Best 4WD offroaders

Unlike the magazine's 4WD Of The Year award, which only looks at vehicles that are new or significantly revised in that year, these annual accolades look at all the 4WDs on the market.

In fact long-time champions dominate these awards but sometimes even long-time champs are forced to step aside.

Best Value for Money

The awards cover a wide variety of segments and Mitsubishi's Pajero Di-D has won the important Best Value for Money award.

The turbo diesel Pajero has had a mortgage on this category for four years but this year's winning Pajero is not the same Pajero that's won in the past years. In fact it's a considerably better Pajero thanks to a raft of changes that came with the NT model that was introduced right at the end of 2008.

Most significantly, the NT Pajero received a heavily revised engine, a new gearbox and various measures to improve noise control and general refinement. The changes were enough to see the new Pajero take out Overlander's 2008 4WD Of The Year award and also see it run extremely close to knocking the Prado out as the winner of the Best Medium Wagon (Diesel) category in these awards.

Best Medium Wagon (Diesel)

In the end the Prado held on to this crown simply because it's happier and more comfortable off road than the Pajero even though the Pajero is a far better on-road prospect that the Prado with sharper handling and stronger performance.

In fact the NT Pajero's 147kW/441Nm four-cylinder diesel engine is one of the highlights of the package. Like its predecessors it's still a tad on the noisy side but it offers strong performance combined with frugal fuel use.

The engine's willing performance is matched by a chassis that offers the sort of high-speed dynamics that most Japanese 4WDs can only dream about. You can put that down to the fact that the Pajero has fully independent suspension and a rigid monocoque body, and Mitsubishi's wealth of experience in events like the Paris-Dakar.

At the same time the Pajero is still capable off road thanks in part to an effective traction control system that comes standard right from the base model up.

Overall winner and Best Large Wagon (Diesel)

The overall winning 4WD and the Best Large Wagon (Diesel) was the Land Rover Discovery 3 TDV6.

The king of the castle is well, still king of the castle. Land Rover's brilliant Discovery 3 TDV6 has ruled over these awards since it was first released in late 2004. It actually arrived a little to late for the 2004 awards but it won 4WDOTY in that year and has been the Best Overall and Best Large Wagon (Diesel) winner ever since.

Over those years the magazine's experts have driven the Discovery 3 consistently under all sorts of conditions and against a wide range of vehicles in numerous comparison tests. They say that it has stood the test of time and feels as fresh and modern today as it was when they first turned a Disco 3's ignition key some five years ago.

No doubt the D3's enduring success comes down to the fact that Ford (the then new owners of Land Rover) put vast amounts of money on the table to get the new Discovery right.

Ford wanted the D3 to be a winner and there was no way it was going to let budget constraints compromise the end result. Effectively Ford gave Land Rover's engineers and designers free rein, and they took it.

The centrepiece of the D3 is the TDV6 engine, a 2.7-litre V6 turbo diesel jointly developed by Ford and Peugeot. Despite its relatively modest 140kW and the D3's portly 2.5 tonne, this engine performs effortlessly and frugally, all helped in its work by the slick six-speed automatic. If there is a limit to what the V6 can do it comes with high-speed overtaking.

On the road the D3 also offers crisp and sharp handling that defies both its weight and the fact that it's also so capable off road. The only proviso here is that D3's full off-road potential is only realised when the optional (+$1050) locking rear diff is fitted.

Adding to the D3's appeal is a cabin that's still the benchmark in terms of space and functionality among large 4WD wagons.

The winners
Overall and large wagon (diesel): Land Rover Discovery 3 TDV6
Best value for money: Mitsubishi Pajero Di-D
Best large wagon (petrol): Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series
Best Medium wagon (diesel) and runner-up best overall: Toyota LandCruiser Prado D-4D
Best medium wagon (petrol): Toyota LandCruiser Prado V6 4.0L
Best small wagon: Suzuki Grand Vitara DDiS
Best ute (diesel): Mitsubishi Triton Di-D Double Cab
Best ute (petrol): Nissan Navara D40 4.0L V6 Dual Cab
Best luxury: Range Rover Vogue TDV8
Best off road: Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

SPECIFICATIONS

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