Australia's Best Performing Four Wheel Drive

Published: 15th November 2011
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According to the judging criteria for the Australia’s Best Cars award, there were some fairly strong competitors in the four wheel drive class. While the winner for both the 2009 and the 2010 model years was a Land Rover Discovery, there were plenty of other competitors who hit the market in 2010 that were ready to leave the city pavement for wider pastures.

With Australia containing so many destinations that require 4wd, it is easy to see why the country is a hot market for car manufacturers. In the past 20-30 years, off road vehicles have been viewed as boxy, rugged rock-crawlers or utility trucks with little to no amenities, including no climate control. Fortunately, today there is a far more luxurious selection that the aged beaters from the 70’s and 80’s. Along with the Land Rover, Range Rover, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan have introduced a plethora of selections into the Australian marketplace that offer comfort and class along with their four wheel drive capabilities.

If those selections are still not luxurious enough for the upper crust of Australia, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen also offer new four wheel drive models that are generally kept on the tame pavement. The BMX X series (X3 and X5) are two models of SUV that are fully capable of hitting the dirt trails outside of town. Although, with price tags running in $65,000 and $81,000 for new models, owners may want to restrict their running gear to pavement expeditions only.

Both Mercedes and Porsche offer off road capable vehicles, but again with prices running into the $100,000 to $200,000 range, owners may want to keep these vehicles in the garage or in the city. For a more affordable model of new four wheel drive, consumers may want to look at the Volkswagen Touareg. The Touareg was designed and built in conjunction with the Porsche Cayenne, so there are more than a few similarities with interior styling. And, of course, Volkswagen owners are more likely to actually run their rigs in the Outback. This means looking for a used one should include checking for off road mishaps and undercarriage damage.

That being said for the higher end luxury four wheel drive vehicles available in Australia, there are still the Land Rover Discover 4, the Mitsubishi Pajero and the Nissan Patrol that are well within most consumer’s price ranges. The Land Rover is at the higher end of this selection, but did win in most all of the judging categories for Australia’s Best Off Road Vehicle.

One of the most notable advantages to any off road capable vehicle is the ability to leave the pavement for fun, or for necessity. Rainy seasons, flooding, mud and drought conditions can sometimes even make city street driving hazardous for normal cars. With firm 4wd capabilities, any of the options on the market today can easily handle light to moderate rough trail conditions. One of the disadvantages of owning an off road vehicle, and any off road owner would probably agree, is the cost of repairs and maintenance.

Repairs and maintenance tend to be more expensive for four wheel drive capable vehicles, due mainly to the quantity of parts and operating systems that accompany four wheel drive. With care and regular maintenance, however, off road vehicle can last for many years and provide lasting memories and adventures. With the sheer number of off roading opportunities available in the Australian countryside, researching and purchasing a 4wd capable vehicle should be on anyone’s list of things to do this year.

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