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.
Sherwoods have almost always been built on Toyota chassis and the 2021 Conqueror was the first to ride on the latest generation of the SR5 4WD HiLux. Our mates at iMotorhome had a preview.
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.
The Outback drifted somewhat from its off-roading roots in recent years, but the 2015 model had enhanced 4WD capability. Upgrades were introduced in March 2016 and in March 2021.
Land Rover Discovery Sport was the first member of the new Discovery family and featured optional 5+2 seating in a footprint no larger than that of the previous Freelander 2. Mild hybrid versions were announced in 2020.
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 third-generation Isuzu Ute D-MAX retains a three-litre, turbocharged and intercooled diesel for 2021.
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.
WAGONS – LARGE
In 2017, INEOS chairman Jim Ratcliffe, a car enthusiast and experienced adventurer, identified a gap in the market for a stripped back, utilitarian, hard-working 4×4, engineered for modern day compliance and reliability. It didn’t hurt that Jim Ratcliffe is also Britain’s richest man.
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.
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.