Suddenly I seem to be the office expert on shoot vehicles.
After putting together a four-page feature for the 12th July issue on quad bikes (ATVs) and their larger cousins, the “UTV” (utility terrain vehicles which feature side-by-side seating and load carrying cargo beds); this week I was lucky enough to be asked to test out a new kid on the block, the Cub Cadet Big Country UTV (pictured).
Always reluctant to get out of the office, especially on a spectacular summer’s day (if you can remember back before the floods?), I headed off last Wednesday to Sir Edward Dashwood’s West Wycombe estate in Berkshire to meet the distributors, Barrus (www.barrus.co.uk), and put their diesel-powered machine through its paces.
Edward Dashwood didn’t seem in the slightest bit phased as the press corp deepened several impressive ruts in his woods in an effort to unsettle the beast ? in fact he looked a lot like a boy with a new toy as he tried out some of Barrus’s other kit, principally back hoes, tracked mini-diggers and trench cutters, while his keeper, Stretch, watched on in amusement as the piles of earth grew larger. Stretch already uses the Cub Cadet on the estate and is mightily impressed. My own impressions were favourable too. With all round independent suspension, a sprung driver’s seat and other features, zipping down rocky tracks or bumpy ground was a great deal more comfortable than in our old Series III Land Rover ? as it should be. The Landy had leaf spring technology from a different era. That said, the Cub Cadet was a great deal smoother than a lot of newer 4x4s and it certainly took to the dirt with relish.
A lot of thought goes into the latest UTVs. For example, the Big Country’s load-bed is conveniently pallet-sized – very handy for feeding rounds or moving water tanks – and it’s powered by a three-cylinder diesel, making it cheap to run. Like its close competitor, the Kubota RTV900, you can buy one in camo colours too, meaning it’s less glaringly obvious on a shoot day or when out lamping than the day-glo yellow version designed for the construction and agricultural industries.
In comparison with the traditional ride-on ATV, these bigger machines have distinct advantages ? passenger-carrying, load-carrying, diesel engines and so on. I know they’ve been around for years, with machines like the Kawasaki Mule having been in the market for a long time, but more and more manufacturers are looking to get in on the act. I predict that, on larger estates, these bigger machines will become a far more common sight in a very short space of time as they steal sales off smaller quad bikes. Certainly a trip round next week’s CLA Game Fair will give you a good idea of just how much machinery there is out there on the market.
There’s a downside. They’re not all that cheap. Typically over £8,000 (not including VAT), they are a fair chunk more than a medium-sized quad. Which begs the question ? do you shell out for a dedicated rufty-tufty off-road tool which has practical advantages over a quad or do you spend it instead on something like a second-hand Disco or Defender, a vehicle which will, at least, take you to the shops?
It’s horses for courses, but looking at the state of my bank balance, it’s simply not a problem I’ll be losing sleep over!