Our Ultimate 4WD Tourer

Something I’ve researched for some months (me, hubby, as my wife is usually working) – a cost effective, capable 4WD that is reliable, comfortable and configurable for touring Australia. When I talk about touring Australia, I do not mean “The Big Lap.” I mean, truly touring Australia. State by State, town by town, try and find all the marvels that Australia has to offer.

Our Aim: We want to 4WD (not the silly stuff, just the necessary 4WD’ing to access amazing locations), camp (cough, glamp) for short stays, check-in to comfortable hotels where we choose, and eventually add a caravan the further we get from our Melbourne home. We plan to start small with Victoria, venture further out as we work out the kinks. By the time we leave Victoria on a 4WD holiday, we’ll have ourselves and the setup dialled in.

I’m ex Army, and spent years in outback Australia. Tough locations and situations. I have a good idea how hard Australia is when off the beaten track. We’re skirting 50’s now, and neither one of us want to be doing silly things. This experience will help me with build choices, especially as we plan to solo tour.

We know this stuff isn’t cheap, and have no intention of buying twice. We aren’t the weekend 4WD’er, pushing our vehicle to the limits until something breaks, nor constantly upgrading with the latest stuff. I like to do something once, get it right, then maintain and repair as required. This vehicle is to meet specific requirements, not look cool for driving around. This is our holidaying vehicle, not our daily driver.

So What’s Our Ultimate Tourer?

At this time, I know what it isn’t, rather than 100% what it is. I’ll get to all that below.

Vehicle Specifications

Vehicles must be dual cab, automatic, and configurable for canopy installation without modification.

VehicleKerbGVMPayloadGCMPrice
Ranger XL 3.22135320010656000$51,000
Navara RX 2.31817291010935910$39,000
Dmax SX 3.02016305010345950$46,000
BT50 XT 3.22036320011646000$42,000
Amarok V6 3.0209130809896000$50,000
* Triton GLX 2.4195529009455885$38,000
* Hilux SR 2.8207530009255850$52,000
Prices from CarSales.com.au as at July 2020 – Lowest price used
* Triton limited to 3100kg Tow Capacity – Hilux 3200kg

Landcruiser

Let me quickly touch on excluding Landcruiser. The LC79 is a manual only vehicle. Automatic conversion is approximately $30k. With a new price at $78k, our starting price is $108k. Lets be honest, the LC79 is a horrible choice for touring vehicle.

The LC200, being auto, and obviously far more comfortable as a tourer, is an additional $30k to cut and extend for a canopy to be added. New at $89k, our overall starting price would be $119k for a dual cab LC200.

Call me cynical, but I just don’t see the value in buying Landcruiser with the available choices and engineering affordable solutions available. The only thing Landcruiser bring to the table, is a readily available selection of spare parts in remote Australia. A roadside assistance package for $260 per annum surpasses the additional costs associated with buying Landcruiser.

RAM

If I was looking to buy Landcruiser, I would actually buy RAM. Factory, the 1500 / 2500 can meet all GVM and GCM requirements, depending on choices, ready for a canopy. The only problem is they’re also over the $100k starting cost, before suspension, canopy and so forth is added. Just not cost effective in my view. Yet more cost effective than Landcruiser.

A shortage of diesel options is the only problem, as you will only get diesel in many remote locations.

Excellent Ute Comparison

This has to be the most comprehensive ute comparison I’ve watched. Not a bunch of journalists giving their two cents, but industry experts going over each vehicles strengths and weaknesses. Each vehicle is put through its paces in all relevant areas that we as tourers will use the vehicle (road, dirt, 4wd, sand, towing, etc). I honestly hope they do this annually with each relevant model.

Process of Elimination

Triton is out due to its lack luster engine capacity and rear wheel placement in relation to its effect with rear weight distribution.

Navara is out due to its lack luster power. Totally useless for offroad or towing.

VW, as a company, I wouldn’t touch on principle, considering their megalomaniac antics with diesel-gate. Aside from the company, the vehicle has too many minor issues for Australian conditions for my liking. Even with its upcoming change to the Ranger driveline, the company is toxic.

Final Contenders

And we are left with four. Ranger, Hilux, Dmax & BT50. All of which have new models coming this year, or next. Not sure what Isuzu are doing with their pricing at time of writing, where the entry SX is $50k and top of the range LS-T is $52k. A little weird.

Whilst the Ranger 2.0lt is a great choice for on-road use and towing, it is well documented to be lacking essential power off-road, and worse when towing off-road. Also really uncertain about the 10 speed box. More gears are not better off-road.

My wife will be the deciding factor, test driving all upon release of the new versions. That may require waiting until the 2022 Ranger final specifications, hyping a turbo diesel 3.0lt V6 with 600nm.

All four are equally capable after modification, and all can be engineered to 3500kg GVM with 7000kg GCM, without too much hassle. All can be modified to 800+nm torque. Ride comfort and base features will be the decider.

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