NZ 4WDing: Snow, Mud & Water Crossings in Ford Ranger & Everest
We joined Ford’s All Terrain Drive to explore the tracks around Queenstown, NZ
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We’ve worked closely with Ford Australia over the years and have great respect for their commitment to Aussie 4WDers like us. As a global manufacturer, they of course operate across a number of markets, but when it comes to the latest Ranger and Everest, the leap forward in capability and comfort was heavily influenced by market research, innovate engineering and extensive testing in our neck of the woods.
Don’t get us wrong, we love 4X4s of all shapes and sizes at Club 4X4, but with Ford being Australia’s largest automotive employer, we value our partnership that lets us take a peek behind the scenes as passionate 4WDers who like to nerd out about the latest developments. So, it’s no surprise that we jumped at the invitation to pick the brains of Ford’s engineers while driving their latest 4X4 releases on snow and ice before hitting the dirt in the mountains around Queenstown, New Zealand.
Outside of Ford’s staff, we were joined by fellow 4WDer Ty Fenwick (YouTube and Instagram) along with Richie from Man of Many and Barclay from Daily Mail Australia. We weren’t alone though, with Ford flying in staff and content creators from South Africa, Thailand and the UAE, and of course some New Zealanders, including a new mate in Kyle from Barekiwi, who pumps out some stunning adventure content.
First stop was the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds (SHPG), a dedicated snow and ice driving complex near Cadrona Alpine Resort. SHPG is open for roughly 10 weeks a year to cater for private vehicle manufacturer testing and other driving experiences in a controlled environment. It is the only winter driving testing facility open between June and September when Sweden’s lakes and other northern hemisphere facilities are fully thawed for summer, so it was pretty cool to get an inside look at this facility that’s frequented by prototype vehicles.
SHPG has been Ford’s southern-most test facility for over 20 years since development of the AWD Territory Turbo in 2005. It was instrumental in calibrating their ‘Slippery’ driving mode, which we’ll dive a bit more deeply into in a later article. It’s worth mentioning here though as we were all genuinely caught off guard by the instruction to turn all electronic assistance off, turn the rear diff lock on and go have fun. Sure, it made for some great footage and photos, but it also proved that drivers can have as much or as little electronic assistance as they’d like to tackle off-road terrain. Plus it was a great sign of confidence in the vehicles that Ford were happy to let us loose under the expert instruction of professional drivers.
As someone who grew up around performance cars and motorsport before finding 4WDing later in life, I lapped up the experience and was particularly intrigued by the drastic difference in traction between grippy snow and slipper ice. This firmly placed snow driving on next year’s winter 4X4 trip list, so if you’ve got any favourite spots, we’d love to hear from you!
After spending the night in Arrowtown, next up was a trek into the hills to visit historic Carricktown in the Young Australian Historic Reserve. Other than the remnants of a stone cottage, there’s little left of the mountainous mining settlement, but the relatively steep and winding rocky track to reach it via Quartzville Road was great fun with a fantastic view of Bannockburn below.
Winding back down to Bannockburn Rd, we headed south towards NZ’s highest public road and famous 4X4 overlanding track, The Nevis Road, but instead branched off towards the west on Hawksburn Road to explore the mountains behind Clyde Dam. This is an area we’d definitely love to explore further if in the Queenstown area with access to a 4WD as there were endless tracks branching off the main gravel road route that ranged from mild to wild with plenty of mud and rocks and ruts and hill climbs, all against the breathtaking snowcapped backdrop of The Remarkables mountain range.
After a quick bite to eat in the quaint Clyde village, which is well worth a stop, we wound our way through Cromwell Gorge to circle back to Arrowtown. Our final challenge was a number of water crossings along the Arrow River, with a few heavily modified 4X4s pushing on past our turnaround point to reach Macetown which is now another one on our hit list to explore further.
The icy mud on the Arrow River’s banks saw some slippery entries and exists, but the rocky bottom and clear flowing water made it a great spot to practice water crossing techniques. By the time we returned to Arrowtown, everyone had smiles from ear to ear after a successful 2daysat Ford’s All Terrain Drive NZ, filled with the joy and satisfaction that comes from true off-road adventures with new experiences found by exploring behind the wheel of a 4X4.
This adventure also gave us the opportunity to chat at length with the Ford engineers who were heavily involved in the latest 4X4 developments for Ranger and Everest, so we’ll be diving into a few of the interesting features that we’ve been experimenting with across this trip and our own off-road adventures. If you have any questions you’d specifically like addressed, we’d love to dig deeper to find an answer for you.
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