Looking to improve the performance and efficiency of your 4×4? Paul Guinness takes a look at what’s available to get more from your engine


Tuning guide – more power, less fuel Most folk are probably perfectly happy with their diesel-powered 4x4s, SUVs and off-roaders. They manage to offer reliable, sturdy motoring, reasonable power and decent enough torque in most cases. And if those who crave more performance choose to run a petrol-powered 4×4 instead, perhaps usurping a Td5 Discovery in favour of a V8, then they’re probably content to spend more on fuel in return for that extra on-road ‘oomph’.

Sometimes, though, even the most contented drivers crave just a bit more power, or some extra response when their right foot is applied to the ‘go’ pedal. And when it comes to towing or even off-roading, a bit of extra torque could be handy on occasions.

Assuming you don’t have limitless funds available, however, it doesn’t always make sense to change your 4×4 for a more powerful model, given how much extra you’d almost certainly end up spending. So what’s the alternative? Simply this: improve what you already have. Paul Guinness offers a guiding hand through the maze of aftermarket products and services to get that little bit more from your 4×4’s engine.

MPVs, or multi-purpose vehicles, are gaining popularity in the UK and abroad for their flexibility and versatility. As their name suggests, MPVs are now being used by different people for a huge number of reasons; they’re strong, sturdy vehicles that can be used to travel on difficult terrain with significant luggage and passengers. Compact MPVs, in particular, are popular with families, especially those with more than two kids – and what family of five or more isn’t looking to save a little money here or there? If you’re looking to save money, second hand MPVs are the answer.

Second hand doesn’t have to be second best; in fact, with the money you can save by purchasing an MPV second hand, you can almost always bag yourself a better MPV than if you were to buy one new. MPVs are made by just about every car manufacturer making cars today, including Vauxhall, Citroen and Peugeot, though some seem to be better at it than others. Honda have certainly made a name for themselves in this arena, having produced the Stream Estate as well as the incredibly popular Honda FR-V.

As an example, a used Honda FR-V in good condition can be purchased second hand for less than £5,000, whereas brand new it would set you back at least £15,000. That’s a saving of £10,000 – or two more used Honda FR-Vs! While many people might think that purchasing a second hand MPV is a compromise that comes at the cost of reliability or quality, this is not the case provided buyers shop wisely. By viewing the car before you purchase it and choosing a car with relatively low mileage, canny drivers can save themselves thousands of pounds on a vehicle which may well be almost like new.

Whether you’ve signed up to an organised 4×4 expedition tour or are going it alone, preparation is key. We join an expedition training course to see what’s involved… 

Words and photography: Sarah Harrington-James


A sense of adventureImagine this scenario: before officially tying the knot, the appeal of one last epic adventure with your best mate is soon concocted over several pints of the best British ale. Africa is earmarked, with Kenya the end game and several weeks on a plan is in motion, now that you’re the winning bidder of a 1995 Land Rover Defender 110. However, the adventurous pair in question, groom-to-be electrician Lewis Ashley and farming machinery specialist Kris Romney, are expedition newbies and under no illusion that they need to learn the necessary skills for their planned adventure. Sensibly, they sign up to an intensive three-day True Grip Off Road expedition preparation course – and I tag along too for good measure.

Disappearing off to a foreign, Third World country can be hugely daunting, which is why the prep work has to start at home. Kent-based True Grip, the origins of which started in 1993, can develop a course specifically for each individual, which takes into account previous off-roading experience, the vehicle they’ll be taking, the type of terrain on their journey and driver’s skill. Using True Grip’s Defender 110 on private land encompassing Eastwell Park, Lewis and Kris opt for off-road driving, winch recovery techniques, survival skills, vehicle preparation and ‘get you back home’ mechanics.

The Range Rover threw off its agricultural heritage in 2002 and reappeared as a thoroughly modern, exceptionally refined and superbly luxurious world-beater. With the all-new model now on sale, older examples are becoming more affordable

Price range  £10,000 – £15,000


RANGE ROVER (2002-2012)When the all-new Range Rover of 2002 appeared it was a stunning departure from the original concept. Gone was the separate steel chassis, gone were the beam axles, and gone was the trusty old Buick V8 engine. With its all-independent suspension and sleek new styling it was the starkest indication yet that the Range Rover was no longer the estate manager’s town car, it was intended to be one of the world’s best luxury limousines with four-wheel drive, almost an incidental fop to the growing interest in all-wheel drive SUVs. The transformation was fuelled by financial and technical input from BMW and Ford, which had sequentially owned the Land Rover brand at that time; hence there was also a quantum leap in the build quality and the promise of better performance, economy and reliability from new engines and transmissions.

The original engines were sourced from BMW in the form of the 4.4-litre V8 and 3.0-litre turbodiesel as used in the BMW X5. The new Range Rover was longer and taller than the previous model, but not much heavier because aluminium played a major role with the bonnet, front wings and side door assemblies all fabricated from the lightweight alloy, a first for a volume vehicle in this class.

Tackling the question of which is the best pick-up available in the UK today is difficult. The choice is wide ranging, in terms of price, character and ability, but only one can win our 4×4 Pick-up Of The Year 2014, but even the runners up often impress

Words: Nigel Fryatt   Photography: Wayne Mitchelson   Second opinion: Howard Sherren

pick upAfter our annual 4×4 Of The Year test in the last issue, we turn our attention to the pick-up market. With models from China, Korea, Japan (and Japan via the USA) this is a small, but highly competitive selection of 4x4s, and it’s a market enjoying some growth. From the adjoining table, you can see that since 2009, UK pick-up registrations have risen significantly, and this year looks like being particularly strong. Now all these pick-ups have important characteristics in common; all diesel powered, all double cab, and all but one with selectable 4WD. They do, however, have very different characteristics and achieve the common aim of carrying four passengers, significant payload, and being able to tow, in very different ways. Prices too, vary widely. We have reported the manufacturer’s claimed basic prices, which all exclude VAT (since in most cases, this is reclaimable), and that means the most expensive model here, the VW Amarok, is close to twice the cost of the cheapest, the Great Wall Steed. For vehicles that are so matched in their main raison d’etre, this is a significant difference. Is it worth that extra expense?

Of course, we also have to deal with the elephant in the room. On this test we have seven of the pick-ups available to the UK market; astute readers will notice that there is one missing. We have no Ford Ranger, our winner from the same event last year, but significantly absent for 2014. The reason for this is simple. If you place an order for a new Ford Ranger today, evidence is that it could take over a year for that order to be fulfilled. In our opinion therefore, it’s effectively not available to the UK market, and certainly not available for our 4×4 Pick-up Of The Year 2014 test. What we have therefore, is the current available UK pick-up market, ready and waiting to be tested.

It’s become a mini-classic in its own lifetime, with cute styling that suits it just as well for the city as for hardcore mud-plugging. A true off-roader with separate chassis and low range gearing and a reputation for reliability that ensures continued popularity

TARGET PRICE: £500 – £13,000

BUYING USED: SUZUKI JIMNY Oh, sure, we laughed at the Jimny when it appeared in 1998, far too small to be a useful SUV, too puny and low-slung to be a competent off-roader, surely it was nothing more than a nippy, traffic-dodging, easy-park city car, a little kinky in the styling department but hardly more desirable than a Mini…

Yet the Jimny has endured, and although its diminutive dimensions still can’t make it a sensible family SUV, it’s proven to be a great fun car for enthusiasts who wish to be part of the SUV lifestyle without having the need for a full-sized family off-roader. Meanwhile the Jimny’s off-road ability continues to astound as more and more older examples find their way into weekend pay ‘n’ play off-road sites where they can be seen mixing it on equal terms with Jeeps and Land Rovers.

It is an oddball little car, boasting a rugged separate chassis and rigid axles at a time when even the most serious of off-roading SUVs were switching to monocoque bodyshells and independent suspension, in consequence of which, the Jimny is relatively heavy for its size and the ride quality isn’t as good as it could be. Performance is hardly exciting, especially with the original 1298cc engine, which although seemingly right up-to-date at the time with its 16-valve head is a single-cam type that needs to be revved close to its 6000rpm power peak to deliver anything like meaningful acceleration, and works hard with much use of the five-speed manual transmission to keep the Jimny in touch with general traffic. Countering this is the fact that it was never intended to be a long-haul highway cruiser, and the uprated variable valve timing unit installed after 2005 sounds a little less frenetic and returns better fuel consumption.

One of the most individual events on the off-road calendar, Mudmaster is a mixture of on and off-road driving skills, navigation, orienteering, even a quiz on the Highway Code. Quite a challenge, therefore, as we discovered

Words and photography: Alan Coutts

mudmastersMudmaster is planned with military precision; “improving road safety, developing both on and off-road driving and map reading skills”, the organisers say, and it does all of these and more. So what can crews expect? All action navigation, trials, autotests, regularity runs and orienteering through forest, over field and quarry sites across central Scotland. This year a dozen or so MAN SV military trucks are in the mix, going through their off-road paces on various sites; they are truly impressive, with semi auto selectable boxes and diff locks to die for. What if they got stuck? The army has the latest recovery answer on site – a 32 ton MAN heavy recovery truck capable of retrieving the heaviest vehicles on operations. Powered by a 440bhp, 10.5-litre, Euro 4 compliant six cylinder turbo diesel engine, it has 8×8 wheel drive and self-levelling suspension to negotiate rough ground. It can pluck a truck right out of the mud with a lifting capacity of 15 tons at a distance of 2.3m, and can tow a 44 ton vehicle should the need arise. It’s well impressive.

Crews chatted happily in the watery morning sun after scrutineering, and from the accents it was apparent that Mudmaster had attracted teams from all over the UK and beyond; a huge 69 entries, which with passengers meant hundreds of happy off-roaders had turned up for the event.

Don’t let those puny little Vitaras and Jeeps and Land Rovers get in your way. If you want to make a big impression off-road you’ll need one of these – dominators that are as effective off-road as their size suggests, yet not that hard to come by


Heavyweight 4x4sFor an off-road enthusiast who believes big is beautiful, there can be few more awe-inspiring sights than watching a six-wheel drive Scammell clambering over a huge rocky outcrop or seeing a Stalwart emerge from a lake and without a pause clamber up the bank and disappear into the undergrowth. Most people do simply look on in awe, because the thought of driving one of these beasts, let alone actually owning one, seems a dream too far, partly because of a natural fear of their perceived complexity and partly because of the assumed high cost of purchasing one, not to mention having to acquire the necessary heavy vehicle driving licence. That latter point aside, most of these all-wheel drive behemoths are actually quite easy to drive, the basic controls are all as straightforward as in an ordinary passenger car, you may just have to spend some time getting used to the pre-selector gearboxes and exhaust brakes sometimes included in the specification of more modern vehicles. As to the cost of purchase, you needn’t pay more for a big six-wheeled off-roader than you would for a good-condition ordinary four-wheel drive. What you will have to consider, however, is that you’ll need somewhere to park it when it’s not in use and if you don’t treat it with respect you could end up frightening yourself with repair and maintenance costs. If neither of these factors causes you concern, then maybe it really is the right time to have a look around at what’s available in the way of heavy-duty awe-inspirers.

One way to enjoy your 4×4 to the full is to join a group of like mined enthusiasts on an organised drive. We join just such a group led by Dave Mitchell’s Landcraft team for a superb day out in Bala, Wales

Words and photography: Ian Seabrook


WELSH SAFARI – there be dragons If you’re keen to test your 4×4 away from the metalled highway, you effectively have three options. Pay and play sites, greenlaning or an off-road centre. We decided to head to one of the latter, David Mitchell’s Landcraft in Bala, Snowdonia. Personally, I thought it would be an intriguing opportunity to put my own Land Rover Discovery through its paces, and to see what other vehicles and drivers would be there. We could also find out what made people choose this experience over other options.

The group assembled in Bala, with a 100 per cent turnout for the Green Oval. Land Rovers ranged from my tired-but-standard 200Tdi Discovery through a pair of standard Discovery IIs and a collection of Defenders – from a 1986 much-modified example, to a 2008 90 and a 2009 110 in ‘as it comes’ condition. This pair seemed almost factory fresh.

After introductions and a safety briefing, we formed a convoy to drive to the 6000 acre site that David regularly uses. His assistant, marshall Russ Williams, led us onto the site, where most of us wondered what awaited us. A gentle beginning allowed those new to off-roading to find their feet and get used to driving around in low ‘box. Both Defender ‘Puma’s were experiencing their first serious test. Carl Nelson and son John from Leicester in their 2008 90 demonstrated the extraordinary engine braking of these Ford-engined Defenders on one particularly steep descent. “I almost had to accelerate,” joked Carl. “I’ve done the odd green lane but this is the first bit of proper off-roading I’ve done in it. I’ve been amazed at what it can do. I was worried about the tyres but it’s been OK.” Asked about the reasons for coming along, Carl said: “It’s better than thrashing around at a Pay and Play site.” Thanks must go to Carl for giving our Discovery a tow start after it refused to start.

Whether you need a workhorse for your business or a versatile luxury vehicle for recreational use, it’s worth making sure which double-cab pick-up is the most practical proposition for you


Top TrucksTARGET PRICE: £10,000 – £15,000

The lust for more power, a hunger for more aggressive style, a thirst for more comfort and refinement has for so long underlined competing manufacturers’ vision for the future of pick-up trucks, that they seem to have lost track of the reason for the existence of the pick-up – it’s supposed to be a working vehicle with aspects such as payload, towing capability and maintenance costs outweighing the cosmetic appeal of aerodynamic styling and shiny chrome-plated accessories. For many, the choice of which pick-up to buy depends more on image value than practicality – who would wish to be seen (and heard) driving around in a cheap and cheerful Great Wall Steed when they could be at the wheel of a highway-dominating Barbarian, and for all its muscular styling and Thunder graphics, who’d drive an old Ford Ranger when they could be one of the Invincibles in a Toyota Hilux? Are these high-image vehicles the most practical choice, however? Perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at the more prosaic values of the many makes of pick-up vying for attention on Britain’s roads. In this instance we’re looking at what’s available for under £15,000 – and what you can get for that much money depends largely on whether, as a business user, you’re able to reclaim the VAT. One-tonne pick-ups are classed as commercial vehicles, and the price asked is usually the basic price without the VAT. Private buyers seeking a comfortable and versatile family vehicle will have to pay the VAT, which means if your upper spending limit is £15,000 you’ll be looking for a vehicle priced at no more than £12,500. That would certainly put any of the newest contenders out of the frame – the new Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max and Volkswagen Amarok, for instance, where even nearly new and ex-demonstrator examples are rare at around the £15,000 mark. All the prices quoted in this article are without the VAT; so non-business buyers will have to add the extra 20 per cent.