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It’s time for a 4WD update

Back in early October I talked about returning to the 4WD life. Here’s a list of cars that we’ve test drove, since the beginning:

2013 Land Rover Discovery 4: While I talked about this in my last post, I never actually test drove it because after sitting in it, my wife didn’t like how big it felt, and I decided it was slightly too old, with the most recent being a 2013 model. Unfortunately, I felt that even a base model of the new Discovery (5) was too expensive and didn’t have the right features, so I didn’t even bother having a look at it.

2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport: I tested this 3 times, but after a final good drive for an hour, I just couldn’t get comfortable in the seats despite fiddling with the electric seating control, so it became out of the question. Which was a shame, because I thought that if the seats were more comfortable, it would have been perfect as a daily driver for my wife and which I could also take off road. But then, after having already decided to not worry about this one, I was reading a review about the Discovery Sport driving on a track in South Australia with some corrugation and the suspension fell apart. Oops! That’s important to me too, ’cause I drove along the Oodnadatta Track last year with the Toyota FJ Cruiser and that had no issues with 3 days of travel on the corrugated track.

Since then, there’s been some changes to the original plan. After the Discovery Sport failed the testing and online reviews for all other medium SUV possibilities telling me they wouldn’t be suitable, I gave up on trying to find a small luxury SUV that would be fully off-road capable. So I discussed it with my wife and we agreed that instead of buying her a medium 4WD SUV that I could occasionally enjoy too, we’ll instead get a large proper 4WD for me that she could occasionally enjoy too. And I’ll give her the BMW to drive around as her daily driver, which I could also take out and enjoy occasionally. Best of both worlds! So I started looking at large 4WDs intead, within the budget. I decided not to worry about Land Rover because of reliability issues and the lack of easy availability of parts for repairs in remote areas. I also decided against Jeep for the same reason.

2016 Ford Everest: I’ve tested this twice now, and it would be a good choice. The seats are comfortable, and it’s got reasonable on-road power when you put it into Sports mode. But I was hesitant because of an issue with Ford officially classifying it as a passenger vehicle instead of a 4WD, which can create problems when adding accessories or modifying it.

2016 Nissan Patrol Ti Y62: this excited me because of its brilliant 4WD ability, its luxury interior, and its V8 engine that pushed its 2,800kg weight to 100kmh in 6 seconds – the same performance as my bloody BMW! Insane! But it was also a huge monster, and after testing it yesterday (thanks to a friendly local who saw my query about the vehicle on a Facebook group), I decided against it. My wife thought it was too big, it felt like she was in a truck or a bus, depending on where she sat, and the tyres were huge like truck tyres. With my back, trying to change them would be problematic.

Now, all the above cars had spare tyres underneath the rear part of the vehicle instead of hanging up on the rear door. I was looking for something that meant I didn’t need to do heavy lifting when changing a tyre, because of my back. But after driving and disregarding the Nissan Patrol, I had exhausted all the possible cars with spare tyres underneath the rear. Now I had to bite the bullet and consider cars with spare tyres on the rear door. I went to Toyota in the afternoon yesterday to have a look at the Toyota Prado.

2016 Toyota Fortuner: the Fortuner is getting lots of rave reviews, and is often compared to the Ford Everest and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (which I didn’t want to test because it comes third against the two others). It has the tyre underneath the vehicle, so I decided to givce it a test drive and see how it compared to the others, and to the Prado. The seats were certainly comfortable enough, and there was enough power in the on-road performance to keep me happy. It would have been a good choice. But then I drove the Prado…

2016 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado: there’s a whole world of difference between the driving comfort of the Prado and the Fortuner. The Prado was a lot smoother and while the power felt similar, it was just a better driving experience. The Fortuner is built on a Hilux ute chassis, whereas the Prado isn’t. You can feel the difference. And the best part? My wife loved it, and I loved it. The searching was over.

It was quite an enjoyable journey, looking for cars online, driving the cars on the road, and feeling how they all feel. There’s lots of differences! It’s quite amazing, and a lot of fun.

I thought yesterday about how great it would be to have a business where I test drove cars for people as well as negotiate a good deal for them, and take a percentage of what they saved as a fee. I’d really enjoy that…

But back to the Prado. It’s going to be the next car we get. And we’re going to enjoy the adventures we have in it.

You know, the FJ Cruiser was built on a Prado chassis, and that was great (except for only having 2 doors…). If it wasn’t for my initial need to have a spare wheel underneath the rear, I would have looked at the Prado first. But I’ll know in future. I suspect that it’s going to be Toyota forever. And a BMW on the side.

Update: between you and me, I think I need to drive the 2013 Discovery 4. The high-spec luxury and 4WD features are a lot better than the Toyota Prado, and maybe it’ll be something my wife and I will like better than the Prado… Ok, so the journey continues. Just for a little bit…

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