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“You don’t need a Land Rover to have some off-road fun”

Senior News Reporter Alastair Crooks has got the off-road bug and wonders what’s stopping people from exploring the limits of their SUVs

Opinion - You don’t need a Land Rover to have some off-road fun

I’ve never really been struck by green-laning, rock-crawling or just off-roading in general, but recent experiences in new cars have made me question why more people aren’t taking their cars (specifically SUVs) off the beaten track. 

First up was the latest Land Rover Defender 130 at the British firm’s Eastnor testing facility on the Welsh border. It might be a Defender, conquering the rutted tracks and muddy bogs with ease, but with a rather plush cabin and seating for eight - it’s set up to appeal to big families first and foremost. 

Next was the Mercedes G-Class in Graz, Austria. Taking on the ‘G-Class Experience Centre’ with its deep water fording and ridiculous gradients, this £100,000 box on wheels did it all in supreme luxury. 

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While those two vehicles were impressive, the latest Dacia Duster provided just as much excitement on the southern coast of Spain, teetering on top of a ridge with two wheels in the air or using its supple suspension to cross some treacherous terrain at quite a lick. 

The Duster’s relatively light kerbweight of 1,300kg helped it avoid getting stuck in the sand - as did its surprisingly tight turning circle (no need for the new all-electric G-Class’ famed ‘G-turn’ here). It did all this while wearing road tyres and with no changes to the car you’ll be able to buy from this summer for under £20,000. 

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There are plenty of less off-road focused SUVs that would also be able to raise a few eyebrows, given the right conditions and enough forward momentum. As long as you’ve done a bit of research, taken a lesson or two and possibly gone with a more experienced off-road driver who’ll be able help if the going gets a little too tough, you’ll be amazed at what a standard family SUV can achieve (preferably one with four-wheel drive though). 

There’s also the cost element. I’ve enjoyed track days for years but it’s no secret that track driving is an expensive hobby. Fuel, tyres and modifications for off-roading should be pretty reasonable in comparison. The main danger to your wallet is in damaging your car on a rogue rock or tree but those risks are easily minimised with the right care and training.

What I’m really getting at is that the market is flooded with SUVs right now and it can sometimes be difficult for car enthusiasts to develop much of an affinity with them. Overcome a few challenging obstacles together, though, and you might well find yourself bonding with your SUV on an unexpected level. 

It’s worth noting all those cars we mentioned were taken to extremes on private tracks and anyone planning to drive their SUV off road must stick to official trails that allow for vehicle access.

Check out our pages on off-roading driving tips and green laning if you want to learn more. 

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Senior news reporter

A keen petrol-head, Alastair Crooks has a degree in journalism and worked as a car salesman for a variety of manufacturers before joining Auto Express in Spring 2019 as a Content Editor. Now, as our senior news reporter, his daily duties involve tracking down the latest news and writing reviews.

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