Flew three and a half hours to what might well have been another planet – Erfoud in southern Morocco, to drive the all-new Jeep Cherokee.
The terrain is barren, hostile and demanding. I have never driven across a desert before, and didn’t know what to expect – it was worse and more exciting than I could have imagined.
The most fun was tackling a 10km stretch over sand dunes, some as high as a four-storey building.
The new Cherokee, due out in June, has a fresh new exterior look, much improved on the current car, and it is longer by 27cm. The interior is also much improved – it’s not up to German quality yet, but getting there.
The 2.8-litre CRD diesel engine produced more than enough power despite what we put it through in 10 hours.
The 4x4 system coped admirably with all the conditions, although I did get it stuck going up a large sand dune.
The instructors did tell us to give it full power up the dune, and also back down to keep it going – I bottled it at the top when I couldn’t see anything apart from blue sky but they quickly towed us out and we were on our way again.
I have been on hundreds of new car launches, but never heard the words “amazing”, “incredible”, “unbelievable” and “fantastic” so many times in one day.
It takes a brave manufacturer to let people like me loose in a difficult and unpredictable part of the world, but the Cherokee did prove many times it is a true off-roader, with the comforts of a family saloon.
The 2.8 CRD Limited automatic priced at £25,595 will be the only model – another brave, yet sensible move.
It’s a remarkable vehicle but it’s a shame most will never get the chance to go on an adventure like I did.
The nearest most UK buyers will get to off-road will be the supermarket car park.
Drove the all-new Mazda6 – a proper production car, and not a pre-prod like I drove a few weeks ago.
The exterior design is very stylish, but it is the interior that has been improved on the current model.
It has now moved up in terms of fit and finish and really has a quality look and feel to it.
The current 6 is still a modern car and drives better than some newcomers to the market, so the new 6 has a difficult act to follow, but it has managed it.
All the engines have lower CO2 figures, so should appeal to more fleet drivers.
The most popular model will be the TS five-door, with a 2.0-litre diesel engine. Mazda has priced the estate at only £700 more than the hatchback and saloon, which has to be a winner.
It will sell fewer saloons and hatches and more estates, creating a more balanced number of derivatives on the used car market, which can only help residuals.