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July 2015 Issue of 4x4 Magazine

july blogGiven the boyish good looks and youthful sparkle of the photograph on this page, it may surprise some to realise that I have been around the block a few times; quite a few trips while travelling in a Modified vehicle, as it happens. A lot of these Modifieds have actually been of the performance, or motorsport, persuasion, starting with the humble Mini. I still have a small paperback book called Tuning The Mini, written by a guy called Clive Trickey. It was actually the third edition, published in 1972 and the first time it had been produced was way back in 1966. I always felt that the guy should go into business running a garage called Trickey Modifications, but I’m not sure that ever happened. He was, however, one of the first to recognise the less than perfect quality of the casting of the cylinder head for the, then relatively new, A-Series engine in the Mini. Attacking the head with grinding bits and emery paper he improved the whole thing, significantly improved the power output and got us enthusiasts to use words like ‘porting’ and ‘gas flow’ as if we were real engineers. Like thousands of young would-be racers, I bought a set of grinding bits, borrowed my dad’s electric drill and attacked the lump of British steel on my ‘bog standard’ Mini’s engine, making everything look nice and shiny. Bolted back on the engine, and on my first test run through the lanes in Norfolk, I was convinced that the power output of the wheezy knackered old unit had been greatly improved. Of course, the Mini went even quicker when I later spray-painted it lime green (a standard Renault colour if I remember) with a matching matt black roof. Lowering the seat, adding a throttle pedal extension. There were no limits to my modification abilities…

 

June 2015 Issue of 4x4 Magazine

june blogLast month we enjoyed our drive in one of the original modern SUVs, the Suzuki Vitara; in our view, one of the most significant SUVs ever produced, a model that started a whole new genre of ‘lifestyle’ 4x4s. Intriguing, therefore, this month we have been able to drive in the UK what is quite possibly an equally significant, but this time brand new, SUV – the Jeep Renegade. This fresh new small 4x4 could, in this writer’s view, become the most significant SUV of the decade. At a time when we are regularly bemoaning the fact that SUV manufacturers are watering down the off-road abilities of their latest models, Jeep is taking a different tack. Yes, you can get a Renegade that just has the simple on-demand four-wheel drive system – indeed, you can even get two-wheel drive models – but you can also get a full-fat Trail Rated version with the highly efficient Terrain-Selec system, which even includes a Rock crawl mode, coupled to a superb nine speed automatic. For once, having the basic option does not dilute the brand, thanks to the Trailhawk option available for those who still value a decent 4x4 system. Of course, there are no transfer levers to struggle with, but there is Low Range. Yes it is electronically selectable, and thanks to the very clever automatic gearbox, hill descents and hill start assists perhaps need less actual driving ability and rather more techniques honed by computer gamers and the tablet generation, but this is 2015 after all. That we enjoyed our beach drive over the rocks and through the soft sand on a superb private beach in Scotland, was enough. In fact, it was more than enough, it was terrific! Check out page 24 for more.

 

May 2015 Issue of 4x4 Magazine

may blog coverRapidly developing technology is a fact of life. Everything gets more sophisticated, and more mind-bendingly baffling. You see youngsters using tablets while still strapped in pushchairs. Of course, it’s not for them to reflect on how all this stuff actually works, they just accept this technology as ‘normal’. Quizzical reflection and head shaking is left to us mature members of society, who can remember the world before everything became digital. Now, before you get the idea that this is going to be a ‘grumpy ol’ man’ rant, let me confess that the latest 4x4 technology absolutely fascinates me. As regular readers will know, this magazine proudly covers the very latest developments of companies like Jaguar Land Rover; we are often astonished learning what is now possible. We have visited that company’s Virtual Reality Cave in the design department and stood slack-jawed in our 3D-glasses, completely amazed at what is now possible. Absolutely brilliant. However, there are times to reflect…

 

April 2015 Issue of 4x4 Magazine

april blogWell, who would have thought? While this is the time of year when many 4x4s are purchased by people seemingly caught by surprise that the winter months mean poor weather and difficult driving conditions, meaning 4x4 sales rise dramatically, finding the Volkswagen Touareg as top of the second-hand sales league table is still something of a surprise. The claim is made by the respected Glass’s Guide, the largest vehicle data provider in Europe, traditionally ‘the book’ that keeps tabs on all UK second-hand vehicle prices. According to these guys, the Touareg was top, with the Skoda Yeti also in the ‘hot five’ fastest selling cars in January. Our decision to have the VW Touareg as the Buying Guide for this issue can therefore be considered as an example of how we have our editorial finger firmly on the pulse of 4x4 second-hand sales in the UK, or merely a coincidence. We will let you decide on that one.

There’s no denying, however, that the Touareg – especially the earlier models – is an excellent, large, family, off-roader. My memory of turning the ignition key on an early V10 model is still strong. Come on, a V10 diesel engine in a family SUV! Astonishing. Rupert Pontin, head of valuations at Glass’s Guide describes the Touareg as offering “fantastic build quality, superb engines, great handling and subtle looks. This is the thinking man’s Porsche Cayenne.” We’re not quite so sure of the last bit, but agree with the rest, especially the ‘subtle looks’. To support this month’s Buying Guide, we have also been able to drive the very latest model (First Drive on page 26) and one thing that disappoints is the way that the design has morphed into looking like every other VW. One amusing, and surprisingly accurate, description of the design of the latest Touareg is that it looks like a ‘bloated Passat’.

 

March 2015 Issue of 4x4 Magazine

march blogItchy feet? There are many benefits of owning a 4x4, especially at this time of the year when the weather provides some people with difficult travelling conditions, but perhaps the most significant is the ability to ‘go anywhere’. Now, while this makes a great marketing slogan, and one that has been flogged somewhat over the years, but there are limitations, of course. Plus some vehicles are better options for serious overlanding than others, and there will always be surprises. This is our special issue where we look to tempt you to consider a trip; whether it’s a serious cross continental trek, our a wild camping holiday to Europe with all the family. What we hope to have done with this issue is to show that there are a variety of ways that you can have that much dreamt about adventure with your 4x4. The UK four-wheel drive market is blessed with some excellent companies that will help prepare both you and you vehicle, but at the end of the day, there’s mental approach that’s needed. We have a great story this month from Nick and Claire Marr and their 16-year old Toyota Land Cruiser. It seems that when they announced their plans, friends and family all thought they were mad, some even predicting fatal consequences. Of course, not they have returned and regaled the experience you can bet that the comments changed somewhat! Envy and admiration in equal quantities you would imagine. It’s a real family story, and one that sums up when 4x4 overlanding is all about.

 
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