James Ruppert: 4x4s you can depend on

Weeks, if not months, of seemingly relentless rain have made it very wet and very muddy outside, and so thoughts inevitably turn to 4x4s.

Reader John knows his stuff, having bought a Nissan Pathfinder brand new and put it to some serious hardcore use. As he told me: “The engine is and always was rough but the thing did the job and was robust and reliable, provided it was regularly serviced. The car has now accumulated 188k miles, having been put to all imaginable uses.”

I still a struggle to recommend Land Rover products. I know people with good Discovery experiences, but I’m not one of them. The reliability stats, based on warranty claims, prove the point that apart from a Mk1 Disco and maybe a classic Range Rover that will in any case cost gazillions to sort, you are better off with the 4×4 workhorses of this world.

My go-to hardest-working 4×4, based on real-life experience, has to be a Toyota Anything At All. Obviously, though, if like John you are replacing a Pathfinder, it would need to be a Land Cruiser. John will buy new on a PCP but, for fun, let’s look at what a decent amount of money – around £16k – will buy used.

I was rather taken by a 2008 3.0 D-4D with 63k miles, a full Toyota history and a £15,800 price. That would be strong money for most 12-year-old 4x4s but is actually very good value for a Cruiser. Plus, this has eight seats so that makes it an MPV, but much more useful.

Other comfy, last-forever 4x4s include the Mitsubishi Shogun and I had a decent experience over a year with one. Significantly, £15k gets you a very contemporary 2016 3.2 Di-D 4Work SG2. Okay, it is a van version, but it has 77k miles, leather and 18in alloy wheels. Mind you, a seven-leather-seat 2014 Di-D SG3 with 60,000 miles is just £15,250. Again, we have a proper service history, it’s a one-owner car and it has 18in alloys. A dealer is selling it so there is a proper warranty as well.

I feel like digging up a Mercedes G-Wagen and you can pick up a 1991 3.0 GE 300d with over 100k miles and a measly 88bhp but in tidy condition for a bit over £15k. It won’t be very comfy, though.

That sort of leads me to looking at Jeeps. I tell you what: a 2012 Grand Cherokee 3.0 V6 CRD Overland with 65k miles, for dead on £15k, seems like a not half bad way to travel if you plan on towing stuff, or just doing some hard work. It’s plasticky, but not too bad as a day-to-day prospect, and just the thing to get you through the winter crud.

What we almost bought this week

Ford Granada Scorpio 2.9 24V Cosworth: We were all set to snap up this bargain 201bhp Cossie, a 1994-reg with 103,000 miles, for £600 when some bright spark spotted it had no MOT. A rusty underside, apparently. Still, given that elsewhere someone is asking £8750 for a mint 1991-reg with 125,000 miles, it might make a rewarding project.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Porsche Cayenne, mileage – 106,043: As I mentioned a fortnight ago, there was a crisis with the Flying Pig involving tyres and, in order to cope with a busy Christmas period, I had to get a set of tyres to keep the show on the road. One garage said they would not replace just the one damaged tyre but would have to replace the entire set. Their quote was £600, so I went off on a ‘who would do the best deal?’ quest.

It turned out to be Kwik Fit, which quoted comfortably below £500 for some tyre I’d never heard of. Even so, I went for them. So far, we haven’t fallen off the road so they must be pretty good.

Reader’s ride

Rover 75 2.5 V6 Contemporary SE: David Robertshaw decided to buy a car he’d admired but never driven, a Rover 75: “It had a bulging history file full of invoices. The first owner had spent a fortune on it. It also had a full MOT. I spent a weekend fixing various minor issues before putting it into daily service. “I’ve now covered around 3000 fault-free miles in the six months since buying it. I love the sound of that KV6 engine and the traditionally styled interior, although it is pretty heavy on fuel. My best is 37mpg on a run. However, it does drop below 20mpg on my commute!”

Readers’ questions

Question: I am considering buying a used Mazda CX-5 but have heard that Mazdas get more rust more often than other makes. Is this a true issue with them? Mihail Iliev, Sofia, Bulgaria

Answer: Ask enough people and you’re sure to hear stories of rusty Mazdas, and rusty Fords, and rusty Vauxhalls… Independent vehicle inspector Michael Ward says most makes rust eventually and it can break out in damp areas behind body cladding, bumpers and undertrays. Galvanised steel helps put the brakes on body corrosion but offers only sacrificial protection, with the zinc element corroding before the steel. Where you live also plays a part. For example, pine forests, such as those in Bulgaria, produce very acidic soil that washes onto roads and rusts cars. John Evans

Question: I thought an electric car would make the ideal towing vehicle, given all its low-down torque, but it seems no one makes an EV that can tow. Why not? Colin Skinner, Harrogate

Answer: In fact, there is an electric tow car but it’s an expensive one: the Tesla Model X. It has a generous braked towing limit of 2250kg but costs from £83,000. The reasons other EVs can’t tow are that they’re already heavy without a trailer to tow as well, concerns about what effect a heavy trailer would have on the car’s energy regeneration system and the effect towing would have on the car’s range. John Evans