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Pickup Of The Year - Let There Be Mud!
Capable D-Max
The demand for pickup trucks shows no signs of abating. Many are used as essential working tools but increasingly they are being bought as an alternative to the family car.

Over the last few years, a number of new companies have entered the fray and at the time of writing the choice to UK buyers extends to nine different manufacturers.

VAT inclusive prices start at £18,488 for a simple single cab Isuzu D-Max right up to the new luxurious V6-powered Mercedes-Benz X-Class, on your driveway for a heady £47,405.

Horses for courses I hear you say and increased choice is something to be celebrated, but which to choose?

I have been lucky enough to drive most of the pickups at one time or another, but never before back to back. The chance therefore to be a judge in Professional Pickup & 4x4’s 2019 awards was an attractive one.

The day began and ended with on road driving, the main event being an extensive off-road course, designed to test each vehicle’s true capabilities.

I hoped for mud and my prayers were answered, though some sections of the course were too treacherous even for the most hardcore 4x4 and were abandoned – after all the organisers did want to send the trucks back in one piece! They nearly succeeded....

Surprise of the day was the SsangYong Musso, which as well as being one of the cheapest on test, proved to be very capable both on and on off road. It suffered from the usual unladen back end bounce which afflicts many of its ilk, but on the whole the civilised cabin and off road traction saw it score well in my books.

Musso meets L200
It isn’t the most attractive design, especially when viewed from the rear, but as an affordable, well equipped working tool it is worthy of a look.

Isuzu aim its pickups very much at the working market and it came as no surprise that the latest D-Max put up a good showing. Capable off road, a well equipped hard wearing cabin and decent road manners will ensure many will look no further. It is also available in single cab, two-wheel drive configuration which will suit many. Cheap too...

Mitsubishi’s L200 is well established in the market place and the latest model brings a much needed dose to style to the class. It is mighty capable too, which will come as no surprise with all the experience the Japanese manufacturer has had over the past few decades.

In this era of sharing resources, I had the chance to test the Fiat Fullback, essentially an L200 in drag. Manual or automatic gearbox, but only a double cab bodystyle is available. The Fullback had been fitted with more off-road orientated tyres, so faired a little better than the L200 in the mud.

The Toyota Hilux needs no introduction, having been the default choice for many business users for years. Single or double cab design, manual or automatic gearbox option and a build quality and reputation for longevity second to none.

The mid-spec Hilux proved to be comfortable on road and reasonably capable over the challenging off-road course. It didn’t excite, but then Toyotas rarely do.

Ford’s Ranger is aimed at the working market and also offers similar variants to the Hilux. Prices are broadly similar too. Having spent some time with a top spec Ranger, I would suggest they work best in their simplest form. With a generous budget I would be looking elsewhere.

That direction is likely to be the two most expensive pickups currently on sale. Volkswagen’s Amarok boasts a powerful 3.0-litre diesel engine and generous equipment levels. It’s on road manners are excellent and scores highly.

Also by Andy Harris...
Revitalised Vitara Under The Spotlight
Touareg – Volkswagen’s Supersize SUV On Test
Mustang V8 On Test - Fast And Furious!
Mercedes-Benz X-Class Now With V6 Power
Jaguar I-PACE – Time To Take Another Look
Permanent rather than selectable four-wheel drive should have given the Amarok an off-road advantage, but in the end it seemed to struggle for traction in the tough conditions. Some more hardcore tyres would no doubt have helped.

The £30,000+ price tag would suggest a more ‘lifestyle’ user, so I doubt would-be buyers will be deterred. I wouldn’t be.

This brings me nicely on to one to the most recent entrants in the class from premium manufacturer Mercedes-Benz. The X-Class has been on sale in the UK for just over a year and majors on luxury and comfort.

Sharing many components with Nissan’s Navara, I have spent many an hour behind the wheel. However the recent fitment of a new powerful V6 diesel engine has transformed the driving experience.

It is now as fast, quiet and serene as the Amarok on the tarmac and from recent experience off road in the Yorkshire Dales, I would suggest it is as capable as any away from the bitumen. The only obstacle to pickup truck domination is the price which can easily top £50,000 with a few choice extras.

My winnner - the Mercedes-Benz X Class
The official winner will be announced later this year and I suspect the Mercedes X-Class will scoop the gong, as it did last year. It gets my vote, but with less funds to play with a mid-range automatic D-Max would suit me just fine.

With thanks to Liam Campbell at Professional Pickup & 4X4 Magazine for the invitation. His esteemed publication can be viewed at: www.pickupand4x4.co.uk

Pickup Of The Year - Let There Be Mud!, 12th January 2019, 13:23 PM