September 2015 Issue of 4×4 Magazine

september coverWe like a bit of nostalgia here on 4×4 Magazine; not in the tedious ‘it was better back then’ fashion, we just enjoy looking back and reflecting. This month we have been able to do this both directly and at long distance. Firstly we recognise the qualities of the original Toyota RAV4, driving a superb rebuilt version from Toyota GB. The RAV4 has been celebrating its 20-year anniversary this year, and the company decided they needed an original to add to the company’s growing heritage fleet, so they bought one – on eBay! Now we all know what was going to happen next, don’t we? The full story is on page 44 of this issue; suffice to say here that the project wasn’t quite as straightforward as first thought. The result, however, was a joy to drive; a 4×4 with a lightness of touch that you don’t get with today’s corpulent, heavily insulated, high tech, computer laden, diesel thumpers. It felt fresh and relevant and surely now deserves to be called a classic. Pick up any classic magazine these days and you’ll find people lovingly restoring some of the most ridiculous old sheds imaginable. How on earth can a Morris Marina be called a classic? Do you really want to be seen driving a Triumph Herald? And don’t get me started on things like Austin Maxis, or the ridiculously named Princess… It seems just about anything can be called a classic saloon these days; it’s about time that the 4×4 world got in on the act. The RAV4 that we drove this month, and the original Suzuki Vitara we tested in our May issue are surely real classics. I know the world of the dirty fingernails and pints of real ale will be shouting about various Land Rovers, but I’m not going in that direction, since that’s been done. Hare at 4×4 Magazine we want to see more older Toyotas, Suzukis, Jeeps and Mitsubishis rebuilt and returned to the roads. Who wouldn’t want to look at a restored Asia Rocsta? So if you own a ‘classic 4×4’, then we want to hear from you. There are enough ridiculous tinny soulless salons being called classics, let’s show them some star quality with some 4×4 classics!

August 2015 Issue of 4×4 Magazine

august This is a particularly special issue; or rather, this is an issue of Specials. We are taking a look at the fascinating world of bespoke 4x4s, built for those people who want, and can afford, something very different. Now, while taste will always be somewhat subjective, engineering and build quality is far more objective and there’s no doubt that the vehicles we are reporting about this month score highly with the latter. Maybe some of the models will upset the traditionalists, especially Land Rover fans, but to be honest, I quite enjoy doing that! Kahn Design’s long-nose Land Rover Huntsman on this month’s front cover looks just terrific to us, but maybe not to some members of the Series I Club!

We are also very pleased this month to be able to reveal the latest concept vehicles produced by Jeep, intriguingly produced by a group called the Jeep Underground. Although something that has been done before, this is actually the first time in the last few years that Jeep has released such a collection – an indication of its growing confidence, thanks to an impressive new collection of production vehicles. And for vehicles that have been called ‘concepts’, they are pretty close to being production realities, or at least special builds. Obviously the Renegade, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee models that we report on could be produced, as they are all based on standard vehicles with Mopar accessories, but even the more outrageous models all drive and work as they should. Even if you are not a great fan of military 4x4s, you have to say that the Wrangler Staff Car would put a smile on your face, although not perhaps a replica US Marine helmet on your head while driving it. The Search and Rescue Wrangler would make a lot of sense, and while the window-less Chief SUV is completely barmy, you must admit that it made you smile! Imagine cruising on a sunny day with the Beach Boys ‘Surf’s Up’ on the radio (younger readers need to check out iTunes, although for proper audio excellence it has to be the vinyl original).

July 2015 Issue of 4×4 Magazine

july blogGiven the boyish good looks and youthful sparkle of the photograph on this page, it may surprise some to realise that I have been around the block a few times; quite a few trips while travelling in a Modified vehicle, as it happens. A lot of these Modifieds have actually been of the performance, or motorsport, persuasion, starting with the humble Mini. I still have a small paperback book called Tuning The Mini, written by a guy called Clive Trickey. It was actually the third edition, published in 1972 and the first time it had been produced was way back in 1966. I always felt that the guy should go into business running a garage called Trickey Modifications, but I’m not sure that ever happened. He was, however, one of the first to recognise the less than perfect quality of the casting of the cylinder head for the, then relatively new, A-Series engine in the Mini. Attacking the head with grinding bits and emery paper he improved the whole thing, significantly improved the power output and got us enthusiasts to use words like ‘porting’ and ‘gas flow’ as if we were real engineers. Like thousands of young would-be racers, I bought a set of grinding bits, borrowed my dad’s electric drill and attacked the lump of British steel on my ‘bog standard’ Mini’s engine, making everything look nice and shiny. Bolted back on the engine, and on my first test run through the lanes in Norfolk, I was convinced that the power output of the wheezy knackered old unit had been greatly improved. Of course, the Mini went even quicker when I later spray-painted it lime green (a standard Renault colour if I remember) with a matching matt black roof. Lowering the seat, adding a throttle pedal extension. There were no limits to my modification abilities…

June 2015 Issue of 4×4 Magazine

june blogLast month we enjoyed our drive in one of the original modern SUVs, the Suzuki Vitara; in our view, one of the most significant SUVs ever produced, a model that started a whole new genre of ‘lifestyle’ 4x4s. Intriguing, therefore, this month we have been able to drive in the UK what is quite possibly an equally significant, but this time brand new, SUV – the Jeep Renegade. This fresh new small 4×4 could, in this writer’s view, become the most significant SUV of the decade. At a time when we are regularly bemoaning the fact that SUV manufacturers are watering down the off-road abilities of their latest models, Jeep is taking a different tack. Yes, you can get a Renegade that just has the simple on-demand four-wheel drive system – indeed, you can even get two-wheel drive models – but you can also get a full-fat Trail Rated version with the highly efficient Terrain-Selec system, which even includes a Rock crawl mode, coupled to a superb nine speed automatic. For once, having the basic option does not dilute the brand, thanks to the Trailhawk option available for those who still value a decent 4×4 system. Of course, there are no transfer levers to struggle with, but there is Low Range. Yes it is electronically selectable, and thanks to the very clever automatic gearbox, hill descents and hill start assists perhaps need less actual driving ability and rather more techniques honed by computer gamers and the tablet generation, but this is 2015 after all. That we enjoyed our beach drive over the rocks and through the soft sand on a superb private beach in Scotland, was enough. In fact, it was more than enough, it was terrific! Check out page 24 for more.

May 2015 Issue of 4×4 Magazine

may blog coverRapidly developing technology is a fact of life. Everything gets more sophisticated, and more mind-bendingly baffling. You see youngsters using tablets while still strapped in pushchairs. Of course, it’s not for them to reflect on how all this stuff actually works, they just accept this technology as ‘normal’. Quizzical reflection and head shaking is left to us mature members of society, who can remember the world before everything became digital. Now, before you get the idea that this is going to be a ‘grumpy ol’ man’ rant, let me confess that the latest 4×4 technology absolutely fascinates me. As regular readers will know, this magazine proudly covers the very latest developments of companies like Jaguar Land Rover; we are often astonished learning what is now possible. We have visited that company’s Virtual Reality Cave in the design department and stood slack-jawed in our 3D-glasses, completely amazed at what is now possible. Absolutely brilliant. However, there are times to reflect…

April 2015 Issue of 4×4 Magazine

april blogWell, who would have thought? While this is the time of year when many 4x4s are purchased by people seemingly caught by surprise that the winter months mean poor weather and difficult driving conditions, meaning 4×4 sales rise dramatically, finding the Volkswagen Touareg as top of the second-hand sales league table is still something of a surprise. The claim is made by the respected Glass’s Guide, the largest vehicle data provider in Europe, traditionally ‘the book’ that keeps tabs on all UK second-hand vehicle prices. According to these guys, the Touareg was top, with the Skoda Yeti also in the ‘hot five’ fastest selling cars in January. Our decision to have the VW Touareg as the Buying Guide for this issue can therefore be considered as an example of how we have our editorial finger firmly on the pulse of 4×4 second-hand sales in the UK, or merely a coincidence. We will let you decide on that one.

There’s no denying, however, that the Touareg – especially the earlier models – is an excellent, large, family, off-roader. My memory of turning the ignition key on an early V10 model is still strong. Come on, a V10 diesel engine in a family SUV! Astonishing. Rupert Pontin, head of valuations at Glass’s Guide describes the Touareg as offering “fantastic build quality, superb engines, great handling and subtle looks. This is the thinking man’s Porsche Cayenne.” We’re not quite so sure of the last bit, but agree with the rest, especially the ‘subtle looks’. To support this month’s Buying Guide, we have also been able to drive the very latest model (First Drive on page 26) and one thing that disappoints is the way that the design has morphed into looking like every other VW. One amusing, and surprisingly accurate, description of the design of the latest Touareg is that it looks like a ‘bloated Passat’.

March 2015 Issue of 4×4 Magazine

march blogItchy feet? There are many benefits of owning a 4×4, especially at this time of the year when the weather provides some people with difficult travelling conditions, but perhaps the most significant is the ability to ‘go anywhere’. Now, while this makes a great marketing slogan, and one that has been flogged somewhat over the years, but there are limitations, of course. Plus some vehicles are better options for serious overlanding than others, and there will always be surprises. This is our special issue where we look to tempt you to consider a trip; whether it’s a serious cross continental trek, our a wild camping holiday to Europe with all the family. What we hope to have done with this issue is to show that there are a variety of ways that you can have that much dreamt about adventure with your 4×4. The UK four-wheel drive market is blessed with some excellent companies that will help prepare both you and you vehicle, but at the end of the day, there’s mental approach that’s needed. We have a great story this month from Nick and Claire Marr and their 16-year old Toyota Land Cruiser. It seems that when they announced their plans, friends and family all thought they were mad, some even predicting fatal consequences. Of course, not they have returned and regaled the experience you can bet that the comments changed somewhat! Envy and admiration in equal quantities you would imagine. It’s a real family story, and one that sums up when 4×4 overlanding is all about.

February 2015 Issue of 4×4 Magazine

february blog coverWith the marvels of social, and regularly unsocial, media allowing what appears to be near instant global communication, it’s refreshingly traditional to be the Editor of a ‘paper’ publication. As it happens, this is being written two weeks before Christmas Day, yet if indeed anyone does read this, you won’t be able to until 2015 is a full 12 days old. Tradition you see, that’s what it is all about. A two day public holiday, only one of which has any religious significance, seems to cause such serious confusion in the magazine industry that we all complete our issues some weeks before they will be read, the digital files sitting in things called file servers slowly gathering static. It’s a tradition and I am all for it, probably more so as I age and gather my own covering of dust and static. You can tell when it’s happening; in my case, that process involves reading obituaries and finding them enjoyable, collecting vinyl records and looking on eBay for old Scalextrix sets, thinking how great it would be to race again…

This month’s feature on the Mitsubishi Shogun (see page 94) has a traditional theme as well. It’s a superb off-roader, people carrier, towing champion and complete all-rounder. So it’s a tad old-fashioned in its looks and has few whizzy buttons, sensors and magical electronic abilities. Does that matter? Our relatively more high tech Long Term test Freelander has recently been playing a fun game of do-you-trust-my-sensor? Apparently one rear tyre is under inflated, yet when checked appears fine. On one trip the warning light came on, yet as I was looking for a safe place to stop and check, it went out again. Good game, good game.

Of course, the Freelander is no longer to be produced in 2015, in its place is the Discovery Sport, and we will have our first full drive report next month (to follow the first impressions that are on page 10 of this issue). It’s a very clever vehicle, but did get me wondering. This month we have the latest report from a couple of our regular intrepid overlanders, Andrea and Rene, in their battered but brilliant Nissan Patrol, this time discovering the delights of the Republic of the Sudan. We also have the mad, mad drive in a Land Rover Defender 110 to the coldest place on earth, following the Pole of Cold expedition – you’ll want to put a warm jacket on before you even read that story. All these wonderful trips have one thing in common; they are only possible because of the four-wheel drive abilities of traditional off-roaders – just like the Shogun. Fast forward 10 years and you have to wonder whether a future Editor of this magazine will be reporting on such amazing travelling tales involving overlanders driving the Discovery Sport? Would anyone crossing a frozen lake or thrashing through a scorching desert want a vehicle with a sensor regularly telling the driver one tyre is losing pressure?

Winter 2015 Issue of 4×4 Magazine

winter 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

january contentsTime 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.