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DRIVING MALAWI

One oft forgotten, or even ignored, land-locked country in Africa has much to offer the off-roader, Malawi could well be the ideal holiday adventure drive you’ve been looking for

DRIVING MALAWIWords and photography: Nick Redmayne

“Twenty five vehicles rolled by clients. All these have been due to driver error…” It wasn’t the ‘welcome pack’ I’d expected from Safari Drive. Along with this A4 treatise, which could have been subtitled. “Bad shit happens when you drive fast and loose on gravel roads…”, was a full colour picture of a lovely 110 Land Rover Defender… on its roof, offering inelegant views of its sump plug to any that cared to look.

I’d first considered driving around Malawi during a visit in 2011. However, an unfortunate combination of misappropriated aid money, a shiny new presidential jet and the expulsion of the British High Commissioner had resulted in nationwide fuel shortages as donor nations unaccountably suspended payments. Two presidents on, in 2014, I was back.

 
BUYERS’ GUIDE: LAND ROVER DISCOVERY 3

This was the car that dragged the Discovery from its cheekily chic origins into the world of true luxury SUVs. It was bigger, bolder and packed with new technology – and it was also more reliable

Land Rover Discovery 3 TARGET RANGE: £5000 - £18,000

The Range Stormer concept car that wowed visitors to the North American International Auto Show in 2004 was a clear indication of the way Land Rover was planning to distance their premium products from the company’s agricultural roots. That concept was eventually developed into the Range Rover Sport, but many of the design cues were used to hoist the already popular and stylish Discovery to new heights of elegance and road presence, with sharper styling and new technologies aimed at reasserting its 4x4 pre-eminence among the new generation of luxury 4x4s from other premium car-makers such as BMW, Lexus and Porsche.

The crisper frontal design of the new Discovery 3, with its designer headlamps, inset foglamps and the clamshell bonnet came straight from the Range Stormer, along with the newly patented Terrain Response system; so did the body-on-frame construction resulting in a stronger all-in-one bodyshell. The Discovery 3 was designed from the start as a seven-seater, the stepped-roof design allowing the three rows of seats to get progressively higher towards the rear, which combined with the large rear glass area makes for a light and airy atmosphere for all seven passengers, the seats being quite comfortable enough to accommodate seven adults.

 
MERCEDES-BENZ G-CLASS

After 35 years of hand-built production, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class remains an iconic off-roader. We get our hands on the 2014 G 350 BlueTEC both, on and off the road

Words: Nigel Fryatt and Bob Cooke     Photography: Nigel Fryatt

MERCEDES-BENZ G-CLASSIf you visit the Natural History Museum this summer, there’s an exhibition called Mammoths, and the promotional poster shows a small inquisitive child standing before the massive, imperious beast, wide-eyed in wonder, but with just a touch of cautious apprehension. Standing on my drive beside our test Mercedes-Benz G 350 BlueTEC, I too felt that child-like awe. It’s hard to really understand quite why this thing isn’t extinct. And with an on the road price of a staggering £106,150 for a vehicle we intended taking off the road, there was a cautious nature to control my natural enthusiasm as well.

The first G model rolled off the production line in Graz, Austria back in 1979. That first model was effectively hand-built, and despite all the high tech production developments that have hit the motor industry over the past 35 years, that remains the case. Equally surprising is the fact that more G-Class models were hand built in 2013 than ever before, with a total of 10,000 being registered. Only 160 were sold in the UK, but the machine is a global icon, with the US its biggest market. At present, some 60 are produced daily in Austria. Here, the base model starts at £83,830, but there is also a more powerful AMG 5.5-litre V8 engined version, which has a starting on the road price of £124,000. So, taking our test vehicle as an average price, multiply that by 10,000 models sold and this venerable off-roader is still worth well over £1m in sales to Mercedes-Benz each year. Extinction is not likely any time soon, especially as the company has announced a significantly revised model will be launched in 2017 (see News, July 2014).

 
VITARAS AND VOLCANOES

Probably one of the most unusual countries to go off-road. We climb a volcano with a team of ancient Suzuki Vitaras and some very odd confectionary. Ecuador is a very special place indeed

Words and photography: Robb Pritchard

 

VITARAS AND VOLCANOESThere are a few off-roading meccas in the world; Russia, Morocco and the Australian Outback come to mind, and Johnson Valley of course… but after this amazing weekend, Ecuador should be added to the list.

My trip involved joining up with the guys from Ecuador’s Terreno Extremo magazine, and the day started with guinea pigs for breakfast, roasting on a street side barbecue, followed by a bad headache as we hit 3800m above sea-level… At this point, I was told that cocaine leaves help alleviate the symptoms. Cocaine? Surely that’s all very dangerous not to mention illegal? No need to worry, it comes in candy form from a kiosk at the entrance to the National Park. It’s a great introduction to off-roading in Ecuador. And all before a cup of coffee!

 
Horse Power - The Ford Bronco!

The Ford BroncoThe Ford Bronco was originally launched to compete with Jeep, Land Rover, and even Toyota’s Land Cruiser. If you love 4x4s, you have to enjoy this retrospective of this great Stateside off-roader. Such is the Bronco’s following, you can even buy a new one, if you’ve got a healthy wallet!

Words: James Maxwell

The US product planners at Ford Motor Company had been eyeing the growing light-duty four-wheel drive off-road sport utility market in the 1960s and in August 1965, the company debuted its answer. The Ford Bronco was a small and nimble 4x4, designed to compete with the Jeep CJ, as well as the International Harvester Scout, Toyota Land Cruiser and even the Land Rover. The new 4x4 from Ford was called ‘Bronco’ as a second horse in their product stable, to sit alongside the famous Mustang sportscar range.

During the launch of the Bronco, Ford General Manager Donald Frey characterised the vehicle as: "Neither a car nor a truck, but as a vehicle that combines the best of both worlds. The Bronco can serve as a family sedan, sports roadster, snow plough, or farm and civil defence vehicle. It has been designed to go nearly anywhere and do nearly anything."  Snow plough, eh?

The small, lightweight contender ran on a 92inch wheelbase and was highly versatile, both off-road and on tarmac. Featuring a boxy, steel body on a separate chassis design, the front suspension was known at the time as the ‘Mono-Beam’ anti-dive system, based on coil springs and forged radius rods located from the transmission area, forward to the solid front axle. Tubular shocks located rearward of the coils were used and a tubular track bar was incorporated into the design to maintain axle alignment. Turning radius was a tight 34ft circle. 

 
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