Desert driving new 4x4 utes

Submitted: Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 13:56
ThreadID: 103377 Views:9208 Replies:14 FollowUps:17
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Hi All,
With my 79 series Landcruiser getting old in the tooth and planning to do travel this great land when I retire, regrettably I think I will have to retire the old girl. My plan is to to carry an aluminium canopy on the back of a tray ute and pull a 3 tonne caravan. The idea is that the caravan will be stored somewhere safe while we head into the deserts for a week or two, then pick up the van and continue on the better roads.

Looking at the specs on the new utes... Isuzu D-Max, Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Mazda BT-50, they all look like they should be able to pull the van without any problems, and should carry the load.

BUT, speaking with friends, four wheel drive enthusiasts and travellers the opinion is generally that these new utes wouldn't stand up to the punishment of the likes of the Simpson Desert, Madigans Line and French's Line for example.

My question is, have any of you had any actual experiences with this range of utes in the desert. I am interested in good and bad reports, but would prefer actual accounts rather than opinions.

Thanks in anticipation.

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Reply By: mountainman - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 14:50

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 14:50
plenty of accounts online of dual cab utes with broken chassis..
all vehicles, haven't seen a hilux yet..... ha ha

especially snapping the chassis going over sand dunes...
not only the simo, but a normal beach

their chassis are too light..
basically cant see them lasting as long as a cruiser.

if only I had my pics on a public website storage thingy... post them up..
AnswerID: 515244

Follow Up By: landseka - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:23

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:23
There sure have been many cases of broken / bent chassis in Dual Cab utes, including Hi-lux.
In every case the cars have been grossly over loaded or incorrectly loaded with manufacturers specs ignored.
If they are thoughtfully loaded there would be no problems with them.
FollowupID: 794447

Reply By: Iza B - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 15:22

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 15:22
I bought a DMax auto in April and took it across the Simpson in showroom trim, three weeks later. Slightly less ground clearance than the two lifted cruisers I went with but I had no troubles at all. Even went up Big Red first attempt to watch one of the cruisers have three goes to make it. 83 litres from Mt Dare to Birdsville, about half what the cruisers used. Whole lot cheaper than a cruiser, too. Very happy.

AnswerID: 515245

Follow Up By: KevinE - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:33

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:33
Sounds like you had a ball! :=)

I have no doubt that the D-Max, or any of those mentioned Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Mazda BT-50 are more than capable stock standard to do desert trips.

I've taken a stock D22 out there & had no issues at all. So if a D22 stockie can cruise it, the more modern Utes will breeze it!

I think the chassis issues are exaggerated & mostly caused by fitting inappropriate after market suspension to a tug lugging a massive van (self inflicted pain).

All the best, enjoy your Ute! ;-)


FollowupID: 794450

Reply By: rocco2010 - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 15:34

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 15:34

Mountainman is right, there are horror stories about broken utes ... and there are hundreds if not thousands of people who take their utes out in the deserts and have no problems at all. On some trips I reckon I see more utes than big wagons.
Sure if you are going to be spending the next five years doing 50,000k a year out in the desert, maybe something bigger might be the go.
In my own case I have a Ford Ranger that has been on the Anne Beadell, Connie Sue and Gunbarrell highways and nothing broke or fell off. And there are some corros on those roads that will make your eyes water. I have travelled in the company of others who have had similar experiences.
I would be more worried about using a ute to tow 3 tonnes. I take the view of all things in life that that Maximum doesn't mean all the time. Just because the makers say you can, doesn't mean you should.


AnswerID: 515248

Follow Up By: Kyle H - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 17:15

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 17:15
Agree with the 3tonne towing comment, check the GCM of the Ute you decide on before you purchase as with a 3 tonne caravan some won't leave much legal load carrying capacity in your ute.
FollowupID: 794453

Follow Up By: olcoolone - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 14:20

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 14:20
WHAT! you've taken you ute where..... and made it out in one peace.

I have to agree modern utes are as capable as any, we had a heavily setup current shape Hilux that did a fair amount of off road remote travel and nothing fell off or broke.

It is a concern with the current crop of 4x4 utes everyone is buying to tow their 3 ton caravans, it's a lot for something like that to do but people think because it said so in the specs and the car salesman back the claim up everything will be rosie....WRONG.

Toyota Hilux got criticised up to a few years ago that they could only tow 2250Kg when all the rest could tow 3000+kg..... in Europe the same vehicle could to 2750kg, Toyota were very smart limiting it to 2250kg, but they lost sales.,

The number of small 4x4 utes towing BIG caravan has increased 10 fold over the last few years.

We have a new Ranger that we tow our Ultimate camper with now and again, we also have a Landcruiser 200 series..... both rated at 3500kg towing capacity, the difference between to two when towing is like chalk and cheese. Behind the Ranger you know it's there with the feel, behind the Landcruiser you know it's there by looking in the mirrors.

People think just because it can tow something big then it's Ok and it has plenty of power....... you can pull a 20 ton truck with a Mini, sure it will do it sloooooowly. It doesn't mean it can do it safely and reliably.

My question is for ones who don't think these 4x4 utes are strong enough is...... how strong do you think it needs to be.
FollowupID: 794522

Follow Up By: Hilux fan - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 15:13

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 15:13
Maybe we should stop bagging the car makers about their towing capacity and get stuck into the caravan manufacturers for making such heavy vans. 3 tonne? Or maybe we should get stuck into ourselves for demanding and buying such beasts.
FollowupID: 794528

Follow Up By: olcoolone - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 18:53

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 18:53
It's just that everyone wants the kitchen sink, dishwasher, 20 person dinner set and every other thing they have at home...... we have a camper.

I would sooner see separate drivers licenses for caravanners..... thats a topic for another day.
FollowupID: 794548

Follow Up By: rocco2010 - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 19:05

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 19:05
not everyone, olcoolone, not everyone. As a soon to be retiree, I am trying to get my head around the idea of a step up to camper from swag or tent!

FollowupID: 794551

Reply By: Member - Geoff M (VIC) - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 15:43

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 15:43
Hi Neil,
In my opinion, the current crop of medium duty utilities are a long way short of the heavy duty vehicles such as the Landcruiser, Patrol, Defender in regards to long-term durability and load carrying capacity. Yes, they are rated to the same load carrying capacity and generate as much or more power/torque - but I seriously doubt they will last as long particularly in rough conditions.
I previously owned a 1989 D/Cab Hilux for 15 years and it was a great vehicle, but the design of the current model Hilux is quite different as far as chassis strength and clearance goes. My next vehicle was a 2007 Mazda BT50 which had numerous faults and effectively fell to bits - it just wasn't up to remote travelling with a load even though I was carrying well below its GVM.

While recently in Birdsville we were talking to new Navara owner who had a bent chassis and the local mechanic said that was a common occurrence. As someone who has experienced a chassis break in a remote area, I would not wish this upon anyone!

I believe you are right about the vehicles listed being able to tow your van and load, but would question their long-term ability to handle rough conditions.

Cheers, Geoff
AnswerID: 515249

Reply By: andoland - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:04

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 16:04
I've just come back from crossing the Simpson Desert via the French Line and the Madigan Line. There was a curent model BT50 and and Amorok in our group. The French Line was really chopped up and the Madigan Line is an extremely rough trip and neither of these vehicles had any breakages or reliability problems.

I don't see any issue with taking any of the vehicles you mention through that country as long as you keep the weight reasonable, but that applies to any vehicle not just dual cabs.
AnswerID: 515250

Follow Up By: member - mazcan - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 12:08

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 12:08
hi winner w
very interesting read
noted you drove for 18 hrs at 15-17kmhr in high range
when I checked your fuel figures I wasn't surprised at the 31ltrs/p/100km figure as you were driving along revving the engine like you were driving a tractor ploughing a paddock
your fuel figure would have been better if you had gone into low range 4x4 and driven in 4th or 5th than revving along in high range an a low gear try it next time you'll find it more economicalas less engine revs are required to obtain the speed

also you said you don't use the tpms once back on the sealed rd what makes you think that tires don't go flat and can't be destroyed on the sealed rd
they will in fact go to pieces quicker at higher speeds particulary win a slow leak scenario this is when they will delaminate and or blowout due to extreme heat build up
FollowupID: 794515

Reply By: Winner W - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 18:53

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 18:53
I repost my post from the Ranger forum> Photos on link
Just returned from 6000km round trip with Ranger in 9 days with my two uni sons.Was in Sydney for a week then to Adelaide,Port Augusta,Coober Pedy,Oodnadatta,Mt Dare ,Dalhousie,French Line,Birdsville,Quilpie to Brisbane .
Single vehicle trip so I trusted the little Ford. First desert trip for us.
Cooper Pedy to OOdnadatta was 100kmh dirt road and pleasure to drive.Oodnadatta to Mt Dare via Dalhousie ruins was a nightmare. Corrugations that will shake any dead bones to life. Bloods creek rd is apparently better to Mt Dare so take it!Got sat phone in Mt Dare and filled up as I used about 30 l from Oodnadatta. Got a fourth jerry can at Mt Dare to total my fuel to 160l..Mt Dare a lovely place because of the people working there. Honest advice, good food and service. Please support their business as they help us all to do this trip.Started to drizzle on arrival at Dare.Got a cabin to keep swags dry and was glad we did as the next morning still raining.Fuelled up ,breakfast and left for Dalhousie springs, 2 hours of mud,rocks and those bloody big corrugations and still raining.Dalhouse camping area a mud bath. Stopped for a swim and as we got in car to leave for the Simpson the access was closed as some fella rolled his car on the clay in the first marsh onto Purni Bore.Stuck in Dalhousie as raining in Birdsville too .2 Days of sitting and waiting for news and having a hot swim in the springs and watching the dingos a few metres from your food..The ranger at springs made a bypass(thank your very much Sir) around the swamp for 5 kms and we got the green light.Two angelic volunteer rangers kept the camp toilets clean and informed us of progress As they predicted more heavy rain for Birdsville in 4 days we changed our planned route which was to follow exploroz Simpson trek that combines 4 routes. We were advised to avoid Rig road as it was very much under water.........and clay.So the French line was our only option and we were 3 days late.
Took it slow and saw a few groups overtaking us at flying speed into the desert. About 25km later we saw one group of them next to road and their chatter mentioned failed suspension and back to MT Dare for a $2000 fix. The failed vehicle was clearly overloaded.A single cab with a closed box and half a forest of fire wood right at the back and in Dalhousie this fella left his rubbish bag right at his campsite which was immaculate and set up in military precision style but not so his other skills.We never heard of this group again on the track.
The dunes were rutted to the max on both sides and seeing that we had to cross more than a 1000 of them we had some shaking to do..The track was rutted deeply by trailers and high tyre pressures. Where there were no ruts the sand was corrugated !! The ruts must be 30cm deep in most spots so we did 15-17kmh.Saw dingo track almost continuously as if they patrol the track .No camels seen but lots of fresh tracks and dung. Very few birds but lots of beautiful stars.Saw only 8 vehicles over 3 days.Drove 18 hours one day at walking speed and swapped drivers every 2 hours.Boys loved to drive the Ranger so no begging there...Photo shots at Poeppel in dark and did another 40km closer to Birdsville until midnight.
Had a good sleep next to fire and felt safer with the rain prediction.Early rise and skipped the Apro Knolls .Eyre creek dry but this is a beautiful part of the track.Got to Big Red at lunch. Son was driving so he had first go with all of us and gear and made it.
We could see the storm and rain front far southwest of desert. Wind was sandblasting us but what a beautiful sight from there and a sense of relief. Spent 30 mins there.Curry camel pie in Birdsville, fuel up ,drop the sat phone off, beer in Pub and hit the road before the rain.2 days to Brisbane.
Now the reflections
RANGER WAS AWESOME and gave not a single problem.The power in the dunes is just awesome with low down torque. We stayed in high range with traction control off.
Standard suspension was more than enough just lower your tyre pressures. On road I run 46psi,gravel 24,and sand 18.
No rattles in car
Dust proof cabin
Battery didn't die but I had a second and the battery jumperpack.Seats were comfy with all the rocking and bucking but we rotated.
The Simpson red sand is the same colour as the Wildtrak chilli orange seat inserts.
Tow bar spare carrier did a top job. TheTow bar bolt tightening the tongue broke free .
Roof racks did well but seeing the road In Dare we moved the 4 diesel jerry cans to on top of maxtrax and next to swags on tub racks.
The Summit Mudhogs were impressive. No flats,no cuts or chips. We used them on wet and mud and they still look new apart from the mud stains now.I run 46 psi on bitumen,24 on rock and gravel, and 18 on sand.
I used the TYREDOG tyre pressure monitors for the first time and they were very assuring and accurate. They clearly show the difference in temps and pressures when some tyres were getting sun or the rear right closer to exhaust.
The tub racks were more than up to the task.We used 140 litres of diesel for the 450km. Heavy going .
Our radio was a GME TK3100 5 watt plug and play with the antenna under dash mat. We transmitted on a 0.5 watt handheld on dune crossings otherwise the surrounding 100 dunes know you are coming if you use the 5 watt one.
We got stuck once at the top of a dune on a sand ridge just as we pulled off to camp . We got the chairs out , lit the fire, put the foiled potatoes in the fire ,had a drink watching the sun set . After dark we took 30 minutes to dig but eventually the exhaust jack did the trick and the maxtrax. Had a simple dinner .
Winching was not an option.
IPF spotlights were good and didn't break.
Take a sat phone.Take Telstra phone cards. We could phone from Dalhousie Springs to inform people of our delays using the public phone booth there that surely is a sat link.Our long neck shovel broke . Get a solid one.
No am/fm radio reception in desert so no weather reports and news can be good or bad.
Some people I know also did the trip in a 4 strong Toyota mob and were flabbergasted that we did it alone in a FORD !!!!!!!!!!
Second vehicle is better for peace of mind .Don't take a car with any mechanical defects .Skip the middle 2 thirds of the French Line as it looks the same as the end sections. Do the first trip the combined Exploroz Simpson track. . Because the roller shutter is NOT dust or water tight I suggest if you have a Wildtrak ,to have all the sensitive stuff like food ,cameras,cooking gear, clothes and sleeping bags in sealed containers .The tub stuff was covered with fine dust.Keep a little dust broom in each door well for the feet and swags. We took no canned drinks and wrapped the gas cannisters . The mozzies at Dalhousie are agro and lethal. As were the flies closer to Birdsville even in winter.The plastic coke and water bottles rubbed through from the corrugations.The empty jerrys ended up on roof rack .Our swags stayed dry in our system of tough bags and wheelie bin bags but putting them in tarps may work better. Take long life milk in smaller sizes . They are stronger . Don't loose your coffee powder........... Take some sort of tarp and poles and sunscreen. Get a shade screen type cover for the roof rack that is easier to keep things inside and remove than a net type cover.We took 60liters of water and used only 20 but will take that amount again. Big Red is such a highlight at the end I can spend a day there watching the action and views.A trip like this is not cheap with fuel and extras but it is a bucket list trip .If the thought of the desert expedition is too much just do a trip to Birdsville, do the Big Red thingy, drive the desert track up to the entrance of the Simpson national park past Eyre creek and still experience the dunes and part of the French line .Take some shade screen for a ground sheet.
Tyredog is the Tpms that I use. They survived the rocks, mud knee deep and sand traps . I didnt use them on the bitumen. They are made in Taiwan. Its more to warn of flats before a tyre is destroyed. They are accurate and simple and work.The sensors are actually on the tyre in mud shot.The monitor has a soft light for the night driving,alatms, temp display and small enough. It stayed on the windscreen through all the corrugations and has batteries or a sig plug. The radio is light and simple and antenna is magnetic but it stayed on the dash under the matt. It is powered by sig plug so no wiring needed. The radio rested on the dashmatt but its suction cup is strong. I used a hair elastic to keep microphone on base set. End of trip its all out and stowed under seats.I see there is a certain town between Oodnadatta and Sydney that is infamous for flat tyres and mysterious screws show up in tyres. My friends had 3 on their trip in that area last month. As for the desert tracks I dont want to destroy my daily drive so the Ranger is a very nice way of seeing remote places that may be difficult to access. If I want to play rough I use my old 1991 Pajero that even my boys cant break.
I dont have a trailer myself but I can understand the place for them and those caravans would look so nice behind the Wildtrak..... But I think any one contemplating towing a trailer on any part of the French line likes punishment. Getting bogged is always fun on a trip but with a trailer even that fun looses its appeal after a few bogs on a dune and hungry flies in your mouth whilst digging sand . Its not impossible but listen to the guys from Mt Dare . They see it every day. If the macho guys love proving they could do it with a trailer or did the French line in under 2 days good on them. We need idiots to keep the economy going.My biggest battle is time to get the boys together and to fit in as much as we can ,so a plane is a better option... But ooohhhh the Ranger is sooo nice and far cheaper. And whilst you save heaps by buying at home please do support the local shops , buy burgers and fuel and help them survive! The country folk have it really tough and in stead of a 1min cheeseburger drive 1 hour on to the small town and wait for their 30 min one which may be good or not so good.

simpson trip
AnswerID: 515260

Follow Up By: Member - Neil B (VIC.) - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 07:18

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 07:18
What an incredibly detailed and helpful trip report. It was a pleasure to read this. Do you have any more? Thank you!
FollowupID: 794492

Follow Up By: Winner W - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 08:05

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 08:05
Pleasure, also remember the clay pans are salty so wash the car well at home.And sand grabba mats help a lot.
If someone wants to add the above as a separate trip report on a new thread please do as I dont know how to do that and there is some good info from our trip for members here and other forums
FollowupID: 794494

Reply By: Rockape - Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 19:39

Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013 at 19:39
Just a little insight in to a new 4x4 ute that apparently will fall to pieces and break.

9 months underground and no issues with reliability. Broken rear springs yes, so they are installing heavier springs, now to clarify that. It is nothing for miners to put a pallet of cement on the back of a dual cab. I have seen plenty of standard cruiser springs broken as well. All these vehicles work very, very hard 24 hours a day with some shocking loads on them.

Yes! I expect to see problems appear around the 12 month mark. But that happens with all underground vehicles.

To give you an idea. Tyres may last for 5000K if they are the likes of Goodyear kevlar mt's, cheap tyres around 2500K

The mine is now going totally to these utes, as they are happy with the reliability.

AnswerID: 515263

Reply By: Member - Neil B (VIC.) - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 07:20

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 07:20
Thank you all for your input. No less confused but I now have a great deal more information. Great responses everyone.

Keep those actual experience reports coming.

AnswerID: 515282

Reply By: Member - Mfewster(SA) - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 08:45

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 08:45
While travelling "up north" last month chatted to lots of people about their rigs. A couple of 4wd utes (Hi lux) with on tray camper units were relevant to this. Both noted that there is additional info re "what can be safely carried" info on their vehicles. The rating for load is only for bitumen roads. For corrugated, 4wd driving the weight was much less. A moderate size fibreglass camping unit looked OK on first reading but exceeded the recommended weight for off road. Both had their chassis strengthened before adding the camper unit.
They were unaware of this until the need was pointed out by their respective camper unit retailer.
AnswerID: 515286

Reply By: member - mazcan - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 12:25

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 12:25
hi neil b
my choice of ute to do what you are asking would be either the ford ranger auto or the newest vw ute with 132kw and 8spd auto trans the new mazda has doesn't have identical springs to ranger and rides softer and wouldn't carry the weight the same
both the the VW and Rangervehicleshave heavy duty springs and have a much stronger chassis than the others and this is a very important factor when having both and alloy cab on the back full of gear and a 3 tonne van behind as well
all the others have a much lighter frame in comparison over all
and wont last the distance imho over a long period of time and km's and rds and there's bound to be some one who will depute this as is always the case on here just my 2 bobs worth
AnswerID: 515310

Follow Up By: olcoolone - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 18:58

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 18:58
As they say milk comes in 2Lts..... the VW engine is a bit small for serious weight.

Seen it in the early 90's when all the heavy diesel engine manufacturers tried to tell customers that their smaller more powerful engines were better...... they have all gone back to the big capacity ones now.

The 3.2 in the Ranger/BT50 is a killer engine.
FollowupID: 794550

Follow Up By: Sinkas - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:12

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:12
Hi Mazcan, Are you sure the current Ranger has different springs to the BT50? My understanding is the springs are the same but the shocks have different settings - I could be wrong! There has been a chassis and suspension upgrade for the 2013 update see here -
FollowupID: 794567

Reply By: Member - Jo Q (NSW) - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 13:12

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 13:12
Hi Neil,

I travelled across the Simpson last year in my 2010 Ford Ranger, with no work done on the suspension, and it went across no problems at all. Was also a lot better on fuel than many other vehicles in our convoy.

I returned on Sunday from a trip up to Cape Yoprk in the same Ford Ranger. It has now had a 2 inch lift put on it, as well as extended diff breathers, bash plates & already had a snorkel. We travelled up the PDR, the Old Telegraph Track & also the Frenchman's Track and the Ranger didn't miss a beat.

I cannot comment on the newer Rangers, but my 2010 is fantastic & have had no problems with it what so ever in getting me where I want to go.

happy travels,


AnswerID: 515313

Reply By: 4wheeler - Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:39

Wednesday, Jul 24, 2013 at 20:39
Hi Neil,
I have owned a few 4x4's in my time from various manufacturers. Of these I have had 4 dual cab utes, my current vehicle being a 2012 Mazda BT50 6 speed manual. I bought this after selling my 2007 Land Rover Defender 110 (too bad, so sad). While the Mazda is no Defender, I have been impressed so far with its all round performance.

I have recently come back from touring around the Alice Springs region. The Mazda ate up the kilometres effortlessly. With a medium load on board (not towing anything) there was heaps of power from the 3.2 litre diesel.

I travelled some corrugated tracks and found the BT50 to be solid with no rattles either before or after the rough treatment. As I have owned three 4x4 utes before this (a 1992 Ford Courier, 2002 Hilux and 2007 Hilux) I feel that the BT50 is probably the most solid of them. My 2002 Hilux had chassis flex on rough tracks which had the centre "beam" around an inch. In other words the chassis would flex such that the canopy fitted to the tub would rub on the roof. There was never any permanent bend but it would flex. The Mazda tub seemed very solid and displayed only slight movement relative to the body on rough roads/tracks.

I took the Hilux into the Simpson and had no problems. One of the problems with utes (as with others vehicles) is that people overload them because they can pack so much into them. This is just asking for problems. However a friend of mine took a photo of a Hilux with a heavy camper trailer in tow which had bent the chassis badly behind the cab. Once again, very heavy loading was involved.

I was talking with someone the other day doing the Simpson very soon with a group. He told me he was taking this and that and the other. By the time he finished his list I said he had better book a tow truck as he would be bound to have problems with all the junk on board. How much stuff do people need to enjoy the bush!

If you do a Google search you will find that even heavy duty 4x4's have problems with chassis cracks and suspension related issues, Patrols, Land Rover to mention a few. The heavy duty Landcruisers seem less affected.

I have never had a problem with any of my 4x4 which I have owned. They have all been used regularly for 4x4 touring. To a degree it depends on load carried, driver sympathy for the vehicle and a little luck. Having said that, the Landcruiser is probably the pick of the bunch for strength and reliability to a degree.

From new the BT 50 suspension is not up to the job. I will be replacing mine with a more suitable setup. This will also add a slight lift which will be an advantage.
I run 265/70/16's BFG KM2 on the standard steel rims which have been good so far and not too noisy. Having moved to the Mazda from a Defender, noise is not an issue.
The chassis looks quite beefy underneath and is identical to the new Ranger apart from suspension settings.

When I purchased the Mazda I did look at the Ranger but Ford wanted a stupid price for them at the time and the Mazda was way better value, although the look is not to some people's taste. I don't mind it. Also the 2012 model Mazda had a more basic charging system than the Ford so less problems with the vehicle systems. I have fitted various items like dual batteries, lights, radio, etc. without any impact on the electrical systems.

I have been surprised at the off road ability of the Mazda. With the traction control and rear diff lock it goes well. While I like the manual 6 speed, I think the auto would probably be best. Will it stand up to punishment? Only time will tell, but at this stage all is looking good.

If your feeling lucky you could always buy a Defender. You might regret it but you will never forget it! Defenders are just sooooooooooooooo good.

AnswerID: 515346

Follow Up By: Member - Neil B (VIC.) - Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 at 07:11

Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 at 07:11
Great response 4wheeler, thanks.
So why did you get rid of the Defender?
FollowupID: 794594

Follow Up By: 4wheeler - Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 at 17:46

Thursday, Jul 25, 2013 at 17:46
No problems Neil.

I sold the Defender because of two points. Firstly the fantastic ground clearance was great off road but caused my elderly father grief trying to get in and out. Secondly, my nieces and nephews are at an age where they have expressed interest in coming on some camping trips. The Defender has about a 1 star crash rating, no air bags, and the "C" pillar of the vehicle moves in around 4mm if you slam a door hard. The Mazda has 5 star crash rating and lots of air bags. this was a major consideration when I have to take responsibility for looking after the mob. Plus it is easier to pack, hence going back to a dual cab.

Another consideration which I though would not be an issues but in fact was, is that fact that dealer support is a bit limited outside major cities for Land Rover. After a major service prior to going on a trip to the Flinders Ranges, my Defender threw up a fault code on the second day of the trip. The car ran pretty well but was down on performance. I suspected an EGR fault. I rang a major city dealer who were great at getting in the new EGR valve for me the very next day. However, after saying they could spare some time to look at it, after a 600km drive the dealer said they were too busy and bring it back in 3 days time. My feeling was that if it had a Range Rover badge on the front things might have been different.

I was not expecting the dealer to fix the fault there and then, just to plug in their diagnostics to confirm my suspicion. All too hard I'm afraid.

One of the cheapest investments you can buy is a Scangauge or Ultragauge. I now have both. With the Scangauge I had, I could clear the intermittent fault code causing the engine problem. In the end I fitted up the new EGR and the problem was gone.
FollowupID: 794611

Follow Up By: Member - Neil B (VIC.) - Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 07:41

Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 07:41
All very interesting. Thanks heaps!
FollowupID: 794646

Follow Up By: Winner W - Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 11:32

Friday, Jul 26, 2013 at 11:32
Just to clarify the fuel usage of the Ranger as it was pointed out to me on this Simpson trip. The actual usage was 15-17 l/100km . Fuel usage can be unpredictable in the sand and mud. This mornings hard sand can be fuel sapping soft after it heats up and the wind blows .The forum does not allow one to edit posts to I only add or comment if any queries.
My daily usage into town 40 mins stop and start peak hour in Brisbane it gives me 8-9l/100km.

Good enough for me.
FollowupID: 794659

Reply By: Rick (S.A.) - Monday, Jul 29, 2013 at 21:38

Monday, Jul 29, 2013 at 21:38
I drive a current model Mazda BT 50 dual cab auto with a tub body.
I've done 48,000 km since April 2012 when I bought it.

These are hard desert miles and the only black top driving I do is getting to the desert from Adelaide. (I don't use the BT 50 in town as I have other cars for that job). The Simpson desert is not 'hard' by my standards, rather it's just 'another' track. Driving for days on corrugates and sand and hard packed dirt exploits weaknesses; at present I can't see many on the BT 50.

Generaly I am running at 3 tonne weight with either 4 or 5 people inside. Occasionally I tow a 1.5 t trailer. So I'm working just within manufacturers specs nearly all the time. I drive with tyres from approx 15 to 38 psi, depending upon conditions. I'm not shy about dropping pressures. The Bridgestone 697's have done 43,00 km and I'll get another 5 to 10,000 km out of them. Talk about good value!!!

The OE suspension sagged and had a lean on the near side at 25,000 km.
I now have an ARB suspension kit (300 kg rating) and the lift has been 80 mm - handy.The shocks have been burning hot to touch at times but have never faded over endless bad corrugates.No dash squeaks or flex of the tub onto the body. I seriously rate this chassis.

I am surprised that the OE side steps have not fouled on sand hills, muddy sections etc. The plastic trim at each end of the near side steps has fallen off: it reveals a wicked looking sharp aluminium edge. Mazda can't supply a single replacement; only two new side steps complete (not one), so I'll replace the steps with ARB brand or similar asap.

The front of the tub has cracked and split around the folds on the top section of the tub. I have welded them up and the repair has now held for 3000 tough km + 1500 km easy bitumen coming home. I reckon the factory panel work here is really sus, but I exacerbated the issue by constant loads of approx 100 k on a custom alloy r/rack which sits on the top surface of the tub sides.

Cabin comfort after a long day: at the end of the day’s driving, I find I am less tired than in my two previous Patrol. Leg room, head room & seat comfort in front & rear is fine. iPod functionality & blue tooth for the phone is appreciated, (Bluetooth in a vehicle is new to me). The rear middle passenger is a bit squeezed on account of the transmission hump. The middle passenger seems to prefer to sit with a foot on either side of the hump. I chopped the bin out of the console to allow feet to be placed there to ease the foot space problem, but this is rarely utilised by the middle occupants.

Roadholding is excellent and it hangs on in dirt & on the blacktop like you would not believe. It's a point & shoot vehicle and that makes it very easy to drive. It's a torquey beastie, but with so much power on tap that aspect is not immediately noticeable. Believe it or not, the Mazda has more torque than the 76 series Toyota (workmate wagon & troopy) & about 5 Kw less power !!!

So, my experience suggests that at least one of these new utes will hack the punishment. BTW, I travel in association with a new Toyota Dual cab and that doesn't have any issues either.

AnswerID: 515574

Follow Up By: RobMac (QLD_Member) - Monday, Jul 29, 2013 at 22:11

Monday, Jul 29, 2013 at 22:11
Great bit of Info there and thanks for sharing..... It's good to know about the room for the passengers in the rear. I have a family of 5 and the car that drive around in daily is a D22 Navara (missus drives the 150s) and while the kids a small the D22 is ok for the 5 of us but the kids will outgrow it soon no doubt and I've been thinking of what to replace it with..... My thoughts were leaning more towards the Ford Ranger than the BT50. They are pretty much the same as the BT50 I believe.... is this true?
The main reason I prefer the Ford is I like the looks of it more, but for room, performance & reliability I'm hoping they should all be pretty much the same ???
Cheers..... RobM
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Reply By: outbackjoe - Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 at 10:04

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 at 10:04
I'm touring around oz in a 2007 Hilux. No probs. In fact half of Australia are touring with utes these days. I don't think there's a problem with them in general. Most of the failures can be explained by overloading, use of airbags and excessive ball weight when towing.
AnswerID: 515638

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