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Travel: Kalahari Torture Test


Words & Images Andrew Middleton

A 4×4 is a brilliant thing. Take it to the shops and it scares hatchbacks out of parking spaces; take it off the tar and it becomes our mobile home. A 4×4 provides an excuse to leave the house and go camping, which is a good thing. What you choose to drive really shouldn’t matter.

So, the four vehicles chosen for a recent Front Runner trip to the Kalahari covered as wide a spectrum of size and type as possible. There was a Mitsubishi Pajero SWB 3.2 DiD, well known for its overland ability; a 3.8-litre Jeep Wrangler Rubicon of 2010 vintage, best known for climbing over big rocks; a Suzuki Jimny 1.3, known for being the size of a shoe; and, finally, a shiny new Kia Sorento 2.2CRDI, best known for taking middle-class kids to private schools in the leafy suburbs.

All vehicles were bog standard, except for the Jeep which belongs to Front Runner and which had Tough Dog foam cell adjustable shock absorbers, a 2-inch lift and a winch.

However, our time in the bush would also serve as a torture test; as a chance to put a range of Front Runner gear through its paces. As with any long trip, vehicles must be prepared, and to this end all the 4x4s were kitted with full length Front Runner Slimline II roof racks, Front Runner drawer systems, fridge slides, and Snomaster fridges on the slides.

The corrugated roads would test roof racks and suspension, while dunes, jumps and axle twisters would test the Kia’s AWD system to its limit.

The Kia, Pajero and Jimny were stock standard, with only our Rubicon recovery truck. Take a guess which car needed a tow first.

Excitement is its own alarm clock; at 4 a.m. I rub sleep out of my eyes as my driver hoots at the gate. Soon, Johannesburg’s nauseating brown smog dissipates in our rear-view mirror and there is only dust and shrub on the horizon.