Giving you advice that you probably shouldn’t follow…
Unsealed 4X4 reader, meet Aaron. Aaron is in a pickle, and isn’t sure which 4WD he should buy. He’s new to the game, and keen to trade in his buzzbox for something good off-road – but without obliterating the budget:
“I’ve done some research for a 4WD for daily use. Basically, it’ll be used for very occasional towing, light trails on the weekends, but nothing crazy like rock-crawling. I’ve been looking into X-Trails, T30s and T31s, and older HiLuxes. I’m open to looking at anything that’ll be reliable as a solid daily car. I haven’t owned a 4WD personally but have had the opportunity to drive a few in the past. My history with cars has been mostly smaller Japanese cars but I really enjoy the 4WD scene and would like to get one in the near future.
I’m currently studying so I have a uni student budget; after selling my car looking at around $8,000-$10,000. I travel about 60-80 kays a day (well over 500 in a week). Medium traffic, generally highway traffic if I’m not caught on the M4 after work. Doesn’t have to be big, I won’t use more than five seats. Anything with some good room at the back would be perfect.”
Advice Number One: Evan.
Don’t forget the cardigan!
Hey Aaron, sounds like you are coming over to the dark side. Excellent.
Firstly, if you are planning on going off-road don’t even look at the X-Trails. They are soft-roaders and don’t have low-range gearing, meaning they will suck off-road. I’ve heard of people burning clutches out just driving on sand. A Suzuki Vitara or Grand Vitara would be a much better option there.
The old HiLuxes, they are awesome at the job they are designed to do. They are reliable, cheap and easy to fix and great off-road. I’ve owned three of them now. But they are slow. So, so, so, slow. And uncomfortable too; so that is something to think about. Also, don’t forget utes cost more money to register and insure as they are classed as commercial vehicles.
Something I’d be looking into personally is a 95 Series Toyota Prado. The base model came out with a 2.7L ‘3RZ’ motor which is bulletproof and quite torquey for the size. If you want more power, the next step up (and most common) is the 3.4L V6 (also a great motor). The V6 models also came out with twin fuel tanks, so they can hold about 180L of petrol which is great for four-wheel driving. I’d avoid the diesels; they are super expensive for what you get. Another option could be a Toyota Surf too… they are cheap and parts are everywhere for them. Get the 3.0L turbo-diesel version of that if you can, though.
Advice number two: Sam.
Cheap, underrated and a good size for touring.
When you start looking into it, there’s a surprising amount of options for a solid 4X4 wagon at that $10,000 mark. If I were you, I’d be having a good look at the Mitsubishi Challenger. You might be stretching the budget an extra $2,000 – but that will land you a PB model which I reckon is a big improvement over the previous PA. A ute-based wagon before ute-based wagons got cool… underneath is practically all Triton (a good thing provided you don’t overload the absolute buggery out of it).
The long-serving ‘4D56’ 2.5L turbo-diesel that lives under the bonnet has a good reputation, and will give you a good mix of economy and zip. I’d go the manual over auto, but that’s more of a personal preference. The leaf springs in the back are swapped for coils, but a locking diff will make you much, much more capable off-road. Think of it like a mini Pajero (good on-road, very underrated off-road and great value for money), and you get the idea.
Advice number three: Dex.
Keep it real!
While I agree with what the other lads have already said to you, at the end of the day it comes down to what you want out of your vehicle. There is ALWAYS a degree of compromise in every 4WD.
The HiLux is an awesome vehicle and one of the best all-rounders you can get, but about as comfortable as being on a nude beach with your dad, and (as Ev mentioned) about as fast as Clive Palmer in a marathon. The Challenger (or the Pajero is another great option) that Sam mentioned is bloody brilliant at just about everything… until you want to start modifying it and making it somewhat more exciting than a beige sweater. Surfs and Prados (that Ev mentioned) are in the same boat – both excellent all-rounders, but you will pay the Toyota tax (OE parts are bloody expensive); and they may be on the end of the scale where they’ve been rallied – so choosing the right one is essential unless you like skinned knuckles and swearing at broken parts (first sign you’re a legit 4WDer, by the way).
You outlined some key factors in your email there, but what are you willing to put up with/not have? For example, the other two guys who responded are both limp-wristed, make-up sporting, ‘couldn’t make it in the fluffing industry’ mild gentlemen who enjoy cars like Mitsubishis and Suzukis. They need their vanity mirrors and heated steering wheels and lots of little nooks to store their Chapsticks. If you’re not like that (not that there’s anything wrong with that), your options get much more limited… as in, down to one.
At the end of the day there is really only one 4WD that does everything in style and comfort, and actually produces fuel while you drive instead of burning it: The 40 Series LandCruiser. It’s 100% guaranteed to make you more attractive to women, it will turn you into the best driver off-road ever, and it will basically make you a better human being. If you had a gun to my head and had promised your mum that you wouldn’t make any more stupid automotive choices (hence ruling out the 40 Series), I’d have to agree with Ev and Sam… so I suggest you go and take a look at (and if possible have a drive of) each of the vehicles they mentioned. You’ll know pretty quickly which one fancies your tickle. Oh, and if you hear of any cheap 2JZs on the market – let me know.