SeptHils1As Jeep celebrates its 70th anniversary, Hils expresses her relief that there is something to celebrate, as a year ago, the iconic American brand looked under threat

We have been enjoying a busy period for milestones over the last few years. In 2008 we marked the 60th anniversary for Land Rover, and the following year saw the arrival of the new Discovery 4 during the model’s 20th anniversary; this year is Ford’s 100th birthday and there is the no small matter of the 60th anniversary of Toyota’s Land Cruiser in 2011 also.

All these manufacturers are massive players in the automotive market, with Land Rover and Toyota particularly in the minds of us in the 4×4 world. But the most significant milestone to celebrate for me is the 70th birthday of Jeep, which we are highlighting in the magazine this month.

It was, after all, Jeep which started the whole business of four-wheel drive vehicles with the Willys Jeep back in 1941. The original Series 1 Land Rover was conceived from the idea of the Jeep, and, 70 years on, we have a line-up that still pays homage to the American manufacturer’s true off-roading heritage, as well as maintaining the 21st Century need for comfort, refinement, exceptional diesel power and those all-important environmental credentials.

JulyHilsFaceThis month Hils has been driving some rather different Merdeces-Benz 4x4s. Both awesome in their own right but at different ends of the scale

Last month I was lucky enough to take the wheel of a Monster truck and a couple of 4×4 rally cars which was an awesome experience. More recently, I have found myself behind the wheel, for the first time, of two iconic Mercedes-Benz models on the Milbrook Proving Ground’s off-road course. I was doing this as part of the Society Of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) press day where all the manufacturers bring along their vehicles and give us press bods the chance to drive what we like.

Overall, the sad thing was that very few 4x4s were present. I drove the Amarok pick-up again off-road and a new Jeep Wrangler, which was excellent as always with its revamped more ‘luxury’ interior, but that was it, until I sauntered over to the Mercedes-Benz stand where I clocked a superb, huge Unimog U4000 Fire Engine and a lesser-spotted new G-Wagen… oops, sorry… ‘G-Class’ as we must call it now.

JulyHilsFaceOver the course of the last month, Hils got the opportunity to drive some rather different vehicles that illustrated one extreme of 4WD to another

The first not-done-before 4×4 experience I had during the last month was driving a monster truck! I know, there will be many of you out there who think these American-style pick-up trucks, that have been lifted into the stratosphere, been fitted with ridiculously enormous booming V8/V10 engines and tyres that a small family could live in, are a waste of time and silly gimmicks and have no place in our 4×4 world. Well, you may well be right, but if given the chance to drive one, I bet most of you would have a crack.

My chance came courtesy of the lovely guys at Chevrolet while I was on the launch of the new Captiva – as you’ll read about on p26 – at Blackland Farm in East Sussex, where Leisure Pursuits operates its off-road driving days. One of the attractions is driving the ‘Monster Truck’; an America spec called ’Grizzly’. You may have spotted this very truck featured in the latest McDonalds ad on TV!

JuneHilsA new column this month, as Editor at Large Hils Everitt gets to grip with those people who moan about the state of our greenlanes, but aren’t prepared to actually help making them better

Welcome to my new column –  ‘Hils at large’. And before you say anything, I’m fully aware of the irony in someone so diminutive (read: ‘short a**e’) having such a title, but nevertheless it does accurately reflect what I shall be doing from now on! Freed from the shackles of editorship, I will now be out and about more, collecting stories and attending events and generally buzzing about the 4×4 scene; so, rather than calling it ‘Hils gets about a bit and reports back’, we felt ‘at large’ was more succinct and perhaps even a little more refined.

Last month I enjoyed a great day out with ukLANDROVERevents on a greenlaning trip in the stunning North York Moors. Greenlaning in this country has really suffered in recent years. We may be hearing a little less from the ‘anti 4×4’ brigade in the press lately, thanks to a couple of extremely severe winters which have seen our transport of choice earn grudging respect by behaving heroically, saving lives and helping motorists and friends and neighbours in distress, but when it comes to using our hard-working and reliable vehicles for some R&R within this beautiful country of ours, that seems to be a totally different kettle of fish.

Panoramic_roofA recent discussion I’ve been having about buying a 4×4 relates to kit versus brand. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a budget to suit both your kit requirements and 4×4 brand then you might well have to weigh up whether you’d rather have a luxury brand with only a very basic level of equipment or more affordable 4x4s that will allow you to add a few ‘toys’ within your budget.

It can be a difficult decision to make, especially when you see the specification level of, say, a Ford Kuga Titanium (costing around £23,000), which includes as standard a panoramic roof, keyless entry, rear-view camera and heated front seats. However, to buy a BMW X1 (costing £24,000) would see you pay out an extra £1,500 as all those features come as extras (except the keyless entry, which isn’t availble on that model).

It’s an interesting comparison to make, and when you buy your next 4×4 is well investigating to find out exactly what you are getting for your money.

4x4offroadOur latest online poll showed that over half of you have made modifications to your 4x4s and a further 28% of you would like to. That’s a serious number of 4×4 enthusiasts either carrying out modifications themselves or sourcing professionals to enhance the performance, handling and look of their vehicles. Not surprisingly, modifying 4x4s has been steadily growing in popularity, especially with the increase in green-laning which has led to more owners adding under-body protection, raised suspension and so on.

The most popular modifications? Well, larger tyres are an obvious one along with shocks and lift kits, but there are also the cosmetics modifications to think about. Here the choice is equally endless ranging from leather interiors to cool wheels.

With tyres so important when it comes to road safety it’s perhaps surprising that 12% of UK drivers never check their tyres for tread depth. On the positive, though, that means that almost 90% of us are doing these vital checks.

To help www.mytyres.co.uk has put together this simple tyre safety check list to ensure that tyres are fit for purpose.

Mt_tyre1. Ensure that all tyres, including the spare, have at least 2.5/3.00 mm of tread – the law requires a minimum of 1.6 mm but tyre experts recommend a greater level of tread depth for maximum safety. Should motorists not have a tread depth gauge handy then check the sidewall for the letters TWI (Tread Wear Indicator), adjacent to this in the bottom of the tread are blocks of rubber set at 1.6 mm, if these blocks are flush with the tread, then the tyre needs to be replaced.

2. Check and adjust tyre pressures against the manufacturer’s handbook recommendations. Incorrect tyre pressures increase wear and use more fuel and produce more CO2 emissions.

3. Check for uneven tyre wear which can be caused by tyres/wheel alignment out of line.

4. Clean dirt from around the valve and fit dust caps all round.

5. If whilst driving, the driver experiences vibration, wheel wobble or discovers patchy tyre wear, then have the front tyres checked for balance.

kiaIt’s great news to read that Kia has won Car of the Year in a recent online awards. This really does show the shift in opinion about 4x4s that one has come out on top when up against all types of car. This is a vehicle that looks good, performs well, has loads of kit and offers that incredible seven year warranty. It’s no surprise that it’s gone down a storm!

To read the full story click here

policemanIt seems like a crazy idea, but 4x4s are still being stolen to order. Especially high spec vehicles, which thieves can then pass on to buyers with large sums of money changing hands. The worrying thing is that, in some cases, the traditional ways to ensure the security of your 4×4 are pointless – thieves are actually breaking into people’s homes to locate the keys and they can then simply drive away with your pride and joy perfectly intact and ready to sell on.

The advice given by police is simply to keep your keys safe and out of sight and don’t leave cash, bags and wallets lying around. Plus, obviously, keep all accessible doors and windows closed and locked. It’s very unlikely this will happen to you, but it’s best to be aware of the dangers… whether you are out and about in your 4×4 or have it parked outside your home.

Have you had this dilemna – you’re buying a new family car, but husband and wife want different things. It’s probably a common discussion going on in houses up and down the land. He wants big and powerful while she wants practicality and driveability.

This is a debate currently going on in my household, and one which I expect to carry on for the next year or so, at which time we’ll be ready to start seriously car hunting. In the meantime we’ll keep on discussing what we want from our next car and keep an eye on what’s available in our price range. The ultimate challenge is to find that 4×4 that really does look beefy enough for him, but offers the space and driveability to keep me happy.

Who will ultimately win? As always, there’s going to be a compromise or two along the way. The question is who’ll be making it. I think I know…