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Archive for the tag “Range Rover”

Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic – Driven and Reviewed

Range Rover Sport HSE front and sideIt’s never a nice feeling; you’re pootling along in a press car, weighing up all the apparent pros and cons to be mentioned in your review, and you notice something wrong. I’m not talking about a design element that’s not quite to your taste, or a material in the cabin that cheapens the setting somewhat – I mean a flaw, a blemish, a defect. Having driven the new Range Rover Sport for over 100 miles, I was quite definite that I’d be breaking some bad news to the engineers at Land Rover about the sturdiness of one of their products, thus generating embarrassment and uncomfortable silences all round; the digital fuel gauge was undoubtedly broken.

It just didn’t seem feasible that a 4×4 weighing over two tonnes, with nearly 290 bhp coming from a 3 litre lump would be able to cover this distance without even awakening the digital fuel gauge from its slumber. Oh, and did I mention that this RR Sport, in HSE Dynamic guise will hit 60 mph in a Golf Gti worrying – 6.8 seconds?

Range Rover Sport HSE sideBut then, it moved. Gone was the impending threat of awkwardness, in its place was a sensation of disbelief. Borrowing a fuel cell from one of the now defunct NASA space shuttles would, of course, extend the range a bit, but the clever people at RR have instead opted to keep the much more practical 80 litre tank. So, this thing just couldn’t be that economical, could it? Well yes, it could. Scrolling through the information available on the dash, I found that I was apparently averaging nearly 30mpg, and I hadn’t been anywhere near a motorway – this was all from driving around those fuel guzzling towns and B-roads.

Range Rover Sport HSE rear and sideIt turns out that this new-found eco-friendliness is down to heavy metal, or not-so heavy metal in this case. By ditching the Discovery’s chassis in favour of the full-blown Range Rover’s, they’re now utilising a material that actually was used on the space shuttle – aluminium, instead of conventional steel. By doing this, the Sport’s lost a hefty 420kg from its kerb-weight, mirroring the relatively svelte Range Rover flagship model.

The 545 bhp Range Rover Sport SVR

The 545 bhp Range Rover Sport SVR

The big news coming from the Range Rover camp at the moment may be their ridiculously quick SVR model, with its 545bhp supercharged petrol engine, but this ‘base model’ 3.0 TDV6 remains the one to go for. There’s a bigger diesel available, also a 507 bhp variant of the petrol unit found in the SVR, and even a hybrid, but they can only be had if you opt for the pricier ‘Autobiography Dynamic’ spec. I say save your money and go for the base HSE or the HSE Dynamic we’ve got here; the 4.4l diesel is only marginally quicker than the 3.o and the supercharged petrol has a massive drinking problem. The hybrid might be worth a punt but that’s a different kettle of fish altogether. That said, this model isn’t perfect either; to achieve those impressive economy stats, there’s the inevitable stop/start technology which, for me, is a little too keen to kick in. When the stop’s over and it’s time for start again, the power steering needs a touch longer than the engine to get up to speed and if you try to turn too quickly, the wheel kicks back at you until it’s got itself together.

Range Rover Sport HSE logo badgeThe TDV6 isn’t just the thrifty choice of engine either. The more lightweight nature of the V6 compliments the efforts made to slim-down the new Sport when it comes down to performance and handling too. That 6.8 second sprint to 60mph is impressive enough, but put enough power into any vehicle and it’ll respond accordingly; what’ll really put a smile on your face is the way this large 4×4 negotiates the inevitable twisty bits you’ll come across, and possibly a little sooner than expected. The brakes are obviously under a lot of pressure to calm things down slightly, but instead of that sinking feeling you sometimes get in weightier cars, as the body squirms under braking and you find yourself wishing they’d fitted some discs more similar in size to bin-lids, less like compact-discs, the Sport confidently reins things in with minimal fuss.

Range Rover Sport HSE side ventCome to a bend and the Sport really shows off what it’s all about. I’m always amused when I read a review of the latest 4×4 and its handling characteristics are criticised as they’re ‘just not enough like a normal car’ – I’ve never seen a Focus being besmirched for its inability to drive unaided up Ben Nevis. There are many large 4x4s on the market that were made for tarmac, that’s no secret, but a Range Rover must be able to cut it off-road, or it ain’t gonna get to wear that Land Rover badge. The way the Sport goes around bends isn’t just ‘quite good, considering its off-road capabilities’ – it’s really excellent. The leading corner dips ever-so-slightly on turn in, but then the dynamic chassis levels the whole car out and the torque vectoring system brings the rear wheels into play, giving the feeling that they’re pushing the car around, rather than the front wheels scrambling to pull. There is of course a trade-off for all this on-road fun, and in Dynamic mode especially, you will feel the bumps and potholes a little more than you’d expect in a Range Rover.

Locking diffs - the new Sport is still a serious piece of off-road kit

Locking diffs – the new Sport is still a serious piece of off-road kit

The silky-smooth, eight speed ZF ‘box that’s found its way into so many JLR products recently is once again present in the new Sport, and it’d be hard to argue against. Providing a vehicle of this size with a ‘sport’ mode on the gearbox does seem slightly akin to entering a shire horse into the Grand National, but it would be a little daft to delete this option when the car itself is called ‘Sport’. And besides, when the Sport handles as well as it does, it seems fitting to have a ‘box to match the performance. You can change gear yourself, either via the F-Type style trigger gear-lever or some paddles behind the wheel, but, to be honest, when a ‘box works as well as this one, I suspect you’ll end up just leaving it to its own devices.

Range Rover Sport HSE bonnet ventOne aspect I’ve not mentioned yet is how the new Sport looks. I wasn’t keen at all on the first gen Sport; I thought it was too squat and chunky for its own good and I was (possibly irrationally) irritated by the fact that the spare wheel was visible –  too Land Rover, not enough Range Rover, and it looked as if a body panel was missing. This new model is different though. Both the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport have taken styling cues from their hugely popular stable-mate – the Evoque, and they’re all the better for it. There’s rounded corners and sweeping lights, cleverly adopted without losing that all-important Range Rover image. Gone is the exposed spare wheel, too, in its place is a under-tray like panel that sweeps up to meet the rear bumper, just like the Evoque’s does.

Using larger Range Rover chassis means much more room inside than first gen Sport.

Using larger Range Rover chassis means much more room inside than first gen Sport.

The fact that I didn’t actually fit into the first gen Sport’s rear seats without the aid of a chiropractor was the final straw for me, I found that truly ridiculous. Not so the new model though. By using the larger Range Rover’s chassis, they’ve increased the room inside significantly, and I now fit into all five seats.

New Range Rover Sport comes with standard phone connectivity

New Range Rover Sport comes as standard with phone connectivity

At £64,995 on the road, the Sport certainly isn’t the cheapest, but you also get a lot of toys and luxuries for that money that you’d pay a premium for elsewhere. What you also undoubtedly get is one of the most comfortable, stylish ways of transporting people or cargo over large distances, and as it’s a Range Rover – those distances don’t necessarily have to be on-road.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Range Rover Sport HSE Dynamic, Engine – 3.0l TDV6, Transmission – 8 speed ZF Auto, Layout – Front Engine, 4WD, Power – 288bhp, Acceleration – 0-60mph – 6.8s, Maximum Speed – 130mph, Torque – 600Nm, Economy – 37.7mpg combined, Emissions – 199g/km CO2, Price – £64,995 OTR, £78,595 as tested

For full details, go to http://www.landrover.co.uk

 

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Range Rover Evoque SD4 Prestige Coupe – Driven and Reviewed

Range Rover Evoque Coupe front and sideWay back in 1970, if you’d have walked into a Range Rover showroom you’d have more than likely been greeted by a smiling, Sta-Prest salesman who’d have been more than happy to proudly demonstrate the best (possibly the only) luxury 4×4 in the world. It was big, it had three doors, it was quintessentially British and the only quandary you’d be faced with would be which shade of brown to opt for. Staying in 1970 for a little bit longer, it was a similar story if you decided a Mini was the car for you; there were some slight variations in body styles and engines to choose from, but if all you wanted was a clever, compact car for the family, you could simply decide on which particular hue to go for and that was it – your three door marvel of British engineering will be delivered ASAP, Sir.

Fast forward 43 years and things have changed a little. Well, a lot actually. Both brands have been through the British Leyland mill and come out the other side, only just though and with reputations temporarily in tatters. Foreign ownership has been the salvation of both national treasures and through this, the secret of survival has been identified in a certain, undeniable quality; diversity.

All this brings me onto what is undoubtedly the most diverse product from the Range Rover stable to date – the Evoque. Launched in 2011 with considerable fanfare (some of it Spice Girl related), it’s now an everyday sight on our roads whilst still retaining an air of exclusivity. Ironically enough, if it’s a quality SUV you’re after with comparable kerb appeal and quirkiness, realistic competition comes in the surprisingly similar sized Countryman or Paceman models from, would you believe it, MINI? How things have changed in just over four decades!

Ninja!!

Ninja!!

The ensuing popularity was such that Land Rover were moved to introduce round the clock manufacturing of the Evoque, in order to keep up with the insatiable demand it generated, and it’s not hard to see why. Just on face value, the Evoque is an attractive proposition, especially in three door, coupe guise such as our SD4 Prestige test car. The Evoque looks it’s best when viewed from the front, with its pepper pot, two-bar-grille that makes it unmistakably part of the Land Rover group. The appeal lies in its jutting chin and narrow lights, giving the impression of a stalking ninja in full, face-concealing headgear. The lines created by these feature headlights continue down the side of the Evoque, past the A-pillar, intersected briefly by some relatively oversized front wheel-arches that add a chunky, almost playful nature to the sometimes sombre Range Rover brand.

Range Rover Evoque Rear cornerA near vertical tailgate, combined with the coupe’s impressively large doors add an air of shooting brake to the Evoque. It’s an appealing shape that’s easy on the eye with enduring popularity. It’s only really the Evoque’s rear end that could be described as slightly questionable; the rear window is impossibly small and the level at which bodywork changes colour and morphs into bumper/undertray is a little too high. The result is a multitude of features seemingly squashed into a relatively meagre area. One feature I never tire of though, is the ‘comet’ style rear lights ands their ‘glowing ball with streaking tail’ design. Think you’ve seen them somewhere else? Jaguar’s F-Type sports similar lights, if somewhat exaggerated when compared to the Evoque.

Range Rover Evoque rear light clusterAnyway, enough of how the Evoque looks, the more pertinent question is possibly how it feels and how it behaves, both on and off-road.

I don’t know how they do it but Range Rover have a knack of producing incredibly comfortable seats and the Evoque continues this trend with aplomb. Various heating, cooling and shape adjustments all contribute to making even the longest of journeys as bearable as possible. Memory seats are, for me, an essential purchase in a car, as I love the guarantee of my seat returning to my optimum position after someone else has driven it. A shame then that whoever was tasked with positioning the buttons that control the Evoque’s memory seats opted to plonk them just behind the interior door pulls; it’s quite unnerving to open or close ones door and find your seat is unexpectedly moving as your knuckles have inadvertently scraped said buttons. Very frustrating.

Memory seat controls - well within knuckle range

Memory seat controls – well within knuckle range

The rest of the Evoque’s interior is the usual high quality fare we’ve grown to expect from the brand. There are splashes of metal and wood in all the right places, the still awesome dual-view TFT screen, and many niceties that all contribute towards a deeply pleasing ambience. Find much better and you’re probably sat in, well, a full-size Range Rover. The sense of space in the Evoque comes as something of a surprise; no occupant will find themselves cramped, even in this coupe model, and yet the boot, although not cavernous, is a decent shape and size too. Anyone with concerns about visibility stemming from that diminutive rear window I mentioned earlier can be reassured that the Evoque comes complete with a pair of door mirrors that wouldn’t look out-of-place on a road-train; it takes a bit of getting used to but missing something in those bad-boys would be no mean feat. One aspect of coupe ownership that could easily frustrate is the method of accessing the rear seats. Naturally, the front seats have acquired a motor for effortless movement back and forth but the rate at which they move is best described as glacial. Obviously health and safety will have legislated on the appropriate pace for this motion, to stave off any potential law suits resulting from trapped limbs etc. Sometime though, allowing access and egress from rear seats demands a certain level of stealth, i.e. in torrential rain so I can’t help but feel that this is one luxury feature too far and should have probably been left on the shelf.

Range Rover Evoque Coupe seat button

One motor too far?

I’m in the fortunate position to be able to comment first hand on how the 4WD Evoque copes with going off-road as I took one around Land Rover’s very own test facility at Gaydon. Obviously the good folk at LR weren’t going to allow me to attack the off-road course if they weren’t confident in its capabilities but rest-assured, this is no walk in the park. Some of the hills, valleys and troughs had me doubting anything would make it through, but put the Evoque into the appropriate mode for the terrain and it just goes and goes like a particularly determined mountain goat. Our intrepid Evoque was fitted with an underbody tray as height clearance is obviously not quite up to Defender levels but apart from that, you can be confident that this is by no means all show, no go.

Back in the real world and, let’s be honest, the common-or-garden speed hump is about as tasty as it’s going to get for 90% of an Evoque’s day. Thankfully, off-road prowess doesn’t have to mean wobbly on-road traits and back on the black stuff, the Evoque feels more mid-size hatch than tall lofty SUV. The suspension and drivetrain combine to give a smooth, silky ride that seemingly irons out all the creases and ridges we’ve grown accustomed to on British roads. I defy anyone to spot a change of ratios in the wonderful 6 speed ‘box, although this is due to be updated with a lightweight 9 speed ZF unit in the near future.

Devilish red jewels in Dynamic mode

Devilish red jewels in Dynamic mode

If you choose to, you can opt for a ‘dynamic’ driving mode in the Evoque, complete with red jewelled rings around the dials. This is supposed to support a more enthusiastic driving style but personally, I wouldn’t bother. I’m all for more feedback and response on the twisty bits but honestly, I felt that the standard ride blends comfort and driveability to near perfection, dynamic mode simply took away from the whole experience without enough significant gain.

The Evoque faced more than its fair share of thinly veiled criticism when it was announced, possibly not helped by a certain Mrs Beckham. Two years on, we’ve got 24 hour production lines and worldwide popularity, and it’s not hard to see why. Who’s laughing now, eh?

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Range Rover Evoque SD4 Prestige Coupe, Engine – 2.2l Diesel, Transmission 6 spd automatic, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 190PS, Torque – 420Nm, Emissions – 169g/km CO2, Economy – 43.5 mpg combined, Maximum Speed – 121mph, Acceleration – 8.0s 0-60mph, Price – £40,995 OTR, £46,875 as tested.

For full details of the Evoque and any other Range Rover products, go to http://www.landrover.com

Mitsubishi Shogun LWB DI-DC SG4, Driven and Reviewed

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution doing what it does best - rallying

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution doing what it does best – rallying

It’s time for a little mind reading: Name me a hugely successful rally car from the ’90s. Ok, ok, forget the Impreza, now name me another one. It’s the Mitsubishi Lancer, isn’t it? These two 4wd turbo-charged monsters thrust rallying back into the limelight and brought an element of excitement back to the WRC not seen since the hair-raising days of Group B.

It’s therefore fair to say that Mitsubishi know a thing or two about screwing a 4wd system together and, perhaps more importantly, getting it to work in the real world, predominately on tarmac. Step forward the Shogun. Before the X5, the Cayenne or the Touraeg had even been roughly sketched, the Japanese were providing the only really credible opposition to anything coming out of Solihull with the Landcruiser and the Shogun. They were even screwed together properly.

The Shogun, complete with extra large wheels

The Shogun, complete with extra large wheels

What we have here then is the most recent incarnation of Mitsubishi’s go-anywhere limousine and it’s time to see whether it can still cut it in today’s highly competitive 4×4 segment or if it should simply retire back to the Land of the Rising Sun.

It has to be said that first impressions are good. If it’s road presence and drama you’re after, this is undoubtedly the tank for you. Subtlety must have been having a day off when the designers dreamt this car up as there’s more shiny bling than an episode of TOWIE (!?), and those ultra-large rims give the Shogun that sense of attitude that many 4×4 owners so heartily lust after. Indeed, it was the recipient of many approving comments from image-conscious 20-somethings, which surely represents something of an acid test.

After a few double-takes though, the reason for the Shogun’s nagging familiarity dawned on me; with its flattish bonnet and wrap-around headlights, it bears a certain resemblance to the latest Range Rover. This, of course, represents a role swap of epic proportions as the Japanese have long been accused of producing uncanny facsimiles of Western cars but, in this instance, the horse seems to be following the cart as the Shogun was available in this guise a long time before the new Range Rover breathed its first. A long, long time.

So, we’ve established that, from the outside at least, it’s something of an oldie but a goodie, possibly even a trendsetter that was way ahead of its time. But what’s it like on the inside? Can it offer levels of ambience and quality, hitherto unseen on a Japanese automobile, with fixtures and fittings to make the big three German marques feel uneasy?

The Shogun's Interior

The Shogun’s Interior

Put simply – no. It’s not an unpleasant place to be, don’t get me wrong, in much the same way that a Virgin Pendolino isn’t an unpleasant place to be. But neither of them are leading the way in the field of opulence either. The seats are supportive and comfortable enough and the basic design of the cabin area is fairly inoffensive but to compete in this segment, it’s in need of something of a rethink.

Standard equipment in this range-topping SG4 model is impressive, boasting DVD players in the front and rear mated to a Rockford Fosgate entertainment system, a rear view camera and the all important hidden row of seats to transform your Shogun into a MPV. Mitsubishi’s Fold2Hide system really does make this extra seating disappear into the boot when not required and isn’t too uncomfortable when it is. For this at least, they should be applauded.

Rockford Fosgate Multimedia System - standard on SG4 models

Rockford Fosgate Multimedia System – standard on SG4 models

However, the multimedia system somehow manages to confuse and be confused, all at the same time, never appearing completely sure what’s being asked of it. It claims to be proficient in the ways of the Iphone yet gets completely flummoxed when asked to interact with one, ultimately denying almost all knowledge of their existence.

There are other aspects of the Shogun’s cabin that, although minor on the face of it, prove to detract from an otherwise pleasurable experience. There are cubby holes and storage areas aplenty, as one would expect with a tough, rugged 4×4. All good so far, until the wide variation of plastics used is noticed. Surely it couldn’t have been that hard to match a lid or door to the rest of the surrounding surface and yet they mostly stick out like a sore thumb due to their differing colour or material.

The door-bins are another bugbear. They are voluminous and would be extremely useful, if it weren’t for the fact that once the car’s doors are shut, they are rendered completely inaccessible due to the location of the door’s armrest. If this is a clever safety feature to prevent the driver being distracted by the contents of his door-bin then I apologise. But if this is the case and the vehicle should be stationary whilst keys, boiled sweets etc are being found, surely it begs the question; why not just store everything in the boot?

Back to what Mitsubishi do rather excel at – a 4×4 system. No manufacturer would be naive enough to believe that the majority of their 4x4s are going to spend much less than 98% of their lives on tarmac, but to be unable to cut it on the rough stuff when required could prove to be a SUV‘s downfall.

shogun side viewI was ‘lucky’ enough to be in a position to test this Shogun out properly as our recent Baltic weather conditions left many roads covered in an inch of ice and snow. Green-laning it may not be but it’s about as hairy as most Shogun’s will ever see so, how did it do? Well, on one occasion, in two-wheel drive mode, on its standard road tyres, it was left pretty stranded on a particularly icy back street. One press of a button engaged 4wd, but again, progress was impossible. A further button press engaged the Shogun’s very clever differential lock and this is where those years of practice bore fruition: Those road tyres all of a sudden found grip where previously it didn’t exist and the mighty Mitsubishi simply strode on where lesser cars would have been stranded and this is what it does very well; it reassures you that, ultimately, it knows what it’s doing.

Back on terra firma, at slightly less inclement temperatures, the Shogun’s 4×4 system continues to impress. If the road is wet, slippery or compromised in any other way, a simple press of a button invites the front wheels to join in and all concern is instantly dissolved as grip levels are restored to confidence inspiring standards with little loss in economy.

shogun SG4 BadgeThe 3.2l, 4 cylinder, common rail Diesel found in this Shogun has been around a fair while now and, with recent advances in engine technology, it could hardly be described as cutting edge. Mitsubishi have recognised this fact and by tweaking this and modifying that, they’ve lowered emissions from 246g/km to 213g/km and 280g/km to 224g/km on manual and automatic models respectively. MPG is also up from 30.7 to 36.2 on the manuals and to 33.2 from 26.7 on the autos. Not exactly figures to worry Mr Prius but a step in the right direction that keep this drivetrain more relevant.

One aspect of this engine that can’t be ignored, no matter how hard one tries, is the noise. There’s insulation aplenty inside the Shogun to muffle the Diesel clatter but from the outside, it’s just not acceptable in a car that retails at £42,000. 4×4 or not.

shogun off roadOverall, to dismiss the Shogun as a relic from a bygone age would be somewhat unfair and inaccurate. It has many good points, not least of which is it’s bulletproof build quality and reputation for reliability. It’s just that, this SG4 model is priced up there with some pretty tasty competition and this is where it’s inadequacies are magnified. Strip it back to it’s bare bones however, taking away some unnecessary indulgencies and leaving only the bits we like and you can have a LWB Shogun for £32k. For that money, it’s a go-anywhere 7 seater that represents something of a bargain.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Mitsubishi Shogun LWB DI-DC SG4, Engine – 3.2 TD, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 197bhp, Maximum Speed – 111mph, Economy – 34.4mpg combined, Emissions –  216g/km CO2, Price – £41,799 OTR

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan – Driven and Reviewed

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Red Front view

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan

Most of the roads that surround my house are cobbled, gnarly and somewhat antiquated. One, in particular, features a substantial dip running the width of the street, no-one knows how it occurred but many debutants to the road have failed to slow down and their car’s chins have fallen foul of this, almost, anti-speed-bump. Having lived in the area for many years now, it’s second nature for me to slow down to a crawl and therefore preserve my car’s splitter but, for some reason, the dip recently disappeared for a week. There’s no way that our local council suddenly deemed this bumper-killer a priority and fixed it, oh no, this magical occurrence can only be explained by the car I was lucky enough to be testing and its disregard for such uneven surfaces – the Mitsubishi L200 Trojan.

Jack-of-all-trades?

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Red Side View

A pickup – useful in a myriad of ways

Once the preserve of builders and farmers, pickups have enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent times with the Mitsubishi L200 always at the forefront. A particular genre of pickup has become commonplace on our roads and that’s the double-cab, or crew-cab, just like this L200 Trojan we have here. It doesn’t take an economist to point out the advantages of owning a double-cab as it toils monday to friday as a tireless workhorse and then transforms into a fun, family wagon when required, potentially making a dedicated ‘work van’ redundant. What I wanted to know was, is this Mitsubishi L200 Trojan a jack-of-all-trades or a master-of-none?

The pickup must surely be one of the most challenging genres of vehicle to apply visual highlights to due to their ‘three box’ shape and utilitarian requirements. The last generation L200 was very popular, in no small part because of its butch but attractive looks that seemingly appealed to both sexes equally. Mitsubishi have really gone to some lengths to make this latest take on the L200 stand out from the crowd. With its new, angular, more aggressive ‘face’ and the clever line that runs from the roof, behind the rear doors, all the way to the side rails, scything the L220 in two and turning the cabin and load area into two apparently separate areas, Mitsubishi have created an unmistakable identity for their pickup and stepped away from the associated generic look.

In the Cabin

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Interior

The cabin’s a huge advance on previous generations

This multifunctional theme continues in the cabin of the Trojan and Mitsubishi have made efforts to make it a pleasurable environment whilst, at the same time, keeping the practical aspects that are essential in a semi-industrial vehicle. Our test car came with leather seats which could be accused of being something of a luxury in this instance but, all things considered, their ‘wipe clean’ nature is actually more in-keeping with the rest of the interior than cloth may be.

Apart from the delightfully simple climate control, that’s about it for creature comforts in the L200. The dash has been ergonomically shaped to bring it slightly more up to date but don’t go expecting Range Rover grade plastics or B&O stereos, that’s just not what the L200 is all about. Primarily, it’s function over form, all the way.

2.5l Common Rail Diesel

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Gear Sticks

A ratio for every occasion

Fire the 2.5l Diesel engine up and, from the cabin, it’s surprisingly civilised. That’s not to say that there isn’t a fair amount of the usual Diesel clatter going on under the bonnet but Mitsubishi have provided ample amounts of insulation to keep the L200’s occupants in as much peace as possible. Our Trojan came with the 5spd manual ‘box and gear-changes were solid and purposeful as one may expect from a vehicle of this type. It’s important to remember, however, that 5th gear is very long and really only for 60mph +, around town, it’s strictly gears 1-4 only.  The clutch was actually quite light which made this around town driving as easy as it can be, dimensions allowing.

It’s these dimensions that serve as something of a double-edged sword for the L200 double-cab. As with many Japanese cars, width is kept to a minimum at 1.75m but it’s the length that can be a little intimidating. It would be pointless to shorten a pickup as it would consequently stop serving the purpose for which it was intended, but, at over 5m, this Trojan dwarfs it’s stable-mate – the Shogun by some 30cm.

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Red Rear Window

Electric rear windscreen – handy for ferrying long items and aiding reversing

This length only really becomes an issue when reversing the L200, especially as the rear of the glasshouse stops some 1.5 short of the rear of the body, resulting in quite a bit of guesswork when parking. I found two makeshift solutions to this problem- one was to wind down the electric rear windscreen which increased visibility slightly (not overly accurate), the other was to ask a passenger to get out and watch me back (not overly popular, esp. in rain). The correct way to eliminate this reversing issue is to spec your L200 correctly and opt for the C£400 reversing camera, if there’s one option that just cannot be overlooked, this is surely it.

Leaf-Spring Suspension

Being a ‘proper’ off-roader, the L200 has more than adequate ride height for clearance which gives a good view of underneath and its oily bits, in particular the rear leaf-spring suspension. Although somewhat antiquated in appearance, this setup actually works very well, given the chance and should in no way deter potential suitors. On the road, handling is way better than it deserves to be, given the ride height and technology used and easily embarrasses competition such as LR‘s Defender with its tendancy to wander. Through the corners, the L200 provides ample grip and feedback and will only start to lean and meander if pushed to levels beyond a pickup’s usual remit. The only constant reminder of what the L200’s sitting on comes when the car slows down to a stop – there’s a definite rocking sensation in all directions, not dissimilar to standing onboard the deck of a docked boat.

Mitsubishi L200 Trojan Dials

4wd or rear wheel drive – it’s your choice

With no weight over the rear wheels, it can come as something of a surprise when the rear wheels start spinning in first gear at seemingly low revs but, again, the L200 is capable of lugging over a tonne around so the rear axle will be very lively when unladen. Manually selecting 4wd will remedy this and also provide extra levels of confidence on slippery or uneven surfaces. I think that 2wd is more than ample on most roads, however and driving those front wheels will inevitably eat into that all important fuel economy.

In Conclusion

Mitsubishi double cab pickups are a common sight on our roads and it’s easy to see why; it does so many things so well. This, coupled with impressive warranties and build quality make it something of a bargain. Just remember that it is a relatively cheap vehicle with practical roots and it would be unfair to compare certain aspects against 4x4s costing twice as much – if you’re expecting a Range Rover, go buy a Range Rover.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications; Mitsubishi L200 Double Cab (Leather) Trojan, Price – £23,189, Engine – 2.5l Common Rail Diesel, Layout – Front engine, 4WD, Power – 175bhp @ 4000rpm, Torque – 295 lb/ft @2000rpm, Acceleration – 12.2s 0-62mph, Maximum Speed – 103mph max, Emissions – 208 g/km CO2, Economy – 35.8 mpg combined

Range Rover Evoque – First Drive

Ben Harrington of Driving Torque drives and reviews the Range Rover Evoque

Range Rover Evoque Coupe

Bertone, Karmann, Pininfarina and now, Beckham. For all of their years of designing and building serious, rugged 4x4s, the new Evoque will forever be tagged as the car that Victoria built and obviously that’s just the way that Land Rover want it. I’m going to put this possible error of judgement to one side however and attempt to deliver an honest, unbiased review on what is repeatedly labelled as the greatest new model to have been launched in recent memory, by anyone.

On the particular day that I tested the latest Range Rover, I was lucky enough to have not one, not two but three of them to go at, both a coupe and 5dr 4wd and the latest addition to the group, the 2wd- eD4.

Ben Harrington of Driving Torque driving Range Rover Evoque 5dr

Range Rover Evoque

The 4wd coupe I was testing sported the SD4 2.2 litre diesel engine, capable of 0-60mph in 8.os, 169g/km CO2 and 43.5mpg combined. But the real fun was to be found in the 5dr as it had the Si4 2.o litre petrol under the bonnet, pushing the 0-60mph time down to a very respectable 7.0s but consequently the economy suffered at 32.5mpg combined and 199g/km, I’m predicting that the petrol will be a rare sight on Britain’s roads. Apart from the engines and the obvious lack of rear entrances and exits on the coupe, the 3dr and 5dr 4wds that I was testing were virtually identical and so I’ll group these two together. Both were the range topping Dynamic models, prices start at £39,995 for the 5dr and £40,995 for the coupe and both were fitted with the optional Lux pack, weighing in at a not-insignificant £4,325. These cars were unashamedly meant to impress.

Putting practicality swiftly to one side, in my humble opinion the Evoque looks at it’s best in 3dr guise and from every angle the coupe I tested does look a million dollars, which makes the £44,325 price tag seem a bargain. Now, there’s two ways of looking at the list price of an Evoque; yes, its expensive when compared with some other similar size 4x4s on the market but those other 4x4s aren’t Range Rovers. So maybe the best way to consider the price is from the angle of how much money you’d be saving over a similarly specced Range Rover Sport or even a fully grown Range Rover, both of which could easily cost double the amount of the Evoque with options.

The Range Rover Evoque prepares to attempt a gradient

Can the Evoque cut it off-road…………

Anyway, back to my test cars. The quality of the grown up Range Rovers has been successfully transplanted in terms of materials and interior finish into this baby one, without creating a 70% size photocopy- that would have been far too easy. Obviously, you just don’t get the acres of space that’s found in its big brothers – that would be impossible but the Evoque isn’t all about compromise either. The driving position for starters is unique to this model; it offers that essential high up feeling in order to gain superiority over lesser mortals but it very cleverly avoids an industry standard, bolt-upright posture in favour of a far more cosseting, sporty position that results in an entirely more engaging sensation. Another feature that’s unique to the Evoque are the jewelled rings that adorn the instrument dials. On first impression, these could simply be considered a tacky bit of bling, inspired by Mrs B. On closer inspection however, this ring detailing is echoed in the front and rear light clusters and somehow seems appropriate for the model, especially when they change colour, reflecting how spirited the selected driving mode is.

Having only previously seen the Evoque in the flesh from the outside, I was somewhat surprised to glance rearwards from the driver’s seat and find proper, adult size leg room for your lucky rear passengers. I was so astonished in fact that I leapt out of the car, determined to open the boot and therefore expose this bounder’s shortcomings. I’m fairly sure that a genuine double-take then occurred when I discovered a decent size boot, 550 litres in the coupe and 575 litres in the 5dr, to be exact. Just to put this into context, the Audi A4 Avant’s boot weighs in at 490 litres, that’s over 10% smaller than even the coupe, all of a sudden this baby Rangey doesn’t seem quite so compact. And I’m right, it’s neither small nor a tardis – the Evoque actually measures 4355-65mm, under 10cm less than aforementioned A4 so it could hardly be considered a super-mini. When placed on its own and not being compared to its palatial siblings, the Evoque is a car that’s realistically capable of transporting a family of four and all their luggage around in comfort.

Out on the road, the 4wd Evoque’s driving experience confirms what the seating position had previously hinted at; this car is no wallowy barge that has to be coaxed around corners with its wing mirrors scraping the floor. With the Terrain Response system set to dynamic (menacing red instrument dials) this genuinely rides like a capable hot-hatch, even the diesel engine in the 5dr was keen with little engine noise disturbing the tranquility of the cabin. My only complaint would be that the 6 speed automatic ‘box found in both the Dynamic models had an unnerving tendency to change gear whilst tackling bends. This made the whole car’s geometry go out of shape, not a pleasant feeling whilst negotiating a sweeping left hander. This situation could maybe be avoided by opting to change gear yourself but there’s no guarantee that the ‘box won’t disagree with your chosen gear and select a different one anyway.

The Range Rover Evoque tackles a tricky angle

………….yes it can!

One aspect of the Evoque that I was eager to assess was it’s off-road ability as this is where it’s attracted many doubters. Could this very fashionable vehicle prove itself to be as comfortable plugging mud as it is looking good? To put it through its paces I was going to take the Evoque around the rigorous off-road Land Rover Experience at Gaydon, a track I’d previously tackled in a Discovery although I think on that occasion the car was guiding me round, not vice versa. Now, I’m not naive to think that the good folk at Range Rover would risk the embarrassment of their new baby coming unstuck and certainly not on their home turf but my experience of proper off-road driving is limited at best and I wanted to see how assured a ham fisted novice such as myself would feel when tackling the rough stuff. One limitation that became immediately apparent was the comparative lack of ground clearance, some strengthened belly plates had been fitted to the test car to protect its vulnerable underside. I must stress however that this course is no walk in the park and on the few occasions that there was an audible scrape, it was on the most extreme of obstacles, not a kerb in Tesco’s car park. Otherwise, the Evoque successfully defeated any problems thrown at it, all without the aid of a low ratio gearbox and a locking differential, these are replaced with electrical wizardry controlling the drivetrain, dependant on the selected terrain mode.

Having assessed that the 4wd Dynamic Evoques are luxurious, capable off road and have excellent road manners, I went for a spin in the latest addition to the group – the ‘base model’ 2wd eD4 in Pure trim with a six speed manual gearbox. Just to clarify things a little, the entry-level Range Rover is a little different to how I remember other model’s entry levels; heated leather comes as standard, as do climate control and combined sat nav/entertainment screen; a far cry from the lack of a near-side wing mirror on some base models I’ve owned. It is an odd sensation getting into the driver’s seat of a Range Rover and finding a third pedal and a gear-stick but the gearchange is assuredly positive with a purposeful short shift between gears. On the road, the manual has the obvious advantage of feeling more engaging than the auto and avoids that unwanted mid-corner shift I encountered in the auto. I’m not entirely sure however whether there’s great demand in today’s 4×4 wielding society for a Range Rover that relies on the driver to change gear themselves;even taking into account the depleted fuel economy and £1,600 price hike, the auto just feels more at home than the manual. Some switch gear is lost in the transition from 4wd to 2wd Evoque as it loses its Terrain Response system but I’m sure this would only be noticeable if you transferred straight from one model to the other as I did. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the chaps at Range Rover were unwilling to let me take the 2wd model around their off road test track but I’m led to believe that even with only two driven wheels, the Evoque is better than you’d imagine when the going gets tough. Quite why anyone would opt for the 2wd Evoque over the 4wd Evoque (or any other 4×4) if they were planning on doing any off-roading is another matter.

To conclude, the Evoque is a comfortable, luxurious and surprisingly spacious car and in 4wd guise it can wear the Range Rover badge without fear of diluting the brand. The 2wd eD4 Evoque offers most of the benefits of the 4wd with possibly better road manners and some attractive financial savings- when compared with similarly specced cars, however, it may be difficult to justify its price tag whilst losing its off road capabilities.

By Ben Harrington

Specifications

eD4 Pure Coupe;£29,695, 2.2l Diesel, 2WD, 150bhp, 0-60 mph = 10.6s, 112mph max, 56.5 mpg combined, 133g/km CO2

SD4 Dynamic Coupe; £40,995, 2.2l Diesel, 4WD, 190bhp, 0-60 mph = 8s, 121mph max, 43.5 mpg combined, 174g/km CO2

Si4 Dynamic 5dr; £39,995, 2.0l petrol, 4WD, 240bhp, 0-60 mph = 7.1s, 135mph max, 32.5 mpg combined, 199g/km CO2

Cööl βritannia – Jaguar, Aston Martin and Bentley fly the flag

Jaguar F-Type rear light cluster

A close up snapshot of the upcoming Jaguar F-Type

For a city with a reputation for nose-to-tail gridlocked traffic, the New York 2012 Motorshow has yet again given us some interesting focal points, not least of which are the Land Rover DC100 and the Jaguar F-Type – undoubtedly the highlight of the show. The attention lavished on both of these cars confirmed something for me that I’ve suspected has been emerging of late, British automobilia is once again leading the way in the ‘cool’ stakes. For a while I feared that I was allowing myself to be swept away on the wave of hype surrounding the Olympics and the Jubilee but now I’m not so sure. Think about it, Bentley and Rolls-Royce can’t produce cars quickly enough, especially to satisfy the demand in the cash-rich Asian and Middle-Eastern markets. Jaguar and Land Rover have well and truly disposed of their stuffy, tweed jacket images and seemingly have the Midas touch with every new model they conjure up and Aston Martin are regular victors of the coolest brand in Britain competition – that’s not just automotive brands by the way, it’s every brand on the planet!

Rear view of the BMW 5 Series GT

BMW 5 Series GT

Contrarily and for the first time that I can remember, the previously untouchable über-cool German marques look a bit lost. Their pedestal looks shaky at best and they appear to have resorted to attention grabbing party tricks in an attempt to regain some of the limelight. Top of this list of tricks is undoubtedly the ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ niche market trick. BMW and Porsche seem to have followed Mercedes down this well trodden path, apparently working on the theory that if you make enough variations on a model, there must be one to suit every need.

Now I know what you’re thinking, the only reason that many British car brands still exist is due to massive inputs from across the globe, even Germany and you’d be right. It took our friends from the Fatherland to show us how to build Rollers and Bentleys properly but they seem to have been so preoccupied with rebuilding our houses, their own have been sorely neglected. The same can hardly be said of Jaguar Land Rover‘s new owners though can it? Their owners –  Tata  seem to have revolutionised the management procedures of the company but left the important bits like how the cars look and feel up to us Brits.

Bentley Continental Convertible with roof down

Bentley Continental Convertible

The USP of the German marques for years was, of course their build quality and I’m not saying for a minute that they’ve forgotten which end of a screwdriver is which but it was somehow inevitable that, given enough time, money and help from VW and BMW we were going to catch on eventually. The problem the likes of Audi have now is that their USP is no longer unique and, worse still, the lowly British brands that they used to deride have re-discovered their USP in abundance. Amongst other things, its called style; it simply oozes from every pore of the current crop of British marques. From Astons to Range Rovers, from their interiors to their wheel nuts, British cars have once again got that certain something that makes them stand out from the crowd and the Germans seem to be floundering in their attempts to recreate it.

Unfortunately, one plucky Brit appears to be stuck in the stalls and that’s Lotus. It’s still early days in their master- plan and I really hope that everything comes into fruition but as it stands, they’re really lagging behind the competition. They undoubtedly make some of the best driver’s cars on the road but in these days of frugality, that simply isn’t enough. When people spend tens of thousands of pounds on top-quality items, they demand just that – quality, a car must not only get them from A-B in style but be able to recreate that feat on a daily basis. Without some serious re-jigging of their priorities, Lotus will continue to be a flashback to the days of British car manufacturing when the notion of quality-control was a mere pipe dream.

By Ben Harrington

Jaguar Land Rover Experience Day

Friday the 27th of January saw The Heritage Motor Museum in Gaydon host the first Jaguar Land Rover Experience Day and I went along to have a look. Designed to be a very ‘hands on’ occasion, they’re scheduled to be held monthly with a different central theme. This being the inaugural event, the theme was ‘Speed and Sustainability’ with the former being represented by the stunning Jaguar XJ220 and the latter being ably demonstrated by the Range_e Concept.

There were various models from the Jaguar and Land Rover ranges to be sampled, ranging from the Jaguar XF 2.2 Diesel all the way to the captivating Range Rover Evoque with plenty in between to satisfy all appetites. Couple this with not one, but two Jaguar XJ220s available for rides around the Gaydon proving ground at breathtaking speed and as I’m sure you can imagine, boredom was never an option.

Driving Torque drives Range Rover Autobiography

Driving Torque test drives the Range Rover Autobiography

Having booked in for my XJ220 experience, I took full advantage of the cars available for test drives. What is startlingly apparent in all modern Jaguars is that, whichever way you look at it, they’ve regained they’re USP, they’re mojo, they’re certain je ne sais quoi, if you know what I mean? Jaguar’s reputation was built on creating cars that were not only well built and luxurious but that offered a level of excitement that’s difficult to quantify. What’s very clever is the way in which each car in the Jaguar range seems to approach translating this ‘Jaguarness’ into a slightly different yet equally special driving experience.

Driving Torque drives Jaguar XKR-S

Jaguar XKR-S

Firstly, I took the 5.0 litre XK Coupe out and initial impressions were actually quite deceptive. With sister models the XKR and XKR-S offering awesome levels of performance, one could be forgiven for assuming that this ‘base model’ is quite sedate, maybe a little bit placid. Where this model excels is that as you sink into the sumptuous seats, start the barely audible engine and select drive on the automatic six speed gearbox, it can be as calm and peaceful as you like, allowing you to arrive at your destination in complete relaxation and comfort. If you’re feeling like having a little more fun however, there’s a couple of ways the XK can help out. One of them is an option on the gearbox simply marked ‘S’, another is a little button displaying a picture of a chequered flag that’s just asking to be pressed. In full sports mode, the XK is a different beast altogether. Everything seems to gain a certain taught quality that it didn’t previously have. Quite appropriately, like a cat that’s just spied its prey, senses heightened, waiting to pounce. The car just feels ready for a more enthusiastic style of driving and it doesn’t disappoint, yet reverse the procedure and you’re back behind the wheel of the cruising GT you originally sat down in.

Over the course of the day I noticed that every Jaguar I drove featured an ‘S’ option on the transmission and that little chequered flag button I mentioned earlier, even the colossal Range Rover Autobiography could be driven in sports mode if so desired. This got me thinking again about that certainly intangible quality, that ‘Jaguarness’ and how it could be best described. You see, sitting in a Jaguar is always an occasion, it’s warm and inviting without being kitsch. In normal, every day mode a Jaguar is the perfect gentleman, assisting you on your way with nothing being too much trouble. Hit full blown sport mode however and that perfect gentleman is a party animal, taking you wherever you please, at whichever speed you please yet still being able to take you quietly home when you’ve had enough. Even the massive XJL Supersport somehow manages to belie its substantial mass and seems to shrinks itself when the urge takes you to have some fun.

The one model that fails spectacularly at covering up its more wayward intentions is undoubtedly the XKR-S but then, I don’t think it’s actually trying to. When you can boast 550bhp, 0-60 in 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 186mph, any disguise would surely be thinly veiled so, why bother? Having said that, there is a noticeable difference between normal and sports mode, it’s just that in the XKR-S, one starts off with a party animal and ends up with an absolute lunatic! I dared to drive this car in a slightly enthusiastic manner and it seemed to be offended if I even momentarily lifted off the power, it looked down at me and laughed at what a pathetic specimen I was. One things for sure with this car, you’d run out of nerve before it ran out of horsepower!

jag-cx

Jaguar F-Type

One hugely impressive aspect of modern Jaguars is their interiors; this undoubtedly contributes towards a large percentage of their USP. With their neat features, cleverly sculpted vents and use of high quality materials, there’s always a little reminder that you’re in something special. I know that in this category we’ve come to expect a certain standard and the likes of Mercedes and BMW aren’t exactly slums but no other car manufacturer can compete with Jaguar’s interiors across their entire range. They’re modern and fresh and yet offer a warmth and familiarity that lifts them above the competition. The XJ’s interior really should be classified more as art than car; I doubt you’d ever stop noticing previously unseen features that simply made you smile.

The progression that Jaguar have made since being under Ford’s control is nothing short of staggering in what is actually a relatively short period of time. From the XF to the XK, right up to the XJ they’re not just contenders but what the competition aspires to beat and when the eagerly awaited C-X16 sports car is launched in the near future, the Jaguar brand will be thrust right back into the limelight – where it belongs.

Driving Torque gets ride in Jaguar XJ220

Fulfilling a lifelong dream in an XJ220

XJ220 This year marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Jaguar XJ220 and the highlight of the day for me was undoubtedly the two examples of this iconic car on show, one being no.004 – one of the development mules and the other being a lightweight ‘S’ model. As a young boy, a poster of one of these beautiful machines stared down at me from my bedroom wall, right next to my bed so it was the last thing I saw before I went to sleep and the first thing I saw when I woke up. The opportunity to be driven round the Gaydon Proving Ground in one of the actual development cars that hit the (then world record for a production car) 217mph, by none other than Le Mans winner and XJ220 test driver Andy Wallace seemed almost to good to be true and yet, here I was, trying desperately to maintain an air of composure and professionalism whilst creeping past 180mph on a slightly damp track.

I did manage to ask Mr Wallace a few of the many questions I had planned, in between the involuntary squeals emerging from my throat – some induced by fear, many induced by pure, unadulterated pleasure. I quizzed him on his personal reaction when the XJ220’s initial concept of a thunderous V12 and 4WD were shelved in favour of a turbocharged V6 and 2WD, did the turbo lag not irritate slightly? His reply – ‘Not really, you see I’m a racing driver and I always favour lightness’. This said whilst demonstrating what a whacking great turbo plus lightness can achieve by flooring the throttle in second gear. The results were, shall we say, shattering!

Huge thanks to all at Jaguar Land Rover for the day, thanks to Don Law of Don Law Racing for supplying the XJ220s and finally, thanks to Andy Wallace for helping me fulfil a life long dream.

By Ben Harrington

Automotive Annoyances

Please note; this list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to contact me with your own irritations.

Indicator ignorance = annoying

Indicator ignorance. People who either refuse to use them or have no idea when is appropriate i.e. Indicating left to go straight on at roundabouts or, worse still, not using them at all. My psychic powers just aren’t up to the job of predicting every driver’s next movement.

Private Registrations = annoying

Private registrations. Generally used either to disguise a car’s age or tenuously individualise the car to it’s driver . Why not just stick your name on the car in those italic letters? It’s just as tasteless, costs a fraction of the price and your name should hopefully be spelled properly without the person reading it needing to squint. The worst crime possibly is to state the make or model of your car on it’s plate e.g. A911 POR on a Porsche 911, do they seriously worry we may mistake it for a Range Rover, a Lada Riva or a leek?

Amateur car modifications = annoying

Modifying cars. Now, I’m not talking about a trick exhaust or a fancy air filter here, I’m talking about those automotive disasters we’ve all seen attempting to outrun an M3 on the bypass. Some very clever people are paid a lot of money to design and engineer the cars on our roads. Why on earth does some spotty oik, armed only with Halfords vouchers and superglue think he can do a better job?

Disabled parking abuse = annoying

Disabled bay abuse. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able bodied should consider parking in the space furthest away from the store and rejoicing in our ability to walk. Instead, some selfish souls would rather display ultra laziness and take up a disabled bay. Those found guilty of this should be made to crawl to the store on their hands and knees, let them know how it feels – end of.

Littering = annoying

Littering. I view any kind of littering as a sin; throwing rubbish out of your car window is the worst. When you’re in your car it’s not as if carrying litter is a great inconvenience, most cars have handy storage spaces such as passenger seats and footwells especially designed for the purpose. Also, I can guarantee that 99% of car journeys end at a destination that will be able to provide a bin, be it work, petrol stations or the mother in law’s. Simply winding down the window and hurling it out marks you out as a Neanderthal.

Rudeness = annoying

Lack of manners. My eldest daughter is nearly three, my youngest daughter is eighteen months old. It was vitally important to me and my wife that some of their first words should be ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’ as we believe that they are essential in civilised society and will get them far. Thankfully, most of Britain’s educated folk seem to agree but this rule appears to be null and void the instant certain people get behind the wheel. The old adage is true, it costs nothing to thank someone who has, for example, waited to let you squeeze through a gap or join their lane, yet some ignoramuses simply cannot be bothered.

By Ben Harrington

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