buying a four wheel drive

traction with action thinking of a four-wheel drive? motoring correspondent jonathan crouch investigates...

buying a four wheel drive

So you've seen the ads, read the blurb and, most importantly of all, seen the off-roader parked in your neighbour's driveway. It's decided. You want a four-wheel drive for weekends away from it all.

On the other hand, you might be a rural vet, a motorway construction engineer or a Highland sheep farmer. If you can tick 'yes' to either of the above, then most certainly, what you need is a rugged, dependable, go anywhere 4X4.

If you can't, then it's quite possible that what you actually need is a 'Sport Utility Vehicle' - or 'SUV' to those on used car lots with trilby hats. Sport Utilities are fashionable, sporty, roomy and, let's face it, enable you to look down on other drivers in every sense.

Most of this has been brought about by a boom in America for SUVs. In the UK, buyers are almost spoilt for choice as the car companies continue to bring out more and more vehicles. Many are American imports but the Japanese, Koreans and Germans now also offer us a multitude of choice, in addition to Land Rover's home-grown range.

If you think that off-roaders are not up to scratch when it comes to creature comforts, though, think again. Today's vehicles are way ahead of those old agricultural mud-pluggers that offered little more in convenience features than a hose-out interior.

The average all-wheel drive vehicle boasts a standard spec comparable, if not superior, to the luxury cars of only a few years ago. All come with air-conditioning, (essential for quick demisting in winter and a cool head in summer) power steering and all the electric gadgets like remote central locking and satellite navigation that buyers now insist on.

Competition in both price terms and what equipment you get for your money has become intense, with four-wheel drives now appearing in almost all sectors of the new-vehicle market.

You can spend around £12,000 or as much as £80,000 - the choice is yours. Between the two ends of the price spectrum, you'll find any number of worthy vehicles. What you choose depends, more than anything, on what you need a 4x4 for.

The used market is equally appealing. You'll find that some vehicles hold their value better than others - so at first glance might appear to offer less of a bargain when compared with the same vehicle new. On the other hand, when you come to sell on, that could work in your favour.

The range on offer covers everything from two-seater soft-top to the mighty mud-plugger. The choice is yours - even if the steepest incline you're likely to tackle is the multi-storey car park.

Whether you're buying new or used, your dealer - if four-wheel drive is their expertise - will be able to offer complete after sales care, to ensure you get the maximum from your purchase. Insist on a test drive and enjoy that feeling of superiority over other road users behind the wheel!

Choose the model that suits you best and you should be singing your off-roader's praises all year round...