claimed 40% reduction in braking force.

Standard level equipment has increased with the update, N-Connecta models and above getting an eight-inch touchscreen to communicate the Nissan Connect entertainment system, with Apple CarPlay and mobile integration, whilst all models also get Trailer Sway Assist as standard.

Styling upgrades are limited on the new model, with new black bezel inlays for the LED headlights, plus new 17 and 18″ alloy designs.

Updated models go on sale from the 1st July, with the range kicking off with the manual King Chassis Cab Visia at £21,850 as a CV and topping out at £31,125 for the N-Guard double cab, again as a CV.