Top 5 – 4×4 Tourers
When it comes to 4×4 touring you want a vehicle that’s as good on the road as it is off it. It needs to be comfortable, capable and reliable, and able to fit you and all of your gear… and maybe haul a camper or caravan.
EVERYONE HAS different priorities when it comes to choosing a 4×4 to suit their needs, so here are our Top 5 4x4s in five different categories: large, midsize, ute-based, compact and ute.
Large 4×4 wagon: Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series
Whether you’re driving through the heart of the continent or towing a caravan on the big lap, the Toyota LandCruiser 200 is the large 4×4 wagon to do it in. Available with a choice of V8 engines – a potent 4.6-litre petrol engine or a stump-pulling 4.5-litre twin-turbo-diesel – the Cruiser has the grunt to get the job done. It’s the oiler that’s our pick as the best all-rounder, especially for off-roaders who want the economy and touring-range benefits of a diesel engine, and for caravanners who want the pulling power that a stonking 650Nm provides, and a 3500kg braked towing capacity.
The 200 Series TDV8 is available in GX, GXL, VX and Sahara trim levels, all with a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard safety equipment across the 5-star ANCAP LandCruiser range includes Toyota’s Multi Terrain ABS, vehicle stability control and active traction control. The VX and Sahara models are equipped with Toyota’s Kinetic Dual Suspension System (KDSS), while top-spec Sahara also has a blind spot monitor with cross traffic alert, and a pre-collision safety system.
Across range the 200 Series is equipped with Crawl Control with Off-road Turn Assist, and Hill Start Assist Control. The five-seat GX has 17-inch steel wheels while the eight-seat GXL gets 17-inch alloys, as well as privacy glass, side steps, smart entry and start, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, reversing camera, 6.1-inch touchscreen display, satnav, LED headlamps with auto levelling and LED clearance lamps. On top of these features the VX is equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select (MTS) system, rain-sensing wipers, four-zone climate control air conditioning, a 9-inch Electro Multi Vision touchscreen, bi-LED headlamps with dynamic auto levelling, daytime running lamps, moon roof, leather accented trim and faux woodgrain interior bits, power adjustable front seats and front and rear parking sensors. The top-spec Sahara adds automatic high beam, front- and second-row seat heaters, rear-seat entertainment system, cool box, driver’s seat memory function, power tailgate, four-camera multi-terrain monitor, and active cruise control.
On the road the LandCruiser is supremely comfortable, with plush suspension and good isolation from road and wind noise. Performance from the TDV8 is impressive given the Cruiser’s hefty kerb weight (2640-2740kg), and there’s a claimed 200kW on tap at 3600rpm and 650Nm from 1600-2600rpm. As you’d expect from such a heavy vehicle, there’s a fair bit of body roll when cornering, but the KDSS fitted to VX and Sahara models overcomes this trait without adversely affecting wheel travel when driving off-road.
The Cruiser features a full-time 4×4 system with a lockable centre diff and a two-speed transfer case that provides a low-range reduction of 2.618:1. While overall low-range in first gear is a relatively tall 34.109:1, the torque-multiplying effect of the auto combined with the engine’s 650Nm peak ensures there’s plenty of grunt to climb steep hills and amble over off-road obstacles. There’s also loads of wheel travel, especially at the rear, and the Cruiser offers good ground clearance for off-road work.
For those who need the space offered by a large wagon, the Cruiser is the king of the full-size 4x4s. It offers class-leading towing capacity, supreme on-road comfort and fantastic off-road capability.
- TDV8 LandCruiser 200 GX:$78,261+ORC
- TDV8 LandCruiser 200 GXL: $88,671+ORC
- TDV8 LandCruiser 200 VX: $98,881+ORC
- TDV8 LandCruiser 200 Sahara: $120,301+ORC
Midsize 4×4 wagon: Toyota Prado
The Toyota Prado has always been one of the most popular midsize 4×4 wagons on the market and the latest model is better than ever, offering impressive on-road comfort and handling, improved 3000kg maximum braked towing capacity, additional safety features and revised equipment levels.
The Prado has a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. The GX and GXL models are available with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, while the higher grade VX and Kakadu models are available with the auto only. The GX is a five-seater (seven-seats are optional) while the other grades all come standard with seven seats.
The current Prado has a 5-star ANCAP rating. All auto models in the Prado range now come with Toyota Safety Sense+ which includes Pre-Collision Safety system with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beam and Active Cruise Control. Autos also get Downhill Assist Control and Hill-start Assist Control. All models are equipped with a reversing camera, seven SRS airbags, Vehicle Stability Control and Active-Traction Control, while the GXL adds safety features such as rear parking sensors, LED headlamps, LED fog lamps and daytime running lights. In addition the VX and Kakadu also have a auto-levelling headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alerts and Panoramic and Multi-Terrain monitor. Exclusive to Kakadu is Toyota’s active suspension (called Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System), Multi-Terrain Select System, Crawl Control and Back Guide Monitor.
All Prados autos are now equipped with an 8-inch colour touchscreen display with Toyota Link and satnav, while autos also score what Toyota calls an Electroluminescent combimeter with multi-information display. The GX and GXL are fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels while the GXL also has roof rails and side steps, privacy glass, three-zone climate control air conditioning and rear differential lock (auto only). The VX adds 18-inch alloys, illuminated side steps, leather accented seats, heated seats (front and second rows), ventilated front seats, cool box and premium sound system. Kakadu also has a moon-roof, power fold-down third-row seats and rear-seat entertainment system.
The Prado’s engine makes claimed peak outputs of 130kW at 3400rpm and 420Nm at 1400rpm (manual)/450Nm at 1600rpm (auto). The six-speed auto offers smooth shifts but can be a little fussy on the open road, swapping between fifth and sixth at highway speeds. While on-road performance isn’t scintillating, the Prado accelerates well enough, and the engine is relatively quiet and smooth. Autos can now tow up to 3000kg (max. for the manual is 2500kg) and the Prado offers a decent payload capacity between 535-675kg depending on model grade. And a 150-litre fuel capacity ensures the Prado offers excellent touring range.
Thanks in part to good rear axle articulation and relatively good front wheel travel, the Prado is a strong performer off the road. Plenty of ground clearance, decent low-range gearing, electronic traction control and a standard rear diff lock (in GXL auto and above) add to capability when the tracks turn rough.
When it comes to midsize 4×4 wagons the conservative yet effective Prado certainly is hard to beat, both on the road and off it.
- Prado GX manual: $54,050+ORC
- Prado GXL manual: $61,190+ORC
- Prado VX auto: $74,901+ORC
- Prado Kakadu auto: $85,611+ORC
Ute-based 4×4 wagon: Ford Everest
Around 25 years ago the market was awash with ute-based 4×4 wagons such as the Toyota 4Runner, Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Raider, but there was no disguising their commercial-vehicle origins. As the popularity of 4×4 wagons grew, these ute-based offerings disappeared and more refined vehicles took their place, but recently the ute-based offerings have made a comeback, with several models on offer including the Ford Ranger, Holden Trailblazer, Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubisho Pajero Sport and Toyota Fortuner.
Of the current generation ute-based 4×4 wagons, the Ford Everest is our pick. Packed with high-tech features and endowed with a well-sorted chassis and suspension set-up, the Everest disguises its commercial-vehicle origins well. There are three 4×4 model grades (Ambiente, Trend and Titanium) and they all score a five-star ANCAP rating, with standard safety features including Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control, Rollover Mitigation, Trailer Sway Control, and dual front airbags, side chest airbags, side head airbags (curtains) and driver knee airbag.
The Everest offers strong on-road performance courtesy of its impressive 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that makes a claimed 143kW of power at 3000rpm and 470Nm of torque from 1750-2500rpm. The engine is mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed auto transmission and tall overall gearing provides relaxed highway cruising. It has a 3000kg braked-trailer towing capacity and a generous 757kg payload.
The seven-seat Everest offers class-leading ride comfort and a sizeable and well-equipped interior. Standard features on the base-spec Ambiente include 17-inch alloy wheels, a 10-speaker audio system with 8-inch colour touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and a reversing camera. The Trend adds 18-inch alloys, Driver Assist Technology (adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert and lane keeping system), satnav, automatic high beam and a power tailgate. In addition the top-spec Titanium features leather trim, power operated third-row seats, panoramic sunroof, Active Park Assist, Cross Traffic Alert, tyre pressure monitor, LED headlights and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Off-road capability is impressive. The Everest offers 225mm of ground clearance, good wheel travel, great low-range gearing, an effective electronic traction control system and a rear differential lock. It also features a terrain Management System with different modes for different off-road conditions, including Snow/Grass/Gravel, Sand and Rock modes.
Ford has pitched the Everest to compete with the likes of Toyota’s Prado, so it costs more than the other ute-based 4×4 wagon offerings, but if it’s within your reach it really is one of the best 4×4 tourers on the market.
- Everest Ambiente: $52,990+ORC
- Everest Trend: $58,990+ORC
- Everest Titanium: $74,701+ORC
Compact 4×4: Jeep Wrangler
Touring in a two-door Jeep Wrangler? You’ve got to be kidding, right? Well, plenty of people do it, especially when there’s off-road driving to be done at the end of a day’s drive. And the Wrangler is one of the few compact 4x4s left on the market with genuine off-road capability.
The new JL Wrangler is just about to hit the Aussie market, so now could be a great time to grab a bargain on an outgoing JK Wrangler, which is available in Sport and Overland spec levels. The two-door Wrangler is only available with Jeep’s 3.6-litre petrol V6 engine, which can be mated to a six-speed manual gearbox or five-speed auto in Sport trim, while the Overland is only available with the auto.
Safety features on the Wrangler include traction control, electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, trailer sway control, two front and two side air bags, a tyre pressure monitor and a roll bar. The Overland model also has a reversing camera, auto headlamps and rear window defroster. When tested in 2012, the two-door JK Wrangler received a four-star ANCAP rating.
There’s no doubt the Wrangler is pretty basic. The Sport has features such as 18-inch alloy wheels, removable doors, a removable soft-top, fold-flat windscreen, cruise control, fog lamps and washout interior. The Overland scores leather seats, heated front seats, removable hardtop, 6.5-inch touchscreen with satnav, premium audio system and side steps. There are loads of optional accessories in the Mopar catalogue, from chrome bits, off-road gear including rock sliders, diff covers and lift kits, and even bumpers, bonnets and tow hooks.
On-road performance form the 3.6-litre V6 is reasonably good but you have to keep revs up to get the best out of the engine. Claimed peak power is 209kW at 6350rpm and torque peaks at 347Nm at 4300rpm. The five-speed auto is the pick of the transmissions as it helps to mask the engine’s lack of low-rpm torque. Although Jeep claims an average combined fuel consumption figure of 11.3L/100km, you can expect the Wrangler to be thirstier than that; after all, it has the aerodynamic profile of a brick outhouse. With live axles front and rear and a relatively short wheelbase, the Wrangler’s on-road ride quality is choppy, but the coil springs do a reasonable job of soaking up bumps. Around town (and on bush tracks) the Wrangler is quite manoeuvrable thanks to its compact dimensions (it’s only 4223mm long and has a 10.4m turning circle).
It’s off-road that the Wrangler shines. It has an impressive 241mm of ground clearance, good approach, departure and ramp-over angles, a 760mm wading depth, good axle articulation and decent low-range reduction.
As a two-up tourer the Wrangler is more capable and practical than you might think. It’s probably not the sort of vehicle you’d want to take on an around-Oz adventure or a remote-area expedition, but what compact 4×4 is? The Wrangler is a competent compact 4×4 on the road and the most capable compact 4×4 off it. And if you need more space there’s always the long-wheelbase four-door Unlimited version.
- Wrangler Sport manual: $38,990+ORC
- Wrangler Sport auto: $40,990+ORC
- Wrangler Overland: $49,990+ORC
Dual-cab 4×4 ute: Volkswagen Amarok V6
With its potent turbo-diesel V6 engine mated to a slick eight-speed auto transmission, the Volkswagen Amarok is the best performing 4×4 dual-cab ute on the road. It’s also one of the best handling utes, one of the most comfortable and, despite a lack of low-range gearing, it’s still a very capable vehicle off the road.
The Amarok V6 is available in Sportline, Highline and Ultimate trim levels. All are equipped with safety features including driver and passenger front and side air bags, electronic traction control, stability control, trailer sway control, active roll-over protection, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers and fog lights. The Highline and Ultimate add bi-Xenon headlights with daytime running lights and auto self-levelling, as well as front fog lights with static cornering lights.
Standard equipment on the Sportline includes 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, cruise control, 6.3-inch touchscreen with Apple Carplay/Android Auto and monochrome multi-function display. The Highline adds an alarm, sidesteps, sports bar, tyre pressure monitor and satnav. In addition the top-spec Ultimate scores illuminated sidesteps, a longer sports bar, a tub-liner coating, 19-inch or 20-inch alloy wheels, a colour multi-function display, aluminium-finish accelerator and brake pedals, steering wheel gear-shift paddles, leather trim, 14-way adjustable power driver’s seat and heated front seats.
The Amarok V6 delivers on-road performance like no other ute thanks to its 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine that makes a claimed 165kW of power from 2500-4500rpm and 550Nm of torque from 1500-2500rpm. The engine also features an overboost function that’s claimed to push peak power up to 180kW for limited periods under full acceleration, and Volkswagen claims a 0-100km’t time of just 7.9 seconds for the Amarok V6. The eight-speed auto transmission is sublime in its shifts, which are barely perceptible on the road at partial throttle.
As well as strong performance the Amarok offers the liveliest handling of the current crop of dual-cab 4×4 utes. It has a wide track that limits body roll, delivers good steering feedback and offers a compliant ride. It’s also a quiet and relaxed tourer on the open road and a claimed combined fuel consumption figure of 9.0L/100km is impressive considering the performance on offer.
Off-road capability is impressive given the Amarok’s lack of low-range gearing. Features include an effective traction control system with Off-Road ABS with Hill Descent, and a Hill Holder function. Stated ground clearance is only 192mm but you wouldn’t know it when driving the Amarok V6 off-road. Good approach, departure and ramp-over angles help in this regard. Wading depth is low for the class at 500mm, but an aftermarket snorkel would soon sort that out.
The Amarok’s tray is impressive; the widest in class (1222mm between the wheel arches) and able to accept a full-width European pallet. It’s also reasonably long at 1555mm.
Sitting behind the wheel of the Amarok V6 you can easily forget it’s a commercial vehicle. It is a comfortable long-distance mile eater with excellent on-road manners and it surprises with its off-road capability.
- Amarok V6 Sportline: $53,990+ORC
- Amarok V6 Highline: $59,990+ORC
- Amarok V6 Ultimate: $74,109+ORC