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Be honest: new vehicles get your blood pumping. And news about new vehicles at the start of a new year merely serves to bump your pulse up and whet your appetite for even more tidbits about upcoming vehicles. Well, the news is good because it's going to be another busy year for new models of everything but, for this yarn, we're focussing on the most exciting 4x4 and off-road vehicles set to arrive here in 2019.
We drove the new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with the 3.6-litre petrol V6 engine on the outrageously difficult Rubicon Trail in the USA, but the latest versions of the off-road-ready Wrangler have yet to officially arrive on our shores.
The much-loved Trail Rated Jeep is expected to land here soon-ish, and the range is tipped to be available in three trim levels – Sport, Overland and Rubicon– and in two- or four-door guise. In the spirit of bush-readiness, the new Jeeps will retain solid axles, fold-down windscreen and removable roof.
As mentioned, we drove the V6 during the Rubicon Trail event, but the new 2.2-litre turbo-diesel will also likely be made available in Australia.
Pricing has not been made available as yet.
Jeep-loving Aussies eagerly await this very capable off-roader's arrival on our shores.
Also, don't forget the Jeep Gladiator, the company's first ute in years, expected here in 2020. It will be offered with a 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 engine, and a 3.0-litre diesel V6 version will be available later. Not too much more is known about this, but it'll likely share almost all mechanical gear with the new Wrangler and will have a price-tag of $60,000 or so.
The new Suzuki Jimny is scheduled to launch in Australia on January 26. Yep, what better date for the next generation of 'the little off-roader that could' to hit our shores because it has taken many an Aussie out bush and along beaches, going where even heavily modified 4WDs have struggled.
The Jimmy line-up will have a naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (75kW/130Nm), a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (with sat nav and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) and pricing will likely be between $25,000 and $30,000.
It has a three-star NCAP rating.
Bonus for Zook fans: the Series II Vitara will also launch on January 26. A new 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine will be included in the line-up as well as safety tech such as AEB, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
Rumour and speculation have been boiling over around the long-gestating next-generation Defender. With a new round of Defender spy shots seemingly published every second day, this Landie continues to generate affection and derision in equal measure.
Another much-loved and iconic off-roader, the new iteration of the go-anywhere Defender has, over the years, been the subject of concept sketches, design reimaginings and simply cruel gossip (something along the lines of "swapping its legendary 4WD status for generic soft lines and more oil-puddle mop-ups").
As with rumours a few years back about the Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series being possibly binned because it just wasn't modern enough, so too have a few punters wrongly tipped that the Defender would go the way of the dodo. Alas, that's not to be; however, the Defender may take on enough 'modern' characteristics and concessions to comfort that it loses some die-hard fans but gains others in their place.
The Defender will likely retain its tall, boxy shape and off-road-suited approach, departure and ramp-over angles, but with plenty of modern touches, including posh-style headlights (in place of the Defender's original rounded lights), a full-width bonnet, a non-removable hardtop, and, watch out traditionalists, a multi-link independent suspension set-up at the rear.
It's a true icon of off-roading and the Defender has a truly passionate following – and we know a few dead-set Landie lovers who are more than keen to lay their eyes and hands on the new Defender as soon as it lands in showrooms here.
Like them or loathe them, utes are big sellers in Australia. And while Mitsubishi's Triton lacks the hardcore heritage of the Toyota HiLux and the whopping sales numbers of the Ford Ranger, it remains a quiet achiever among the big hitters of the workhorse market.
The substantial update – including new metal, tweaked six-speed auto, upgraded interior and facelift, as well as improved safety tech – was revealed in Thailand towards the end of 2018 and it is scheduled to be launched here in January 2019.
The line-up's pricing was confirmed only days ago and starts at $22,490 plus on-road costs (single-cab 4x2 GLX petrol with manual gearbox) through to the top-spec GLS Premium (replacing the Exceed) 4x4 pick-up diesel with automatic transmission, at $51,990.
It had a mild facelift and tweaks in 2018, but the Mazda BT-50, once much maligned for its uninspiring front-end styling, is now set to undergo a massive change. That comes as no surprise because the ute, so far largely based on the Ford Ranger platform but soon-to-be jointly developed with Isuzu, looks geared up to shake off the ghosts of the past and be taken in a new, much tougher direction.
The Mazda workhorse is apparently set to look more masculine than ever before, according to Mazda's design boss, Ikuo Maeda. It will also have an engine and gearbox from Isuzu, and extensive Australia-based engineering and suspension-testing and tuning.
While the new BT-50 is expected to be revealed this year and a 2020 on-sale date has been touted, hot gossip is tipping the BT-50 to be available for orders even earlier than that.