Ford Edge 2.0 TDCi ST-Line Manual

The Kuga has done fine things for Ford, and the Ranger is our current double-cab of the year. Does the Edge have what it takes to work the same magic in its part of the SUV market?

To answer that, first you have to ask what part of the SUV market it’s in. It could be argued that the Edge is a value-for-money pop at pricier SUVs like the BMW X5, or that it’s a like-for-like competitor for the Kia Sorento. Given that the the Sorento and its ilk were conceived as a value-for-money pop at pricier SUVs like the BMW X5, it’s probably fair to say that even today, it’s all the same thing. Ford dealers are unlikely to mind where the punters come from, at any rate.

Will they? Well, the Edge is a handsome looking thing, and that’s half the battle with many people. It comes laden with kit, too; all models have big alloys, cruise, dual-zone climate, power seats, hands-free tailgate, DAB, sat-nav, phone pairing and all-round park assist including a rear-view camera. Pleasingly, all models have the same high level of safety kit, too.

So unless you want leather, the entry level Titanium model has got the lot. It costs from £35,195 at list price – though the model tested here is the sportier ST-Line, which retails at £38,345 in manual form.

The Edge’s sharp looks are mirrored inside, but while it does manage to convey a sense of quality the cabin feels rather dark and austere. In particular, the centre panel on the dash has loads of buttons on it, which are black with very thin lettering to explain what they’re for – making them extremely hard to read.This means taking your eyes off the road for longer than you should have to, and all the clever safety equipment in the world won’t make up for that. Few of these controls light up when the headlamps are on, either.

Once you’re over that hurdle (if you choose to take it at all, and we’re not sure we would), there’s a lot of disappointingly hard, cheap- feeling plastic on the lower dash and floor console. But the upper surfaces are much better, with a mixture of polished aluminium and faux-carbon highlights. Build quality is good, too, with little creaking from the dash and a particularly well tied-down floor console, and the switches are a lot more confidence inspiring to operate than they are to try and read.

The glovebox lid and door pockets feel cheap and flimsy, however, as does the coin bin in front of your right knee. Oddment stowage is above-average overall, though, with a huge centre cubby box and a useful dash-top tray as well as a deep phone slot.The glovebox and door pockets are more spacious than they are tactile, too, so you certainly won’t want for places to put your stuff.

The same goes for the other kind of stuff, which needs to go in the back.There’s plenty of boot space with the seats up, and for really major loads they fold acceptably close to flat with a 60:40 split to leave a long load bay.There are remote handles in the boot walls to let you do this, too.

Once they’re down, the floor is good and low, with just a slight lip at the tailgate and no step when you get to the dropped seat-backs.

And what about people? The Edge does itself proud here, with a high seating position and plenty of room up front.The optional panoramic sunroof does eat into the available headroom, however, but it’s still fine for a six-footer, though tall drivers do need to have the seat all the way back to be able to relax.

Happily, even with the seat in this position those behind you will have loads of knee room.The Edge will seat one six-footer behind another with no problem – though again here, it’s no thanks to the pan roof. The rear seats do recline, however, which helps if you need to carry a very tall passenger back there.

Further equipment to add to the list here includes heated rear seats and a 150-Watt power inverter on the back of the floor console.This has a 3-pin plug output, so you’ve got an in-car mains supply.

One thing you don’t get is a great view over your shoulder. Nothing much aft of the C-post is see- through, so you soon find yourself relying on the rear-view camera – whose display is extraordinarily poor, to the extent that we found ourselves checking to see if it was set to infra-red mode or something like that.The door mirrors on our vehicle seemed oddly good at collecting grime from the road, too.

Something else we found bizarre about the Edge was that its headlamps produced barely any more light on full beam than on dip.

Again, we ended up checking the handbook to see if we were doing something wrong, it was that bad – the lack of illumination actually slowed us down on a cross-country B-road session at night, because we just couldn’t judge the corners well enough in advance.

That’s a shame, because the Edge handles better than you might expect. Its steering is responsive enough and while there’s some unwelcome side-to-side jostling
on uneven surfaces, body control is tight enough for it not to loll around in corners. Under the right circumstances (like, when you can see), it can be hustled along perfectly well.

This would be improved if the manual gearbox was as slick as the best of its rivals’, however. It’s not bad, but we felt that smoother, snickier changes would have given us easier access to the best that the 2.0-litre engine has to give.

This is tuned for 180bhp in manual form and 210bhp when there’s an auto on the back of it, which seems like a big gap.The Edge doesn’t lack performance, however, and engine noise isn’t intrusive even when you’re working it hard, though our suspicion is that the auto set- up would perhaps be best suited to the vehicle’s overall character.

The same might be said of the 19” alloys which are standard on the entry-level Titanium model. Our ST-Line produced a fair bit of boomy road noise on the motorway; how much of this was down to its 20” rims is something we can’t know, but a little more rubber and a little less rim rarely hurts.There’s not much wrong with its ride quality around town, however, and it’s a composed cruiser – though we found that the driver’s seat got uncomfortable around the shoulders on journeys of several hours.

We also took our Edge off-road, on the sort of tracks that are highly likely to be the limit of what any customer would ever tackle in one – rm underneath, but sloppy, wet and muddy on top. These are the sort of conditions that can catch out a vehicle on low-profile road tyres, but the vehicle coped very well, maintaining traction without having to fall back on its various electronic helpers. It’s not intended to be an off-road vehicle in any kind of extreme sense, and we certainly wouldn’t expect it to be impressed by the sort of ground that starts pushing its suspension up and down, but in the real world it’s as sure- footed as the next SUV. Ground clearance is less than epic, but in these conditions it didn’t trip the Edge up either.

One unusual experience we did have was on the day our Edge was delivered. Hours after the man from Ford had parked it up, given us the keys and gone home, we left the office ready to jump aboard… and found several inches of snow waiting to meet us.

This should have been a cinch, but to start with the Edge seemed to be confounded by the conditions. After no more than a couple of hundred yards, a warning light came on to say four-wheel drive was no longer functioning, which the handbook advised us was the result of the centre diff being overworked. Not the best of introductions, and we don’t know why it happened, but after a restart it never came on again despite us putting the vehicle to much harder work.

In everyday driving, the Edge is a decent all-rounder which behaves itself around town and doesn’t get boring on the motorway. It rides and handles well enough to pass muster, it’s acceptably civilised and if life’s journey takes you via unsurfaced roads, it won’t flinch.

Lots to recommend it, but some baffling flaws trip it up.

Whether you’re after a cheaper alternative to an X5 or a benchmark against which to judge the Sorento, the Edge is worth thinking about.
It’s spacious, well equipped and practical, and it does most things well enough on and off the road. But it’s let down by small things that make a big difference: the dark, dingy facia, blurred rear-view camera display and hopeless main beam are so unnecessary, and hugely off-putting.

First featured in the March 2018 issue.

It’s not often that a suspension lift catches your eye. They’re so commonplace in the world of off-roading that we’re no longer surprised. But then something like Sean Bloodworth’s Ford Ranger comes along and simply refuses to be overlooked.

 We all know the story of Doctor Frankenstein and his monster.Trying to create life, going where nobody has gone before and not knowing what will happen, the have-a-go creator succeeds in his experiment… but with dire consequences.

Happily, this story doesn’t have dire consequences. But it does have a cool truck, which is much better.The similarities to Victor and his monster are there, but there isn’t necessarily an antagonist or anti-hero involved. Despite its extreme finishing point – a pick-up lifted by 10” – the tale of Sean Bloodworth’s Ford Ranger started like any other rebuild.

‘I had no intention of modifying the Ranger when I bought it,’ says Sean. ‘I just wanted something more capable than my Navara, because I enjoy going off-road.’

And as you may be able to tell, there’s a story behind the Navara’s dismissal.

‘I took it to a pay and play centre, and a guy showed me around to start with, he actually said to me not to do the see-saw because it’s for modified vehicles.’ No prizes for guessing where this is going…

‘The first run I didn’t give it quite enough and I slid back down,’ continues Sean. ‘So, the second time I really gave it some, covering the wife in mud in the process, and smashed down the other side.’

Although he knew it had taken a hit, Sean drove home – and then even went out again – before returning to an oil slick on his drive which started the alarm bells.

‘It was then that I had a proper look and the front axle had gone through the sump. After that, I realised I needed something more capable if I was going to take it off-road.’ The guy who told him not to mess with the see-saw might take issue with the logic of this, as might the guy from Nissan, but Sean is the customer and you know what that means.

So, as is often the case in the current off-road market, Sean went for a Ranger. To be specific, a 2012 Ford Ranger, making it one of the early examples of the current model. Which, you may recall, he didn’t plan on modifying at all.

‘I saw a pick-up in 4×4, I think it was a Mitsubishi, and it had a decent lift on it. I remember thinking “why can’t I do that?” It was my first project that was a truck, but when I was younger I worked on Minis and modified them, turned them into racers. I’ve played about with Escorts and stuff, too.’

Even with his previous experience modifying vehicles, this was a starkly different challenge to anything Sean had encountered before. From reading the article on what may or may not have been an L200, the next year was spent researching what parts would be required and would work together.

‘Including the research, the process of getting the Ranger from standard to the full lift took about a year. Most of that was the research because the parts I used weren’t common, but the build itself, fitted around work, took about five days I’d say.

‘There was a degree of trial and error,’ adds Sean. ‘But now I’ve done it, I’d say that it would be three days’ work.’

Without jumping ahead too far, that raises a question that may well be best answered now.

Having got back into the mind-set that comes with the modification process, Sean got the taste for more. And, given that he’d built up a network of contacts during the research and acquisition of the specialist parts, has decided to start his own business doing so. Working as an aircraft fitter, paired with his newfound system, Sean knows what he’s doing and is ready to market this lift kit.

‘I’ve never had a business before so there’s not too much of a plan. I’m just thinking on my feet with it, really. I suppose it’s a bolt-on-lift- conversion-kit, service,’ he jokes.

As you’d expect, the process wasn’t simple and, understandably, Dr Frankenstein won’t be revealing exactly what he used to spark his monster into life. Commercial confidentiality, and all that.

With the axles dropped off and the shocks removed, Sean lifted the rear using blocks and shackles. The crossmember had to be removed, too, which was a daunting thing to have to do.

‘The point of no return was when I cut the bracket for the crossmember,’ Sean recalls. I was essentially cutting the chassis up. I fitted a new one – and a diff drop bracket – before fitting the new axle. It turned out to be the wrong way around, but I noticed and sorted it before moving on.’

From here, more trial and error ensued with the fitment of the front diff.Time was spent perfecting the angle, to ensure that the UJ and CV joints didn’t end up being overworked. After the angle of the diff was finalised, it was a case of bolting everything back on with the new shocks and springs.

‘It was a bit worrying when I put the wheels back on,’ admits Sean.‘When I put them on with the bigger tyres it made the vehicle too high to take off the axle stands using the trolley jack!’

After the suspension was complete, attention turned to the finer details of the lift, and bringing the monster truck to life.

‘After changing the suspension, the front and back brake hoses were lengthened, and I played around getting it to sit level,’ Sean explains.‘The shocks at the front are height adjustable, so that was fairly easy to complete.’

Another fairly easy change Sean made to the Ranger was also one of the most impressive to look at. Having got the final lift of 10” completed, new custom wheelarch extensions were added to compensate for the 35” BFGoodrich All-Terrains. Sean also added a Truckman Sports canopy and roll bar, and adjusted the lower drive ratios.

‘One of the hardest parts was adjusting the lower drive ratios so the speedo showed the speed correctly with the bigger wheels,’ Sean recalls.‘It did show 30 when you were doing 25, and it was a bit pessimistic when you were going faster – but it’s spot on now.’

With the Ranger lifted by 10” – five from the springs and shocks, two from the shackles and three of rubber for good measure – it was time for Sean to stretch the legs of his monster. The moment of truth. Had all of the work been worth it, or had the lift ruined the ride of a perfectly good Ranger?

‘The real revelation of the whole process was getting in it and driving it for the first time. You can actually throw it about and it corners really well. It’s well planted for something of its height. I’d say it handles better than when it was standard – there’s less roll and it’s smoother.’

Sean stopped and took stock once the job was done, and thought about what to do next.

This resulted in a trip to Ecotech Performance in Buckley, North Wales, where he had the beast chipped, upping the power of the 3.2 TDCi engine to 240bhp and 413lbf.ft. Now confident that the project was complete, Sean stopped to assess the situation once again. Having sourced the parts for the one-of-a-kind lift, making contacts in the process, he found his research had paid off as it resulted in a thoroughly kick-ass, road-going monster truck.

‘I’d taken the Ranger off-road a few times before the lift,’ says Sean.‘But afterwards, when I thought about selling it and making a business of it, I decided not to take it off-road again.’

Since completing the build, Sean’s Ranger caught the lustful eye of an onlooker and he has parted ways with his creation – thus making way for the next build.

‘I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process, including the research for all of the parts. It took about a year, but that was only because it was the first time I had done it and I had to find out what to do. Now It’s just a case of getting the parts and then fitting them to a truck, so when I’ve got the parts it should be three days’ worth of work.’

With this experience under his belt, Sean has been able to figure out what to charge people who want him to build him a Ranger like the one in these pictures.

‘I’ve got my price list, which will vary from £5800 to about £6500, depending on exactly what the customer wants. It doesn’t have to
be a 10” lift like this Ranger – there’s scope for whatever the customer wants, and the price list accommodates that.’

Unlike Frankenstein’s monster, Sean’s creation isn’t a psychotic beast. Rather the opposite,
in fact. His work on the truck has laid the foundations for a new business – one which means that you, too, could be driving around in a Ranger like (almost) no other.

Like what you see? To enquire about a lift for your own vehicle, pay a visit to Sean’s website – it’s at www.hi-rise-trucks.co.uk

We photographed Sean’s Ranger at Parkwood Off- Road Centre’s legendary off-road site in Tong, on the outskirts of Bradford. It’s one of the best in the entire country, and it’s open every month for playdays; you’ll find the company at www.parkwood4x4.co.uk

SsangYong describes itself as ‘the Korean Land Rover.’ This isn’t a reference to individual vehicles so much as to the company itself, which has always specialised in 4x4s, however there’s a parallel to be drawn between the new Rexton and another recent arrival, the Discovery 5. Both are big, lavish and well equipped, with seven-seat practicality to go with their luxury-car intent, and both come on strong with their off-road ability and towing capacity alike.

At the top of the range, however, a Discovery is not many options away from costing you £70,000. Even in fully loaded Ultimate form, as tested here, the Rexton costs little more than half that – and the only option Ssangyong lists for it is metallic paint.

That’s where the ‘Korean Land Rover’ diverges from the real thing. At screen price, this range-topper will stand you £37,500 – low-to-mid-range Disco Sport money, then, and for that you’ll get a level of luxury designed to put you more in mind of a Range Rover.

Are we comparing like for like? Well, Land Rover is a premium brand now – whereas Ssangyong’s mission for market share is heavily driven by value for money.

But with the Rexton, the Korean company is selling on a great deal more than price alone. Outside and in, the vehicle is presented as a bold, confident quantum leap forward. And, while it may be a lot cheaper than its rivals, it’s around 30% more expensive than the outgoing Mk1 Rexton.

In last month’s First Drive article about the Rexton, we commented that the Ultimate model has ‘a lovely quilted leather interior that genuinely looks and feels as if it belongs in a vehicle costing three times as much.’ Under the lengthier scrutiny of a full test, is that impression sustained?

Very nearly. In fact, yes it is. The design of the leather finish on the seats, as well as to the dash and door elements, looks as good once you’re used to it as it does at first glance. Premium styling is about small details, and this is a detail that works. The leather itself is very nice, too – no small matter when so many vehicles still put you in something that feels more like vinyl.

There are usually at least a few details that become irritating in any car, but in the Rexton they’re few and far between. The sun visors feel rather light and flimsy, and there’s a sound module in the vehicle which plays an array of ridiculous electronic tunes when you climb aboard, switch off the engine, open a door and so on, but we’re into the realms of splitting hairs with criticisms like that.

Those odd noises are loud enough to win you the odd sneering look in a car park, which is a bit at odds with the whole image of elegant class the Rexton wants to portray. But your kids will find them entertaining, which is probably more important.

Also more important is an excellent driving position with plenty of space and good views in every direction. The seats lack adjustable lumbar support, but we found that after several hours on board, we weren’t feeling any worse for the want of it.

You won’t suffer for riding in the back, either. Legroom here is excellent – one tall adult can easily ride behind another without either having to compromise.

The Rexton is also available with a third row of seats. This is best used for children, but unlike in some seven-seaters they won’t be cramped up with the second-row headrests right in their faces. They fold flat, too, with a twin-height floor allowing you to create a pretty vast cargo bay for when you finally run out of excuses for putting off that trip to Ikea.

To help turn it into a surrogate van, the Rexton has a fold-and-tumble second row whose action might be old-fashioned but, in an era when more and more SUVs have given up on trying to deliver a flat floor, works like a charm. You also get a large stowage bin in the right-hand boot wall, a full-width hidden compartment when the floor is in its upper position and, on all models, a power inverter providing mains electricity through the back of the centre console.

It all goes to make the Rexton every bit as practical as it is comfortable. Between its classy styling, quality materials, lavish equipment and excellent usability, we’d say SsangYong has created the best interior you can get in any comparable SUV at this price point.

Last month, we lamented the ride quality of the Rexton we drove on the launch. We said our gut feeling was that the 255/50R20 tyres on the Ultimate model were too low-profile to let it settle, whether on minor roads or dual-carriageways.

What we didn’t mention was that after returning from our test drive, we told SsangYong’s people that we thought the vehicle had a wheel out of balance – which their tech guys soon confirmed. And now, having spent a week in one and put hundreds of miles on it, we’re ready to set the record straight.

Something else we mentioned last month is that the 2.2-litre diesel engine is beautifully smooth, strong and quiet. The Rexton’s ride doesn’t quite match it, with a trace of low-level fussing at the back, but in comparison to the vehicle we drove on the launch, the one tested here fairly glides on the motorway.

There was none of the roughness we had previously experienced on smaller roads, either. So our sole misgiving about the Rexton’s road manners (and it was a big one) is hereby erased.

It’s not perfect. In particular, body control on uneven surfaces isn’t great, with enough wide-to-side movement at times to be unpleasant. This was on roads we know of old to ask questions most vehicles struggle to answer, however; the Rexton didn’t disgrace itself here, but neither did it excel.

In town, ride quality is better than we expected over sharp speed humps and so on. Body roll is well controlled here, too, and there’s no harshness when you hit pot holes – just a muted, albeit quite heavy, thump. Again, most of it comes through the rear.

Talking of the rear, the Ultimate model has an auto box as standard, and very good it is too. Oddly, though, this also means independent rear suspension – lower-spec EX and ELX vehicles come as standard with a manual unit and live back axle. We’re not sure why Ssangyong does this, and as yet we haven’t had the chance to drive a Rexton with a manual box, but we can certainly see why these models might appeal to off-road traditionalists the way a modern Discovery, for example, might not.

As it is, the Rexton is better on the road, in almost every way, than the one we drove on the launch led us to expect. It’s smooth, quiet and powerful, with decent refinement and a balance of ride and handling which, considering it’s a proper off-road vehicle, can’t really be faulted. We do think a manual box is likely to make it more entertaining when you’re hustling through corners, but that’s getting into the realms of personal preference.

Thus far, everything we’ve done in the Rexton has been in models with the auto box and live rear axle. This isn’t the combination we’d choose for off-road work, but the vehicle has already done enough to convince us of its abilities.

Predictably, axle articulation is poor. However the electronic traction aids allow the vehicle to keep plugging away over steep, slippery and/or uneven ground – they cut in startlingly early on occasion, and at one point they actively defeated the vehicle from making it up a hill by cutting the throttle just when a bootful of gas was required, but even on road tyres the Rexton is able to keep moving most of the time without you needing to scare yourself

Hill descent control is pretty essential on big drops, even with a manual mode for the auto box. We’d assume the manual doesn’t need this assistance – and indeed that with a live back axle, it’ll offer a lot more in the way of travel than the vehicles pictured here.

We also think the 235/70R17 and 255/60R18 tyres on the EX and ELX alike sound a lot more promising for off-road use than the low-profile 20-inchers on the Ultimate. A low-spec manual may be a lot more truck-like – but you may consider that that’s no bad thing.

It’s pretty obvious what the big news is here. You can have a Rexton for as little as £27,500, and even the poshed-up range-topper tested here only costs £37,500. As we mentioned earlier, if you want a premium badge that sort of money gets you surprisingly little.

SsangYong heaps it on by selling its vehicles with an unlimited-miles five-year warranty, too (at time of printing). And service intervals are far enough apart, with just an intermediate check required every year.

Running costs will be on the high side, however. While 34.0mpg and 219g/km are not calamitous figures for an off-roader with a 3.5-tonne trailer weight, they’re hardly great for a school-run SUV.

The big deal, however, is certain to be depreciation. There was a time when SsangYongs lost their money quickly enough to be downright frightening; that’s changed, as it did for the likes of Kia and Skoda, and the Rexton is sure to be SsangYong’s strongest performer yet in this area. How it can be expected to fare in comparison to a premium vehicle that’s more of a known quantity, however, is another matter.

This review was first featured in 4×4, July 2018 issue.

Vauxhall Mokka X 1.4T Elite Nav

Vauxhall’s 4×4 range is a bit of a strange one. The company launched an SUV offensive last year – but the new Crossland X and Grandland X models don’t actually have four-wheel drive.At all. Anywhere in the range.

That leaves another newcomer, the Insignia Country Tourer, which strode off with the Crossover Estates category title in our 2018 4×4 of the Year awards. It does have the option of all-wheel drive, so that’s a step in the right direction. And then there’s the Mokka X, an actual SUV with a smattering of 4×4 options throughout the upper half of its range.

The Mokka X is available with two engines, a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol and a 1.6 CDTi diesel. Each unit can be had in 4×4 form with any of the the top three spec levels out of a range of five; what we have here is the 1.4T in Elite Nav form, which is one step down from the top.

Inside, the cabin has a tidy, light, airy feel to it, with chic styling that’s clearly aimed at a youthful audience. The materials look good – better than they feel to touch in some cases, though there’s nothing to fault in the way it’s put together and oddment stowage is better than average for such a small SUV.

The vehicle’s diminutive size doesn’t prevent you from getting comfortable up front, and there’s a good, high driving position which gives you an excellent view all round. We found the seats a little flat in the base, but head and leg room are in generous supply.

Space in the rear is a lot less generous, with limited leg room meaning it’s definitely best suited to children. The seats don’t fold or recline, but they do drop down with a 60:40 split to create a decent- sized cargo bay. The folding system is pretty old-school, with the squabs tilting forward to make space for the backs to nestle into. This allows them to fall nearly flat – they do live a bit of a slope, but no step for you to wrestle your stuff over.

The tailgate aperture is as wide as you could ask for, if a little rounded at the bottom corners, and the floor is nice and low. This does mean you have a lip to lug your shopping over, but that’s the price you pay for gaining every last scrap of cargo capacity.

The typical Mokka X buyer is likely to be more interested in the vehicle’s infotainment offering, at any rate. And this is very good, with all the usual high-end features like sat-nav, DAB, Bluetooth and phone mirroring joining the list as you move up the range. Vauxhall also offers the OnStar system, which gives you features like a 4G wi- hotspot, vehicle tracking and enhanced phone pairing features. Want to be able to find your vehicle in a crowded car park by using an app to honk the horn and flash the lights? It’s done.

On the road, the Mokka X is a very easy SUV to drive, with light direct steering that makes relaxing work of city streets. You pay for this at higher speeds, however, where the lack of weight becomes a lack of feel.

Nonetheless, handling is perfectly fair, with all the grip you could reasonably want and a bit of body roll to keep you honest in corners. It’s not trying to be a sports car, but if you drive it for what it is the results are perfectly satisfying.

Performance-wise, the 1.4T engine has plenty of zest and the manual gearbox to which it’s mated in 4×4 models has a really slick, light action that’s well suited to easy driving around town. You might find it a bit short on crispness if you wish every car in the world was a Lotus Elise (sorry, VX220), but for real-world Mokka X drivers it’ll be just fine.

The engine is good and quiet, too, with nothing to note in the way
of drivetrain vibration to disturb you. The suspension does get a bit fussy, though, with pattery jolts coming into the cabin on all but
the smoothest of surfaces. It does a good job of damping out the impacts when a jagged-edged pot- hole jumps up to get you, though.

Noise-wise, the engine remains quiet at speed, though wind and road noise build to the point where they’re a bit intrusive on the motorway. Here, the feeling of lightness that makes it so good around town has a tendency to turn itself into an element of brittleness that makes it harder to feel settled.

Thus the Mokka X is not a bad SUV – just one that needs to be chosen for the right reasons. If the vast bulk of your miles are done around town, or at lower speeds on country lanes, it may well be a better answer to your needs than you’d expect. And if four-wheel drive matters to you as much as it should, it’ll give you something no other SUV with a Vauxhall badge on its bonnet can deliver.

First featured in 4×4 Magazine, September 2018 issue.

Whenever anyone talks about a Volkswagen Group vehicle, they start off by saying how well made and classy it is. Which gives Audi a bit of a problem, because its products are meant to be the best made and classiest of the lot.

Certainly, the new Q5 has a tough set of siblings to rise above. VW itself set the bar high with the second-generation Tiguan, then Skoda and Seat came along with the Kodiaq and Ateca and next thing you know, the Audi is being prodded from below by a three-pronged trident of closely related and very, very good SUVs.

Yes, we know, tridents are three-pronged by definition. Let’s concentrate instead on the four hoops. Audi has a pretty impressive record when it comes to making classy motors, and the latest Q7 is held by many experts to have raised the bar in the large SUV market with its interior. So the Q5 has form on its side.

It also has a strong range of engines, all of them smooth and quick. There are 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines developing 252 and 190bhp respectively, plus a 3.0-litre diesel dishing up 286bhp. At the top of the range (Audi presents it as a separate model), the SQ5 version comes with a 3.0-litre petrol unit producing 354bhp and slinging the vehicle up to 62mph in a suitably exciting 5.4 seconds.

In comparison to that, the 7.9 seconds it takes our test vehicle to reach the same speed might not sound as lively. But with the latest version of the VW Group’s 2.0 TDI engine under the bonnet, even this most modest Q5 felt every bit as strong as a premium SUV should.

The model on test is a 2.0 TDI 190 S line S tronic, which retails for £41,810 on the road. Ours had enough options on it to add about 10% to the price.

Not cheap, then. But it’s an Audi and it’s premium, and you see and
feel it from the moment you climb aboard. We said its siblings set the bar high, but the Q5 rises above them by coming over as more than just another VW Group product.

There’s still a bit of hard plastic on the bottom part of the dash, and the trim around our test vehicle’s centre vent panel was rather creaky when prodded. But overall build quality is excellent, and the floor console is one of the most solidly installed you’ll ever see. The materials are extremely pleasing to look at and touch, too, and the digital screens are pin-sharp – though the main one is mounted on rather than in the facia, sticking out from where it looks as if the vent panel has been cut to find a mounting point for it. It hasn’t, of course, but the aftermarket image doesn’t suit the vehicle.

You do get plenty of leg, elbow and head room, however, and the driving position gives you a good view all-round. The seats are very comfortable indeed, with loads of support and adjustability alike; leather is standard lower down the range, but it was a pleasure to relax upon the excellent synthetic suede that’s standard on S line models.

In the rear, the sliding seats will allow one six-footer to ride behind another on short to medium journeys. Headroom, meanwhile, is excellent, and you don’t get the C-pillar crowding too badly into your field of view.

For carrying cargo, the Q5 is only average in terms of absolute space but good in terms of flexibility, thanks to a 40:20:40 split rear seat. This folds reasonably close to flat, leaving just a slight slope in the load bay and a step that’s small and completely smooth. The floor is nice and low, too, which adds to the volume available, but this does mean there’s a bit of a lip to get over when you’re loading up.

This all adds up to a solid, usable level of practicality that’s fine but not remarkable. If you want that, Skoda is right across it with the Karoq and Kodiaq. But what really sets the Q5 apart is its classy air of quality and refinement, and having settled in to the cabin the aforementioned first impressions continue to ring true. It’s right at the top of the tree.

The same can be said of the power delivery from the 2.0 TDI engine, which is beautifully smooth and quiet. The dual-clutch auto box is absolutely seamless and its ratios are well matched to the engine’s torque, which rises to 295lbf.ft by 1750rpm. Even when you’re pulling away from junctions, which can be the achilles heel for auto diesels, any lack of alacrity is only fleeting.

On the move, what strikes you most is that however fast you go, noise never seems to gather with your speed. The engine note is very well muted, and wind noise too is hushed. There’s also a noticeable lack of vibration, and very little in the way of road noise.

If you think you’re paying for things like leather and the latest gadgets when you buy a premium car, you’re not. What the extra money buys is the sort of tireless research it takes to make a vehicle drive so effortlessly.

Ride quality is just as good, though there’s a baffling array of suspension options available across the range. Our test vehicle was on its standard springs and shocks, which as far as we’re concerned is all you need, but if you want to add another nth degree of smoothness you can shell out extra for air suspension and adaptive damping. That we wouldn’t bother should speak volumes about how good it is as it comes.

One advantage the air suspension option does provide, however, is
the ability to lift the vehicle’s ride height for off-road use. We’d be pretty sceptical about anyone at all paying this any mind, however; while the Q5 might appeal as an ‘off-roader’ to people with unmade driveways or who live far enough into the countryside to have loose, weather-prone going between them and the rest of the world, the undoubted sophistication it has is clearly best suited to the road. If you genuinely want to be able to tackle off-tarmac terrain in a Q5, most likely you’ll soon talk yourself out of it and into a Tiguan or Kodiaq.

That sophistication comes out again in a rewarding blend of grip, body control and steering precision which makes the Q5 enjoyable to lean on in corners. It’s a doddle to drive in town, exceptionally well settled on the motorway and agile enough to make B-roads fun. Perhaps it’s not the very most focused SUV in this area, but it manages to strike a compromise between every aspect of road-going ability in which it manages to do everything very well.

There was a lot of hype surrounding the arrival of the new Amarok at the start of this year. VW’s double-cab had already gained a lot of admirers despite having the smallest engine on the market (a 2.0 TDI), but now here it was being reinvented with a 3.0 V6 TDI that was one of the biggest.

The engine was always going to be the biggest talking point with the revised Amarok. It’s available with three different power outputs… or at least it will be once the launch process is fully complete.

That’s because you can currently get it in 224 and 204bhp form, in each case with an eight-speed auto box as standard. Later this year, VW   says, the 204bhp unit will gain a manual gearbox as standard. 

At the same time, there’ll also be a 163bhp version of the engine; this too will be manual as standard. The range will also be expanded to include a Startline model specced with fleet and business customers in mind.

 

For now, however, we have a range of three. The Trendline is comfortably specced, while the Highline adds some bling and luxury. You might also still get one of the Aventura launch models, but the 224 Highline tested here is the range-topper going forward.

Our test vehicle had optional brown leather, but even without this the feeling of quality in its cabin is obvious from the word go. The dash is all hard plastic, but the standard of build is very good and the centre console is rock solid.

The seats don’t have lumbar adjustment, however. We found ourselves shuffling around in them after an hour behind the wheel when we first drove the Amarok last winter; this time, long journeys on the motorway proved that it’s a comfortable enough place to sit, but we still found ourselves reaching in vain for a lumbar lever after a while on board.

The Amarok is not alone in lacking this apparently obvious feature, but a more surprising black mark is the lack of decently proportioned stowage space up front. The cubby, glovebox and door pockets are all small and awkward to get into, so you’re likely to end up leaving things like your shades, keys and wallet in the bin and cup holders in the centre console.

Most seriously, however, we were disappointed by the lack of knee room in the back seats. We commented last time that you’d struggle to get four tall adults on board without at least one or two of them having something to grumble about; this time, we found that a five-year-old couldn’t get into his car seat without the driver (who stands at 6’1”) having to slide forward and hunch up.

The back of the rear bench does at least drop forward to create a flat platform. Whether this is really better in practice than just putting things on the seats is open to question, but it’s there.

Also there are hidden stowage bins under the front seats, which might help save you from having to take small items with you when you leave the vehicle parked up. But when it comes to practicality, obviously in a pick-up it’s all about the rear bed, and this has a tough plastic liner with four lashing rings proud of it, as well as a 12-volt socket in the side of the bed.

Thus provisioned, the Amarok is well equipped for a duty of work, and our test vehicle also had a rigid flat deck to keep things secure. The tailgate locks, too (using a key, rather than as part of the central locking circuit), and you can spec the vehicle without a rear bumper to let it drop fully down and sit vertically, allowing you to reverse right up to loading bays.

As is often the case with pick-ups, there are areas in which the Amarok frustrates us. Its dash looks outstanding, and it’s as well made as it is thought out – but if you have any sort of need for proper rear seat space, you’ll come up against a serious obstacle.

A car would need to be pretty heavy to have 224bhp and not feel at least reasonably fast. The Amarok is indeed pretty heavy, but it does still feel usefully brisk by pick-up standards – even if the gearbox takes a fair bit of winding up when left in auto mode.

It does change gear smartly when you start working the paddles behind the steering wheel, however. All the same, with so many ratios to deal with it’s a lot more relaxing to leave it in auto and just live with the rise and fall of the revs.

While the auto unit is genuinely sophisticated, we do find ourselves looking forward to the day when the Amarok gains a manual. Even though it will be limited to less powerful versions of the same engine, we have little doubt that they’ll be more enjoyable to drive and quicker from A to B in the hands of a typical pick-up driver.

Talking of A-to-B pace, the Amarok’s steering takes a lot of getting used to before you can handle it with confidence. It’s nice and light around town, but gains more weight than is necessary at speed – so much so that at first, you might find yourself thinking something is jamming it. We really did find it that unnatural. The extra weight seems to be trying to make up for a lack of feel, too.

Our previous experience with the Amarok was in a version with 19” alloys and 255/55 tyres, so we were hoping the 225/60R18s on this model would allow a gentler ride. Not that we found it harsh previously, but there were some jitters from the suspension which upset its poise at times.

Happily, there was no sign of that this time. The Amarok still feels heavy over speed bumps and so on, but while the impacts certainly come through they do so without upsetting its composure, and its suspension settles straight back down – even when running unladen.

We also noticed a complete lack of vibration through the vehicle’s drivetrain and pedal box. That’s a particular boost to its refinement, which is generally as high (by pick-up standards) as its cabin quality would have you expect.

All the same, the entry-level Amarok will come on 16” rims – and we can’t help thinking about how much fun it would be with a manual box and a set of 265/75R16s. That’s a reference to the tarmac, but it also rings every bit as true off-road – not least because manual models have low box, but autos do not.

For many (and we’d be among them), this would be an absolute deal-breaker on the Amarok tested here. While you can’t yet get one with the correct equipment for proper all-round use, however, models with the auto box do have an Off-Road button which brings hill descent control into play and modifies the behaviour of the ABS to suit loose ground.

This is certainly necessary with no low range, but to be fair on the Amarok it’s almost unbelievably agile, and tractable, in really tight conditions. The auto box works well enough when used manually, and at these speeds the steering is lovely and light, so the physical effort required to drive it is low, but we found it quite mentally tiring to be constantly working the paddles on terrain where we’d being leaving a manual in low first or second and letting it find its way.

Once again, then, we think the arrival of the manual box will be the making of this Amarok. It does great things with big alloys, low-profile road tyres and a gearbox we wouldn’t choose – so with proper tyres and a manual with low box behind it, we expect the vehicle to demonstrate just how good this engine is capable of making it.

Volkswagen’s options list includes a locking rear diff, too, as well as heavy-duty underbody protection. And of course the aftermarket is right across the sort of accessories it takes to bring out the best in a good truck. Wait a little longer, then, and the Amarok has the potential to become the best off-roader in the one-tonne market. For now, while it’s very good, that’s despite itself – this is a tale of massive potential waiting to be realised.

The Amarok tested here lists at £30,495 – that’s £37,627 on the road if you pay your VAT, and the options on this truck would kick the latter figure up to £39,805. We were critical of the vehicle’s high price when we drove the Aventura model at launch; to be fair, VW is not alone in flirting with the £40k barrier for its top trucks, but it still concerns us that at that sort of money, flaws like the lack of rear knee room become harder to forgive.

You do of course get plenty of kit for your money. And the Amarok has a level of build quality that instils great confidence in it as a product – though we’d expect it to have a warranty which at least matches the best on the market, and 36 months or 60,000 miles is trounced by the 60 months and 100,000 miles for which Nissan will look after you if you buy a Navara.

The good news is that once the Amarok range is complete, you’ll be able to buy one for a lot less than this. And, in our view, it will be the right one. Combine a manual box with a more modest spec level and, having worked the discount game, you should be in the best model for less than £30k. At which point, we think the pick-up market may well have its first five-star truck.

First featured in 4×4, December 2017 issue.

Although Suzuki is primarily known in hardcore off-road circles for making small but amazingly capable 4x4s like the SJ, Jimny and original Vitara, the company has long been bringing four-wheel drive to corners of the car market you barely knew existed. So now the entire car market is trying to turn itself into a parade of SUVs, the Japanese outfit should be sitting pretty.

Pretty. There’s a word. Not one we heard many people using about the recently revised SX4 S-Cross, though. Suzuki’s small SUV has been restyled to make it look more aggressive and off-roady, and you can form your own view on how that went.

Inside, it’s more conservative without being sparse the way Suzukis once could be. The cabin design is simple and effective, not very exciting but not offensive either. That’s unless you’re an adult trying to sit in the back seats, in which case the roof will offend the top of your head to kingdom come.

The panoramic sunroof is to blame here. Unfortunately, Suzuki’s range structure means this is standard fit on all 4×4 models with either the 1.4 petrol or 1.6 diesel engines; you can avoid it only by going to the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol model.

This will break the deal for some, but if you (or, more likely, your children) can cope with the dire lack of headroom in the back, legroom is among the best we’ve seen in SUVs of this size. You get a good view out, too.

That’s despite the fact that a six-foot driver will need to have his seat fully back and, probably, quite well reclined. The cabin doesn’t feel hugely roomy up front – though ironically, headroom is very good – and the seats are on the small side, though they remain comfortable over a long journey.

The seat leather does feel tough rather than supple, however. In general, material quality smacks of cost-saving, with hard plastics pretty much everywhere on the dash, though it’s stoutly assembled.

Where you don’t see any sign of cost-cutting is in the spec of the range-topping model tested here. As well as the aforementioned pan roof and leather, you get heated seats, distance-sensitive cruise, autonomous emergency braking and so on. High-spec, low-price cars can sometimes leave you feeling let down, but you don’t want for much in the driver’s seat.

One thing you do want for is a flat cargo area when the back seats go down. They do fold very simply, however, and there’s no lip to slide stuff over, so while the SX4 could be better for practicality it does still punch above its weight.

So too does the engine, which Suzuki says has an output equivalent to that of a 1.8-litre engine. It certainly doesn’t feel short of pace, with top torque coming in nice and low to help it up through the gears as the auto box does the work.

In particular, we found the vehicle impressively refined for its size. We’d driven the latest Vitara a few weeks previously and been rather disappointed by the amount of noise in the cabin at any sort of motorway pace, but the smaller SX4 is altogether quieter. It rides smoothly, too, damping out bumps with a lightness of touch that sets it very far apart from Suzukis of old. Its cabin may have similarly cheap plastics in it, but there’s nothing tinny about it.

It steers and handles well, too, with enough agility to be quite engaging when you’re on a mission. We’d choose the manual gearbox for this reason, though, to make it that much easier to wring its neck.

The auto box is very well suited to off-road use, however, at least to the modest extent to which that’s relevant. The SX4 does have decent ground clearance, and with Lock mode engaged its transmission will use the traction control system to mimic a limited-slip differential, so while ruts and deep mud are not its forte it does have green lane skills.

This all goes to making the SX4 a useful little all-rounder which, if you can see beyond its looks and aren’t put off by its terrible rear headroom, represents decent value for money in today’s new car market. It’s not a giant-killer in the mould of the vehicles that turned Suzuki into a legend among the off-road cognoscenti twenty years ago, but it’ll do everything a typical owner will ask of it – while keeping some clever tricks in reserve.

First appeared in 4×4 November 2017 issue.

Think Italy, think supercar. Or should you? In an age where 4x4s command such a high percentage of vehicle sales, even traditional sports car brands have had to broaden their horizons into unfamiliar territory.

Maserati is used to making fast and elegant sports saloons and coupes, traits that rarely transfer easily into SUV guise. But seeing as the Italian firm has identifed that 57% of the luxury car market is made up of SUV offerings (and only 6% for sports cars), it makes sense to dip a toe in the potentially lucrative pool. It worked for Porsche, after all.

Enter the Levante. Riding on the same platform that supports the Ghibli and Quattroporte, this Range Rover Sport and BMW X6 rivalling SUV uses Maserati’s Q4 AWD system and comes with one of two 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engines. You just choose which fuel it drinks.

All versions of the Levante use an eight-speed ZF auto, while any powertrain you opt for is hardly short on oomph. The diesel has a cool 275bhp and it’s all very smooth, civilised and adequate. Plus, Maserati has worked its harmonic genius so that even the diesel sounds pretty gorgeous.

We recently drove the entire Levante range on a test day at Millbrook. The diesel, which is the model that’s been around since the vehicle was first launched, was earmarked for off-road duties, and it did it with very little fuss. Naturally, there’s plenty of electronics making sure that’s the case, with the Hill Descent Control a standout feature that impresses, even on ridiculous gradients.

The transmission delivers rear- wheel drive in ordinary conditions, but the system can send up to 50% of the engine’s torque to the front in just 150 milliseconds. The vehicle also has Adaptive Air Suspension, with a pair of Off-Road modes allowing you to raise its ride height by by 25mm or 40mm, and between all these various technologies it can perform better in the rough than almost anyone will ever discover.

Naturally, the Levante is designed predominantly for the road. But Maserati is candid about the need for it to have a level of off-road credibility. Which it has.

But the real reason for us being at Millbrook was to get a first experience of the newcomer, the petrol-engined Levante S.

This uses a 3.0 twin-turbo V6 designed and manufactured by Ferrari, which produces 430bhp.The diesel is nice, but this is gorgeous. It’s like cacio e pepe instead of spag bol; Pavarotti instead of Vasco Campagnano; Andrea Pirlo instead of Paolo ‘I was in charge at Swindon Town once’ Di Canio.

Around the Alpine Track at Millbrook, everything starts to add up. The Levante is still a hefty thing, but it manages to disguise its weight fairly well. It’s helped by two sport settings that can lower ride height by 20mm or a slammed 35mm.

In Sport mode, the exhaust valves open up and you can expose yourself to the full opera performance – there’s no fake ’sound symposer’ acoustics being channelled through the delightful Bower and Wilkins stereo, either. Even changing gear is an event, with the large brushed-metal paddles gifting you the same sort of sensation you receive when firing a bolt-action rifle.The only downside is that the paddles are column-mounted rather than on the wheel. A personal gripe, perhaps.

 

The engine is a joy to rev, though, even for a turbocharged unit. And while the steering doesn’t serve up as much detail now the 2018 Levante has switched from hydraulic to electronic, there is plenty of information to gather through your buttocks.

Switching over to electronic steering was essential for the new Advanced Driving Assistance Systems to work properly. Traffic Sign Recognition, Forward Collision Warning and Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) are just a few of the new aids operating in the background. The latter simply wouldn’t work with a hydraulic steering set-up.

Also new are the two trim levels now available for Maserati customers. If you’re doing what we’d do then for any going for the Levante S, the only choice left is whether you upgrade to the GranSport or GranLusso variant, both of which cost £76,995.

The GranSport trim dresses the car with black accents externally, while inside the steering wheel is wrapped in a carbon fibre finish. The alloys are also an inch bigger.

If we were asked to put our own money on one, however, we’d go for the Levante S GranLusso.

It’s a classier look, enhancing the Levante’s elegance with metallic highlights, giving a less opposing stance than the GranSport.The wonderful soft-close doors come as standard and in the cabin, Zegna silk fills the inserts of the seats and decorates the door trims.

It’s a refreshing break to an all- leather environment and turns the Levante’s interior from a good one into a great one.

What’s ironic is that Maserati has been rather German about the Levante. They haven’t tried to pretend this is a vehicle that could rock-crawl its way across the Alpi Cusiane. Instead, they’ve gone to great lengths to nail the basics and focus on what it does best – which is bringing a sense of occasion to the everyday driving experience.

In diesel form, the Levante already did that in its own way – simply by being a Maserati. Now, however, the vehicle has what’s surely the right engine for it. The Levante S brings a wonderful sense of theatre to the 4×4 market – it might be Maserati’s first attempt at creating an SUV, but on this evidence the company has hit the ground running.

First featured in 4×4 February 2018 issue.

The Navara is the first mainstream double-cab to use coil springs at the back rather than the more traditional leaves. It’s still a live axle, of course, but this is now controlled by a multi-link set-up promising more sophisticated dynamics than have been possible on pick-ups prior to this.

We’ve had some experience of coil-sprung double-cabs before. The Ssangyong Musso Sports from the mid-naughties managed to distinguish itself by riding and handling far worse than any of its cart-sprung rivals, and the Walkinshaw edition of the old Mitsubishi L200 proved that coils alone aren’t the answer when a truck still needs the ability to tote a tonne.

Thus the NP300 is a vehicle which comes to the UK with a number of questions to answer. In the top-spec form tested here, it feels convincing from the moment you get aboard, with a properly integrated media screen within a dash which, despite being fashioned in hard, wipe-clean plastics, is pleasingly stylish to look at.

We found the dash and centre console rather creaky, however. The latter in particular can be wobbled from side to side from the back seat. There’s a good range of stowage options, though, and the view ahead across a vast, swooping bonnet is excellent. The seats are as classy as any we’ve experienced aboard a current double-cab, too.

Those in the rear are kind of snug, however: one six-footer can’t sit behind another without one or both having to make compromises. Our test vehicle had a sunroof, too – and from the back seat, our view was basically of the head lining dipping down in front of our eyes to accommodate it.

Under the bonnet, the 2.3-litre turbo-diesel engine is available with two different outputs. Here, we’ve got it in 187bhp, 332lbf.ft form.

It’s not the most refined at idle, with a fair amount of clattery noise that doesn’t settle until you put it under load. There’s little in the way of vibration, though, and though it’s vocal when revved the engine does pull very well through the standard-fit six-speed manual box.

A 10.8-second 0-62 time sounds about right, or even a little on the pessimistic side. More to the point, it feels as if it will accelerate just as strongly with 1000kg in the back or a heavy trailer on the back. The towing limit is 3200kg, so you’re a step down from the legal maximum.

On the road, the Navara feels light on its feet the way the old D40 model never did. There’s none of the crashing and shuddering that came from that truck’s front end when it hit rough roads, though we did find the back getting loose on the way round fast corners on a couple of occasions.

In terms of ride, though, the coil springs don’t change much. When all’s said and done, they still need to hold up a tonne of cargo; if anything, we’d say the Hi-Lux and L200 are a touch smoother over bumps.

Where the Navara’s rear coils certainly should come into their own is off-road. The multi-link set-up should allow usefully more travel than a pair of leaf springs, and sure enough it does seem to be more supple over axle-twisting terrain. This may be the rationale behind Nissan’s decision only to offer a locking rear diff as a factory option.

As it is, the old D40 felt heavy and clumsy off-road – and you couldn’t accuse this one of being either of those things. On the contrary, it’s more agile than its size would have you assume.

Very few people buying one of these from new will take it that far, however. For them, the Navara turns in a thoroughly tractable, sure-footed performance on the sort of ground that accounts for 99% of off-tarmac driving in the real world.

On the subject of real-world concerns, the Navara is usefully cheaper than the equivalent Hi-Lux, and if you’re using it as a daily driver there are ways in which it’s arguably better. Its multimedia system doesn’t look like an aftermarket add-on, for example.

Whether it will hold its money as well is open to question, however. And for off-roading, you need to add another £500 for that diff-lock.

Nonetheless, the Navara is a totally convincing vehicle which, at this level, comes with all the kit you expect in a lifestyle truck.

 

First featured in 4×4 November 2017 issue.

At long, long last, we’ve had our first experience behind the wheel of the all-new Jeep Wrangler.

And it’s so far, so good. Very good.

 

It’s been mainly road miles so far, but that’s the area where the Wrangler had to improve – and it has. Ride quality is way better than before. Admittedly on very smooth roads (we’re out here in Austria on the European launch), the new Wrangler glides along with no sign of harshness or vibrations coming through the chassis. We aimed for whatever rough bits we could find, and they didn’t upset it.

So far we’ve found that positioning it on the road needs a bit of concentration, as steering feel is – well, still pretty Wrangler-like. To put that comment in context, though, we’re talking about narrow roads, driving on the wrong side, while trying to avoid aquaplaning in the middle of a thunderstorm. So we’ll come back to you on this when we’ve done some more.

The 2.2-litre diesel engine pulls pretty well. So far we’ve only driven it with an auto box (there doesn’t seem to be a manual) in the long-wheelbase model, and if it can cope with that it can cope with anything.

The new Wrangler is a lot lighter than the old model, which is one reason why smaller engines are okay – initially at least, we’ll only get the diesel, along with a 2.0-litre petrol unit.

Inside, the cabin is looking excellent. The design is not dissimilar to the old JK’s, but its quality is strong as an ox, and the layout is really pleasing. Elbow room still isn’t what you’d call generous, but the driving position is outstanding.

So, next step off-road. Quite what we’re going to find, we don’t know, because this was written from a tent in the middle of a thunderstorm on an Alpine hillside, and the forecast is for things to get dramatically worse over the next few hours. Ideal, then! We can’t wait.

Thus far, though, we’ll say this – if you liked the old Wrangler, we reckon you’re going to love this one.