Vehicles are a lifeline for people living in the outback, so they need to be durable, reliable and have enough road clearance for unpaved roads. Unfortunately, most 4WD SUVs are oriented toward town driving and don’t have the robust mechanicals, reliability or road clearance required for outback driving.
So in this blog, we are going to look at the 7 best 4WD SUVs for the Outback in 2022. These are the vehicles designed to take the rough and tumble of bush driving. They have bullet-proof reliability, extra ground clearance and lots of modern technology to keep the car moving in difficult conditions.
1. Toyota LandCruiser 300
No list of outback-friendly vehicles would be complete without mentioning the mighty Toyota LandCruiser. The favoured vehicle of ranch owners, bush rangers and quarrymen alike. The LandCruiser is renowned for its bullet-proof reliability, off-road stability and carnivorous interior.
The latest LandCruiser 300 series was launched in 2021 and pretty much carries on where the previous generation left off. Power is now provided by a smooth-revving V6 diesel that delivers a respectable 8.9L/100km, while inside, the interior has moved upmarket with plush leather seats and lots of the latest safety tech.
Unbeatable off-road ability
Smooth V6 engine
Luggage space is limited when the third row of seats is in use
Has pretty short service intervals considering where this car is expected to live
Some safety systems are a little overzealous
The Ford Everest is well-loved for its no-nonsense approach to off-roading. Updated for 2022, the latest version has seen its biggest upgrade ever with a more refined drivetrain, improved fuel economy and a carnivorous well-equipped interior. These changes should finally give it the oomph to compete with the larger and more refined Land Cruiser 300.
The exterior of the new Everest also takes cues from the Land Cruiser, with its large imposing front end and squared-off shoulders. The car feels more muscular as a result, but it's inside where the biggest changes have been made. The car is more spacious and luxurious than ever before, although the downside of this is that it’s more expensive as well.
Impressive V6 engine
A comfortable ride with excellent handling
High quality well equipped interior
Packed full of safety tech
A lot bigger than previous generations
The engine sounds great but is noisy
No manual transmission option
The Jeep Gladiator is the first time Jeep has sold a ute in the Australian market. Based on the popular XJ Cherokee, the Gladiator has retro jeep styling but combines it with a rugged off-road chassis and a spacious interior. But best of all, there is a huge flat deck which is useful for stowing mountain bikes, surfboards and camping gear.
The Gladiator is powered by a petrol V6 engine which provides adequate power, but we can’t help but feel the V6 diesel engine would have been a better option. That said, the petrol engine is reasonably fuel-efficient at 12.4l/100km. And it's connected to a huge 83L fuel tank which should provide enough range for the most remote of outback adventures.
Retro Jeep styling
No diesel option available
Not the best ANCAP rating
4. Nissan Pathfinder 2022
The Nissan Pathfinder is a stalwart of the Nissan range, renowned for its durability and value for money but not for its driving ability or refinement. The Pathfinder was always a choice made by the head, not the heart, but that’s set to change with the launch of the all-new 2022 Pathfinder.
The engine is all that remains of the old car. This has been updated to make it more fuel-efficient, but it still feels outdated compared to rivals. The body however is all-new and houses a much-improved interior. This is more spacious than previous Pathfinders and it comes with an extra row of seats, turning the Pathfinder into a true 7-seater.
Excellent value for money
7 and 8-seater option
Good towing capacity
Engine feels outdated
The Outlander is Mitsubishi’s most popular SUV in Australia, but this is more of an urban SUV, built for the school run rather than exploring the desert. If you’re looking for a serious SUV with mountain crossing credentials, then you’ll need to look at the Pajero. This is powered by a 2.4L turbo-diesel engine that offers excellent 8L/100km fuel consumption for a car of its size.
Inside the Pajero is starting to look its age, but it still comes well equipped with 7 airbags, a large LCD touchscreen, 360º camera, an eight-speaker sound system and a digital instrument cluster. There is also a third row of seats making this a cost-effective family 4x4r. While it may be getting old, the Pajero’s excellent off-road ability and value for money mean it's still worth a look.
Good value for money
Clever AWD system
Cramped outdated cabin
Handling not as good as the competition
The original Land Rover Defender was the archetypal outback vehicle. Look hard and you’ll still see them going about their business. But Land Rover launched the much-anticipated Defender replacement in 2020. The all-new Defender is available in short and long wheelbases and comes with a range of petrol and diesel engines.
Inside, Land Rover has focused on practicality over luxury. The interior is spacious and feels well put together, but you won’t find luxuries like carpets, which is a bonus on dusty outback trails. On the road, the Landy's trick air suspension provides a magic carpet ride on the smooth stuff, but can easily handle rocks, rivers and even mountains when asked.
Go anywhere off-road ability
V8 petrol engine thirsty
For the final place on the list, we looked at the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon, but we decided to go a little left-field with the Ineos Grenadier instead. That’s because the G-Wagon feels more at home in Surrey Hills than Kalgoorlie these days, while the Grenadier looks like a vehicle specifically designed with the outback in mind.
The Grenadier is designed to handle any off-road driving you can throw at it. Think glaciers rather than streams and mountains rather than hills. While the BMW-derived engines provide more than enough power and have proven reliability, inside, the spacious interior is utilitarian, so it should be durable, and there is loads of luggage space as well.
Go anywhere performance
Refined on the road
BMW-derived petrol and diesel engines
A lack of dealer support
The outback is an unforgiving place for vehicles. The above 7 4WDs are not your average school-run SUVs. They are built to handle the rough terrain of outback driving but remain well-mannered and safe on paved roads. And most important of all, they have bulletproof reliability, something that most country buyers desire over anything else.
So if you are in the market for a reliable 4WD, you won’t go far wrong with any of the above. But which car is right for you? Our advice would be to make a shortlist of three and take each of them out on a test drive. Then you can make a more informed decision based on your family's needs.
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