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Best weekend 4WD four-door utes

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    Dual-cab 4WD utes are ideal for campers and more-serious 4WD adventurers Photo Gallery

When it comes to four-wheel-drive utes for personal use, crew cabs are the ``dual'' in the crown, says Stuart Innes

Different manufacturers call their four-door utes different names double-cab, crew-cab or dual-cab.

But whatever the name, in any of them you can carry whatever smelly, grubby, wet and bulky load you want – plus four or five people in the cabin. Aided by low-range gears, they are among the best in terms of 4WD ability off road and for towing.

Here we'll call them dual-cabs, a fitting moniker not only because they have dual rows of seats in a cab double the length of a normal utes, but also because they have the dual roles of load-carrying work vehicle as well as family carrying passenger space.

Many a young person who loves the surf holds a vision of living on the coast, being a self-employed tradie by day and surfing before or after work and on weekends – with the trusty dual-cab ute serving both worlds.

Dual-cab 4WD utes are ideal for campers and more-serious 4WD adventurers. They carry heaps of camping gear, they offer good payload helped by a full chassis and beefy suspension so spare water, fuel and recovery gear is weight easily accommodated. The same for fishing: you can put all the smelly stuff in the hose-out ute, keeping the passenger cabin clear of muck, which is not possible in an SUV wagon.

Here we look at dual-cab 4WD utes bought not so much for professional work purpose but more for private recreational use. They still have the toughness underneath but they are more the upmarket, semi-luxury models. You can get leather interior, dual-zone climate control air-con, premium sound systems and much of the `fruit' of a modern flashy sedan.


Safety-wise they have improved. Crash testing shows improved crumple zones albeit not yet to most sedan car standards. And they have airbags.

These vehicles have ABS anti-lock brakes, but as with any off-bitumen vehicle this can be a two-edged sword if the ABS is not calibrated well for Aussie gravel roads. And some models have stability control, but not all, so check for this valuable safety feature. And the ESP and/or traction control needs to be able to be switched out – for example when you are in sand – to allow for an amount of wheel spin to save you from getting bogged down.


While they’re great for weekending, they are still utes with a tough working life as the first criteria: they tend to have drum brakes on the rear and leaf-spring rear suspension. The good ol' leaf springs are simple and tough and designed to cope with heavy loads in the ute, but it can mean a bouncy ride if there's no load in the back.

But again, manufacturers are learning to adjust the springs and dampers for the personal-luxury models compared with the workers' models. Mitsubishi made good ground in this area when it released its current-shape Triton about four years ago, showing a reasonable ride could be given in a 4WD dual-cab.

Most dual-cab 4WD utes are available in a choice of petrol and diesel with automatic and manual transmissions, although some diesels come with only a manual gearbox. And some have lower engine torque if mated with an automatic transmission.


Payloads – the weight the thing can carry – are still pretty good, these utes are able to take around one tonne (including drivers and passengers). And they make good tow vehicles – three tonnes enough? Thanks to their being built on a strong ladder-frame chassis, not a monocoque shell as some 4WD SUVs are. Some 4WD utes are even turned into the ``prime mover'' for fifth-wheeler caravans.

The ute tub can be left uncovered or fitted with a soft tonneau with centre hoops to stop water pooling, or a hard tonneau colour-matched to the ute's bodywork. Or canopies are available for popular models, complete with sliding windows and interior light and lockable tailgate so gear in the back can be kept out of the weather and secure.


Most ute trays on a dual-cab are about 1.5m long, plus the 40cm or so of the tailgate, so it can be used for sleeping at a pinch. The vehicles' length matches that of the Caprice or more, so tight parking spaces are an issue.

A downside is that the rear seat is not the best. Leg room can be tight and the seatback fairly upright, with the rear window quite close. This is OK for children (child seat anchorages are supplied, too) but if you are going to carry adults over much distance frequently, shop around carefully for the one with the best back seat comfort and space.


Ground clearance typically is better than on a 4WD SUV wagon and off road abilities are very good. However, going for the very top luxury models sometimes means getting lower-profile tyres which are not the best off road.

They're great for bitumen driving but if you're doing the Birdsville Track and beach driving, try for a model with less wheel diameter and more tyre sidewall. Then get out there, take your family or friends, and enjoy our great land, carrying whatever you like in the ute.

Toyota HiLux SR5 dual-cab

Price: from $51,190
Engine: 3956cc V6 petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, rear LSD
Power: 175kW @ 5200rpm
Torque: 343Nm @ 2400rpm
Fuel consumption: 13.1 litres/100km; tank 76 litres
Emissions: 308g/km
Brakes: Ventilated discs (front), drums (rear); ABS.
Dimensions: length 5255mm, width 1835mm, height 1810mm, wheelbase 3085mm
Weight: 1780kg
Tows: 750kg unbraked/2250kg braked
Ground clearance: 292mm
Wheels: 15x7in alloy; 255/70 tyres

Nissan Navara ST-X dual-cab

Price: from $47,990
Engine: 3954cc V6 petrol.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or five-speed automatic; four-wheel-drive
Power: 198kW @5600rpm
Torque: 385Nm @ 4000rpm
Fuel consumption: 13.6 litres/100km, tank 80 litres.
Emissions: 329g/km
Brakes: Discs (front), drum (rear). ABS
Dimensions: length 5296mm, width 1848mm, height 1795mm, wheelbase 3200mm, track 1750mm front and rear
Weight: 1977kg
Tows: 750kg unbraked/ 3000kg braked
Ground clearance: 228mm
Wheels: 17x7in alloy; 255/65 tyres

Ford Ranger Wildtrak dual-cab

Price: from $49,390
Engine: 2953cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel
Transmission: Five-speed manual or automatic; four-wheel-drive
Power: 115kW @ 3200rpm
Torque: 380Nm @ 1800rpm
Fuel consumption: 9.5 litres/100km; tank 70 litres
Emissions: 251g/km.
Brakes: ABS
Dimensions: length 5179mm, width 1788mm, height 1762mm, wheelbase 3000mm, track fr/rr 1585/1480mm
Weight: 1995kg
Tows: 750kg unbraked/3000kg braked
Ground clearance: 214mm.
Wheels: 18x7.5in alloy; 255/60 tyres

Mitsubishi Triton GLX-R dual-cab

Price: from $47,990
Engine: 2.5-litre. four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel
Transmission: Five-speed manual or automatic. Four-wheel-drive.
Power: 131kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 2000rpm manual, 350nm @ 2000rpm auto Fuel consumption: 8.3 litres/100km, tank 75 litres.
Emissions: 217g/km
Brakes: Ventilated discs (front), drums (rear); ABS
Dimensions: length 5389mm, width 1800mm, height 1780mm, wheelbase 3000mm, track fr/rr 1520/1515mm
Weight: 1977kg manual
Tows: 750kg unbraked/3000kg braked
Ground clearance: 205mm
Wheels: 17x7.5in alloy; 245/65 tyres

Holden Colorado LT-R dual-cab

Price: from $48,690
Engine: 2999cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel
Transmission: Five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Four-wheel-drive
Power: 120kW @ 3600rpm
Torque: 360Nm @ 1800rpm manual, 333nm @ 1600 rpm auto
Fuel consumption: 8.4 litres/100km, tank 76 litres
Emissions: 222g/km
Brakes: Ventilated discs (front), drums (rear); ABS.
Dimensions: length 4995mm, width 1800mm, height 1750mm
Weight: 1920kg
Tows: 750kg unbraked/3000kg braked
Ground clearance: 225mm

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 10 comments

  • surely you have a survey younger than 2009 ,and in regard to motor vehicle prices ,its just another example of Australian people being ripped off in just about every way you could think of, its a pity all Aussies cant travel overseas at some time ,and they would soon realize ,how we get shafted ,on choice, quality, and price ,what a dreadful pack of nohopers run this country

    mal lloyd of ss coast qld Posted on 14 February 2014 12:05pm
  • I was also misled by the title of this article. I am in the market for one of these vehicles and wanted to know which one was the “best”. As in bang for buck, re-sale drivability etc.
    Instead we have been told alot about these ‘types’ of vehicles.
    Then a list of the five top selling brands have been provided.

    Ewan of Brisbane Posted on 06 March 2013 6:49pm
  • One of the reasons, Mr Murray of Qld, of why our vehicles are more expensive is the simple fact that USA sells 20 million vehicles annually, whilst Australia sells 1 million, also import taxes are the highest for any Western country, look at figures for a Lexus, here an USA, unbelievable, almost $100,000 extra. If alloys are bad for 4WD-driving, why do manufacturers keep shoeing their vehicles with them, if they persist in saying their vehicles rarely leave the black-top, why have 4WD in first place? Steel wheels for off-road, not fancy alloys, it would seem they talk the talk but not walk the walk, so why pay thousands for a vehicle that won’t ever see mud?

    CarlMc of Taree Hinterland Posted on 21 February 2011 10:09pm
  • More power, leg room for passengers, more width, more lenght will equal more sales.
    We’re Aussies not dinky asians, we want bigger!!!

    Jeff B of Central Coast NSW Posted on 24 January 2011 6:07pm
  • Yeah without meaning to sound like a whinger like a lot of the people who comment on your articles do.

    The name of the article suggests that you will be doing a comparison of the vehicles, their ability’s and their down falls. Then collating that data in to your opinion as to which you feel does it all the best.

    If your intent was only to state fact in an attempt to make our decision making process easier in that we have all the relevant data then I would suggest that you change the name of the article to better relay that.

    Also peole interested in these vehicles, don’t need to be told what payload is and that low profiles aren’t the best for going off-road.  It’s kind of like watching the V8 supercars on the weekend and having Neil State The Obvious Crompton telling us that a flat spotted tyre is bad.

    Just my 2 cents

    clayton of Caboolture, Qld Posted on 02 November 2010 3:54pm
  • I have owned all these vehicles with exception to the ford and will say the Holden Colorado is the most reliable to date whilst the Nissan was probably the most comfortable to ride in its poor (extremely) build quality and reliability led to it only lasting in my stable for just short of six months, the Hilux was moved on due to its poor ride and no real comfort for drivers and passengers of six foot height also had too many warranty issues it lasted nine months, the Mitsubishi went because it was just plain to expensive to maintain and service plus I had no service from our local dealer network who were only interested in taking our money for the purchase and servicing, picked up the car after a 20 000 service and there was no oil in the engine, only found out after wife drove down the street around tw corners and the engine seized the oil light was faulty and this was how she was able to drive off with no oil light showing the dealer had to be threatened with legal action to repair the vehicle, to date whilst not the smoothest riding or quietest in cab the Holden Colorado has been the most reliable and trustworthy dual cab we have had and fuel efficient also surprisingly.

    troppical living Posted on 02 November 2010 12:39pm
  • Spent 2 months in Hawaii earlier this year and noticed that most of the car manufacturer’s produced dual cab utes as well as hybrid vehicles all of which were about $20 - 30,000 thousand cheaper than we can buy here in Australia and this is an island in the middle of the Pacific with a smaller population than ours. A Toyota Hilux costs about half of what we pay, the locals could not believe me when I told them the prices here. I noticed Subaru, Honda, Ford Explorers as well as the VW Amarok, Toyota & Nissan also make large dual cabs to compete with the F100/250 and Dodge Ram these sell for around the price of our Hilux/Navara 4x4’s it’s ridiculous. The Camry Hybrid that was released not long ago here has been getting around over there for a few years we just seem to get the hand me downs with the car companies getting a bonus in a gift of our taxes from the government with all the ho ha to say how good we are getting it. We are not the lucky country but the RIPPED off country and we need to speak up to end this rip-off and again become the lucky country.

    Stephen Murray of Springfield Queensland Posted on 02 November 2010 12:38pm
  • Which have the most legroom? Which have the best ride? So many questions unanswered. What about the new Chinese entrants?

    Chris of Richmond NSW Posted on 02 November 2010 10:55am
  • Yet another article that gives no view and does not help the buyer apart from stating the obvious. And surprise, surprise the same article appeared in the Advertiser car section yesterday…..Boring!

    Chris of Mawson Lakes Posted on 31 October 2010 7:36pm
  • It will be interesting to see how VW adds to this mix…. smaller engine, better build quality than most of these, and a much more civil interior with more sedan-like handling!  Whill the Amarok be too on-road-foccussed to be a REAL workman’s car?

    Dilan of Melbourne Posted on 31 October 2010 11:41am
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