Tracking down the truth
A simple guide to finding what’s the best 4WD for you.
You might think a motoring journalist could easily answer the question “Which four-wheel-drive should I buy?” Journalists are driving new models and writing reviews on a regular basis, the best option should be easy to identify. Shouldn’t it?
Actually, it’s probably as easy to answer as working out the length of the invisible string. But there are some guidelines to follow.
Firstly, ignore the hype unless you believe you can toss a vehicle off a cliff and have it wash back in on the tide in perfect condition.
Secondly, ignore anyone who has only ever owned one brand of vehicle and would never buy anything else, as “all other brands are rubbish”.
The best vehicle on the market at any given time varies, not just between manufacturers but based on each buyer’s requirements.
Each year, 4WD magazines road test the latest offerings and choose 4WDs of the Year and not only do different makes, and models take out the awards over the years but the magazines split the categories to reflect different purchasers.
Your first step is to work out what type of 4WD meets your needs. Apart from comfortably packing in the family and the camping gear, if you’re planning on towing a camper or caravan, make sure the vehicle is capable of safely handling the extra workload.
Define your budget and test-drive each possible vehicle in your price range, even if you’ve never bought that brand before. Price vehicles you like, including after-market accessories. While a bullbar price may be relatively consistent across vehicles, pay particular attention to costs that you will incur only on a particular vehicle.
For example, the standard suspension of some vehicles will not be sufficient for towing a heavy van and will require an upgrade even on a vehicle straight off the showroom floor.
You may be surprised when comparing the bottom-line cost of a fully kitted-out rig — the initially cheaper vehicle might turn out to be the most expensive.
Once your choice is narrowed to vehicles in your price range with a driving style that suits, plus the right fit and feel for the family, it’s time to read the reviews. Don’t forget the 4WD of the Year may not actually suit you best if what it does incredibly well is not your highest priority.
It may help to talk to 4WD clubs, a professional 4WD trainer or someone who has owned one of the vehicles you’re interested in.
Remember, you’ll be the person behind the wheel for many hours and if, for example, you plan to do a lot of touring you’ll want a comfortable and economical vehicle. So don’t get talked into a highly modified off-road warrior by mates who’s off-road style is quite different to yours.
Drive your own path.
© The West Australian
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