Saturday 24 March 2018

Make a splash with these dual purpose workhorses

The devil is in the detail when it comes to choosing the right pickup

Drive on: The Ford Ranger may not be as supple on the road as the Nissan Navara but it has improved a lot - and it pulls like hell
Drive on: The Ford Ranger may not be as supple on the road as the Nissan Navara but it has improved a lot - and it pulls like hell
Nissan Navara.
The SsangYong Korando Sports.
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

I've been lucky to have driven most of the major pickups on sale in Ireland. And I have learned one big lesson. You can talk dimensions and torque and cabin space and engine size and 4WD til the cows come home but until you put one through its paces within your own individual circumstances and requirements you will never really know what suits you.

The devil is in the detail, for sure.

I've driven the Mitsubishi L200 up sticky mountain sides in France; the Ford Ranger on less demanding routes in Belgium, the Toyota Hilux across desert and over mega sand dunes in Namibia as well as through some of Woodfield Bog near Clara (just a few kilometres from the Ploughing Championships).

I've driven the Volkswagen Touareg, the Isuzu D-MAX...and so on.

I'm a fan of the genre. I like the mix of payload and, increasingly, car-like cabin and equipment. Indeed I'd say the latter is the one area where there have been massive strides. But each has their strong points and inevitably their weaker.

Here's a snapshot:

Ford Ranger

Arrived this year and has improved significantly. It has selectable 4x4: 2WD (rear-wheels) for ordinary on-road, 4WD High for towing or poor underfoot conditions and 4x4 Low for the gruelling stuff off-road or in snow and ice. You can shift between 2WD and 4x4High at speeds of up to 120kmh. And it pulls like hell.

Against: Not as supple a ride on the road as the Navara. These things matter now with the amount of driving on tarmac that farmers do.

Isuzu D-MAX

Imposing piece of work with powerful engine and 4x4 fly-by-wire. There is a two-stage turbo for seamless delivery of pulling power (400Nms) and it tows three tonnes. It has impressive all-round ability.

Against: With so many new competitor vehicles arriving, there is a danger it is starting to date a bit especially in the cabin where rivals have vastly improved their interiors.

Mitsubishi L200

It's relatively new, relies on the maker's renowned technology and benefits from upgrades in suspension, interior and equipment. The new 2.4 litre 181bhp diesel (manual, auto) provides big torque (430Nm @ 2,500rpm). The cargo area (1,520 mm) is now 15mm deeper (475 mm). Towing capacity is up to 3,100kg

The cabin is quieter (they've done a lot of work blocking sound intrusion). And it's roomier (+20mm longer, 10mm increase in shoulder room). The 5.9m turning radius is among the best in class. I found the Super Select 4WD (four driving modes) worked really well.

Against: Despite its makeover it still doesn't match the likes of the Ranger for overall rugged looks - a big factor among buyers - and rear cabin space remains a bit tight.

Nissan Navara

Nissan Navara.

The big thing in the Navara's favour is the coil-spring five-link rear suspension system (instead of leaf). It can tow up to 3.5 tonnes (up from three with its predecessor). Also worth noting are two new 2.3-litre diesel engines, a single turbo (160hp, 403Nm) and a twin turbo (190hp/450Nm).

The difference in ride quality with this model is marked. Even though it has the box-frame chassis as its predecessor, the rear suspension gives the Navara a big advantage on the road.

Against: Complaints and bits and pieces of trouble with the older model.

SsangYong Korando Sports

The SsangYong Korando Sports.

This is all about price and what you get for your money. It's not the most salubrious of cars inside but an ideal buy for a tight budget. SsangYong are honest enough to admit they are working hard to restore confidence in their brand - they have added some decent motors to their lineup - after a stormy time since the recession. Worth checking out, certainly.

Against: Some people still feel let down by the brand previously.

Toyota Hilux

Brand new with a sweep of improvements. Cabin much quieter, good spread of driver/passenger equipment, bigger load area. The new 2.4-litre diesel is far more economical but has good power and torque (148bhp, 400Nm). Overall towing capacity is up too. And there is better rear-seat space. Accounts for a large number of Irish purchases.

Against: You have to stop and switch to get into Low. Poor ride over some secondary roads.

Volkswagen Amarok

Volkswagen is giving its Amarok an overhaul and bringing in a 3-litre V6 diesel. The new engine can develop 163bhp, 204bhp or 224bhp depending on model, and they are rolling out all three versions here. The 224bhp has 550Nm of torque. That's a lot of pulling power.

Towing capacity now ranges up to 3,500kg. And prices start from €31,268 excluding VAT. There is permanent all-wheel drive, Torsen differential and 8spd automatic gearbox. Overall dimensions are the same.

Against: Changes to the looks are not dramatic (new front bumper and headlight set-up etc) but there is a new dashboard layout.

Indo Farming

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