What Vehicle I drive and Why

 The Bible tells us that all men are created equal and in a perfect world that would be the case with all four wheel drives on the market, but alas it isn’t so.  Buyers must make serious choices based on criteria selected by them.  Who do you turn to?  Car salesmen and women are there to sell you their product, magazines publish comparisons of new and popular vehicles but how many of us really understand them and how many of us actually trust them?  This is because of an apparent bias towards one manufacturer whose product is probably no better or worse than the opposition but it must be remembered these writers like all humans have strong likes and dislikes built up over many years. This even goes to the extent of praising a lesser model when assessing the top of the range in a comparo of luxury units, it really pushes people down one track and it may not be for them, but when price is mentioned sanity soon returns.

In my years I was lucky enough drive most of the larger 4x4's over long periods of time and I can assure you they all have there foibles and no matter how well they are dressed up they are still light trucks (this excludes the Range Rover).  If manufacturers ever stray too far from this convention than the vehicles they build will not be able to tackle the really hard stuff.  On my last trip to the Cape (2005) there were no Porches etc it was either Nissan or Toyota with a smattering of the other usual suspects with one Rangie, mine.  Horror stories abounded about crook 4x4's and the problems they caused but we only met one, and from the look of his car it probably was a lemon from day one although a lot of his problems stemmed from poor maintenance.

Good four wheel drives are big, awkward and considered by some to be ugly but, as we all know, they are a thing of beauty and with all things of beauty they are reasonably high maintenance in comparison to a lesser performing two wheel drive.  The manufacturers have got four wheel drive manufacture down to a fine art and it is rare to get one that stuff’s up or in fact even rattles on rough roads.

It stands to reason that the lighter smaller 4x4 do not tow as well as the medium and larger versions.  When planning a trip remember that your fully laden 4x4, probably with a roof rack, will return nowhere near your normal fuel consumption.  On a first trip to Cape York my Patrol ZD 30 Auto returned 12.8 litres per 100 km over 11,000 kilometres.  The patrol was fully laden with every conceivable extra, most of which never saw daylight, including a roof rack and aggy pipes for the fishing rods. The last trip was a vast difference, all comfort and quiet in the Range Rover but for the normal human forget it.  At an average 0f $1.40 a litre for not so premium high octane (95 ron) the bloody thing would get 510 km and expect at least 90 litres to go any further. This is not to mention with no roof racks or any exterior bits and pieces to create wind resistance but I have to hand it to Rover the Rangie will go anywhere without complaint and with the aplomb one would expect for the dollars.  Standard Michelin tyres make no difference just point it and it went it was the best 4x4 I have ever taken into the scrub and the high country.  I now have a Land Cruiser 4.2 litre TDI and only use 10 litres per 100 km I can actually afford to eat again. It does have 5 gears in there somewhere and I hope with practice I will remember how to drive a manual and get the gears in the right order every now and again.

If you’re vehicle is in good order and well maintained there are not many places in Australia that you can’t go with a little preparation.  

I am a self-confessed petrol head.  I love motor cars, I consider them to be works of art, the ultimate big boys toy and in my career I drove and had access to the finest performance machinery available at the time.  

Our 4x4 ownership started in 1998 with a Jeep Cherokee, manual TDI and it came standard with everything.  Prior to that the Government had provided me with access to the finest 4x4s on the market and they picked up the costs.  If we had listened to the experts we should never have even looked at Jeep.  Suffice to say power to weight and value for money it was unsurpassed.  The steepest, wettest, slipperiest, rockiest in fact nothing stopped that little truck it was unbelievably tough and on the worst day it had it used 11 litres per 100 kilometres.  The only real modifications it required were BFG A/T's' an additional helper spring in the rear, a cargo barrier and a roof rack or rear wheel carrier and you were off.  To this day I miss that truck and the sheer agility it possessed.

Next a Nissan Patrol GU Series 2, 3.0 litre Turbo Diesel automatic.  Why automatic?  Well the bloody thing will climb a tree given the opportunity and I like a nice wide brake pedal when going down hill.  

As this goes to press the intrepid vehicle has completed  three trips to the Cape and back and apart from running out of fuel it performed faultlessly.  Being a Nissan driver you are subjected to all sorts of comments from the ill informed and "experts" and in answer to their comments I will say the following:

  1. it is not under powered in the high country or in fact anywhere  as those, unnamed, who received our assistance will testify

  2. it tows Goldstream Camper Van like it wasn't there

  3. Low 2 in the auto is probably the best of the low range gears in all those I've driven

  4. in my opinion it out performs the 4.2 manual but against the auto there can be no fair comparison

  5. it cruises fully laden at 100 kph using only 2200 revs

  6.  yes it was a LOT cheaper than the Toyota GXL 

  7. and finally even though it does not have the mind boggling low first gear of the manual, that big, wide pedal make all the difference.

I then thought in my twisted little mind I have achieved my ultimate and I drove a Range Rover.  I love every inch of it even a few minor peccadilloes like it would not drive past a service station and the service costs would be on a par with the gross domestic product of a small African country. It was comfortable and I can only liken it to travelling in my Jason Lazy Boy and in total silence.  I was routinely scoffed at by other 4 wheel drivers and subject to impromptu displays of why their 4x4 is faster/better/wider/and better in the bush.  This thing standard will out perform most vehicles both on and off the road.  The surprising thing about them is they will go anywhere with an apparent lack of effort that has to be experienced to be believed.  I have the poverty pack of course and it is a 2001 series 2 but I have found my marque and was truly happy until reality and fuel costs bit me fair and square in the wallet.

So what now I hear you ask?  A Toyota Land Cruiser GXL 4.2 Turbo Diesel. Second hand admittedly but it came from a good home, goes like the proverbial sh!t out of a shanghai.  It's big, comfortable and being my first manual  for a long, long time, we are getting to know each other.

I think with all the money I've poured into 4x4's over the years and the comments of others I have a well rounded outlook on 4x4's and the lovely people that drive them in the bush.  Those who use them as Toorak tractors have too much money and lack in some areas of the intelligence stakes.  I am very keen to let everyone know that my fourbie is the best because I bought it based on my needs and my ability to put fuel in it.  Always consider resale values  if you are uncertain and I can tell you my Rangie devalued by $2,000 for every month I owned it whereas all the others have been sold at reasonable prices.

4x4 owners a a parochial bunch who basically fall into two categories, Toyota owners and the others.  Toyota have a terrific reputation built on decades of service all over the block. They are aware of all the faults in opposition vehicles yet blind to their own.  Service Centers now abound to meet the needs of 4x4 drivers and they are more than capable of providing the service YOUR vehicle requires not just Toyotas.  Horror stories abound about Land Rovers in all their guises but even before the Toyota these bastards ensured kidney belt salesmen and chiropractors became wealthy.  They are still just as indestructible and show no signs of flagging.  It pays to remember the modern 4x4 was reinvented by the Range Rover and I believe it still sets the bench mark.  Holden, Ford, Mazda, Lada and an almost endless list goes on and if you mention you own it or are thinking of buying one the horror stories start.

What is the right 4x4 for you?  That is a decision only you can make and I would hope that you do put some thought into it.  The thought of some of the heavier 4x4 with older diesel motors lumbering around the suburbs will take the gloss of the vehicle when you put it in it's element in the bush.  All 4x4s are not the same but the majority will take you anywhere in Oz that you want to go. Sales people tell lies believe it or not and good dealers are just that, good.  Crooks, sorry those who lack a moral sense of the occasion abound in the motor trade and if in doubt about anything contact you local roads authority.  Remember dealers are there to sell THEIR product and of course it will be the best.

So when the decision is made and you tell the kids we're going "around the block" you will have the vehicle to do it. You will of course be in the best 4x4 on the road in this country because you picked it for the trip and for those who criticise your choice you can adapt this "God only made Toyotas so Dickheads don't drive Nissans".  I drive a Toyota so I'm above all that now.

They only piece of advice really worth listening to is to be comfortable, able to travel long distances without incurring back pain or other sundry aches and pains.



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