DecFirstStartWith the new Range Rover reputedly going to have a potential £100,000 price tag, how does the prestigious German competitor Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG stack up? It’s a snip at only £94,255… 

Words: Nigel Fryatt

The expression ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’ has always appeared to me to being somewhat crass. There’s far more class when you ignore the need to flaunt, keeping the knowledge to yourself. In the case of motor vehicles, the German trend to offer cars without the full model name badges on the rear bootlids has always impressed. And you have to say that there’s little overtly flash about most of the Mercedes-Benz 4×4 range. Of course, the utilitarian shape of the G-Class is in itself a kind of reverse flaunting. I mean, how could something that looks like a builder’s van be on the market at that price? But for the more fundamental ML-Class, there’s little that’s flash at all. Indeed, for many, it’s a design that is, well, somewhat bland. Functional, efficient, prestige and certainly exceedingly well built, but still, somehow, just plain dull.

Nov1ststartSSThe rejuvanted South Korean carmaker has already impressed with its Korando SUV. Now it’s ready to tackle the burgeoning pick-up market.   

Words: Phil Weeden

Gone are the days when the Japanese had the pick-up sector all to themselves. Mitsubishi, Nissan, Isuzu and Toyota all battled it out for supremacy, but arguably the two best load luggers in the market today are Ford’s new Ranger and VW’s Amarok. Is there really room for more? Well, Ssangyong certainly hope so as it has recently announced that its Korando Sports pick-up will go on sale next month in the UK, having been announced at the Geneva Motor Show back in the Spring. We had a chance for a quick play both on- and off-road to see if it can truly offer something the others can’t.

First impressions are positive: it looks distinctive, with its sharply sculpted styling. The exterior is chunky, purposeful but also sleek, appealing to those wanting a cross between utilitarian pick-up and leisure-derived SUV. There will be two models available – SX and EX – both powered by a 155PS 2.0-litre turbo diesel with selectable four-wheel drive including high and low ranges. There’s a choice of six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

Oct1stStartThe quattro name is synonymous with all-wheel drive and there aren’t many carmakers that can produce a practical 4WD estate like Audi. The brand’s third generation allroad will certainly take some beating.

Words: Phil Weeden

Audi’s relentless new model programme marches on with a fierce pace. The latest offering is the third generation A6 allroad – and, while it’s not a direct competitor to the likes of Range Rover, BMW X5 and even closer to home rivals such as the Porsche Cayenne and Audi’s own Q7, anyone looking to buy one of those leviathans might wish to consider one of these first. Sure, it won’t climb Everest, but with its additional ground clearance afforded by the adaptive air suspension, protective under trays and all-wheel drive, the A6 allroad will tackle muddy tracks, snow-covered roads and other slightly challenging terrains – plus it can tow up to two and a half tonnes. Plus the top-of-the-range 3.0-litre BiTDI model we have tested here has a diesel under its bonnet so it’s also fast and pretty frugal, with a claimed 42mpg.

This model is considerably more stylish, longer and wider, the new allroad would look equally good outside a Chelsea cocktail bar as it would on a Herefordshire smallholding.

jeepJeep’s flagship 4×4, the Grand Cherokee, has a new model, designed and built by the Chrysler Street Racing Technology (SRT) team. And it’s an absolute belter, with a 6.4-litre V8 Hemi and jaw-dropping on–road performance

 Words: Hils Everitt   Photography: Hils Everitt and Isuzu

Normally speaking, heaving a huge great 4×4 round tight mountain roads with wicked hairpin bends is quite a chore, even with a sophisticated automatic box. The sheer effort of dragging that long body through the corners and feeling the inevitable body roll is energy sapping.

Not, however, with this latest SRT edition of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. This is the best-handling Jeep ever built, as was demonstrated superbly on our test drive, booming along the motorways and cruising around the hillsides of the Italian region of Langhe.

The gorgeous on-road performance comes courtesy of the advanced new Active Adaptive damping suspension and Selec-Track traction control system, developed by the SRT team at Chrysler. Mated with the excellent auto ‘box, that just effortlessly flicks up and down the gears, it enables the Grand to glide around those hairpins with the smoothest of rides.

aug1st18startAt last we have the long overdue successor to the ageing Isuzu Rodeo. The all-new D-Max, is bigger, butcher and more in line with the extremely tough competition. But can it really become the UK’s best seller? 

 Words: Hils Everitt   Photography: Hils Everitt and Isuzu

Paul Tunnicliffe, managing director Isuzu (UK) said at the outset of the D-Max presentation: “Our five-year plan is to be the No 1 pick-up in the UK.” A wave of raised eyebrows and tight smiles followed, reacting to the sheer bravado of this statement, and then a look of nodding respect as it sunk in that he really meant it.

To achieve this remarkable feat, Isuzu needs to double sales of its brand new pick-up truck. Sales hit around 2400 in 2011 which isn’t setting-the-world-on-fire territory and to double that some serious marketing and distribution improvements need to happen.

julyf1There was a time when the Range Rover’s crown was seriously under threat. Nigel Fryatt remembers the Mitsubishi Shogun and wonders why it never quite achieved its claim of being ‘King Off The Road”

For many, the Range Rover has been the top production 4×4 since its original launch. Such dewy-eyed devotion to the cause has been cemented by a blinkered view towards what has come to challenge. For this magazine, a ‘Press test’ Range Rover in the 1980s would underline many things; the RR was a superb on and off-road proposition, but build quality levels led much to be desired. Personal experience at the time of driving a number of test vehicles – which, surely should be the best built of the bunch – regularly resulted in dislodged walnut veneer trim, detachable rear view mirrors and assorted water leaks. Surely there was something that could knock the Range Rover from what seemed to be a very complacent throne. Back in the winter of 1983, this magazine dared to suggest that such a vehicle existed when we had our first experience of a Colt Shogun.

juneF1ststartThe first Chinese importer into the UK has launched its first model; the Great Wall Steed pick-up. Editor Nigel Fryatt takes a first drive of a Chinese 4×4. It probably won’t be his last

Here’s a conundrum. When faced with a bargain, do you look at what you are offered and marvel at all you are getting at such a low price, or do you, perhaps, question the quality of the product but then consider well, you get what you pay for? Maybe it is a case of whether your glass is half empty or half full. Make no mistake, however, the new Great Wall Steed pick-up is a serious bargain and it represents a very serious statement from the first Chinese importer into the UK.

You can be forgiven for not knowing a great deal about the Great Wall motor company. If that’s the case, here are a few salient facts. It has been producing vehicles for 35 years, has total assets of £2.7billion, a worldwide workforce of over 45,000, is China’s biggest SUV producer and is the only privately-owned Chinese automotive company to be listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange. It knows a thing or two about pick-ups, having been producing the largest selling version in China since 1998 – which relates to 120,000 domestic customers a year – and has sold 700,000 to date, and plans to export 40,000 this year. The company exports to 120 countries and after Italy, the UK is the only other European country to take Great Wall vehicles. That is, at the moment. In total the company produces around 1million units a year, the target for 2015 is double that…

May1stStartAfter a disastrous year, Subaru returns to the 4×4 market with the all-new XV. The company needs this model to be a success. How will it match up?

Words and photography: Nigel Fryatt (and photography from Subaru)

The Subaru XV is claimed to be ‘the company’s first foray into the highly competitive crossover market’. We beg to differ. Yes, it is indeed highly competitive, but in our opinion, it’s not Subaru’s first foray. In fact, you could argue that the niche Japanese manufacturer actually created the market segment. It’s just that, at the time, no one gave it the stupid title of ‘crossover’.

Twenty-five years ago this magazine published a 10,000 mile long-term test of the Subaru GLF Auto Estate. The author, a staunch, opinionated and serious off-roader concluded: “I have to acknowledge that this is an excellent all-road machine, and not at all bad off-road either, within the limitations of the design.” Damned with faint praise? Not quite, as 4×4 Subaru Estates had a good reputation, owned by farmers and vets apparently. Audi quattro estates and the odd Ford Sierra 4×4 apart, there was nothing on the market like them. Yes, they rusted badly and remarkably quickly – but so did most mass produced saloons of the 1980s. The Subaru Estate was a halfway house between a family saloon and a pukka off-roader. A bit like a crossover, perhaps…

Apr1stStartFord’s new Aussie-designed, South African-built Ranger pick-up – or Ute as they call them – has finally made it to the UK. Was it worth the wait? You had better believe it…

Words and photography: Nigel Fryatt

Well, it’s finally here. Nearly a year after a mock-up was shown at last April’s NEC Commercial Vehicle Show, Ford’s new Ranger pick-up is available in the UK. A comprehensive model range from Regular cab, Super Cab, Double Cab and Wildtrak, plus two new Duratorq TDCi diesel engines, added to an impressive specification list and highly competitive pricing, means the Ranger has significantly raised the bar in an already competitive section of the 4×4 market.

What appears to have been a long wait merely emphasises two salient points; one, this is a global vehicle and two, the UK market is no longer that important in the great scheme of things.

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.