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Best 4WD offroaders

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    The Land Rover Discovery 3 TDV6 takes the crown for overall winner and Best Large Wagon (Diesel). Photo Gallery

Mitsubishi and Land Rover are the big winners in Overlander magazine's prized annual 4WD awards.

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

Get the July issue of Overlander to find out about the Hummer Destination of the Year

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 11 comments

  • Jeep, check out there resale value, almost given away. Land rover , that's right they did get the vote for the most unreliable vehicle made. say no more.

    Johnny12 of cairns Posted on 14 February 2014 4:47pm
  • I've been prospecting for nearly all my life and seen most 4X4's in action, under extreme rugged and scorched conditions. ''TOYOTA'' Is The serious 4X4 by any means, and most reliable savage vehicle you your money can buy. The Original King of all castles!!!

    Nick Sofalakis of Cairns & Coober Pedy Posted on 28 July 2012 2:05am
  • I have had Mitsubishi Canter 4x4 cab/chassis 6.0 tonne with a 2.15 m wide and 4.5 to 4.7 m long module. An excellent all round off road motorhome. http://www.usamotorbike.com

    stevepolard of USA Posted on 22 March 2012 5:35pm
  • I have had 2/100 and 4/80 series LCs, but currently own a D3 TDV6 and it is a standout. Constantly delivers 11s around town and high 9s out of. Fantastic vehicle on or off road, can't recommend enough. I also had a few days in a NT Pajero and was impressed to the point of consideration. Great on fuel and handles well. Inspires confidence even in snowy conditions that were around Blayney at the time. Also had a few days in a LC ute. Mmmmm. Can't see what farmers see in them except for the fact that, what else is there on offer?

    Stephen Lipshus of Australia Posted on 23 June 2011 5:58pm
  • best 4wd ever is a 1985 suzuki serria not a heavy thing like that. that car is 2.5 tonne suzuki 850kg a short car not like that long thing turning circle of the moon. i’d like to see that go really off road. the only light off roader made today is the jeep.

    nathan pendergast Posted on 10 December 2009 11:55am
  • Geoff, in the article the writer commented about the suspension and chassis in terms of the on road capability of the Pajero “...that offers the sort of high-speed dynamics that most Japanese 4WDs can only dream about.”  He then said the Pajero was still capable off road, which it is, not that it was the best.
    And I’d expect that most farmers would have more use for Landcruisers and Patrols that are not only bigger than a Pajero but are also available as utes, tray backs and crew cabs, not a specification that is offered in the Pajero. Besides all that, not all 4WD owners are farmers, and as probably most would spend more time on the road than off it, having good road ride and safety characteristics (while still being able to go off road) are important.
    Also in criticizing the writer you might note that he didn’t make the awards to the Pajero, they were made by a 4WD magazine, the testers of which I’d imagine have tested all nature of 4WDs.  I’ve never seen any of them report on the “stump test” in arriving at their decision however.
    And what is a “real 4WD”?

    Rob of Perth WA Posted on 24 June 2009 4:25pm
  • Given that Mitsubishi found that 87% of four wheel drives never left the bitumen, they’re generally a waste of resources!

    Anthony Wells Posted on 24 June 2009 3:52pm
  • Sucked in richard - get a Disco champ and see what a real 4WD does! LOL

    Nick of adelaide Posted on 23 June 2009 3:19pm
  • Give me a break. Does this writer know what they’re are talking about? Stick to road car reviews if you have to pretend to know what you are talking about…

    Richard of Sydney Posted on 23 June 2009 12:36pm
  • “You can put that down to the fact that the Pajero has fully independent suspension and a rigid monocoque body,”

    DO any of the writers actually have any real offroad experience? A monocoque body is not a real 4wd. Hit a stump and any speed and see what happens. If you want a reliable 4wd it has to be a ladder frame. End of story.
    There really is a good reason every single farmer in the country drives a land cruiser or patrol.

    Geoff of nth melb Posted on 21 June 2009 5:14pm
  • BEST OFFROAD JEEEEEEP WRANGLER
    not nissan not toyota but jeeeep

    Mad Jeeper of Sydney Posted on 21 June 2009 1:52pm
Read all 11 comments

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