It has been a muddy start to the year: firstly there was a day spent pounding a new Fiat Panda 4×4 over a fairly tortuous course laid out in the grounds of Stoneleigh Park. 

Despite tracks frozen, very muddy and deeply rutted the little Italian car coped remarkably well with the conditions. Bearing in mind it was on road going tyres and its ground clearance is only 50 mm greater than standard, it bucked and bounced it way round a track that no sane owner would even attempt. 

And with £50 change from £14,000 it was about a seventh of the price of the new Range Rover 5.0-litre V8 Autobiography that I drove at a snow-bound Eastnor Castle the following week. With nearly a foot of snow on the ground it was the most treacherous I had ever seen Eastnor in some 30 years of driving its punishing tracks and gradients, some of which proved too much for one pr who came to grief during the demo drive.

Some may question the relevance of a luxury car, for that is what the Range Rover has become, having this peerless off road ability that will never be used by owners.

However, you could make the same argument about an Aston Martin – how many owners exploit the car’s ability to reach speeds north of 180mph or nail the throttle to achieve 4.1 seconds to 62mph? None, but they and their peers know they could if they wanted and so it is with the new Range Rover.

Whilst the Panda and Range Rover are at the extremes of the 4×4 market, Ford’s latest Kuga is pitched at the heartland of the growing crossover sector and they’ve even coined a new moniker for it, replacing ‘Sport’ in Utility Vehicle with ‘Smart’.  

Ford reason that the standard fitment of functions like SNYC with emergency assistance, intelligent all-wheel drive with curve control, Active Park AssistBlind Spot Information SystemActive City StopLane Keeping AidLane Departure WarningAuto High BeamDriver Alert and Traffic Sign Recognition justify that claim.

What is certain after a couple of days driving in sunny Spain, including some off roading, that the Kuga is a very capable car: refined, comfortable, spacious and good looking. Shame Ford hasn’t got the clever, one-handed, automated flip ‘n fold rear seating system in the vein of that found in the Mazda CX5 and Honda CRV.

On the home front, plans for the driving day are forging ahead with, we’re hoping, some exciting additions to ensure it’s a roaring success. There are ongoing talks with a manufacturer about a partner’s weekend in May, but hotels demanding two night reservations or are booked for weddings are complicating matters at the moment.

Ian Adcock | Chairman WGMW

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