BY CLAIRE EVANS
However, this problem was addressed in 1993 with the introduction of an independent suspension system, which did wonders for its road-going ability. At the same time, the whole range benefited from an extensive revamp and the appropriately named Independent trim level was introduced to help the Fourtrak appeal to a wider audience. The ruggedness, which was the biggest appeal of the original, is still there though. The Fourtrak will seat the family, carry the odd chest of drawers and sail through a ploughed field as well as whisk you down to the local wine bar on a Friday night.
All the latest Fourtrak models come with power steering, selectable two or four-wheel drive and an immobiliser security system. Inside, the cars are fitted with a substantial rear roll-over bar which provides mountings for three-point inertia-reel seat belts for rear seat passengers. There are also two (rather uncomfortable) occasional seats in the rear in the long wheelbase models to increase the carrying capacity to seven. Higher up the range, the TDL-SE is another seven-seater with a healthy dose of equipment.
This runs to electric windows, central locking, a four-speaker stereo, an adjustable steering column and additional instrumentation. If you want more, the Fourtrak TDX has colour-coded wheelarch extensions and unique alloy wheels. Gadgetry on the flagship TDX includes electronic 4WD engagement, electric mirrors, power headlamp washers and an RDS stereo system. If you choose a model thats fitted with the torquey 2.
8-litre intercooled turbo diesel unit, youll also get a hefty 3,500kg towing capacity.
The best course of action, if you can afford it, is to stick with the post-1993 Independent machines, but you do have to pay more for their improved ride and specification. A 1993L TDX Independent 2.8 is likely to set you back around £1,800, while a slightly lower spec TDL Independent should start at about £1,500. Alternatively you could take the newer route after all, the Fourtrak is seen by many as a more affordable alternative to a Land Rover.
A 2000X-reg TDL Independent should start at £6,600 and a TDX Independent will set you back around £8,800 on 2002 plates. For SE versions, add around £500-£1000 to these figures depending on age and condition.
These capable workhorses are likely to be used for serious off-roading, so its advisable to check the bodywork, suspension and chassis for damage. Particular areas that need attention are differentials, gearbox and engine. Faulty or damaged turbos can be expensive to repair, so have the engine checked out by an expert if youre unsure.
Parts prices are relatively low for an Oriental make. A brake master cylinder will be around £85, front shock absorbers will be roughly £25 and a clutch disc will be only just over £50. All these prices exclude VAT.
As already mentioned, post 1993 cars are better on-road. That said, dont expect car-like manners: the ride is still rather bouncy on the tarmac. Off-road its a different matter though: the Fourtrak is one of the most capable small 4x4s around with good ground clearance. It will clamber up a rocky outcrop almost as well as a mountain goat, or even wade through a raging river. If all this sounds a little too extreme for your needs, dont worry: the Fourtrak is just as good at getting you safely off a waterlogged school playing field.
The 2.8 turbo diesel versions are well equipped, sturdy and have even gained rather stylish looks in recent years. All in all, they provide a good, affordable alternative to a Land Rover.