Monday, April 8, 2013

The BMW X4 just isn't a proper off-roader

THEY don’t make ‘em like they used to. It’s probably the most overused cliché in the classic car book, but in the case of one off-road encounter last weekend it’s definitely true.

The car in question was an old Land Rover – specifically, a 1969 Series IIA of the ex-military variety – which I encountered at a garage in Lancashire, which I couldn’t help but swoon over just slightly. When you’ve been raised around old Range Rovers and brought up to believe anything vaguely old from Lode Lane is cool, you can’t help it.

At least one mate of mine (you know who you are) just doesn’t get my fascination with old off-roaders but the great thing with old Land Rovers is they acquire a patina over decades which the new ones just don’t have. Whereas it’s right for someone with an MG or a Triumph to spend hours on end polishing their pride ‘n’ joy, a Series IIA without a thin coating of muck is like an Arctic explorer who doesn’t have a craggy face and a light helping of stubble. Yes, old off-roaders are slow and noisy and corner like ocean liners, but the important thing is that they’re hard as nails.

Or at least, they used to be, because when I got in that night I saw BMW’s latest take on the off-roader – the X4, which is a bit like an X6 and about as up for a spot of Arctic exploring as Gok Wan does. Yes, I know I drove an X3 last year and found it annoyingly brilliant, but deep down I’d still rather that old Series IIA be on my driveway.

Land Rover’s own 2013 offerings are still capable mudpluggers, of course, but judging by BMW’s evidence, at least, they definitely don’t make off-roaders like they used to.

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