In only its second year, DRIVEit is the UK’s leading dedicated light commercial vehicle exhibition and driving event that’s free, live and interactive. Based at the world-famous Bruntingthorpe proving ground in Leicestershire, visitors can test drive any of the vehicles on show, and with over 6 miles of test tracks you can give them a true and proper going over. As well as a handling and manoeuvrability course, a motorway section and general driving course there’s a challenging off road route – their words not mine.
After wandering around the main exhibition area for a while, the first vehicles to catch my attention were the two Ford Ranger’s, resplendent in a shiny blue paint job and a bit too much chrome for my liking, I figured it was time to get them muddy. Disappointingly, it turned out that I wasn’t allowed to drive the vehicles around the off road course myself, instead I had to be chauffeured around by the manufactures ‘professional’ drivers, some of whom were more skilled than others!
Having driven to the event in the outgoing Mitsubishi L200, the Ranger seemed a much bigger vehicle, yet it squeezed through the trees on the off road course without too much drama. Leaving the water section up a short but steep muddy bank took a couple of attempts, but this was down to getting the right line on its road biased tyres.
After the Ford, I was taken out in the Isuzu D-Max then Great Wall’s Steed, both of which proved their off road credentials and took the off road course in their stride.
It was no surprise that the Mecerdes-Benz 4×4 Sprinter took to the off road course like a duck to water, and kudos to Mercedes, they let me drive it. For such a large vehicles it was very nimble off road, and on some of the steeper inclines when the tyres found themselves scrambling for grip, the electrics took over and saved the day.
However, I think the biggest surprise of the day was with Peugeot, they took me out in their New Partner ATV (All Terrain Vans), a small yet cavernous van that was fitted with Grip Control. Grip Control optimises the traction of both front wheels for extra grip when the going gets tough. There are modes for mud, snow, sand and regular ESP, so drivers can cope with just about anything. ATV vans also feature upgraded mud and snow tyres for greater raction during bad weather and are available on New Boxer, Bipper, New Partner and Expert vans, as well as 2008, 508 and 3008.
I have to admit that I was quite surprised at how the Peugeot Partner performed, it went everywhere the big boys went, with the exception of the deep water section, which is fair enough. Of course, the driver had to use a bit more momentum to navigate some of the steeper tracks, but it proved a capable contender, especially if you don’t want the bulk of a 4×4, yet need to keep mobile during the winter months.
If you want to see just what Grip control can do, check out this video of the Peugeot 2008 driving up a ski slope, and remember, it’s front wheel drive. Click here.
Peugeot are sending me their 2008 and New Partner van next month for a proper test, so watch this space.
Other manufactures where there, including Fiat, Renault, Citroen, DFSK, Piaggio and Vauxhall, but they didn’t have any 4×4 vehicles to play with, so I didn’t talk to them! Dacia had a stand, but apparently they didn’t want to their tyres muddy, so I didn’t get to go out with them either, which was a shame as I know that they’re very capable.
I was surprised that that Toyota, Nissan or VW weren’t there to show off their vehicles, hopefully they’ll attend next year.
Moving along to the static displays, I met William Rhodes from Xtreme Sales who are based in Christchurch, Dorset. Xtreme specialise in modifying pick-up’s for both the leisure and professional market to a very high standard. Fitting Alu-Cab’s, winch bumpers, suspension and so on. For more details, check their website: www.xs4x4.parts
Next door was Winch Systems who are the sole official UK importer and distributor for COME-UP winches. Never heard of them? Neither had I, but they’ve been around for nearly 40 years and are popular in Australia and Africa where a good, reliable winch is essential. We’re hoping to have a full company bio on Winch Systems soon, so watch this space. www.winchsystems.co.uk
Other companies in attendance included Kwik Fit, Telogis, Vantainer, and WM Systems amongst others, all demonstrating how they can help the van user lead a happy and more organised life whilst on the road.
DRIVEit is a modest event that I can see growing into something much, much bigger in years to come. So if you own or operate light commercial vehicles put this event in your diary for 2016, it’s the only event where you can talk to the manufacturers direct and test drive almost every new light commercial vehicle back-to-back at one location during the same day.