THERE is a theory that the current male obsession with pick-up trucks is indicative of an increase in the number of we pathetic specimens falling victim to a mid-life crisis.
Well I do hope so because that would mean my life expectancy is at least 120 years and very possibly forever.
The truth is that for those with outdoors interests the development ofthe pick-up from a single cab hen shed with rear accommodation for sheep into a comfortable four door with attitude has changed its status and usefulness.
In my day to day countryside wanderings I see few, if any, agricultural neighbours having any sort of crisis other than over the collapse of the price of haylege and changes to the single farm premium.
I do, however, see a lot of gentlemen with dog boxes fixed to the load bed so that they can freeze their spaniels into submission. Nancy-boy Labradors demand a full cover and my German pointer has a rear gun turret.
The fact is that there is now a pick-up for every need including trips into town. And they cover a spread of pricing from the luxury versions of the Nissan Navara through to Isuzu D-Maxes directly out of a line dancing documentary.
For all-purpose use the value still lies with thepick-up you probably see most of, Mitsubishi's L200.
Last autumn Mitsubishi introduced the fifth series of the L200 and put the dog among the pheasants with a number of claims. Such as best in class performance, largest carrying capacity, fuel efficiency and the one which really matters, off-road ability.
So to put this to the test I loaded the dog and set out to thoroughly abuse a £23,799 range-topping Barbarian.
It has been pretty wet here the last few months, wet enough for some to consider investing in a fully-trained gun seal. This has meant that some off-roaders have had their frailties exposed as plainly as a trouserless veg fancier in a poly tunnel.
Enough to say that the foulest of woodland and field conditionsfailed toput a dint in the L200's performance. Four-wheel drive is switchable so you make your own choices and the Mitsubishi system remains one of the best around, coming complete with diff lock. Added to that is traction control and for those with a boating or other towing interest a stability assist function.
Of course one of the attractions of a modern pick-up is that it is useable as everyday transport without resorting to wearing a floppy hat and smock. Powered by a 2.5-litre turbo diesel engine the six-speed manual L200 is a refined enough drive and quick at 10.2 seconds to 62mph.
Consumption is claimed to be just under 36mpg but the reality will be in your own hands, or rather feet. Tax is £210 a year which is to be expected in. The world of big boys' toys.
None of that would be worth a carrot if the on-road ride was uncivilised. Suspension changes have improvedcomfort and better insulation has reduced noise levels. This is closer to an SUV experience than commercial.
With that in mind four orange boxes and the equipment of a cave would hardly fit the bill. The Barbarian comes well kitted out from leather seats to mood lighting. On a practical level there is also sat nav, a rear view camera and puddle lamps.
That is on top of the range wide features of air conditioning and the usual communications and entertainment package we have come to expect from our mod-con cars.
Safety equipment includes an impact absorption system and seven air bags as well as features to protect wandering pedestrians.
The L200 looks the part and provides a well-priced means of coping with life in the rough or on the road. What it is not is a sign that the driver is about to run off with a woman half his age because life's clock has reached 6pm.