Autocar gathers together a gaggle of Land Rover rivals for a group test with a difference in a frozen farmyard
Matt Burt
12 February 2015

An Arctic freeze gripped the UK during early 1982, laying the icy ground for an Autocar comparison test with a difference.

A glut of imported 4x4s threatened the Land Rover’s position as the best utilitarian go-anywhere vehicle, so the pretenders were gathered for a six-car test.

The vehicles were the Daihatsu F20 LX, Jeep Laredo, Subaru MV, Suzuki LJ80 V, Toyota Hi Lux and, er, Portaro Pampas 260 DL. A disparate group, as Autocar’s testers admitted: “Their only real common denominator is that each wheel can be driven at the flick of a lever, but how do they fare down on the farm?”

The farm? Yes, for this test, Autocar headed to Wye Agricultural College’s 2000-acre farm for a series of challenges to assess farm-worthiness. First up was the load test: how many calves, sheep or straw bales could each vehicle carry?

“The shape of the load space is as important as its cubic capacity; vehicles with intruding wheel arches, for instance, can take more tall, spindly calves than normally smaller but shorter and rounder sheep,” reckoned our testers, going on to declare the Hi Lux, which could accommodate 12 animals or 22 bales, a clear winner.

Dynamic tests comprised towing and a drive across a snow-laden ploughed field. The Daihatsu “plodded through our test field in a no-nonsense manner” but “the lack of a tow-hitch precluded an assessment of its towing ability”.

The test hinted at the divide between utilitarian 4x4s and the more stylish luxury SUVs that predominate today. The Jeep, for example, “appears in the form of a King’s Road cruiser, kitted out in cloth seats, carpets and BF Goodrich-shod alloy wheels”. Even so, it “traversed our test field with scornful ease”.

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The Romanian-designed, Portuguese-built Portaro “was the only vehicle on test that actually looked like a Land Rover”. The car’s “load space and torquey engine gave it the thumbs-up from our experts as a real workhorse”. 

Subaru’s MV pick-up was derided for “looking decidedly flashy and potentially incapable with its road tyres and low ground clearance”, but after waltzing through most of the tests, it “silenced its critics with an excellent performance and capacity”.

The diminutive Suzuki was “hardly worth considering as a load carrier;
we got only three sheep into the back”. However, it “did not baulk at the ploughed field”.

Finally, the Hi Lux “topped all of the others in its ability to carry sheep, calves and hay”, and massive ground clearance “should ensure that the Toyota never gets hung up on the deepest of rutted tracks”.

Autocar ended with a note of caution: “When the Toyota was parked with one side on ice, the other on snow, the wheels on ice simply spun. This would have happened to any of the vehicles in our farmyard because they lack one feature: the locking differential, as offered by the Audi Quattro and Mercedes G-Wagen.”

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12 February 2015
Subaru really missed a trick in stopping the sale of this vehicle in the UK.
The MV was a great tool which battled on into middle age on many many farms, despite rusting gently away. With modern materials today the car would have a real following in the agricultural world. Nippier and more manouverable than a Defender, equally capable in the real world across muddy rutted terrain with a full length undertray I have witnessed these vehicles crossing seemingly impassable sodden ground.
But Subaru, like most manufacturers were more interested in moving 'up-market' and the vehicle didn't fit that image. Now look at the mess they are in!

12 February 2015
I'm loving these trips down memory lane. It fair puts me in the mood to into my mums loft and get my hands on some of the 1000's of 80's Autocar, Motor, Fast Lane etc... Great stuff.

12 February 2015
I'm loving these trips down memory lane. It fair puts me in the mood to into my mums loft and get my hands on some of the 1000's of 80's Autocar, Motor, Fast Lane etc... Great stuff.

12 February 2015
Is this a proper car website? Have any real journalists been involved here? The Defender wasn't launched until 1990. The 90/110 wasn't even launched until 1983. Very poor article.

12 February 2015
Respectfully, there are several web-resources for original road-tests that are far more detailed; Try Trigger's road tests on Flickr for a start.
Or, you could do what Car and Driver do Autocar, and just put the old tests up on the website?

15 February 2015
I'd love to see some of those old tests on the site. I think it was Autocar, back in the eighties, that used to publish, alongside tests of high performance cars, a box with about six or eight sets of comparison figures, including a Lotus-Renault F1 car, Metro 6R4, Gartrac Escort, and similar. Made for fascinating reading, seeing how cars made for various purposes had their performance peaks, relative to each other.

12 February 2015
That is what they called it in Britain? How boring! In the states it was named the BRAT which was an acronym for Bi-drive Recreational All-Terrain vehicle. The best part were the two plastic seats in the bed for passengers which every brat, um kid, wanted to ride in. The Baja was its spiritual replacement but it would be nice if Subaru took an Outback or Forester and turned it into a new BRAT.

12 February 2015
I would say Subaru, as a brand, have gone full circle in the UK, since this model was sold. From obscurity and back. Who could have predicted that? And what a waste...

23 March 2015
Matt, Matt, Matt...

What are we going to do with you? Many problem's here:

1) You'll have to decide if this is a Brito-phyillic cheer-leader's website, because in the States the Land Rover is not "the best utilitarian go-anywhere vehicle" by a long shot. That crown would go to a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with lift kit and perhaps 37-inch Mickey Thompson tires. You will see very few Land Rover's on the Rubicon Trial or mud-slinging in Georgia.-----------

2) The Subaru "BRAT" was a sales disaster by comparison to other offerings here. It was not competitive. Could it have been improved and modified? Yes, but Subaru have not made that re-committment yet. -------------

3) The vehicle-set you have chosen for this comparison is largely unknown in the States, Canada, or Australia, and they certainly do not represent viable competitors for even this BRAT. If you want to zero-in on pickups for off-road capability, were is the Ford Ranger 4WD or Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro; or, for larger sizes, the Ford Raptor or Ram Power Wagon? Surely you could get examples of these for a truly world-wide comparison test.-------------


23 July 2015
I think not only the Toyota but all the others in that test would have failed the "one slide ice" test, even a basic Landrover spins uselessly in a one side roller test.

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