Reader help: should I buy a 4WD wagon or ute?
4WD utes have come of age, but are they the right choice for everyone? One reader asks if he should choose either a 4WD wagon or ute.
Dear Practical Motoring, I’d like your advice on which 4WD to purchase next. I’ve got a 2011 STL Diesel Pathfinder at the moment (which I quite like), but I’m due to replace it in July.
I’m tossing up between a couple of vehicles as a replacement, a 2016 XLT MkII Ford Ranger and a 2016 GX Toyota Prado. I think I’ll keep whichever car I get for a number of years, possibly 8-10. We have a camper that is about 1400kgs loaded, which either 4WD will be able to easily handle.
If we upgrade, I don’t think we’ll get anything over 2.5 tonnes so the Prado will still be in play. What I’m stuck on is whether I’d prefer a Wagon or a Ute. One of my main considerations is 4WD ability with load carrying capacity a secondary consideration.
Which of these two cars is the best at off-roading? How big is the difference? And, do you think a GVM upgrade for the Prado would hinder it’s 4WDing capability if load carrying capacity were to become a problem? Thanks for your help.
Practical Motoring Says: The Prado is more off-road capable than the Ranger, no question about it. The Prado has better suspension flex, a shorter wheelbase, tighter turning circle and better ramp/approach/departure angles. Generally speaking, wagons are a bit more capable than utes off-road.
However, the Ranger is very capable off-road, particularly the PX Mk2 to which Ford made several important changes; improving the engine torque curve, improving traction control and allowing traction control to operate with the rear locking differential. In short, with a 2-inch lift and decent tyres both vehicles will get you anywhere a touring 4WD needs to go, so the difference in practice will come down to the driver. If it helps, I’d certainly say the Ranger would beat your ’11 Pathfinder off-road.
The Ranger is much superior to the Prado for load carrying, both in bulk and weight. It also has a higher tow rating, albeit the 3500kg rating isn’t real, a workable limit is more like 3000kg. So as the Ranger is capable enough for the needs you describe and can carry more, I’d recommend it for you. However, as it comes, dualcab utes need a bit of work for touring. A canopy is essential, and I’ve dustproofed my tailgate too. Some sort of cargo system is also a must. Or, forget the whole tub idea and fit a service body. On the other hand, the Prado will need a cargo barrier where the Ranger will not.
Basically, as usual for a touring 4WD, factor in the costs for each vehicle in totality, not just the purchase cost.
In 2016, anyone considering a wagon as an off-road tourer should take a good hard look at a ute because utes offer much greater payload, are simpler and more robustly engineered, can carry more bulk and you give away very little safety, road handling or off-road capability.
Also check out our run down on which Toyota 4WD to buy.