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My favourite Top Tip from the anarchic magazine Viz: Put a £20 note in the inside pocket of your dark suit jacket so the next time you go to a funeral you’ll find something to cheer you up! Now, it was just as well the Cherokee had been through a car wash as part of the cleanup for its MOT examination, because along with the bills that came through the front door was an invitation to a funeral. It was the last ceremony of a bloke I didn’t like very much, but I figured it would be a chance to meet up with some distant relatives I’d not seen for years. The fact that it would be a 185- mile drive each way was a bit irking since the Cherokee’s comfortable with it; I reckon if I ever upgrade to a newer model I’ll switch the seats with those from my current Cherokee.
It was quite a pleasant drive on one of those rare sunny days and the Cherokee was still gleaming after the long haul up the A1, the bodywork remarkably clear of dents and scratches and its dark green paintwork still largely unblemished. Just for a brief moment, though, I rather wished the Cherokee had a more modern, softly rounded body style. It was when I arrived at the crematorium and turned in through the entrance gate and made my way sedately past a waiting group of mourners; some older folk removed their hats and bowed their heads as I cruised past, having briefly mistaken the Cherokee for a hearse…
Well, I got my wish from a previous month and it did, as we all know, well and truly snow in late January - plenty of it, enough to bring the whole country to a halt. Well, all those without the sense to own a 4x4, that is. And I got the chance to see what our Escape version Tiguan was really like in the snow. You’ll see from my Fiat Panda 4x4 report on page 28 that this winter marked the very first time I have actually been in an ‘SUV’ rather than a ‘proper’ 4x4 with low ratio etc etc onto the slippery white stuff. The Panda was shod with winter tyres, which made a heap of difference to its performance in difficult conditions. Our 4MOTION Tiguan, on the other hand, is shod in a very un-winter/snow/ice tyre, although it is the Escape version, with an off-road electronic switch that gives you Hill Descent Control, among other things.
The return of the snow to the wilds of Surrey saw me enjoying the Hilux. I live on a hill and any decent download of snow will see people struggling to get around. You cannot deny that it’s fun actually going for a drive when you really don’t need to! Checking if our elderly neighbours need anything, we sometimes encourage them to let us go and buy them an extra loaf of bread ‘just in case’ so we can have a specific mission to brave the elements!
Back in the October 2012 edition of 4x4 magazine, I reported on our BFG KM2 245/70/17 mudterrain tyres and promised an end-of-life update. That time has now come and the verdict is in. A few years back the general rule was that you never used mud terrains on the road. This was because of poor handling, noise and excessive wear. Fast-forward to 2013 and now mud terrains are more ‘streetable’ than ever before, offering much improved levels of grip and refinement compared to their ancestor tyres. And today’s 4x4s are also much quieter, sharper handlers and better insulators of road noise than their ancestors, so combine those two factors and the mud terrain becomes a viable daily-driver option. But that said, the muddie is not without its disadvantages. The first is cost, not only in the purchase price, but wear.
Our Escape model is the off-road version of the Tiguan and therefore comes in at a smidgeon over £2000 more than the standard model. Both are equipped with VW’s 4MOTION intelligent four-wheel drive that kicks in when the system detects poor traction. I have always been a bit sceptical about these so-called ‘intelligent’ systems as they are reactive, i.e., you need your wheels to experience a bit of a problem before the electronics suss it out and then react accordingly and switch power delivery to a more even split between the axles.
I prefer a vehicle that lets me lock into four-wheel drive when I say so; which is why I will always be a bit wary of the intelligent SUVs that are swamping our 4x4 market these days. Yes, regular readers know that I am an old fashioned gal who loves a nice big transfer lever that you thrust into four low and know damn well that it is locked in and off you go into the wilderness.