MarF20StartNene Overland’s growing reputation for enhancing Land Rover Defenders has reached new heights with the launch of its latest, and most significant venture yet, the Defender Icon

Words and Photography: Hils Everitt

Nene Overland, based near Peterborough, has been in operation since 1988 modifying Defenders – and, more recently, Japanese pick-up trucks with camper conversions – tailor-made to customers’ requirements. But its unique ability to perform all the modifications in-house, including all engine, suspension and brake upgrades, enabled company owner Andrew Harrison-Smith to go another step further and launch a whole new brand of bespoke Defenders – the six-model ‘Icon’ range.

“I am a creative person and wanted to develop what we could do even further, and to give the new range a special brand name. What we have here at Nene now, with the Icon, is a mixture of design, performance and engineering all rolled into one. It is a brand that is polished, bespoke and at the top end of the market,” explains Andrew.

FebF20smNow officially relaunched in the UK, the brand new Korando is no longer the ugly duckling that was the original model, and SsangYong is pinning its hopes of a major revival in the UK on the new crossover

Words: Hils Everitt

It’s been many years since the ‘ugly bug’, as some would have it, SsangYong Korando was here in the UK; you see the odd one still around, but it never sold well, despite being a decent on-road drive and excellent off-roader. We were fans here at 4×4 and were sorry at its passing. Its styling didn’t appeal to many, so it’s no surprise that SsangYong has reinvented its 4×4 presence in the UK with a 21st century-friendly version that fits better into the smooth lines and rounded edges of the modern crossover market.

The sad thing about the Korando is that its 4×4 prowess, naturally, has now been dumbed right down – if you want low ratio from a SsangYong these days you have to buy the less ‘silf-like’ Rexton. There are 2WD and on-demand 4WD versions of Korando. The 4WD does disappoint somewhat after you nestled into the comfy leather seats having previously admired the exterior styling.

JanF26StartWelcome to the 2012 4×4 Of The Year group test – our prestigious and highly rated review of the best 4x4s on the UK market.

Words: Kev Baldwin, Hils Everitt and Nigel Fryatt
Main photography: Wayne Mitchelson
Additional photography by Hils Everitt, Phil Weeden, Matt Carson and Nigel Fryatt

Last month we gathered the best SUV/crossovers together, but this month we get far more serious with proper off-roaders. We have no less than 24 vehicles ranging from the budget Suzuki Jimny right up to the glamorous Range Rover, which tops the scales at over £80,000, and the increasingly impressive Porsche Cayenne. In between we have the newcomers like the Range Rover Evoque, the Compass and Grand Cherokee from Jeep, matching up against some established regulars from the likes of Toyota, Suzuki, Audi, BMW, Mitsubishi and more, including for the first time in this magazine’s 4×4 Of The Year, the Skoda Yeti.

This year, we have split the vehicles into four groups, to get four class winners for a final battle for the coveted top prize. Our team of experts reviewed every vehicle using the same criteria; off-road ability, on-road competence, value for money, fit for purpose and gave their personal views on just how desirable each model is. All the scores were added together and then averaged to iron out any personal bias, or wayward scoring! The results, shown here with each vehicle and on our final table on page 72, is therefore an overall percentage figure. As you can see, in many cases, it was a close run challenge and led to much discussion among the test team. But we finally managed to agree on the four class winners, and then the ‘discussions’ really began as to just which would take this year’s crown…
For all pick-up enthusiasts, fear not, but due to lack of space they do not make it in this issue and will have their own group test in next month’s issue.

DecDriveStart‘Crossover’, ‘soft-roader’, ‘SUV’ call them what you will, but this is the fastest growing sector of the 4×4 world and with extreme weather conditions becoming the norm, more and more drivers are joining the ranks of 4×4 ownership at this lower capability level. If you’re looking to buy one there is a wide choice. To help with that decision we rate the BMW X3, Ford Kuga, Kia Sportage, Nissan Juke, Toyota’s RAV4 & Urban Cruiser and the VW Tiguan

Words: Hils Everitt  Photography: Wayne Mitchelson and Hils Everitt

Back in 1994 Toyota launched the RAV4 to much acclaim. It was a great little off-roader with low-range gearing and impressive articulation and in a little world of its own. Fast forward almost 12 years and we have a booming ‘soft-roader’ market to which the RAV now belongs, as low-range gearing, and those ultra hi-tech, all-terrain electronic systems are now left to the bigger, more sophisticated boys.

Many other manufacturers have jumped onto the bandwagon, and there is a healthy choice from which to pick your 4×4 that will get you home during the cold winter months in safety, but also provide a comfortable long-haul, on-road drive plus carry a few passengers and their kit. Intelligent four-wheel drive systems are now de rigeur and so adapt to the conditions, which often negates any input necessary from the driver; which is probably why they appeal to newcomers to our 4×4 world.

Ranging from just under the £20,000 mark to just over £30,000, there is a lot of space in between. But what does the market offer up for that, and depending on your budget, what is the ideal model for you? We pitched seven of the best on the market against each other, to help you decide.

Nov1stStartIt’s big, black and booming. Meet an ex-military Limited Hummer H1 that was driven overland from the Middle East to the UK before undergoing a transformation to take on the tough world of desert racing. Introducing… Aretha

Words: Hils Everitt

An ex-military Hummer H1 is a pretty rare sight here in the UK but, in recent years, I have come across two. Both black, both ex-US military, and both owned by huge enthusiasts; but that’s where the similarity ends.

The first one was featured in the magazine in 2009 and was shiny, pristine, and extremely under-used. It spent most of its time on the owner’s driveway, but was a magnificent specimen. The second is, as you can see, also black, but filthy, well used and an equally fine example, albeit in a very different way.

Oct1stDriveStartVolkswagen’s baby 4×4, the Tiguan has been treated to a significant upgrade, and the
off-roading Escape model is a winner

Words: Hils Everitt

The SUV market is so competitive at the moment and no manufacturer can afford to sit on its laurels and watch the rest of the world go by with its updates and facelifts. Like the world of celebrity with which popular culture is so obsessed, the SUV market has to keep returning to the cosmetic surgeon and teccy guys to keep everything fresh-looking and keep their brand on the map and in the news.

SeptF1st32StartFinally we have had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the much-heralded Range Rover Evoque, off-road across some difficult tracks in Snowdonia National Park and under the streets of Liverpool. Yes, that’s right, under the streets…

Words: Nigel Fryatt

It became obvious as we descended the track at the end of our Snowdonian drive. The narrow route was steep and a number of uneven boulders poked through the damp sandy soil, just before a tight ‘S’ bend through some trees. Sensibly, the vehicle in front had slowed, the driver checking that Hill Descent was engaged, reduced the selected speed to the minimum and inched forward. It was then clear. The new Evoque is undoubtedly a Range Rover.

As the front wheels cleared the first boulder, the nose dipped into a deep rut and the Evoque’s – undoubtedly good-looking – rear, rose on the nearside to clear the mound. From our viewpoint the clearance and wheel articulation was obvious. Clear daylight could be seen underneath the car and it gently negotiated the tight twist, controlled and without fuss. When it was our turn everything happened much the same, the only difference being that it seemed far less dramatic. Had we not stopped to watch the other Evoque, conversation in the cabin would have continued about how superb the drive across the Snowdonian National Park had been – so competent was this new Range Rover, that you could sit back and enjoy the view.

July1stDrive22aIt’s finally here in the UK and VW’s highly anticipated foray into the highly-competitive pick-up sector with the Amarok has got the 4×4 pulses racing with its excellent  new 4MOTION system that simply rocks off-road. Oh, it’s not bad on-road either…

Words: Hils Everitt  Photos: VW and Hils Everitt

Let’s cut to the chase. No beating about the bush: Volkswagen’s new pick-up truck is brilliant off-road. Just forget the length of the thing for a moment and its mediocre departure angle when fitted with all sorts of chrome accessories, and those intrusive sidebars, we’re talking about VW’s new 4MOTION system.

The latest technology from VW has made this new foray into the fiercely-contested pick-up market the best of its genre in off-road ability. So far, the pick-up market has demonstrated good old-fashioned 4×4 credentials with the majority offering just part-time 4×4 with low ‘box operated by a transfer lever.

VW has upped the ante with the new version of 4MOTION. It allows the Amarok to tackle steep, greasy and nasty descents in neutral together with Hill Descent Control to make a mockery of the worst of slopes and treacherous wet gloop. It works on the off-road ABS and once you get used to inching down a steep slope in neutral with no driver input whatsoever, it’s damned impressive and reassuring.

JuneDriveSmAfter all the financial woes, the intervention of the US President, and the foresight of the headman at Fiat, Chrysler Jeep’s prospects look a lot healthier. Editor Nigel Fryatt has been to Italy to drive the new 2011 Jeep range coming to the UK. Things are still a bit rocky… but now in a good way!

Words: Nigel Fryatt

It is only a couple of years ago that any magazine article on the Chrysler Jeep group would have been prefixed by the words “struggling American car maker”. The situation for Chrysler in the US was similar to those financial institutions that were deemed ‘too big to fail’. Chrysler was struggling, and while it is not the biggest American car maker, it could not be allowed to fail.

So serious was the situation that US President Barak Obama was involved, recognising that Chrysler needed a partner, or indeed a completely new owner, and the company needed that quickly. Of course, Chrysler’s financial problems at the time were not unique, so the support and investment needed was unlikely to come from within America. For the many thousands of diehard Jeep enthusiasts, not just in the US, but spread across the globe, the future of one of the greatest 4×4 brands in the world, looked grim indeed. Yet few of those enthusiasts can have ever thought that Jeep’s saviour would come from Italy, in the form of Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne, who saw a significant opportunity, and made the deal, bringing two very different automotive companies together.

May1stDrive1The one-spec Nissan Murano with a thirsty V6 didn’t really catch the UK public’s imagination, but the introduction of a 2.5-litre turbodiesel version may entice crossover fans to delve into the Nissan luxury brand

Words: Hils Everitt; photos: Nissan

The problem we always had with Nissan’s flagship, luxury 4×4 was the fact that it was powered by a really thirsty, albeit lusty and responsive, V6 3.5-litre petrol engine.

Mated to an Xtronic CVT automatic transmission it pumped out a hearty 252bhp with 236lb ft of torque. Impressive figures, but it really was a lost soul in the 4×4 market. Big petrol engines like that were an endangered species back in 2008 when the last revamp appeared, and in these days of extortionate fuel costs the 3.5 V6 one-model-only Murano is even more obsolete in the UK.