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All cheques should be made out to Adrenalin Publishing Ltd. You can email your order to: [email protected] or fax it to 09 478 4779. For overseas rates please contact us. All prices include GST Note: A receipt will not be issued unless requested. This special offer is valid for new and renewing subscriptions received before 16th January 2011

The current Ford Ranger is going to be with us for almost another year - see story page 12 - and that's OK, for It's still got a lot going for it.

Top of the Ranger tree is the Wildtrak Double Cab, and it's a fairly unique proposition in that it offers a luxurious leather-trimmed interior and some fairly radical exterior appointments while still retaining the tough underpinnings that made the Ranger our 4WD of the Year for 2009.

A bit like Richie McCaw in a suit...

We've written about the Ranger before, and it's always come out in the upper end whenever we've done our comparison tests against others in its segment.

We'll have a look at its major assets later, but first let's have a look at what makes the Wildtrak different.

Essentially what Ford New Zealand has done is to take the Ranger XL Double Cab and to give it even more sex appeal. However it's not perhaps the sort of sexy add-ons that would come

.from our more extreme readers - no

lifted suspension or bull bars here - but more the stuff you want if you use your 4WD ute every day and want to make your life more comfortable. More of a mobile office thana tool-of-trade.

As a new range-topper the Wildtrak gives the look and feel of a modified truck as standard, with OEM-quality body treatment which includes body-colour tailgate cladding with embossed Ranger branding, box rails and roof rails with aluminium bar accents, frame mounted aluminium side steps with titanium-coloured end caps, a special aerodynamic sports bar mounted on the wellside behind the cab, and colourful Wildtrak stickers on the front doors and tailgate.

A unique feature is the tough aluminium roller shutter on the wellside.

Developed and made in South Africa, it offers a strong and secure locking compartment without the bulklness of a canopy or the awkwardness of a lift-up top. The no-rust aluminium shutter slides fore-aft to cover your valuables, and is strong enough to place light bulky stuff such as tents and sleeping Bags on top if necessary.

The cargo area also gets a bed liner and 12 volt power socket, which together with the internal tie-down points makes the wellside a useful and secure place to put your camping fridge. There's a stainless steel step rear bumper.

The shutter itself locks easily, although there's a bit of an awkward contraption to actually lock the tailgate in place so the whole thing works. A very clean and elegant solution spoiled somewhat by the tailgate's in-elegant locking mechanism. Can't help thinking a bit of Kiwi ingenuity would improve on it!

However, if the outside has a touch of "Wow" factor, inside it's positively gob-smacking. Even a top-end SUV station wagon wouldn't have anything to be ashamed of if it was bearing the superb seat trim of black leather with bright orange stitching on the outside of the squabs and grey alcantara in the centre, as well as a big "Wildtrak" logo sewn into the top of the front seat backrests.

The steering wheel and gear levers also get leather, there is air-conditioning, power windows, nice carpet and floor mats plus a six CD in-dash audio system with auxiliary input and MP3 compatibility. Bluetooth -phone connectivity is optional.

The Wildtrak gets the standard Ranger instrument panel setup of speedo and rev counter plus smaller fuel and water temperature gauges with red illumination, but in addition on top of the dash in the centre there's a three-dial multi-meter which has a compass and twin graphics dials which show you the fore-aft and side-to-side angles of the vehicle, whether climbing or

descending or traversing sidelings.

There's a drop-down locking glove box, and a particularly interesting feature is the large pull-out tray which extends the width of the passenger side of the dashboard and supports a weight of 10 kg, allowing It to be used as a work surface - even for a laptop.

Other features include central locking and engine immobiliser and there are driver and front passenger forward and side airbags as well as ABS braking with electronic brakeforce distribution and a load sensing proportioning valve.

As with all 4WD Rangers sold In New Zealand the Wildtrak is powered by a tried and trusty 3-litre common rail turbo-

diesel producing 115 kW at 3200rpm and a very useful 380Nm of torque from as little as 1800rpm.

And it's this motor which gives the Ranger so much edge both on and off-road.

Our test vehicle had the 5-speed manual gearbox coupled with the standard low ratio gearbox, both operated using simple levers.

Driving off it was easy to settle into the Wildtrak, wtth the well-bolstered seats comfortable and easy to (manually) adjust, and with plenty of leg room and more than enough headroom for farmers to keep their hats on!

We liked the interior layout, although the

was good, very responsive above 2000 rpm, and the manual gearbox comes with a smooth slick gear change And the biggest complaint? That old-fashioned umbrella handle handbrake under the dash. Although this frees up space between the seats, it does make life difficult when you need to hold the vehicle on the handbrake, especially on a hill where you may have to fight against the seatbelt to lean forward to reach the brake lever.

Off-road the Wildtrak proved as much of a performer as other models in the Ranger 4WD stable.

You don't have to lock the front hubs when you go off-road as this happens automatically when you engage 4WD, either high or low ratio, but once you're back on tarmac you can unlock the front diffs remotely via a switch on the

And in any case, you're so excited by all that torque!

This one really pulls, and you'll give many a hatchback a fright if you decide to rush away from the lights - especially since the limited slip differential ensures you get the power down.

Similarly, when pressing on along a tight and twisty road you'll be amazed at the way this truck handles. Not exactly a sports car, but mainly thanks to the LSD you don't get any loss of traction at the back even if a wheel lifts, which means you maintain your poise.

Yes, it does still ride like a ute, but the more weight - or people - you put in it, the better the ride quality becomes. Engine performance across the range multi meter looks a bit of an after-thought.

The steering wheel is tilt-adjustable, and the rpm-sensitive power steering is well weighted, with good assist at low speeds, and good feel once moving.

Starting uses an ordinary key, and once settled the engine doesn't overly impinge. Yes, you know it's a diesel at idle, but once rolling the sound disappears into the background.

dashboard - you don't have to get out of the vehicle.

Yes, it's easy to see where you've placed the low range lever, but we would have liked an indicator on the dash which showed whether you were in high or low ratio, not just a 4WD indicator.

Off-road cross-axles situations didn't unduly faze the vehicle even with one rear wheel high in the air, the limited slip diff doing Its job well, except in one particularly bad ditch crossing where we got hung up and needed a bit of a push.

Visibility was good all round, the big mirrors gaining praise.

However it was the good old-fashioned combination of a manual gearbox and low ratio that won us over most of all. No matter what electronic controls you have there's no substitute for putting the vehicle into first gear low when you come to a steep hill, and letting the engine braking do all the work.

We've proved this time and time again - if the wheels are rolling gently there's much less likelihood you're going to skid out of control. Of course, it's best if any off-road driving is preceded by proper training!

In summary, the Wildtrak is something of a wild card for Ford. Lots of people like to customize their vehicles, but Ford has gone one step further and provided a ready-made solution.

It's certainly different - and head-turning - and makes the name "ute" something of an oxymoron, since there's certainly more luxury than utility about the Wildtrak.

At the same time it retains all the on and off-road features that we have learned to love about the Ranger. £

While you're there you can also look (and order) - you can find out where your nearest 4WD club is photos which have appeared in our magazine (and lots which-haven't), you can check latest vehicle prices,or It's all there, one click away

Visit our website


Duncan Munro

A FARMER'S AFFAIR The Legend of the

Land Rover

Icon them. And there are a few that David has drawn especially for Duncan and the book.

But Duncan doesn't just stick to storytelling - that wouldn't be true to the man himself.

So he intersperses many tips and truisms about four-wheel-driving, tips to help you progress better and to keep you safe - so much so that the book is worth buying for these alone, especially if you're new to driving off-road.

Says Duncan: "Back country roads and off-road have fewer vehicles on them, but don't take that for granted. Just about anywhere you drive today is deemed a road. You can get charged for 'dangerous' or 'reckless' driving in the back paddock too".

The way the book is written Duncan manages to pass on his wisdom in a light and cheerful way. You certainly don't feel you're being talked down to or preached at.

There are also lots of interesting stories on Duncan's army service in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam - usually with a Land Rover slant.

Duncan even manages to make army life amusing!

Duncan had not quite finalised his order for the first printing as I write, and my review was done on a pre-print proof copy.

He says the final printed copies will probably be hard-backed, then based on interest and viability, the reprints will be soft-cover for the same price.

Duncan has already received a lot of interest In the book, so he's planning to produce a gift voucher for those who had planned to give the book as a Christmas present as the book will not be printed on time - albeit only by a couple of days.

Contact Duncan at [email protected] for more details about the voucher. We are also expecting to have final details of pricing and where you can buy in our Annual issue.

profiles (or mentions) 35 other owners and their Land Rovers from a very wide cross-section of New Zealand," he says.

Maybe you'll be in there as well. I certainly get a brief mention.

The best thing about Duncan's book is the easy writing style. Those who have met Duncan - and he's something of a legend in the 4WD world - will know that he's a good storyteller -almost New Zealand's answer to the Yorkshire vet turned author James Herriot.

And he tells lots of stories, interspersed with many family photos him and his dad in action, as well as original photos of the family and the Pukerau farms east of Auckland. Simple stories, like the one of Clevedon sheep shearer Wally Scorrar and his ancient long wheelbase Land Rover station wagon, plus a tribute by Barry McAlley.

Said Duncan: "His last trip in the Land Rover was in the casket, a perfect fit in the back".

In fact there are many cameos of local people and their Land Rovers, most of them with a touch of humour thrown in.

He also highlights owner vehicles, one of the most interesting being a picture and story about David Clark's "Smokey", a 1950 Series 1 believed to the oldest surviving Series 1 in New Zealand.

Some of the stories are illustrated with previously-published cartoons by well-known Kiwi cartoonist David Henshaw - lots of

"This story covers the Series 1 to the Defender 60th Anniversay SVX including the early Range Rover, early Discovery and others that make up 'The Mix'.

"There are cowboys out there. There are safety freaks out there. I wish to live in the middle ground, and I believe that it is a healthy place that has risks."

That's a line from Duncan Munro's new book "A Farmer's Affair", and it pretty much sums Duncan up. He's a gentleman, and a gentle man, but he's not scared to take risks, although he takes special care to mention that he also makes sure he can manage the risks and minimise them.

As a farmer, soldier and 4WD trainer and long-time Land Rover owner he's certainly come across his fair share of risks. This book is just the latest.

"While the main off-road story is of my father's and my experiences, this book

Duncan Munro

When I originally decided to do a series of articles on the access roads into the Tararua Ranges I thought I might do one article on the eastern (Wairarapa) side and one on the western side.

However the Tararuas were bigger than I realised and it took me six trips covering four articles to explore the access points on the eastern side up as far as the Manawatu Gorge.

Although the range of hills that includes the Tararua Ranges runs from the South Coast all the way up to East Cape, the northern boundary of the Tararua Ranges is defined as being the Manawatu Gorge. So now it is time to tackle the southern boundary and western side of the Tararuas.

But where to start from? The southern boundary is a bit more complex since the ranges fork at Upper Hütt. I had already decided on the first part of my trip on the eastern side that the southern limit of the Tararuas was the Rimutaka Road, with everything south of there being the Rimutaka ranges. On the western side, everything south of the Akatarawa Road is the Akatarawa Forest Park, so I decided to start the southern and western part of my trip with the Akatarawa Road.

The Akatarawa Road Is 33 km of narrow, very winding, sealed road that runs from the northern end of Upper Hutt across to Walkanae, linking SH1 and SH2. As it runs through a very tight, narrow gorge it has very steep drop-offs and many blind corners. Although not that difficult in itself, the way locals use it as a commuter route from the coast to Upper Hutt often makes oncoming traffic the biggest hazard.

In fact last time I drove this road, about six years ago in my then newly-bought Prado an oncoming car hit a comer way too fast, and

the summit.

ft tathet scenic part ot the Akatarawa

Pottery for decoration and sale at Reikorangi Pottery


if they hadn't used my vehicle as their brakes, they would have gone off the road and straight down a very steep bank.

Luckily I was only doing about 10 km/h approaching the corner but they still did $15,000 in damage and put the Prado off the road for over a month. As part of this trip I was going to have to brave the Akatarawa Road again.

The road turns off SH2 just north of Upper Hütt, with the first point of interest being only a few km up the road, and before you have even left civilisation. This is where the Hütt River, flowing down from the Tararuas, is joined by the Akatarawa River that I will be following up the gorge.

There are a number of picnic areas along this section, both on the river bank and also at Harcourt Park, just at the start of the Akatarawa Road At the right time of year there is even rafting on some parts of the lower Akatarawa Gorge.

The first half of the road is scenic and moderately isolated, but there are enough small boutique businesses and small communities at points where the gorge opens up a bit to ensure the road is kept in a reasonable state of repair. There is also enough traffic to ensure that people are generally careful about their speed.

A couple of places I noticed on the way past were Efil Doog sculpture gardens and Clouston House, a rural retreat B&B also offering picnic lunches and three course dinners. There was also a sign for Jock Atkins Waterfall, which even had a little car park.

The waterfall can be seen from the a bend in the road, coming down from the cliffs above and then disappearing under the road. While the waterfall is very attractive, on the other side of the road the stream pours out of a very un-aesthetic concrete

Story and pictures David Coxon

Kapiti Island and coast from the top of the Paekakariki Hill

A camera-friendly peacock on the picnic lawn

My Prado at Totara Reserve on the Otaki Forks Rd crib wall and culvert. Quite a contrast.

Another contrast to the pleasant native bush on the Tararua side of the road was the amount of tree felling visible on the Akatarawa hills to my left, and I was not surprised to see a sawmill with all the trappings of light industry. The owners were taking advantage of the cold, damp nature of the valley in winter by offering firewood as well as the usual cut timber.

My first stop was at the mid-point of the Akatarawa Road at Staglands. This is a 25 acre wildlife reserve, established in 1972, that offers a pleasant bush walk with lots of farm animals and friendly natives (birds that is).' There is also an old and very photogenic village, a café, and plenty of BYO BBQ areas.

It is a great place to bring the kids and also has workshop/conference facilities for hire. I have visited Staglands a number of times in the past, so this time my main interest was in the café and a chance to get some fresh air after the winding road. Despite being rearranged a bit since I was last there the log cabin café offered a friendly v ambience with an open fire and ceiling lights decorated with deer antlers.

Back on the road things soon got a bit more challenging with the road becoming narrower and the,corners tighter as I wound my way up to the summit. I stopped a few times for photos and was very pleased, after one stop, to be able to pull in behind another vehicle that would provide warning of oncoming traffic.

At the summit there is a very rough looking track off to the right, heading into the Tararüasjda

Picnicing on the river bank at the Otaki Forks picnic area

34 » December 2010


This is Odlins Road, (see Ashley's report on the Jeep Jamboree p 20). In the past this ran about 10 km to a car park and the start of some tramping tracks into the Tararuas.

It is also a popular 4WD trip to go past the car park and down into the valley, but this is a trip the club usually promotes for a tough short wheelbase vehicles only, so I have never been on it. I have heard varying stories of the track as far as the car park, with it being described as either not bad except for one very tight corner and some very steep drop-offs or a serious challenge for tough trucks only, with very tight, washed out corners that even a Suzuki has trouble getting around. It all depends who you talk to.

As I came past this time a quad bike and two tough looking Suzukis emerged from the tunnel of bush, but didn't stop for me to question about the track. As this is actually a public track, if I ever get the chance to get up it I will report back on the conditions.

Once over the top, the atmosphere opens out a bit. While the road is still very narrow with steep drop offs it is out of the gorge and feels more spacious. Before long it starts to widen and then civilisation returns in the form of a centre line. Before reaching the main highway, I turned right for Reikorangi Pottery, animal park and picnic areas.

The weather wasn't really suitable for a picnic, but on a nice day it would be another great place for the family. Heading past Reikorangi Pottery it was just over 5 km along Mangaone South Road to the Mangaone walkway. This links to Mangaone North Road at Te Horo. The road here has only recently been sealed, and while the car park is just that, I was told by the people at Reikorangi Pottery there are good picnic spots along the 6 km easy walking track.

Heading back it was only a short drive to SH2 at Waikanae and then on to Te Horo. Once across the railway line and through the small network of roads that made up Te Horo, the turn-off onto Mangaone North Road was well signposted. This was a good sealed road until it reached the valley into the hills where it became unsealed and narrow but still well graded for the last 4 km or so.

The road passed through farmland and forestry blocks with pine-covered hills and some tree felling, and there were also a number of driveways up to houses, making this a nice little community. Once again, however, the road just stopped at a gravel car park with two gates - one onto private property and the other leading to the Mangaone walkway.

Heading back, once I was out of the valley I came out from under the clouds hanging on the ranges and back into a fine sunny early afternoon. I avoided SH2 and the traffic by taking a link road across to the Otaki Forks road, which I joined just before what I call the tunnel.

This is signposted as the Totara Reserve and has large totara trees overhanging the road on both sides and meeting overhead, forming a tunnel about half a km long. The road is sealed and reasonably

wide until it reaches the start of the Otaki Forks gorge where it turns to gravel for most of the last 8 km, and becomes much narrower, although mainly well graded.

Although well maintained, the road is through a very steep-sided gorge and is therefore subject to slips and washouts. There was some evidence of both, with rocks on the road and warning mesh over washouts and sections of unstable road edge. With some very steep and high drop-offs real care is needed, especially when passing oncoming traffic. There is also one ford to cross although this has a concrete base.

On the way in the first signposted turn-off to the left leads to the main picnic area, but I decided to keep going all the way to the end of the main road then work my way back to the picnic area for lunch.

When I reached the end of the road I was still following the signposts for the camping ground but the road actually stopped at a very barren car park with walking access to reach the camping area. Heading back the first side road I came to led to a parking area in an open grassy paddock with some views of the valley but no facilities at all. This would be a reasonable uncrowded place to stop on a nice day, but it was a bit exposed and breezy when I was there.

Continuing back the next main turnoff was to the long-stay car park by the ranger's house. Once again, nothing of any interest, so I returned to the main picnic area for lunch. There is a moderate amount of parking here, and also a large grassy area with easy access to the river. There is a toilet but no other picnic facilities.

This is also the start of a number of tramping tracks, including the classic Southern Crossing which climbs up to the tops of the ranges and over Mt Hector before dropping down to the very southern end of the Tararuas at the Kaitoke road end I visited in the first of these articles.

By now it was getting quite late so I found a nice comfortable rock in the sun and settled down to enjoy my lunch. It was very pleasant and peaceful, although there were a few families around, mainly watching the kids playing on the river bed or doing short walks along the tramping tracks, and parties of trampers heading in to Field Hut for an overnight stay.

One of the disadvantages of being in a valley is that the sun disappears behind the hills quite early, and by 3 pm it was getting shady and cold. Time to return. I decided to head back home from here, leaving the final party of the trip for next time. On the way home, however, I called in at Queen Elizabeth Park at MacKays Crossing to enjoy some more sun across the Kapiti Coast.

While certainly not a 4WD destination this is a pleasant place to come with horse riding and rides on an old tram both on offer as I came past. The park provides plenty of picnic sites, some walking trails and easy access to the beach at selected points. I went up onto one of the upper parking areas to get a view over to Kapiti Island while I had a coffee before the last run home, but was somewhat disappointed to see wire fences everywhere to keep people on the sealed road only.

While I fully understand that this area is heavily used and precautions need to be taken to avoid it being damaged, I couldn't help feeling that a less intrusive approach would be more in keeping with the openness of the area. Still it was a beautiful view, and with the wind dropping, it was very pleasant to lean on the fence and soak up the fresh air and sunshine.

To get an even better view I decided to finish my trip by returning home via the Paekakariki Road. This is a sealed and winding road that cuts through the hill from Paekakariki to SH58, the link road between the Hutt Valley and Porirua. The view from the car park at the top of the hill over the Kapiti Coast and out to Kapiti Island was fantastic.

After winding back down into the valley I stopped at Battle Hill. This is a working farm and conservation area that is popular with walkers and also horse riders. It also has toilets and some nice grassy areas to picnic.

For me it was a very pleasant place to stop and stretch my legs while finishing the last of my food. Also, being only a few minutes from SH58 meant that I could relax knowing I was almost home. j)

There's a growing trend towards what we'll term "compact recreational vehicles" - high riding tall station wagons with 4WD but no low ratio, big enough to offer enough seating for five and commensurate luggage, but not so big that they take more than their fair share of a parking bay.

Not that they are new per se, just that more and more people are looking at them as an alternative to a bigger 4WD, a replacement for their ageing Japanese import, or just a handy sized vehicle that offers a hint of outdoor adventure.

One of the latest to hit the scene is the Hyundai ix35, which is in essence a replacement for the circa 2005 Tucson.

Although not a "hard yakka" 4WD, the Tucson was a useful vehicle, and as Hyundai's first small 4WD provided a useful entry level for many people.

NZ4WD's parent company Adrenalin Publishing in fact ran one for four years as a company "hack" and it not only served the staff very well, but also held its value too and realised a healthy return when it was finally sold.

When it was first launched the Tucson's looks were quite attractive, in a Korean sort of way, but the ix35 takes 4WD style to a new level.

First up, it's lower and wider than the Tucson, making It less like a 4WD and more like a tall station wagon. Hyundai refers to it as a "crossover" in an attempt to rid it of the poor image of the previous generation of recreational 4WDs as having poor handling and heavy fuel consumption.

The reality is as good as the promise, and the ix35 IS every bit as good as Hyundai says it is - on tar seal, that is.

One of the biggest disadvantages of just about all 4WDs is their high centre of gravity, coupled with heavy weight, both of which mitigate against good handling.

High centre of gravity means body roll, and body roll leads to wheels lifting and traction loss.

However as mentioned the ix35 is much

38 » December 2010

lower than a traditional 4WD, with just 170 mm of ground clearance, and also has a firm suspension with independent suspension front and rear courtesy of McPherson struts.

The result is that the ix35 hardly tilts over in corners, even when pressing on. At the same time the on-demand 4WD system DOES help by re-apportioning grip, especially on gravel roads and in slippery conditions.

Before we talk about its ability off the beaten track, let's first have a look at what the 1x35 has to offer in terms of its specification.

First up, the ix35 is the first car that has been shaped according to Hyundai's "fluidic sculpture" design language. The designers say it's as if the car was sculpted by the wind. We say we like it, and certainly from the front there's nothing soft about the look, It still looks tough - tougher, perhaps, than its predecessor.

It certainly has an aggressively high waist line, coupled with a low-to-the-ground feel which is enhanced by the 225/55 R18 tyres on 18 inch alloy wheels.

The ix35 rides on a 2,640 mm wheelbase which is 10mm more than the Tucson. At 4,410 mm and 1,820 mm, it is also 85 mm longer and 20 mm wider, greatly improving the interior cabin space.

Reducing overall height by 20 mm to 1,660 mm has been achieved without affecting headroom.

The ix35 is comfortable at the wheel, but the interior a bit disappointing after the promise of the exterior.

The blue lighting makes for a special ambiance, but other than that the ix35 is an unremarkable car on the inside.

There's also too much alloy-look plastic, especially on the steering wheel, giving the ix35 a bit of a feel of a cheap Chinese "boom box" radio rather than a sophisticated motor vehicle. It all rather negates the effect of the leather seat trim, steering wheel rim and gear knob


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