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.
There are several different 4WD drive systems in the marketplace and many 4WD buyers are confused about the relative merits of each type.
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 two years.
An Australian manufacturer and tradesman – and also a grey nomad – is demonstrating that fun and comfortable family life on the road doesn’t have to be expensive.
With the release of the pop-top-roof ‘Beach’ variant and the availability of after-market campervan furniture for the Transporter there’s renewed interest in the Crafter’s smaller sibling.
HEAVY DUTY OFF-ROAD VEHICLES
Japanese 4×4 trucks from Isuzu, Fuso and Hino have missed out on many of the dynamic safety initiatives that their 4×2 brethren enjoy. Also, there are glaring crew-safety issues with all Japanese 4WD truck crew cabs.
The volunteers who risk their lives and give up their time to defend life and property from disaster deserve our highest praise and long-postponed remuneration as well. The under-funded bushfire effort in this country is a national disgrace.
Well known light commercial chassis and suspension maker AL-KO has teamed up with German electric propulsion specialist company, Huber Automotive, to produce new hybrid chassis for light commercials and motorhomes, and an electric trailer chassis.
Suncamper’s Sherwood looks like a cross between a slide-on camper and a motorhome, but it’s a proper C-class motorhome, albeit a compact one. Our colleagues at iMotorhome took one on a bush excursion.
The production GV80 realises the vision of the GV80 Concept first shown at the 2017 New York auto show. The interior and exterior styling of GV80 was a collaboration between Genesis design studios located in South Korea, the United States and Germany.
The success of the Peugeot 2008 DKR race machine in the 2016 Dakar event has prompted some off-road enthusiasts to suggest that there may be a place for a 2WD to challenge the accepted ability of a 4WD for off-road touring. It’s not that simple.
UTES & CAB CHASSIS – LARGE
Released in mid-2018 the HSV-modified Chevrolet Silverado 2500 range comes with truck-diesel grunt.
Many industries are interested in zero-pollution electric vehicles – particularly underground mining – and the ubiquitous LandCruiser ute is an obvious candidate for electrification.
UTES & CAB CHASSIS – MEDIUM
The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LTZ Premium edition has been given the right hand drive treatment by HSV. Like all US-market ‘1500’ series utes it has limited payload of around 700kg, but can tow up to 4500kg.
Jeep has re-entered the Australian 4WD ute market after an absence of 35 years. The newly announced Gladiator is based on the Wrangler four-door, but with an extended wheelbase.
WAGONS – LARGE
The Bus 4×4 AWD conversion kit for the Toyota 300 Series Granvia features full time 4WD, high and low range gearing, and high ground clearance, putting this premium people mover into the large 4WD wagon category.
Based on LandCruiser 100 and 200 Series the Lexus 470 and 570 models have never achieved the Range Rover cache they obviously craved. However, they’e beautifully assembled machines with silky-smooth petrol V8 power.
WAGONS – MEDIUM
Mahindra is best known for its sturdy, great value for money Pik Up ute range, but the global-scale Indian company also makes a bargain-priced seven-seat wagon.
The 2019 SsangYong Rexton has been released with optimism from SsangYong Australia that it will do much better in the market than its predecessors did in the past.
WAGONS – SMALL
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.
Mitsubishi’s re-introduced three-door wagon lasted only four years, from 2007 until 2011. The current-shape three-door was available overseas from the introduction of the NM monocoque-body-chassis model in 2000, but wasn’t brought here until the 2006 NS re-skinned model.