Advice on new not too soft 4wd

Submitted: Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 12:26
ThreadID: 11407 Views:2662 Replies:12 FollowUps:8
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Hi everyone this is my first post here although I've been lurking a bit over the last month reading old posts and stuff and I've already learn't heaps. I'm buying a new car to replace the old ford mondeo which has been a nice onroad car but I'm killing it everytime I take it on a dirt road. I live in the blue mountains west of Sydney and I do lots of mountain biking, hiking, canyoning, kyaking, camping etc and have been fairly limited in where I can get to with my current car.
However my job involves driving 800+ ks per week all on tarmac so I need a car that will be nice to sit in for the 5 or 6 hours I spend in it most days. My friends - who don't use there cars for work own old Landcruisers and Vitaras and I've done some good off roading with them and I'd love to have a car that could fulfill my weekly work needs and my outdoor lifestyle on weekends.
I don't need a long travel suspension long range land cruiser or patrol - I could'nt afford the petrol for a start, so I'm looking at compact 4wds. The car will be used mostly as a work vechicle and I need to buy new (or near new) so I can get the benefits of depreciation (theres an oxymoron).
So before looking here I had thought an X-trail or something similar would be a good compromise however I want to be able to do slightly more serious off roading that what they appear to be capable of. As an example I would at least like to be able to head down the kowmung track from kanangara and across the river to the camping ground and back up again - I'm not sure what grade that is but I think I'd be pretty scared without low range.
So the contenders I have come up with so far are a Suzuki Grand Vitara aprox 35k a Jeep 4cyl Cherokee aprox 37k or the Cherokee extreme sport 6cyl (auto) aprox 41k I'm guessing a Subaru Outback wouldn't cut it off road due to ground clearance but its sort of on my list at 40k - I really didn't want to spend over 40k if possible.
Is an auto transmission a big dissadvantage off road? are there any other cars in this price range with similar or better capabilities that I should look at? remember I need good fuel economy + good on road handling and comforts + reasonable off road ability. Thanks heaps any advice is greatly appreciated.
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Reply By: Member Colin - NSW Bungendore - Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 14:04

Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 14:04
As per my 'photo' it is obvious what I would suggest you buy.

A friend has an older 6 cyl Jeep - it is a bit heavy on fuel!
I think the Vitaras are a bit low ?

The Outback has good clearance but has poor approach and departure angles.

"I need good fuel economy + good on road handling and comforts + reasonable off road ability."
What about a Forester ? meats all your criteria - has low range, great motor, comfortable, reliable - only need better tyres (A/T to replace the H/T) and a sump guard (modify one from an old Liberty or 'L' series Subaru) - if you go for an auto, you cancel the need for low range (the Forester can be optioned with an auto gearbox cooler for any 'heavy' work)

"I would at least like to be able to head down the kowmung track from kanangara and across the river to the camping ground and back up again."
These 'challenging' trips and others like Bendethera are a breeze in a Forester.

Hope my unbiased opinion helps - I'm just counting the days to a return trip up the CSR in Foresters in May!!
Subarus off road


AnswerID: 51155

Reply By: Bitsumishin - Mike A (WA) - Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 14:06

Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 14:06
my advice for what it is worth is just make sure it has low range. I'm delighted with my Challenger but a Prado or Pathfinder are also capable offroaders as well as maintaining a good balance for the road. Depending on how many of you there are etc, you may like to look at a Pajero Io, Jeep Wrangler or Suzuki if small is all you want.
As for automatic, I would never go back to a manual. Sure manuals have some advantages down extreme slopes but sounds like you won't be doing much of this if clearance is not a major issue. Auto's leave manuals for dead on soft sand like beaches
AnswerID: 51156

Reply By: robb - Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 14:19

Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 14:19
Hi Jools, I am selling my 2000 model Challenger, it has many extras already, has been serviced its whole life, I am the original owner and I have just bought a Landcruiser. It is a fantastic example of a challenger. The extras it already comes with are, ARB steel bar, OME Suspension, IPF Lights, dual air bag, air con, power steer etc etc... email me if you would like to know more and see some pics..

AnswerID: 51159

Reply By: Jools - Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 18:49

Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 18:49
Hey thanks everyone, really helpful and not one person said search the archives :-)
The foresters were on my list to begin with but I didn't think the new ones were that good off road - sounds like I'll have to have another look. My girlfriend really likes the Jeeps interior and I have to admit after test driving them the auto 6cyl cherokee is a very nice car - the 4cyl however is very underpowered and the manual is pretty ordinary. I am yet to drive a vitara but I should get to do so next week - the price is certainly better although the interiour is not as posh.
I would dearly love a wrangler or other small and highly capable 4x4 - however with the amount of gear I need to transport and kids on there way I also need to be "sensible" with my car choice. The forester was one of the first cars I test drove and I wasn't that impressed with it on the road - lots of understeer without even trying - maybe I just drove a dud - will go and try another one. Does anyone know anything about the self leveling suspension that comes on the new ones???
In regards to the Challenger whats the fuel economy like? I hadn't considered them as they look big and I just assumed fuel would be bad.
AnswerID: 51187

Follow Up By: robb - Sunday, Mar 21, 2004 at 03:28

Sunday, Mar 21, 2004 at 03:28
Hey Jools, in the city I average around 13-14 litres per 100km, and on the highway its 11-12 litres per 100km... 3litre V6...

FollowupID: 312956

Follow Up By: macca - Sunday, Mar 21, 2004 at 10:06

Sunday, Mar 21, 2004 at 10:06
Hi Jools.
Re the Challenger.. I'm getting 13.4 k's (ave since 1/1/2002) 100in my XS challenger over all types of driving including hauling a 2000K van, a camper trailer and a camping trailer. The navigator likes the comfort and ride and I like the fact that it can still do the tough stuff when we are out bush.The only thing I dont like about it It doesn't look "Ballsy" if you get my drift
FollowupID: 312972

Follow Up By: Member Colin - NSW Bungendore - Monday, Mar 22, 2004 at 14:20

Monday, Mar 22, 2004 at 14:20
a bad handling Subaru ?? "please explain" !

How fast were you going? although the autos do run mainly in FWD until some slips is sensed.
The self level suspension has been available all along on the top model - you can get one without SLS. If you are planning to load the car with a lot of gear, and travel on tracks, I would go for one WITHOUT SLS as it has a habit of failing - and the springs on the SLS have a much lower rating (thinner). Fuel consuption ~ 9.5 L/100.

As mentioned the Kia is good little 'real' 4WD.
FollowupID: 313110

Follow Up By: cookie - Tuesday, Mar 23, 2004 at 12:24

Tuesday, Mar 23, 2004 at 12:24
I've had a 98 challenger for about 8 months now and am very happy. I find it's a very good balance between on-road manners, off-road ability, and fuel consumption/running costs. I did a lot of research before buying it. I wanted something for 80% city driving, decent off-road ability to get to good surf and fishing spots but nothing extreme, and something relatively cheap to run, and I came up with the challenger. The 3 litre V6 does the job just nicely with good economy. It's nothing startling, the 3.5L as you can get in the US would be very nice but then you wouldn't get your good economy. I get the same as robb regarding fuel economy.

And Macca I reckon the challenger looks the goods. I guess standard they look a bit soft but mine has a colour coded ARB steel bull bar which improves the "toughness" look a lot and it is also lifted an inch so, and overall I think it looks quite "ballsy", as much as general purpose 4by can anyway.

There's also quite a bit of accesory gear available for them now, difflocks, snorkels etc.

FollowupID: 313287

Reply By: GaryInOz (Vic) - Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 20:46

Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 20:46
Other contenders could be a Kia Sportage (runout ~$24 K) or Sorrento (~$37 K). Both have full chassis and dual range Tcase.

I too am biased. I own a Kia Sportage with a 2.5" spring lift and 31 X 10.5" tyres as a daily driver and get about 11-12 l/100km around town and 10-10.5 l/100km on a run. Spent my $25 K on it and have heaps left to buy extras (camping gear, recovery equipment, modifications, etc). Would definitely need new springs/shocks (WAY too soft, even around town)

Sorento has the old model Mitsubishi drivetrain from the Pajero, so is pretty well tried and tested. Has a front coil-over shock strut, double wishbone suspension that is well designed but poorly executed (would need aftermarket springs/shockers to be realistic, same prob as Sportage), and 5 link rear. The Sportage has more luggage capacity than the Sorento (you read right!)

Another option may be a Terracan from Hyundai, same mechanical package as the Kia (Hyundai owns Kia) but a larger interior, and torsion bar front end which has very limited travel. Also around the $37K mark
AnswerID: 51201

Follow Up By: Willem - Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 20:53

Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 20:53
Gary....Tell us what you did to the front wheel arches to get the tyres to fit. And how about pic of the Kia?

FollowupID: 312925

Follow Up By: GaryInOz (Vic) - Sunday, Mar 21, 2004 at 00:51

Sunday, Mar 21, 2004 at 00:51
The area of the front guard near the front door/firewall needed to be trimmed back to flush with the firewall. There is a couple of photos of it on Outerlimits. More to follow, resizing them ATM.
FollowupID: 312952

Reply By: Jools - Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 21:37

Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 21:37
Hey thanks again - will definately check out the Kia. The Hyundai was actually the car that started this whole 4wd thing for me as my siter in law work for a Holden/Hyundai dealership and got me a test drive in one after I originally went there to drive a Vectra. The Terracan is a reaaly nice car but the petrol would kill me - the guy assures me that a turbo deisel is on the way but it won't be here in the next couple of months which is about all the time I have to do something with the old car before I owe ford lots of money on a residual pay out. The good news with all of this is that I have lots of options - most cheaper than the soft roaders I was looking at and all more capable.
Does anyone have any thoughts on diesel engines - I can pick up a 2nd Hand Jeep diesel (1 or 2 yrs old) for a touch under 40k and was wondering if this was the only car in this catagory to come with diesel - I'm mainly looking at fuel economy here as the drive to Sydney and back is about 220k and I do this 4 or 5 times a week at the moment. I'm not biased towards a Jeep - I just came across a jeep site and was reading some stuff on them saying that the auto diesels were really good and thought I'd ask here for a less biased opinion. The Vitara or Forester would certainly use less fuel than a diesel Jeep I'm just trying to make the right decision as I'll have to live with it for at least the next 5 years.
AnswerID: 51204

Follow Up By: Davoe - Tuesday, Mar 23, 2004 at 16:05

Tuesday, Mar 23, 2004 at 16:05
If you are not going to be doing much stop start driving where the engine doesnt heat up before your back home again then a diesal should have the benifit of lasting alot longer than a petrol. clocking up 220k aday a diesal such as a yota or nissan 6 should be nicely run in at 200,000k with another 200-400 to go where a petrol could already b on the way out Also have you considerd gas I wouldnt personally but could be worth considering with those miles
FollowupID: 313321

Reply By: Voxson (Adelaide) - Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 21:55

Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 21:55
Why wouldnt you look at a LWB vehicle?.... Sure, i agree that the little 4wd's are easier to park but that would be the only pro over a LWB....
Big 4wd's are not hard to park nor are they much thirstier than the pocket rockets when you are talking diesel....

On road handling and comforts are fantasic as well as off road....

Buy a biggy and keep some up your sleeve...........

AnswerID: 51206

Reply By: Member - StevenL - Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 22:02

Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 22:02
Hey Jools,

I am buying a turbo diesel Prado. New, it is about $55k to put on the road. If you are looking possibly second hand then you should perhaps look for a 90 series Diesel Prado with about 50 to 80,000 km on it. There are a few around in good nick for $35 to $40K.

Would be better space inside than the jeep and the 3.0ltr turbo diesel is a very reliable unit and gets around 10-13ltr/100km.

Worth a look.

AnswerID: 51211

Reply By: Member - Ian S (SA) - Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 22:48

Saturday, Mar 20, 2004 at 22:48
Hi, Jools. I am new to this 4WD stuff too, and bought my first off roader at Christmas. Like you, I do 800-1,000 km per week so fuel consumption and comfort were important to me. I bought a 2 year old Nisan pathfinder Ti and I love it. I have always had Ford Fairmont station wagons except for a brief brush with a Nissan 300ZX, and now that I have the Pathfinder, I wonder why I never bought this sort of vehicle before. The auto box is great, the thing is almost as economical as my 300ZX on the highway, and the comfort is better than my top of the line Ford wagons ever were. better still, the thing seems to go almost anywhere, though I need better tyres for serious sand driving. I drove the X-Trail and it has a fair touch of yuppy-itis about it, though the dealers tried to tell me that it makes more horsepower. Anyway, good luck with your choice, but I found that after road cars, you don't realise how comfy and practical these late model off-roaders are until you have had one for a few weeks. I suspect that the Prado and Challenger are similar, being not quite as big as the full size units. I rejected the Jeep for the combination of size and fuel consumption. I have a friend who owns one and reckons it drinks fuel off road. Anyway, only you can make the decision, so take your time. I am in and out of mine all day and the little things like the side steps and sun roof help day to day. The Ti model has everything, and there is probably a similar spec model in the Mitsubishi and Toyota ranges as well. All of this new Jap stuff is great. Good luck.

Kind regards

AnswerID: 51215

Reply By: Member - Bernie. (Vic) - Sunday, Mar 21, 2004 at 01:35

Sunday, Mar 21, 2004 at 01:35
Hi Jools
Check out the Prado 90 series nice to drive, lots of petrols around & will be cheaper than a T/D, most have never been off road.

AnswerID: 51224

Follow Up By: harry5 - Sunday, Mar 21, 2004 at 04:02

Sunday, Mar 21, 2004 at 04:02
Jools for the kilometers your doing i would look at diesel i have recently
converted from NM petrol to NP Did Pajero and would say roughly that my fuel saving is about 25%-50% cheaper in the pocket.Plus it goes like the clappers has more power/torque than its rivals
FollowupID: 312958

Reply By: rads - Sunday, Mar 21, 2004 at 12:49

Sunday, Mar 21, 2004 at 12:49
Hi Jools
How about a diesel land rover TD5. Very comfortable and only 10.5L/100km. You'd get 2 year old one for $40K
AnswerID: 51252

Reply By: Jools - Tuesday, Mar 23, 2004 at 10:22

Tuesday, Mar 23, 2004 at 10:22
Thanks again everyone - I went to the 4x4 show in sydney on sunday and it helped seeing all the new cars next to each other. I spoke with the guys at suburban 4wd and they were very helpful also the guys selling 4x4 training were all heaps more informative than the various companies sales people - John from penrith Jeep was a straight talker but the bull bleep I got from some of the other people was amazing. Anyway - if I can convince the "navigator" that we can miss out on a few luxury items and go second hand thats what I'm going to do (although she'd much prefer extra cupholders to air locking diffs) - it will most likely be diesel for the fuel economy and reasonably compact for the same reason. I have considered the bigger 4bs but they fuel is always worse than the smaller cars and I just don't need a huge car yet.

What do people think of the new Vitaras - they are cheep and have low range and lots of aftermarket goodies - not as nice on the inside as the more expensive ones though.

Re bad handeling Forester - I was test driving a limited edition XS (with self leveling suspension) on road and in the dry I came into a 90 degree right hander which was slightly off camber I was going reasonably fast but no faster than the outback which I had just driven and it just plowed straight ahead for about a meter got some grip and then whipped itself around the corner - obviously I was going to fast but I really expected more progressive understeer and higher limits than what I experienced - I know its not a wrx but I took the Jeep around the same corner faster just to make sure it was the subaru (jeep was in 2wd at the time) Anyway I might go and try another one at another dealer.

Also the "navigator" fell in love with the Landrover Freelander at the 4x4 show - I take it that this is just a posh expensive x-trail and that no amount of hill descent control will get me down to the bottom of the kowmung and no amout of AWD will get me back up - thought? opinions?

Also - are servicing cost on all 4wds expensive and are Jeeps and Land Rovers more expensive than the Japanese models?

Thanks again - this board has been a really great way for me to keep the sales guys honest.
AnswerID: 51545

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