4WD BUYERS GUIDE
Buying the right 4WD is critical and in this Buyers Guide, we highlight the strengths and weaknesses of new and used wagons, utes and heavy duty off-road vehicles. Also in the Buyers Guide are motorhomes and campervans. Many of the vehicles tested have video reports to let you see how they perform on and off road; and some also include tow tests. There are also suggestions for desirable bush modifications.
Every ute maker claims at least a nominal one-tonne payload figure and more than three tonnes trailer towing capacity for several 4WD utes in its range, but you need to check spec sheets and real-world tare weights for the true position.
Every vehicle maker is now committed to electrification in some form on all new models. For Australian-market 4WDs it’s a certainty that we’ll see ‘real’ 4WDs – vehicles with true off-road capability – in increasing numbers in the next few years.
Bus4x4 – best known for its 2WD to 4WD conversions for mining company transport – has introduced a high-ground clearance version of the HiAce range that’s also fitted with a two-speed transfer case and full-time 4WD.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has announced a collaboration with recreational vehicle manufacturer Jayco to create the Crafter Kampervan lifestyle vehicle.
HEAVY DUTY OFF-ROAD VEHICLES
Brilliant off road credentials and more than twice the payload of a ute ensured good business for this capable machine. A greatly expanded range was announced in Europe in late 2018, but suffered transfer case dramas and was sold only into specific low-speed operations. The rectified model is due for release in mid-2023.
We tend to think that the 4WD truck was a post-World War II innovation, but the history of 4WD trucks goes way back, to before World War I. An unknown number of very successful ‘Quad’ truck models were brought to Australia during and after WWI.
The Global Xplorer is a 4×4 motorhome, based on the Fuso Canter cab/chassis. It’s designed with rugged simplicity, for off-road adventures and prolonged, remote-area off-grid camping. Outback Travel Australia checked out the 2022 model.
Earthcruiser motorhomes are now built mainly on the Iveco Daily 4×4 platform. There are short-cab and crew-cab versions.
The Outback drifted somewhat from its off-roading roots in the early 2000s, but the 2015 model had enhanced 4WD capability. Upgrades were introduced in 2016 and 2021.
The Forester is a great on-road performer, with quite good fire trail capability. The 2016 Forester had some styling changes, a quieter, more comfortable cabin and upgraded instruments. In September 2018 Subaru launched the new generation of its top-selling Forester All-Wheel Drive wagon.
UTES & CAB CHASSIS – LARGE
Released in mid-2018 the HSV-modified Chevrolet Silverado 2500 range comes with truck-diesel grunt.
The Toyota LandCruiser has been the Australian bush’s favourite workhorse since Leslie Thiess (later Sir Leslie) introduced the first Land Cruisers to Australia in the 1970s. Evolution, not revolution, is the name of the game, but the 70 Series has now become much more complex..
UTES & CAB CHASSIS – MEDIUM
Although it had the smallest engine capacity in the crew-cab ute class the Amarok had ample grunt and was physically larger inside and in the cargo tray than HiLux and Navara crew-cab utes. A V6 option was released in October 2016 and a Walkinshaw special and long-wheelbase options in 2020. Off-road specials were released in early 2022.
The Ranger Mk II model was released in August 2015 and updated every year since. A high performance Raptor model and a two-litre bi-turbo with 10-speed auto option were announced in early 2018, and the two-litre option was extended in 2021. The 2023 model was released in mid-2022.
WAGONS – LARGE
Land Rover diehards were disappointed with the design of the post-2020 Defender that was more off-road capable Range Rover than Defender. The only carry-over signature from the original Defender was aluminium bodywork.
It’s no secret that the 2020 Defender was new bodywork and interior on a Range Rover / Land Rover chassis. The INEOS Grenadier is a true Defender replacement and will be available in July 2022.
WAGONS – MEDIUM
The last ‘real 4WD’ Nissan Pathfinder was released in June 2010, with increased performance from its 2.5-litre diesel engine. In 2014 the Pathie became a softroader, with almost no off-road ability. Now a more rugged Pathfinder is back.
The Range Rover Sport has been significantly upgraded for 2023, with the offering of an extended-range Electric Hybrid from launch, with 375kW (510bhp) and pure-electric driving range of up to 125km.
WAGONS – SMALL
The Suzuki Jimny was the replacement for the little Sierra and had more market appeal than its predecessor did. While being essentially as box-shaped as the Sierra the Jimny had much more style about it.
This Land Cruiser FJ25 was the very first Toyota 4WD purchased by Leslie Thiess. Enthusiasts refer to this model as the great grandfather of Toyota’s 70 Series, reckons Jim Gibson.