Hils BlogOur columnist has been on her travels again and this time not to the most obvious 4×4 friendly town, but it seems the Big Apple is indeed the city to spot 4x4s…

I’ve been on my travels again, to one of my favourite places when it comes to 4x4s – North America. Having been to Utah and Arizona a couple of years ago on a superb overland journey that took in some incredible landscapes and terrain, last year I visited British Columbia and marveled at the plethora of brilliant trucks encountered on a daily basis. But this time was very different, as the location was New York City. Not the sort of place that you would expect to be brimming with impressive trucks, but those busy, often gridlocked streets actually contain far more top-notch 4×4 machinery than you’d expect in your average urban sprawl.

New York does suffer from heavy winters – all those chilly episodes of Friends and House and various movies with snowy backdrops are testament to that. So some decent machinery for the sometimes harsh conditions does not go amiss. In the UK, when we get severe weather, it’s often the case that emergency services can’t get through, and have to rely on Mountain Rescue/Search and Rescue Teams, or the AA/RAC or even the goodwill of local 4×4 owners to help out, and this tends to be isolated to rural areas.

Hils BlogAs we come to the end of the year, and complete our 2014 4×4 Of The Year mega test, things look good for the future of quality 4x4s

Another 4×4 Of The Year has come and gone. Every year throws up something new and fascinating to get our teeth into as 4x4s continue to have a real presence in the overall car market. These days, any manufacturer that doesn’t offer a 4×4 of some form seriously needs to redress that glaring omission.

The SUV/Crossover sector has ballooned in the last few years, as has the luxury end of the market. And it’s going to get even bigger with Jaguar and Bentley soon to be in the mix. Then we have Land Rover continuing its gradual phase of development, creating particular families within the group. Range Rover has established itself with the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Evoque. Latest news is that a Discovery range is about to become a new family. The ageing Discovery is being revamped. A new baby Discovery will replace the Freelander and there will be a larger sibling to replace the Discovery 4. In many markets the name ‘Discovery’ doesn’t actually exist. For instance, in the USA it’s known as the ‘LR4’. In future this and other markets will come to know the Discovery name as all the vehicles built on that platform will have ‘Discovery’ badged on the bonnet, like all the Range Rovers do now.

Hils BlogHaving recently attended the Goodwood Revival, Hils yearns for the ‘good ol’ days’ when vehicles have character

Despite all the hype over the latest luxury new SUVs, you can’t avoid the fact that, in terms of styling, they all look very much alike these days; which has prompted me to hark back to times when so many vehicles had class, style and –that rather forgotten quality in today’s market – individuality.

Whether 4x4s or not, many vehicles designed up until, let’s say, the mid ‘60s, had a touch of elegance about them. They still look cool today and some can even cause a distinct stir in the loins!

There is nowhere better, these days, to enjoy such amazing old machines than the Goodwood Revival. Held in mid-September since 1998 on the estate of Goodwood House in West Sussex, it runs over three days and attracts over 150,000 visitors. Only pre-1966 vehicles are allowed to be displayed and race on the famous Goodwood track.

Hils BlogWhen will we have had enough of all these luxury, pseudo, 4x4s? Bring back real off-roaders…

Visiting Bickers Action this month for a Professional User story (see feature on page 20) was one of the most impressive jobs I have had the privilege to cover. Not only have these guys built some incredible vehicles, but the driving skill that they demonstrate on filming jobs in some difficult locations is quite astounding. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to join them on a film or TV shoot. Also during my visit, some of the magnificent trucks were out in Canada doing what they do best – I was not allowed to know where exactly or what on – so I didn’t see the complete and vast array of vehicles on offer.

But just being next to a Chevy Cheyenne or Silverado was enough to enable me to revel in the sheer magnificence of these American trucks. Yes, our Land Rovers are getting ever bigger. The new Range Rover is humongous; even if I could afford one I couldn’t possibly own one because it wouldn’t fit into my garage and probably be just too tight a squeeze on the driveway. I would actually need to move house to accommodate my new 4×4 – madness! But in the US everything is bigger and therefore for this kind of work powerful engines that can cope with huge amounts of kit at high speeds is paramount.

Hils BlogOur columnist has been away enjoying the delights  of Corsica – following the Tour de France, and marvelling at the variety of 4x4s…

I’ve been rather fixated with two–wheel drives lately. Before you gasp in horror and mutter: ‘What on earth are you thinking, Hils?’ I mean those of the purely manpower variety.
Professional cycling has gripped me in the last year or so: the amazing Mark Cavendish winning the road race World

Champion’s jersey in 2011; Bradley Wiggins triumphing in the 2012 Tour de France, and then the subsequent Olympic UK masterclass on the track and Sir Brad once again on the road in the time trial. I was gutted that ‘Cav’ missed out on the Olympic road race and failed to secure the green jersey in last year’s TdF.

Hils BlogGreenlaning is getting more difficult to do thanks to all the restrictions. Perhaps organised drives are the answer and if that’s the case, why not get Porsches, Audis, BMWs and other ‘posh’ 4x4s to join us off-road?

Greenlaning in the Yorkshire Wolds was a real eye opener, see feature on page 62. As an ignorant southerner I had no idea that the area even existed; although, in my defence, my Yorkshire friends in the west of the county didn’t know exactly where they were supposed to be either!

Everyone talks about the Dales and the Moors and we have been on tours in those areas a few times over the years. So it was a very pleasant surprise to join Yorkshire 4×4 Tours for a day out in the Wolds. As you will read from the feature, it is picturesque and revealing; not as dramatic a landscape as the county’s other main areas, but offered up some entertaining off-roading nonetheless.

Hils BlogEven as a traditionalist, the future of the ‘softer’ SUV from Jeep makes perfect sense to me. I’m even looking forward to the launch of the new Cherokee

Having brought you a review of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee last month, and extolled the virtues of my beloved, albeit ageing, WJ model, then read Bob Cooke’s less-than-enthusiastic comments about the new Cherokee due here later this year, I feel the need to draw a line under the ‘Jeepey’ theme with a few comments about what is going on in the minds of the Fiat Chrysler hierarchy.

Of course, at any press launch of a new/revamped vehicle, the guys in charge are abundantly enthusiastic about their new models and the future prospects for their brand. Here at 4×4 Magazine, we are all fans of the iconic Jeep and its heritage and so when we hear that the future is bright, the future is auto-engaging 4WD, city-slick luxury and Evoque-esque styling it’s bound to stick in our craw a little.

I really do sympathise with Bob’s view, as he has owned Cherokees for as long as I can remember and used them in the best way possible, both as a daily drive and on regular weekend off-road forays with his mates. But I really can’t say I dislike the new Cherokee or its lack of any obvious nod to previous off-road prowess.

Hils BlogAs we rightly claim the Jeep Grand Cherokee to be the bargain of the off-road world, it’s only natural for a real life owner to offer her comments…

As you will see elsewhere in this issue, the subject of our Buyers’ Guide this month is the Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ model. Regular readers will know that, as an owner of an aged WJ myself, it would be impossible for me not to comment on the potential of this fine vehicle as a best–value bargain 4×4 available in the current market.

Born in 1999, the WJ replaced the ZJ classic model, with the boxy lines and fuel-gorging 4.0-litre six-cylinder Italian (VM Motori) petrol engine. That engine remained, and was joined by the even thirstier 4.7-litre V8. Well, they were times when we didn’t really worry too much about the price of fuel at ‘who cares’ pence a gallon/litre. In September 1999 came the real serious revolution that gave birth to the luxury 4×4 diesel engine concept for Jeep.

Jeep introduced the 3.1-litre CRD VM to the range and – the real ‘wow’ factor at the time – it was mated to an auto ‘box. The Grand was never available with manual transmission, and so it was a real revolution. Then, in October 2001, the 2.7 CRD was introduced after the joining of forces with Mercedes-Benz. This MB engine is what powers my WJ and has proved a huge seller, improving fuel economy, top speed and acceleration.

Hils BlogEncouraging times ahead perhaps – from both manufacturers and TV companies. Fingers crossed, that’s for sure

Some interesting stats from the AA have appeared in the motoring news pages recently regarding our recent UK fuel sales. As mainly diesel lovers here at 4×4 it doesn’t surprise us (and probably won’t surprise our readers and 4×4 owners who are predominantly diesel users) to learn that, in the last five years, forecourt sales of petrol have dropped by 20 per cent.

Last year 17 billion litres were sold, compared to 22 billion in 2007, which is a hefty decrease. On the other hand, sales of diesel increased from 14 billion to 16 billion litres, as prices have risen and the use of smaller and diesel-powered vehicles has increased. In Spring 2009, the price of a litre of petrol was £1, but if you spend £20 at the pumps today, you get less than 15 litres; not surprising that diesel is on the up and smaller vehicles are on the increase. Another interesting fact is that, in 2000 only 10 per cent of new cars were diesel; and last year, according to the Petrol Retailers Association, a whopping 50 per cent of new cars were diesel. And the outlook for fuel prices isn’t getting any better as, at some point, there will be economic recovery which means those City stockbrokers will be predicting greater oil and fuel demand, which only has the effect of pushing up prices even further, as commodity values increase. It’s a vicious circle.

Hils BlogWhat has happened to the small off-roader? Why is it that manufacturers, while admitting there’s a gap in the market, then refuse to fill it?

This month you will see my report on the new Toyota RAV4 on page 18. I was looking forward to the Spanish launch as have always had rather a fondness for the RAV. Well, actually, let’s clarify that. I have always had a fondness for the principle of the RAV. When it was first launched in 1994 it caused a real stir, bit like Mitsubishi’s whacky L200 did when it first dared to burst onto the 4×4 scene with its ‘out there’ design and styling. The RAV4, in three-door guise, caused even bigger ructions. It really broke the mould and effectively created the SUV genre.

That SUV genre has, as we all know, since exploded out of all recognition, and we have been lambasted with copious lookalike crossovers in the last few years, typically characterised by the intelligent 4WD system that drives these pseudo 4x4s. Don’t get me wrong; there is obviously a huge place for these vehicles and we will continue to test and evaluate and praise or criticise wherever necessary, as they form a huge part of the modern 4×4 world. And some of them are really quite good. But what is sad is that the likes of the RAV4 has totally lost their uniqueness and quirky nature.